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Crazy


Reading time – 67 seconds  .  .  . 

I’m nearly through Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs and have a noggin full of takeaways. Jobs was a mercurial fellow, obsessive about detail and adamant in his views to the point that compromise was virtually impossible for him. A more than substantial driver of that was his ability to envision a different world. “Think Different” was, in fact, the Apple slogan after Jobs returned to run the company in 1997. That, of course, is what Apple did and what it encouraged others to do. Think Different.

That didn’t and it doesn’t mean to think differently. It means to think and see that things can be different, that there are possibilities just awaiting your invention, your particular genius. it means that things don’t have to be as they are and that it is possible to create something that is not just evolutionarily better, but revolutionarily better. That kind of thing doesn’t happen if we are apathetic or give just enough of ourselves to get by. It requires our passion, our mindfulness and, more than anything, our belief that Different is possible.

Jobs recorded his own eulogy and it was from a promotional piece in 1997. As you read it, imagine that this might apply to you.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. They  push the human race forward.

“While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

I’m crazy enough to believe that I can change the world. One blog at a time. One presentation of Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want at a time. One conversation at a time. One vote at a time. One meeting at a time. One idea at a time. One spark at a time. One declaration that, “We won’t have it any more!” at a time. One look into my grand-children’s future at a time.

Are you that crazy? Are you nutty enough to believe and to see that things can be better, that we don’t have to “respect the status quo,” that we can shake the stuffing out of it and unmask it for the fraud that it is and make the quantum leap to the Different that is so much better and is just waiting for us?

The place to start is to believe.

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

You Aren’t Getting What You Want & Snowballs


Reading time – 91 seconds  .  .  . 

Last month the Senate rejected a bill that would have allowed for the refinancing of our over $1 trillion of student debt in order to take advantage of today’s low interest rates. Elizabeth Warren commented about that saying, “With this vote we show the American people who we work for in the United States Senate: billionaires or students,” And they did show us. Clearly, the 56 senators who voted nay are working for billionaires and – dare I say it? – bankers, and you and/or your kid are not getting what you want. Welcome to perpetual debt, not what you want.

We still do not have universal background checks prior to gun sales, even though 90% of Americans want that.

We still have the highest cost medical care in the world and the highest rate of infant mortality, as well as the highest rate of death from ischemic heart disease among 17 high income countries. Yes, you want the best healthcare in the world and, no, you are not getting it.

This post could be filled with critical American issues (climate warming, infrastructure crumbling, voter suppression, continuous war, children living in poverty and hunger, etc.) but the fundamental point is that we Americans are clear about what we want and our elected officials are instead delivering only to the wealthy 1%, leaving the rest of us to fight for scraps while in clear view of a rapidly collapsing American dream.

The cure for all of that is to get big money out of our politics so that our elected officials can focus on meeting the needs of Americans, instead of being beholden to the wealthy and having to do their bidding.

To that end, I am delivering a program I crafted, entitled Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want and presenting it wherever I can. It is well received and accomplishes its purposes of educating people about what is going on and providing motivation to get out of that La-Z-Boy and drive change. ACTION STEP: Invite me to present to your group.

Yet my program is not nearly enough. Creating the momentum for reform will require the voices of millions of our friends. The good news is that we’re getting more and more to join this chorus.

MoveToAmend.org is one of many organizations that is reaching hundreds of thousands of Americans. ACTION STEP: Go to their website and sign the petition.

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has a bill in the Senate calling for an amendment to the Constitution, the purpose of which is the kind of reform we need. No, it is not perfect. No, it probably won’t even be brought to the floor of the House for a vote. Yes, it is an important step in the right direction, so: ACTION STEP: Find your senators here (use the search box in the top right corner) and call their offices. Talk to the nice staffer there and tell them that you want your senator to co-sponsor Udall’s bill and then vote aye when it is up for a vote.

Larry Lessig is doing something about getting those mountains of cash out of our politics. He has formed a SuperPAC, the purpose of which is to eliminate SuperPACs. ACTION STEP: Go to his website and kick in a couple of bucks to put a stop sign in the faces of Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and the other Billy Billionaires who are disfiguring America.

BTW – See how easy it is for you to make a difference? Keep doing it.

What else can we do? What else can I do? What ideas do you have to keep this snowball of public demand for reform rolling on, gaining size and gaining speed?

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


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

What To Do About Arrogance & Indifference


Reading time – 73 seconds  .  .  .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Newton Was Right


Reading time:  56 seconds  .  .  .

In case you missed the short New York Times essay entitled When May I Shoot A Student?, I suggest you read this fine piece of satire about carrying guns on campus. Then consider the awful realities.

We are living in times that are awash with fear.  We fear “Islamists” and people we see as political extremists (although we ourselves are not extremists).  We fear the Russians, Malaysian Airlines, anyone with ties to Iran and fundamentalism anywhere (with the exception of those who agree with our own) and we plod through our lives harboring the handmaidens of fear, anger and hostility.

There is a relatively small cadre of actors who exploit our fears to manipulate us.  Sometimes it is for money and power (ref: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-AZ), or because they are true, hair-on-fire believers (ref: Sheriff Joe Arpaio).  Regardless, it is always for self-promotion.

They use these times of rampant fear to change America in hideous ways that are not wanted by the majority of us, like rejecting universal background checks before gun sales, allowing concealed carry and allowing guns in public places like bars (what could possibly go wrong there?) and now college campuses. One of the results of guns on campus will be ongoing, random shootings of college kids. It’s just a matter of time. And our grade schoolers of today are headed soon to a college campus to join their heat packing peers.  What is your comfort level with that?

Bear in mind that we tried the Wild West and found it far too brutal and bloody. Going back to that is not likely to produce a different result. So, I appreciate the satire in this essay about new laws allowing guns on campus, but as I read it my gut churned and my heart ached for the coming hordes of mourners.

Given our experience at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech and other school campuses, what is the requisite number of dead kids that will cause us to change our laws to something approaching sanity?

Newton was right: A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Applying that to the present situation, we will continue to have radical, death producing laws and lots of unnecessarily dead Americans unless we (which includes you) do something about it.  Hand wringing won’t help.

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


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

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

It’s Personal


August 6 is the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and it is appropriate to remember in the ways that we can.  There are millions of stories connected in various ways to that event and two are very close.  They are quite different from one another, yet at root they bear the same message.

Even in the early 1940’s, when an atomic explosion was only a theory and had never been witnessed, the conflagration that would be produced was well understood.  That was a different time, though, and the imperative was to win the war with a minimum of American casualties.  Estimates ran north of a million dead and injured, should we attempt a land invasion of Japan, so, awful as it was even to contemplate, using an atomic bomb to subdue the enemy looked like the better option.  Indeed, in those days, there was little controversy over whether to use such a weapon if doing so would avoid suffering 25,000 marines killed on every island in the Pacific on the way to Japan.

My father-in-law was a scientist, a chemical engineer Ph.D and for decades was a go-to guy for making chemical manufacturing plants operate well.  He was so talented that he was called to serve on the Manhattan Project during WWII.  What that meant for him and all the scientists working on the Manhattan Project was that in order to honor their duty and responsibility as Americans to help win the war, they would have to set aside their concerns over the moral dilemma of dropping a bomb on Japanese cities.  Some, like my father-in-law, had to compromise a piece of their souls to do that, a compromise they came to deeply regret.

While the construction of that new and terrible weapon was ongoing, my father was posted in England and flew a P-47 fighting the Nazis, escorting bombers, dodging bursts of flak, getting shot at and shooting back, sortie after sortie.  In today’s more gentle terms, he was in harm’s way, but there was nothing gentle about what was happening.  He lived in a world of brutality every day, a world of sudden death and long suffering, a world where human beings saw and did unspeakable things.  Indeed, like so many vets, even years later he was unable to speak the raw truth of those days and most of his terrible secrets died with him.

He did not entertain the post war moral analysis made from the comfort of peacetime over the dropping of the bomb.  He had completed his tour of duty before that bombing, had served as an instructor to new recruits after his combat days and was on inactive status with the army.  Had a land invasion of Japan been mounted, he would have been called back into active service and sent to the Pacific to wage war once again.  Dropping the bomb made good sense to him, yet he was anything but absent of regret over those terrible days.

He had been raised to be a good boy and not do harm to others, but it had been wartime and doing what he did was his duty and responsibility, so he, like my father-in-law, did what had to be done.  And he, too, had to compromise a piece of his soul, a compromise that came with deep regret.  There are literally millions of stories like these from that awful time.

Today we use the word “sacrifice” to describe what our military people have to do.  Yet in this country where less than 1% of our people shoulder our military burden, most of us don’t really understand what that means.  My father-in-law and my father understood quite well.  They did their duty and honored their responsibility for their loved ones and for our country.  Their sacrifice was enormous, as both men shouldered a weight that they carried throughout their lives as a continuing torment to their souls.  They paid an enormous price for us.

In their sacrifice they left us a country that remains free.  Over the years they let me know in countless ways that they believed in personal responsibility and that they expected me and all of us to honor our duty and the responsibility that is inextricably bound to our freedom, just as they did.  It’s likely that all of those brave men and women of that greatest generation would expect us to do that.  Part of the keeping of our freedom is to sacrifice a piece of our convenience every four years and vote.

It’s personal.


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

The Common Wisdom


We all know that the country is center-right.  Perhaps it’s there as a result of a pendulum swing from the socially farther left pendulum of the 60’s and the politicians and pundits now like to tell us we’re center-right almost as throw-away line.  Or maybe people just keep saying that and have done so for such a long time that we’ve come to believe it, but repetition doesn’t make the claim accurate.  Take a look at just a few issues before us.

Jobs – About 306 million of we 307 million Americans want the government to take energetic action to ramp up the economy and create jobs.  The noise from the far right is the only thing that is making it seem like there is huge opposition to that.  As a nation, we are left of center now on jobs.

Voting rights – Americans believe overwhelmingly that all of us over the age of 18, with the possible exception of convicted felons, should vote.  That’s pretty much smack dab in the center, not center-right.  On the other hand, there are Republican strategists who have openly stated that the only people they want to vote are those who will vote Republican.

In the 2010 election many states voted far right legislators into office and they have enacted laws they have fraudulently proclaimed are to protect us from a blight of voting fraud.  The thing is that voting fraud almost never happens – not even in Chicago.  These laws serve solely as an obstacle to voting for young people, the elderly, the poor and those in minorities who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.  Let’s see, righty R’s preventing D’s from voting.  Hmmm.

Immigration – Most of us believe that if people do something wrong that they should bear the consequences.  And most of us believe that children of illegal immigrants, born in this country and who have broken no laws should not bear those consequences.  Righties don’t want to pass the Dream Act and they are completely out of step with the majority of Americans.  The R’s continue to oppose it because they’re afraid they’ll get “primaried” in the next election by a fanatic on the lunatic right fringe.  That keeps them disconnected from everyone but the aforementioned lunatic right fringe.

This issue is complex, but as a nation we’re pretty much in the center.

Taxes on the wealthy – Depending on the week and the poll, anywhere between 62 – 80% of Americans favor increased taxes on the rich.  Only the righties who signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes, along with some already wealthy people are opposed to that.  That is to say, the country is center-left on this issue.

Contraception – Do you really need an explanation about this?  Even 98% of Catholic women have used some form of birth control and only some fundamentalist righties have a problem with it.  It’s just that a few of them have very loud voices.  We Americans are far left in favor of contraception.

Women’s choice – The majority of Americans continue to be pro-choice, although by a smaller margin now than in past decades.  In part that’s because of the loss of institutional memory of how things used to be before Roe v. Wade.  It wasn’t pretty.  We are center-left on this.

Global warming – It’s not just all the environmental scientists; most Americans believe that the Earth is getting warmer and that mankind’s activities like burning fossil fuels is contributing to it.  The only question is why anyone denies that.  To find the answer, follow the money.  It’s way on the right.  (Ref: “And another thing” below)

Social Security & Medicare – These are the two most popular programs ever created by the federal government and America is far left on them.  Only the righties want to abolish or privatize them.

Note to budget hawk absolutist righties: We made a contract with the American people, who pre-paid for these services and we must keep our word.  I know you’ll understand that.

Education – The righties want to abolish the Department of Education at both the federal and state levels.  They are starving schools of funds, so teachers, administrators and janitors are being laid off.  School maintenance and improvement projects are being halted and the disparity between the education of our poor children and the rich kids who get to go to elite schools continues to widen.  Our children are suffering, their future becomes bleaker every day we fail them and we are putting the future of America in peril.

Americans don’t like this.  They want their children to be educated and think public education is a very good thing.  The righties are completely out of sync with America on this.  This country is way left on education.

Healthcare – Most Americans want the government to do more to fix it.  All that is standing in the way is the resistance borne of the hundreds of billions of dollars being collected every year by the medical insurance companies, big pharma, big hospitals and a few others.  We’ve tried letting the market fix this.  That has resulted in our having the most expensive healthcare in the world, while at the same time we’re getting just middling results.  Only the far righties with megaphones attached to their faces think that continuing to let the free market work is the solution.  We want affordable healthcare and are at least center-left on this issue.

The list can go on until sunrise.  Those saying that we are a center-right nation have either bought into the Big Lie or think they will benefit by making you believe it.

It turns out that the common wisdom isn’t so common, nor is it so very wise after all.

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And another thing .  .  .

Have you seen the TV commercials with the pleasant looking blonde lady in a black pants suit talking about American energy?  She tells us how plentiful it is and all we have to do is go get it.  As an example, she walks across a map of the lower 48 and tells us about, ”  .  .  . tapping Canadian oil sands for U.S. consumers.”  Sounds great.

Except the plan for the Canadian oil sands crude is to transport that heaviest, dirtiest crude oil with the greatest global warming footprint via the XL Pipeline to our gulf coast for exporting to other nations.  I need for them to explain once again how that stuff is for U.S. consumers because I’m not seeing how exporting it makes it for us.

One last comment: That ad and the others like it are sponsored by the American Petroleum Industry, the promotional organization of Big Oil.  Just so you know.

“We move through life like a man in a rowboat, looking back even as we move forward.” – William Landay


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

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