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Virginia Teachers: Too Blue For School?

When the Virginia Education Association, the state's 60,000-member teachers union, sent an email to members last week encouraging them to wear blue shirts on "Obama Blue Day," the union says it was merely trying to boost voter registration.

Yeah, right.

The union was actually engaging in a sly, none-too-subtle effort to pressure students into accepting teachers' political choices.

The original email to members was frank enough: "Your next chance to help with the campaign is coming up ... and it is very simple to do. Tuesday is OBAMA BLUE DAY!!!"
Teachers were encouraged to "WEAR BLUE -don't wear an NEA for Obama shirt to school, but wear something else blue. 2) REGISTER TWO VOTERS OR talk to two people who may be on the fence/ or a McCain supporter and sway them to become a Obama Supporter). LETS MAKE OBAMA BLUE DAY a DAY OF ACTION!!!!"

If that wasn't clear enough, the email said it straight out: "There are people out there not yet registered. You teach some of them."

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with teachers encouraging students to register to vote. That should be a part of any civics class, and it's also perfectly right for teachers of other subjects to encourage kids to be active citizens.

But wearing blue as a symbol for a particular candidate, in this case, Obama, crosses the line to partisan activism. There may be a legal problem with soliciting votes in school, but I'm far more bothered by the moral violation, the idea that teachers would abuse their authority by putting even subtle pressure on kids to conform to the teacher's political preference.

Of course unions make endorsements and it is to be expected that teachers' unions would rally around the Democrat. (The state Republican party is all in a tizzy about this incident.) I don't see any problem with teachers pushing for their candidates among their colleagues--that's not a problem in most other workplaces, so it seems fair enough in a school. But the relationship between student and teacher is a delicate and emotionally fraught one, and basic professionalism argues for steering clear of the kind of pressure that this partisan campaign implies.

None of this should in any way discourage teachers from engaging students in probing, difficult conversation and debate about the direction of the country, the quality and content of this fall's campaign, and a good, rigorous critique of our politics.

But this lame explanation from the union just doesn't pass the laugh test: "The Virginia Education Association encourages its members to be politically active, but it does not
encourage teachers to use their classrooms for partisan political purposes.... The email did not encourage teachers to talk with students about voting for any specific candidate.... Teachers hold an important and respected role in our society. We would never encourage them to misuse that role for political purposes."

Of course, that is precisely what the union encouraged teachers to do. We can only hope that most of them knew better than to follow their union's overzealous advice.

Virginia teachers: Did you wear blue? Did you see others doing so? Students: Were you aware of this at school this Tuesday? Did it bother you?

By Marc Fisher |  October 3, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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Comments

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Thanks for correcting the poster who denied the existence of the email in your discussion yesterday.

Posted by: alvint | October 3, 2008 8:41 AM

It's a sad day for democracy when the unions are dictating who our teachers or anyone should vote for. Voting is a personal decision based on more than just your union affiliation and profession. This ranks up there with other "action groups" literally rounding up homeless people and giving them cigarettes to pull the lever for Obama. Shameless.

Posted by: A new low | October 3, 2008 8:42 AM

"Teachers hold an important and respected role in our society."

Maybe when we hold up our end of paying them based on this "important and respected role" will they live up to their end.

Posted by: Dude | October 3, 2008 9:15 AM

"It's a sad day for democracy when the unions are dictating who our teachers or anyone should vote for. Voting is a personal decision based on more than just your union affiliation and profession. This ranks up there with other "action groups" literally rounding up homeless people and giving them cigarettes to pull the lever for Obama. Shameless."

I agree. Just like it is shameless for the Bush administration to only hire republicans and fire anyone who did not agree with teh republican agenda.

I think that these people should be put in jail for this. You can start by putting Carl Rove in jail, he is the mastermind that planned to slowly replace all judges and officials with republicans. He is the one that wants a republican dictatorship.

Posted by: Tim | October 3, 2008 9:15 AM

Sorry Federal, state and local employees should not be allowed to join unions. They cant strike in Va so whats the point.

Idiots in the VEA missed the fact Va and the local counties are facing a big time budget shortfall. They need parents as supporters for their raises and to keep class sizes down.

The FCPS could easily absorb a 10% budget cut. A 15% one wouldnt inflict that much pain. Cut teachers salaries by 10% to in the FCPS. And I am sure VEA will tell their mbers to work to the rule. If they dont like it maybe they can get a job at Walmart!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 3, 2008 9:16 AM

"A new low" has it wrong. It was Republican Michael Steele who was recruiting homeless people as part of a dirty tricks campaign.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/12/AR2006111201084.html

Posted by: badabingo | October 3, 2008 9:17 AM

A sad day for democracy? unions dictating who our teachers should vote for? Give me a break. The VEA is not some outside group of agitators. The VEA and its officers are our teachers. Our teachers have a First Amendment right to come together and form a group to address their grievances and support those in power who support teachers. The Republican Party has never supported education, but do support the elimination of the Department of Education and the assistance to our teachers that they need on the federal level. The Republican Party supports bible classes in public schools, but don't support the teaching of science. The Republican Party has always opposed increased taxes to provide adequate education for Americans' children, and supported tax cuts that ensures inadequate education in America. The Republican Party could not be more UnAmerican if it tried.

Teachers, forget Blue Shirt Day and start wearing BLUE SHIRTS EVERYDAY. It is your Constitutional Right to wear any shirt you want. And never listen to Raw Shiftless. He is just anti-American and anti-the Constitution.

Posted by: Cook your goose | October 3, 2008 9:18 AM

"This ranks up there with other "action groups" literally rounding up homeless people and giving them cigarettes to pull the lever for Obama. Shameless."

Posted by: A new low | October 3, 2008 8:42 AM

Nonsense. What *real* information do you have on such a thing happening? Posting it doesn't make it true...

Posted by: Anonymous | October 3, 2008 9:19 AM

Sad, sad, sad. But this is what unions do. Maybe the students could come up with some sort of rebellious act against any blue-shirt-wearing teacher on Tuesday. But then what if a teacher just wants to wear blue because it's in the wardrobe? Unions haven't contributed anything to the workforce or society since about 1870.

Posted by: The same old low | October 3, 2008 9:19 AM

To Dude:

You are absolutely right about teachers' pay. Do you know how much administrators are paid by FCPS - six-figure salaries for paper shuffling while the teachers do all the hard work. The Fairfax County School Board had the nerve to ask for 130 million
bucks for new digs for the administrators
(while teachers have to make do with trailers).

Posted by: sam | October 3, 2008 9:21 AM

If all the teachers are doing is wearing blue, and directing students to general registration information, what's the problem?

Next...

Posted by: Anonymous | October 3, 2008 9:26 AM

Last I looked, teachers are not subject to The Hatch Act.

End of story.

Hey, if preachers can advocate for one candidate or another, why not teachers?

Posted by: Oh, goshdarnit | October 3, 2008 9:27 AM

As an old-time liberal Democrat, who will vote for Senator Obama, I will tell you all precisely what is wrong with this Virginia teachers action. Students will feel pressure to register and, presumably, to vote for Obama because this message is coming from their teacher, who has power over them in the form of grades. I see little difference between this and someone's boss intimating that, if you know what's good for you, you'll wear a McCain button around the office. And when the memo says "wear blue" but to not wear anything with Obama's name on it, the intent is clear. It's a shameful abuse of power.

Posted by: Jack | October 3, 2008 9:27 AM

If Obama wins, forget about blue - you will all be wearing brown shirts.

Posted by: tim | October 3, 2008 9:29 AM

I agree teachers an important position in students lives as authority figures, and in that role should not try to influence students decisions.
Of course I feel the same way about pastors.

Posted by: Dick | October 3, 2008 9:31 AM

School attendance is mandatory - church attendance is not. Big difference. You have a captive audience and the teachers union knows it.

Posted by: sam | October 3, 2008 9:34 AM

I'm an Obama supporter, but this sort of thing disgusts me. What's worse is the union's "explanation" that the email wasn't intended as a call to openly support a specific candidate. Give me a break.

Frankly, this is the sort of thing I dislike about unions, anyway. Attempting to strong-arm its members to vote a certain way. This particular incident is almost comical.

Encourage people to talk? Yes. Actively promote a candidate from your position as a teacher? C'mon. Cheap, silly and transparent.

Posted by: LanceZ | October 3, 2008 9:34 AM

Teacher influence has always been there, if not to directly affect the vote, then to affect a students acquisition of political philosophy. Bill Buckley addressed the issue back in 1950 in _God and Man at Yale_. With the lower voting age, greater opportunities have migrated down to the high school level. The Teacher's Union did mess up by being overzealous. The proper method is to have the teachers simply slightly emphasize, with the appropriate slant, those topics which favor their candidate. But this isn't something you can do well in the 30 days leading up to an election.

Posted by: John Dickert | October 3, 2008 9:47 AM

Everyone associated with education should be offended by these actions. Teachers are treating the election of their candidate as if it were school spirit week instead of an examination of a candidate's character and issues. In our schools,politics should only be part of the educational process as an academic exercise. These teachers are not educators. Their lesson plans are to indoctrinate students and colleagues from their bully pulpits. Shame on them to teach their students such a lesson when they should be teaching students about the election process in an historical, accurate and objective manner. The school board is also responsible to allow its teachers to use the school email for unrelated school matters. Where is the protocol for using the school network? It seems this is another example of Obama Community Organizers gone wild that he likes to tout as grass roots. As an independent voter, it seems the Democrats this year are driven beyond good sense and ethical behavior. Some are ruthless and wreckless in their quest to elect a very inexperienced candidate. I can only assume they do not trust him on his own merit.

Posted by: Jackie | October 3, 2008 10:20 AM

Oh, goshdarnit:

Here is the difference between a preacher advocating for a candidate and a teacher, I choose what church I attend, if I don't like what the preacher has to say I get up and leave. A student on the other hand does not have that right. He/she has to stay in class and listen to that teach talk about how great a certain candidate is.
I was a senior in high school during the Bush/Gore election, everyone in my glass wanted to know who my Civics teacher was voting for. He refused to answer the question before the election because he felt his answer may sway some of us because he was our teacher. He did tell us his choice and gave us his reason for why he voted that way.
It doesn't matter to me who a teacher votes for, but when you try to sway their students minds to their way of thinking is just immoral and doesn't have any place in schools. To think our tax dollars are paying for liberal brain washing.

Posted by: J Mac | October 3, 2008 10:22 AM

Better politics than religion in the classroom . . . which is what these very same Republicans in a tizzy would advocate.

Posted by: Boo Augustus | October 3, 2008 10:23 AM

The time is now!
To remind Americans that Barack Hussein Obama is just another politician that will do or say whatever it takes to fulfill his political ambitions. Barack is calculated and methodical about hiding his true convictions and intentions, and uses deception to get elected.

The time is now!
For Americans to remember Barack Hussein Obama’s intimate 20 year relationship with the Priest of Hate, Jeremiah Wright, who blessed Barack and Michelle marriage and baptized both their daughters. AND, to remember the hideous videos of Jeremiah Wright’s congregation which included the Obamas, damning America with bombastic joy, after the Muslim’s criminal attack on America on 9/11.

The time is now!
For Americans to remember how Barack's Priest of Hate, Jeremiah Wright used his tax-exempt church to exercise a radical political agenda, and how he refers to Israel, as well as America, as a "racist" State. Barack's religious leader, Jeremiah Wright believes that the true 'Chosen People' are the blacks; and that black values are superior to middle-class American values.
 Indeed Barack's Priest of Hate, Jeremiah Wright is a black supremacist.

The time is now!
To remind Americans that Barack Hussein Obama wants to be president to implement Jeremiah Wright’s dream of a black supremacist society in America.

The time is now!
For Americans of all political parties to come together to preserve the future of the country we love and have always been proud of, by voting for a True American Patriot and War Hero who risked his life for our country:
John McCain for President of the United States of America.

Country First!
Americans for John McCain/Sarah Palin

Posted by: Manolete | October 3, 2008 10:25 AM

These are union members and unions choose who they endorse, so of course they encourage their members to campaign for them. This is because the members have decided together that this is the candidate that best represent's their interests. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this. I didn't see anything to indicate teachers were instructed to abuse their positions to pressure students into voting for Obama, but educating is perfectly allowed. People discuss why they support a candidate all the time. Teachers do not have the ability to force students to vote a certain way, through grades for example, and the union has no method for forcing teachers to wear a shirt or talk to anyone or even to vote for Obama. People forget that the only person who can actually pressure you is your employer, since they are in a position to fire you. The union does not have the kind of power. That is why it was wrong for Walmart to tell their employees who to vote for, for example, since there was a real threat there - of losing your job. This is merely a solidarity action, that unions do all the time to promote unity and to show support for each other. Its much better than the individualistic, you're on your own attitude of the Republicans (until they need our money, of course).

Posted by: Erin | October 3, 2008 10:26 AM

Oh, come on. Without you publishing the e-mail, the kids would have no way of knowing why the teachers are all wearing blue. They specifically said not to wear Obama shirts. Civic engagement is a GOOD thing, last time I checked. Kids should be encouraged to register to vote, and it's not like teachers are saying to them, "Vote for Obama or you fail!"

This latest tempest in a teapot is just another distraction. I'm sure there are REAL problems in Virginia schools to worry about; why don't we just focus on those?

Posted by: Larry Underwood | October 3, 2008 10:28 AM

Wow more news the republicans can cry about lol. You all sound like a bunch of third graders crying over nothing. Here is some free advice get the F*ck out of the country before you ruin it again for the 2nd time in 70 years! Im really sick of democrats having to clean up the republican mess; two words Great depression.

Posted by: Trackstate08 | October 3, 2008 10:34 AM

Students can't vote you idiots. This is a non-issue. Teachers have a right to express themselves. They aren't going to trick some 14 year old into voting for Obama in four years. Deal with it you unamerican free-speech-hating whiners.

Posted by: G Man | October 3, 2008 10:34 AM

Trackstate08

Man you you should have stayed awake in history class. Sorry FDR and the dems didnt get us out the Great Depression. Hitler and Tojo did. The economy still sucked and was in deep trouble from the 1932 on 12/7/41. If your history teacher was less biased and not a union carrying Dem you would have learned this. And hoss you need to read up on the casues of the Great Depression!

W is still cleaning up after Clinton. Clinto has numerous chances to get UBL but he was to busy chasing giving interns protein shots.

Cut teacher salaries statewide by 10% in VA.

Posted by: Va Indepenendent | October 3, 2008 10:41 AM

Teacher: "Now get out there and vote for Obama"

Student: "But, teacher, I'm only in the 1st grade."

Posted by: 1st Grade Student | October 3, 2008 10:42 AM

there was a kid in colorado who went to school with a anti obama shirt on he was suspended from school

Posted by: wtobias | October 3, 2008 10:57 AM

Wow, you liberals (a.k.a. Democrats) are all for "getting them while they're young". This, plus the creepy little kids singing about Obama, gives me cold chills - it's so similar to how the Nazis came into power.

Bottom Line - teachers should be teaching our kids to think for themselves, not leading them "by example" towards the political views of the teachers' union.


Now, if the email asked teachers to wear red shirts to support McCain, all of you people who are defending their "freedom of speech" would be completely against this.

Posted by: Rick | October 3, 2008 11:18 AM

this has gone on for years the unions and the media both have been trying to push there views on us for years a lot of us reject it a lot fall behind it accept it for news and fact.i remeber the movie about big brother. the all seeing goverment is was sifi then in the 50s but its becoming real with obama police in mo and the media all in bed with him the unions wall steet and every communist leader loves him

Posted by: wtobias | October 3, 2008 11:23 AM

The Washington Post should do a story on the legality of the entire affair. If teachers can't wear political buttons on the job, it is likely that a blatent attempt to substitute a color for a button is also illegal. The Union and the offending teachers must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. How else can we teach the children to respect the law?

Posted by: mbc7 | October 3, 2008 11:30 AM

I agree that it is ridiculous that teachers are stating their political beliefs. It makes their students uncomfortable considering these are the people giving out their grades, and who knows whether a teacher will fail you if you don't believe in their political ideals. I can remember moving to New York state in high school and hearing a teacher say "I don't like Republicans" As a very moderate Republican, who is actually voting for Obama in this election, I was disgusted by this. I felt as if I could never speak up in my classes for fear of the teacher disliking what I had to say, and determining my grade by their political beliefs. As a teacher, you should give BOTH sides of the political system, and never give your own opinion. It is definitely not part of the job description.

Posted by: asmith | October 3, 2008 11:36 AM

This ploy is no more shameful than bigoted conservative parents who used their children as press tools in the attempt to give "ex-Gay" literature to Fairfax County school libraries. As for the teachers, they plant ideas about their perceptions of social conformity in the minds of students every day as-is.

Posted by: bigolpoofter | October 3, 2008 11:44 AM

DO something about this!!! Flood the VEA with e-mails calling for a resignation of the person who sent the e-mail... Call them, e-mail them, and speak up!! There is NO room for politics in the school environment!! Here is conact information:

VEA's main office numbers are (800) 552-9554 toll-free or (804) 648-5801. Switchboard hours are 8:15 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Executive Office
Kitty Boitnott
VEA President
kboitnott@veanea.org

Robert Whitehead
Executive Director
rwhitehead@veanea.org

Posted by: Lisa | October 3, 2008 11:57 AM

DO something about this!!! Flood the VEA with e-mails calling for a resignation of the person who sent the e-mail... Call them, e-mail them, and speak up!! There is NO room for politics in the school environment!! Here is conact information:

VEA's main office numbers are (800) 552-9554 toll-free or (804) 648-5801. Switchboard hours are 8:15 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Executive Office
Kitty Boitnott
VEA President
kboitnott@veanea.org

Robert Whitehead
Executive Director
rwhitehead@veanea.org

Posted by: Lisa | October 3, 2008 11:58 AM

Firstly, dont call me hoss, i'm not white trailer park trash from the good o'le boy CSA state of Virgina. Secondly here is a quick history lesson for your sorry a**. Without FDR we would not have had as quick of a recovery as we did. He created well needed infra-structure jobs like The TVA and CCC and stopped the banks from going totally under,he also created Social Security and provided power to rural America. This is why we learn about his first 100 days in office because he got stuff done, over 200 bills passed in that time period, by the way if you were wondering it was called the New Deal! You also mentioned causes of the great depression. well quite simply they are the same republican policies of today. The factors that caused the depression were: easy credit, no regulation, shrinking government, no balanced budget, tax cuts for the rich and above all no leadership. For 12 years from 1920 to 1932 the country had to endure boneheaded Presidents from Harding and his "Normalcy", to Hoover and his lack of knowledge about the economy and his slow action to stop the unemployment rate from getting out of control. Also are you aware that deregulation, and letting wall street run itself is one of the top causes of the great depression and the recession we are in now, Without going into much detail the rich get richer in the stock market and greed was the currency. The other key issue is Taxes; under Calvin Cooliage tax cuts for the rich and Gigantic businesses run by Rockefeller and others was the norm; this caused little to no money being brought into the treasury, This failed policy was then carried on by Hoover who made the situation even worse.

As for WW2 I will admit that it helped create new jobs and dropped the unemployment rate, but the very idea that FDR had no part in helping heal the country is a ridiculous statement and, with all do respect, is just plain ignorant. But I guess you cant expect much from a southerner in Virgina LOL!

Finally I am shocked that uneducated people like yourself have such a.... how should I put this, skewed view on History. Listen if you have time in your busy day of drinking Jack Daniels and collecting your welfare check, which by the way Was a creation of FDR, Please go to a library and pick up a book.

Obama 08

Posted by: Trackstate08 | October 3, 2008 12:00 PM

What's next? Have the teachers turn their little charges into informants against their parents? It has happened before.

Posted by: sam | October 3, 2008 12:09 PM

Yep, this makes a great case for why unions should be permitted to replace the secret ballot with a "check card" voting. They'll practice on strong-arming your kids before they move onto to "encouraging" potential members to join.

Posted by: Check Card | October 3, 2008 12:39 PM

For more than a few years, teachers and students have been told to wear RED shirts on Fridays (supposedly to support "the troops"), but we all know why the color RED was chosen for that.

Posted by: FairfaxOct3 | October 3, 2008 12:54 PM

Trackstate08

Little boy never make assumptions because you know what happens when you do! See you have drank too much of the Dem kool aid. Lets see I was American History major at UVA and you really dont have a clue other than what you read on the internet do you?
What were the unemployment numbers through 1939 in the major population centers in the NE? How's about on the Left Coast. Sorry hoss not on welfare and enjoy an income that will taxed through the nose by Obama. And I aint a good ole boy puke! Voted for Kaine and will vote Warner. FDR did very little to get the economy moving and sorry fool Social Security for most folks wasnt paid until they retired 30 years later in the 50's and 60's.

I refuse to vote for a moron who will raise taxes on those who create jobs. Bright move just may cause another Depression when you remove the incentive to invest in our economy.

And Hoss I am writing in Dick Cheney. Anyone who shoots lawyer(a subhuman species) gets my vote. I cant vote for Mccain since I hate service academy grads!

Tough choice a tax raising ambulance chasing lawyer little boy or an Academy puke who wears Depends?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 3, 2008 1:01 PM

This shouldn't be a blog entry, it should be a major news story. But the WaPo has become the Obama Daily Worship, and has ceased being a source of credible news. It's bias has skewed so far left, so radically pro-Obama, dogs refuse to have their dropping picked up by the post. Birds everywhere hold their bowels so as to no lower themselves to evacuate on the slimey, censoring, propagandizing WaPo. It is a news story when a left-wing anarchist group (the VEA) uses taxpayer funded email to campaign for Obama. End of story. Vote no on school budgets. Get a teacher back behind the grill at Burger King.

Posted by: Karen | October 3, 2008 1:43 PM

Obama's "grassroots campaign" has been targeting our children for well over a year and this is just one MORE example. In my state I've heard of numerous reports of students being REQUIRED to register to vote as part of a class assignment. And don't forget how one Obama supporter - Mayor Clay (of Gary, Indiana) used taxpayer funded school buses to bring students to the voter booths during the primaries.

Posted by: gaypastor | October 3, 2008 2:31 PM

If I were anyone other than a Bama supporter I would bring a lawsuit claiming harassment, hostile environment and discrimination and sue them for all their worth.

Keep the politics out of the schools if you want them to learn something. Do you really want our young people who may not support Obama thinking that there is something wrong with them?

I find this behavior appalling and illegal.

Posted by: Yawn | October 3, 2008 3:55 PM

The VEA/NEA missed a great opportunity to promote voter awareness as Red, White and Blue Day. The VEA website was on the right track with their Director's essay on Principle before Partisanship, but quickly took the low road promoting a personal political agenda instead of the more universal inclusiveness of being Americans before party members.

Posted by: EGBOK321 | October 3, 2008 4:55 PM

Thanks, Marc, for bringing this to light. Imagine the screeching outrage if the police union (the FOP - that supported Bush) had a "wear red day" for all its members in 2004. "But don't wear a Bush/Cheney button" the FOP would say. That would have been great to see the far-left's reaction to that one, "police state," etc.

Posted by: K-Romulus | October 3, 2008 4:56 PM

Just the word `union' for teachers connotes massing, demonstrating, demanding--none of which fits the ethical, professionally trained and experienced educators meeting highest standards in their work and individual conduct. An organization formed for the purpose of assisting each member in achieving excellence in teaching performance does not focus on the promises of a political candidate--particularly one who has no track record in education improvement. Teaching students the marvel of the governing system we invented suffers when partisanship is the method.

Posted by: Mary Green | October 4, 2008 4:38 PM

A teacher's right to express a political view ends where a student's right to a factual, unbiased education begins. The issue is NOT about the teacher, it is about a lifelong education about America.

The NEA/VEA have been promoting their political agenda for years upon years. (Make no mistake, the busing of 500,000 university students to the polls in Ohio by the Obama camp is no small conincidence.)

Thankfully, incidents like the VEA's Obama Blue Day and the singing of Hail Obama by school children in California are finally bringing the association's brainwashing to the forefront. Sadly, the time has come for watch dog groups made up of teachers, administrators, parents and concerned citizens to put all classrooms in question under a microscope.

Additionally, there must be a call for, nothing short of an act of Congress curtailing Federal funds to any school district which does not police its district's teachings.

This outrageous, partisian mind control of America's children which is undeniably socialism must be stopped TODAY.

Posted by: Gayle Anne | October 5, 2008 10:01 AM

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