December 18, 2010

New from the Hillbilly Health Club

It is our practice here at Goat Rope, your full service blog, to highlight offerings from our Hillbilly Health Club, where we are proud to offer the latest in hi-tech exercise equipment.

Our newest equipment combines cardio with resistance training to yield a maximum benefit--and help burn off those extra holiday calories. We call it a variable load hydro-lifter (although some people refer to it as a snow shovel).

All you need to do to feel the burn is pick it up and start removing the white stuff. And since the powers that be don't believe in clearing roads around here, this equipment can even be used for extreme endurance training.

Disclaimer: This product will only be available under certain atmospheric conditions, but it looks like we're going to have a lot of them this winter.

December 17, 2010

Snow bunny

The winter of 2010-2011 hasn't even officially arrived yet and there are already ample signs that it is taking itself entirely too seriously. I think I've already had enough, although the Spousal Unit has not.

Somewhere in one of Gore Vidal's historical novels, someone observes that southerners always experience winter as an unpleasant surprise. I think that applies to many Appalachians as well.

There is, however, at least one creature at Goat Rope Farm who loves winter best of all.

DONE DEAL. After a late night vote in the House, the tax cut/unemployment bill passed and is headed towards President Obama's desk. Half empty or half full?

THE NEXT BIG FIGHT? President Obama's deal with congressional Republicans and pressure from ideologues and deficit hawks could put Social Security back in the crosshairs.

REWRITING THE NARRATIVE. So much for the financial crisis' "teachable moment."

THIS EXPLAINS MY PROBLEM. People look more attractive when they've had enough sleep.

HOWEVER, if you get up early enough to exercise before breakfast, you might avoid putting on holiday pounds.


December 16, 2010

The not so mighty hunter

Another deer season has come and gone. I made several efforts this time, but things didn't break my way.

I think part of the blame for this lies with the deer themselves. At one point, I might have had a shot at a group of them. Looking through the scope, I saw one deer licking another one.

It would have been so much easier if the deer in question would have been giving the other one the finger (although I know there are logistical problems for deer associated with performing that gesture).

Deer should be meaner. And uglier. Then everything would be perfect.

DEAL OR NO DEAL, REVISITED. Here's economist Dean Baker's take on the unemployment/tax cut deal.

FEAR OF SUCCESS. Here's a take on the right wing's fear of successful public programs.

PLUTOCRACY REVISITED. A former neo-con fesses up.

GAME CHANGER. The WV Senate will be under new management.

BLASTED MOUNTAINS AND BLOWN UP BUDDHAS. All the way from the state of Maine, this article compares the coming destruction of Blair Mountain with the blown up Buddhas of Afghanistan.


December 15, 2010

Real fear

El Cabrero just finished teaching an evening college sociology class on Deviance and Social Control. I enjoy teaching that class as it provides a chance to look at the dark side of social life, including the damage done both by those who violate social rules and the damage done by those who get to make social rules.

(In case you were wondering, the latter group has done way more harm.)

I try to make such classes as practical as possible and bring in as much good information and ideas as I can find from many sources. One book that I took another look at this time was The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, which was first published in the 1990s.

De Becker is a security expert with considerable experience, personal and professional, in dealing with violence and threats. Unlike many in that trade, he does not try to drum up business by scaring the hell out of people unnecessarily. In fact, he argues that one reason we may miss out on listening to real fear from real threats is that we waste a lot of time and energy on worry and anxiety about things that are not threats.

Real fear, he suggests, is the body's intuitive response to specific real threats or danger signals. It's not something that most of us feel all that often, but when we do it's time to listen.

I had an experience of that when I was about 13 or so and I was lucky enough to listen to it. When I was in junior high, I used to think it was really cool to hitchhike. My usual destination was an unincorporated town about five miles away which seemed cool at the time.

Don't ask me why.

Anyhow, once when hitching back, a car stopped full of older teens or young men who were rough looking. I'm taking knuckles dragging out car windows. I used to do and have done all kinds of stupid things in my life, but that time something inside me screamed "NO!" and I listened. I thanked the driver and headed off on foot the other direction.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I got in the car. I'm glad I don't know.

EXTENDING UNEMPLOYMENT is the post popular part of the deal between President Obama and congressional Republicans.

HOW'S YOUR POVERTY I.Q.? Find out here.

HEALTH CARE. It's another case of YOYOs (You're on your own people) versus WITS (We're in this together people).


COOL INSECT and other small critter pictures here.


December 14, 2010

Passing from nature to eternity

A death in the family just happened, a favorite aunt who made it nearly to age 90 before coming down with pneumonia. Her husband, who served in the Navy during World War II, preceded her in death.

I always liked that side of the family and enjoyed visiting them as a kid, including all the cousins. They lived in the BIG city of Columbus three hours distant, a place of almost unimaginable magnitude to someone growing up in my part of West Virginia. I always stayed in their basement, which incidentally used to have a well-stocked bar which I may or may not have been known to raid.

Columbus also had these places called malls, unheard of in WV at the time, where, if I played my cards right, I might be able to get a karate book. It also had a certain hamburger chain famous for their small sized burgers, a kind of nutritional crack upon which I still feed whenever I can.

I have many fond memories of her and her family. I wish her well on her journey and send my best to those who remain.

I was told that one of the last things she said was that she had seen her father and mother, who passed decades ago. Her husband, a day before his death, saw his deceased brother. It makes you wonder.

ANOTHER LOSS. From Ken Ward's Coal Tattoo, here's a moving profile of one of the miners who died in Massey's Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

TWO SIDES. It looks like the US Senate moved fast on the unemployment/tax cut deal. Here are two opposing takes on the deal and the dealer. Most groups that I trust on this issue hate the high end tax cuts but support the unemployment extension and are hoping the House makes a better deal.

WELL OFF, but empathy-impaired.

MY STARS. Here's a look at America's cult of the celebrity.

ME ME ME. Here's a look at narcissism.

December 13, 2010

Bad apples and bad ideas

An interesting survey of public opinion on education found that most Americans--68 percent--bear a heavy share of the blame for problems in the nation's public school system. Only 35 percent set a great deal of blame on teachers.

That's quite a different perspective than one finds in recent efforts to promote education reform, including those coming from the Obama administration, where a "if we purge teachers, things will improve" mentality seems to prevail. Some reform initiatives from the administration encourage firing of teachers in poorly performing schools, without taking into account all the other factors involved.

Nobody I know, including people represented by teachers' unions and those who work for them, denies that there are some bad teachers out there. But problem teachers should be dealt with on a case by case basis, not by blanket purges that punish the competent along with the incompetent.

The blame-teachers-first mentality seems to view teachers as the sole or primary cause of poorly performing schools. But as I've said here before, to establish causality, one needs three things, two of which are easy and one of which is hard. First, the cause and effect need to be associated (teachers and schools, in this case). Second, the cause must come before the effect (the teachers were there before the kids were). Third--and this is the kicker--you need to be able to rule out other factors. And here is where that train derails.

There are all kinds of factors affecting poorly performing schools and students, including poverty, family, nutrition, health, community issues, distance from school and enrichment activities, parental and community involvement, etc.

A friend of mine, the Rev. Matthew Watts, actually did the math and calculated that from a child is born until he or she reaches age 19, only 9 percent of the time will have been spent in school. The other 91 percent is spent in the home or in the community. To really address these issues, we need to look at the other 91 percent as well.


KLEPTOCRACY lives. And more from Krugman here.

A DOWN PAYMENT ON HEALTH CARE REFORM. West Virginia is launching a new pilot program to provide low cost primary care to the uninsured.

VIRAL CAT VIDEO DEPARTMENT. By way of Youtube, patty cake will never be the same.