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The FBI: America’s Secret Police PDF Print E-mail
Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Thursday, 06 November 2014 10:00

Every regime has its own name for its secret police. Mussolini’s OVRA carried out phone surveillance on government officials. Stalin’s NKVD carried out large-scale purges, terror, and depopulation. Hitler’s Gestapo went door-to-door ferreting out dissidents and other political “enemies” of the state. And in the U.S., it’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation that does the dirty work of ensuring compliance, keeping tabs on potential dissidents, and punishing those who dare to challenge the status quo.

Whether the FBI is planting undercover agents in churches, synagogues, and mosques, is issuing fake emergency letters to gain access to Americans’ phone records, is using intimidation tactics to silence Americans who are critical of the government, or is persuading impressionable individuals to plot acts of terror and then entrapping them, the overall impression of the nation’s secret police force is that of a well-dressed thug, flexing its muscles and doing the boss’ dirty work.

It’s a far cry from the glamorized G-men depicted in Hollywood film noirs and spy thrillers. The government’s henchmen have become the embodiment of how power, once acquired, can be so easily corrupted and abused.

Fee for Service Is Not the Problem PDF Print E-mail
Guest Commentaries
Written by Sean Parnell   
Thursday, 06 November 2014 09:07

If you go to your doctor with severe pain or some other symptom suggesting a serious injury or illness, do you want him or her to have a financial incentive to treat you, or would you rather the doctor have a financial incentive to withhold care?

Although few will admit it, a sizable number of health-care policy wonks seem to prefer the latter, having apparently diagnosed doctors being paid for the care they provide patients as one of the problems with the U.S. health-care system.

This view was perhaps best expressed by President Barack Obama back in the summer of 2009, when he was pushing for what ultimately became the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. “You come in and you’ve got a bad sore throat, or your child has a bad sore throat or has repeated sore throats,” Obama said at a press conference. “The doctor may look at the reimbursement system and say to himself, ‘You know what? I make a lot more money if I take this kid’s tonsils out.’”

The heart of this allegation is what is known as fee-for-service medicine. Essentially, this means doctors are paid for the treatment they provide patients, no more and no less. In other words, pretty much the same way most of us pay lawyers, accountants, mechanics, hair stylists, and anybody else who provides a service for us.

Dems Put Rauner in a Bind on Abortion Issue PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 02 November 2014 05:20

I’m going to talk about one of the weirdest things that happened this campaign season.

Earlier this year, ultra-conservative activist Jack Roeser told me that his friend Bruce Rauner believed life began at conception. “I’d describe him as a guy who is a morally right-to-life guy, but not on the hustings,” said Roeser, who has since passed away, about GOP gubernatorial nominee Rauner.

Roeser and many of his right-to-life allies backed Rauner every step of the way, while Rauner, who belatedly admitted that he’s pro-choice, spent much of the Republican primary campaign fighting for term limits and pledging battles with the Springfield Democrats and their teacher-union allies.

The candidate has often said that he has “no social agenda” and would focus solely on cleaning up government and getting the economy running again. But in addition to those factors, he also wanted to avoid stressing the issue for fear of alienating a relatively small but still important base of Republican voters who just won’t vote for a pro-choicer of any party. Every vote counts, especially if you’re a Republican running in Democratic Illinois.

But the issue exploded during the campaign’s final week. Local 150 of the Operating Engineers Union – one of Governor Pat Quinn’s strongest supporters – spent big bucks supporting the unabashedly pro-life, pro-gun Libertarian Party candidate for governor, Chad Grimm. The idea was to siphon votes away from Rauner.

Holst and Narcisse Offer Unprecedented Opportunities to Voters PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kathleen McCarthy   
Tuesday, 28 October 2014 16:17

This midterm election provides voters in Iowa with two unprecedented opportunities to empower critical accountability at both the local and statewide levels.

First, five years ago a concerned citizen, Diane Holst, began attending Scott County Board of Supervisors meetings because she wanted to better understand where her tax dollars were being spent. The more she attended, the more she realized that not all is what it seems relative to county business. Typically the lone attendee from the community, she witnessed processes that were vague and confusing. So she decided to research the agenda items and familiarize herself before making inquiries. It soon became obvious that most of the business is conducted by staff behind the scenes, away from public scrutiny or input, with very little oversight by supervisors beyond showing up during board meetings and approving what is put in front of them.

Rauner Traps Journalist in Appearance-of-Impropriety Web PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 26 October 2014 05:23

Perhaps the worst thing to happen to journalism over the years is its simplistic over-reliance on the mere “appearance of impropriety” to justify big, splashy stories.

It’s based on the assumption that everybody is corrupt. No actual wrongdoing need ever be found – just something that might look a bit fishy to a reporter’s overly suspicious eyes. There’s no need to prove anything; one or two distant connections is enough to justify destroying somebody’s reputation – which didn’t deserve protection anyway because everybody is evil.

And that brings us to Dave McKinney, who resigned last week as the Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. It was a reversal of what’s become the norm: In this case, a politician caught a journalist in the appearance-of-impropriety web.

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