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.

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.

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).

(Note: Links to PDF documents can be found within this article.)

This photo, entered into evidence by the Scott County assistant attorney in the jury trial of Keith Meyer, shows Meyer on his property at 1012 Marquette Street in Davenport.

Last week, justice was served in Scott County when a jury of 12 level-headed Iowans found Keith Meyer, Davenport's former Ward 3 alderman, not guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor: "assault while displaying a weapon." In November, Meyer was accused by his neighbor, John Fahs - with whom he has a well-documented history of trouble - and arrested by Davenport police. If convicted, Meyer could have been sentenced for up to two years in prison.

Meyer chose to represent himself in this matter, which necessarily consumed his time and energy for four months. It is no small matter to represent yourself in the administrative code system, because the rules are stacked against regular folks without attorneys. But Meyer is not your typical go-along-to-get-along citizen, and he is clearly smarter than your average bear. In addition, he is nearly totally deaf. Yet he prevailed, albeit largely because the prosecutor's case was so weak.

The case against Meyer should never have been brought. There was no injured party. It was bogus from the jump. Back when courts made more sense, any charge that could potentially result in being jailed for more than 30 days required a grand-jury indictment. Today, however, under administrative procedural rules, county attorneys have effectively usurped the people's authority by removing grand juries from the process.

It is glaringly obvious that the tragedy surrounding the Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, shootings is being grossly objectified to achieve a political agenda of disarming Americans.

I am no lover of weapons. In fact, I abhor any violence, including the disgraceful warfare the United States is currently engaged in. I despise the weakness that characterizes our lack of civic will in the 21st Century to hold our governments accountable for perpetuating both warfare and welfare upon the people.

We are truly a pack of sheep when it comes to preserving our legacy as a republic governed by the rule of law. Let's be crystal clear, folks: America was not founded as a democracy. America was founded as a republic. There is a huge difference that needs clarification - again.

Pages