Terrorism

Keep Heart


Oh no ThinkerReading time – 46 seconds  .  .  .

We Americans have a short little attention span.

Does anyone remember the terrible floods in the desert country of Oman in June or the floods in Los Angeles 3 weeks ago or the students who were killed at Umpqua Community College in Oregon just last month?

Our news is currently obsessed with terrorism in Europe and Africa and with Syrian women and children refugees (have a look at this for a fresh perspective) who might come to America and kill you. We see talking heads speculating endlessly over things about which they have no facts. Experts rattle on as though oracles of the gods, while relatives of victims and witnesses to terrorism are interviewed in bouts of heart-tugging pandering for the cameras.

The good news is that this will pass. It will happen just as soon as the next sensational awful thing happens. The even better news is that the political stupid stuff that’s being sprayed in toxic levels over the current events will also start to abate, but the political pandering will have made its mark.

Ben Carson’s support has dropped 40% because people are at last realizing that he is clueless. Support for the circus barker with the strange hair has gone up because he is sucking up to people’s need for security with his inane pronouncements. And Ted Cruz sounds ever more like the idiot that he is not and ever more like the manipulator that he most surely is.

So much certainty and so little wisdom is vying for our attention. What’s a thinking person to do?

Keep your eye on the ball: The mother lode of our political and governmental dysfunction is the big money influence on our elections and lobbying practices. Fix that and the rest of our challenges will be handled promptly and well.

So, keep heart and work hard to elect a Congress – your senators and congressman/woman – that will reform our criminal campaign finance system. And work extra hard to elect a president who will appoint Supreme Court justices who aren’t wacko righties bent on creating an oligarchy and subverting your rights.

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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.

President Bush Got One Right


Doofus George at the DoorReading time – 44 seconds  .  .  . 

I was frequently embarrassed by the way George W. Bush presented the United States to the world. He said some inane things. He mispronunciated [sic] words. He displayed his doofus look with regularity, making me wonder what, if anything, was going on inside his head.

One of the things he said that seemed patently stupid was his claiming that Islamic fundamentalists hate us because of our freedom. Really? It wasn’t because we had spent decades supporting despotic middle-east rulers who made the lives of their people miserable and often too short? It wasn’t because Palestinians, their religious brothers, were suffering and, as the Islamists saw it, because we support Israel? It wasn’t because they wrapped their politics in their violent religion and saw us as infidels?

Interestingly, while all those reasons are true, we in the West really are hated for our freedom – in a certain sense.

Islam is an absolutist religion. You either believe and obey or you are an infidel. There is no middle ground, no wiggle room for changed circumstances or new information. Qur’anic  law mandates harsh penalties, so for true believers, their explanation (not justification, but their explanation) for brutality and murder is, “Allah requires me do it.”

Their personal responsibility is solely to obeying directives from 7th century Arabia, as recorded 150 years after the Prophet Muhammad died. You  might want to read any of the books by Ayaan Hirsi Ali for clarity about that and on the drivers of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The point is that the 9/11 killers and the ISIL members now committing atrocities believe that they are doing God’s work. They see themselves as holy. They are motivated by their notion of right as spelled out in the Qur’an and interpreted literally. Because what they do is for Allah and is at Allah’s direction, there can be no compromise. And that’s exactly why they will be ever-dangerous to people in the west and why there is no room for negotiation with them.

To them we are infidels, unholy, dirty and perverse in the eyes of God because we afford ourselves the freedom to believe as we choose, to live with individual free will – personal freedom. That is why, oddly enough, George W. Bush actually got this one right.


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

You’re So Smart


Sen. Martin Heinrich, (D-NM)

Sen. Martin Heinrich, (D-NM)

Reading time – 9 (not a typo) seconds  .  .  .

The time is growing short for Congress to figure this out. Happily, you can help.

This is your time to be the smartest kid in class, the first in your neighborhood, the person in the know.

About the Iran deal.

Everything you need is right here, oddly in New Mexico.

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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.

Understanding Charleston and That Flag


Confederate Battle FlagReading time – 4 seconds  .  .  .

If you want to understand Charleston, the Confederate battle flag and U.S. history, read 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.

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.

Je Suis . . . Ironic


Charlie HebdoEd. note: Please help – see the note below and pass this along so that we make the kind of difference that needs to be made. America thanks you.

Reading time – 47 seconds  .  .  . 

The irreverent Charlie Hebdo satirists, both cartoonists and journalists, have, in the face of profound, bottomless grief led the way for the rest of the world in a breathtaking way. Their new magazine cover shows the Prophet Muhammad weeping as he holds a sign that reads, “Je Suis Charlie”. What makes the cover breathtaking is that above the Prophet they have written, “TOUT EST PARDONNE”. Roughly translated, they are telling their attackers, the murderers of their colleagues, the violent, religion despoiling Islamist terrorists, “We forgive you.”

Could you possibly do that were you in their place? Can you do it from your place now?

There is an odd twist to this, courtesy of Anonymous, the worldwide hacker group that has hacked into nearly everything, including the NSA. This band of iconoclasts, this buster of world order has now pledged to hunt down Islamist radicals. In a stunning video they tell the extremists, “We are tracking you down. We will find you and not leave you any rest.” They vow to shut down every violent extremist Twitter feed, propaganda video and more. They announce boldly, “We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”

Unlike Anonymous, Charlie Hebdo forgives. My guess, though, is that the staff members won’t forget, and that’s as it should be.

And here is the irony: How pleasingly odd it is that the members of this hacker organization Anonymous, who have compromised our National Security Agency, are now on our side in the hunt for Islamist terrorists. Their agenda is their own and this portion of their agenda is in pitch perfect concert with freedom loving people everywhere, even those running the NSA. Perhaps now “Nous Sommes Anonymous.”

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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.

Who Cares About Buffalo?


Reading time – 75 seconds  .  .  .

Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine:

– that you live in Buffalo, NY;

– that a militant group in Toronto was firing rockets into Buffalo;

– that the rockets and other war materiel were stored and launched from the homes of civilians, from hospitals and from schools in Toronto;

– that the Canadian authorities did nothing to stop the militants;

– that the militants had dug tunnels that ended in Buffalo and they were murdering Buffalo residents from the exits of those tunnels (ignore the geological impossibility of this thought experiment tunnel);

– that the militants were committed only to the destruction of Buffalo, NY and driving its citizens into Lake Erie;

– that the militant group refused to discuss its grievances or to negotiate for any non-violent solution;

– that the entire world community was indifferent to all of that/

As a citizen of Buffalo living with a rain of rockets that kill your people every day, what would you do? You would do exactly what the Israelis are doing now as they endure the conditions listed above. You would do whatever is necessary to stop the murdering of your people. Yet none of that is what we’re shown by the world media in today’s coverage of the Middle-East conflict.

The sensation-seeking world press is playing into the hands of the Hamas murderers, who seek to become the world’s greatest victims, as the reportering media seek ever more gruesome pictures to tweak us into subscribing to its offerings. We are shown images of dead and maimed Gazans, children and women, tragedies every one. And none of those deaths had to happen.

We are not shown Hamas militants encouraging or ordering people to stay where they are, living with rockets ready to be fired from their midst, but that’s what happens. They are told to stay even after the Israelis have dropped pamphlets from airplanes and sent text messages warning the people to leave because an attack to destroy Hamas rockets is coming. The children and the women – all the non-combatants – die because they weren’t allowed to leave – and because they allowed Hamas to dig tunnels into Israel from their houses and to store rockets in their schools. And we are shown interviews of people complaining about their deaths and the brutality of the Israelis.

We never feel or hear of the terror that visits the people of Hebron and Tel Aviv, as they repeatedly get alerts to incoming Hamas rockets and have 15 seconds to find shelter. And we don’t know what it feels like to live with the knowledge of the imminent violence of over 2,700 rockets already fired at Israeli civilians and 8,000 more awaiting a Hamas militant to light still more fuses because that image doesn’t sell TV advertising. We don’t know what it’s like to live just a few miles from Islamic terrorists who are dedicated solely to killing us, because the world press has largely ignored this truth for decades.

So grieve for the wailing mothers and ailing children, of course. But don’t imagine for a second that their pain stands in isolation or that it was necessary. The world should be careful about condemnation of Israel as its government seeks to protect its citizens. They are doing what you would do if this were happening in Buffalo.


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

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

A Little Help For Wild West, USA


Reading time – 63 seconds  .  .  .  

Scene 1: Cliven Bundy has refused to pay the bill for grazing his cattle on federal land for the past 20 years and is holed up on his ranch, hiding from the Feds. He is surrounded by his cattle and an army of white supremacists toting automatic weapons, a chip on their shoulders and gallons of testosterone. They don’t recognize the government of the United States or the State of Nevada. The only law they recognize is the county sheriff. The good news for the county sheriff is that Bundy’s is a federal offense, which means the sheriff isn’t the one who has to face down Bundy and his army of loonies. I bet that helps the sheriff to sleep better.

Scene 2: On his MSNBC program of May 5 (click on “The NRA Hates This Gun”), Chris Hayes presented Andy Raymond, a gun dealer in Maryland who wanted to start offering for sale the Armatix Smart Gun, a pistol that is specifically designed to help prevent accidental shootings. The gun crazies went nuts, imagining that this product would be the start of government mandated control of firearms. Once Raymond’s intentions became known to the gun totin’ public he started receiving death threats, his Facebook page was flooded with hate mail and, self-preservation being what it is, he quickly backed down, declaring that he won’t sell the gun. A gun dealer in Los Angeles recently went through a similar experience.

We have a serious problem: America is rapidly devolving into the Wild West, where everything is controlled by whoever has the biggest gun. That is not a metaphor. This is about real guns and live ammunition in the hands of absolutist people with hate and revenge in their hearts and heavy starch in their brains. It is of a piece with Sharron Angle calling for “Second Amendment remedies” as a cure for “the Harry Reid problem.” That’s serious stuff. What are we going to do about it?

I think it’s time that we agree with tough guy conservatives like Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who know that there is a military solution for everything. They seem, for example, to admire their new fair-haired boy, Vladimir Putin. They like his muscular ways, like riding a horse without a shirt and posing with a tiger that someone else shot. They like his boldness, even as they want the US to send arms to non-Russian Ukrainians so they can fight the Russian army, so let’s get bold.

Let’s hear more of that “military solutions for everything” talk from those guys, but this time aimed at the Bundy radicals. Send in the Marines to arrest the lawbreakers at the Bundy ranch and put an end to rule by automatic weapons and death threats. Let the world know that America will not be held hostage by Islamic terrorists or by American terrorists.

And if McCain and Graham can’t get the Marines, maybe they can call on Vladimir Putin.

But seriously, exactly where is the outcry from conservatives over Americans breaking the law?

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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.

What Your Bloodhound Knows


Reading time – 77 seconds  .  .  .

In a most accessible essay entitled The Umwelt, David Eagleman gives perspective to a 1909 concept of Jakob von Uexkull explaining the varied perceptions different animals have to their environmental signals. Snakes, for example, are practically blind to what humans see, but they have amazing vision in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum where we can’t see a thing. Were we without special scientific equipment, we would never know that it exists. In fact, we are only able to see about one ten-trillionth of the electromagnetic spectrum, so limited are we. And we go about our daily lives largely ignorant of even the possibility of so much more to be seen.

And that is the point.

Cliven Bundy is a cattle rancher in Nevada who has refused to pay his bill for grazing rights on public lands for over two decades. By definition, he is a cheat and a thief. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at last decided that enough was enough and sent some people to confiscate his cattle. They were met by an army of angry white supremacist radicals equipped with automatic weapons and threatening to kill the BLM people. Interestingly, those belligerents brought their women and children and placed them in front of themselves so that if there were a firefight, the BLM folks would wind up shooting innocents. Such is the courage and integrity of Bundy’s extremist pals.

(Side note: If the Black Panthers had greeted law enforcement officials that way in the 1960s, how would they have been treated? Actually, we know the answer to that question, as do the survivors of the Cook County state’s attorney’s police raid that killed Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in their beds. But, of course that doesn’t matter any more, as the Supreme Court has recently assured us that ours is a post-racial society, where, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” – Chief Justice John Roberts. Gosh, that sounds easy – let’s all just do it.)

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/Has_the_Supreme_Court_ended_affirmative_action_at_the_college_level.html#Xg7uUszwidafvzHS.99
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/Has_the_Supreme_Court_ended_affirmative_action_at_the_college_level.html#Xg7uUszwidafvzHS.99
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/Has_the_Supreme_Court_ended_affirmative_action_at_the_college_level.html#Xg7uUszwidafvzHS.99

On April 24, 2014 Bundy held a news conference and reiterated that he doesn’t believe that the U.S. government even exists. Furthermore, he told the attending reporters and his sycophants about “The Negro” on welfare and wondered aloud if blacks were better off being slaves picking cotton. Oddly, that brings us back to Eagleman’s essay – by way of your dog.

The olfactory capability of a bloodhound is a thousand times more powerful than that of a human being. We humans recognize the smell of fresh baked bread, the delight of a rose and the odor of a freshly relieved skunk and it would be common for us to assume that we know all of what is available to be smelled. But if your bloodhound had the intellectual capability for such an analysis, he would laugh at us for that.

Back to Cliven Bundy. He is certain that he knows the truth. He is not just an extremist; he is an absolutist. He knows. Yet to borrow from Eagleman’s essay, what if Bundy and his white supremacist buddies, ”  .  .  .  could be infused with the proper intellectual humility that comes from appreciating the amount unseen?” Bundy and his blind army of hate haven’t a clue what resides outside their bigoted view and your bloodhound would laugh at them for their ignorance.

There are a lot of people in positions of power and there are also many in other positions that provide them with a very loud megaphone, like Sean Hannity at FoxNews. Even with their severely limited vision, myopic as Bundy’s army, they are certain that they know the truth. What if they could be infused with that intellectual humility and they could acknowledge that there might be more in the universe than the tiny slice they know? What if all of of the absolutists could?

Yeah, I know. That’s just too crazy a dream.

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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.

Frog Boil


Boiling FrogThe news was broken by Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian and also by The Washington Post that FISA court Judge Roger Vincent approved a warrant drafted by the National Security Agency (NSA) to require Verizon to turn over all of its records of calls made to and from the US and any foreign telephone.  It was done under the provisions of FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  

FISA was designed to enable the gathering of – guess what – foreign intelligence.  It works in secret and is accountable to nobody, so we have no way to know if its actions are justified or appropriate and its provisions and restrictions are not well understood by the public.  Not surprisingly, our government has a way of stretching the meaning of the act to suit its purposes.  Here is an example of that stretching.

In addition to Verizon’s domestic-to-foreign calls being reported, the NSA also requires Verizon to turn over its records for all completely domestic calls.  Remember that part about FISA being about gathering foreign intelligence?  How a call from a domestically registered phone to another domestically registered phone is foreign is an unholy stretch, but that is what our government is doing.  And it gets worse.

The Washington Post broke the story that the NSA has a surveillance program called PRISM.  It is a another lovely piece of FISA stretch that delivers to the NSA all of the records of all the big online servers, like Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and more.

With the Verizon intelligence grab the NSA knows every call you’ve made and all the  calls made to you, the duration of the calls and the number your phone was connected to, the location of both phones and all of the records are delivered to the NSA daily.  With the PRISM program, the NSA can dig into anything you’ve ever done online, including your used-to-be-private emails and web surfing history. 

As reported in The New York Times, “James R, Clapper, Jr., director of national intelligence, “.  .  .  the government ‘does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers’ of telephone and Internet providers, saying that information is turned over only under court order, when there is a ‘documented, foreign intelligence purpose for acquisition’ of the data.”

Sounds reassuring.  And not confidently believable, if there is anything substantive to what whistle blowers Edward Snowden and William Binney have said.

These kinds of “data mining and harvesting” were supposed to be do-able only as part of a specific investigation that the NSA was conducting, not as a “grab the entire universe of information” fishing expedition.  Further, the warrant that is required for the NSA to dig its tentacles into you was supposed to be authorized by a FISA court judge using a very hairy eyeball, but nearly ever warrant requested has been allowed.

You may have committed no crime nor even have known anyone who has, but the NSA has all of your records, phone, emails and web surfing history, and is looking at them, even though you are not part of an ongoing investigation.  Honest person that you are, you are being snooped and groped.  Every day.

Let’s see – is there more?  Well, we’re killing people overseas with drones and we have a most strange way of quantifying the effect of these machines.  We identify the people we kill in various categories, including al Qaeda, militant, civilian and unknown.  Strangely, we’ve killed thousands classified as unknown yet our government has claimed that there were very few civilian casualties.  If we don’t know the identity of the people we killed, how can we know they weren’t civilians?

And, by the way, surveillance drones are already flying inside the U.S.

This is just the most recent few outrageous things our government is doing under the cover label of national security.  What is disturbing is that these kinds of government power grabs, this taking control of our privacy, our freedom and our lives is exactly what we used to abhor about the Soviet Union.  That government robbed its people of their freedom and millions of Soviets were killed by the state.  Indeed, our rendition programs are functionally identical to the Soviets sending their people to die in labor camps in Siberia.  Put any face, label or justification on it that you like; stealing your freedom is stealing your freedom.

It is said that if a live frog is suddenly thrown into a pot of boiling water that it will thrash violently and do everything it can to get out of the pot.  On the other hand, if a frog is thrown into cool water and then the heat is turned up so that the water warms gradually, the frog will swim about calmly until it is boiled dead.  That is to say, slow change doesn’t seem to get the frog’s attention, and then suddenly it is too late.

We’re a lot like that frog.  Our government has incrementally changed at a pace that doesn’t seem to get our attention, but we are gradually losing the America you believe in, as we plunge headlong into totalitarianism.

“Americans are living in a totalitarian state.  They just haven’t figured it out yet.”  Russian immigrant.


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

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