Pensions are among the most important investments American workers and employers make. We work for years so that when the time comes, we can retire with enough income to live comfortably, enjoy the much-deserved leisure time, and engage in activities of our own choosing.

This week's cover story examines Iowa's and Illinois' pensions, which, when coupled with health-care benefits, are in grave danger of insolvency, threatening to potentially bankrupt Illinois. This is due to the unsustainable "defined-benefit" pension plan that promises each employee a percentage of his or her annual income, regardless of the amount of contributions made by the employee, or on the employee's behalf by the employer (the state's taxpayers), over his/her years of service.

There are two Scott County Board of Supervisors seats up for grabs in this year's election. Voters who want a supervisor who actually supervises and reads the materials being presented prior to a vote would do well to give Jesse Anderson's candidacy some serious consideration, regardless of your political affiliation. With experience and age, wisdom and knowledge should logically follow. Not so with the Scott County Board of Supervisors and how it has conducted business over the past several years, especially relative to big issues that impact all taxpayers in Scott County.

A fascinating and foolproof strategy for political speechifying is to make mostly sweeping statements that are vague enough that listeners are forced to subconsciously fill in the blanks for themselves. Take this sweeping-but-vague statement: "We need to create good-paying jobs to bring this country back to its former greatness." To be truly meaningful for listeners, this statement needs more specific definitions of terms, such as an actual wage range in place of "good-paying." However, instead of providing specific details, politicians purposely allow each listener to mentally substitute his/her own version of "good-paying" with satisfactory wage ranges of their own.

What is meant by "former greatness" in the above statement? It doesn't matter because listeners will specify the meaning internally. Each of us will automatically plug in our own definitions, while simultaneously giving the politicians the credit for delivering speeches we can relate to, yet avoiding any accountability for their details.

This issue's cover story puts to rest any doubts Americans may have about the media cartel's deplorable performance in providing relevant, reliable, truthful information. The way the media cartel knowingly under-reports, hides, and sometimes outright manufactures data on critical topics (including many more not covered here) makes it public enemy number one.

Nothing is more detrimental to a free and open society than an uninformed populace. The media cartel has devolved into nothing more than an overt propaganda machine that systematically manipulates Americans' thought processes to keep the masses docile and compliant in an ever-increasing authoritarian regime. The advances in technology afforded to us have proven to be a double-edged sword that further enables something like the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell's prophetic novel 1984. The good news is that if the people avail themselves of truth that is out there, they can break free of this assault of lies, misinformation, and propaganda. And, while Project Censored is a very valuable place to start, even that project has missed some critical under-reported topics and events. And so we share some of those with you below as a supplement to this cover story.

At what point does caring about mankind mean enough to you to at least question the propaganda you have been fed over and over? The subject of 9/11 is horrifying on so many levels. Eleven years later, much more is known about one of the worst events in American history. The mainstream media has grossly neglected critical forensic evidence that contradicts the 9/11 Commission Report's explanation of events. Instead, it has deliberately embarked on a campaign to characterize those who question the official explanation(s) of 9/11 as conspiracy theorists, extremists, or unpatriotic, labeling such skeptics as "Truthers." Well, this editor has been called worse.

This is an important story that you may not have seen covered in any other local media. On August 16, Brandon Raub - a young U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Chesterfield County, Virginia - was forcibly taken from his home in handcuffs by his community's police in cooperation with the FBI, ostensibly for criticizing the government on Facebook. His detainment was filmed and uploaded to YouTube shortly thereafter (RCReader.com/y/raub).

What is shocking about this event is that he was taken without a warrant, and he was not charged with any crime. The authorities repeatedly told Raub's family that he was not being charged with a crime, even though they claimed his postings were "terrorist in nature." Instead he was literally grabbed by Virginia law enforcement and the FBI using a little-known "civil commitment" statute, which allows a person to be forcibly detained and isolated for mental illness/disorder via the order of a single judge or health administrator. This detainment can be indefinite, and permits the state to administer treatment and/or drugs against the individual's will, including vaccinations.

Decades of indoctrination have caused most Americans to believe the federal government is the boss of them. In March 2011, the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Morris Dees, told students at a conference at Augustana College that "people who don't believe the United States government has any control over their lives" are domestic terrorists (RCReader.com/y/dees at the 38-minute, 50-second point). Rather than such extremist, wrong-headed rhetoric, Dees should explain to students that we the people are the bosses of not only the federal government, but of state, county, and city governments, as well. This is American Civics 101.

However, because we have so completely failed in our individual responsibilities as civic bosses, the federal government is indeed methodically taking control of every aspect of our lives - from the kinds of light bulbs we are permitted to use in our homes to spying on us with unseen drones to violating our persons at every airport checkpoint to granting the executive branch the unlawful ability to arbitrarily deny us due process via the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act.

After nearly 20 years of opining in these pages, I am going to try a shock-and-awe approach to informing. Hopefully readers will be either inspired or outraged, or at least curious enough to pursue the topics here, and to not just verify but also to help better connect relevant dots, adding substantially to the scope of knowledge required to effect real change.

For instance, did you know that when you purchase stocks and bonds in today's market, you don't actually own them? Instead, you are only purchasing beneficiary rights that come with each unit. The real owner of your stocks and bonds is the little known Cede & Company, a division of the Depository Trust Company (DTC), which handles 99 percent of all securities trades in the United States and the majority of trades abroad. In other words, this privately held corporation (approximately 35 percent of which is owned by the New York Stock Exchange), which is actually a division of the Federal Reserve System, processes all book-entry securities transactions for every bank and brokerage firm in the United States. According to Wikipedia, in 2011, the DTC held approximately $1.7 quadrillion of the world's wealth, with many of the rights of legal ownership, if not the benefits derived therefrom, accruing to it via modern digital transactions replacing the traditional certificate system.

Twice at the Iowa GOP state convention, efforts were made to restrict any criticism of a Republican from anyone holding an elected state-party position. Twice those efforts failed, thankfully. The insularity that the big-government, war-mongering Republicans want to impose on their fellow Republicans is stifling.

It's no secret that 23 of 28 non-bound voting delegates from Iowa at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August are Ron Paul loyalists or supporters - including new Iowa party chair A.J. Spiker, who was formerly a Ron Paul paid staffer. The Ron Paulistas, as some refer to them, have taken over the Republican Party of Iowa, and nothing was more evidence of this than the peaceful, professional, and controversy-free manner in which last Saturday's statewide convention played out.

I am so done treading lightly for the sake of readers' sensibilities. America is in dire need of honest, problem-solving patriots who can muster enough gumption to get civically involved and provoke action, especially on behalf of our troops.

If you truly consider yourself a supporter of our soldiers, then turn off American Idol or whatever idiotic programming you normally watch, and instead watch the following four documentaries: The Ground Truth, Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, Rethink Afghanistan, and Severe Clear.

If you cannot trouble yourself to do at least this much, then shame on you. You don't deserve to be an American. There is so much need-to-know information that is deliberately withheld from us by the mainstream media cartel and our derelict cadre of politicians; the least you can do is dismiss their drivel and consume something relevant, important, and helpful to the troops many of you so ardently claim to support.

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