Category Archives: Politics

Religious Freedom

Religious Freedom Argument

Through our course, we observed various faiths’ beliefs, rituals and worship practices, lifestyles, organization, and cultures. We learned about the similarities and the differences between some common religions and beliefs. We also found unique characteristics that differentiate the religions.

Is religious freedom possible?  What should be the American legal standard for and cultural understanding of religious freedom? What is freedom? What is religion? Is religion more than belief?

To properly address these questions, we need to understand the terminology. First, freedom is rather clear-cut in the Declaration of Independence. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence defines “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (paragraph 2). Therein, our forefathers identified a basic principle of freedom. Those rights – life, liberty, happiness – are possessed by all people, and by such qualification of “all [people],” it is understood to limit those rights or freedoms to not impose on freedoms of others.

From the onset of our nation’s history, we have battled to maintain those constitutionally ordained freedoms. But only after newly found freedoms is it now obvious what had been missing: women’s right to vote, married women’s rights to vote, slavery, and black men and women’s rights to vote. More obvious and egregious intrusions on American freedoms have occurred in our country’s history. Early United States history is peppered with infringements on what we today observe as those freedoms. Pre-nationhood, men and women were tried for religious beliefs, persecuted as witches in Salem, Massachusetts, and other locations. (Hoffer, 2016).

Freedom of speech and press have been hampered by social expectations that produced legal restrictions against what some in society interpreted as crude or obscene writing or images. Restrictions on where an African-American could reside or purchase a home, and where he could play music, which entrances could be used. The use of the Alien and Seditions Acts to imprison and deport immigrants who came from enemy nations. Immigration Act of 1924 is widely held to have been designed to restrict the upswell in immigration from Italy, Germany, Poland and other Slavic nations. The Japanese-American incarceration to internment camps following Pearl Harbor. Some of these restrictions and regulations target religious segments; for example, the Immigration Act of 1924 by restricting immigrants from Italy, is attributed to an anti-Catholic sentiment. Similarly, in 2017, President Donald Trump attempted to apply a ban on immigration from primarily Muslim countries.

In an article comparing American Union Against Militarism (AUAM) and National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB), Weinreb explains how these organizations voiced as “conscientious objectors” to Selective Service Act, Alien and Seditions Acts during World War I. These two organizations (AUAM and NCLB) would later be followed by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). One of NCLB’s earliest attempts at defending American freedoms was to defend against the mandatory military service dictated in Selective Service Act. Weinreb points out that their means of defense by voicing political opposition to the War was not an effective move, considering the fervor of nationhood that swelled in the United States at that time. “Perhaps if civil liberties advocates had begun with claims to free speech and gradually worked toward freedom of conscience, their justification for exemptions might have taken root.” (Weinreb, 2016).

Unfortunately, our freedoms are not always that clearly identifiable. Take as an example, in late twentieth century, the US government passed, in high majority, Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The understood intent of RFRA was to ensure freedoms that could be infringed upon by governments. It helped prevent the government from intruding on religious freedoms through general regulation. It attempted to curb perceived intrusions on religious freedoms within minority groups. One example is the use of Peyote by Native Americans. The courts interpreted constitutional law to not protect the use of this hallucinogen. In response to cases like this, the US government overwhelmingly passed the RFRA. However, the RFRA has also been used to seek freedoms to discriminate or deny others’ freedoms. This was overturned as it applies to states, but is still applicable to federal government. Many states have adopted similar regulations.

Arguably, the Declaration of Independence, by mentioning a creator, also implies a presumption that a greater being exists that governs by endowing these rights. Unlike “freedom” being represented as life, liberty, and happiness; neither the Declaration of Independence or Constitution broach a definition for religion. The dictionary definition of religion leaves some uncertainty to what is used. Nearly all dictionaries define it as a relationship to god, gods, spirits or similar supreme being(s). Cambridge defines it as “the belief in and worship of a god or gods, or any such system of belief and worship.” This definition inclusively describes the supreme entities, but allows for a more nuanced “system” to be included.

The First Amendment to the Constitution outlines that Congress cannot impose restrictions on religion nor institute one as accepted. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” (Amend. I.)

The Law Dictionary offers an alternative definition with citation of legal decisions to support its interpretation: “As used in constitutional provisions forbidding the ‘establishment of religion,’ the term means a particular system of faith and worship recognized and practised by a particular church, sect, or denomination.” The specific identification as practices conducted in “church, sect or denomination,” omitting individual, for being recognized could lead to overly limited application. This possibly could deny a person from coming to an individual awakening to a belief system which before that point never existed.

Jesse Choper, a law professor at University of Berkeley, published the article Defining Religion in the First Amendment in 1982 describing the lack of definition for religion in legal documents. Choper explains the separation of church and state by examining how these are constructed through the “establishment” and “free exercise” clauses. He offers another definition taken from legal reference. First, the definition must identify the thought process associated with the term “religion.” Second, it must be defined broad enough to allow application to unforeseen interpretations. He specifically mentions traditional beliefs, new beliefs, adaptation of existing beliefs, and “nonconformist” beliefs. Choper also identifies areas that should be avoided, such as thought processes and behaviors. Additionally, he tells the reader “its ultimate form must serve purposes beyond the specific visions of the framers, even assuming that they may be discerned” (Choper, 1982).

To carry this forward into the course work, in Unit One Blueprint, we accepted the definition through application of four categories that should be met (REL 320, 2017). First, a shared knowledge that it categorizes as discourse. Second, practice of rites, rituals, and other normative processes that are based on the religious discourse. Third, the members of the group join in congregational or similar community exchanges and celebrations. Fourth, institutions are established within the communities that establish order and makes the institution capable of replicating. In this explanation, no deity or spirit is brought forward. This more closely relates to Choper’s analysis of establishment and free exercise clause.

Joppke compared the plights of gay marriage and Muslim religious freedoms in an article published in European Journal of Sociology (Joppke, 2017). The comparison examined how some privileges are sought to be extended to a group, such as gay marriage. Muslim traditions look for a different appeasement by what Joppke labels “special rights.” In the case of same-sex marriage, the right exists for those outside the group. The argument is for equality. For Muslims, the right being sought is exemptions for some legal requirements. This may be demonstrated in the wearing of a hijab in a classroom. Joppke further distinguishes these two group by highlighting that for same-sex marriage it focuses on how they should be given the same liberties. In contrast, Christians and Muslims have the same religious freedoms, but Muslims seek “special rights” be extended to accommodate their beliefs. This examination compares liberty freedoms to religious freedoms.

Pope Leo III, in an 1885 papal paper, highlighted a non-universality of religion in Catholicism. “To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name.” Here the pontiff points out the acceptability of the existence of different religious beliefs.

Some of the American public believe these interpretations of the Constitution are overly broad. An interpretation of statements within the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, such as mentioning “Creator,” that the United States is founded by and for Christian and God-fearing individuals. Matthew Cochran, a writer for The Federalist, remarks, in not so subtle wording, that leftists and gay activists are impacting the freedoms of not condoning choices that differ from their religious beliefs. He highlights an instance of a florist in Washington, D.C., who refused to provide flower arrangements for a same-sex marriage. The couple and attorney general pursued legal paths and financial liabilities against the florist. Cochran argues this is an intrusion on the florist’s religious beliefs, as she does not support same-sex marriage. He logically argues a more inclusive way to review these legal proceedings would be, “…merely require courts to thoughtfully weigh burdened religious conscience against government interest when there’s friction between the two.” Despite the attractive wording, his article focuses highly on allowing Christians to exclude others.

When viewed together, Pope Leo XIII’s more inclusive descriptions and Cochran’s exclusionary position present a stark contrast. In the pontiff’s quote, he explains that if we need to accept other’s differences without ostracizing them. On the other hand, Cochran wants the freedom to explicitly act against a group because of a difference of religious affiliation. These follow a protagonist/antagonist comparison from Joppke. He pointed out that same-sex couples are looking for a freedom to be wedded “just like straights,” but it is necessary to avoid the contradiction of wanting equal protection for a group. Joppke’s justification comes where the equal protection segregates a group rather than seeking to maintain a freedom. Cochran may have presented his case more effectively if argued as that, a retention of a freedom.

Within these freedoms – religion, speech, press – there are lines that cannot be crossed. Each individual has the freedom and right to possess the mental consciousness that grants them a belief. They can act on those conceptions of freedoms so long as it does not infringe on another person’s freedoms, so long as it does not violate any general principles ordained in law. Hemeyer explains, “clearly some actions cannot be condoned, such as the torture of people or animals or random terror attacks on civilian populations. Other actions, if permitted, would utterly disrupt the social order, such as the refusal to be bound by any laws” (Hemeyer, 2016).

Our country continues to weave its way through the challenges of understanding freedom clauses, and likely forever will. The unforeseen circumstances that will befall our nation spur knee-jerk reactions. We come to observe new dangers to ourselves, our children, our country, and we rally the troops, and legislators, to save us from certain death, or at least discomfort. We have witnessed this repeatedly in our past, and we continue to use too narrow a spectrometer when evaluating the similarities to whatever the current tone of fear is that rushes over us.

The “establishment” clause of the Constitution, in conjunction with no specific definition leads to an understanding that religion is not to be precisely defined. Rather that religious freedom should be understood through the other directives, such as “free exercise,” “freedom of speech,” and “freedom to peaceably assemble.” The methods of celebrating religiosity should be the choice of the believer, up to the point it denies another person their freedom.

Religious freedom is alive and well in the United States. However, we must remain ever vigilant to the infringements that begin dictating how we need to believe and what forms of belief are acceptable. Even when these infringements affect only one neighbor, we need to conscientiously evaluate how that restriction will come back to haunt us.

In today’s world, we witness violent acts of terror across our country and across the world. The images are subtitled with warnings that they are coming for us. We react, involuntarily, by throwing up our shields and hiding behind them. I took this course with the intent to get some humanities credit hours. I am happy I also gained a useful understanding of other religious perspectives, and I hope to carry that with me.


Choper, Jesse H. (1982). Defining Religion in the First Amendment, 1982 U. Ill. L. Rev. 579. Available at:

Cleworth, Brendon. (2017), “REL 320: American Religious Traditions (2017 Summer – B).”

Cochran, M. (2015, April 21). Religious freedom is not dangerous, but losing it is. The Federalist.

Corbett-Hemeyer, Julia. Religion In America, 7th Edition, 19 Feb 2016. Routledge.

Joppke, C. (2017). Multiculturalism by Liberal Law: The Empowerment of Gays and Muslims. European Journal of Sociology, 58(1), 1-32. doi:10.1017/S0003975617000017.

Hoffer, Peter C. (2016). Salem witchcraft trials. In S. Bronner (Ed.), Encyclopedia of American studies. MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved from

Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885; Encyclical Of Pope Leo Xiii; On The Christian Constitution Of States.

The Law Dictionary, Accessed 2017 Aug 8.

U.S. Constitution. Amend. I (1791), XIV §1 (1868).

U.S. Declaration of Independence, Paragraph 2 (1776).

Weinrib, L. M. (2016). Freedom Of Conscience In War Time: World War I And The Limits Of Civil Liberties. Emory Law Journal, 65(4), 1051-1137.

Williams, Rhys H. “Religion and Multiculturalism: A Web of Legal, Institutional, and Cultural Connections.” Sociological Quarterly, vol. 56, no. 4, Fall 2015, pp. 607-622. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/tsq.12094.

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Posted by on August 13, 2017 in Class Writing, Politics


Boy, Girl, Racial Distinction

Long ago there was this young man, who lived an accepting life. For anonymity, we’ll simply call him Boy. He served in the United States Army, and was honorably discharged as a Spec-4. That was his first true experience surviving on his own. Boy grew up in the Army. One important thing he learned in the military was how GI’s didn’t see themselves as racially divided. He had witnessed racism, occasionally, in his life, but was never strongly confronted by it. In the military, fellow servicemen may be racially different, but that did not make a difference. The Army taught him that skin color meant nothing. Everyone was seen as green.

Boy grew up and became a man (but still known as Boy in this story). It began in early 1990’s. Boy traveled across country pursuing the girl of his dreams, and ended up in Phoenix, Arizona. We’ll call her Girl.

One day, Boy and Girl met with one of her old friends. We’ll call him, X. X had recently returned to town, and wanted to stop by his old neighborhood to say Hi to some friends at a local bar, and pick up some party favors. But, being new in town, he needed some help getting around. Girl vouched for him, so Boy agreed to help X get to the bar where his friends frequented. We’ll call the bar, The Bar.

Girl drove Boy and X to The Bar where X’s other friends hung out. Unbeknownst to Boy, The Bar didn’t match his cultural background. Few, if any, of his kind were ever there. They parked a half-block away from the entrance.

When Girl, Boy, and X got out of the car, things became strange. X waved at the other people, then turned and told Girl and Boy to stay near the car. About a dozen people standing at The Bar’s door began heading toward them at a determined pace. The imposing group gestured threateningly toward Boy and Girl. Then X shouted out to the group, “It’s cool. They’re with me. It’s cool.”

X returned his focus to Boy and Girl, and reassured them of their safety. X continued across the street to join the others approaching. They exchanged handshakes and headed back to The Bar with X.

Within a few minutes after X entered The Bar, a police car swiftly approached Boy and Girl. Two police officers got out of the car. The first officer, we’ll call PO, sternly inquired, “what are you two doing here?”

The tone and manners of PO made Boy and Girl feel very nervous. They explained they had just brought a friend. But, PO interrupted them and asked for identification. Boy and Girl provided their IDs. At the same time, X returned from The Bar. X approached PO, and greeted him familiarly, then X told PO that Boy and Girl were with him.

X, Boy, and Girl waited while PO returned to the police car. A few more minutes passed, then PO got out of the car. He came to the three, carrying a camera. To Boy and Girl he said, “You have no warrants. But, you two don’t belong in this neighborhood. When my partner and I got notified you were here, we rushed over to make sure nothing was happened.” PO’s partner, PoPo, stood off to the side, with a peculiar smirk on his face, but remained silent. PO directed Boy and Girl off to the side, “Stand over here, look forward with your hands down at your side. We need to take pictures of you. We’ll keep these on file in case you come back, or if we find out you’re buying drugs. If necessary, we can also use it to identify your bodies.” Talk about putting the fear of being a minority into a Boy or Girl.

X spoke up. He reassured PO that the three of them would leave immediately.

PO addressed X, “You know they shouldn’t be around here.” Then he turned to Boy and Girl, “You two shouldn’t be in this neighborhood. You don’t belong here. You need to get in your car and leave here, immediately. My partner and I are leaving. If you’re still here when we return, we will arrest the three of you.” The police officers returned to their car and drove off.

X asked Boy and Girl to wait just a minute. X walked quickly to The Bar’s door. Even though it was only minutes, Boy and Girl waited anxiously. To their relief, X returned, soon. The three got back in the car and left The Bar, never to return again.

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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Memories, Politics, Writing


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The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons

This is a long article, eight parts. I am sharing this public, because it is important that it gets shared. Our government, for the past 15 years or more, has placed our soldiers in harms way, and has ignored their needs. This article describes the chemical weapons our servicemen are exposed to, and then how our government ignored them. These chemical weapons are now controlled by the “Islamic State”.

The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons

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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Politics


Emotional Days Reflection

Imagine the most emotional time in your life; a time where everything was in upheaval. A day that involved such emotional swings, you had no idea what was going to happen next. It didn’t start that way.

The time began when, like many other great day, you blurt out to your friends, unprompted, that you are looking forward to a wonderful day, and you wish them all the same. Subsequently, you experience humorous moment which solicits stifled giggles about someone’s peculiar happenstance. And as you barely finished that glee, you find out an Old Friend is dealing with a traumatic loss of a pet. You express sincere condolences to the Old Friend. Their trouble brings back the memory of a similar event in your life. You move from that earlier lightheartedness to a heavy-hearted sorrow.

As you absorb that moment and reflect on your past experience, a quote from a historic scholar comes to mind. It coincidentally matches, in some tangential way, the circumstances you observed. The quote brings you some relief and gives you some hope in life, people, and the world. You even release a heavy sigh of relief.

A loud Obnoxious Voice screams out, insistently, some claim that blames all the worlds problems on some sports figures thoughtless rant. You don’t understand the relationship of those topics. The irritation eats at your gut, and you spout off some condescending remark to them, with little thought. While you are still dwelling on that outrageous claim, the Old Friend thanks you for thinking about them as they fight their way though the emotional loss they had. Your heart pauses for a moment and you politely reply, “You’re welcome.” You again feel that camaraderie for the shared loss; and it pulls at your heartstrings for moment, maybe brings water to your eyes reflecting on your similar loss.

Your Mother happens by and inquires about your plans for the weekend. You’re not sure, but you check with your Spouse. She reminds you about a school event you are supposed to attend for the kids on Friday evening, and the yard work that was postponed from last weekend. You think, why can’t she clean up after the pets once in a while; but you know it’s your responsibility and just let it rest. But it is still irritating. She says Saturday for dinner with family would work good.

While you are thinking about the weekends plans, a Family Friend tells you this hilarious joke about two men and a priest walking into a bar. You laugh hysterically and repeat it to other people next to you. Some of them interject with other wise cracks that make you smile even more.

Thinking back to the meal, you remember a dinner, long ago, when the whole family gathered. One of those never-forget times with family. You pull out some old pictures from the event and reflect on how happy things seemed to be back then. It’s was a long time ago, but you remember it like it was moments ago. It brings a gleeful tear to your eye.

Finally, you respond to your Mother. You let her know you have a few things planned, but you invite your parents over for dinner. You ask if she wouldn’t mind bringing a side dish, specifically, your favorite sweet potatoes she always makes. You grin; knowing she’ll not let you down.

Out of the blue, a high school friend shouts out a joyful “Howdy!” You are astounded this New-found Old Friend is still alive; after all, some of the things you two did back in the day would kill most people. You exchange a few where-you-been inquiries, and highlights after high school. You two laugh reminiscing over some of the silly things you use to do.

The Obnoxious Friend from earlier interjects about something you said last week; uses it to point out how it seems you have no idea what you are talking about. You are astounded as his shallow view on the world and society. You quickly pull out some reference material and find documented proof those two items from earlier are not related. You highlight the evidence you found. An argument ensues. Your blood boils. You don’t understand how he could continue on the dead-end path he seems stuck on. The Obnoxious Friend blurts out he’s sick and tired of listening to your one-sided rants and lack of understanding. He spews off on a long tirade, and culminates by proclaiming he will never speak to you again.

Oddly, after a long exchange of memories, the New-found Old Friend, suddenly seems to be non-responsive. You suspect he must have had to run off.

One of the comical friends asks if you and your Spouse have made plans for the weekend; they are having a party and hope you could make it. Although it would be fun, you regretfully decline, knowing you’ll have family over; and family comes first, especially when you committed to hosting dinner… with Mother’s sweet potatoes.

Your Spouse asks if your Mother will be bringing a dish. You still hadn’t heard what your Mother will be bringing to dinner. So, you ask her again. Your Mother apologizes; she had missed your last question. But because she didn’t get your response, she went ahead and made plans with some other friends. For an instant, despite the relationship, maybe because of the ongoing emotion from earlier, you feel betrayed. You think, “it would’ve been nice if you’d reply….” But before you put it into words, you accept the apology and apologize for not being more responsive; with the bad communication, it is understandable.

Imagine an Hour of a day in your life where these events occurred. It is happening, right now, to you.

Welcome to social networking and online media.

It is no wonder the world today suffers from such psychological turmoil. We go through this emotional roller-coaster on our social networks at an untenable pace. Somehow, we think we can engage in meaningful conversation in 140 characters. We don’t draw parallels between the citations, but we proclaim others should understand our intended meaning with only an unexplained reference to a historic writing. We bounce through these emotional highs and lows at a pace that cannot be sustained.

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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Politics, Writing


Great comparison – great recession, great depression

Very interesting comparison of Great Depression and Great Recession.

NR Market Watch

Cheryl Russel’s work is always some of the most insightful I read. After you read through this you will want to sign up for her newsletter. and buy her books.

Score One for the Great Recession

How do you measure bad times? Specifically, how does the Great Recession compare with the Great Depression? Economists typically use GDP as the measuring stick. During the Great Depression, GDP fell by a stunning 27 percent. During the Great Recession, GDP fell only 4 percent. Using the GDP measure, then, the Great Recession was only 15 percent as severe as the Great Depression (4/27 x 100 = 15).

Something is missing from the GDP comparison, however: a human face. GDP and other macro-level economic statistics fail to capture the human experience of hard times. We need something that measures the personal dimension of economic downturns. One way to measure the personal is with…

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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Politics


Blind Acceptance or Depredation of Obama and Bush

Why is it that some conservatives are claiming President Barrack Obama does not show proper respect to US Servicemen?

Simple. Those outspoken conservatives convince themselves something is true, and ignore any evidence to the contrary. The same argument is true for the other side, the outspoken liberals, as well. To demonstrate, I will assume you have seen the “Obama is horrible” and “Bush is the greatest” proclamations. So, here, I will present the counterarguments for each.

Let me give you some examples of how Obama has demonstrated support of US servicemen:
1) July 2008: Obama went to Baghdad and addressed and thanked the servicemen there.
2) Oct 2009: Obama honored fallen soldiers at Dover Air Force Base as their flight came in, without media, at 00:34 (that’s 12:30 am). Then he met privately with the families of those soldiers. He returned to the White House before dawn to continue his day.
3) May 2012: Obama greeted military in Afghanistan, and called out every division present, then thanked them all.

However, if you want to continue to believe President George W Bush was “Greatest Ever”, how about I show you some examples of when Bush was not all honor and respect.
1) March 2004: At a correspondents dinner, he displayed various photos of himself searching though the White House on a “wild goose chase” looking for WMDs; “WMDs got to be somewhere… nope, nothing here,… maybe here?” and laughing. This was after troops were sent to Iraq looking for the WMDs, resulting in 585 US soldiers being killed and 3,000 soldiers wounded.
2) Fall 2007: DOD issued clarification of directives for military servicemen not to speak out against the President. This was instigated because servicemen were publicly speaking out about the military action in Iraq. The same speaking out that is happening with Obama. Remember, the servicemen are individuals. They have individual opinions and beliefs. Some will be in agreement with the presiding President, and others will disagree.
3) November 2011: Speaking of Dover Air Force Base, in November 2011, it came to light that under Bush, some of our nation’s military servicemen’s bodies were incinerated and buried in a landfill from 2003 until 2008. And you call Obama’s actions disgraceful. If that same outrageous act had occurred in 2009, conservatives would be asking for Obama to be impeached, executed, incinerated, and buried in a landfill.

December 2008: I will point out that according to some reports, Bush had not attended any funerals for servicemen through 2005. However, when this claim was brought up, it was made known that Bush, like Obama, had met with the families of the servicemen in private. During the Bush’s first term (and maybe longer) there were rules in place that kept the President from performing some of those actions, publicly. Later it was disclosed he had written letters to the families of the fallen servicemen, and other consolatory acts, as did Obama.

The bad citizens are on both sides of the story. Take for instance the demonstrations against Bush in August 2004, wherein protestors demonstrated with the US Flag inappropriately displayed. This is just as bad as the conservative demonstrators who protested against Obama by waving the US Flag upside down or other disparaging acts.

It’s time us, average, moderate, accepting Americans remind the zealots that we are the majority.

Thank you to all servicemen.
You are not forgotten.

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Posted by on June 14, 2013 in Politics


Sandy “Relief” is Stalled. Why?

Another example of our no-brain legislators… They and President Obama should have learned from the lessons of Katrina, and the other tragedies. When will our citizens vote for representatives?

Sandy “Relief” is Stalled. Why?.

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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Politics