• Remembering guitarist, Bruce Langhorne, who inspired Mr. Tambourine Man

    Langhorne, who died at 78, performed the great guitar lines that accompany–and form a counterpoint to–Bob Dylan’s vocals many of his great early songs. It’s his guitar solo on “Maggie’s Farm,” for instance, and on “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

    Premier Guitar magazine calls him a “forgotten hero” of the folk music revival.

    In his 2004 memoir, “Chronicles,” Mr. Dylan said of Mr. Langhorne, “If you had Bruce playing with you, that’s all you would need to do just about anything.” New York Times obituary for Bruce Langhorne

    It’s Langhorne’s great guitar on one of my favorite early-Dylan songs, Subterranean Homesick Blues. You don’t see Langhorne, but you certainly hear him.

    Btw, that’s Allen Ginsberg in the background, wearing a scarf and looking like a rabbi.

    Listen, watch, and enjoy!

     

  • Eugene Lang: For his spur-of-the-moment generosity that changed countless lives for the better

    Eugene Lang, who just died at 98, was a very successful investor who rose from poverty.  But that is not what makes his story so remarkable.

    It was something he began, on an impulse, in June 1981, when he spoke to a class of sixth graders at a Harlem Public School.

    The 61 students were black and Hispanic, and poor–as Mr. Lang himself had been at their age.

    He began by telling them how inspiring Martin Luther King had been, how important hard work is, and other familiar observations about how to make your own life and others’ better.

    But he quickly realized that these kids were on another planet and would simply ignore an old, rich white man, even though his background was as impoverished as theirs.

    He had grown up in a $12-a-month cold-water flat in New York, graduated from high school at 14, and went to work in a restaurant. A regular customer there talked with him, realized how brilliant his waiter really was, and arranged a college interview. Lang was accepted to one of America’s best colleges, Swarthmore, and given financial aid to make it possible for him to attend.

    As he spoke to the kids in Harlem, he must have seen a chance to pay back that regular customer a half-century later.

    So, on an impulse, he told the class something remarkable.

    He said he would give each of them a college scholarship if they were admitted to a four-year college.

    Stunned silence.

    Then, after the principal told him that only one or two would make it to college, he began to do more.

    He “adopted” the class and the school and began contributing in ways that would make them ready and eager to take advantage of his offer.

    With Lang’s help and the students’ commitment, the success rate was much higher, around 50%. As the New York Times says in his obituary:

    At least half of the original 61 sixth graders — they called themselves Dreamers — enrolled in public and private colleges, although The Daily News later reported that some students had misunderstood the offer as a promise to pay tuition even at expensive colleges and were bitter. Of those who passed up college, Mr. Lang often found them jobs.

    “I know I’m going to make it,” Aristides Alvarado, then a 20-year-old junior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told an interviewer in 1989. “And someday I’ll be big — real big — and pay the tuition for my own class of Dreamers.”

    Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers at the time, observed: “Lang put up a lot more than money. He put himself on the line, too.” –New York Times

    Lang founded the “I Have a Dream Foundation” and established year-round enrichment programs. He persuaded many rich friends to open similar programs or contribute to his or others.

    Over his lifetime, he gave $150 million to charities, including $50 million to his alma mater, Swarthmore, and another $20 million to the New School for Social Research in New York.

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    Eugene Lang: a true mensch.

    May his memory be a blessing.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, March 30

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     State Department official arrested; accused of economic spying for China  (Los Angeles Times)

    A longtime State Department employee [Candace Claiborne] was arrested Wednesday and charged with repeatedly lying about her contacts with Chinese businessmen who had plied her with thousands of dollars in cash and gifts to glean inside information about U.S. economic policy, U.S. officials said. . . .

    The case offers a window into Beijing’s efforts to gain an advantage in its economic jockeying with the United States, and how business owners in China often double as agents for state intelligence. –Los Angeles Times

     FBI director Comey wanted to publicly expose Russian spying before the election; Obama White House blocked him  (Newsweek)

    Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the Russian campaign during a meeting in the White House’s situation room in June or July. . . .

    [The op-ed] would have included much of the same information as the bombshell declassified intelligence report released January 6, which said Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to influence the presidential election, the source said.–Newsweek

     Federal Reserve says the US economy is finally back to normal  (CNN Money). Unemployment is officially under 5% and adding 200k jobs monthly, which the Fed considers full employment for its purposes. This data is why the Fed is gradually raising interest rates, hoping to keep the economy from overheating.

     Attorney General for Mexican state of Nayarit arrested in San Diego on drug trafficking charges  (San Diego Union-Tribune)

    Comment: You hate to see their courts and law enforcement system besmirched.

     Dead: The misanthrope who wrote “The Anarchist Cookbook” in the late 1960s. It featured recipes for bombs, gun silencers, and all sorts of weapons. It sold over 2 million copies and 

    is believed to have been used as a source in heinous acts of violence since its publication in 1971, most notably the killings of 12 students and one teacher in 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. –New York Times

    Comment: Oddly, given his contributions to this world, he died of natural causes.  I have deliberately omitted his name.

     Headline: “This Chicago man saved $1 million by the time he was 30. Here’s how he did it.” (Chicago Tribune)

    Let me explain how he did it:

    1. He made pretty good money, though not fantastic amounts
    2. He didn’t spend very much.

    Honestly, that’s what the article says. And, frankly, it is good advice if you want to accumulate resources and can restrain your consumption.

    Try to make good money and don’t splurge. If your investments get good returns, that helps, too.

    Comment: Works every time.

    But I would add: as you accumulate, give some to worthy charities. Others less fortunate need your help.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, March 18

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     The “inspired” has expired: “I’m here to die in the name of Allah,” and the attacker did just that at Paris Orly Airport  (CNN)

     Chuck Berry, who helped create rock-and-roll, dead at 90. A full account here at ZipDialog, along with a recording of Johnny B. Goode.

     Trump wants to build a wall 30 feet high that is hard to climb or cut through and looks good from the US side, according to contract notices posted on a US Government website.  (Associated Press)  There will be automated gates for people and vehicles.

    The government will award a contract based on 30-foot-wide sample walls that are to be built in San Diego. –AP

    Pres. Trump’s proposed budget included an initial $2.6 billion request. The total cost is expected to be $12-15 billion.

     Hillary Clinton says she is “ready to come out of the woods.” (New York Times)

    Comment: The woods are overjoyed.

     Republican House bill on healthcare would allow states to tailor some requirements, including whether to require able-bodied adults to work or engage in some substitute, such as volunteer work or education.

    Here is how the Washington Post headlines that news. You be the judge if this is a fair headline:

    “Republicans threaten to deny poor people medical care if they aren’t working” (Washington Post headline)

    Many forms of public assistance, including food stamps, require recipients to work, look for work, volunteer or participate in vocational training. The work requirements vary from one program to the next and have varying requirements vary by the program and traits of the recipients, such as their ages and whether they have children.

    Yet when it comes to health insurance, such requirements would be nearly impossible to enforce, conservative and independent experts on the Medicaid program said Friday. –Washington Post

    Comment: If you wondered what Harry Reid is doing after retirement, he’s writing headlines for the Washington Post

     Parody Song: “I’ve Got Friends in Safe Spaces” 

    Come on in and let’s be cozy. Showin’ off participation trophies

    Watching CNN in safe spaces –Chad Prather and Steve Mudflap McGrew

     Finally, Donna Brazile admits that she was cheating at CNN.

    She was doing it to help Hillary but still won’t admit that. (She says she did it to make “all our candidates look good.” A bald-faced lie. What did you leak to Bernie, Donna?)

    Of course, Hillary still won’t admit she received the questions in advance.

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  • Chuck Berry, whose exhuberance and guitar licks defined roll-and-roll, dead at 90

    Rolling Stone has a wonderful remembrance.

    For us Baby Boomers, the songs were the sound track of our misspent youth.

    Just say the names:

    • Maybellene
    • Roll Over Beethoven
    • Too Much Monkey Business
    • School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell!)
    • Rock and Roll Music
    • Sweet Little Sixteen
    • Oh, Carol
    • Little Queenie
    • Back in the U.S.A.
    • Memphis, Tennessee (whose cover by Johnny Rivers was even more popular)
    • Nadine, Honey, Is That You?
    • No Particular Place to Go
    • My Ding-a-Ling
    • Reelin’ and Rockin’

    And what could be the best rock-and-roll song ever laid down: Johnny B. Goode.

    It captures everything great about rock music at its inception.

    Berry, who wrote the song, was born in 1926 . . . on Goode Avenue.  He recorded it 4-5 miles from where I live, at the Leonard and Phil Chess’s studio, at 2120 South Michigan Ave. (The Rolling Stones had a great hit entitled “2120 South Michigan Avenue.” click here to hear it)

    Here is Chuck playing Johnny B. Goode live in 1958, the year he released it–and doing the dances he loved!

    LAGNIAPPE: SPECIAL BONUS

    Here is Chuck jammin’ with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Chuck Leavell (of the Rolling Stone and Allman Brothers Band), and Chuck’s longtime pianist, Johnnie Johnson, who is fabulous. You’ll recognize the songs and you’ll love seeing the joy of these greats playing together.

    Late in the song, you’ll hear Chuck singing with a blues rhythm that underlay his work. And what a lyric: he’s glad his baby’s back, “it’s been a long, long time since I’ve heard my backbone crack.”

     

  • True icon of Southern life dies: He co-founded the Waffle House

    Joe Rogers, Sr., was 97.

    I repeat, 97, and I can only imagine how many pancakes, biscuits, sausages he ate.

    His obituary is here, in his hometown paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    His picture has the biggest smile you can imagine. Makes you happy just looking at it.

    One day in winter 1937, Joe Rogers and a fellow teenage National Guardsman sneaked away from their windy post on a Mississippi River levee to have a meal in the home of an elderly couple.

    This wasn’t a fancy dinner. The house was more of a shack. The boys ate turnip greens, fatback and cornbread, and drank coffee from tin cups. But they were tired and hungry — weary young men in need of a break and a hearty bite.

    “I can’t recall a better meal,” Rogers would later say.

    On Friday, Rogers died, leaving a legacy as a man who lived to feed the tired and hungry, to give the weary a break and a meal as the co-founder of iconic all-night diner chain Waffle House. –Joe Rogers, Sr., obituary in the Atlanta Journal Constitution

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, February 22

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Two fascinating articles by Paul Roderick Gregory investigating Russian hacking (Forbes.com)

    The media’s focus on Trump’s Russian connections ignores the much more extensive and lucrative business relationships of top Democrats with Kremlin-associated oligarchs and companies. Thanks to the Panama Papers, we know that the Podesta Group (founded by John Podesta’s brother, Tony) lobbied for Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank. “Sberbank is the Kremlin, they don’t do anything major without Putin’s go-ahead, and they don’t tell him ‘no’ either,” explained a retired senior U.S. intelligence official. According to a Reuters report, Tony Podesta was “among the high-profile lobbyists registered to represent organizations backing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.”  …

    That’s not all: The busy Podesta Group also represented Uranium One, a uranium company acquired by the Russian government which received approval from Hillary Clinton’s State Department to mine for uranium in the U.S. and gave Russia twenty percent control of US uranium. –Paul Roderick Gregory for Forbes

    Gregory is a professor of economics at the University of Houston, specializing in Russia, and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution

     “Actually, Sweden is having big trouble with Mideast refugees,” writes Rich Lowry, who focuses on economic issues rather than crime  (New York Post)

    By welcoming a historic number of asylum-seekers proportionate to its population, Sweden has indeed embarked on a vast social experiment that wasn’t well thought-out and isn’t going very well. The unrest in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby after police made an arrest the other night underscored the problems inherent in Sweden’s immigration surge.

    Sweden’s admirable humanitarianism is outstripping its capacity to absorb newcomers. …

    There’s a stark gap in the labor-force-participation rate between the native-born (82 percent) and the foreign-born (57 percent). As the Migration Policy Institute points out, Sweden is an advanced economy with relatively few low-skills jobs to begin with. …

    The fiscal cost is high. According to Swedish economist Tino Sanandaji, the country spends 1.5 percent of its GDP on the asylum-seekers, more than on its defense budget. Sweden is spending twice the entire budget of the United Nations high commissioner responsible for refugees worldwide. Pressed for housing, Sweden spends as much on sheltering 3,000 people in tents as it would cost to care for 100,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan. –Rich Lowry for New York Post

    ◆ There is better news from Sweden: “Confused Randy Elk Mounts Wooden Elk in Swede’s Garden” (The Local, Sweden)

    Actual quote from the article:

    “I shouted at him ‘get lost’, but he didn’t give a toss,” [79-year-old Ove] Lindqvist said, explaining that the elk only left once it was content. –The Local

    Apple iPhones working for real-time facial recognition to log in  (Fox Tech)

    Amid rumors that the iPhone 8 will incorporate advanced facial recognition features, the Hebrew-language website Calcalist (via Times of Israel) is reporting that Apple recently acquired Realface, an up-and-coming Israeli startup with impressive real-time facial recognition software.

    Lending credence to rumors that the iPhone 8 may forgo the use of Touch ID in favor of facial recognition, Realface’s software is said to be sophisticated enough such that it can reliably be used as a foundation for mobile-based biometric authentication. –Fox Tech 

    The Times of Israel story on the buy-out is here.

    Israel is a high-tech powerhouse, and Apple has moved to capitalize on those capabilities, purchasing four Israeli high-tech firms in recent years.

     Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel Prize economist and a true great, has died, aged 95  N (New York Times)

    When Professor Arrow received the award in 1972, [Paul] Samuelson wrote, “The economics of insurance, medical care, prescription drug testing — to say nothing of bingo and the stock market — will never be the same after Arrow.”

    Professor Arrow — a member of an extended family of distinguished economists, including Professor Samuelson and Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and adviser to President Barack Obama — generated work that was technically forbidding even to mathematically oriented colleagues.

    But over the decades, economists have learned to apply his ideas to the modern design of insurance products, financial securities, employment contracts and much more. –New York Times

    The extended obituary concludes with a wonderful story about his prodigious, wide-ranging learning:

    Eric Maskin, a Harvard economist and fellow Nobel winner, told of a good-natured conspiracy waged by junior faculty to get the better of Professor Arrow, even if artificially. They all agreed to study the breeding habits of gray whales — a suitably abstruse topic — and gathered at an appointed date at a place where Professor Arrow would be sure to visit.

    When, as expected, he showed up, they were talking out loud about the theory by a marine biologist — last name, Turner — which purported to explain how gray whales found the same breeding spot year after year. As Professor Maskin recounted the story, “Ken was silent,” and his junior colleagues amused themselves that they had for once bested their formidable professor.

    Well, not so fast.

    Before leaving, Professor Arrow muttered, “But I thought that Turner’s theory was entirely discredited by Spencer, who showed that the hypothesized homing mechanism couldn’t possibly work.” –New York Times

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, February 20

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Malaysian probe of murder of North Korean leader’s half-brother “strains Malaysia-North Korea ties,” says Reuters. No one doubts the murder was ordered by Kim Jong Un.

    Malaysian police are hunting four North Koreans who fled the country on the day of the attack, having already detained one North Korean man, a Vietnamese woman, an Indonesian woman, and a Malaysian man.

    At least three of the wanted North Koreans caught an Emirates flight to Dubai from Jakarta late on the same day, an immigration office official in the Indonesian capital told Reuters. Malaysia’s Star newspaper reported that all four had returned to Pyongyang.

    South Korean and U.S. officials have said the killing was probably carried out by North Korean agents.–Reuters

     In a difficult military operation, Iraqi army (with US help) starts to retake the western Mosul, ISIS’ capital and last stronghold (New York Times) The city’s eastern section has already been liberated. The western section has denser population and small, winding streets, and ISIS is well-entrenched there, making it a brutal location for urban fighting. It should take several months for Iraqis to retake.

    Comment: After liberation, the city will need to be stabilized politically and militarily. That, too, is a major task.

     Michael Novak, Catholic theologian who championed capitalism and constitutional democracy, has died at 83. (New York Times obituary) He is best known for his 1982 book, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism.

    Comment: The best way to grasp his depth and his insights is to watch him. Here is a brief video–less than 5 minutes–with real understanding of what make America special, done without any chest-pounding.

    Here is another brief interview, answering the question, “Does Capitalism Corrode Morality?”

     Tucson Mayor’s Prius Carjacked at Gunpoint (Fox)

    Comment: The silver lining, police say, is that Tucson’s air quality was not harmed.   

     How much do Manhattan’s wealthy liberals hate Trump? Well, they forced the cancellation of a skating party at their kids’ hyper-exclusive, hyper-expensive private school. . . because it would be held at a public rink Trump rebuilt in Central Park. The NY Post story is here.

    Trump renovated the rink in 1986 after the city fumbled the job for six years.

    Another Dalton parent said a clique of Upper East Side “liberal moms” upset with Trump pressured the headmaster to call off the event, a source said. –New York Post

    Comment: Speaks for itself.

     VP Pence continues his European tour, reassuring NATO allies (Washington Post) The WaPo stresses Pence’s differences from Trump on NATO.

    Although the vice president repeatedly stressed that he was speaking on behalf of President Trump, the two men indeed seemed as though they were separated by an ocean.

    Pence offered bland mollifications, forced to calm and cajole European countries that, in the post-Cold War order, until recently never had cause to question the support of the United States. But at a campaign rally Saturday evening in Florida, Trump did the opposite, again criticizing NATO — hours after Pence had extolled its virtues in Munich — and offending yet another ally when he implied that there was a recent terrorist attack in Sweden, one that seemed to exist only in the president’s imagination. –Washington Post

    Comment: What the Post sees as differences might be that, but they might be something else, something smarter. They might be a shrewd way of convincing Europeans to pay more without undermining NATO’s deterrent posture toward Russia.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, February 19

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Trump’s HUGE rallies: He is clearly buoyed by the crowds, using the campaign-style rally to push his agenda

    Comment: I watched the enthusiastic, campaign-style rally in central Florida. Here is what struck me.

    • Pres. Trump’s effective showmanship–and his love of being in the public arena. His calling a fan out of the audience and asking him to speak was brilliant. To the cheering crowd, it was not only fun and unexpected, it said “we are all in this movement together.”
    • His ability to move easily between the teleprompter and improvisation; it was difficult to tell when he was reading, and when he was ad-libbing.  That is a skill he has mastered in several months and will serve him well since it allows him to have a more-disciplined agenda in the written text, without constraining his ability to go off-script occasionally.
    • His straightforward appeal to old-fashioned American values: love of country, desire for a strong military and safe communities, respect for law enforcement, and a thirst for economic growth that helps ordinary working people.

    There was not a trace of condescension. These voters can smell the contempt of Beltway insiders and economic elites. They have known that stench for decades. They would grudgingly tolerate it if those elites were delivering the goods. They aren’t.

    What Trump conveyed at the rally was a sense that he is working for people with jobs at a grocery story or auto plant, kids in public school, no retirement savings, lousy healthcare, and clothes from the sales bin at Wal-Mart. They are working hard and want better jobs, not handouts. They want safer neighborhoods, not apologies for the criminals who endanger them. And they damned sure don’t want to be told they are “privileged” by people living off their tax dollars.

    Trump was particularly effective in his attack on the federal courts’ adverse ruling on his temporary immigration ban. Instead of the reckless, personal attacks he used last week, he was substantive. He actually read the law to the cheering crowd. Its plain language, he said, gives the President the power to do what he did in the Executive Order. Then he landed the knockout punch. Because the law is so clearly on his side, he said, the judges didn’t cite any of its language in ruling against him. That is a substantive argument. It says these courts have arrogated to themselves authority over national-security policy that the law doesnot grant them. That is a far better argument than personal attacks, which he continued on the media.

    At these rallies, Trump renewed his campaign promises to his voters, and they renewed their support of his presidency.

    What they have seen in the first weeks has been rocky–did they really buy his lines that his administration is a “smooth-running machine?–but they have been reassured by one crucial thing the media considers a flaw. Trump is showing his base that he has not been sucked into the Washington world. He remains the guy they voted for.

    Now, he has to deliver on those promises.

     CNN is not happy being called “fake news.” They show it with their headline on the rally: “Trump gets what he wants in Florida: Campaign-level adulation”  

     Two important deaths:

    • “Roe” of the 1973 Supreme Court decision, “Roe v. Wade,”
    • “The blind sheik” who waged terror inside the US

     Roe’s real name was Norma McCorvey. She died of heart failure, aged 69. (New York Times)  In 1970, she a young, unmarried mother, pregnant with a third child she did not want. 

    Plucked from obscurity in 1970 by Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, two young Dallas lawyers who wanted to challenge Texas laws that prohibited abortions except to save a mother’s life, Ms. McCorvey, five months pregnant with her third child, signed an affidavit she claimed she did not read. She just wanted a quick abortion and had no inkling that the case would become a cause célèbre.

    She had little contact with her lawyers, never went to court or was asked to testify, and was uninvolved in proceedings that took three years to reach the Supreme Court.

    On Jan. 22, 1973, the court ruled 7-2 in Roe v. Wade (Henry Wade, the Dallas County district attorney, was the defendant in the class-action suit) that privacy rights under the due process and equal rights clauses of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion in a pregnancy’s first trimester “free of interference by the state,” in the words of Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who wrote the opinion. –New York Times

    Her daughter, born in 1970, was given up for adoption, as her second child had been.

    Later in life, Ms. McCorvey became an Evangelical Christian and then a Roman Catholic and a strong foe of abortion.

     The blind sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, plotted the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed 6, injured over 1,000, and inspired the 9/11 attacks. Abdel-Rahman died of natural causes, aged 78 (CNN) Before being sentenced, he told the judge (in Arabic), “This case is nothing but an extension of the American war against Islam.”

    Comment: It was, of course, exactly the opposite.

     NATO: VP Pence confirms what Sec. of Defense Mattis said the day before: the US remains committed to NATO  (Boston Globe)

    Comment: Meanwhile, at Trump’s campaign rally in Florida, the President demanded that freeloading nations pay their fair share.  Some would call these mixed messages; others would say they are precisely the mix the US needs to convince European allies to pay up while still deterring Russia.

     With so more controversy surrounding Milo Yiannopoulos on college campuses, it is wonderful to have a thoughtful essay on “Why Milo Scares Students and Faculty Even More” by Prof. Rachel Fulton Brown.  (Personal note: I know and respect Prof. Brown, who teaches medieval Christian history at the University of Chicago Divinity School. She has a special focus on medieval ideas about the Virgin Mary.)

    The issues that Milo talks about are usually considered political, but in fact have to do with people’s deepest convictions: the proper relations between women and men, the definition of community, the role of beauty, access to truth. Milo professes himself a Catholic and wears a pair of gold crosses around his neck. He speaks about the importance of Christianity for the values of Western civilization. As he put it in one interview: “[Western civilization] has created a religion in which love and self-sacrifice and giving are the highest possible virtues… That’s a good thing… But when you remove discipline and sacrifice from religion you get a cult.”

    None of these issues, most especially the civilizational roots of culture and virtue in religious faith, are typically addressed in modern college education in America. Rather, they are, for the most part, purposefully avoided. Judging from my own experience of over 30 years in the academy, it is considered a terrible breach of etiquette, horribly rude even, to mention your religious faith if you are a Christian, never mind suggest that it in any way affects your work as a scholar. This relic of the self-censoring of the late 19th century is now so deeply embedded in American academic culture that most people are not even conscious of it. The real problem, however, is that while discussion of Christian theology may no longer be at the center of university education, religion still is—we just don’t call it that anymore. –Prof. Rachel Fulton Brown 

     

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