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.

The next generation of top-down central planning for a federal K-12 education curriculum, Common Core, is now in full swing in Iowa and Illinois public and private school systems. Despite the rhetoric that claims otherwise, the Common Core standards are not (1) internationally benchmarked, (2) based upon scientific research that is documented and peer-reviewed, (3) created by the nation's governors, state school officials, and legislatures with full transparency, or (4) owned by American taxpayers.

The Common Core curriculum is entirely experimental, with no evidence or history of efficacy whatsoever. Nearly all the supporting data for Common Core comes from reports written by its sponsors - the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officials (CCSSO) - and lacks any true objectivity. This is of particular note considering that all the K-12 education models previously used in American education not only adhered to best practices supported by decades of proven scientific research but also underwent continual refinement based upon the latest scientific revelations in learning processes. In other words, it evolved under great scrutiny.

The three primary authors are David Coleman, Susan Pimental, and Jason Zimba, founders of Student Achievement Partners. None of these authors has a background in any of the academic disciplines they wrote standards for. In a speech before the Learning Institute in 2011, Coleman admitted: "We were a collection of unqualified people who were involved in developing the common standards" (RCReader.com/y/core1). He likened their collaboration to a group at a bar with a napkin.

The result is that Common Core is turning nearly every classroom in America into one gigantic experiment. The teachers themselves are unprepared to teach the new Common Core curriculum and must undergo extensive retraining at enormous taxpayer expense. Because Common Core is being implemented in 45 states, an entire generation is in jeopardy if the system proves the failure many predict it will be. For a well-rounded critique based on scholastic studies (versus pure rhetoric claiming rigorous standards) that informs the debate about the deficiencies abundant in Common Core, read Common Core State Standards: An Example of Data-Less Decision Making by Christopher H. Tienken (RCReader.com/y/core2).

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.

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