January 21, 2008


Caption: Venus is a goat of little faith.

One of El Cabrero's favorite Lou Reed songs is from the album New York. The point of this very dark song is that there's not a whole lot to depend on in this life and that "you need a busload of faith to get by." Here is is by way of YouTube.

Assuming that to be true, what is faith anyway?

There is a classic definition by Mark Twain:

faith is believing what you know ain't so.

The unknown author of the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews famously said that

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

On the other hand, as Nietzsche observed:

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.

The great Jewish philosopher and theologian Martin Buber in his book Two Types of Faith distinguished between faith as trust, expressed by the Hebrew word emunah, which he believed was the approach of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus, and faith as belief in the truth of certain propositions, as expressed in the Greek word pistis, which he argued was the approach of Paul and dogmatic forms of Christianity.

One of the most interesting approaches to faith was that of the great 20th century Protestant theologian Paul Tillich, who laid it out in a powerful little book The Dynamics of Faith. He had a way of looking at theological concepts in a way that could speak to anyone regardless of religious background or lack thereof.

About which more tomorrow.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY is observed today, almost a week after his real birthday. It took a busload of faith for he and the millions of others who struggled for civil rights to get as far as they did. So here, again by way of YouTube, is his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

All kinds of events are going on today across the country to observe this occasion. El Cabrero will be attending the third annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast with amigos. Three years ago, we used it as the occasion to kick off a successful effort to raise the minimum wage in West Virginia. The focus still is on economic justice, with a special focus on keeping working families healthy and a campaign for paid sick days for workers. As Dr. King said,

There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American [worker] whether he is a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid or day laborer.

BUSHWHACKED. Here's a good critique of Bushonomics by Larry Beinhart.

TARGET IRAN? One would hope not, but I wouldn't put it past our current clique.

LABOR ON STIMULATING THE ECONOMY. The AFLCIO recommends an economic stimulus package that includes the following:

*Extension of unemployment benefits.

*Increased food stamp benefits.

*Tax rebates targeted to middle-income and lower-income taxpayers.

*Fiscal relief for state and local governments to avoid the economically depressing effect of tax increases and budget cuts.

*Acceleration of ready-to-go public investment in school renovations and bridge repair.

SPEAKING OF BRIDGES, here's the AP on America's hugely neglected infrastructure.

FUN WITH SCIENCE (IF YOU'RE NOT AN ANT). Nature is one clever Mother. According to this Wired Science item,

a newly discovered parasite makes its ant hosts turn red and swollen, like berries. Berry-loving birds then eat the ants, and spread the parasite in their droppings.

The ants were unavailable for comment. However, a parasite spokesperson issued the following statement: "Na na na boo boo! Take that, ants!"

WV IN THE NEWS. The fallout from the WV Supreme Court/Masseygate story along with a major fine for Massey Energy has drawn a good bit of national media attention the last few days. Here is one from the NY Times about the fine and one about the Court from the same source. Here's the Washington Post on the fine. On a related note, here's Ken Ward from the Charleston Gazette on how the state has dropped the ball on environmental enforcement.


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