On Monday, July 7, before the jury was brought in for his trial, Benton Mackenzie collapsed in the courtroom and was taken to Trinity Medical Center in Bettendorf. On Tuesday, however, the Long Grove, Iowa, resident accused of manufacturing marijuana had reportedly been released from the hospital and testified in his own defense.

For those new to this matter before the Seventh Judicial Court District in Scott County - presided over by Judge Henry Latham (appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in March 2013) - Benton and his wife Loretta were arrested a year ago and charged with growing marijuana, while their son Cody was arrested and charged with possession of less than a gram of marijuana because ... well, just because.

Benton stated, in media reports last year, that he was growing marijuana for the singular purpose of extracting the cannabidiol oil contained in the marijuana plant to treat his angiosarcoma cancer, purportedly in a terminal phase. According to Benton, nothing else but the cannabidiol oil relieves the extreme suffering he is experiencing from horrific lesions that manifest on his posterior. Unfortunately, cannabidiol is extremely expensive. It can be purchased on Amazon.com, among many places, for medicinal purposes because it does not contain THC, and therefore it is not illegal in the U.S. For most people, however, the cost is prohibitive, especially as an ongoing treatment.

So painful and prolific are his symptoms that he was released from the Scott County jail days after his initial incarceration, allegedly because the county did not want the responsibility for or expense of his health care, nor was the facility equipped to handle his extreme case.

The office of County Attorney Mike Walton, however, has aggressively expended tax dollars in prosecuting this invalid, his family, and his friends, but only if Benton is not allowed the common-law defense of growing marijuana for medical purposes. The prosecution submitted a motion in limine that was approved by Judge Latham to disallow any mention of his production or use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Chuck After nearly six decades on the planet, I find that the friendships of our youth are the most enduring. The timeless quality that defines so many friendships that found their genesis in Bettendorf includes not just the persons, but often the whole family. This truth is best personified in Chuck High - "Big C" - who passed on April 6 at the age of 63, leaving the world a whole lot duller.

So let the memories flow, and make room because there a ton of them, all mostly wonderful and full of love, laughter, fierce loyalty, and that forever-ness that will keep Chuck alive and vibrant in our hearts and minds going forward.

Every blue moon the stars align to produce a candidate for public office who is the real deal. Taxpayers are fortunate enough to have just such a candidate for the Scott County Board of Supervisors in Diane Holst.

I have marveled at Diane's tenacity in staying engaged as a concerned citizen. Over the past four years, she has attended more than 100 meetings where Scott County business has been discussed, heard, and voted on. (Some meetings were held in private for more than four years before she proved that the state's open-meetings law was being violated.) She is eminently qualified to serve on the Board of Supervisors.

The Iowa primaries are Tuesday, June 3. Voter turnout for midterm elections is dismally low, but the turnout for midterm primaries is even worse. Consequently, incumbents are all but guaranteed advancement to the general election. To add an additional layer of protection for incumbents' re-election, Iowa primaries are closed - meaning that only people registered to vote as Democrats and Republicans can participate in their respective party's primary.

Check out the listings of the candidates who will be on the ballots on June 3 for Republicans (RCReader.com/y/2014R) and Democrats (RCReader.com/y/2014D). Note that out of 25 seats up for election on the Democratic ticket, only two are contested in the primary. If you don't live inside state Senate District 45 (where Mark Riley is challenging incumbent Joe Seng) or in state Representative District 97 (where Carol Bohel and Jay Saxon are running to fill an empty seat), there are no races on the Democratic primary ballot in which casting a vote matters. And there is no candidate for county treasurer or District 94 state representative on the Democratic primary ballot.

As I write this, hundreds of Americans are gathered in Clark County, Nevada, in support of cattle rancher Cliven Bundy in his fight to save his family's ranch from an aggressive takeover by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency within the Department of the Interior.

The mainstream media's shocking lack of coverage of this story provides all the evidence Americans need to unambiguously indict it for the propaganda machine it has become. Massive resources are provided for weeks of endless speculation on a missing plane originating in Malaysia, but practically no coverage of well over 200 federal agents surrounding the Bundy ranch - fully armed and including trained snipers - high-tech surveillance, and a declared no-fly zone over this area of Nevada.

Any coverage by the corporate media has been glaringly slanted in favor of the government's position in this takeover, claiming that Bundy owes $1 million in grazing fees for his cattle that graze on federal land. The cattle of Bundy's family have been grazing on this same land since the 1800s.

What the media isn't mentioning is that Bundy's cattle grazing on a small section of nearly 600,000 acres of barren desert land was never an issue until the early 1990s. Coincidentally, that is when Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) initiated a study to designate huge swaths of land in a six-state area for solar-energy development to accommodate a Chinese corporation that wants to build at least one solar plant that includes Bundy's property.

Instead, the media mentions a highly questionable threatened tortoise that purportedly faces extinction due to trampling by Bundy's cattle. Noticeably absent from reports is the BLM's own extermination of large numbers of the very same tortoise it claims to be trying to protect.

I believe that when we pass from this life, we will face accountability for both our actions and inactions. I also believe that accountability directly corresponds to the degree of responsibility each of us has to the Creator first, family second, and our neighbors third.

I don't pretend to know people's relationships with God. But most of us have a pretty good sense of what we are obliged to with family, friends, and associates. It gets murkier when we consider our responsibility to community because community can be defined by myriad levels of relationships from cursory to expansive.

Each of us has a far greater responsibility to family members than to neighbors than to folks in our county than to state residents than to Americans as a whole than to global inhabitants. My guess is that we will be held more accountable for actions or inactions that harm our family members compared to those that impact our fellow citizens at large. But we will still be held to answer for whatever harm is caused by our government's destructive actions at home and abroad - especially for our own indifference to it.

Try something novel and experiment with your news diet. Stop consuming CNN, MSNBC, Fox, ABC, NBC, or CBS news broadcasts - as well as the equally redundant counterparts in talk radio (Rush Limbaugh, Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Glenn Beck, Alan Colmes, Sean Hannity) - all of which strategically perpetuate political divisiveness. Instead, turn your dial to C-SPAN (channel 96 on Mediacom cable), C-SPAN 2 (channel 87), C-SPAN3 (channel 88), or C-SPAN.org. Be warned, however, that watching C-SPAN with any regularity will expose the mainstream media's woeful neglect of the relevant news of the day. Prepare to be shocked at the amount of information that goes under-reported, or not reported at all. As America's watchdog, C-SPAN is the most compelling indictment of the mainstream media's systematic failure.

Sure, a lot of the legislators' speechifying during C-SPAN coverage is vacuous and mugging for the camera. While Congress feigns oversight, especially during congressional hearings, panel members and/or legislators leak need-to-know information.

At a minimum, names and organizations are given, allowing anyone to do an Internet search to glean insightful information about these so-called experts and their connections and associations. DC begins to shrink with our expanding knowledge of its inhabitants and their activities, providing for better perspective, understanding, and manageability of relevant data moving forward. Information is empowering, and hopefully for some provides inspiration to get engaged more meaningfully and effectively.

Who do you think is responsible for the performance of elected representatives and the thousands of agencies/bureaucracies throughout local, state, and federal government? Who do you think is responsible for protecting your unalienable rights?

Perhaps it is you? I bristle at the endless complaining about politicians, bureaucrats, and corporate leaders' under-performance, especially when coupled with unreasonable expectations that those folks make all the changes necessary to relieve our discontent.

Why on Earth should they when we choose not to do our own part in America's governance? The old adage "Labor respects what management inspects" is no less true for We the People. We are the managers, and in today's political and civic environment, the huge majority of us completely abdicate our personal duties and responsibilities required to live in a free and open society.

As Americans, we had better revisit what the Bill of Rights means to our country's future, because the individual protections that the Bill of Rights provides each of us are in real jeopardy. There has been a slow creep by our legislative, judicial, and executive branches to erode these protections in favor of administrative rules and regulations that instead protect the growth and continuity of government.

The federal government has gone so far beyond what was originally intended for our republic that there will be no stopping it from the top down. The only hope we have to preserve our future as an open society is to get involved in our local county and city governments, including our school districts, where we can fully participate, oversee, and influence the politicians and bureaucrats who are our friends, family, and neighbors.

Common Core is the new national education initiative of curriculum and standards that were developed by two private trade groups, in cooperation with Achieve, Inc., with the majority of funding provided by the federal government. Additional financial assistance came from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Eli & Edythe Broad foundations, which contributed $60 million, and General Electric, which gave $18 million. The two trade groups' names - the National Governors Association and the Chief Council of State School Officers - mislead the public into falsely thinking Common Core was developed by each states' elected representatives.

Rather, the entire curriculum is privately owned and copyrighted, giving sole control over its content to a small cadre of developers, who will also reap massive profits for manufacturing all new Common Core-approved textbooks, training materials for teachers, and national-testing components that will dwarf previous testing practices in America. These no-bid contracts are worth billions to private and quasi-public corporations, such as Pearson, Core One Press, and Achieve.

The conclusion of John Whitehead's August commentary "The NSA: The Abyss from Which There Is No Return" (RCReader.com/y/nsa1) deserves serious consideration: "Once you allow the government to start breaking the law, no matter how seemingly justifiable the reason, you relinquish the contract between you and the government that establishes that the government works for and obeys you - the citizen, the employer, the master. And once the government starts operating outside the law, answerable to no one but itself, there's no way to rein it back in, short of revolution."

For the past six months, the more egregious mass-surveillance activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) have been disclosed to Americans, confirming our worst fears. Nearly every form of communication we engage in is being recorded and stored for purposes that are seriously unconstitutional, regardless of judicial oversight done in secret by a special court. And even though our leaders, both political and bureaucratic, assure us that its activities are legal, they are only speaking to administrative sanction. This means that the legality of what they are doing is not necessarily constitutional, nor apparently does it need to be when perpetuated under the guise of national security and/or keeping us safe from terrorists.

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