Matt Hart

Philosophy wouldn't seem to lead naturally to poetry, but it can if you find the right philosopher. For Cincinnati-based poet Matt Hart - who will be reading from his work on Saturday at Rozz-Tox along with poets from the Quad Cities edition of the national journal Locuspoint - it was the 20th Century Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Hart fell in love with poetry as an undergraduate at Ball State University, but he studied philosophy. Pursing a graduate degree in the subject at Ohio University, though, "I really bought Wittgenstein hook, line, and sinker. As a result, I quit doing philosophy. One of his main ideas is that philosophy is a sort of mental illness; if you understand him, you quit doing it."

And Wittgenstein offered an alternative to philosophy's relentless rational argument, writing that "philosophy ought really to be written only as a form of poetry."

State public-employee pension systems are grossly underfunded in general and are financial time bombs for most states. According to the 2010 paper "Are State Public Pensions Sustainable?", 31 state pension systems will run out of money by 2030 at current benefit and funding levels. (Illinois topped the list, going broke in 2018; Iowa is in better shape than most states, with an estimated expiration date of 2035.)

What's happening in cities across Iowa with police and firefighter pensions, though, shows the flip side - the short-term budget pain that accompanies a well-funded system when investments perform poorly.

In Davenport, the cost of police and firefighter pensions will increase from roughly $3.3 million in Fiscal Year 2010 to $5.5 million next fiscal year and an estimated $6.6 million in Fiscal Year 2014, according to city Budget Director Alan Guard. Over the four-year period ending in 2014, Guard said, the cumulative additional cost is $7.75 million.

In Bettendorf, the cost of police and fire pensions increased from roughly $747,000 in Fiscal Year 2010 to $1.22 million next fiscal year and an expected $1.36 million in Fiscal Year 2014, according to City Administrator Decker Ploehn. Over the four-year period ending in 2014, the cumulative additional cost is $1.62 million.

Back in the fall of 2008, we opened our photo contest to pictures of babies and pets. We had previously held themed contests but in a rare generous mood offered a reprieve, with the threat that our next one would feature the categories "ethos," "riboflavin," and "Kierkegaard."

Lucky for you, the powers that be have memories like sieves; when we brainstormed ideas for the resurrected photo contest, those were strangely omitted.

Instead, our three categories for the winter 2011-12 contest are "attraction," "resistance," and "ambivalence." The deadline for entries is February 6, and the rules are below. We plan to publish the winners in our February 16 issue.

(Oh, what the hell: If you want to enter something in "ethos," "riboflavin," or "Kierkegaard," be our guest.)

For many years, we asked our readers to fill out surveys to determine the best of the Quad Cities. We gave them categories and lines on which to write, and we tallied the results, and the winners were the top vote-getters in each category.

Our approach this fall was different. We reduced the categories to 20 and asked people to submit Tweets, videos, and short essays in support of their nominations. The aim was to give voice to individuals over the masses, and to allow people to argue for their favorites instead of merely noting them. The ultimate goal was to get past the obvious and automatic responses that seemed to often rise to the top in past surveys - to spotlight hidden gems in the Quad Cities.

(Editor's note: This is one of three articles on Ron Paul in the December 8 issue of the River Cities' Reader. The package also includes Kathleen McCarthy's "Ron Paul Personifies Iowa GOP Party Platform" editorial and Dave Trotter's "Electability: Ron Paul Soundly Defeats Obama for These 11 Reasons" cover story.)

Voters memories' are getting shorter and shorter, emboldening the mainstream media (MSM) to utterly fabricate information in order to manipulate public opinion regarding Ron Paul's popularity and electability.

At the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference - an annual multi-day event of speakers presented as quintessential conservatives (Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Donald Trump all spoke at this year's convention held in February in Washington, D.C.) - Fox News edited the footage it broadcast by inserting booing during the announcement that Ron Paul had won the straw poll (for second year in a row), when in reality he was getting loud cheers. Fox was called out quickly by direct observers and had to issue an apology, stating, "It was clearly a mistake; we used the wrong videotape." Said Fox's Bill Hemmer, "It's an honest mistake. We apologize for the error. We look forward to having representative Paul back on our program very soon." (RCReader.com/y/media1) How is deliberately altering footage, replacing fact with fiction, an "honest mistake"? What possible explanation could there be for altering any news footage in the first place? It begs the question: How much of this "editing" is going on in other parts of the news?

Emergency-response dispatching console, located inside the Scott Emergency Communications Center building at 1100 East 46th Street in Davenport.

Leaders in the consolidation of Scott County emergency dispatch and record-keeping claim a number of benefits: that it has been and will be a good deal for taxpayers; that it has resulted in better interdepartmental communications between emergency responders; and that it will eventually reduce the amount of time between when an emergency call is made and when appropriate personnel are dispatched.

But is it, as originally advertised, saving money?

The answer to that question depends on how you look at it, but for property owners in Scott County, the bottom line is that their tax rates are higher as a direct and indirect result of the consolidation.

The Scott County overall tax-levy rate rose by 90 cents per $1,000 of valuation in Fiscal Year 2011, as the levy for emergency management rose from 5 cents to $1.05 - nearly all of which is funding consolidated emergency dispatch. Scott County dropped its levy rate outside of emergency management, and Davenport and Bettendorf have also lowered their property-tax rates, but the net financial effect of consolidation has been property-tax rates that are anywhere from 65 cents to 90 cents higher depending on where one lives.

Connie Corcoran Wilson with granddaughters Ava and Elise WilsonSome grandmas, during the holiday season, will give toys as presents. Others will give clothes.

Connie Corcoran Wilson, though, is giving her granddaughters a book ... that she wrote and published herself.

"It's my Christmas gift to the girls," says Wilson of her new children's book Christmas Cats in Silly Hats, the second self-published work by the much-published local author. "I wrote it for them, and thought it would be a nice present.

"Of course," she says with a laugh, "marketing-wise, I didn't think it would be such a dumb thing, either. You might not rush out to buy it in July, but in December ... !"

Bo CaldwellGiven that her November 30 lecture at St. Ambrose University is titled "Finding Faith & Fiction in China," it seems odd that author Bo Caldwell has never actually been to the country.

Once you know her story, though, the title of the lecture (being presented as part of the school's academic-year-long China Project) makes more sense. Caldwell might not have found faith and fiction in the physical China, but she did in a China that has disappeared - the place where her grandparents and uncle lived and worked in the first half of the 20th Century.

"I was writing about a China that was long ago," Caldwell explained in an interview last month. "And the country and the city of Shanghai have changed so dramatically. ... I didn't feel like it would help me that much to go there."

She added that "China has a connection in a home-like way. That's where my grandparents spent much of their lives. It's where my mom and her siblings grew up. Chinese things when I was a kid felt like home in a weird way."

The Distant Land of My Father was published in 2001 and follows the outline of her uncle's life in Shanghai - how he lost his wealth and almost his life during a tumultuous time. Last year's City of Tranquil Light is based on the experiences of her missionary grandparents in China.

That makes clear how Caldwell found fiction in China. But faith was a function of breast cancer and its treatment, both of which changed the nature of the book that would become City of Tranquil Light.

(This is the first of two articles on the Scott Emergency Communications Center. This piece focuses on implementation problems with emergency-response consolidation. The second part will deal with the price tag and to what extent taxpayers have gotten what they were promised.)

Let's start with the metaphors.

We're roughly six months into the transition to a consolidated Scott County emergency-dispatch and -records system, said Davenport City Administrator Craig Malin on October 6. "This is the part of the movie where ... the anxiety is. Then there's the resolution at the end, and there's a happy ending. We're at that point where we're going to be focusing on what the issues are."

"In a crawl/walk/run category, we stood up and got wobbly," said Bettendorf City Administrator Decker Ploehn, also on October 6. "But we're still standing. But we're not walking yet. But we're pretty much not crawling, either. So we're working our way forward, and we hope to get to running. And I think we're going to get to running; we're not there yet."

The Scott Emergency Communications Center (SECC) brings under one roof - at 1100 East 46th Street in Davenport - what had been four dispatching centers, serving Scott County's 12 municipal and county law-enforcement agencies, 16 fire departments, and five ambulance services.

All those agencies are now using the same radio system, and law-enforcement agencies are also using a single record-keeping system - both of which allow for improved interdepartmental communication. Agencies went live with the system from early April through early May.

Still to come - probably early next year - is the consolidation of each organization's dispatchers into a single dispatching entity, and the separation of call-taking and dispatching functions. The latter of those is expected to shave 30 seconds off the time it takes to dispatch emergency responders.

And late next year, Medic EMS will decide whether to fold its dispatching operations into SECC or just continue to have its dispatchers working out of the SECC building.

By the standards of local government, the project is complicated. "It takes a good solid year to iron out" issues and difficulties, said SECC Director Brian Hitchcock, who previously oversaw consolidations in Ashland County, Wisconsin, and McHenry County, Illinois. "Every one of those has issues and bugs that have to be worked out. ... We all wish it could happen overnight." He noted that every consolidation takes a different amount of time to work through, but that the one-year estimate runs through next April.

The consolidation - recommended by a 2006 study and put into motion by a December 2007 intergovernmental agreement - is also expensive, with capital costs of roughly $28 million. The building itself cost $7.31 million. New portable radios for all agencies cost almost $7 million, purchased without a formal bidding process. Installing a "central electronics bank and associated communications gear into and around the 911 center" cost more than $1.6 million, Hitchcock said. And the dispatching and record-keeping software that has been so problematic cost $2.7 million.

Project Censored annually publishes its list of the year's top "censored" stories. "We define modern censorship as the subtle yet constant and sophisticated manipulation of reality in our mass-media outlets," its Web site states. "On a daily basis, censorship refers to the intentional non-inclusion of a news story - or piece of a news story - based on anything other than a desire to tell the truth. Such manipulation can take the form of political pressure (from government officials and powerful individuals), economic pressure (from advertisers and funders), and legal pressure (the threat of lawsuits from deep-pocket individuals, corporations, and institutions)."

Put differently, these 25 stories represent the most important news that Project Censored felt was under-reported over the past year.

Censored 2012: Sourcebook for the Media Revolution, by Mickey Huff and Project Censored with an introduction by Dr. Peter Phillips, is available (along with more detailed media analysis and sources for these summaries) at ProjectCensored.org. The book is published by Seven Stories Press.

(1) More U.S. Soldiers Committed Suicide Than Died in Combat

In 2010, for the second year in a row, more U.S. soldiers killed themselves (468) than died in combat (462). "If you ... know the one thing that causes people to commit suicide, please let us know," General Peter Chiarelli told the Army Times, "because we don't know." Suicide is a tragic but predictable human reaction to being asked to kill - and watch your friends be killed.

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