At some point, Americans are going to have to square with the resounding failure of our two-party political system by shedding the dysfunctional loyalty most voters have to either a Democrat or Republican affiliation. Why? Because neither party delivers anything resembling representative government any more. We elect politicians whose primary mission is continuity of government at our expense.

The allegiances to the modern American Democrats or Republicans are based on well-crafted illusion, disseminated by corporate media on behalf of the two-party political machine. It is brilliant in its simplicity. As long as voters are polarized, the status quo is guaranteed. What self-respecting Democrat will ever vote for a Republican, and vice versa? Couple this with a stranglehold on the primary system, including nonsensical gerrymandering to protect incumbents, and you have a control grid that is efficient and manageable. (See RCReader.com/y/primary.)

The minute voters decide that the candidates presented for election are unacceptable - and as a result cross party lines, or better yet abandon those lines altogether and choose third-party candidates en masse - things will begin to change in a hurry. Americans do not give enough weight to the desperate desire of politicians to be re-elected.

Reuters released a special report late last year that went largely under the corporate media's radar. Titled "The Echo Chamber," it exposed that at the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), "a handful of lawyers now dominates the docket."

"The Echo Chamber" examined 10,300 petitions before the Supreme Court from 2004 through 2012, triangulating the number of appeals filed, the names of attorneys and their firms, and the percentage of appeals accepted and heard by SCOTUS.

Some high points:

1) Sixty-six of 17,000 lawyers' appeals were at least six times more likely to be heard than all other lawyers' submissions combined in that same period.

2) These 66 lawyers account for less than 1 percent of lawyers who filed appeals with SCOTUS yet were involved in 43 percent of the cases chosen to be heard.

3) Fifty-one of these 66 lawyers represent corporate interests, turning SCOTUS "into an echo chamber - a place where an elite group of jurists embraces an elite group of lawyers who reinforce narrow views of how the law should be construed."

4) Twelve top firms had an 18-percent success rate in getting their petitions heard and were involved in a third of the cases before SCOTUS. Of the business-related cases accepted by SCOTUS, these top firms were involved in 60 percent.

5) Out of 8,000 firms doing business at the Supreme Court, 31 firms accounted for 44 percent of all cases heard by SCOTUS.

6) A group of eight lawyers accounted for 20 percent of all arguments made before SCOTUS in the past decade versus 30 attorneys in the decade before, demonstrating the diminishing circle of influence at the high court.

7) Demographically, of the 66 top lawyers, 63 are Caucasian and only eight are female. Thirty-one worked as clerks for SCOTUS; 25 worked in high-level positions for the U.S. Office of the Solicitor General, whose attorneys represent the government before SCOTUS; and 14 worked for both, making them "consummate insiders."

After 21 years of publishing, the depth and breadth of civic disengagement continues to befuddle me, confirming that people get the government they deserve. Everyone senses the undercurrent of serious trouble afoot in this country. But no amount of leaderships' disgraceful conduct, criminal enterprise, or wholesale injustice - all of which cause profound suffering for our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and community at large - rises to a level that produces meaningful activism. Why is that?

Mostly it is because of denial, lack of imagination, laziness, inertia, and an absurd amount of self-absorption. Ignorance plays a part, but most people are intelligent enough to grasp problems. Instead, they choose to ignore such matters as a means to absolve themselves from responsibility head-in-the-sand style. Clearly, this is not the American way. Or at least it didn't used to be.

No matter how much civic impotence we claim, there is still plenty we can individually affect if we are willing to sacrifice a bit of convenience. Our ancestors, after all, sacrificed their lives.

Halfway through 2015 already, and the stunning lack of oversight for increasing lawlessness remains unchanged - and it's arguably even more rampant. It is hard to fathom how the children of the '60s and '70s - the ones who objected loudly enough to end the Vietnam War, who forced the resignation of a president, and who history will show as the last generation that exceeded the standard of living of their parents - are the primary culprits in this devolution of the rule of law.

We have mostly fossils running the travesty that is government partnering with monster corporations - the industry leaders who control all aspects of infrastructure manufacturing, as well as primary services such as finance, health care, insurance, academia, and media, thereby virtually eliminating meaningful competition in America.

Americans need to admit that capitalism is no longer the economic model here, and hasn't been for decades. Capitalism depends on competition to succeed as an economic model first and foremost. Once government enters the arena with legislation and regulations that favor certain corporations and enterprises over others, capitalism is corrupted and morphs into something else. The better descriptor is fascism, where a small percentage of private-sector interests own, but government controls, most of a nation's resources. Socialism differs only in the ownership, leaving government owning and controlling those resources.

America is fast departing from its founding governing principles as a republic under the rule of law with a free-market capitalistic economic model as its underpinning. Administrative law is the largest contributor to this erosion, providing a massive set of rules and regulations administered by the executive branch at the federal and state levels, with counties mostly responsible for local implementation, to enforce broad legislation that is rarely read by the legislators who approve it. This behemoth of an unaccountable governing apparatus, no longer able to justify itself by any measure as representative of the people, derives its authority under a different primary directive altogether - known as "continuity of government."

And so it begins: Operation 2016 Elections. The corporate media has never been more strategic in its manipulation of information to steer voters to either Democrats or Republicans. After all, the lion's share of the billions raised for campaigns goes to it. In fact, elections are the corporate media's bread and butter. Without the billions flowing to it during campaigns, it would not survive.

Corporate media and the two-party political system are intrinsically intertwined, relying completely on each other's capacities to deliver the maximum level of political division among voters during campaigns. It makes no difference which party the populace supports as long as it is Republican or Democrat. Both achieve this goal with no small amount of brilliance.

Not only has the corporate media achieved political polarization, it has also created a level of ignorance in America that is masterful in its precision. Every socioeconomic issue is framed in a political perspective, delivered to consumers (television, radio, print, Internet) using a conservative/liberal filter. Issues are rarely disseminated based on their merits or lack thereof. Instead, the majority of news is nothing more than informed speculation, giving Americans no real, measurable information upon which to form a meaningful opinion of our own. The result is a blind acceptance of the simpleton opinions of celebrities who could not find a solution in their pockets.

Meanwhile, politicians want us to believe that governance is deeply complex. It really isn't. The once-respected mission of government as an agency tasked with "representation of the people" has morphed into the current "continuity of government" (COG), a mission dedicated exclusively to itself at the expense of the people.

On Tuesday, February 24, at 9 a.m., (previously incorrectly published as 8 a.m.) the annual selection of the Scott County Grand Jury will take place on the second floor of the Scott County Courthouse. This proceeding is open to the public, and the people should avail themselves of the opportunity to participate in one of the most constitutionally protected authorities still available to hold governments accountable.

The power of the grand jury is enormous. Most of us barely know of its existence, let alone embrace its vital relevance. The Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution (1787) provided for grand juries as a means of checks and balances, ensuring that the people, not government, held the ultimate responsibility for providing justice: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury ... ."

The 1846 Iowa Constitution (Article 2, Section 11) reads: "No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offence, unless on presentment, or indictment by a grand jury, except in cases cognizable by justices of the peace, or arising in the army or navy, or in the militia when in actual service in time of war or public danger" (RCReader.com/y/jury1).

The 1857 Constitution of the State of Iowa (Bill of Rights, Article I, Section 11), asserts that "All offenses less than felony in which the punishment does not exceed a fine of one hundred dollars, or imprisonment for thirty days, shall be tried summarily before a Justice of the Peace, or other officer authorized by law, on information under oath, without indictment, or the intervention of a grand jury, saving to the defendant the right to appeal, and no person shall be held to answer for any higher criminal offense, unless on presentment or indictment by a grand jury, except in cases arising in the army, or navy, or in the militia, when in actual service, in time of war or public danger."

Annually, 12 randomly selected members of the community form the Scott County Grand Jury, seven of whom are active, while five are alternates in case one of the seven cannot perform his or her duties. The grand jury has four primary responsibilities: (1) to provide indictments on criminal activities, whether brought by the county attorney or upon its own investigations; (2) to inspect the condition of all places of confinement in the county; (3) to investigate the circumstances involving prisoners who have not been indicted within the legal period of time (45 days upon incarceration); and (4) to investigate and indict misconduct by public employees, including elected and appointed officials.

So here we are, welcoming 2015, on the heels of another biennial national, state, and county election season. And whether one considers government spending at the national, state, or local level, we have an ever-increasing lack of fiscal sobriety. This is due mostly to a dangerously inactive populace, and it will not leave this country unscathed. Sadly, these are tired words of mine.

With few exceptions, Americans re-elected bad actors and maintained the status quo in Congress and in state and county governments. This is mostly thanks to a brilliant two-party political system that so expertly marginalizes third-party alternatives. State ballot-access laws, corrupt courts, little to no scrutiny of election equipment and technology, and big special-interest money prevent third-party or independent candidates from gaining significant ground.

And independent or third-party candidates' ability to gain valuable mainstream-media exposure has only declined over the decades of media-ownership concentration. In 2009, Mother Jones published a graph showing 25 years of media mergers "from GE to NBC and Google to YouTube" resulting in only eight major holding companies that control the vast majority of what is today called news, plus the entertainment and print and digital publishing platforms that generate the content that dominates American media ownership (RCReader.com/y/motherjones). Columbia Journalism Review publishes a useful online directory of "what major media companies own" (CJR.org/resources), and that list has 72 companies. This is roughly one controlling company for every 4 million Americans. When one is trying to control the messaging about the benefits of the two-party system, the lion's share of campaign funds raised during elections goes to these relatively few media outlets. It is the bread and butter of corporate media, gladly disseminating the gamut of propaganda necessary to maintain the control grid.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Ann HochhausenOn November 9, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Davenport hosted a most compelling presentation by retired Lieutenant Colonel Ann Hochhausen - Colonel Ho as she is affectionately called. This 27-year veteran in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps shared her experiences and perspective as chief nurse of the 28th Combat Support Hospital (CSH) in Tikrit, Iraq, during 2003 and 2004.

Colonel Ho's one-year odyssey included serving as one of two chief nurses, in split operations, in large canvas-tent hospitals resourced and manned for 200 beds. This all took place in a hostile desert where they performed more than 1,000 surgeries over just the first four months. The 28th CSH provided care for more than 21,000 coalition military personnel and Iraqi civilians and prisoners of war in the course of its one-year deployment. With her specialty skills in obstetrics and gynecology, Colonel Ho was a rarity in that theater, and she was awarded the Bronze Star for her care of pregnant Iraqi women and their unborn children.

Most Americans cannot fathom the harsh and brutal environment in which the 28th CSH provided compassionate and expert medical care for U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians and combatants alike. Our notions of war have been glorified and sanitized to prevent triggering the American people's collective outrage for such impossible conditions and horrific results.

Colonel Ho's perspective is critical in conveying the feelings and realities that our military personnel deal with - not just during service, but for the rest of their lives.

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.

Jonathan Narcisse

If you're an independent candidate for governor in Iowa, you know you're getting traction when your message earns the support of county chairs from both major parties across the state. Your campaign must be striking powerful chords when you get endorsements from both conservative talk-radio hosts and liberal-activist leaders alike.

Jonathan Narcisse is running for governor again. (I have volunteered for and contributed to his campaign.) And if he garners at least 2 percent of Iowa's vote, the Iowa Party will have official party status, which means automatic ballot access for all partisan elections for the next four years. The potency of this political weapon cannot be overstated.

Narcisse points out that partisan politics is the tail that wags the dog in Iowa, keeping voters distracted on presidential and national politics rather than focusing on how citizens' tax dollars are extracted and spent in their hometowns, school districts, and counties - right where they live.

(This was never more evident than when, at the Scott County Republican Party board election, the central committee was told repeatedly by the leadership: "We don't deal with issues here; we're here to get good Republicans elected.")

"The Occupy and Tea Party movements championed their causes through the Democrat and Republican parties, but after they helped get someone elected, they had no mechanism to hold them accountable," says Narcisse. "The Iowa Party is not ideologically driven; it is an accountability party." If Narcisse succeeds, the Iowa Party could be the "None of the Above" party that changes Iowa politics forever.

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