January 08, 2011

A blast from the past

(Note: while combing through the Goat Rope archives, I came across this post from a couple years ago that seemed appropriate for this time of year. El Cabrero is all about recycling.)

For first time readers, this blog generally discusses fairly serious human issues during the week. Weekends, however, are reserved for the contributions of various animals in and around Goat Rope Farm.

This weekend, we are not altogether pleased to feature a commentary by a snapping turtle who refuses to give his name and is known only as the Untrustworthy Reptile. The views expressed by this contributor and other talking animals are not necessarily those of the staff of Goat Rope, nor do we assume any liability for those who act upon these views. In fact, we believe that doing so would be a particularly bad idea in this case.

Despite our reservations, we have decided to run this commentary because of our deep commitment to the First Amendment, although the extent to which it applies to reptiles is not clear. It is our hope that providing space for the expression (bio) diverse viewpoints will promote a greater appreciation of both the humanities and the animalities.


Hey you--with the face. C'mere. You look like hell. I think you got a case of SAD. That stands for Sorry @$$ Dude--I mean Seasonal Affective Disorder. This winter weather must be killing you. You look kind of dead already.

I won't even talk about shrinkage...

Look at me--see any snow here? Do I look like an icicle? I'm warm as can be. I have this special force field all around me that keeps me nice and toasty. I got my own sunshine.

You know how I do it? I got this special ointment, see. It's made from platypus urea--a top secret recipe. All I gotta do is rub a little on me and it's permanent springtime. You could use a little of that.

Today is your lucky day. It just so happens that I've got a little vial on me. I'll let you try it free. Let's see...where did I put it. Oh yeah, I remember now. It's right here in my mouth.

All you gotta do is reach in there and get it. Just stick your hand part way in there for a second. Just a little bit. Come on, go ahead. Just for a second...

Hey! Where are you going? Come back here! OK, fine--I hope you shrivel up and freeze! I hate you!


January 07, 2011

With a friend like this...

I have this friend named Jeff who is really a nice guy. On the surface anyway. In fact, he's an ordained Methodist minister. But what kind of friend is it who knows that someone is an addicted to something and gets them going on a binge?

The addiction in question is one of several of mine, to wit reading Tolkien. It's not an everyday thing. I can go years or even decades without touching the stuff, but when something gets me started again, I can't stop myself and have to re-read the whole Ring cycle.

It all started innocently enough when we were musing, as we often do, that working for social justice in WV is a bit like being stuck in the early part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Dark lords rising, sinister forces threatening Middle Earth, damage being done that can never be undone. Many defeats and fruitless victories.

But then he tempted me with books I had not read on Tolkien's life and work and before you could say "Attercop!" (something giant spiders in The Hobbit hated to be called) I was hooked again. Now I'm several hundred pages into the whole thing again with more than that to go.

Thanks a lot, pal...

MIXED SIGNALS. Although jobless claims rose a bit last week, new job growth in the private sector surpassed expectations.

IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE. Despite a serious downturn, government policies--particularly those related to the Recovery Act--kept millions of Americans from falling into poverty.

NO SURPRISE, BUT STILL IMPORTANT. The wealth gap between the richest one percent and everyone else has gotten bigger in the Great Recession.

UPPER BIG BRANCH. More water problems have been found by investigators of the Massey mine disaster.

HAST ANY PHILOSOPHY IN THEE, SHEPHERD? These may be hard times for philosophy in an age of academic budget cuts, but it seems to be doing just fine at one community college.

PLAY ON. There's a movement to bring back imagination to children's play.


January 06, 2011

Philosophical dead ends

I have a great love of philosophy, although certain schools of it don't do anything for me. Some of the ones I have no use for are logical positivism, analytical philosophy, and the philosophy of language.

I have a new one to add to the list: the philosophy of mind. There is something inherently absurd to me about conscious people intentionally spending a lot of time arguing about whether consciousness and intentionality exist. Another favorite topic of such thinkers is whether consciousness is entirely physical and whether mental phenomena, if they exist, can influence physical phenomena. It occurs to me they could ask any doctor about that one.

If I'm going to spend any time reading about the mind, whatever it is, I'll probably try to stick either to the sciences devoted to such things or to real philosophers like Kant and Hegel, who may not have been right but were at least interesting. The main point of philosophy is not so much to be right as to be interestingly but creatively wrong.

Of course, I could be wrong about all this.

BIG LIES about government spending, according to Robert Reich, are hiding the bigger truth about growing inequality.

GREEN JOBS aren't just for blue states.

LANDMARK. Massey Energy reached a settlement in a lawsuit with the Labor Department over major safety problems in a Kentucky mine. Too bad something like this didn't happen at Upper Big Branch before last April.

NO COMMENT. Could exercising make you want to drink more alcohol?

TWO FOR THE BIRDS. Crows...the other tool using animal. And, while we're at it, some ancient flightless birds apparently used wings as clubs. Would that count?


January 05, 2011

The perfect Christmas gift for 2011

I haven't travelled much with a GPS navigating system, but I have been along for the ride when others used them. It seemed kind of weird to me when they start talking to you.

But then it occurred to me how cool it would be to have a trash-talking GPS, one that, for example, might call you a dip**** when you took a wrong turn and otherwise unleash a stream of profanity when you didn't do what it told you.

For family travel, one could set it on mild putdowns, like "I can't believe I'm stuck in a car with you weenies," but you could pull out all the stops for adult travel. It would make getting lost more fun than ever and would encourage people to go to new and different places just to hear it cut loose, although this might contribute to oil consumption and extra carbon emissions.

I probably won't have time this year to take a correspondence course on GPS engineering, so somebody will probably steal this idea and make a mint.

WHO'S IN CHARGE? Republicans in Congress are polling business groups to ask what rules they want axed.

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME. Here's a look at what else we might expect on the right wing agenda.

PASSING ON. Judy Bonds, a longtime opponent of mountaintop removal mining, died after a struggle with cancer.

SHAKEUP. Big changes are probably on the way for the WV state senate.

CATS don't like their routines messed with.


January 04, 2011

So my daughter got her nose pierced

This is not my daughter, but it has a great nose.

Yes, that would be the one with the doctorate. I got one of those "Guess what?" calls over the holidays, the kind that every parent receives with some amount of trepidation. "I got something pierced today."

I knew the ears had long been done, but the other possibilities made me downright queasy. "It wasn't your tongue, was it?" I asked. She was speaking too clearly for that, but one never knows. I started running down the list and it turned out to be the nose.

I generally try to be supportive but the best thing I could come up with was the observation that I would feel fully justified using force to prevent someone from doing the same to me.

"You remember that you do karate, right?" I asked. "You get hit there."

She was undeterred by this possibility, possibly because she usually dishes out more punishment than she receives when sparring.

I talked to my son in law about this. "She just likes to express herself," he said. I guess this is what happens when one grows up listening to Madonna.

VOX POPULI. Most Americans support raising taxes on the wealthy to deal with deficits.

SOMETHING IS WORKING to fight poverty in different parts of the world.

HOPES FOR 2011 from Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz here.


ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY, folklore pioneer Jacob Grimm was born in 1785, poet T.S. Eliot died in 1965 and President Lyndon Johnson outlined his vision of the Great Society the same year (he also said a thing or two, alas, about a certain dustup in southeast Asia). For more, click here.


January 03, 2011

Back to the salt mines

El Cabrero took some time off between the holidays. Nothing exciting, although it was nice to remember what it's like to wake up naturally without an alarm clock screaming at 4:45 a.m. Now it's back to sleep deprivation and all that. I didn't even turn on the computer for that period, if checking the Precious iPhone doesn't count.

A number of interesting news items came out in the interim but I will avoid commenting at length on all but one. The Dec. 24-Jan. 6 issue of The State Journal, a WV business paper, featured a list of the most influential business leaders in West Virginia. Topping the list was former (as of January 1) Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

I take no issue with that. For good or ill, Blankenship has no doubt made the most ripples in the pond. But I can't resist mentioning that the article quoted WVU free market economist Russel Sobel, of Unleashing Capitalism fame, to the effect that

The nice thing about this list is these are all people who've done it the right way. Their success is not based on political connections but on competing against others.

I guess buying a state supreme court seat in the 2004 election doesn't count. And apparently neither does trying to buy the state House of Delegates in 2006. If the latter didn't work as well as the former, it wasn't for lack of trying. I imagine some major change was also dropped in the 2008 and 2010 elections as well.

I guess doing things the right way also includes union busting; major environmental and coal mine safety violations--including the highest criminal fines ever levied against a company by MSHA; far too many dead miners; pumping sludge into old mines to contaminate well water and a whole host of fun and games.

The nice thing about subscribing to an ideological creed is that one never has to be bothered with the facts.

HOLED UP. Krugman's latest reminds us that we're still in deep despite recent economic good news.

HATE RADIO. Here's an interesting take on the right wing media and the rage machine.

LOOKING BACK. Here's Wired Science on the biggest scientific breakthroughs of 2010.