Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Slow Burn

On the return trip home from vacation several years ago, my travel route was diverted to avoid a massive wildfire burning west of I-95. "That's what happens in Florida during a drought," I mentioned to my kids as we sat bumper to bumper for the next couple of hours, ash ominously flittering about the car when the wind turned our way. "Without the afternoon rain, the state becomes one giant tinderbox."

Fires--although terrifying-- can prove beneficial to a forest by cleaning out old growth and helping to maintain habitats. Controlled burns are best in terms of rejuvenation but during any given summer day, a well-placed lightning strike will ignite a blaze capable of real destruction.

The property tax and insurance crisis. PIP set to expire. Cut-their-but-not-mine budget slashing. Student enrollment dropping. Home owners trapped in their homes--unable to sell, no longer able to afford the mortgage with foreclosure looming. SOH pitting neighbor against neighbor. Long time residents fleeing the state to start life fresh as "halfbacks". Zero tolerance policies. "Lock 'em up" vs "help 'em up" thinking regarding our fellow citizens. "Do-as-I- say-but-not-as-I-do" politicians finding themselves on the hot seat.

All lightning strikes that have set Florida ablaze.

Whether the burn is controlled or a wildfire remains to be seen.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Tsk Tsk Tasket

When a person is compensated for work by salary, sitting around and calculating actual pay per hour is like picking apples and oranges from the same tree.

It can't be done.

Take that one step further--start figuring any additional supplemental pay by the hour--and soon, you're standing ladder high in pecan trees looking for the golden apple.

Brevard's public-school head football coaches last year had salaries ranging from between $59,062 and $40,752. The coaching supplemental pay high topped out at $4,252.

That's a lot of oranges for this area. In 2005 Brevard had a per capita personal income of $31,800. (Read more here).

Howard Stern once said, "I don't talk about my salary."

Good advice, especially around this neck of the orange grove where many work more than one job to fill the bushel basket.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007


Well, I arrived home from vacation to signs that one of these guys had been in my kitchen.

What's the topic of conversation around your kitchen table?

Talk to Me.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Welcome to Tulsa

I drove north to the deep south last week and today, I'm back on the road to the Sunshine State.

A brief online glance at today's FT editorial--imploring the state legislature to add KidCare to the upcoming special session--reminds me that my vacation is indeed over.

As I cross over the state line later this afternoon, my thoughts will turn to the many families who will pull up stakes this summer and make the exodus to Florida, the proverbial land of milk and honey and oranges. As the "Welcome to Florida" sign is greeted with shouts of joy from kids crazy happy with thoughts of Disneyworld dancing in their heads, I ponder at just what point these transplanted parents will realize that the state Mickey Mouses around with its youngest citizens...our children.

KidCare--a model insurance program for children of low-income working families--answered many a prayer for parents who previously had no other choice but to seek out emergency room care for their sick kids. Then the Legislature--in their infinite wisdom-chose to blaze the road to recovery with mindless paperwork, creating such a bureaucratic maze, parents all but gave up.

There were far less stop signs on the drive over to the emergency room.

Brevard KidCare rolls plummeted, from a high of 8,400 in 2004 to only 5,764 children today.

Two thousand six hundred and thirty six children fewer. Multiply that by 67 Florida counties and the state has found one super efficient method to slow down getting help to my unscientific count of 176,612 Florida kids.

As Georgia leaves my mind and thoughts turn towards Florida, the way we do thing here reminds me of an old Roseanne Barr joke:

In Tulsa, restaurants have signs that say, "Sorry, we're open."

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

One Ringy Dingy, Two Ringy Dingies

Americans are notoriously bad about waiting their turn.

Next time the cashiers at your favorite store are understaffed, watch the faces of those standing in line. Once the three minute mark is passed, true aggravation sets in. Customers start breaking a sweat and begin looking around for another open register, a supervisor, something.

Enough standing around already. Meet my needs...now.

The Brevard County Commission--whittling away at the budget, one pine needle at a time-- cut ten per cent from two agencies. 2-1-1 Brevard, a round-the-clock phone referral service, was one of the two to take a hit in the pocketbook.

As reported by Florida Today, Libby Donoghue, executive director of 2-1-1 Brevard, said residents would be kept on hold longer and have less access to online databases if she couldn't replace the $10,200 lost.

I call it the Pavlov effect.

We will throw all kinds of money--in this case, tax dollars- to keep from breaking the sweat of personal inconvenience at the three minute mark.

Sounds like we are about to get our fiscal bell rung.

But before jabbing redial over and over, consider the pay-off.

If 2-1-1 is worthy of the wait through the dreaded hold, we will simply wipe the sweat from our furrowed brow and remember back to the days of the party line, when the wait for a line was part of the fun.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Taxes in the Toilet

Brevard County residents can expect a tax windfall savings anywhere from $1.50 and $15.00.

The county commission is dancing the bootscooting boogie on this one. Don't blame us. The state told us to cut taxes and by golly, we did just that. Want more of an explanation? Give your state legislator a call and ask whassup?

The old game of passing the buck...your buck.

The county commission flushed away a prime opportunity to effect real tax change.

Practice your right to free speech. Post the toilet sign of protest in the yard.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

High Noon

Sheriff Parker is having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad summer.

His deputies face a salary freeze. His request for a new crime lab is under the microscope. While juggling these two political hot potatoes, NASA had the nerve to strip the KSC special deputies of all powers--without Parker's approval or knowledge.

The Good Old Boys meet the Feds later this week to duct tape closed the 42-year old deputy program.

Parker intends to charge KSC for house calls, which include making arrests, and investigating automobile accidents and crimes.

That's going to cost you, Space Boys.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Take Out the Trash

State Farm is no good neighbor.

Although the company made plenty last year, it plans to deep-six 50,000 additional insurance customers. "...if we run out of money, we can't cut claim checks" is the current excuse.

In other words--too bad, so sad.

It's time for Florida to extend a hand to a new neighbor--a friendly sort who knows how to dig through the trash out on the curb and get the goods on what goes on behind closed doors...and then stops by for a chat.

A person who just mowed the lawn of the health insurance industry.

Calling Michael Moore.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007


Hey, Brevard County...

What twisted your knickers this week?

Iron it out here.

This weekend... it's all about you.

Talk to Me.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

To Have and Have Not

Many families will plan a camping trip this summer, but for James and Jessica Gardner, pitching a tent has become a way of life.

As reported by Florida Today, "area homeless advocates say displacement from the 2004 hurricanes, the effect of Florida's housing boom and bust and wages not keeping pace with higher living costs are causing the increase".

The Gardners are not homeless for any of those reasons. James Gardner, 41, was gainfully employed as a forklift operator for a construction company. He lost his job after spending 41 days in jail for driving on a suspended license.

I don't know why Mr. Gardner chose to drive on a suspended license. For all we know, he was driving to work. But I'll take a jab at why Mr. Gardner sat in jail for so long.

He couldn't make bail.

So, there he sat--adding one more body to an overcrowded county jail. Mr. Gardner became a Sheriff Jack Parker statistic. Jack got another slash on the head count belt to justify his need for jail expansion while the cycle of situational poverty kicked into full gear for the Gardner family...the job flew out the window and as a result, the family became displaced and separated.

What is glaringly obvious to me...what happened to Mr. Gardner's constitutional right to a speedy trial? Seems to me a next day appearance before a judge could quickly initiate the legal proceedings and allow Mr. Gardner to go about the job of keeping a roof over his family.

On the other hand, permitting the timely release of scary criminals back into the community--people like Mr. Gardner--doesn't quite jive with the punitive--and extremely political--agenda of Brevard County. Through the support of such policies, We, the People have condoned the creation of the haves and the have nots.

Do we care so little about our fellow man?

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

For Shame, For Shame

The county's 3800 employees have been put on notice by the Brevard County Commission.

This is the Year of No Pay Raise.

Dissatisfied with such impartial consideration, Brevard County firefighters and deputies took their battle to the streets to implore the public to "be our 9-1-1."

Save us so we can save you.

Such shaming tactics make me pause to consider.

How many extra $$$--beyond salary--do public safety personnel pocket by pulling special duty details?

You tell me what budget that money is coming from before I start feeling too sorry for these guys.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Paper or Plastic?

I'll miss the plastic book bags from my local Brevard County library.

What I won't miss is paying for the "free" bags--$34,000 annually-- through taxpayer dollars.

The complimentary bags offer a touch of Southern hospitality, a cheery exclamation point of a thank you for frequenting the library system. More importantly, the bags protect checked out materials from rain and anything your kid might spill in the car on the way home.

Ever had to replace a library book? Not cheap.

Bibliophiles will certainly hoard the remaining existing bags and recycle with every visit. Additionally, one could always utilize a plastic grocery bag to shield the books from the elements

Talk about stating the obvious...

Perhaps it's time for area grocery stores to become a Friend of the Library and brainstorm ideas to replace the plastic book bags. So what if Publix or Winn Dixie or 7-11 logos the bag? NASCAR does it all the time.

And speaking of NASCAR...

How about revving up a few bucks for the axed literacy program?

Read more about the Brevard Library Foundation here.

Support your local library.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Leaders Lead

Say what you will about Dr. Richard DiPatri, superintendent of Brevard County Schools.

The man does not pander.

Many were taken by surprise at DiPatri's decision to recommend that sex ed be taught by teachers and not outside groups.

We've become so accustomed to our elected officials tiptoeing through political minefields that actual decision-making comes as quite the surprise.

True leadership proves both competent and confident.

In other words, leaders lead.

Thanks for the reminder, Dr. DiPatri.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Throwing Stones

Brevard County has somehow become the hot spot for illicit sexual encounters.

As reported by Florida Today, according to the sheriff's office, "no park or public restroom is immune to illegal homosexual or heterosexual activity."

The Office of Community Oriented Police Services-The Department of Justice -adds this about that.

"It is important to note that engaging in same sex activity does not necessarily imply a homosexual identity; in fact, many men who have sex with men in public are married or otherwise heterosexually involved, and do not consider themselves to be gay. (...) The larger the community's moral objections to public sexual activity mean that participants have much to lose if they are discovered."

Meaning, the social sentence in these cases is the equivalent of a modern day public stoning.

Is Florida's "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time" thinking the best way to address "crimes" that carry a very public
shaming and shunning sentence far more damaging than the legal punishment?

The COPPS report indicates an "arrest only" mentality is unlikely to reduce the overall problem and recommends a balance of proactive strategies including, the issuance of a warning in these cases, rather than making an arrest. (Illict Sexual Activity in Public Places (April 2005).

What a concept. The humane approach.


Brevard County folks would rather throw stones.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Teletubbies for McCain

Explain the sweater choice.


Read more over at Pensito Review.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

WOW-What a Week!

It's been quite the WEEK around the Space Coast!

To say the least...quite the understatement...only in Florida....

(For those of you who can't get enough of Allen-Gate, apparently the state Rep has pulled a Pinnochio before...way back in 1992, Florida Today pulled their endorsement of Mr. Allen during his run for State Senate. The resulting FT editorial-A Question of Trust-has found its way online to the blogosphere. Read more here).

This weekend, here's looking at you, Brevard County.

Start the debate.

Talk to Me.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Earth to Bob Allen

Bob Allen does not expect his 2010 campaign for the state Senate to be hurt by the charges of solicitation of prostitution, should he be acquitted.


I guess that's how the spin is playing in Allen World.

Honestly-just on even given day-it never ceases to amaze me just how far removed elected officials segregate themselves from the real world of you and I. Add an alleged sex charge to that all inclusive world and suddenly, the scandalized planet is spinning out control faster than Mercury can orbit the sun. Accustomed to always hearing yes and never hearing no, it's easy for a politician to convince themselves that indeed everything is right in their world and this too will pass.

Earth to Bob Allen. Nothing penetrates the force field of traditional family values as effectively as the perception of impropriety, as defined by the majority of the constituency a politician represents. It's safe to say, that's a fairly narrow definition in your neck of the woods.

Stop living in the Twilight Zone. Acquittal or not, your mission has been severely compromised.

Bow out while you have some dignity left.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Politically Charged

As expected, Florida's blogs are alive with posts regarding the arrest of Florida state Representative Bob Allen, R-Merritt Island.

I clicked through the list compiled by Flablog (Busted, 7/12/07) and found an interesting fact documented on Bob Norman's The Daily Pulp (GOP Lawmaker Tries to Give Away a Hummer, 7/12/2007).

Norman googled Allen and stumbed across this:
HOUSE BILL 1475 Sponsor: Rep. Bob Allen (R-Merritt Island). This bill broadens the scope of Section 800.04 of the Florida Statutes. That section specifically addresses "lewd or lascivious exhibition", including public masturbation. HB 1475 broadens the scope of 800.04 to include lewd acts committed in the presence of those of any age, not just those under the age of 16, as the existing law specifies. HB 1475 does not mention 800.03 at all, but it increases the penalty for lewd acts under 800.04.
The bill-which would add punitive weight to the law-died in Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety (?) 5/4/2007.

Lucky for Allen.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Boom Logic

"When I'm 18, I'm moving out!"

As a teen, I voiced that opinion countless times, yet when that magic age finally rolled around, I secretly hoped everyone had forgotten what I said and I'd be granted a reprieve. My parents had known all along what I had to learn for myself. Eighteen felt no different than seventeen. The last laugh was on me. Eventually--with a few years of college under my belt--I flew the coop around 21 and never looked back.

But today's young adults around the same age are either staying put or packing up the old duffel bag full of dirty laundry and returning to the parental home.

Is thirty the new twenty?

Developmental psychologist Jeffrey Arnett refers to the period between age 18-25 as the "emerging adulthood" years. "The new life course has become much more spread out and flexible," Arnett says.

Our society is a bit schizophrenic on that issue.

Take all the time you need to find a good job. Young adults aged 19-29 make up the fastest growing segment of the uninsured population. Once Pomp and Circumstance has played for the last time, these "legal kids" are dropped from the parental insurance umbrella quicker than one can say, "Do you want fries with that?" One serious hospitalization and this uninsured "kid" has one heckuva bill that ends up in collections...bye-bye, credit report.

You're WHAT? The family home will never stop the biological clock of anything emerging--or merging--for that matter. Through support of abstinence-Just Say No-programs-the Societal We casts quite the immature eye toward the fact our biologically intact children are walking Parent Traps. History repeats itself as the forty-fifty somethings find themselves singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider " once again -raising their own grandchildren-while the twenty-somethings (or younger) developmentally find themselves.

We can get you help. Not all young adults are the Picture of Developmental Perfection that Dr. Arnett paints. Many find themselves caught up in the counterculture, only to emerge with a drug addiction that can fast make waste of a life off-track. Florida is a state that chooses the punitive approach over the rehabilitative approach, so good luck obtaining a low cost rehab center for your uninsured young adult child. The Florida Department of Health listed drug and alcohol abuse as a major public health concern for young adults 20-24 years of age. The DOH indicated back in 2002 "At the same time young adults are experiencing catastrophic health events, their access to health care is more limited."

Is it time to officially redefine youth as did Turkmenistan, extending adolescence to age 25 while postponing old age until age 85? Under that system, a youth is defined as a person between 25-37 years of age, reaching maturity at age 49. With that sort of legislated life cycle, our country's grandparents currently raising their own grandchildren may very well look forward to raising their own great-grandchildren.

Maybe it all boils down to simple Boom logic. The Baby Boom generation--born between 1946-1964-- have simply reaped what they've sown. Keeping their kids young and close to home in effect causes
Baby Boomers to feel eternally young themselves. The unfortunate unforeseen side effect of "Boom! What you do to me!" is "Boom! What have we done to you?"

Meanwhile, our "kids" are claiming the "Boom Boom" 5th... "
Let the fun begin, I told my friends, I'm gonna do, All the things that I've been wishing, And wanting to..."

It's enough to make Freud take to his couch.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Spaghetti Factory

Governor Charlie recently stated, ''There is absolutely nothing more important than protecting our people, especially our children."

Yet, Florida ranked 49th (out of 50 states) on health care access for children under age 17 and 50th for adults aged 18-64. Uninsured rates for adults and children- were well above national averages and more than double those in the quartile of states with the lowest rates.

Nationally, young adults 19-29 make up the fastest growing segment of the uninsured population.

In Brevard County, the number of children covered by KidCare-the low cost health insurance program for Florida's poor children-fell from 8, 413 in 2003 to 5,012 in 2006. State-wide, 100,000 children lost basic health care coverage due to typical "government per usual" bureaucratic nonsense.

The Florida Legislature couldn't get it together enough last session to drop a few bread crumbs to help parents maneuver through the paper-heavy maze. As a result, per the Children's Campaign Advocacy Group, Florida lost $20 million in federal funds to better enroll eligible children.

Alex Sink, Chief Financial Officer for Florida stated the obvious: "What good is additional funding if the families can't access it because the program is more convoluted than a spaghetti factory?"

More than 500,000 of Florida's children remain uninsured. At 17%, that's the second highest percentage in the country.

It's enough to make you SICKO.

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Ask Robert Frost

Does a good fence make a good news story?

Frank Johnson's tete-a-tete with Melbourne businessman Larry Dennison over a shared property line scored 100+ comments on Florida Today's community forums.

But is the story newsworthy?

We have access to news coverage 24/7. In fact, it's more of an assault. The electronic media lies in wait for our fingertips to tune in, turn on or tune out the story of the moment. Should that story "have legs", we can read the article, listen to the audio, and/or view the video any time we wish via any media outlet in the world. We are simply saturated with the "what we want to know right now" aspects of today's communications.

Local stories-unless unusual enough to catch the attention of the wire services-often get no respect. Why should I be interested in the Wickham Forest vs. Dennison feud? I don't live anywhere near that area.

But someone does...and I just bet that fence is THE topic of conversation today to those people-making the story newsworthy.

It is said, all politics are local.

The same could be said about the local news-it all starts in someone's backyard.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

News Flash

Fireworks "ooohed" and "aaahed" the news this past week.

Political fireworks blasted the Bush administration with the commutation of "Scooter" Libby while commercial grade fireworks proved fatal for Michigan mom.

Locals kept law enforcement hopping with noise complaints, with one resident describing America's celebration to "living on the Gaza strip" while expressing sympathy for battle fatigued Vietnam vets, "clutching themselves and shaking, remembering the horrors of the rainy jungle."

Fast forward to July 4, 2008. The only "proof through the night that our flag was still there" might be a single spotlight illuminating Old Glory as municipalities are forced to deep-six all but the most necessary of budgetary items.

What sparked your attention this week?

Talk to Me.

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Friday, July 6, 2007

That's Life

July 4th shook up the work world by falling midweek.

Those who chose not to wrap vacation time around the Wednesday holiday, returned to work the next day a few sparklers short of a match.

Many grumble that Independence Day be established as a permanent holiday, perhaps on a Monday to "bridge" the weekend and guarantee Americans a few consecutive days off.

The French would sympathize. Vacations are a sort of national sport in France.

The French work a thirty-five hour work week with a legal minimum vacation time of five weeks. (Type A personalities are awarded additional vacation "comp" time- up to eight weeks vacation). School children are off two weeks every six.

Upon return from vacation, they immediately plunge into planning the next vacation. The scheduling of a midweek July 4 would prove of little challenge to a country with an interesting perspective on the impact of work on personal leisure.

A friend of mine summed it up best. "The French work to live," she said. "Americans live to work."

C'est la vie.

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Self-Evident Truth

"There, I guess King George will be able to read that."

--John Hancock, on signing the Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007


"We have it within our power to start the world anew."

--Thomas Paine, Common Sense

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Conjuring Sheriff Taylor

Brian Bolender allegedly refused to pay taxi fare in the early morning hours of June 28. He was subsequently arrested and charged with petty theft.

Bolendar-who listed his occupation as a realtor-was reportedly "extremely intoxicated" at the time of the incident.

Twenty minutes upon arrival at Brevard County jail, Bolendar tied a blanket around his neck, attached it to a steel beam and hung himself behind a privacy partition by the toilet. Correctional officers resuscitated Bolendar, who was transported to Wuesthoff Hospital.

He died Sunday night.

One tough consequence for refusing to pay cab fare.

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Monday, July 2, 2007

The Old Game of Quid Pro Quo

Is a thirty month prison sentence considered excessive for someone convicted of four felony charges?

In the case of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, apparently so.

Yet, on the other hand, perjury and obstruction of justice were more than enough for a Republican House of Representatives to impeach a two term sitting President.

It is becoming blatantly clear that two types of justice exist in this country. One for the rich and connected and the other, for the rest of us.

Read how the rest of us petition for executive clemency here.

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Independence...or Lack Thereof

As July 4th approaches, I sense stirrings among our people to reclaim their independence.

The collective urgency is heard in the dismayed voices of Americans. We've been mesmerized and made divisible, pitted one against another. Our polarized anger has sequestered us from a respectful exchange of differing ideas while proving a successful tether to the tracks by those whose sole interest lie in freedoms for the few through the trample of freedoms for us all.

The very freedoms for which our Founding Fathers risked their lives as patriots so all Americans could live free from oppression.

Our land has born witness to troubling times throughout its youthful history, pummeling back adversity as the rest of the world laid odds on our survival as a country. America emerged stronger-wiser-more mature as a nation.

But this time, it's personal. Our birthright stands on shaky ground. The Constitution-our sense of America that defines our strength as a people within its words-has been undercut by those we placed in power. Excessive government secrecy-wiretapping-the trouncing of habeas corpus and the right to due process-are a few blatant examples of constitutional shutdown.

This sleeping tiger of a country has woken to find itself caged.

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