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.

Late last year, I published a commentary on the questionable policy implementation by the Scott County Board of Supervisors, at the request of staff, to indiscriminately destroy e-mails more than three years old, beginning January 2, 2014 (RCReader.com/y/email1).This new policy was implemented in the wake of Assistant County Administrator Mary Thee issuing a memo to county employees about the increase of public inquiries and litigation requesting e-mail messages.

In the spirit of practicing what I was preaching, namely getting one's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in before the January 2 date (despite the county administrator extolling that her staff has been practicing said deleting for some time), I submitted a FOIA request about a topic this paper has covered more extensively than any local news outlet: the Scott County Emergency Communications Center, a.k.a. SECC911. (See RCReader.com/y/foia1 and RCReader.com/y/foia2.)

Keep in mind that the SECC911 project is important because it was sold to the taxpayers as a cost-saver, only to have its costs more than quadruple the original estimates, ballooning to more than $20 million. And the entity that was created under a 28E, or "emergency services" statute, is made up of un-elected appointees, who possess unlimited, or un-capped, taxing authority. I am still amazed at how few people are familiar, let alone concerned, with this black hole that flies completely under the radar. And, lest we forget, years later we still don't have a consolidated 911 dispatch service.

This request was e-mailed to the Scott County Board of Supervisors as well as Administrator Dee Bruemmer. Below is the text of that request, and the response from Assistant County Attorney Robert Cusack. For those paying close attention, yes, Cusack is the son of William Cusack, one of the supervisors this FOIA request was directed to.

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.

On December 19, the Scott County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt the following language for the information-technology (IT) policy for county staff: "The IT Department will maintain a copy of all e-mails sent or received for a period of three years from the date in which they are sent or received. Records may be retained for a longer time period if it is subject to a litigation hold."

A day earlier, I published an open letter to the board asking it to defer action. (See sidebar.) At the meeting, I was allowed to address the board prior to the vote, and the 14-minute audio recording of that exchange is available below.

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Prior to the meeting, I had phone conversations with Chair Larry Minard and supervisors William P. Cusack and Carol T. Earnhardt. On these calls, it was explained to me that "all the important e-mails will be saved." When asked about details - such as who will be determining what e-mails are important - the answers varied from department heads to staff to one or two county attorneys. When pressed what the criteria were for retention past three years, the answers included "We just have to trust staff to know what to do" to "The frivolous e-mails will go." The policies of the State of Iowa and the City of Davenport were cited several times in these phone calls and at the meeting, but no particulars were given. The party line was that these entities destroy old e-mails much sooner than the county was proposing.

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.

Twenty years of questioning the status quo and providing readers with exhaustive resources and perspectives on all things cultural in the Quad Cities merits some reflection and review. We continue to publish the River Cities' Reader because it is fulfilling and meaningful.

The Reader is independently owned and operated. It started as a monthly newsprint publication, with a regional circulation in Iowa and Illinois - from Galena to Iowa City to Cedar Rapids to Muscatine to, of course, the Quad Cities. After 20 issues, we reined in our distribution to the Quad Cities and immediate outlying areas. This was 1995, and we made the plunge to publish weekly and lived up to the promise of "Every Wednesday Everywhere" for 13 years. We starting publishing our content on the World Wide Web in 1996 at RCReader.com.

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.

(Publisher's note: It's time for Davenport's city leaders to carefully and seriously review the requirements, terms, and benefits of a 60-year-old contract that has resulted in the practice of medicating nearly the entire Scott County population with an industrial waste byproduct. The fluoridation of our water supply is happening without informed consent, and even if one wished to be medicated through the water supply, the current practice does not even use medical-grade materials. This issue is no longer fringe. Modern science points to the folly of fluoridation, much like science caught up with the folly of claiming the health benefits of cigarette smoking. What follows are the prepared remarks delivered by Joe Amato to the Davenport City Council Public Works Committee on July 17. The video of this presentation, and subsequent additional public comments, is online at RCReader.com/y/amato. (The documents provided to the city council are here as a pdf.) Fluoride-Free Quad Cities has a meet-up at the Bettendorf Public Library on Tuesday, September 3, at 6:30 p.m.)

Good evening. My name is Joe Amato. On behalf of the coalition Fluoride-Free Quad Cities, I would like to thank you for giving us this time to speak.

We are here tonight to present to you evidence that ingesting fluoride by drinking fluoridated water is definitely harmful and only insignificantly effective, and to request that you, as the responsible legal authority, pass an ordinance to cease fluoridating the public water supply.

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