military industrial complex

Vice

Reading time – 67 seconds  .  .  .

Happy Columbus Day, as we celebrate some guy who found an island over 500 years ago and we have no clue about the reason we remember and celebrate, a reason which has been lost for over 100 years. It’s just another day off work for some. So, the message today is, “Who cares?” Read on.

The vices of the rich and great are mistaken for errors,
and those of the poor and lowly for crimes.
– Marguerite Gardiner (Lady Blessington)*

And so we jail young black men for possession of a small amount of marijuana, but we allow government torturers to go unindicted.

Banking swindlers foreclosed fraudulently on the home mortgages of millions of Americans, forcing them onto the street and nobody went to jail for fraud or conspiracy. At the same time our legislators cut funds for food stamps that took food from the mouths of millions of kids, as those legislators congratulated themselves on their fiscal prudence. None was held to account for the empty stomachs of poor kids.

Goldman Sachs aggressively and fraudulently sold collateralized debt obligations (“CDOs”) to its clients, while at the same time dumping their own holdings because they knew those CDOs were worthless. No one went to jail for their SEC violations, fraud or conspiracy. They just got a slap on the wrist. Gotta wonder if the absence of Goldman asses in federal prison has something to do with the revolving door between Goldman and the FED.

Adding the $600 billion given to the Pentagon annually to the hundreds of billions thrown at the NSA and the rest, our annual defense spending is about $1.5 trillion, which supports our state of perpetual war, often on the wrong side of other peoples’ conflicts. That’s very profitable for the war matériel manufacturers, for so-called contractors (read: mercenaries) and others. It’s homicidal for people underneath our drone-launched rockets. Clearly, the profiteers care more about their profits than the lives of those they kill, yet no one is held to account.

Our leaders lied us into wars (think: Viet Nam and Iraq), nothing good came of it for the people of those countries or for the US, monstrous bad things happened and none of our leaders has been held accountable for the lying that resulted in millions slaughtered. Then a guy in New York got busted for selling cigarettes illegally, cops strangled him to death and no one called paramedics or attempted to resuscitate him. They just got put on administrative leave for a while. Makes me wonder: Black lives matter, but to whom?

We keep our privately run prisons full of people guilty of not much (sometimes guilty of nothing at all) because it’s profitable for our prison industry and helpful to “tough on crime” politicians. At the same time, the rich and powerful torturers, defrauders and even murderers go free.

Sadly, accountability is applied in inverse proportion to wealth and power.

So, many of the rich and powerful get away with their vice, largely because the laws are made by the rich and powerful; the rest of us are subject to the law. It’s that way in most places, so in this respect, America isn’t exceptional.

But we could be.

So, who cares? If we don’t care enough, things are certain to get worse.

*Thanks to MG for the quote.

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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.

One More Time, Jeb

Bush Kept Us Safe

Jeb Bush Twitter feed – September 17, 2015

Reading time – 2 minutes, 19 seconds  .  .  .

To you: Betcha you’re going to have an opinion on this.

To Jeb: You told the lie again, a lie that has been repeated since 2002, this time at the CNN Republican candidate debate. You defended your brother’s legacy by telling us that he kept us safe. Let’s check out your claim.

The attack on September 11, 2001 came on George W. Bush’s watch. 2,996 people died that day and 422,000 New Yorkers have suffered from PTSD because of that attack. It happened after he had been warned repeatedly about an imminent attack on the U.S. by Islamist extremists, warnings which he dismissed and ignored. Jeb, you might want to check with some of the survivors and family members of those who died on that awful day as to whether your brother kept us safe.

President Bush lied to Congress and to the American people, claiming that Saddam was in league with al Qaeda, something that is absurd on its face. al Qaeda membership was entirely religious extremists and Saddam was a secularist who hated them.

Your brother lied about a WMD threat from Saddam Hussein. Perhaps you recall his National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice stoking fear by telling us that the smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud. And you might also remember the lies about the yellow cake (ref: Amb. Joseph Wilson’s report) and the aluminum tubes. Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated those lies to the UN.

At the same time President Bush was calling for an authorization to use force against Saddam, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was calling for restraint. They were the experts doing the inspections and they were finding no weapons of mass destruction or even a hint of them, so, Jeb, your brother actually protected us from nothing at all.

Without question Saddam was a bad guy, but consider what had been going on in the Middle East and what the present world circumstances might be if we had not invaded and overthrown him.

Saddam’s army had fought a war with neighboring Iran for years and they were bitter enemies. Had Saddam been left in power he would have been a natural check on Iran’s efforts to build nuclear weapon capabilities. He was brazen enough to have attacked Iran to protect himself from such a threat and we might not be concerned with a nuclear Iran today. Instead, we live with a negotiated agreement, hoping it will prevent an Iranian nuclear threat. By attacking Iraq, just how safe did your brother keep us?

Saddam was a brutal dictator, but he kept rival factions in check in the Middle East. Were he still in power there would be no ISIS/ISIL. There would have been no beheadings, rapes, torture, murders, destruction of ancient sites or any of the rest of the carnage. There would be no caliphate and Americans would not be getting recruited to join that savage bunch and wage jihad on fellow Americans.

6,855 American military people were killed in those unnecessary wars (counting all coalition forces the number is 8,301). About 2/3 were killed in Iraq and 1/3 in Afghanistan and over 300,000 American military people are suffering from PTSD. (Check here and here for more on that. Note that the estimate of the number of our military people with PTSD from those wars has grown significantly since the Rand Corporation report in 2008 and has been estimated at over 500,000.) And all that warring cost us trillions of dollars that we put on the national credit card for our children and grandchildren to pay and which will drag down our economy for decades. None of that would have happened without the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Your brother didn’t do a very good job of protecting our military folks or securing safety for our future.

Your brother’s administration ordered the torture of prisoners in full and obvious violation of international law and United States law. We are still detaining dozens of prisoners at Guantanamo and will never know what happened to so many who were sent to “black sites.” In the process of all that, we became despised by millions and the torture we did has been used as a recruiting tool for yet more religious extremists to volunteer to attack Americans.

Absent the dishonest invasion of Iraq there would be no flood of refugees from Iraq and somewhere between 100,000 and 1,000,000 Iraqis would still be alive. The number is uncertain because we made no attempt to measure either Iraqi deaths or the number of those who fled their homes to avoid war or those who are doing so now.

You tell us that your brother, the former president, kept us safe, yet you offer no proof or even a hint of support for your claim. It might be inferred, based on what has been said by former Bush administration people, that because there were no additional massive attacks on America like 9/11 that your brother kept us safe. Tell that, though, to the citizens of Madrid and London and to the people who were on the airplane with the shoe bomber.

2,996 people died in New York, 6,855 of our military are dead, hundreds of thousands are dead or displaced in Iraq, ISIS poses one of the greatest threats to humanity, Iran has made great progress toward getting a nuclear bomb to use on Israel and on the United States  .  .  .  the list of horrible things caused by your brother could go on and on and none would exist if we had not invaded Iraq.

Your brother kept us safe? It’s a great, chest-thumping bumper sticker, Jeb, but it’s a lie.

PS – pass this along to Dick Cheney.

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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.

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.

Advice From Marvin

Marvin GayeReading time – 26 seconds  .  .  .

This is amazingly good. The current Quinnipiac Poll shows that only 28% of Americans approve the Iran nuclear deal, while 57% oppose it. That means that 85% of Americans have read the 159 page, very technical document and have considered its provisions and the likely consequences. They have conversed with people of both similar and differing views and formed their well thought out opinions on this issue of critical importance to our country. Hooray for our well-informed and involved public!

What’s that you say? You didn’t read the agreement? And you don’t so much as know of anyone who did? And neither does anyone else? If that’s true, how come 85% of us have such clear, firm views about it?

The answer, of course, is simple: We’ve been fed a fire hydrant flow of misinformation by political blatherers who created their opposition long before they knew a thing about the provisions of the agreement.They have formed organizations with fear stoking names, like Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran and American Security Initiative in order to bend your brain to their liking, which is to dislike with mindless consistency everything proposed by this administration. Once again we are being fed Big Lie propaganda designed for the benefit of a few rich guys and with no concern for the welfare of the country.

Marvin Gaye gave us some good advice for this situation in his song Heard It Through The Grapevine:

“People say believe half of what you see,

some or none of what you hear.”

When you’re listening to political mouthpieces, I recommend following Marvin’s direction.

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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.

The Iran Deal

Iran NuclearReading time – 29 seconds  .  .  . 

We endured the knee-jerks, with their instantaneous, hyperbolic, fact-devoid rejections of the Iran nuclear deal before they had so much as laid their eyes on it and the brainless criticisms have continued unabated. Indeed, for many in DC, self-serving politics designed only to destroy is the norm.

Here’s the real deal about the deal: It’s all we have and all we’re going to get. Pressing for a perfect deal is moronically ignorant. All the attacks on President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and on our supposedly inept negotiating team and the goose-stepping insistence upon getting a better deal from the Iranians is at best a fantasy about a deal that can never happen. None of the lip flappers has offered any alternative to this deal, leaving the implication of war with Iran as the default action.

War? Really? Our only international tool is killing huge numbers of people in never ending war and spending ourselves into bankruptcy like the Soviet Union did? Perhaps there are some people with clearer thinking about this.

Read Steve Sheffey’s article in The Hill, Opposing Iran Deal Endangers US and Israeli Security and think for yourself about this deal. Read Nicholas Kristof’s piece in The New York Times, Why The Naysayers Are Wrong About The Iran Deal. Then write or call your senators and representative and tell them to give the deal their yea vote when it comes up in Congress, because opposing it will likely lead to a nuclear Iran within one year. And that would be a bad deal.

The deal being considered right now is in America’s best national security interests. Let’s not blow this chance for a negotiated peace with yet more cowboy swagger, because we tried that in Iraq and it hasn’t work out too well.

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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.

Education

Iran DealReading time – 53 seconds  .  .  .

Robert Dold (R-IL) represents the 10th congressional district of Illinois and it is quite obvious that he not only took a speed reading course, but he may have invented a hyper-eyeball version of it. I say that because he delivered a blistering rejection of the Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a 159-page document, on the floor of the House of Representatives mere minutes after it was released. As you know from reading this column, Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) verbally blasted the agreement on Morning Joe on MSNBC immediately after it was announced. How do these guys absorb so much complex material instantaneously?

Of course, the answer is that they don’t. What they do is to prepare in advance carefully worded, vacuous attacks for the purpose of their own self-interest and especially in order to ensure the goal named by the 15 Republicans who met the night President Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009 – that he would be a one-term president. Oh, wait – that didn’t turn out too well for them. Regardless, the tactic of opposing anything President Obama supports, the strategy decided by the 15, is still in play, the needs and best interests of America be damned.

The point is that a lot of Rs are slinging partisan red meat into the cages of their “base.” I love that term, as though it forms some kind of foundation. Its true identity is a bunch of knuckle-dragging angry guys who believed Ronald Reagan when he told them that government is the cause of the problems in their lives and who fondly remember good old days which actually never happened.

Don’t bother yourself with the noise of the hyperbolic rhetoric of bloviating politicians. Instead, listen to this podcast from the Wilson Center and consider what a group of well-informed and thoughtful people have to say about the Iran deal. If you’re feeling ambitious, read the deal yourself and make up your own mind. Free yourself from Washington bumper sticker talking points and doomsday idiocy crafted for election season.

This is all about your own education about one of the most important international agreements of the past 50 years, one destined to have critical long term impact for the United States and the world.

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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.

Stupidity

Image generated by Ghostscript (device=ppmraw)

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.

Knee Jerks

Knee prepared to jerk

Knee prepared to jerk

Reading time – 42 seconds  .  .  . 

New York, July 14, 2015 – These exchanges took place on the Morning Joe program on MSNBC just moments after a deal between 6 countries and Iran to prevent nuclear proliferation had been announced and before anyone other than the negotiating parties knew its terms.

Mika Brzezinski: “Senator Lindsey Graham, have you seen the deal?”

S. Graham (R SC): “Ah, no.”

Seconds later he continued:

S. Graham: “We’ve ensured that [Iran will] become a nuclear nation, ensured that there will be a nuclear arms race  .  .  . You have created a possible death sentence for Israel  .  .  .  This is a virtual declaration of war against Sunni Arabs.”

Later on the same TV program  .  .  .

Joe Scarborough: “Senator [Tom Cotton, R-AR]*, you obviously heard the president’s speech. What’s your initial reaction?”

S. Cotton: “Joe, this proposed deal is a terrible, dangerous mistake that’s going to pave the path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon, while also giving them tens of billions of dollars of sanctions relief, even lifting the arms embargo at a time when they’re destabilizing the entire middle-east  .  .  .”

JS: “Does [the aggressive inspection regime] satisfy your concerns about inspections?”

S. Cotton: “No, Joe .  .  .  They will have weeks to delay, they’ll be able to decide which sites that we inspect .  .  .”

It’s most impressive that these men along with so many other Republicans seem to be clairvoyant, in that somehow they see all the danger embedded into an arms limitation agreement that they haven’t read and about which they are totally ignorant.

Actually, it is far more than sad that they have a knee-jerk rejection to anything President Obama supports and that they justify their rejections with fabricated facts. The reason it is more than sad is that they are willing – even eager – to counter the president even if their self-serving behavior leads to another avoidable war. They prefer dead soldiers and a plundered American treasury over resolving differences through diplomacy if diplomacy might give the president a “win.”

These knee jerks could reasonably be accused of treason.

* Senator Tom Cotton is the author of the letter signed by 47 Republican senators sent to the leaders of Iran. It indirectly instructed the Iranian leaders not to trust the President of the United States. That could reasonably be called treasonous, too.

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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.

Despicable Dick

 One Man Against the WorldReading time – 49 seconds  .  .  .

I just finished reading Tim Weiner’s well written, well resourced and thoughtful new book One Man Against the World. Inside the front flap of the book jacket the headline for the teaser reads, “The riveting story of a dramatic and disastrous Presidency.” Few who remember or who have studied the sordid story of Richard M. Nixon would quibble with either the book title or the jacket headline.

Richard Nixon was, if anything, a polarizing figure and an easy man to dislike and distrust, in large measure because he disliked and distrusted nearly everyone, especially those who weren’t exactly like him. Neither conventional morality nor Constitutional law were limits he honored and he was able to self-justify nearly anything in pursuit of establishing a heroic place in world history for himself. His self-centered focus allowed for the deaths of tens of thousands more of our military in Vietnam and cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians.

Perhaps that self-focus sounds a bit familiar, akin to so many of our current politicians who don’t let facts or good sense get in the way of what they say and do in pursuit of their self-promotion; who never leave campaign contribution checks on the table, regardless of the soul-compromising embedded in those checks and the harm their sell-out will cause to America and Americans; who cannot seem to see past the next election to recognize the dangers they are visiting upon our children and grandchildren.

It is an age-old question as to whether the end justifies the means. Perhaps in absolute terms, as in avoiding nuclear war, it does. Absent such end-of-the-world choices, though, it probably does not. Yet it is with such an absolutist mentality that our politicians continue to attempt to justify their reprehensible actions, like torture and never-ending, undeclared war.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Interestingly, there is something we can do about such people and their despicable acts.

We can VOTE!

“Freedom without responsibility is chaos.” Rod Steiger

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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 Obama’s Nefarious Ad Campaign

TPP-Fast-Track-Congress-400x209Reading time – 21 seconds  .  .  .

President Obama is pushing a million dollar ad campaign to twist the arms of Dems in the House to vote to fast-track the Trans Pacific Partnership (Read: Global Rule by Corporations).

Just get this: it’s a  BAD DEAL FOR AMERICANS, because it will:

  1. Kill millions more American jobs, just like NAFTA did. (Remember that “sucking sound” of jobs going to Mexico? They’ve moved on since then, but they’re still gone from America.)
  2. Allow the Banksters to continue to be unregulated, too big to fail and a threat to our entire nation and to your savings.
  3. CEDE OUR NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY TO A PANEL OF INTERNATIONAL CORPORATE LOBBYISTS.

The list of bad things TPP will do  is so long and so bad that there’s no way to detail it all here. But just the three things listed above ought to boil your blood. So stop being a passive victim of organized governmental crime and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

The House votes Friday, June 12, 2015 on Fast Track. Call your representative and demand a NO vote. It’s easy:

Call (202) 224-3121

and ask to speak to your congressperson – they’ll ask for your zip code.

or go to

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

and enter your zip code to find the phone number of your congressperson. Then dial your phone.

Tell the nice staffer who answers the phone (they really are pleasant and easy to talk to) that:

  1. You are a constituent
  2. You want your congressperson to VOTE NO ON FAST TRACK.

DO THIS RIGHT NOW. STOP READING THIS BLOG AND DIAL YOUR PHONE OR CLICK ON THE LINK. REALLY, NOW.

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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.

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