21st Century

Doing More of What Doesn’t Work


Colin PowellReading time – 79 seconds  .  .  .

General Colin Powell is one of our most decorated soldiers and a most respected American. He is also a student and has learned a thing or two along the way, some of which were learned at the cost of the blood and the suffering of many.

The Powell Doctrine presents a series of questions, all of which must be answered affirmatively before U.S. combat troops are deployed. These questions are:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

Note that Powell has amended these questions to include the use of every tool and resource available to achieve decisive military victory, minimum U.S. casualties and the rapid ending the conflict, should military force be employed. The Powell Doctrine is broadly supported by our military because it makes sense.

These questions are straightforward and clearly many of them would have been answered in the negative prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, had the Powell Doctrine been considered. That escapade, though, is over. Now we are faced with a different dilemma in Iraq.

There is sense to the statement, “You broke it, you bought it,” and we surely did break Iraq. There is sense to the claim that an Islamic caliphate stretching across the entire Middle East may become a clear and present danger to the security of the United States. And there is sense in having concern for the safety of ordinary people in the region, this because of the brutal and barbarian tactics of the ISIS fanatics.

All of that is true, but:

1.   It is not yet clear that a vital U.S. national security interest is threatened.

2.   We do not have a clear attainable objective.

5.   There is no plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement.

7.   The action is not supported by the American people.

8.   We do not have genuine broad international support.

If we cannot meet these five (and maybe more) of the eight criteria, all of which must be met in order to decide to go to war, then why in the world would we re-engage militarily in Iraq?

We have now sent 300 advisers to Iraq. What if they aren’t enough to accomplish whatever it is the advisers are supposed to do? Regardless of the number we send, doing more of what doesn’t work won’t make it work. We should have learned that lesson after incrementally increasing troops deployed to Viet Nam to over half a million. Doing more of what didn’t work served to produce thousands more dead troops and hundreds of thousands more dead Vietnamese. And perhaps it produced one other thing.

Truty, Justice and the American WayHow come we seem to be in nearly perpetual war? We would love to believe it is to maintain national security and for truth, justice and the American way (cue George Reeves in his Superman suit, arms akimbo, standing in front of a waving American flag). Instead, let’s try reality: Follow the money.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What To Do About Arrogance & Indifference


Reading time – 73 seconds  .  .  .

In his stunning article in the June, 2014 The Atlantic exploring the issue of reparations for our American treatment of slaves and the effects on their descendents, Ta-Nehisi Coates quotes a Chicago Tribune editorial from 1891 that addresses this same issue:

“They have been taught to labor. They have been taught Christian civilization, and to speak the noble English language instead of some African gibberish. The account is square with the ex-slaves.”

Every point in that passage carries the stink of arrogance and of self-serving indifference to the ongoing pain caused to others.  Arrogance and indifference, though, did not end with the 19th century.

97% of climate scientists tell us that the stuffing of Earth’s atmosphere with carbon dioxide and methane will result in a rise in sea level of at least 3 feet within the next 85 years.  Couple that with the fact that South Florida (Miami, Palm Beach, etc.) sits roughly 5 feet above sea level and you can see that it won’t take a very big wave to submerge the entire lower half of the state. All it takes is to have passed 8th grade science class to understand this and a 97% margin should be enough expert opinion to persuade all of us (and especially Floridians) that we have a severe problem on the very near-term horizon, but arrogance and indifference rule the day.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) declared on ABC’s “This Week” that, “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” And InsideClimateNews.org reported, “During the past three years, [Florida Republican] Gov. [Rick} Scott, a climate skeptic allied with fossil fuel companies, has led a systematic unraveling of nearly all the climate policies passed under his predecessor [Gov. Charlie] Crist” (italics added). Gotta wonder if these guys missed 8th grade science class.

Let’s see, we have a Florida senator who has presidential ambitions and who doesn’t want to alienate his base of knuckle dragging Luddites, so he sucks up to them by denying reality – he is just that important to himself. And we have a Florida governor linked to the fossil fuel industry, so he blinds himself to our inevitable and disastrous future in order to help his fossilized buddies, who likely help him.

These officials were elected to serve the very people who will lose everything as the ocean swallows their homes. Many will drown, as the tides rise and storms become ever more severe and catastrophically Katrina the state.

It seems that the short-term political self-interests of these politicians is far more important to them than the soon-to-be dire fate of their people. Clearly, their self-interests are steeped in arrogance and indifference.

So it is throughout the political world for issue after issue. It is no different than the arrogance and indifference of the Chicago Tribune a century and a quarter ago.

It is not just Floridians who better get to the polls and vote these self-serving people out of office. The tide is already up over 9 inches and it’s rising on every one of us every day, both metaphorically and literally.

By the way, lower Manhattan has about the same elevation above sea level as South Florida. So does Los Angeles.

Mayday PACWant to know what you can do about it? Vote the arrogant ones out of office and replace them with reformers. Watch this.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Pale Blue Dot


Reading time – 39 seconds

Because ginormous money influence in our politics is the mother of all of our political dysfunction, I usually focus my energy on that. There are specific issues of vast and lasting importance to us individually and collectively, though, and sometimes there is impetus to stick a toe in specific waters.

Such is the case due to a recent posting by my futurist pal David Houle. He puts as much energy into divining the future as you put into your primary area of focus. Interestingly, this recent posting had a retro nerd flavor.

Carl Sagan was a Cornell University professor of astronomy and a marvelous translator for the masses of the science of the cosmos. Notably, he was acutely aware of our planetary smallness in this unimaginably vast universe, as well as the quite unusual place in it that we hold.

97% of climatologists (not TV weather guessers) tell us that the Earth is warming at an alarming rate, that there will be severe consequences and that we human beings are contributing mightily to hard boiling ourselves. And that connects to Houle and Sagan.

Have a look at David Houle’s offering – it’s just 4 minutes of video – and get that we are all stuck here and that there is no place to go when we’ve made much of the Earth uninhabitable. We are now crafting that hostile world for our children and grandchildren, all so that the Kochs, Exxon, BP, Big Coal, T. Boone Pickens and others in fossil fuel businesses can make more money today.

Is that okay with you? No? Well, what are you going to do about it?

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Nothing Conservative To See Here – Move Along


Reading time . .  .  43 seconds

There are so many programs that the Republicans used to support, like healthcare reform, gun background checks and programs that suggest something science-y, like cap-and-trade.  For six years, though, they have been focused solely on opposing anything President Obama supports, so they have turned their backs on their own programs trying to out-testosterone one another and promoting governmental paralysis. Indeed, many Republicans used to be conservatives, but that seems to have fallen into disfavor over on the right, which is now well short of the neocortex.

The Republicans are big promoters of a fire breathing, smoke belching military. They support the troops and wave flags and insist that we continue to spend money on defense at the same rate or even more than we spent when we were engaged in a cold war opposing a country that now no longer exists. Let nobody suggest that the R’s are military wimps. They got their camo mojo on and it’s cookin’ all the time, supportin’ the troops. Conservative bedrock in action, right?

Except when our troops come home broken up, messed up and throwing up. Then the R’s aren’t so supportive of the troops. That’s when they adjust their bean counter eye shades and sleeve garters to cut budgets. That’s when it’s clear that the “political right” has departed from conservatism. Indeed, Poppy Bush would be aghast to learn that there are no compassionate conservatives.

Read Carl Gibson’s excellent article Fake Political Outrage is the Real VA Scandal and see for yourself. These R’s who are refusing to properly care for our wounded are the same right wingers who authorized “supporting out troops” by lying to the American people, trumping up “evidence” for an unnecessary war and then sending our troops into battle without body armor, without vehicle armor and without an exit plan. Then they sent another 100,000 troops to attack Afghanistan, yet another country that did not attack America. Tough beans now for the 1.6 million vets who have cycled home, need help and are applying to the VA for what was promised.

Are you looking for conservatives? Don’t bother looking at today’s Republican Party, because there’s nothing conservative to see there. Move along.

 Ed. note:  Thanks to EBC for bringing Gibson’s article to my attention.

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There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Tiananmen Square and the U.S.


Tank Man 2

Tank Man waiting to confront tanks – look carefully. Photo Terril Yue Jones

Reading time – 62 seconds  .  .  . 

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars published a stunning article by Terril Yue Jones, Associated Press correspondent in China in 1989, entitled Tiananmen Square at 25 that has a shocking message for us as we continue down our slippery slope from one person, one vote.

By now you’ve heard the reports of the complete vanishing of information from the Chinese people of the protests for reform by hundreds of thousands of Chinese in their April through June, 1989 demonstrations. Those born since that time have no knowledge that anything happened then. The Communist leaders want it that way so that they stay in power. (Funny how people in power will do amazing things to stay in power.)

In addition to censoring all information about the events in Tiananmen Square, the government made certain it would retain control by buying off the people with the opportunity for upward mobility – things like an apartment or a car – and the ever-present threat of harm.

Jones reported a conversation he had just a few years ago with a worker from Hunan province about the 1989 events in Tiananmen, who told him, “If I don’t steal, swindle or kill, no one will bother me.” Jones commented,

“It’s that kind of disinterested focus on self that Chinese authorities have very effectively fostered in the years since the uprising at Tiananmen Square. Yes, the economic and social improvements for which workers, teachers and other citizens agitated in 1989 — from increased salaries and home ownership to social and economic rights — have largely been accomplished, giving rise to a massive middle class. But it’s those masses in the middle class and below who see the yawning wealth gap between themselves and China’s legions of millionaires.”

How eerily similar that sounds to America today.

Americans are afraid of losing whatever they have been able to retain and so keep their heads down to avoid harm. As a result we have that same “yawning wealth gap” between we the people and the Big Money controllers of our country.

One can’t help but wonder how bad will things have to become for people – millions of Americans – to stand up and, like Howard Beale in the movie Network, say, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Perhaps it will require an American Tank Man.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

You’ll Koch On This – Chapter 2


Reading time – 41 seconds

The city of Nashville, TN is expecting major growth over the next 20 years, including the expansion of its population by about a million people. To help deal with current congestion and to get ahead of the coming glut of cars on Nashville area roads, the city is proposing a 7.1 mile bus line with a dedicated highway lane in order to reduce commute times and the frustration of everyone. What could be bad about that?

Apparently, the Koch brothers can find something bad about it. They are major supporters of Americans for Prosperity (hmmm, for which Americans’ prosperity might that be?) and that organization is working to ban the proposed bus line. They have named any number of brainlessly dumb reasons for that, but they have put their money muscle into action. That’s probably a good idea for them, because more buses means fewer cars and that might ding the profits of Koch Industries – especially if the disease of public transportation spreads to other cities and fossil fuel consumption is curtailed.

That is a bit like opposition to solar power. Sometimes the solar panels on the roofs of houses produce more electricity than is consumed. That results in the electric meter running backward, a reasonable financial credit for the homeowners. The Kochs are fighting that, too. They don’t like incentives for clean renewable energy. It’s bad for their fossil fuel business.

In these cases and in the case presented in You’ll Koch On This – Chapter 1, the Kochs are acting in their short term self-interest and in each case the interests of the rest of the American people are at risk. Screwing public workers and screwing the air we breathe is just fine with them.

Getting past that myopic vision requires thinking that goes beyond the life expectancy of the Koch brothers and any of the billionaires who fight progress to keep their claws dug into their very profitable status quo.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with self-interest. Our job, though, is to understand the unbridled greed that is harming us in a thousand ways, to wake up and take action to stop the economic bullying being done by the few at the expense of your lungs, your wallet and the planet you live on.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

You’ll Koch on This – Chapter 1


Reading time – 29 seconds  .  .  .

The Koch brothers and other big bucks boys sponsored a pension reform seminar and invited lots of judges to attend. It was all about how we will “reform” our pension system for public workers, given the enormous “unfunded liability” held by most states. What that means is that we agreed to provide pensions for these people, often in lieu of pay raises, but we didn’t put away money into a pension pot from which we could draw later. Well, it’s “later” right now and many states are in trouble.

There is lots of weaselly pension fixing language being tossed about, like the suggestion of Amy Moynahan, University of Minnesota law professor. that, “.  .  .  changes to future pension accruals should be legally permissible absent clear and unambiguous evidence that the legislature intended to create a contract.” That is to say, states can unilaterally ditch their obligations via courtroom sleight of hand to make it look like there was no contract with public workers.

No contract? Really? Those state legislatures were just spit balling what they might do later on for workers and now don’t they have to keep their word?

Now, why would the Koch brothers care about the fate of public pensions and the future of public workers so much that they would be a major sponsor of a conference where they invite judges before whom such cases may be brought? I don’t suppose that there might be tax consequences to such cases that might affect the Kochs. Naw, couldn’t be that. Surely it couldn’t be about large corporations in the private sector and their unfunded pension programs that these corporations still don’t want to fund. For sure it isn’t about any desire to build relationships with judges who will hear their inevitable lawsuits.  Right?

No, not right.

More on this kind of craziness in Chapter 2. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, watch this video. Opposition to the Koch’s and the rest of the Big Bucks Boys who are despoiling our Constitution and stealing our democracy is growing. All it takes is you and me and a few million of our friends. Then they can’t stop us.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA

 


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Where Is That Leader?


Reading time – 1 minute, 13 seconds  .  .  . 

My friend Dr. Mardy Grothe writes a weekly blog focused on words, literature and philosophy. He is a beacon of mental light in contemporary America’s dark ocean of reptilian brain distaste of learning, the arts, science and ordinary sense.

Last week his post included several quotes that speak to our present condition.  For example,

“It is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel.” Anatole France

That, indeed, is a key driver of our national and international challenges, as various factions declare their absolute hold on the truth and righteousness. Naturally, that leaves many of us outside the in crowd and we are judged as bad, wrong, godless, evil, unpatriotic and various other negative adjectives.  That effectively produces lots of dead bodies, both metaphorically and literally.

Here’s another Anatole France quote:

“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread.”

We live in an America where some are protected from infancy from having to sleep under bridges or beg in the streets. Here, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness favor those who are born with it and the opportunities for the rest of the people are being incrementally eliminated both legislatively and by a regressive Supreme Court.

Human nature is impatient with aimlessness and we soon find actions that feed our passion. And we either have the adventure of a vision that inspires us or we resort to eating one another like too many rats in a small space. And right now there seem to be a lot of hungry rats gnawing on our national vitality.

On May 25, 1961 President John Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress and challenged America, saying,

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

His vision inspired a nation. He showed us the contrast between what had been and what could be and we put our shoulders to that task. We shared in the satisfaction of doing something meaningful and in the pride in accomplishment. And in that national effort we changed America and forged new global technologies that serve all mankind yet today.

We need a daring vision for our time and that vision will inspire us for a generation. The vision that is worthy of us will begin to release our certainties over our absolute beliefs, we will start to level our economic playing field and unleash the power and creativity that now lies dormant. And it will begin to still the voices of the complainers, the liars and the thieves of our spirit.

Now, where is that leader?

You can subscribe to Dr. Mardy Grothe’s Sunday blog by sending a blank email to [email protected]

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Almost Perfect Dumb-pocalypse


Reading time – 54 seconds  .  .  .

For decades we have had a most efficient, self-reinforcing cycle in our politics of incrementally allowing more and more money into our political infrastructure. As we did that, the Big Money Interests gained incrementally more influence over our laws, our bureaucracy and our courts to drive ever-larger piles of cash into the hands of those same Big Money Interests. That has made it easier for them to throw even more cash into the political infrastructure, which has driven more legislation and correspondingly more cash to the Big Money Interests.

That cycle is the destruction of our democracy (origin: Greek “demos” – the people; “kratia” – power, rule), because it takes power away from the people. The Big  Money Interests simply focus on themselves and all that cash and they lubricate the machinery of elections and government for their hand-picked politicians, so our politicians do the bidding of the Big Money Interests. That means that our legislators are not focused on the needs of ordinary Americans, so our problems have become worse.

Maybe you think that the murders at Fort Hood and Sandy Hook Elementary School are problems.

Maybe you think that your spouse being unable to secure full time employment is a problem.

Maybe you think that oil spills and toxic fracking chemicals leaked into our fresh water supplies is a problem.

Maybe you think that preventing Americans from voting is a problem.

You’re right – those are problems. And our Big Money influenced politics is the reason these issues continue to get worse.

The Citizens United case allowed unlimited and undisclosed corporate and individual money to flood our election process. Now the McCutcheon decision has unleashed nearly unlimited personal funds for direct campaign contributions, so we have The Almost Perfect Dumb-pocalypse. All that is needed to make it The Perfect Dumb-pocalypse is another airhead Supreme Court decision that takes the stops off the maximum donation to a single candidate in a single election.

Coke bottle glassesBut that may not happen, because our Supreme Court thinks that unlimited donations to a single candidate might look like bribery. Actually, it’s the only thing the Court thinks of as political bribery. Maybe we should give new eyeglasses to those on the 5 side of all those democracy killing, hope and trust destroying 5-4 decisions so that the Supremes can begin to see reality more clearly.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Modest Proposal


a-modest-proposalReading time: 68 seconds  .  .  .

There was a time when we Americans believed in the strength, resiliency and the fortitude of each of us. We took responsibility for ourselves and didn’t look to others to solve our problems. We were proud and independent.

Then things started to go awry.

The Sixteenth Amendment (ratified in 1913) authorized a federal income tax and that was the beginning of a non-stop grab at the wallets of honest Americans. Then the Great Depression came along and offered the perfect opportunity for bleeding heart liberals to suck dry the wealth of we self-reliant Americans. The feds used pictures of people in breadlines to increase taxes on hard working Americans and give it to poor people. Then there was an Old Age tax, as though anyone needed the government to tell them to put something away for a rainy day.  And the government gave money to widows and orphans and anybody with a sob story. And then it started paying for people’s medical care. And public television. And support for opera. Opera!

Things have gone way too far and government has stuck its nose into everybody’s business, so it’s time to turn things around, to go back to what made this country great.

It’s time to eliminate all government programs except for national defense. Correspondingly, we’ll eliminate all the taxes we collect for all those giveaway programs and instead allow strong, resilient, independent Americans to stand proud again. All those lazy people who have had their hands in the pockets of the rest of us can deal with the consequences of their decisions.

Getting the government out of where it doesn’t belong will be easy. For example, meat producers that make foods that kill people with salmonella will lose their customers, so the market will take care of policing that. Who needs the USDA? Same thing with medicines – the market will police that, too, so who needs the FDA?

There are lots of benefits to doing this, like the way we’ll end the population problems of our inner cities because those people won’t have food or medical care. And fewer people means lower oil consumption so we will end our dependence on foreign oil. Illegal immigration will end, because those lawbreakers would starve if they came here. And those other countries to which we are currently sending foreign aid can just take care of themselves and stop expecting us to be responsible for them.

Really, now, this just isn’t that difficult a problem to solve. A simple and modest proposal like this should slip right through our Congress.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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