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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Today the Weekend Reader brings you The Naked Society, by journalist and author Vance Packard. This 1964 classic was certainly far ahead of its time, discussing the dangers of new technology infringing upon our right to privacy. While worrisome then — with new developments in surveillance methods during the 1960s — it is far more salient today. The excerpt below is from the new introduction to The Naked Society by historian and journalist Rick Perlstein. As Perlstein points out, Packard was justified in his concern about the privacy rights of Americans and government overreach. Unfortunately, we now accept these invasions of privacy as normal, instead of defending our civil liberties against intrusive businesses, educational institutions, and government. 

You can purchase the book here

There is nothing worse than dated social criticism. So when the good folks at Ig Publishing invited me to write this introduction, my initial reaction was skepticism. What could a jeremiad about the epidemic of Americans spying on one another, published in 1964—thirty years before the invention of the Internet, thirty-seven years before 9/11, written in an age when the gravest insults to civil liberties consisted of congressional committees asking “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party”—have to say to us now?

I picked up an ancient paperback copy of The Naked Society (“The explosive facts behind the hidden campaign to deprive Americans of their rights to privacy. Here’s how snoop devices are being employed by Big Government, Big Business, and Big Education in their sneak attack on YOU”). I began reading. I was in New York City—Penn Station, to be exact. I read Packard’s framing questions: “Are there loose in our modern world forces that threaten to annihilate everybody’s privacy? And if such forces are indeed loose, are they establishing the preconditions of totalitarianism that could endanger the personal freedom of modern man?” As I read this, I happened to notice a TV screen. Horrifying, apocalyptic images of buildings collapsing and shadowy terrorists alternated with messages like, “If you see anything suspicious, report it to an Amtrak employee.” And, “It’s nothing, you think. Can you be sure?” After all: “It doesn’t hurt to be alert.”

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I began reading with renewed, then steadily mounting, interest, my mind buzzing as the parallels between then and now presented themselves. Packard wrote, “The New York Police [have] about 200 plain-clothes men working virtually full time at wiretapping.” That was then. This is now: The New York Police spend $1 billion on an intelligence unit, led by an active-duty Central Intelligence Agency Official, to infiltrate the Muslim community and spy on mosques. (The NYPD admits the program has never produced a single terrorism lead.) Then: Packard quotes Sam Dash—who before becoming a household name as chief counsel of the Senate Watergate committee, was a leading civil liberties expert—that a “district attorney, in office, catches an occupational disease. He resents impediments in his way that prevent him from collecting evidence to convict criminals.” Now: Computer wizard Aaron Swartz earns an FBI investigation for the legal act of downloading federal court files; then, after harmlessly downloading too many scholarly articles from MIT’s computer system, he is indicted by the office of United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz for charges that could have brought him thirty-five years in prison. Experts say he should have earned a slap on the wrist, if that, but prosecutors hound him so mercilessly he commits suicide.

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  • joe schmo

    Yes, there is a war being waged, and it is being waged on normality and morality. Our first amendment right is being watched and scrutinized by the PC police. Whatever happened to just having an opinion that you don’t agree with and leaving it at that. Who does the self fulfilled watchful eye of humanity look out for? The average Joe. Our newest form of totalitarian government led by a self-righteous one-sided leader who pacifies all the kooks and nuts because power is at the helm of all that is evil. Yes, for now, the bully minions have the masses by the balls with no recourse.

    Just take the case of CEO of Mozilla fame, Brendan Eich. Come on, he has an opinion and so now the Gay Police watch everyone’s sacred move just waiting to pounce, kill and maim. I for one am not against homosexuality but making us pay for not standing up for it at every turn is not OK to me. Some things need to be kept private. Why should a child be exposed to something they don’t understand and, by all rights, is against nature. Yet, I also believe some people are born to like people of the same sex. Again, I don’t have a problem with that. Some people do. So what is the fear then expressed by many in the homosexual community? They should be secure enough in themselves to just laugh at someone who criticizes their preference, but because they have taken it over the top, some people who don’t agree are getting quite upset and rightly so. It effects our freedom of speech. This is beginning to sound more and more like Communism. If you don’t agree with their agenda you should be ostracized by society and watched. Isn’t that a bit extreme? That is to be under the watchful eye of the government whether through social media or cameras.

    “Whatcould be stranger,” commented Whistleblower Editor David Kupelian, on the stunning hypocrisy of today’s left, “than witnessing the ongoing ‘fundamental transformation’ of America at the hands of people claiming to stand for fairness, tolerance, diversity, free speech and the common man – yet who unfailingly end up taking us, kicking and screaming, in the exact opposite direction?”

    The most obvious example, of course, is Barack Obama. Having promised
    to be the most honest, transparent, post-racial and non-ideological
    president ever, Obama is almost universally regarded as the least
    honest, least transparent, most racial and most ideological president in
    history. Likewise, forces of the left – like the college professor who
    recently called for the imprisonment of global-warming deniers –
    grow increasingly fanatical in their intolerance of the basic freedoms
    of Americans who don’t share their views.

    However, of all the various regions of the left, there is no quarter
    where free speech and diversity are less tolerated – and more viciously
    persecuted – than in the powerful, well-funded and pervasive “LGBT”

    After reading Whistleblower’s “THE NEW FASCISM,”
    readers will understand why even “mainstream” pundits and personalities
    from both left and right are characterizing what is now happening in
    America as “totalitarian,” “gestapo”-like and “fascist.”

    This is just one mere example on how we are being watched and scrutinized. Then I ask you again, are we really still free? Of course, there are many many other examples…..

    • charleo1

      Thanks for the latest from, “The Communist Watch.” How many different ways, and different issues, can you poor frightened people come up with, to blame on Obama? It’s truly pathological. Someone should do a forensic psychological study of what happens to a group of aging, poorly informed, slightly to severely, dementia challenged, old farts. When trying to deal with the shock experienced, when a Black President is elected to lead what, even after a few concerning
      set backs, like losing a Civil War, Blacks being allowed to vote, and having Jim Crow nurtured by Affirmative Action. A Country they just
      took for granted, that White people somewhere still ran, at the highest levels. Well, get a grip. Your fellow Americans went out, and
      elected a Black man to be President of the Country. It’s not a Fascist
      or a Communist takeover. We haven’t succumbed to a maniacal, totalitarian strong man regime. Yes, I know you’re used to seeing all
      Black leaders as coming from Africa, and being the instigators of bloody coups. But, irrespective of what your radio host tells you, they are not. And neither is Obama, from Africa, nor the victor of a bloody coup, secretly funded by the evil power behind the throne, George Soros. As most psycotic raving should not be humored, I’m here to
      reassure you, most of the Country is neither scared, nor are armed militia members preparing for an impending race war, or gathering for an Armageddon like battle to protect Cliven Budny’s cattle from the
      clutches of a Federal Gov. run amuck. And Obama saying you can keep your insurance policy as far as he was concerned, was true for 95% of Americans. And should not be compared to Hitler’s promising to, “help the Jews,” by relocating them. People are not being sent to
      the gulag because they make homophobic remarks about Gays.
      Entertainers like Phil Robertson are free, and still filming his dumb
      reality show, and making homophobic remarks to his heart’s content.
      In answer to your question, yes we are still free. I suggest some Metimusil, if you don’t feel, “as free,” as usual lately. It’s not Obama
      that’s impacting your life. It’s probably too much starch.

      • joe schmo

        Because even though you seem like you admonish some intelligence, your ideology is somewhere off in lala Land. Sometimes when you are overly smart, you become dumb and numb.

        I’m not an old fart. I am predicting that you are most likely older than me.

        Ahhhhh, here we go with the racist thing again. This is how you keep the masses down. It’s working for some folks, but I just happen to see through the veil of deception. Never in the history of this country have the African Americans had more advantages. For that matter, I can honestly say that about many ethnic groups in this country. You always seem to preach to me about being dated. Mentioning this kind of lunacy goes back to the Civil War and I…..think….that ….ended over 200 years ago. So let’s get over that and move into the future. But that future should include all Americans, not just selected ones of your choosing.

        Well I am here to tell you that many are concerned. Judging by the amount of guns being bought, and the fact that even though Bundy was wrong, many on the right and then some, were ready to jump on the band wagon with him. This just tells me there is an undercurrent of descent going on. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Not to mention France:)

        ‘A disaster for European Science.’ Right-wing, anti-European Union parties could fracture collaborations.

        This could happen to us as well. Makes me extremely happy. Globalization is not working. The Europeans are sick and tired of being over taxed and over immigrated. What a good sign. So you see everything, in my opinion is not so black:)

        …and by the way, it is not too much starch. Don’t need the fiber. Fiber actually is not all that good for you as you age. Just remember that when you grab your next spoonful of psyllium. Carbs and heavy meats plug the arteries and bowels. I tend to stay away from both and adhere to a healthy Paleo type diet. Fresh organic vegetables and lean meats like fish and chicken, plus plenty of exsercise do a body justice. I feel healthier every day, thank you very much.

        • Sand_Cat

          You haven’t got a clue, and your flagrant racism shows as you whine about all the “advantages” African Americans have in this country. Yes, things are significantly better for them than they were when people like you ran the country and the states in which they resided, but the overwhelming majority of them have a very long way to go to even start catching up to the advantages you (I’m assuming you’re “white”) and I have and never even have to think about.

          • joe schmo

            Dude the do. They are just not willing to make a shift to make something out of the opportunities that are right before their very eyes.

            People like us ran the Country. I don’t really think that changed anything. Since MLK and civil rights things have been heading uphill ever since. It is the African American’s choice to get out of the gutter. We all have that opportunity. Can’t blame slavery any longer. That is way passe. It is really amazing how many Ethnics just can’t get over it. White people were also slaves in Europe and indentured servants as late as the 50’s. Do they complain. No, they just get on with making life happen. As I stated before my father came to Canada as an indentured servant with $7.00 in his pocket. He shoveled shit for a pig farmer, went to school at night and studied electronics. What is so great about that. It was degrading but he pulled himself up by the boot straps and made it happen.

            The problem is that African Americans and Hispanics have been pacified by the Government. I have had Hispanics as students. Trying to get them to think beyond 2 years was like spitting into the wind. No matter how much I tried to encourage them. The president of the college, who was also Hispanic, at the time wanted to put in two new buildings. One for welding and one for auto shop. Even he didn’t have enough of a belief in his own people to help promote them to do better. Very sad, very sad indeed. So advantages have absolutely nothing to do with it. It is the belief in thinking you can succeed and will fight through hurdles like we all must do to become successful.. Thankfully, some are finding that out. That is, not being held in welfare chains by a suppressing government.

        • charleo1

          Well, the African Americans would have to have, “more.” Or, they wouldn’t have anything. Isn’t that
          right? So, it’s not about them having more Rights,
          more opportunities, more equality. It has to be about having full Rights, and equal opportunities. It’s not about striking down laws that prohibited teaching an African American child to read, and pointing to the
          improvement. It’s about making sure that every disadvantaged child, of every background, including African Americans, have an opportunity to receive a world class education. And, it’s about realizing that, and looking at the still much work to be done in that respect, as important. Not in chiding those who not
          yet fully share the advantages that as Americans, are their birthright. And saying, but look at all you have now, compared with when you had nothing.

    • Sand_Cat

      As usual, you write an convincing condemnation of the GOP, but attribute it to Obama. I admit sometimes he’s more a Republican than a Democrat, but not even close to that much.
      Why don’t you knock off the BS? We all know you’re a hate-filled racist wing-nut already: there’s no need to keep piling up the evidence.

      • joe schmo

        Where do you get that idea. The evidence is in the pudding. Of course maybe you don’t recognize that the laws are solely on your side and you really don’t see and don’t care about the unfairness that occurs to those of us who don’t believe the way you do. But……if the tables were turned. You would be literally screaming bloody murder.. You will be sorry one day because that freedom (that’s what you think it is for your side) will soon be yanked out from even yourselves and then what. You can only blame yourself and I can then honestly say….I told you so like I have on some of the comments I have made in the past. So go ahead and keep your head in the sand ‘Cat.’ Can’t say I didn’t warn you.

        • Sand_Cat

          Believe me, I know at least as much as you about watching people wreck our country, except in my case it wasn’t imaginary. I watched your man Bush lie us into a war and conduct both it and the one in Afghanistan with incredible incompetence and complete indifference to the lives lost because he got to be “the Decider” and grin his smug little smirk while bravely saying “bring it on” knowing that others would suffer and die for his bravado. When he had his chance to fight the commies, of course, he had zero interest and evaded service just like big Dick, another brave guy when somebody else faces the danger. And while they were busy sentencing so many to death and disability to feed their egos, they were also trying to cut combat pay and appropriations for the Veterans Administration.You talk about unfairness and the law being solely on my side: I cannot remember any time in my life when the law was even remotely close to being “solely on my side,” or when I thought things in general were “fair.” It’s an excellent indicator of how out of touch with reality you really are that you could even imagine today’s climate is “all my way,” or that you think the timid centrists and moderate conservatives who make up the bulk of the current Democratic party are “the far left” or whatever moronic name you have for it. You conservatives have had it pretty much your way on most things since the Johnson Administration, and all it’s done is make you angrier and more irrational and fearful, along with giving you a large dose of hate and racism.
          Our country is on an accelerating course to disaster, and every GOP president since Nixon has been pushing pedal to the floor, while the Democrats have at best slightly let up on it. You rant about liberals: there are virtually no liberals in leadership positions in our government; the last few fell to redistricting and GOP lies, but you’re madder than ever! I may have my head in the sand, but you have yours so far up your rectum it’s almost to your stomach.

          • joe schmo

            Imaginary? Aye yay yay. I admit Bush wasn’t the pillar of Presidency but this guy takes the cake of cakes. Conservatives were not huge fans of Bush and I would agree with you on the wars. They were senseless and a waste of money. Bush was a psuedo Republican and more Liberal than anything else. Johnson was a moron. His wife’s family owned Huey and that’s why we were in Vietnam. It was all about money….and Johnson just couldn’t wait to fill John F’s shoes. In my opinion he was the beginning of the end with the exception of Reagan in the middle somewhere.

            We’ve had it our way? No, No, No No No…. Remember how Liberal the media always was? We actually had no voice. Now at least we have something.

            You are far left. Not sure why you think you are not. You might explain to me how you are not? How many Democrat Presidents have we had? Yes, it was always balanced until now.

            Yes, our Country is on a short course to disaster. We also agree on that, but what laws have been enacted of late that would invite the fact that Conservatives are the ruling faction? I really can’t think of any. I wouldn’t even consider Bush a Republican. You’ve let up on the pedal. No way! Taxes, taxes, government, government. Oh, lets get rid of the 1st and 2nd amendments. Let’s let all the illegals in so they will vote for our base. That is no way to balance a country. No Liberals in Leadership positions! Where are you getting that ludicrous idea… Obama, Holder, Carney, Jarrett, Pelosi, Reid and all the henchmen run this country. The Republicans have no voice with the exception of the filibuster which doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. And you would be a suppository for Obama because you can’t see beyond that hole.

      • joe schmo

        LOL and your not a radical. Obama a Republican, OMG are you kidding. Communist/anti-colonialist. Why don’t you look up ‘anti-colonialist.’ It will be eye opening……

        ….as far as the rest of the comment. Wrong! I won’t even get into name calling. It says nothing. That’s always your first defense….’racist.’ That’s how you try to suppress us. Well guess what, doesn’t work with me because I know I am not.

  • Al Bumen

    Although collective altruism may appeal to our instincts, a closer look reveals that it is an inferior way to improve our quality of life.

    • charleo1

      Altruism has it’s place. Surely you wouldn’t disagree with it’s nobel intentions, and real capacity for promoting good. I would say the better way to improve the general qualities of life, is policies based on mutual advantage, in interdependent relationships. They promote peace, and encourage cooperation. And discourage exploitation, and it’s handmaidens, crime, poverty and social instability. But alas, that seems to require far too much compromise from many of today’s corporate, and monied elite. Many seem obsessed with wanting it all, wanting it now, and keeping the power to obtain it, in as few hands as possible, forever.

    • joe schmo

      It just depends on how far you are willing to take it….. Within reason, I tend to agree:)

      …and Charleo when you talk about monied you mean the 1% who are mainly Liberals right? So speak for you own side…..

      Better yet, since you Liberals are so ‘uber’ concerned about humanity why not share 1/2 or 3/4 of your investments and earnings with the poor. That way you will satisfy your lust for spreading the wealth while the rest of us can decide whether or not to give to the charity of our choice or not. We should not be MADE to do anything. It stands within reason. Don’t ‘yah’ think….

      • Sand_Cat

        Yeah, the monied are mainly “liberals.” I guess they are, when viewed from your perspective so far to the right you can barely catch a glimpse of the sane.

      • charleo1

        What I think is, the current Conservative Right, at least those driving the conversation on economic policy, are no longer conservative. The argument is no longer about Hayek, or Friedman Vs. Keynes. It starts with the false premise that we must have either one or the other. That the very idea a gov. may regulate, or tax, or license, creates a slippery slope, that will inevitably lead to the end of free markets. And we wind up with a centralized economy, with the gov. owning the means of production, and picking all the winners, and losers. Which has never once been the case, here or anywhere else. anything, we have the opposite situation developing, where the gov. has become hamstrung by big money to prevent the worst elements of an unbridled laissez-faire, economy. With all the predictable downsides of that. With the largest businesses able to eliminate much of the competition, control prices, and wages. And are allowed thru weak regulation, or preferential policies, to do harm to the environment, in the quest for ever higher profits. It is this economy then, the formerly Conservative Right now insist is the price we must pay for jobs. In that premise, I do not accept. What I do see happening is exactly what we would expect. The CEOs, or the market’s, primary interest is higher profits, leading to larger dividends, irrespective of how that be accomplished. If wages are clipped a bit, financial instruments sold to the public are a little less transparent as to the risk, or a bit more by product may be leaked into the water supply. And what, they reason, would refusing to adjust, or better yet, remove these regulations harm anyone, but the jobs they are costing now? But then, if that idea is taken, and multiplied across the spectrum. Then, you have the consequences, and side effects of all that. Resulting in many of the exorbitantly expensive to deal with challenges, both economic, and social. And again, underlying all this is what economists have known all along. That the free market, especially operating in a global environment, is simply not able to look out for for it’s own long term best interests, let alone society’s. And, the rhetoric of the irresponsible, Right has been to call for policies that do reflect your rather casual suggestion that, “we Liberals,” share our own wealth, while leaving them the ability to allocate theirs, as they see fit. Liberals in this case, being the lower income, Middle Class. In other words, we create much of the deterioration of the wages, but you deal with the income inequities, the poverty, and pay for the environmental restoration. We insist that any system that would require us, or regulate us, or tax us, to deal with these problems, is overstepping it’s Constitutional limitations! And I do not agree with that. And with due respect, because I do believe you care. But, what thinking person would agree to that deal?

        • joe schmo

          The beginning of your statement is absolutely true. The interest for conquest comes not only merely from one side of the government. It has now come down to a battle between two different ideologies. However, I beg to differ that the Corporations are the only ones involved in this ruse. I think the government is right in the middle shaking hands with the deal makers. What that means is that initially both sides hold each others hands while dividing regular Americans and taking from them everything that used to be sacred.

          You are wrong, in that, the government wishes to protect us rather it wishes to control us. It is a greedy entity with only self interest in mind. Sadly, that is what we have become a greedy and self absorbed society. Both sides now have an extreme faction and that makes it bad for all of us. In better times we were able to understand our differences and be a nation. Nowadays with so many varying opinions, hard times and globalization creeping in, there is more dissension. It’s kind of like decision by committee where everyone in the group no longer sees eye to eye. As a result, decision making becomes virtually impossible because everyone is at each others throats. Any decision that is made will upset one side or the other. So the dirty sprial continues without an end in site. Offshore accounts…that is preposterous. Nowadays it is increasingly impossible to hide anything from the American Government which acts like the KGB sorting out and looking into everyone’s lives. America is one of the only countries in the world that still requires its citizens to pay taxes even though that person lives in a foreign land. In my opinion that is criminal. They want and want and want until you have nothing less. Why should I want to share with my fellow man when I have much less to give. In a country that creates wealth, more people are willing to share it through charity. But when you have less money, less money goes out to aide the very people you Liberals wish to protect. Think about it. What good does raising taxes really do? When a government has it’s fill and has royally squandered the money which this government knows how to do well, it wants more and who does it take the money from, the middle class and wealthy. More so the middle class because there are more of us and the end result is more suffering and a group becoming poorer. I think there needs to be more regulation of the government and it’s spending. Each program needs to be gone through with a fine tooth comb to see where misspending occurs. I bet you if this were done we would find very creative ways to save money and there would be more than enough to go around. Cut taxes on the middle class. This would release the burden on them and, in turn, they would spend more money. Release some of the regulations on business and Corporations so that business can again grow. Environmentalists need to work with scientists with regards to self sustaining energy and if that means oil and gas for a while at least we will be working towards clean energy in the future. You just can’t cut off a lifeline and not think about the consequences. So you and I can hash out the problems of the world and resolve them in our conversations but convincing a bureaucracy to act like adults is another matter altogether

          • charleo1

            I’m not picking on corporations because I’m some
            kind of flaming Socialists. And I certainly don’t hate the private sector, as one guy claimed, “was my problem.” Nor, do I always defend the gov. because I see it as the answer to all of societies’ ills. Or fail to
            realize it sorely needs improvement. For it certainly does. However, of these two powerful entities, I see the gov. as the one where the people still have the most influence, The entity that is supposed to work for the common good of the people. Balancing then, a private enterprise, free to concentrate on profits.
            It’s that balance I see eroding, on the people’s side.
            And a gov. that is more, and more, concerned for
            the common interests of corporations. And all this
            head knocking between the Left, and Right, is a lot about why this is happening, not if it is. So, there is
            more fundamental agreement for change, than we realize sometimes. For example, trade policies that
            are outsourcing jobs. The T-Party Base are against them, the more moderate in some respects,”other,” Republicans want them gone, or made fair. And Moderate, “blue dog,” Democrats get an ear full when they get out of D.C. As do Liberal Dems.
            But, guess what? Both Parties in Washington, are hot to sign even more of them. Well, we’re all pissed about it, and I think that’s a fine thing. Now we’ll hash out what it takes to end a lot of this shit. Or,
            find out why! Because you, and I differ on the reason more are not working due to welfare, or a lack of jobs. You claim one, I say the other. But, we
            both agree he can’t work a job that’s in China, or
            some effing where in N. Africa. Now, am I right or
            wrong on this?

          • joe schmo

            The two strong entities that we have at the moment are largely flawed. You are so right, neither works for the good of the people. However, my ideology leans more to the right and yours to the left. I don’t really know any American citizen Liberal or Conservative who does not believe in help thy neighbor because I think we all still do. I also believe Government is in our face way too much and that, I believe is what most Conservatives resent. We can all agree that outsourcing is bad, however; the environment in the US is not very business friendly at the moment.

            We train talent but do not allow them to stay. Rather we let the low lifes from across the border set up residency. What does that mean for us….bad news. I am a big fan of Simon Black and even though I am not for massive immigration (illegal), I do believe that talented individuals who have trained here or abroad should be allowed to work and live here. It will only help spur innovation.

            “Talent is everything. Just like a business
            which cannot thrive without productive, talented workers, nations too need talented, productive people.

            There are obviously a lot of places in the world which understand this
            very simple concept. The United States is not one of them.

            Here in the Land of the Free, the government chases talented people away.

            If you’re from here, they’ve sucked out almost every possible incentive for you to take risks and achieve more.

            They’ll take a massive portion of your earnings. Regulate the hell out of you. Burden you with unnecessary compliance costs. Get the IRS to
            chase you around. And even the President of the United States will point his finger and say “you didn’t build that..”

            Meanwhile, if you’re a foreigner, the US government can’t build a wall quickly enough to keep you out.

            Talented foreigners who get trained here at the universities are shown the door and thrown out on their bupkis as soon as they graduate.

            Other foreigners whose sole desire is to come to the United States, start a business, and create American jobs are being shot down like pheasants at a hunting lodge.

            It’s hard to imagine this government being any more anti-job, anti-business, anti-growth. But I have no doubt they’ll soon figure out an even dumber approach and slide further down the slippery slope.

            It doesn’t take a rocket scientiest to see where this is going. People. Savings. Ideas. Businesses. In the long-run, all of these things will go where they are treated best.

            Those nations which welcome them will thrive. Those nations which punish them will decline. It’s always been this way.

            Many things you have stated above I totally agree with you on. It’s really sad our politicians cannot meet in the middle like we have and find some similarity in what we see as differences. Thank you for your candid views:)