[KB] "Trivial Repetition," "Dull, Daily Reenforcement"

Clarke Rountree rountrj at uah.edu
Fri Sep 19 16:01:24 EDT 2014


Ed,

You should open a political consulting firm for progressives! They could
use your advice, not for a short-term win, but for a long-term change.

Clarke

On Fri, Sep 19, 2014 at 2:45 PM, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
wrote:

> Bob and All,
>
>         Thanks to Professor Soetaert for his follow-up on my post about
> Terrence Deacon’s “Symbol Concept” and Deacon’s research and thought in
> general.  As I indicated, I want to get back later with more on Deacon’s
> relevance to Burke studies.  I’ll forward that post to Professor Deacon.
>
>         Here, I’m responding more directly to Bob Wess’s query about what
> political points I’d want to see emphasized via “trivial [or maybe not so
> trivial] repetition and dull, daily reinforcement.”  I’ll keep in mind Chip
> and Dan Heath’s book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
> (New York: Random House, 2007), as I go.  The Heath’s recommend that we aim
> for SUCCESS, that is, a message that’s simple, unexpected, concrete,
> credible, emotional, and story-containing.  Forget about the extra “S.”
>
>         Here’s the simple mnemonically-memorable (I would hope) summary of
> salient points I think we need to repeat again and again and again:
>
>         “Corporate control and exploitation for themselves of World trade;
> Wages, taxes, and debt; Wars of choice; and the Warming of our planet are
> destroying the American Dream and a liveable future for ‘The People.’”
>
>         The mnemonic repetition of the “W” in “World trade,” “Wages,”
> “Wars,” and “Warming planet” invests the statement with a sermon-like
> catchiness that can serve to reinforce, make easy-to-recall, this summary
> of the dire problems the “bad guys,” the counteragents, the “Corporate
> Interests,” are foisting on “The People” of USAmerica.  I choose Ralph
> Nader’s pejorative “Corporate” for the dislogistic pole in the dialectic
> because it insulates considerably against the counter-charge of “class
> warfare” that something like the “1 percent” would invite.  We would not be
> inveighing against the financial incentive per se that capitalist orthodoxy
> says fuels our economic engine, just its current grossly unfair and
> unbalanced operations.
>
>         I choose “The People” as the eulogistic pole in this dramatic
> opposition for the reasons Our Hero argued for it in his 1935 speech to the
> American Writers Congress (Simons and Melia, The  Legacy of  Kenneth Burke,
> 1989, pp. 267-273).  In summary, “The People” is inclusive, untied to any
> given type of employment, and un-class warfareish.
>
>         Now, what about a storyline?  Here’s a shortened version:
>
>         “Once upon a time, in the post-World War II, post-Roosevelt U.S.,
> an American---call him Joe Assembly Line---could graduate from high school,
> get a factory job, marry, and raise a family on one income.
>
>         “Why not today?  Because so-call “American” corporations have
> bribed our politicians to fix the system in their favor; sold Joe out to
> cheap foreign labor; pledged allegiance to the one-world marketplace, with
> its bloated profits and offshore tax havens; thumbed their nose at shared
> sacrifice and equal taxation, to the tune of an immense national debt; and
> said to the planet that’s dying under their greed, ‘Go stick it!’”
>
>         Is that emotional enough?  Can it be made concrete and credible?
> Easily available documentation, ad infinitum and searingly specific, awaits.
>
>         The “unexpected”?  Not sure about that.  But there is a sharp
> turnaround in Joe Assembly Line’s fortunes in this scenario, and it did not
> take long.  I dare say HE wasn’t expecting it.
>
>         Greg Desilet and I suggested a modification of Burke’s call for
> “comedy” in symbolic action and human relations (RSQ, 2011, Number 4).  In
> time of war, or a credible threat of war on our nation, adopt the form of
> an arpeggio (first, part-chord or discord, then chord, in succession, not
> simultaneously).  Mobilize with rhetorical tragedy, then shift to
> rhetorical comedy when conditions appear propitious.  And, following
> Burke’s prescription in “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s ‘Battle,’” ultimately
> scapegoat the opponent’s scapegoating itself, not adversaries per se.
>
>         Here, I’m enjoining employment of hard-nosed melodrama at the
> start, before an ultimate shift back to the Burkean comedy of inclusion.
> (No death or banishment for all time in melodrama, only sharp political
> defeat.)  An awareness of our own complicit part in much of these global,
> economic, political, and social dislocations is required as background,
> even if not initially put front and center.  An attitude of charity, though
> sublimated at first, can at least temper our discursive fury.  As Burke
> said, we can use any dramatic framing, as long as we internally, at least,
> “discount for language” and its extravagant incentives.
>
>         That’s my counsel, you nationally significant “leftists”---both of
> you!
>
>         Have a nice weekend.
>
> ,
>         Ed
>
>
>         P.S. Do you think what’s happening now is something of a reprise
> of 2003, not with the same level of duplicity necessarily, but with
> corporate interests, focused in Middle Eastern oil, still pulling the
> strings?
>
>         I ask.
>
> --------------------------------------------
> On Thu, 9/18/14, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com> wrote:
>
>  Subject: Re: [KB] "Trivial Repetition," "Dull, Daily Reenforcement"
>  To: "Carrol Cox" <cbcox at ilstu.edu>, "HERBERT W. SIMONS" <
> hsimons at temple.edu>
>  Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
>  Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014, 11:41 AM
>
>  Carrol,, Herb, and All,
>
>      Carrol, I may be guilty of underplaying
>  Democratic malfeasance in all this, but I think you are
>  overplaying the matter with the “Democrats are the more
>  effective evil” theme.  Thomas Frank may be near to
>  your view, and substantially correct, if he’s suggesting
>  that Democrats are only “MARGINALLY better” than
>  Republicans.  But I would caution that the Dems are
>  still “marginally BETTER.”
>
>      Take the Iraq war.  (As Henny
>  Youngman might say, PLEASE!)  I have a hard time
>  believing, if the judicial coup of 2000 had not occurred,
>  and he had been awarded the presidency, that Al Gore would
>  have taken us into that disastrous conflict.  The
>  Afghanistan fiasco might have transpired, but Iraq?
>  Not likely.  (We had to do something in
>  Afghanistan.  The scapegoat motive was just too
>  intense.  I think a Burkean ought to realize
>  that.  Air strikes and covert/commando raids should
>  have been the MO, not all out warfare and nation
>  building.  But, sadly, the requisite temperament for
>  such restraint is not usually inherent in viable, ambitious,
>  presidential aspirants.)
>
>      You’re right to condemn Carter on
>  deregulation and Clinton on NAFTA (and CAFTA), and you could
>  add Clinton’s signing off on the gutting of Roosevelt’s
>  reform of investment banking.  But Clinton and the Dems
>  did raise taxes in 1993 (without one Republican vote), which
>  brought budget surpluses and a temporary halt to our
>  downward slide into horrendous debt.  Can we call that
>  successful effort just another facet of the “more
>  effective evil” of these sly Democrats?
>
>      And remember, too, the historic pressure
>  on Democrats to take on something of the coloration of
>  conservatism, as the 60-or-so-year political pendulum swing
>  began to turn rightward after the upheavals of the
>  1960s.  Just as Dewey, Eisenhower, and even Nixon
>  weren’t all that conservative by today’s standards (they
>  had to go a bit with the zeitgeist, as well), a turn toward
>  the center was perhaps inevitable for a Democrat to get
>  elected president in the 1990s.  Let’s shift some of
>  the blame to global trends and conditions, while we’re at
>  it.  (Doesn’t that make me a respectable, orthodox
>  postmodernist?)
>
>      As for making Elizabeth Warren part of
>  this “axis of political evil” you reference, give me a
>  break.  Talk about pressure to wink at Israel’s
>  “crimes” in Gaza: It’s far stronger even than not
>  treating Iraq as a wasteful, mendacious misadventure in
>  which our troops died “in vain.”  I don’t think I
>  need to go into all the reasons why.  The word
>  “Holocaust” serves as a good start.
>
>      Let’s pull this discussion back toward
>  Burke before we invoke a reprimand.  I spoke of the
>  power of the scapegoat mechanism that even a Burkean
>  “comedian” can’t totally ignore.  Let me add that
>  my initial post on “trivial repetition” and “dull,
>  daily reinforcement” points in the direction of a
>  rhetorical dilemma I have not yet explored: How can a
>  political leader without a death wish repeat and repeat and
>  repeat again a position on the issues I think need to be
>  highlighted, when those accusations will indict virtually
>  everybody, all the usual suspects having dirty hands to one
>  degree or another?  We may need something along the
>  lines of, “Choosing a Rhetoric of the Enemy: Kenneth
>  Burke’s Comic Frame, Warrantable Outrage, and the Problem
>  of Scapegoating, Part II.”
>      Herb’s “Requirements, Problems, and
>  Strategies” quandary comes to mind.
>
>      As tightwad Jack Benny, when confronted
>  with the challenge, “your money or your life,” after a
>  long pause, would say: “I’m thinking, I’m
>  thinking.”
>
>
>      Ed
>
>
>
>
>
>  --------------------------------------------
>  On Thu, 9/18/14, HERBERT W. SIMONS <hsimons at temple.edu>
>  wrote:
>
>   Subject: Re: [KB] "Trivial Repetition," "Dull, Daily
>  Reenforcement"
>   To: "Carrol Cox" <cbcox at ilstu.edu>
>   Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
>   Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014, 7:55 AM
>
>   very
>   perceptive. YES, there's a pattern here.
>
>   On Wed, Sep 17, 2014 at
>   4:13 PM, Carrol Cox <cbcox at ilstu.edu>
>   wrote:
>   At 84
>   I've given up out-living the Age of Neoliberalism. One
>   of my reasons for this glum  conclusion is the
>   preponderance among men and women of good will of the
>  views
>   expressed by Ed Appel below, which he nicely summarizes in
>   the following words: ". . . what’s happen, by
>   DELIBERATE policy on one side of the aisle, and culpable
>   acquiescence on the other, to USAmerican jobs, USAmerican
>   taxation, and USAmerican debt. . . ."
>
>
>
>   This is, I fear, the standard liberal understanding of the
>   Democratic Party: They see that party as
>   "opportunist," "cowardly," even
>   "stupid." They fail to see that the DP is, as Glen
>   Ford of Black Agenda puts it, "The More Effective
>   Evil." It is the DP, primarily, that has determined
>   U.S. policy over the last half century. (Consider the
>   analogy to "Good Cop / Bad Cop." It is the Good
>   Cop (the DP) who does the real damage. Three acts by the
>   Carter Administration marked the all-out assault on the
>   working people of the U.S.:
>
>
>
>   1) Carter's virtual signing of of Bishop Romero's
>   Death Sentence
>
>   2) The Deregulation of Air lines and trucking
>
>   3) The appointment of Volcker as Fed Chairman
>
>
>
>   Subsequent administrations have but filled in the dots.
>  Some
>   of the high poits:
>
>
>
>   Reagan's crushing of PATCO
>
>   Clinton's pushing through of NAFTA
>
>   Clinton's Effective Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorism
>   Act
>
>   Unanimous Congressional Approval of Afghanistan and Iraq
>   aggressions
>
>   Senator Warren's aggressive support of Israel War
>   Crimes
>
>
>
>   As to Obama, he richly exemplifies Noam Chomsky's
>   observation that "War Criminal" is part of the job
>   description of U.S. presidents.
>
>
>
>   Ed is certainly correct that no Left exists in the U.S.
>   Earmarks of a hypothetical Left:
>
>
>
>   1. Liquidate the Prison System
>
>   2. Withdraw all U.S. troops from the world
>
>   3. No U.S. Foreign Aid (it is all open or disguised
>  military
>   aid to tyrannies)
>
>   4. Open Borders. No human is Illegal.
>
>
>
>   Carrol
>
>
>
>   -----Original Message-----
>
>   From: kb-bounces at kbjournal.org
>   [mailto:kb-bounces at kbjournal.org]
>   On Behalf Of Edward C Appel
>
>   Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 1:58 PM
>
>   To: wessr at onid.orst.edu
>
>   Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
>
>   Subject: Re: [KB] "Trivial Repetition,"
>   "Dull, Daily Reenforcement"
>
>
>
>   Bob and All,
>
>
>
>           Your list for “trivial repetition and dull,
>   daily reinforcement” by the left would be as good as
>   mine.  Maybe we could start by taking a cue from Teddy
>   Roosevelt, much on the agenda at PBS the last three
>   nights.  TR comes across as a ridiculous,
>   I’m-altogether-right-and-you’re-altogether-wrong,
>   heroism-obsessed blowhard in some ways, but as also a
>  great
>   man, great leader, and great egalitarian spirit, as
>  well.
>   (Not perfectly egalitarian, for sure, but wondrously so
>  for
>   his time.)
>
>
>
>           Roosevelt’s mantra about the Constitution
>   being for the good of the people as a whole, rather than
>   vice versa, a strait jacket into whose supposedly tight
>   18th-century constraints all contemporary common sense has
>   to be bound, should be our guiding principle, too (see
>  Burke
>   on the “Dialectic of Constitutions,” GM).
>
>
>
>           The first question I’d ask, though, is,
>  where
>   do we find the USAmerican political “left?  I know one
>   place I can find the left-wing US commentariat.  See the
>   amalgam of voices gathered together on CommonDreams.org,
>  for
>   instance.  But among our political leaders?  Maybe
>  Warren
>   and Sanders, but even Sanders echoes Obama on the taxation
>   question: The wealthy ought to be paying “a little bit
>   more.”  A LITTLE bit more?  When their contribution to
>   the commonweal has gone from 51 percent of earnings 60
>  years
>   ago to about 16 percent today, less than the average
>   middle-class earner?  When average CEO pay has burgeoned
>   from 40 to 1 to 400 to 1 in respect to average salaries in
>  a
>   given industry in the past three to four decades?  When a
>   candidate for the presidency can get away with disclosing
>   one, and only one, tax return, at 13 percent (!), and
>  still
>   run for that highest and supposedly exemplary office, and
>   get away with it?
>
>
>
>           I don’t see much of a “political left”
>  in
>   our nation, or much of a sense of what a “political
>   left” should look like, among our citizenry.  (See
>  Donald
>   Barlett and James Steele, The Betrayal of the American
>   Dream, for requisite numbers; see Thomas Frank, What’s
>  the
>   Matter with Kansas, on how Democrats have become only
>   “marginally better” than Republicans; see a study by
>   Martin Gilens [Princeton] and Benjamin Page [Northwestern]
>   on how “’the preferences of the average American
>  appear
>   to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically
>   non-significant impact upon public policy,’”
>  [“Disease
>   of American Democracy,” Robert Reich, 8/21/14], as the
>   result of the takeover of political outcomes by
>  Congress’s
>   and the executive’s  corporate paymasters.)
>
>
>
>           But, if we had a “political left” of some
>   dimensions (let’s fantasize!), what would be the three
>   most salient issue-positions I’d recommend a strong,
>   repetitive, dull, daily emphasis upon?  It would be the
>  two
>   I recommended in “Democratic Narrative” and in my post
>   on the nefarious Iraq War, to wit:
>
>
>
>           Drum home “agaaaiiinnn and aggaaaiiinnn and
>   agaaaiiinnn” (I can hear FDR exclaiming it!) what’s
>   happen, by DELIBERATE policy on one side of the aisle, and
>   culpable acquiescence on the other, to USAmerican jobs,
>   USAmerican taxation, and USAmerican debt, over the last
>   three and a half decades.  American jobs have been
>  exported
>   to low-wage sweat shops in Asia, Indonesia, Mexico, and
>   beyond, to the economic benefit of the entrepreneurial
>   class, who can then sell their products to consumers
>   worldwide.  They don’t need Americans to make their
>   goods, nor do they need them as much to buy their goods.
>   Manufacture cheap and sell across the globe.  You lose
>  your
>   high-paying factory job as a result?  Go work for
>   McDonalds!
>
>
>
>           And while we’re at it, let’s cut taxes to
>   the bone.  “Starve the beast!”  As Reagan insiders
>   Donald Stockman and Bruce Bartlett have revealed, the idea
>   was to cut taxes to such an extent, and run up deficits so
>   onerous, Congress and some future administration would be
>   forced to dismantle the “welfare state.”  George W.
>   Bush admirably followed suit, at the outset of his dubious
>   war, no less!---and there’s reported evidence on things
>   that Bush privately said that indicate he was just as
>   deliberate.  (See Venomous Speech: Problems with American
>   Political Discourse on the Right and Left, pp. 109-116,
>  for
>   ample documentation.)
>
>           Democrats left fingerprints over all of this
>   chicanery, as well.
>
>
>
>           Who’s got clean-enough hands to pound home
>   this narrative, repeatedly, in our day, and the political
>   courage to boot?
>
>
>
>           More, later, on the other two mantras, and how
>   Heath and Heath might simplify the tale---and on the
>   "identification" angle.
>
>
>
>
>
>           Ed
>
>
>
>
>
>   --------------------------------------------
>
>   On Mon, 9/15/14, wessr at onid.orst.edu
>   <wessr at onid.orst.edu>
>   wrote:
>
>
>
>    Subject: Re: [KB] "Trivial Repetition,"
>   "Dull, Daily Reenforcement"
>
>    To: "Edward C Appel" <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
>
>    Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
>
>    Date: Monday, September 15, 2014, 9:58 PM
>
>
>
>    Ed, Burke is surely right
>
>    about the power of repetition. The
>
>    advertising industry leaves no room for doubt  about
>   that.
>
>
>
>    What
>
>    identifications might the left try to repeat ad
>   nauseam?
>
>
>
>    What might Burke advise?
>
>
>
>    Bob
>
>
>
>    Quoting Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>:
>
>
>
>    > Burkophiles,
>
>    >
>
>    >     I asked in a
>
>    chapter in Praeger’s Venomous Speech last year,
>   “Where
>
>
>
>    > Is the Democratic Narrative, FDR
>
>    Style?”  That piece had mainly to
>
>    >
>
>    do with the polemical malfeasance of the Dems in
>  dealing
>   with,  > rhetorically pretty much  ignoring, what
>   globalization has done to  > aggravate the income gap
>  in
>   USAmerica the  past three and a half  > decades.
>  (Tax
>   policies are culpable, too, we know, in multiple  >
>   ways.)  Senator Warren appeared on Moyers  on PBS last
>   Sunday.  She  > listed  four Democratic proposals
>  she
>   thinks are winning issues  going  > into the Fall
>   elections.  Moyers asked her why, then, aren’t we
>  >
>   hearing more about them from Democratic  candidates and
>   their  >  spokespersons?  Warren really had no good
>   answer.
>
>    >
>
>    >     Burke says in
>
>    the Rhetoric (p. 26), “Often we must think of  >
>   rhetoric not in terms of one particular  address, but as
>  a
>   general  > BODY OF  IDENTIFICATIONS that owe their
>   convincingness much more to
>
>
>
>    > trivial repetition and dull daily
>
>    reenforcement than to exceptional
>
>    >
>
>    rhetorical skill” (emphasis in original).
>
>    >
>
>    >     I monitor Fox
>
>    News daily.  That propaganda network masquerading as
>   > a news channel (I know, we can say the  same thing
>   about MSNBC) is  >  near-fanatically repetitive in
>   promoting its conservative,
>
>
>
>    > anti-Obama agenda.  Fox is
>
>    relentless.  Case in point: Bill O’Reilly  > has
>   invidiously targeted the President in  his opening
>   “memo” for as  > many  nights as I can
>  remember.
>   Another: Wish I had even one  dollar  > for every
>  time
>   I’ve watched  our consulate in Benghazi burn on my
>   >  Channel 48.  They don’t let up.
>
>    >
>
>    >     Add this mantra to the list: Bush 2
>   “won” our righteous “War on  >  Terror” with
>   the surge in Iraq.  Obama came into office,  took our
>   > troops out of that country,  and now has “lost”
>  a
>   war that Bush,  > Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz
>  had
>   brought a U.S. victory and peace  >  to!
>
>    >
>
>    >     The
>
>    rhetorically inept, more accurately altogether missing,
>
>
>
>    > response by Obama in his “leading
>
>    from behind” speech on Wednesday,
>
>    >
>
>    and in his fumbling precursors to that address, are
>   dispiriting.
>
>    >
>
>    >
>
>        First and foremost, Obama was and is uniquely
>   situated to  > characterize the Iraq  War for what it
>   plainly was: A mendacious  > military adventure,
>  foisted
>   on USAmerica  by subterfuge and  > deception, a
>   cynical exploitation of the shock of 9/11, not merely a
>
>
>
>    > “dumb war.”  Fifteen Saudis and
>
>    four Egyptians, under the leadership
>
>    >
>
>    of a wealthy Saudi, trained in Afghanistan, highjacked
>   four  > commercial jetliners and  perpetrated the
>   mayhem of that frightful  > day.  Saddam, we knew
>  even
>   then, had  nothing to do with it.  Nor did  > his
>   chemical weapons, if they even had existed and they
>   didn’t, nor  > did his so-called  “mushroom
>   cloud” potential, pose any real threat  > to this
>   nation.  Again, we knew even then  that Iraq’s
>  nuclear
>   > ambitions,  even if real, were as yet no more than
>   hope, if not  > fantasy.  And, for anyone paying
>   attention, the Bush-Cheney  >  fear-mongering had
>   already been shot down in an op-ed in the  NYTimes  >
>   by Ambassador Wilson, and by  clear-headed reporting
>   >  by the  McClatchy News Service.
>
>    >
>
>    >     So, what happened after waste of a
>  trillion
>   dollars (it will be  > three  trillion or more after
>   medical expenditures are exhausted  a  > half-century
>   from now), loss of  thousands of American lives, tens
>  of
>   >  thousands of maimings and woundings, and
>  destruction
>   and  shattering  > of this jerry-built  nation of
>   warring sects that only a tyrant like  > Saddam could
>   hold together—what happened  after the candidate who
>   > promised to  end the Iraq War came to power?  He
>   stopped calling the
>
>
>
>    > war what it really was and started
>
>    treating it pretty much like a
>
>    >
>
>    somewhat legitimate enterprise we had to bring to an
>   end
>
>
>
>    > “responsibly.”  Obama was even
>
>    planning to keep fifty thousand (or
>
>    >
>
>    was it eighty thousand?) troops in Iraq in perpetuity,
>   before  > al-Maliki said “no way”
>
>    to our insistence on military immunity.  > (And
>  Obama
>   doesn’t even defend himself  on that issue.)  >
>   >
>
>        You may object that Obama had to metamorphose into
>   a  “war  > president,” since he was  then
>   Commander-in-Chief.  Can’t in any way  > imply that
>   our soldiers died in vain in a  conflict subversively
>   > motivated by  oil, Israel, Bush family
>  score-settling,
>   or plans for  > victorious re-election in 2004 by a
>   flight-jacketed president after  >  “Mission
>   Accomplished.”
>
>    >
>
>    >     Upshot: There exists a corrupt
>
>    context to what Obama and USAmerica
>
>    >
>
>    face in the current chaos of the Middle East.  It is
>  a
>   context that  > requires repetition and  more
>   repetition still by leadership that has  > some
>   semblance of the near-self  -destructive insanity of
>   America’s  >  vaunted “War on Terror.”  As he
>   takes us into yet  another phase of  > this
>   resource-draining, quick-sand tugging, tar-baby of a
>   conflict,  > someone with a megaphone  has to stand
>  up
>   and shout down the McCains  > and Foxies who current
>   occupy the  rhetorical terrain uncontestred.
>
>    >
>
>    >     I have no hope that Obama’s the
>
>    one.
>
>    >
>
>    >
>
>    >     Ed
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>   --
>   Herbert W.
>   Simons, Ph.D.
>   Emeritus Professor of
>   Communication
>   Dep't of  Strategic
>   Communication, Weiss Hall 215
>   Temple
>   University, Philadelphia 19122
>   Home phone:
>   215 844 5969
>   http://astro.temple.edu/~hsimons
>   Academic Fellow, Center for Transformative
>   Strategic Initiatives (CTSI)
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-- 
Dr. Clarke Rountree
Chair and Professor of Communication Arts
342 Morton Hall
University of Alabama in Huntsville
Huntsville, AL  35899
256-824-6646
clarke.rountree at uah.edu
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