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Why Rodney Blackwell Thinks He Has a Play in the Davenport Casino Game PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 17 September 2013 16:28

Local developer Rodney Blackwell clearly got the Davenport City Council’s attention with a $250-million casino-development proposal on September 7. But from the outset it didn’t appear there was any path forward for it.

The Isle of Capri (IOC) has, through October 15, an exclusive negotiating agreement with Dan Kehl’s Scott County Casino company to sell its Rhythm City property. And, as Blackwell readily admits, even if it didn’t, the Isle wouldn’t want to negotiate with him and his partner, the Canadian company Clairvest Group.

So the city council’s 9-1 vote on September 11 to table a development agreement with Kehl appeared to be little more than a delay. Kehl has said he’ll complete the sale by the October 15 deadline. And the Riverboat Development Authority (RDA) – which holds the Rhythm City gaming license – on September 16 approved an operating agreement with Kehl’s company. (All these agreements are steps toward actually building the casino, and beyond them is approval from the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission.)

The message of Kehl’s comments and the RDA’s action is that the train has left the station, and Blackwell isn’t on it. As RDA Chair Gary Mohr told the Quad-City Times: “The RDA will keep its commitments. I don’t know if people don’t understand it or they just don’t like it.”

But Blackwell thinks he has a play. He said in an interview last week that he believes the city council can kill the Kehl deal, and that it further has the leverage to force the Isle of Capri to negotiate with him and Clairvest. Alternatively, the city could use its power to push Kehl to make a larger investment than the $110 million he has pledged to spend on a new casino and hotel complex. (Kehl said the three-phase development will total $200 million.)

 
Licensed to Kill: The Growing Phenomenon of Police Shooting Unarmed Citizens PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Tuesday, 17 September 2013 16:25

Here’s a recipe for disaster: Take a young man (or woman), raise him on a diet of violence, hype him up on the power of the gun in his holster and the superiority of his uniform, render him woefully ignorant of how to handle a situation without resorting to violence, train him well in military tactics but allow him to be illiterate about the Constitution, and never stress to him that he is to be a peacemaker and a peace-keeper, respectful of and subservient to the taxpayers, who are in fact his masters and employers.

Once you have fully indoctrinated this young man (or woman) on the idea that the police belong to a brotherhood of sorts, with its own honor code and rule of law, then place this person in situations where he will encounter individuals who knowingly or unknowingly challenge his authority, where he may, justifiably or not, feel threatened, and where he will have to decide between firing a weapon or – the more difficult option – adequately investigating a situation to better assess the danger and risk posed to himself and others, and then act on it by defusing the tension or de-escalating the violence.

I’m not talking about a situation so obviously fraught with risk that there is no other option but to shoot, although I am hard-pressed to consider what that might be outside of the sensationalized Hollywood hostage-crisis scenario. I’m talking about the run-of-the mill encounters between police and citizens that occur daily. In an age when police are increasingly militarized, weaponized, and protected by the courts, these once-routine encounters are now inherently dangerous for any civilian unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 
The NSA: “The Abyss from Which There Is No Return” PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Tuesday, 20 August 2013 16:48

We now find ourselves operating in a strange paradigm where the government not only views the citizenry as suspects but treats them as suspects, as well. Thus, the news that the National Security Agency (NSA) is routinely operating outside of the law and overstepping its legal authority by carrying out surveillance on American citizens is not really much of a surprise. This is what happens when you give the government broad powers and allow government agencies to routinely sidestep the Constitution.

Indeed, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, these newly revealed privacy violations by the NSA are just the tip of the iceberg. Consider that the government’s Utah Data Center (UDC), the central hub of the NSA’s vast spying infrastructure, will be a clearinghouse and depository for every imaginable kind of information – whether innocent or not, private or public – including communications, transactions, and the like. In fact, anything and everything you’ve ever said or done, from the trivial to the damning – phone calls, Facebook posts, Tweets, Google searches, e-mails, bookstore and grocery purchases, bank statements, commuter toll records, etc. – will be tracked, collected, catalogued, and analyzed by the UDC’s supercomputers and teams of government agents.

By sifting through the detritus of your once-private life, the government will come to its own conclusions about who you are, where you fit in, and how best to deal with you should the need arise. Indeed, we are all becoming data-collected in government files. Whether or not the surveillance is undertaken for “innocent” reasons, surveillance of all citizens gradually poisons the soul of a nation. Surveillance limits personal options – denies freedom of choice – and increases the powers of those who are in a position to enjoy the fruits of this activity.

 
The Myth of a Post-Racial America PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Tuesday, 02 July 2013 14:19

How can you thank a man for giving you what’s already yours? How then can you thank him for giving you only part of what’s already yours? You haven’t even made progress, if what’s being given to you, you should have had already. That’s no progress.” – Malcolm X, 1964

In 1964, the United States was in the throes of racial conflict. Civil-rights activists were leading black Americans and their white allies in a struggle against institutionalized racism, segregation, and disenfranchisement. The situation was bleak, activists were being murdered, the government seemed deadlocked on the issue, and many were losing hope. However, the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act set the stage for a positive transformation in race relations in a country that had been plagued by racial tension since its inception.

We have yet to live up to that hoped-for transformation. Almost 50 years later, despite having made demonstrable progress on the race issue, the idea that we live in a “post-racial” society is simply a myth – a myth that was given a boost last month when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, legislation enacted during the Civil Rights Era that was critical to the enfranchisement of black Americans living in the Jim Crow South. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts claimed that times had changed since thae 1960s, and the section of the law requiring historically racist sections of the country to have changes to their elections laws vetted by the federal government was anachronistic.

Superficially, Roberts’ claims ring true. Obviously Americans have made great strides in confronting issues of race since the 1960s. De jure segregation has been eliminated, minority groups have greater access to essential goods and services, and we have seen what many thought would never happen: the election of a black man to the office of the president.

Yet looking past the veil of progress that clouds the vision of well-meaning people who believe the issue of racism has been solved, we can easily see that there are many policies and practices in America that perpetuate the inequality of races. The following is a brief rundown of the many fronts on which America continues to fail to live up to its “post-racial” ideal.

 
Audubon School Should Be Saved PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Alexandra Elias   
Tuesday, 04 June 2013 08:04

(Editor’s note: After this commentary was submitted, the Save Audubon School coalition announced developer interest in the site.)

Does the Statue of Liberty pay her own way? Does the Chicago Public Library make money? The Rock Island City Council would have you think they ought to. Despite hearing overwhelming testimony in favor of retaining Audubon School, six council members voted on May 13 to destroy a 1923 historic treasure that has educated five generations of students in Rock Island. The building had been designated a city landmark until the city council stripped the designation to make way for a chain grocery store. This is terribly short-sighted and ignores this site’s value to the neighborhood that surrounds it and to the entire city. The school must be saved.

 
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