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.

A short course in learning the language of transition is soon to be offered in the Quad Cities, and it's one to attend if you're encountering changes in your life. Present or past, all can be reviewed with careful guidance. Listening is a powerful source of learning, growing spiritually, and sustaining relationships, whether with spouses, family members, friends, or associates. Specifically, listening to another's life stories, composed of a vast array of experiences and emotions contributing mightily to our individual self-images and well-being. Our stories are often the means by which we convey our identities to each other, a process of self-revelation.

The Reverend Canon Marlin Whitmer, a retired hospital chaplain, believes profound healing comes while listening to stories. He discovered this over 40 years of experience, listening to patients at St. Luke's Hospital after establishing The Befrienders in 1966. His program began with three people from Trinity Cathedral who were members of the Auxiliary of St. Luke's Hospital. They were to provide patients with in-hospital visits from non-medical volunteers whose sole purpose was to listen to the patients. The following year and thereafter Befrienders were trained to continue these visits. This legacy continues today at both Genesis and Trinity hospitals and has been recognized as a contributor to improving quality of life in the Quad Cities.

The most rudimentary research on the U.S. government's illegal mass surveillance of Americans will reveal that this unconstitutional practice has been ongoing since at least J. Edgar Hoover's days. History openly details the chilling effect his secret file-keeping had on the politicians of that time, not to mention the control he exerted as a result. Don't believe for a minute that such activities stopped when he passed. In fact, collection of sensitive, private information on all Americans - including politicians, bureaucrats, military personnel, and public-sector employees across the spectrum of government - has ballooned beyond even his comprehension.

Last issue's Reader cover story "The War on Whistleblowers" provided a small list of whistleblowers who have made enormous contributions to our open society. Missing from that list were Gregory Hicks, Christopher Pyle, and James Bamford.

Gregory Hicks was the exemplary deputy chief of missions at the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, when Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American Marines were murdered. He testified that the Africom military-response team under General Carter Ham was told to stand down, allowing four Americans to needlessly die. He has suffered reprisals and demotion for telling the truth to Congress. Meanwhile, National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who recently admitted lying to Congress when he previously denied that his agency was spying on Americans, has experienced zero consequences for his crime.

Christopher Pyle was the U.S. Army Captain who, in the 1970s, exposed the military's spying campaign, COINTELPRO - a program to infiltrate and report on the legal activities of groups and individuals protesting the Vietnam War.

Without whistleblowers - employees within government and big business, at all levels, who risk their livelihoods and sometimes lives - the American public (and world) would have no knowledge about many of the most outrageous, dangerous, and covert activities perpetrated upon society. This includes everything from fabricating false pretenses for going to war to war crimes (including torture) against prisoners and innocent civilians to lethal environmental abuses to fraudulent financial schemes that have devastated millions of families' life savings. In the past, the exposure of these egregious acts has often (but not always) brought reform, exposed criminality resulting in prosecutions, and perhaps most importantly saved countless lives. Sadly, in today's political environment, it is the whistleblowers who are being penalized for telling Americans the truth.

But for the threat of whistleblowers, ill-intended politicians and bureaucrats and their crony-capitalist private-sector brethren would operate in an oversight vacuum - free to abuse their power and engage in criminal activity at will. The contributions that whistleblowers make to an open and free society cannot be overstated.

How many more thousands of lives would have been lost if it were not for Daniel Ellsberg's infamous Pentagon Papers that exposed the Department of Defense's lies and manipulation that propped up the Vietnam War (MostDangerousMan.org)? How much more abuse would citizens suffer at the hands of corrupt police departments if it were not for Frank Serpico testifying about the rampant corruption inside the New York police department? These are, or should be, just two of the household names in the whistleblower pantheon.

It's become a fascination to observe what I refer to as the American "lemming effect." So far, government overreach - no matter how egregious, harmful, dangerous, or in some cases lethal - has elicited no discernible impact on the average American's willingness to act for change.

I wonder if most Americans believe there is some sort of undefined limit or invisible line that government will eventually reach that will magically trigger a halt to all the political and financial corruption that is prevailing in our nation.

In the past decade alone, the abuse of power has reached an all-new high because we the people have been civically and politically idle. Our silence and immobility are our consent, delighting politicians, bureaucrats, and corporate executives beyond measure.

Emboldened by the American people's collective inertia, legislators, regulators, and the courts are continually creating laws and rules that exempt themselves from the same laws that bind the rest of us, providing ultimate protection from prosecution for their criminal conduct.

I'm beginning to have a modicum of hope for perpetually misinformed Americans. The turning point occurred when, after the attacks on the three World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, then-President George W. Bush's administration was exposed for its deceptions. Namely that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, and the purported masterminds behind the attack (al-Qaeda) had no ties to, or presence in (prior to the U.S. invasion), Iraq.

Americans' trust in our own government suffered irreparable damage once we learned that the so-called evidence that led us into the undeclared war against the Iraqi government forces (which the U.S. previously armed and funded) was manufactured, and part of long legacy of deceptions that have greased the wheels of war since America's founding.

Try not to blindly accept the emerging "official story" behind the Boston Marathon bombing, and instead view it though a prism of healthy skepticism. Question the corporate media cartel's versions of events. Something is clearly amiss, so it's time to keep an open mind and pay attention.

The first thing that should raise an eyebrow is the homogeneous messaging across the media cartel's broadcasting networks, news publications, and talk radio. At a minimum, it illustrates the collusion of information - reading from the same script - that exists within the corporate media, regardless of political bias.

Second, the prior notification that Boston police would be conducting a controlled-explosion drill during the marathon is glaringly absent in the corporate media's coverage. The Boston Globe tweeted specifics about the planned drill, actually naming Boylston Street in its alert mere hours before the bombs exploded at the intersection of Boylston and Exeter streets (RCReader.com/y/globetweet).

Pages