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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 12/09/2008 :  06:39:56  Show Profile Send diricawl a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Are you guys seriously allowing the Queen of England to suspend your parliament because your Prime Minister is scared of being booted out?

I say vive la revolution!

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As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory

Siobhan
Chief Healer

USA
2157 Posts

Posted - 12/09/2008 :  10:51:33  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I saw that on Jon Stewart last night (he was my only news source yesterday-- no time for "real" news). The skit with John Oliver, Assif Manvi, and Samantha Bee was hilarious, though I couldn't help but wonder how many Americans understood the Indian part of the story.

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Cour_Delafleur
Confunded

Canada
714 Posts

Posted - 12/11/2008 :  01:21:53  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I could rant on for hours about this, but I'll try to keep it short.

First of all, technically we didn't go to the Queen. We went to the Governor General, who is the Queen's representative in Canada. She is appointed by the Queen, but she makes her decisions independently (well, not really - usually the Prime Minister advises her. It's normally a pretty symbolic role, but she has a lot of power in situations like this). Secondly, it was a pretty sticky situation and the Governor General was going to have to make a tough decision one way or another. Last week two of the opposition parties agreed to form a coalition government to take down the Conservative government because they said Stephen Harper (our Prime Minister) wasn't doing enough to tackle the financial crisis. I should mention that the Conservatives were elected to a minority government two months ago. This makes it hard to hold the confidence of the House of Commons because it requires the support of another party. In this particular situation there was supposed to be a budget introduced this past Monday which would require a confidence vote. Typically if a confidence motion fails then Parliament is dissolved and there is an election. But in this case the leader of the Liberal party was going to ask the Governor General to allow the coalition to form government, with himself as Prime Minister. So the Governor General was either going to have to call an election, allow a coalition government to topple the Conservatives, or agree to suspend Parliament to avoid it. Nobody really wanted a second election in two months (especially given that the last election saw the lowest voter turnout ever, and nothing has really changed much since then) and allowing a coalition government would be hugely controversial (though not undemocratic, which some people claimed it would be).

Personally, I absolutely despise Stephen Harper and would love to see him kicked out of office. He really has been ignoring the financial crisis. We're not doing as badly as the US or Europe, so apparently we can just sit back and relax because, relatively, we're "not that bad". Nevermind the fact that unemployment rates have doubled in some areas and that our manufacturing sector is in the toilet. Though, to his credit, he hasn't done nothing. He has restricted women's rights to sue for equal wages - done in the name of protecting our economy, so I guess that's something.

At the same time, however, the Canadian public spoke pretty clearly in October that they didn't want Stephane Dion (the head of the Liberal Party) as Prime Minister. I personally think he was portrayed really unfairly during the campaign. But the Liberal party has been in shambles for the past few years and I don't think he'll be able to pull them together. Well actually as of today he's not the leader anymore. When he lost the election in October he agreed to step down as soon as a new leader was found. This was supposed to happen in May, but because of the events of last week they felt that a new leader needed to be chosen before Parliament resumed in January, so earlier this week two of the three candidates for the leadership dropped out of the race, and the front-runner won by default. So when Parliament resumes in January there will be a new head of the coalition - if it still happens.

It really is a shame that this happened when it did and not a few weeks earlier. I was studying Canadian politics this semester and this all started the weekend after classes ended. It related to pretty much everything we covered in class and certainly would have given us a lot to talk about, which would have been nice because it was a pretty dry subject.

"I think she's magic," said Nor.
________"You, you think everything's magic," Manek said. "Stupid girl."
____"Well, everything is," said Nor. - Wicked

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Edited by - Cour_Delafleur on 12/11/2008 02:35:37
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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 12/11/2008 :  05:56:05  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hm. Looks like the situation is a bit more nuanced then I thought. But it's good to see that this scandal is being discussed in an informed manner between the politicians and the public. Would that that sort of thing happened over here.

I saw that Daily Show skit too, Siobhan. In fact, that's where I found out about it.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=212888&title=provinces-in-peril

"Even if India had traffic lights, they wouldn't work, because the streets are filled with cows. And yet WE feel sorry for YOU!"

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As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory

Edited by - diricawl on 12/11/2008 05:58:33
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 12/11/2008 :  13:38:45  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I really wish we had a parliamentary system. Yes, I know it's not perfect either, but it just seems so much more flexible than ours. You can call elections whenever you need to and it allows for coalition governments which means that you aren't stuck with just two parties. We could really use multiple viable parites. Instead, anyone who wants to have a voice in government has to squeeze into either the Republican or Democratic camps which makes for some strange bedfellows.

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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 12/11/2008 :  15:21:39  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The Brits are getting envious of the American system right now. The ability to call elections is also the ability to NOT call them. We are currently governed by a man elected by literally no one, neither his party nor the general public, and will remain so at his discretion until 2010, all thanks to our lovely parliamentary system.

Order of the Bookmark

As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory

Edited by - diricawl on 12/11/2008 15:23:13
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Cour_Delafleur
Confunded

Canada
714 Posts

Posted - 12/11/2008 :  23:14:25  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Having multiple parties has it's downsides too. Right now there are four parties in the House of Commons. (There's also a fifth party that gets about 12% of the popular vote but doesn't have a seat). Two of these parties have never formed government (and probably never will). But they still receive a fair amount of support, which makes it difficult for either of the other parties to hold a majority. The result is that this is our third consecutive minority government. Theoretically this is supposed to be a good thing because it means the parties would have to cooperate and would develop policies that would benefit a majority of Canadians. This hasn't really been happening in practice. There were a few really sad months earlier this year when the Conservatives would propose something that the opposition were all against, but the Liberals weren't ready for an election and they didn't want to force one through a non-confidence motion. So instead they would state that they were really against the proposal and couldn't support it, but then they wouldn't show up to vote on it, so it would pass anyway. It was incredibly frustrating.

And having multiple parties doesn't eliminate the issue of having people with different ideologies within the same party. The current Conservative party was formed a few years ago from the amalgamation of the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance. The Progressive Conservatives were a fairly moderate party, while the Alliance were pretty far to the right. The current Conservatives are a mix of both (though the PM is the former head of the Alliance so his policies are less moderate). There's also a high degree of party discipline in Canada, so MP's typically vote with their party, whether they fully agree with something or not.

"I think she's magic," said Nor.
________"You, you think everything's magic," Manek said. "Stupid girl."
____"Well, everything is," said Nor. - Wicked

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Edited by - Cour_Delafleur on 12/11/2008 23:36:16
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 12/12/2008 :  13:41:05  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by diricawl

The Brits are getting envious of the American system right now. The ability to call elections is also the ability to NOT call them. We are currently governed by a man elected by literally no one, neither his party nor the general public, and will remain so at his discretion until 2010, all thanks to our lovely parliamentary system.

Diri, I am gobsmacked. We have just come off eight years of George Bush (when the possibility of a no-confidence vote would have been a really nice option), a two-year presidential campaign, and the politicians are already jockying for 2012! How could anybody envy that?!

I realize that Gordon Brown is no prize, but at least you have the possibility of getting rid of him if things get really bad. As for being unelected, I'm not sure how he stumbled into the job, but we aren't immune to that either. President Ford was never elected to either the Vice-Presidency or Presidency. Btw, how often are mandatory elections held in Britain?

Cour, whether there are two parties or 20, there will always be factionalism in government. I think the strength of a multi-party system is that it allows coalitions to change much more easily. Of course that doesn't help if you still have people of divergent philosophies who insist on forming a single party, but at least it doesn't force them to do so.

For instance, if we had a multi-party system, we might have the Fiscal Conservatives party alligned with the Religious Right to approximate our current Republican party, but the Fiscal Conservatives might also break from the Religious Right and join forces with socially liberal Balanced-Budget advocates (currently in the Democratic party) to take on our runaway budget deficits. It's much harder to do that when you're stuck in rival parties and must bow to your respective leaderships.


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"Always"

Edited by - Theowyn on 12/12/2008 18:42:51
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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 12/13/2008 :  06:11:39  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Mandatory elections are held every 5 years.

I can't make my argument better than David Starkey, so I'll let him say what I was going to:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/this_week/7766700.stm

BTW, this debate resulted from the arrest of an opposition MP by an anti-terrorist squad for leaking information on the ruling party's plans.

Order of the Bookmark

As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory

Edited by - diricawl on 12/14/2008 05:53:38
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Cour_Delafleur
Confunded

Canada
714 Posts

Posted - 12/14/2008 :  02:07:58  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Theowyn

Cour, whether there are two parties or 20, there will always be factionalism in government. I think the strength of a multi-party system is that it allows coalitions to change much more easily. Of course that doesn't help if you still have people of divergent philosophies who insist on forming a single party, but at least it doesn't force them to do so.

For instance, if we had a multi-party system, we might have the Fiscal Conservatives party alligned with the Religious Right to approximate our current Republican party, but the Fiscal Conservatives might also break from the Religious Right and join forces with socially liberal Balanced-Budget advocates (currently in the Democratic party) to take on our runaway budget deficits. It's much harder to do that when you're stuck in rival parties and must bow to your respective leaderships.


I get what you mean, and I agree with you that it can work well, but I guess there are some specific factors here that make for a less-than-ideal situation. For now anyway. One problem here is that we have four left-wing parties (though one is a Quebec separatist party so it has its own special circumstances) and only one right wing party. The past two elections have seen the left wing vote being split three or four ways, while the Conservatives get the right wing vote. Then again, the whole "unite the right" movement that saw the union of the PCs and the Alliance was because of 12 years (I think) of Liberal dominance. Another issue is that the idea of a coalition hasn't been embraced by a lot of Canadians yet. When the coalition government was proposed a few weeks ago a lot of people immediately responded by saying it was undemocratic. I know that it's not, but I think it would still be hard for some people to accept a Prime Minister who was voted down in the last election.

"I think she's magic," said Nor.
________"You, you think everything's magic," Manek said. "Stupid girl."
____"Well, everything is," said Nor. - Wicked

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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 12/14/2008 :  05:56:10  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
There's been talk of a new left here too; not among the politicians but among my friends and acquaintances. My best friend lives in Westminster, one of the most solidly conservative areas of Britain, but she frequently points out that taken together, the three leftwing parties (Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green) got more votes than the Conservatives.

Something will have to happen soon, especially if Scotland, which holds a substantial portion of Labour support, breaks away. Some predict a permanent Conservative majority would result, which should be feared whatever your political stripe, so the Left will have to find some way to form an effective opposition.

Order of the Bookmark

As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory

Edited by - diricawl on 12/14/2008 05:58:11
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 12/15/2008 :  14:13:46  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Diri, I've heard people predicting a permanent Democratic rule here and all such predictions are rubbish. The opposition will eventually find its way back to power as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow. They may have to utterly reinvent themselves, but they'll do it. That is perhaps one of the few encouraging things about politics. Btw, I can't seem to access the link you posted. Can you give me the gist of the debate?

Cour, I'm surprised to hear that some consider a coallition government to be un-Democratic, but this actually speaks to the real underlying issue we all seem to be struggling with regardless of our political system: how to achieve the fairest representation of our electorate in government.

It seems to me that the first, basic step would be to ensure that whoever is in charge has been elected by a majority of voters. If, as Diri says, Labour, the Liberal Dems and Green together get more votes than the Conservatives, then it should not be possible for the Conservatives to form a government in Britain since they clearly don't have a majority of the total votes.

A two-party system avoids this problem, but I personally think a coallition government created out of multi-party elections and where the resulting government is required to represent more than 50% of the total vote would be a better solution. If you think about it, we already have coallition governments, but the coallitions are predefined by the politicians. Here in the US our fiscal and religious conservatives aren't particularly natural allies, but they've joined forces because they've found they can help each other win elections.

This backfired on the Republicans this year, however. Many Republican voters defected to the Democratic camp because while they strongly supported the fiscal conservativism their party stands for, they couldn't stomach the religious dogma. While I was happy because this helped Obama get elected, these people shouldn't have to throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak. None of us should.

That's why I would prefer to see these coallitions driven by the electorate rather than the politicians. More parties standing for fewer positions would enable people to vote for what matters most to them without so much extra baggage. Instead of haing to pick bundle A or bundle B, we could all vote for the issue that matters most to us and then see where the chips fall.

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Edited by - Theowyn on 12/15/2008 14:16:11
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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 12/15/2008 :  14:57:14  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Basically, an opposition Conservative MP was arrested by an anti-terrorist squad for daring leak information that spoke ill of the governing party. When they were caught out, everyone in Labour tried to pass the buck, each one denying that they had any knowledge of the arrest, and, rather spectacularly, asserting that they couldn't interfere because the police should not be politicised, even though the guy had clearly been arrested for political reasons.

Starkey complained that the British parliamentary system had broken; the lack of separation of powers and the complete fusion of Parliament and administration meant that there was simply no one to hold the governing power in check. According to him, the American system of checks and balances does a far better job of ensuring this kind of abuse of power is countered.

Order of the Bookmark

As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 12/15/2008 :  17:05:13  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by diricawl

Basically, an opposition Conservative MP was arrested by an anti-terrorist squad for daring leak information that spoke ill of the governing party. When they were caught out, everyone in Labour tried to pass the buck, each one denying that they had any knowledge of the arrest, and, rather spectacularly, asserting that they couldn't interfere because the police should not be politicised, even though the guy had clearly been arrested for political reasons.

Starkey complained that the British parliamentary system had broken; the lack of separation of powers and the complete fusion of Parliament and administration meant that there was simply no one to hold the governing power in check. According to him, the American system of checks and balances does a far better job of ensuring this kind of abuse of power is countered.

Ah, well, that is another issue entirely. Our justice system, especially our state and national supreme courts, are indeed something we can be proud of here in the US. Though they may lean liberal or conservative depending on which governor/president appointed the majority of the justices, these courts are genuinely non-partisan and the justices are generally excellent jurists. They take the job of upholding the Constitution very seriously.

But I don't see how this has anything to do with a parliamenary versus presidential system of government. Regardless of how we elect our politicians, I always assumed that the UK had an independent judiciary along the lines of our own which would uphold your constitutional rights regardless of which party was in power. Am I mistaken about this? Where is the team of civil-rights lawyers who should be screaming foul over this man's arrest and the court judges who should be ordering his release on the grounds of civil-rights violations?

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Edited by - Theowyn on 12/15/2008 17:06:13
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Siobhan
Chief Healer

USA
2157 Posts

Posted - 12/15/2008 :  23:00:33  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Ah, well, that is another issue entirely. Our justice system, especially our state and national supreme courts, are indeed something we can be proud of here in the US. Though they may lean liberal or conservative depending on which governor/president appointed the majority of the justices, these courts are genuinely non-partisan and the justices are generally excellent jurists. They take the job of upholding the Constitution very seriously.

It is so interesting to hear that stated. I feel the same way, but I am surrounded by people (read as "my in-laws" and a large portion of South Carolina) who think the courts display as much liberal bias as the media (all except Fox News; they are "fair and balanced")-- regardless of the fact that most of the Supreme Court justices have been appointed by Conservative politicians and tend to be more conservative in their judgements.

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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2008 :  13:06:39  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
*Snort* I have come to the conclusion that it isn't necessarily conservative principles I take great issue with, so much as the mass self-delusion so many conservatives labor under. Anything they don't agree with becomes "liberal bias" as though the idea that other people might have honest differences of opinion is unthinkable. Anyone who doesn't tow the conservative line must be deluded.

But I digress. My husband is an attorney as are many of our friends and having lived with countless legal discussions for 25 years, I'm sure I know more than the average person about how our justice system works. Still, I am appalled by the ignorance some people display.

Take our recent battle over same-sex marriage here in California. When the state supreme court legalized same-sex marriage, conservatives were livid. "How can four judges overturn the will of four million voters?!" was the outraged complaint referring to previous ballot initiatives that failed to legalize gay marriage. And yet anyone who understands our justice system would realize how ignorant this question is. It's the JOB of the supreme court to strike down unconstitutional laws and practices. That's what they do!

Furthermore, their ruling on gay marriage was a slam dunk. Far from being a case of "liberal justices making law from the bench", this was a completely predictable decision rooted firmly in our most basic constitutional principles. The concept of "separate but equal" treatment under the law was invalidated decades ago when the US supreme court ruled that seperate is by definition unequal. But then I'm sure most of those disgruntled folks weren't paying attention in high school when we studied Brown v. the Board of Education, or maybe they just couldn't make the logical connection. Sort of like Sarah Palin who couldn't name a single supreme court case besides Roe v. Wade.

I once heard a conservative trying to defend Palin on this failure on a radio talkshow and he made precisely this point - that no average person could have answered that question. When the host pointed out that Palin was a governor and was running for VP and therefore ought to be held to a slightly higher standard, the caller insisted that Obama probably couldn't name any supreme court cases either. I swear my jaw nearly hit the floor. How ignorant or in denial do you have to be not to know what a constitutional law professor does?! Come on, take a wild guess! Anyone ought to be able to figure that out, but not the caller I heard and I'm not so optomistic as to believe he was unique in his ignorance.

One of my favorite passages from Dickens' Christmas Carol is the scene when the Ghost of Christmas Present reveals to Scrooge the wasted, anamalistic children huddled beneath his robes. "This girl is want and this boy is ignorance," the ghost tells Scrooge. "Beware them both, but beware this boy most of all, for upon his brow is written that which is doom."

No truer words were ever writtern. There is no greater threat to the world than ignorance and too many power-hungry people the world over embrace it and encourage it in the masses they hope to control. Our own Republican party does this and it is the shame of our nation.

We need a massive civics lesson. People need to understand our constituion and the role of the supreme court so that they can understand why the supreme court justices rule the way they do. They need to understand what liberal and conservative mean in the context of constitutional law instead of spouting meaningless accusations against jurists who have forgotten more about con law than these people will ever know.

I know this is wishful thinking. Ignorance is too often willful and too widespread to be overcome in the near-term. At least in our latest election, enlightenment won out. That will fortify me against the firestorm that is sure to ensue when the California supreme court takes up the challenge to Prop 8 next year. Don't tell my conservative, fellow Californians, but none of the attorneys I know give Prop 8 a snowball's chance in hell of surviving that challenge. Call 'em flaming liberals, but the court tends to frown on laws that deny minority groups their constitutional rights.

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Edited by - Theowyn on 12/16/2008 13:24:42
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Siobhan
Chief Healer

USA
2157 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2008 :  13:18:23  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Am I correct in thinking that Prop 8 is a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and woman? If so, and it goes on to the Federal Supreme Court, it could have national ramifications. South Carolina passed just such an amendment a couple of years ago. If the Supreme Court were to strike such things down... well, let's just say it won't be pretty around here. The hard core would have to find some other way to make sure they can enforce their views on everyone else.

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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2008 :  13:33:34  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Siobhan

Am I correct in thinking that Prop 8 is a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and woman? If so, and it goes on to the Federal Supreme Court, it could have national ramifications. South Carolina passed just such an amendment a couple of years ago. If the Supreme Court were to strike such things down... well, let's just say it won't be pretty around here. The hard core would have to find some other way to make sure they can enforce their views on everyone else.

Yes, that's what Prop 8 is and you're right, it could have huge repercussions. One thing many people don't realize is that a supreme court cannot rule arbitrarily on issues. It must have a case presented to it on which to rule. Because of this, numerous laws can be enacted and remain on the books for years before being challenged. Given that same-sex marriage is only legal in two states, a ruling by the California court to strike down it's prohibition would send a shockwave across the whole country. Then it would be up to the national court to have the final say.

Ironically enough, Prop 8 could end up ultimately legalizing gay marriage across the country. I'm sure the conservatives would be apoplectic in that event.

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"Always"

Edited by - Theowyn on 12/16/2008 13:39:02
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Siobhan
Chief Healer

USA
2157 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2008 :  14:27:31  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
We'll be back to another fight like we had over desegregation here in the South. I wasn't here for that one and still do not understand how segregation could be condoned, but then again, I'm not of that generation, either.

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