leadership

Elephants

Reading time: 64 seconds  .  .  .

A guy is walking down the sidewalk when he spots his friend Ralph standing at the corner. He notices that Ralph is snapping his fingers.

“Hey, Ralph,” he says.  “What’s with the finger snapping?”

“I’m keeping the elephants away.”

“Ralph,” the guy says, “there aren’t any elephants around here.”

Ralph looks at him and calmly says, “See? It’s working.”

That, of course, was a knee-slapper back in 4th grade, but the behavior lives on, just as though there is always a direct cause and effect as well as good sense to our actions. But it ain’t necessarily so.

The Tea Party types think that threatening national default on America’s debt will reduce government spending.  There is absolutely no connectivity between the two, but they continue to snap their fingers for that.

President Reagan sold the nation “supply-side,” aka “trickle-down” economics. The idea was that enriching already rich people and corporations would create a “trickle-down” of wealth to all other Americans. That trickle has never even been a drip and that experiment in what President George H.W. Bush called “voodoo economics” has failed miserably. Nevertheless, there are self-labeled conservatives who continue to snap their fingers for that ongoing catastrophe as though it is good for everyone. Side note: There is nothing conservative either in that policy or in that behavior.

We have people telling us that Benghazi is a scandal and that the IRS doing its job of ensuring that not-for-profits play by the rules is a scandal. They tell us that killing the Jobs Bill was best for producing jobs. They say that additional sanctions are needed against Iran, even though the Iranians at last are playing by interim rules designed to lead to a non-nuclear Iran and additional sanctions would violate the agreement that led to the present negotiations. Finger snappers all.

Snap away, you guys living in Fantasy Land, where cause and effect are magically found in your vaporous thinking. Just get that there won’t be any elephants, regardless of what you do with your fingers.

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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 2017 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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Certainty of Infallibility

Reading time: 73 seconds  .  .  .

I’m not from Louisiana and I don’t follow politics there, so the first time I knew of Gov. Bobby Jindal was when I watched the Republican response on February 24, 2009 to President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress.  I was powerfully impressed by Jindal’s brainless droning of Republican talking points, like opposition to President Obama’s economic stimulus plan without even a hint at what government might do to help the country out of our national economic meltdown.

More astonishing than anything was his citing of Hurricane Katrina as the show piece to warn against government solutions.  This is the city in Jindals’ own state that suffered more than any other because of the incompetence of the Bush administration and its inept leadership of FEMA (“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job“).  One more time: The prior administration had done a total pratfall, causing millions of people to suffer.  Jindal tried to get Americans to believe that this was clear evidence that government shouldn’t be a part of the solution to any of our major challenges.  Let us say that my opinion of Jindal at that moment was less than favorable.  Clearly, he was a tool.

Fast forward a few years to just past the 2012 election.  Things didn’t go well for Republicans and Jindal was one of the out-front Republican explainers, saying, “We have to stop being the stupid party.”   Is it possible he meant that the Republicans had to stop denying science?  That they should stop attacking people for being intelligent?  That they should stop flagrantly lying?  “We have to stop insulting the intelligence of voters,” he said.  He sure looked like a brave guy saying those things and was anything but a tool in those moments.

Then the Republican party slapped him down and he morphed back into a Republican talking points tool.  He reverted to the dishonest, ignorant, insulting, inflammatory talk for which the GOP has made itself known for decades.  Like the RNC talking points, Jindal tries to make it sound like the Republicans have the certainty of infallibility and all we have to do is give all  power to them and all will be right with the world.

There is a pleasing comfort in being certain of one’s infallibility.  It makes the discomfort of uncertainty disappear and choices are simple..  There’s just one thing: life is not simple or certain.  When anyone invokes infallibility, they are being fundamentally divisive and destructive and they are doing exactly what Jindal warned against during his brief moment of good sense.  They are being the stupid party and they are insulting you.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Stupi-geddon

When you elect politicians who focus solely on staying elected, they curry favor with rich people.

When politicians curry favor with rich people, they get lots of money.

When politicians get lots of money, they do really stupid stuff.

When politicians do really stupid stuff, the people suffer and America becomes weaker.

When the people suffer and America becomes weaker, we have Stupi-geddon.

When we have Stupi-geddon, government belongs to the highest bidders.

When government belongs to the highest bidders, we’ve lost America.

Don’t lose America.

Vote for politicians who will amend the Constitution to allow for regulation of money in politics.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

How Can We Reach Them?

Just back from presenting a Money, Politics & Democracy program in downstate Illinois and the same thing became obvious once again.

My program is always well received, yet most of the people who turn out for events like mine are already believers.  And while their attending gives me the opportunity to provide motivation for their taking action to make a difference and begin to change the terrible influence of big money on our politics and our democracy, we’re not reaching enough new people.  And if we are to change the trajectory of America and get it to match our vision of what America can be, we have to reach an enormous number of new people.

This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, nor is it radical left or radical right.  It is an American issue and dealing with it properly will require a lot of Americans.  What can we do so that people get the unvarnished truth of what is going on and why it is happening?  Once they know, they invariably want to create change and the necessary steps are right in front of us.  All we need is for a lot of us to move in that direction.

How can we reach those who don’t yet know?

One of the ways is for you to ask those you know to have a look at this blog series, to subscribe and to comment on the blogs.  Go ahead and do that.

Beyond that, what ideas do you have?  Jot them in the Comments section below and help us all to figure this out.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Propaganda

Editorial note: Before anyone goes hyperbolic, imagining that this is a comparison of anyone today to the Nazis, get that it isn’t.  The issue is propaganda, and you need to be clear about what that means to you.

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I recently visited the Field Museum in Chicago to see the exhibit, “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda.” It is a special production of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and this visit was my second time reviewing the material.  I came away with a shocking realization.

The Nazis were early masters of manipulation through words and images and they managed to cow an entire nation into support of or, at the very least, indifference to their aggression and brutality.  The exhibit is about how they went about messaging that.

First, some basics about propaganda from the exhibit.

Propaganda:
 
  •      –  Uses truths, half-truths or lies
  •      –  Omits information selectively
  •      –  Simplifies complex issues or ideas
  •      –  Plays on emotions
  •      –  Advertises a cause
  •      –  Attacks opponents
  •      –  Targets [tailors its message to individual] desired audiences

A fine point about the propaganda of attacking opponents is the accusation that opponents are the ones doing the terrible things that the propagandist attempts to create.  For example, the Nazis falsely accused the Jews of trying to gain world domination.  They claimed that the German people were the poor victims of this fictitious attempt, leaving Germany the only option of all-out war to stop the takeover.  Bear in mind that this claim was made while  Hitler was leading Germany in a quest to dominate the world for 1,000 years (“Deutschland Uber Alles”).  That kind of claim allowed citizens to feel justified in supporting German atrocities.  That is to say, the propaganda of attacking the opponent  by accusation worked.

In response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this year, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) made a quick reply, emphasizing the need for jobs for Americans.  There is truth to that claim.  However, in the same breath he accused the President of being ineffective at creating the conditions to promote jobs, asking the question, “Where are the jobs, Mr. President?”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) gave the formal Tea Party response to the President’s speech and asked exactly the same question, “Where are the jobs, Mr. President?”  Interesting, that they used exactly the same words.  I wonder how that happened.

Now, that’s pretty good propaganda, accusing their opponent, President Obama, of poor performance regarding job creation.  There’s just one thing: President Obama has promoted job creation with ideas for infrastructure work, hiring incentives and several jobs bills.  Nearly every one has been shot down by – guess who – John Boehner and Rand Paul using the propaganda of attacking opponents by accusation.

President Obama has repeatedly promoted comprehensive immigration reform.  When that wasn’t possible he proposed bite-sized pieces (e.g. The Dream Act).  Now Republican leadership is blaming the President for the lack of immigration reform, this even as John Boehner has blocked any action on this issue yet again.  Once again, the propaganda of attacking opponents by accusation rears its ugly head.

In Nazi Germany propaganda helped to incrementally take away rights, property, freedom and the lives of the “undesirables,” the Jews, the Communists, the gypsies and others.  Hmmm, incrementally taking away rights  .  .  .  that sounds disturbingly familiar.

Republican state legislatures and governors are crusading to create voter ID laws in over 30 states.  They claim that their purpose is to stop the epidemic of voter fraud that plagues and pollutes our elections.  And they say that people have to show ID to get on an airplane, so why not when they vote?

They have successfully created a boogeyman for we good people to fear and hate, those who are cheating our voting system. That plays effectively on our emotions.  And that propaganda uses half-truths and lies quite effectively.  But let’s look at the truth.

Investigation after investigation has shown that voter fraud is infinitesimal, bordering on non-existent.

Of course, it is true that we all have to show a government issued picture ID to get on an airplane.  On the other hand, air travel is not a Constitutionally guaranteed right.  Voting is.  The comparison is nothing more than the propaganda of selective information and playing on emotions.

Clearly, voter suppression laws are being attempted for reasons other than to stop non-existent voter fraud.  And it has been amply demonstrated that such laws will overwhelmingly restrict the voting of poor people, minorities, the young and the elderly, all of whom but the elderly vote mostly for Democrats.

Now who do you suppose would benefit from restricting voting as these Republican controlled legislatures are attempting to do?

Actually, that’s the kind of question to ask about any of these and dozens of other propaganda-laced issues.  As always, stick to the advice of Deep Throat: “Follow the money” to find out who  benefits.

And dig through the layers, because stopping at identifying the politicians who benefit from such manipulation gives the big kahunas a free pass.  Ask who doles out cash to those legislative beneficiaries?  What do they get out of rigging the system by manipulating you with propaganda?  And to whom do those people answer and how do they benefit from the half-truths and lies?

My shocking realization following the museum visit was about how pervasive propaganda is, how it has become slicker over the years but the basics haven’t changed.  Don’t imagine for a moment that propaganda became a thing of the past with the demise of Nazi Germany and later of the Soviet Union.  It’s being played on you every day.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Right Way to Turn Left

My drivers-ed teacher taught the standard Illinois Rules Of the Road protocol and instilled solid habits in we fledgling motorists.  She even gave each of us a one-time lesson in stick-shift driving.  Because the school’s cars were all automatics, she graciously – perhaps foolishly – volunteered her Ford Thunderbird.  If that car were around today, I’m sure the clutch would still bear the scars of my awkward footwork.

One of my teacher’s lessons concerned the right way to turn left.  She explained that the rules were set up to maximize the flow of traffic and benefit everyone.  She told us that waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, with your car remaining even with the stop light meant that only one car would be able to turn left when the light changed to yellow and oncoming traffic stopped.  Instead, she had us pull to the center of the intersection so that we could clear the area quickly on the yellow light and allow a couple more cars to turn left behind us before the light turned red.

Today, I see lots of people who don’t do what my drivers-ed teacher taught us to do.  Not surprisingly, that results in exactly what my teacher predicted – everyone else has to wait.

Another way to see that is that when people only look after their own needs, others suffer.  That sounds a lot like today’s politics.  I wrote about that last week in a slightly snarky piece called Hollering.

This time, though, it’s specifically about the effects on others of those people only looking out for themselves – and those effects are always negative.  An example is the crazy-easy way it is to circumvent our pathetic little protections against the wrong person getting their hands on an assault rifle and thousands of rounds of ammunition.  The consequences for others are often lethal.

Another example is the fundamentally fraudulent, proven false for over 35 years, supply side economics.  It is the practice of stacking the deck in favor of those who already have lots, with the phony promise that somehow benefits will “trickle down” to the little people.  That hasn’t work out well for most “little people”.

In contrast, when we all play together and play by rules designed to benefit everyone, we’re all better off.  Look at Medicare as an example.  The only people who don’t like Medicare are the providers who are prevented from over-charging – nobody who is on Medicare doesn’t like it.  The same goes for Social Security.  And public education.  And protecting the environment.  Sure, there are people who have to put some effort and some cash into doing the right things, but we’re all better off for that.  Indeed, since the EPA started its efforts in 1970, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland hasn’t caught fire – not even once.  Lake Michigan is clean and safe for swimming.  And the air no longer stings the eyes and throats of people in Los Angeles.

When we all play by rules that help us all, we are all better off.  Just like when we turn left the right way.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Hollering

Caution: Contains snark!  Children, as well as adults who act like children, should proceed with caution.

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When Wayne LaPierre became executive vice-president of the NRA he shed his bookish ways and made himself into the out-front, out-there, inflammatory voice of the gun manufacturers’ lobby.  His misleading assertions and fabrications of “facts” and his only partial view of the Constitution (interested in only the last 13 words of the Second Amendment and abandoning the rest) show us that he is just another of America’s pretenders to reality, our public delusionals.  It isn’t that Wayne and I disagree; it’s that we are working toward vastly different goals, as he is all about Wayne and I am not.

When Keith Olbermann had his program on MSNBC he would periodically quote Sarah Palin, catching her in yet another Palin otherworldly moment.  His disgust for her would erupt by concluding his piece, saying, “That woman is an idiot!

I have the utmost regard for Olbermann’s intelligence, but he is wrong about Palin.  She is no idiot.  In fact, it is arguable that she is a genius.

Olbermann reacted to her blatantly false statements, her inflammatory rhetoric and dingbat mistakes as though she were all about being a reality based politician, but that is not what Sarah Palin was or is about.  Sarah is all about promoting Sarah and she will say and do anything that advances her.  That is where her genius lies.  And lies and lies.  She is very good at that.  It isn’t that she and I disagree.  It’s that Sarah is all about Sarah and I am not.

In a television interview five years ago, Rush Limbaugh gave himself up as being all about himself, exactly as Sarah Palin is all about herself, when he confessed, “I am doing my show for ratings. I want the largest audience I can get because that’s how I can charge the highest advertising ratings – rates. Which means what else do I want? Money.”

Silly you, you probably thought Limbaugh believes the drivel that comes out of his mouth.  Not so.  What he believes is that if he can tweak enough people, if he can draw out the worst that is in some of us, his ratings will go up and he will get more money.  So, it isn’t that Rush and I disagree.  It’s that he is all about Rush and I am not.

The same goes for Ted Cruz (Mr. “Green Eggs and Ham”), Michele Bachmann (Ms. “The Civil War started in New Hampshire”, the John Wayne/John Wayne Gacy oops and the rest), Rience Pribus (who can’t tell the difference between the scandal that is the George Washington Bridge fiasco and the sad but non-scandal Benghazi incident).  They are all about themselves and I am not at all about them.

I’m all about America and Americans.  I know that we can be way better than the quagmire of today’s America and the only thing standing in our way is the swarm of self-serving people with big megaphones.

It isn’t that we disagree with Palin and the rest.  It’s that they are all about them and we most certainly are not.  And we have far more voices than those public delusionals and can drown out their nonsense.  We just need to holler all together.

The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity. Harlan Ellison.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Imagine . . .

Conjuring the precise and slow voice, the deliberate and accurate words, the syllables sounding as though passed through a long, reedy pipe, comes the voice of of Carl Sagan  .  .  .

“Imagine, if you will, an alternate universe with billions and billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars.  Around one of those stars can be found an Earth-like planet.  This planet is populated by people who see what is really before them, who analyze without predetermined judgment and who follow the path of evidence wherever it may lead.  They have the remarkable self-restraint and mindfulness both to refrain from bombastic rhetoric based upon fantasy and instead speak directly to issues.

“Imagine further that those who listen do so, too, for the single purpose of understanding, for clarity and learning, for greater knowledge.  And when the listeners then speak, their purpose, like that which came before, is an effort to further understand truth and reality.

“And they work together to make things better for all.”

Huh?  Wha  .  .  .  oh, it’s my alarm clock.

What an odd dream I had.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

This Is For You If You’re Unemployed

On January 20, 2009, the night of President Obama’s inauguration, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and others met for a late dinner at a posh DC restaurant.  They weren’t there to eat.

They were there to plot their strategy following the Obama mandate and it took them just minutes to decide how to move forward.  Their number one objective, as stated repeatedly by McConnell and others since that date was to ensure that Barack Obama was a one-term president.  To that end, their strategy was to block anything that the new president proposed even if he proposed programs that Republicans believed in or had introduced themselves.  They planned to make a political eunuch of the leader of the free world.

And that strategy, like every strategy, has had consequences.  One consequence is that we do not have universal background checks for gun sales, even though 90% of we Americans want them.  Another is that the Congress has spent enormous time and energy fighting healthcare reform the likes of which Republicans had promoted for decades and which a Republican governor instituted in Massachusetts.  Still another is that the Congress has blocked every program that would create an economic environment that would produce new jobs.  If you are unemployed, there is a good chance that the Republican power strategy is the reason.

The Republicans have filibustered in the Senate over 200 times and thus have abolished majority rule and prevented progress in that chamber.  John Boehner has refused to bring nearly any bill to the floor of the House that would improve employment opportunities and has even blocked help for the unemployed (read: hungry and dispirited).  Effectively, the Republicans in Congress have held hostage all American workers in order to stymie President Obama and make him look wimpy so that Republicans could regain the White House in the next election.  We’re five years into that self-immolation policy with a net effect that there isn’t a Republican in the White House and over 7% of our people who want a job cannot find one.  Approximately the same percentage of Americans are vastly underemployed, either in position or because they could only secure part-time work.

Some say that Republican intransigence on unemployment and their gleeful withholding of food stamps from poor children indicates a lack of compassion, but that isn’t the problem.  They care about the suffering of Americans.  But they care about themselves and having more power far more.

If you are unemployed, the accountability lies with the Republicans in Congress for holding you hostage for the purpose of their own self-aggrandizement.  Clearly, they believe that they are more important than you.  If you vote them back into office – any office – in November, you will have proven that you agree with them.

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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 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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