Science

Stupidity

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Image of a galaxy, courtesy of Hubble

Reading time – 57 seconds  .  .  .

Said Harlan Ellison, “The most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” That is cynical and harsh, yes, but there surely is an element of truth to be found in that statement. Let me offer a simple syllogism:

Doing self-destructive things is stupid

Many Americans are doing self-destructive things

Therefore, many Americans are doing stupid things

Perhaps your mind is instantly pushing back on that condemnation. Fair enough, yet here is a short, off-the-top-of-my-head list to make my case:

  1. We are largely ignoring the threat of climate warming that shows us every day that the planet is going to hard boil us. Evidence of our folly: In the face of the globally warmest years we’ve ever recorded, we continue to subsidize fossil fuel industries and provide next to no support for non-carbon based energy sources.
  2. After nearly forty years of failure, we still practice the same supply-side, trickle down economics that has financially stagnated most middle-class Americans and has forced millions into poverty.
  3. We have waged about 50 years of near-continuous war, largely because we have tolerated a spineless Congress that both abdicates its responsibility and knuckles under to what President Eisenhower labeled the military-industrial complex.
  4. We have allowed our state governments to abandon their financial obligations (that’s “obligations” as in: “duty-bound”) for deferred pay to state workers, an act of irresponsibility that may put millions into retirement age peril.
  5. We have allowed huge corporations not only the First Amendment right to speak, but to control our laws and regulations. That has given us more guns and murders per capita than any other western nation, crops that are designed primarily to resist ever-greater applications of toxic pesticides, rather than delivering safe, nutritious food and so many more examples of the undermining of safety, good sense and democracy.
  6. We have allowed candidates’ need for huge amounts of money to control our elections. Example: notice how press coverage of campaigns focuses more on campaign fund raising than on candidate policy proposals for the betterment of America.

All of that and more goes on because half to two-thirds of us fail to show up on election day. That’s self-destructive. That’s stupid.

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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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Some Get That It’s Hotter

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Reading time – 53 seconds  .  .  .

Galileo Galilei published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in 1632 in order to defend his heliocentric theory of the universe, his theory being based upon his scientific findings. For his exacting efforts he found himself tried and convicted by the Roman Inquisition for being “vehemently suspect of heresy.” He spent the last nine years of his life under house arrest because of his reprehensible notion that the Earth is not the center of the universe.

It took over 400 years – into the 1950s – for the Catholic Church to admit that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution just might be a useful and credible scientific notion. Pope Paul VI rejected all forms of contraception except abstinence (Q: What do you call couples who  use the rhythm method of birth control? A: Parents). Pope Benedict XVI told us in 2009 that condoms would make the HIV/AIDS scourge worse, not better.

The history of the Catholic Church accepting and embracing advances in knowledge is rather spotty.

But now Pope Francis, the new guy, has a very different view of science, even proposing the crazy notion that our planet actually is warming and that we humans are making things worse. Go ahead and read his Encyclical Letter and you just might be amazed that it was written by a pope. Apparently, this pope doesn’t have his head stuck in the understandings of 2,000 years ago and really gets that we’ve learned a few things along the way.

Wouldn’t it be just great if our climate denying legislators had as much sense?

Worse, if they do have as much sense but continue to act as though they don’t, what is motivating that behavior? Another way to ask the question is, “Who benefits from their baseless denials?” As always, 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.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this blog along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

We’re Solving The Wrong Problem

Reading time – 119 seconds  .  .  . 

Nobody on the right, left or center disputes that a primary job of our federal government is national defense, ensuring our security in a dangerous world. ISIS or ISIL or Islamic Caliphate – whatever you want to call it – has incrementally and brutally plunged the Middle East into a conflagration of Middle East versus West, Sunni versus Shiite, believers versus infidels and seventh century versus twenty-first century reality. We have decided that this is a clear and present danger to America and have correspondingly sent our drones on attack and our munitions to Kurd and Syrian rebels.

The debate rages, though, hawks versus others, about putting American “boots on the ground.” We cannot fight effectively or have useful intelligence without those boots on the ground, the hawks tell us. So, as we fight that Middle East war with every non-boot-on-the-ground method we can think of, we are solving the problem about how to win that war by asking if we should put boots on the ground. Why are we doing that?

And why have we paid homage to a newly deceased, despotic Saudi ruler who thought that beheading was a good idea? And why did we invade Iraq?

The answer to all those questions is the same: oil.

We are still energy dependent on oil from the Middle East and Iraq has one of the largest known reserves of oil in the world. The Saudis have a huge reservoir of oil, so we continue to support the House of Saud, the people from whom 15 of the 19 airplane hijackers came to kill over 3,000 people in America. Upheaval in that area threatens our hydrocarbon supply, so we install  ( like the Shah of Iran) and prop up (like the House of Saud) some very unusual people.

The problem about whether to send ground troops to the Middle East to defeat ISIS is the wrong one on which to focus. The right one is this: “What are the strategies that will make the United States energy independent so that we will never again get drawn into oil wars in the Middle East?

President Nixon made a big deal about the importance of weaning us off foreign oil. In 1973, the year of the so-called Arab Oil Embargo, 20% of our oil needs came from other countries. Following that event our dependence soared to over 40%, where it still stood in 2012. The number has been whittled down a bit since then, but we are still hugely dependent upon others, some of them oil-rich, reprehensible dictator states. So, we continue to endanger our military people in an effort to keep a finger in the dyke of the natural state of chaos in the Middle East in order to protect the supply of oil we covet. When we ask the question of whether there should be American military boots on the ground in that area, we are caving in to an assumption that we must remain entrapped by the angry passions of seventh century animosities so that we can have cheap oil.

We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels indefinitely, this for two reasons. First, we are cooking our planet and ourselves in the process. Second, there is a finite supply of fossil fuels. Even if we have a 100 year supply, those fossil fuels will eventually be gone. We better have good solutions well before that time.

So, again, the right problem to solve is: “What are the strategies that will make the United States energy independent?

Engineers have told us that a 100 square mile grid – just 10 miles by 10 miles – of solar collectors in our desert southwest can produce enough electricity for all of Southern California and we are doing something about that. If we were to cover around 4 percent of all deserts with solar panels, we could generate enough electricity to power the world. Germany, one of the cloudiest countries in Europe, managed to craft a program for energy independence which included putting solar collectors on the roofs of its houses and those now supply 4.5% of their total energy needs. In America we have gigantic wind farms and have good locations for many more. Smart grid technology is in our hands to dramatically reduce transmission losses and do even more than that. These are just some of the ideas that have been proposed, some acted upon, and there are other technologies in development.

The strategy we need and eventually will employ is a current day version of the Manhattan Project, an all-in program to engineer and then build a new American energy system. And sooner is way better than later.

We’ll need fossil fuels in some measure for a long time to come, so don’t completely dismiss the pretty blonde in the black pants suit who lies to you about how safe hydraulic fracturing is, because we need the gas. On the other hand, it’s way past time to find ways to do it safely. It’s way past time to figure out how to transport oil without sliming the Yellowstone River and others due to ruptured pipelines.

And it’s way past time to stop telling ourselves what we can’t do or what we can’t afford to do.

We can’t afford not to do this, because if we fail to put that stake in the ground we will be consigning our patriotic military people to endless deaths, dismemberment, disfigurement and a lifetime of post traumatic stress disorder. We will be dooming future generations of Americans to second tier status in the world and the loss of the American Dream. Those are some of the things that happen when we put boots on the ground in the Middle East to prop up despotic rulers sitting on a big puddle of oil that we want, instead of solving the right problem and taking action to change the game.

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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 subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Empathy

IMG_2533Reading time – 31 seconds .  .  .

Watch this video. Really, go ahead, click on the web link (not the bracelet) and watch this amazing piece from the folks at the Cleveland Clinic.

For the longest time they have done miraculous things for patients in need at their award winning hospital and once again they show us the way with this video. Can you watch it without tearing up? If you can, look into getting an empathy implant. And, no, I don’t think they can help you with that at the Cleveland Clinic. They specialize in a different kind of heart operation.

The point is that we humans are supposed to care about others, especially those who really need our help. What would you do if you knew – like in the video?

My grandchildren know and two of them are doing something about it. They are making bracelets, donating their time, their efforts and the supplies. They’re selling their creations for $1.00 each and giving everything they collect to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

They are young – 13 and 11 – and they get it – by experience – and want to make a difference. If you’d like to support their efforts, write to Lauren and Aidan at [email protected] Tell them how many bracelets you’d like and they will respond with the details. Note that their fundraiser ends on February 28, 2015.

And show this fundraising idea to young people you know, perhaps a child or a grandchild, and get them involved in giving to others. It’s never too early to learn to have empathy and to take action.

Come to think of it, send a link to the video to politicians who fight against the very things that would help people in need, like former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) who filibustered a suicide prevention bill for our vets. What if those politicians knew – like in the video?

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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 subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Hopeful Beginning of the End

Reading time – 49 seconds  .  .  .

If you’re a regular reader, you know that my belief is that big money in our politics is the mother of all of our political dysfunction. It is what sustains the lunacy and blocks progress for our people and keeps us from solving our problems. Of all of the individual issues stymied by the Big Money Boys none will have more long term impact than global warming. That is because this issue will be the make or break for life itself for many millions of people. If you want to focus on just one specific issue, this is the one, because without solving it, eventually none of the rest will matter.

So watch this video. It details the David that is little Boulder, CO taking on the Goliath that is Big Energy, the very same leaders of which steadfastly refuse to adapt to today’s reality. They instead cling to fossil fuel generated electricity, the very same fossil fuels that alter the climate and which add to the drought in all of our western states, horrific hurricanes on our gulf and eastern coasts and extremes of weather in the mid-west. And that’s just here in America. It is amazing that the people running Big Energy don’t seem to see this looming catastrophe. The people in Boulder, CO see it just fine and may be crafting the model to break the suicidal cycle of burning fossil fuels and incrementally hard boiling the planet. And they may be crafting much more.

Big Money is fighting the people of Boulder with every bit of money muscle they can resource because there is more at stake for them than a shift in power generation. If this experiment in common sense and common will succeeds, it will provide the blueprint to break the back of the oligarchy that rules America. It will take the absolute power from today’s power brokers and put it back in the hands of the American people.

Expect a really dirty fight from the Big Money Boys, because they will be fighting for their financial status, their financial power and their financial lives. They have a lot to lose, but, as Rhett Butler said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Congratulations to the people of Boulder, CO.

Now it’s your turn. Just watch the video and look at the NewEraColorado.org page (“Not left, not right, but forward”) for an update on their progress. You’ll know what to do. As was said by those who attempted to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965 in search of universal civil rights, they were “praying with their feet and bodies.” That is our model, in that belief isn’t the point; action is.

Thanks to J.L. for the link to the video.

Thanks to F.L. for the reference to the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

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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 subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

Copyright 2018 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 2018 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 2018 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 2018 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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Droning On

I recall seeing the first drones.  Unmanned aircraft.  I’m a pilot and thought the technology was nifty.  I also admired the surveillance capabilities of those things.  Protect the troops without endangering AWACs and helo crews.  Find the bad guys.  Like that.

Then we started using these things to kill people at weddings.

Now my friend and futurist David Houle has pointed out that Grumman has a programmable 330-pound robot.  This thing is cool and can trek where no man has gone before or ever should go and has capabilities no human will ever have.  Major geek factor.

They also have a surveillance “bat” airborne drone – also a major cool and high geek factor item.  While watching the video I couldn’t help but notice how its superb surveillance eye was able to find a human “target”.  That is the label Grumman pasted on some guy walking on an airport tarmac.

We truly do have the capability to make a weapon out of anything, perhaps even a lampshade.  It’s just what the fertile minds of our war materiel contractors, the military and our secret CIA army dream up to do with that stuff that scares me, because the power and the decisions seem to be unbridled and even unchecked.

The NSA is supposed to get warrants for its spying, but it often doesn’t.  The CIA is prohibited by law from engaging in activities within the US, but it does so all the time.  The FBI is legally limited in its spying efforts, but it reads your email without a warrant, even going beyond the lawless powers of the so-called Patriot Act.  Now we have a programmable 330 pound robot that “they” will be able to program to do whatever they want it to do.  Look for a knock at your door soon.  And have a nice day.

For David Houle’s comments on privacy, have a look at his new e-Book, Is Privacy Dead?.

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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 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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