Category Archives: political

Black and … Clear

I recently experienced my first parenting fail moment and thought I’d reflect on it and share.  We attended the nutcracker ballet last weekend, as we do each year, and I promised both girls they could pick out a nutcracker to take along.  Target had them on sale, but I thought they were regular priced at $10.   Due to the sale, not much stock was left at our local target, so the kids had to pick from a limited selection of left over, picked over nutcrackers, most of the ones left were painted black or brown.

20161218_181600My oldest picked an angel nutcracker, as you can see from the picture and there was also one Clara nutcracker left, but my youngest really wanted a soldier.  She calmly and quietly said, “I want a soldier, but I want a clear faced one, not brown-faced.”  I couldn’t help but look around, considering I am and they are Indian-American.  At that moment, their mommy became a whopping mixture of both brown and red-faced.  No one heard, but I couldn’t help but wonder where I failed as a parent that my child wanted a white nutcracker; a child, mind you who was born a month after the Obamas entered the White House and hasn’t seen any other President yet in her short lifetime.

Then I realized as we talked more in detail that they are just not exposed to multi-cultures here in our homogeneous, yet firmly liberal city or town.  My daughter said when we go to the shows, no one performing is like us, nor look like this soldier (the one she opted to buy).  She said everyone on the shows we watch are also clear-faced so she wanted what she thought was most appropriate for the nutcracker.  I told her in larger towns, and at the the traveling DCPA productions, multi-cultures are indeed represented, and it’s just that the local productions we see are reflective of the population in our local Colorado.   From the mouth of babes, though, it helped me understand that I do need to take more steps to expose my children to more Indian activities, and Bollywood productions, and perhaps even different cultural events.   At the Nutcracker ballet, a sweet young boy came up to my daughter who was hiding her nutcracker at first, and exclaimed, “I have the same one but mine has a pink face.”   I was screaming on the inside considering how embarrassed my daughter was earlier.  But, I also noted that color was indeed noticed by children this little, and that this is the reality of our world and it’s our job to educate and mentor our children.  I replied, “oh great… this is a unique one and can do the same things yours can.  Isn’t that great?”  He smiled and took off, but this small event really did open my eyes.

obama-cover-750x1125It made me realize that no matter how innocent kids truly are, they perceive things through activities, shows and such, and what we expose them to.  The American girl episodes do not help either with its cast of characters, or the TV shows they watch from time to time.  Everyone is “clear-faced.”  Children certainly don’t intend to discriminate in the same illegal manner that adults may, but they distinguish attractiveness based on what they see and experience, and TV and movies are a huge part of this.  My sweet young daughter was embarrassed about what happened, so I don’t force the issue any longer, but when possible, try to show her things I think will help her self-image, and perception of the world around her.   Ironically, as we checked out at Target, the people magazine cover struck me and my daughter smiled too as I showed it to her, but she was indeed embarrassed about her innocent comment earlier.  Black or white, it does not matter, but I hope we can see past race some day in their lifetimes.  Judging from who was elected President recently, his appointees and what he proclaims to stand for, I say we have a long ways to go.

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Government shutdown catastrophe, or is it?

It’s been hailed by the media as the most contentious Congress and Executive ever!

Courtesy of: http://imgur.com/drrIBe4

It’s been tied to the race of our President, and it’s been described as the worst financial disaster our country will face.  But is it really?  Or, is it all just hyped out way out of proportion?  I am standing by the latter assertion.  A Government shutdown is not new.  Just because we have narrowly escaped for the last four years, and it hasn’t happened in 17 years doesn’t mean it’s tied to any one thing, well, except for partisan politics and partisan political issues.  The latest is the debate over health care reform which took effect on October 1, 2013.  Identified as the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare), this is the latest partisan issue which drove the government to a standstill.

The blame game is so much fun for everyone. After all, what is politics if not one giant blame game.  Sure, they are acting like spoiled children, not communicating effectively, and refusing to even sit down and figure things out.  Rather, both sides are exercising power plays in attempts to push forth their agenda, not the agenda of a majority of their constituents.  In any case, how bad is a government shut down on the economy?  Well, let’s see for ourselves with a few background facts and some figures.  Monday at midnight, September 30, 2013, the government came to a halt.  The Executive Branch, led by its Chief Executive, the President, ordered the orderly and peaceful shut down of all non-essential functions.  This totals about 800,000 federal employees across all the Executive agencies.   When furloughed, these employees are sent home, and they are not allowed to work (unless excepted for specific projects) by law.  During this time, these employees continue their health benefits but do not get paid.  In the past, these employees have been paid retroactively, but that is not a guarantee.  While Congress passed a measure to fund the military during said shutdown, this is limited to some civilian employees, active duty military, and military in certain combat zones, and it delays their pay.  It also funds those in defense of the nation.  That does not account for the other million federal workers who support the nation, nor accounts for active reserves and guardsmen.  What this means for everyone else? Nothing, everything is just rolling along.  Are parks and museums closed?  But, that is a side effect, really.  All other functions continue, and many civil servants are in the “exempt” category by virtue of their funding source.

Courtesy of Denver Post
Courtesy of Denver Post

Ironically, after this news, on the morning of October 1, 2013, the Dow Jones Industrial Jones opened high and went up 62 points.  You read that right- the DJIA fared rather well, and averages were up despite the government shutdown.  Meanwhile, the government spent almost 1.6 million dollars just preparing for a hypothetical shutdown.  Later, if employees are paid back or reimbursed, the government takes a hit because during this time, no one is working.  Also, museums, parks, and other monuments do not see business revenue they would otherwise see for the concession operations, entrance fees, boat rides, transportation, etc.,  Research and development can be halted, head-start and other educational programs come to a stop, and construction contracts are also affected which can lead to payment to contractors for delays, stop work orders, and such.

doi.gov picture
doi.gov picture of Yosemite National Park

If you were freaking out about a government shutdown, fret not.  The history of shutdowns is long and sordid.  For example, during the Reagan administration (the 80s) there were eight (yes, 8), full government shutdowns.(1)  Some lasting a day, two, up to three only.   All of these were related to a budget deficit.  What was the composition of the House then? Yep, Democrat-controlled.  During the Bush administration, a shutdown lasted four days, and during Carter and Ford administrations, there were frequent partial shutdowns, often affecting certain executive agencies, and tied in with abortion funding (a political partisan hot button issue).  The longest and most contentious shutdown in history is actually during Clinton’s presidency when the government shut down twice- once for five days and the longest for 21 days.  Government employees didn’t even celebrate Christmas in 1996 because of lack of pay for four weeks!  For you non-federal employees, 21 days is equal to two whole pay periods of pay or one month.

courtesy of denverpost.com
courtesy of denverpost.com

So, does it really matter if the federal government shuts down?  Well, not short term, but here is what happens long term.  In an already delicate economy, which the American economy is, it can have a ripple effect.(2)  The consumer is already concerned about spending, so he or she spends less.  At a time when the housing market was finally recovering, the risk to that market is high, and interest rates can be raised, which could further affect the housing market.  As I stated before, the shutdown itself is considered a black mark on the American economy by foreign markets, and it affects tourism in our nation’s capital, and other federal places like national parks, monuments, buildings, and museums.  The effects on the economy are cyclic so it will not be apparent right now, but in a few years we will feel the effects of this shutdown, especially if it carries more than a week.  Now, add to that a perfect storm of sorts that we saw in 1996.  Not only is there a budget (a basic thing) that needs to pass for “discretionary spending,” but there is a looming argument about the “debt ceiling.”   This is the upper limit on the amount of money we can borrow before the nation defaults on its fiscal obligations.  This can do so much more than just shutdown the government but I have to admit, I really do not understand the repercussions as much as others may. (3)  Based on what I have seen over the past few years, I certainly do not have confidence that the idiots on Capitol Hill get it at all either.  That is what worries me somewhat.

All in all, I am surprised based on the past 17 years, and the back and forth of the administration with Congress that we haven’t had more shutdowns.  Think about it.  Article I of the Constitution sets forth Congress’ power (Senate plus the House).  Their basic responsibilities revolve around the power of the purse, and making laws.  I am reminded of the school house rock video, “I’m just a Bill” and that video makes me smile.  The power of the purse, the power to legislate, and the ability to fund are some of the greatest powers endowed in Article I, Section 7 to Congress.  So, when it wants to advance a political agenda or make a point, why wouldn’t it use that power to wield other changes?  That is what we are seeing here.  Combine that with some other issues that are present and some unique personalities, lack of communication and common decency, and boom!  It’s a recipe for shutdown and worse.  Brace yourselves because even if they all agree to pass some short-term (30-45 days) bill to re-open the Government, the fight is not over, and so much more is at stake.  Just know that what you are experiencing is not unique, unusual, and the world will not come to an end.  I am surprised this does not happen more often.  The shutdown showdown is not only history, it’s just part of the process.

* Sources:  (1) You can read more about history of shutdowns here.  (Wikipedia)

(2) Excellent blog post on the history of shut downs and implications this time.   http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2013/09/look-out-below-government-shutdown-edition/

(3) Excellent article on Shutdown v. Debt Ceiling

http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2013/09/government_shutdown_versus_the_debt_ceiling_why_hitting_the_debt_limit_is.html

 

 

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Decision 2012: Why Social Issues Matter

Denver Post, all rights reserved- courtesy of http://www.newseum.org/

They said it couldn’t be done.  History indicates America has never re-elected a President in a bad economy or with the unemployment rate so high.

But despite the plan put forth by Gov Mitt Romney and running mate, Paul Ryan, Americans chose the team of Barack Obama and Joe Biden for four more years; for FORWARD. Camelot is here to stay another term.

I heard repeatedly from my GOP husband, independents, and tea party friends that nothing matters but the economy. And while Romney was not as strong of a candidate as Reagan, or Clinton (both beat incumbents in office to prevent a second term), he touted his record in Mass., the Olympics in Utah, and his corporate experience as claims to fame for economic growth.  They looked promising to many.  The platform by Romney/Ryan touted “Change” – platform that Obama won with in 2008.   In the end, when the states turned beautiful shades of red or blue, Obama carried Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin which was telling.  Paul Ryan is a Congressman in Wisconsin yet could not carry the state for VP; Michigan is where Mitt Romney grew up and touted as his home; and Massachusetts where his “victory” party was held and where he was once Governor went quite easily…blue.

How is this possible?  Everyone seemed shocked.  Well, everyone except for brilliant math/stat guru Nate Silver and his cohorts at the NY Times Blog, Five Thirty Eight.  He predicted it very well.  How can this have happened?  The economy is in the tank, I am paying upwards of $3.00 per gallon for gasoline, and I did not get 100% of the change promised in 2008?  Well, it’s simple really.  It all comes down to those issues we all discounted during the entire campaign: Social Issues – they matter!  If 2008 wasn’t a wake up call for the GOP, 2012 should be a slap in the face to wake the #^&! up, GOP.  I can say that. I used to be a proud GOP member until the 2nd GW Bush term.  There are some important issues defining this nation and it is no longer the country of our parents or grandparents.  For first generation Americans like myself, it is no longer the nation of bigotry, discrimination, nor are we a “Christian” nation.  We are a nation of different faces, beliefs, orientations, and we are here to stay! If anything, it will evolve even further from what your grandparents’ and parent’s generation believed in.  And guess what? That’s okay people.  If you feel you don’t belong, or your values are a thing of the past, my advice to you is: Evolve, join the new face, or honestly, get left behind.  Again, if 2008 wasn’t a wake up call, last night should have been.

Here are some hot issues which defined this election:

(1) Equality for All- whether you are gay, straight, woman, man, Christian, non-Christian, black, white, Asian, or Hispanic, we are all a fabric of American society.  Obama said in 2009 that marriage was 1 man 1 woman, but then since taking office, his administration never enforced the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defines marriage as 1 man, 1 woman, and therefore, DOJ never prosecuted or enforced it.  That means, it is essentially a dead law/a dead act and now, the final steps are in motion for its repeal.  Mr. Obama changed his views and said marriage and benefits should insure to same-sex partners too in 2011-2012.  Mr. Romney and Ryan from day 1 said no way – no how.  No gay marriage, no gay rights, and that DOMA would remain. The military is better off with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy repealed and thankfully Paul Ryan finally did acknowledge that they would not have re-implemented that but still, Romney started off saying he would re-instate it.  That is not FORWARD, that is backwards thinking.

(2) Equal Pay- another hot issue is equal pay for women.  Can’t believe it’s 2012 and we are still talking about this but alas, the disparity still exists and during the debates while it came out a couple of times, there was no promise of equal pay for women by the GOP.  Instead, women were objectified and put into “binders”.  Gov Romney, in the second debate, stated, “I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said: ‘I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school.’ So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.”  Frankly, Romney and Ryan did not connect nor appeal to the majority of women in this country.  Their platform actually stated that women should not be in combat roles or in combat.  It’s 2012 and women are in the military.

(3) Healthcare– Healthcare actually influenced this election – there are those who are denied insurance and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) actually helps them.  These people have jobs but their kids could have pre-existing conditions or women under plans are denied coverage due to such conditions as well.  ACA has some success stories for middle income families too, and it mattered.  Most were against ACA because while some health reform was necessary, I guess not this one.  Maybe Massachusetts was better? Wait!  Didn’t Romney assist with that plan with bi-partisan effort?  Why didn’t he win then?  Here is why:  He vowed from day 1 to repeal it instead of vowing to reform it.  Everyone wants health care reform and presidents since Reagan have grappled with the issue.  This one did something with it so don’t repeal it- reform it to make it work. That is why he lost on this issue.  Granted, he would not have been able to repeal it without support from the Senate or Congress anyway, but when you say you will take away something that affects millions, it has a negative impact on your chances of winning.  Good leaders assess what is working or not working, and they make change based on what the people want.  The people voted.

(4) Immigration & minority issues- this issue had an impact on the election too.  Immigration was not addressed as thoroughly but Romney’s answer for immigration was “self-deportation” but allowing the kids of those that self-deport to stay here.  Clearly, that did not go over well clearly as Hispanics overwhelmingly voted for Obama or other candidates.

(5) Women’s issues– listen, people, it’s not about ABORTION.  It is not about baby killing- it is about CHOICE.  It is about women’s health.  Planned Parenthood is not an abortion machine.  It is there to help women.  We can’t have it both ways, folks.  We can’t complain about young women on welfare with tons of kids if we don’t do something to help her prevent unplanned/unwanted pregnancies, or help them learn about women’s health to begin with.  Education is the best tool we have and Planned Parenthood does more than offer birth control.  Planned Parenthood helps teens, and women who need it for so much more than aborting a pregnancy.  It is family planning too and ultimately, we should be empowering women with choice that makes sense – it is not the 1800s anymore.  When you come out against birth control, against choice, against helping women with health and wellness (those who need it), then you are saying you don’t care.  Oh and by the way, this issue was tied into healthcare a bit as well.

Bottom line- If you don’t think social issues matter, think again.  They matter because they affect people on a more fundamental level than the economy.  Social issues matter because they define who we are as a nation in principle.  So, here are lessons learned from this for both sides:

FIRST, to both sides, did we really spend upwards of $2 billion in negative ads?  People got it from the debates and all the blah blah blah talking- listen candidates, people are smarter than you think and that $2 billion could have been used to reduce our deficit instead of attacking each other and putting the nation through this.  Negative campaigning is hurtful for the nation and there can be no recovery from it.  So, we need legislation to stop and limit the campaign spending.  This was beyond ridiculous!

SECOND, to the GOP, whom I want to see become a seemingly “normal” moderate party again.  WAKE UP!  Stop letting one religion spill over into social issues that people care about.  Religious freedom means ALL religions are able to practice freely and without being persecuted not just Christians.  It also means that Christians are not attacked either.  More importantly, it means ALL religion stays separate from governance and is not wrapped up in it and therefore, no shoving your religious values and will onto others’ when it come to the law.  There are a lot of atheists too who have rights too.  So, if your Church is against gay marriage, that is fine- don’t let your preacher marry my two girlfriends, but for Pete’s sake, don’t discriminate against them under the law.  They should be able to get married and enter into the same contracts heterosexuals do under state and federal law for benefits, health insurance, tax breaks, and other privileges that spouses get.  A military same-sex partner should be able to get the same benefits when her same sex partner dies fighting in Afghanistan that a heterosexual military spouse gets. Also, another tip: Stop trying to govern women’s health issues and their right to choose what is good for them and seriously, old, white men, stop talking about reproduction and uteri like you know what you are talking about including rape.  You really don’t know or understand.  If you don’t evolve with the times, you will be a dinosaur party because if the last two elections have not sent the message, I do not know what will.  And yes, Mourdock and Aiken lost!

In the end, a decision has been made and we must all unite and move on.  The bickering, the ugliness, the spewing of hate and talk about revolution (yeah, I am looking at you toupe Trump) just brings our country further down and brings our way of life into question.  The people have spoken (not overwhelmingly) but let’s not even talk about close elections -remember 2000?  If you think GW Bush was popular, think again but we salute smartly, we respect the man in the office and move on!  If you can’t, I got some real estate in the Ukraine you can use for four years.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are mine- only mine.  They do not reflect upon my employers nor are the views of my employer and not sponsored by said employer.  This is a personal blog, and is not associated in any way with my employment in the United States Government.

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Why do YOU Vote? Pre-Election Introspection

Well, here we are, 10 days before yet another Presidential election and this one is gonna be close.  History has taught us a lot about close elections including the unprecedented decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in Bush v. Gore (2000) – who would have thought that the Judicial Branch would decide who our President is, not the people?  The decision brings into question our entire election process and since 2000, scholars and voters have asked their Congressmen and Senators to take another look at the Electoral College and how we elect our leaders.  Here we are, though, 12 years later, facing another election in which popular vote may or may not matter.

History of the vote or suffrage in the United States fascinates me.  Voting rights are part of the Constitution for all citizens, naturalized or otherwise.  But it was not until 1870 that blacks received the right to vote under the 15th Amendment.  And even later than that, in 1920, 92 years ago, women received the right to vote.

Today, only about half of the eligible citizens in America turn out to vote, which is generally the lowest among all the democratic nations of the world, but in 2008, voter turnout broke all records at 130 million people voting compared to 1960 (Kennedy won) when 122.3 million voters voted. (reference: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1108/15306.html)   If you look at a historical voter turn out chart (reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout_in_the_United_States_presidential_elections), it is sad how few people turn out to actually vote or in today’s world, send in their ballots.   Why is that?

Have you voted yet?  WHY DO YOU VOTE?  I would love to hear your opinions on why you vote… (please no political discussions this time- just talk about suffrage and what is it that makes you keep coming back to vote- or alternately, why do you abstain from voting?)

And by the way, it is okay to admit you do not vote or don’t care.  When I met my husband almost 10 years ago, he did not vote- he said, “my vote doesn’t matter really.” I disagreed with him, and since I met him, he has voted in every Presidential/Congressional election.  This year he said to me, “wow, I have never watched all the debates, but this is the first time” and from them spawned some fascinating discussions about the pros and cons of each of the candidates and the entire political process.

Why do I vote? I vote because I think that is the greatest right I have and if I do not exercise it, I have no standing to complain about that which is going on around me that I did nothing about.  Voting for local candidates, state candidates and ballot measures, for Senate, for Congress and for the Office of the President is the greatest right I have and even while I may hate the electoral process -namely, a representative democracy, I vote because it is a freedom guaranteed to me under the Constitution as a law abiding citizen.  I cannot imagine a greater exercise of that which people fought for me to get – a U.S. born woman & citizen of immigrant parents, I vote because it is just something I cannot take for granted- ever!

Please share why you vote. 

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This is NOT Avon calling: Rules For Handling Unwanted Calls

I had the experience of being on the other side of political calls recently when I volunteered to make phone calls for Organizing for America.  There was no fundraising when I called but simply, calling from a list supplied to me to ask some simple questions and see if the women voters on my list were (1) supporting our current President for the election and (2) if they were, would they be interested in registering voters or volunteering like me?  Also, if they were not supporting him, what could I answer for them to help them make up their minds and especially if they were undecided.  I had a script, some FAQs, some information, and then the list of phone numbers with some notes to make as I went down the list.

Before this experience, I was the one who would dodge phone calls from numbers I did not recognize, and the person who really got crabby at people calling for research or conducting polls.  I would say, “please take me off your list and stop calling.”  Now, after being on the other end of those calls – well, not market research but just political calls, I have a whole new view point on how to treat those poor saps on the other end even if they are not from your political party nor support your candidate.  I kinda have, what you would call, new rules:

New Rule #1:  Answer!  There is a reason why they keep calling over and over and over again. Here is how it worked when I did it.  I had a list and if no one answered at a particular number, I marked the box that said NOT HOME.  That means to the next guy or gal who gets the list, “try and try again til you get them at home.”  So, if you are in a position where you can answer, do it.  If you keep dodging, they will keep calling.

New Rule #2: Be nice!  Don’t hang up the minute they say “hello or Is ___ available?” If you are busy or not able to talk simply state nicely, “I am really not able to talk right now- can you call me later” or … “I appreciate your call but I really do not want to be on this call list – can you put me on the do not call list please?”  Trust me, they will.  We had a box to check that read “Wants to NOT be called again”.  And it is okay to say this but please be nice.  Being rude to someone who is a volunteer or just doing their jobs to feed their own families can bring bad karma.  Trust me.

New Rule #3:  Talk to me! If a live person (rather than a computerized robotic recording) is talking with you, the least you can do is talk with them for a few seconds.  They are again, volunteers or in the case of telemarketing, doing their jobs.  Listen, respond, and then after the call ends you can ask them to remove you if you don’t want unwanted calls.  If it is very late, ask them to not call your house after ___pm or before ___am, trust me, they are writing down what you say!  And it will be honored.  We had a lot of options of what to write for individuals who responded a certain way.

New Rule #4:  Keep it short and polite! If a live person calls you from the political party or candidate you do not support, you can say so but there is no reason to use foul language, attack the poor volunteer on the line or say negative things.  While it is fun to talk with people about political issues (for me anyway), this is not someone you know and engaging may not be the way to go.  There are ways to discuss issues without being rude, mean or foul just because someone from the opposition party is calling you.  Be polite, tell the truth, and tell them why.  Then, end it and tell them to please remove your number because you have made your decision.  That is it.  But, remember the guy or gal who is talking with you is a volunteer or this is their job and they may not like it but they do it anyway because they believe in their side of the issues – you are NOT going to change their minds.  They are the volunteer and you’re sitting on your couch.

New Rule #5:  Bottom line is do unto others as you’d want done unto you! Imagine yourself on the other end of the line when you answer and before you respond or say anything, think to yourself, what if I were on the other end of the line? How would I want people to treat me and how would I want people to talk with me?  If you do this, you will undoubtedly be at least kind and graceful no matter what your substantive answer.

When I made the calls to women voters in my city, it was fun – I was lucky and my experiences were rather positive.  Most of the women I got on the line or at home were very kind women who agreed with me and I only got two hang ups – one while I was mid-sentence (karma is a bitch lady) and one before I even said Is ____ available?  That is fine but I marked that lady as a NOT HOME which means she will keep getting calls back until she is nice.  In any case, I was one of “those” people as my husband reminded me until I experienced the phone calling myself.  Now, I need to get a job in a restaurant so I can appreciate when I get bad service and want to tip nothing.

40 more days til E-day.  You will get a lot of calls still – be NICE and remember to treat others and talk with them as you would want to be treated.  Politics and elections are not going away and  they may not change either AND get this: Congress exempted political calls and political robo calls from the DO NOT CALL REGISTRY.  Yep- that is right, Congress left it out so their volunteers can call you (ha) so, please be nice because that volunteer could be your  neighbor, your daughter or son’s classmate’s mother or father, or someone you would seek business from in the future.  And if they are calling you, they know your name.  Being nice to someone despite your frustrations with the process itself will get you some great karma.  And if you want the process changed or the laws changed, we all know how a Bill becomes a law – YOU!

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