Friday, December 22, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Taj has worked with some great musicians over the years, including the the late, great guitar player Jesse Ed Davis. In the video below, see Jesse and Taj rocking at the Rolling Stones' 1968 "Rock and Roll Circus."
The other video is more recent Taj.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Monday, December 18, 2006
While top business schools are churning out an increasing number of female M.B.A.’s, only about 16 percent of corporate officers at Fortune 500 companies are women, according to Catalyst, an organization that studies women in the workplace. The numbers are even sparer at the top of the pyramid: women fill only nine, or less than 2 percent, of the chief executive jobs at Fortune 500 companies.
“There have been women in the pipeline for 20 to 25 years; progress has been slower than anybody thought it ever would be,” laments Julie H. Daum, the North American board practice leader for Spencer Stuart, the executive search firm. She says she does not expect the situation to change anytime soon. “It’s not as if we’re in the beginning of something that’s going to explode and that there are going to be lots of women in the c-suite,” she said. “I think we’re still way far removed from where we should be and from where women would like to be.”
Lest anyone think the dearth of female CEOs is a product of a generation gap, check out Business Week's list of 100 CEOs under the age of 40. The younger CEOs represent a range of industries worth as much as $17 billion--you won't find many women on the list.
In Wisconsin, the situation is grim. The Center on Wisconsin Strategy in its 2006 State of Working Wisconsin report found that "Wisconsin women are less likely to work in managerial or professional positions than almost all other states."
Friday, December 15, 2006
* The top four radio station owners have almost half of the listeners and the top ten owners have almost two-thirds of listeners. This means that a handful of companies control what the overwhelming majority of Americans hear on the radio.
* The "localness" of radio ownership--ownership by individuals who live in the community--declined by almost one-third between 1975 and 2005.
* Just fifteen formats make up three-quarters of all commercial programming. Moreover, radio formats with different names can overlap up to 80 percent of the time in terms of the songs played on them.
* Niche musical formats like classical, jazz, Americana, bluegrass, new rock and folk, where they exist, are provided almost exclusively by smaller station groups.
* Across 155 markets, radio listenership has declined over the past fourteen years, a 22 percent drop since its peak in 1989. The consolidation allowed by the Telecom Act has failed to reverse this trend. In fact, it may well have caused the trend to accelerate.
I wonder if Nikola Tesla could have imagined this sad state of affairs for radio. Few American recognize his name, but Tesla is probably the single most important figure in the history of wireless communications. Many were involved in the invention of radio, but in a key 1943 patent dispute, the Supreme Court decided in Tesla's favor. (Yeah, I know that Wikipedia isn't always the most reliable source.).
Americans will spend nearly 10 hours a day watching television, surfing the Internet, reading books, newspapers and magazines and listening to music this year, the U.S. Census Bureau said on Friday.
In its "Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2007" released on Friday, the agency also noted that Americans drink about a gallon of soda a week, along with a half gallon each of milk, bottled water, coffee and beer.
All of which may help explain another figure in the pages of the 1,300-page book of tables and statistics: About two-thirds of Americans are overweight, including one-third of whom are obese.
The Journal Sentinel says the numbers reflect a "TV Addicted" society.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Frank performed his critique of television, "I'm the Slime," on Saturday Night Live in the 70s:
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Who knows, maybe someday Barack will translate the rhetoric of hope into some real policy prescriptions for justice in America. We'll know he's there when the corporate press turns against him. But until then, he probably needs to perfect his rock star movements. The Blue Man Group, who ought to be the official band for blue state politicians, offer some instructions:
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
Not surprisingly, our shelled friends' major adversary these days is . . . us. According to the New York Times:
". . . herpetologists fear that in humans the stalwart survivors from the Mesozoic era may at last have met their mortician. Turtle habitats are fast disappearing, or are being fragmented and transected by roads on which millions of turtles are crushed each year. 'There’s no defense against that predator known as the automobile,' Dr. Gibbons said. Researchers estimate that at least half of all turtle species are in serious trouble, and that some of them, like the Galapagos tortoise, the North American bog turtle, the Pacific leatherback sea turtle and more than a dozen species in China and Southeast Asia, may effectively go extinct in the next decade if extreme measures are not taken. 'People love turtles, people find them endearing, but people take turtles for granted,' Mr. Cover said. “They have no idea how important turtles are to the ecosystems in which they, and we, live.'"
The turtle, like the four pillars of the Green Party, will endure. Slow and steady wins the race.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
"Way back in 1972 The Rolling Stones released Exile on Main St. That album was a tour through various styles and genres: blues, country, gospel, etc., but with all of them filtered through the Stones' musical identity. Well, it's taken 34 years, but someone has finally created another record of equal breadth, stylistic adventurousness and power. There's something here for everyone, and yet it's unmistakably Tom Waits. Only real artists can pull something like this off, and Waits not only pulls it off, he makes it seem easy."
Thursday, December 07, 2006
I'm running because our city needs a voice for open and accountable government, quality services delivered cost effectively, and strong neighborhoods. In my 17 years as a resident of Oshkosh, I've never seen local government in as much disarray as is currently the case. In the last two election cycles citizens thought they were voting for fiscal responsibility and leadership, but got garbage fees, buck passing, and blatant open meetings law violations instead.
We can and must do better.
If you would like to help circulate nomination papers, email me at email@example.com.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Those who think the Iraq Study Group report represents some kind of progress in the effort to get out of Iraq should think again. The "bipartisan" group included no one who opposed the war from the start, nor do any of its 79 recommendations come even close to suggesting a complete withdrawal of American forces in the foreseeable future. Representative Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, the defense hawk who shook up official Washington last year when he called for a redeployment of US forces out of Iraq, says the study group's report is essentially an endorsement of the status quo.
We're living in a time when the moral bankruptcy of the establishment political parties is on the level of the Whig v. Democrat configuration of the pre-Civil War days. In the past 24 hours we have seen the approval, by a 95-2 vote, of Robert Gates (he of shady past and also a member of the Iraq Study Group!) as new Defense Secretary; we have seen a leading House Democrat call for sending more troops to Iraq; and we have seen a "bipartisan" report that (not surprisingly) wasn't worth the pre-release hype.
Mr. Bush has been delusional on Iraq from even before the start of hostilities. If anything good can be said about the Iraq Study Group report, it is that it might at the very least pressure the president out of his delusional state and force him to accept the fact of a horrific Iraq reality that was and is a direct result of the incompetence and arrogance of his administration.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Today, most people believe that the Iraq fiasco occurred at least in part because of bad or intentionally distorted information gathered from intelligence sources. That a Senate Committee, and especially the Democrats on that Committee, could gush over Gates' "refreshing candor" simply because he openly admitted the obvious fact that we are not winning in Iraq, is mind boggling. If today's hearing was any indication of how "tough" the Democrats plan to be on foreign policy, then George W. Bush can rest easy for the next two years.
Meanwhile, the incoming Democratic Chair of the House Intelligence Committee says he wants to see an increase (!!!) of 20 to 30 thousand troops in Iraq. So much for lesser evilism.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Political Foibles of 2006
By Tony Palmeri
Politically, 2006 will be remembered as the year Republicans were soundly defeated at the polls. Saddled by association with an unpopular President, corruption scandals, an Iraq quagmire and partisan gridlock, the GOP was reduced to relying on some of the most negative campaign advertising in the history of American politics. The public finally said “enough!” and gave control of the Congress back to the Democrats for the first time since 1994.
So in “honor” of the Republicans’ defeat, let’s talk about some of the worst political foibles of 2006:
*”Macacagate”: At the start of 2006, Virginia Senator George Allen was widely considered to be a shoo-in for reelection and the possible GOP presidential nominee in 2008. All that came to a crushing end when Allen was caught twice on videotape referring to an Indian American as “macaca,” a racist slur. Allen ended up losing his seat to Democrat Jim Webb. To this day Allen claims that he made up the term “macaca” and had no idea of its racist meaning.
*Bush Toadies Booted Out of Senate: George Allen was a rubber stamp for the Bush Administration, but was hardly alone. Joining him in retirement from the US Senate will be Mike DeWine of Ohio, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Jim Talent of Missouri, and Conrad Burns of Montana. Each of these Republicans were point men for the Bush Administration on a variety of issues, especially Iraq. With his chief Senate cheerleaders gone, Mr. Bush will have to work that much harder to make the case for Iraq, social security privatization, and more tax cuts for the wealthy.
*The Abramoff Scandal: In January, power broker lobbyist Jack Abramoff pled guilty to three criminal felony charges in federal court. The charges included corruption of public officials. Staffers connected to Congressmen Tom DeLay and Bob Ney were indicted for Abramoff related activities, while DeLay and Ney themselves resigned from the House in ’06. In October, Ney (the inventor of the call for French fries to be called “freedom” fries) pled guilty to making false statements related to the Abramoff. Expect more Abramoff fallout in ’07; this time expect some prominent Democrats to be named in the corruption probe.
*Congress Opposes FBI Raids On Their Own Offices: Speaking of corrupt Democrats, in May the FBI raided the office and home of Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson. Press reports say that they "found $90,000 of the cash in the freezer, in $10,000 increments wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed inside frozen-food containers." Congressional leaders responded with outrage and deep concern about the raid, in spite of the fact that since 9/11 they have greatly expanded the powers of the Executive branch to monitor and harass ordinary, average Americans.
*The Foley Scandal: Republican Mark Foley, once chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, was forced to resign from the Congress when it was revealed that he had sent sexually suggestive email and text messages to congressional pages. The Foley scandal became a symbol of the Republicans’ hypocrisy on “family values” while casting doubt on their ability to manage the Congress effectively.
*Falk Wins Primary Battle, Dems Lose AG War: When Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced she would challenge incumbent Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager in the Democratic primary after Democratic insiders concluded Lautenschlager’s drunk driving arrest would maker her reelection difficult, Peg loyalists claimed that Falk would stand no better chance against a strong Republican challenger. The Peg loyalists turned out to be correct: Republican J.B. Van Hollen defeated Falk in a year when Democrats gained control of the Wisconsin Senate, kept the governorship, and gained 8 seats in the Assembly. Lautenschlager, who despite the drunk driving conviction was still a popular Attorney General with high name recognition, probably would have kept the seat in Dem hands.
*Marriage Amendment Helps Democrats: It is widely believed that the Republicans placed the so-called Marriage Amendment on the November ballot in order to help Mark Green for governor and conservative Republican candidates throughout the state. Conservative Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner believes the strategy backfired. In November he told the press that the Marriage Amendment brought out high numbers of conservative, “Reagan Democrats” to the polls who voted YES on the amendment to ban recognition of civil unions, but then voted for Democrats. If Sensebrenner is correct, it suggests that the Republican strategy of winning elections via recourse to divisive “wedge” issues may have come to and end.
*Jensen Picks Go To Jail Card: In 2001 Dane County DA Brian Blanchard began what has become the longest corruption probe in the history of Wisconsin politics. By 2006, five legislative leaders were convicted of crimes. All of them except former Speaker of the Assembly Scott Jensen (R-Brookfield) plea-bargained to avoid trials that could result in lengthy prison terms. Jensen chose the trial, and in March a jury convicted him of three felonies with the potential for 16 years in jail. Judge Steven Ebert ultimately sentenced Jensen to 15 months in prison after calling his actions "common thievery elevated to a higher plane."
Friday, December 01, 2006
In 2006, cartoonist Lyle Lahey wins his second TONY!:
Thursday, November 30, 2006
After the movie I will be leading a brief discussion of it. My main qualification is that my last name ends with a vowel. I'll probably try to debunk a few stereotypes.
Below, Robert Duvall (played Tom Hagen in the Godfather films) has an interesting take on Brando's treatment of Don Corleone.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Lohry's and Thompson's effectiveness does not mean that they deserve to run unopposed at election time. Unfortunately, they will face each other in the next election if the full board approves a proposed redistricting map. The redrawn map is the result of the Board moving from 38 to 36 supervisors to ward off an interest group movement to place a referendum on the April ballot to reduce the size to 19. All of this is the result of awful legislation that creates confusion and court battles almost by design.
So if the proposed redistricting plan passes, it means county residents will lose at least one effective voice in government (Lohry or Thompson) for no good reason. If citizens in Lohry's or Thompson's district(s) want to go against them at election time that is great and should be encouraged, but I challenge any board size reduction advocate to show us how Donna or Claud represent "dead weight" deserving of removal from the board sheerly due to downsizing.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The GB Press Gazette had a decent editorial on Monday on closing the political No Call loophole.
Back in January, Judge Bruce Schmidt called Lennon's brief against Dringoli "extremely confusing and extremely convoluted." He also said it contained "omissions and misrepresentations." Lennon made it through the February primary race even after Schmidt's smackdown, but suffered a landslide defeat against Karen Seifert in the April elections.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Superintendent Ron Heilmann was supposed to be on the show also, but last minute commitments made it impossible for him to attend. We will have in on at some point in the future.
Some Eye on Oshkosh fans have asked me if the show can be placed online so that people can watch it on their computers. Cheryl and I have had minimal discussion of that possibility--let's just say it's a "work in progress."
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Today in the Journal Sentinel we find that "in the past 4 years, only two lawmakers have claimed sick time." Guess what: state lawmakers get to cash out the unused sick days just like the profs! Rep. Sheldon Wasserman (D-Milwaukee) opted not to introduce a bill to repeal the sick leave perk back in 2003 because he received "a very bipartisan, jaw-dropping stare" when he suggested it.
While the UW haters in the legislature will not let UW employees forget for a moment the details of every single benefit we might be eligible for, they never criticize their own lawmaker peers who claim ignorance of their own perks. According to the Journal Sentinel story, representatives Sinicki and Berceau missed a substantial amount of time at the Capitol because of sickness, yet each claims not to be aware that they were eligible for sick leave. Senator Mike Ellis has been in the legislature 36 years, has never claimed a sick day, is eligible for $104, 000 in benefits, yet claims he never was aware of the sick leave program.
Will this blatant hypocrisy result in less criticism of the UW from the legislature? Don't count on it. Our administrors and too many faculty suffer from a serious case of spinal weakness when it comes to dealing with legislative bullies, and bullies will always pick on those who allow it.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I learned by watching the discussion, and then verified by looking at the statute, that citizen petitions can be filed only to DECREASE the size of county boards. This would mean, for example, that if a county board was reduced from 38 to 19 (or any other number--the statute allows for setting the number arbitrarily), and proceeds to spend more money and become more tools of special interests as smaller boards tend to do, the citizens would have no power to INCREASE the board size after the next census. The Wisconsin legislature and Governor Doyle should be ashamed of themselves for passing and signing such a discriminatory revision of the statutes. Persons who support increasing the size of the board ought to have just as much right as the cutters to petition the government and get a referendum on the ballot.
Supervisor Lohry deserves much credit for arguing persuasively that since this badly written, almost embarrassing tarnish on the state statutes originated in Winnebago County (it was sponsored by soon to be former State Rep. Gregg Underheim), it should be the responsibility of Winnebago County fix it. To reduce the board size on the strength of sham legislation is to make a mockery out of representative democracy.
Supervisor Bill Wingren, one of the supporters of cutting the board who has yet to offer a compelling argument for doing so, kept repeating the line "everyone deserves to be heard." Well Bill, that's not true under the Underheim legislation, because according to it those people who might someday like to see an increase in the board size via referendum cannot be heard.
I don't expect the state legislature to fix the statute on the basis of a 24-12 vote in Winnebago County, but I do believe the statute will be revisited when those counties that have voted to reduce their size by half or more discover that they have become more expensive and less efficient.
One of the saddest part of this entire board size affair is that the local corporate press--enemies of county government--have practiced journalistic and editorial negligence in refusing to examine the Underheim statute in any critical manner. They've also not taken the responsibility to inform the public of the truth about smaller county boards in the real world.
Meanwhile, the UW Oshkosh Advance-Titan before the Wisconsin elections thought that Green Party candidate for governor Nelson Eisman was living in a fantasy world for arguing that free tuition is possible for college students. They called it a "pipe dream." Okay, but look at what we CAN afford: "Overall, each individual soldier deployed in Iraq for a year costs about $275,000, according to CRS. The cost rises to $360,000 if required additional investments in equipment and facilities are added."
Monday, November 20, 2006
"None of the measures would overhaul campaign financing or create an independent ethics watchdog to enforce the rules. Nor would they significantly restrict earmarks, the pet projects lawmakers can anonymously insert into spending bills, which have figured in several recent corruption scandals and attracted criticism from members in both parties. The proposals would require disclosure of the sponsors of some earmarks, but not all."
Some Dems are content to blame increased corruption on the Republicans, but:
"Democrats, of course, have also cultivated close ties to lobbyists, who play a major role in campaign fund-raising for members of both parties. Indeed, ethical violations and house-cleaning efforts have both been bipartisan activities over the years. Congress has seesawed between public calls for changes and a reluctance to cramp incumbents’ campaign fund-raising and political power."
Democrats probably won't pass even something as simple as legislation that bloc a lawmaker from requesting an earmark that benefits family members or former staff members. Such legilsation probably won't pass, "in part because many have close ties to former staff members or family members in the lobbying business."
The full story is here (registration required).
Thursday, November 16, 2006
That's the text of the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution. Yesterday a federal appeals court ruled that the amendment has been missing in action at the Supermax Prison in Boscobel. The Cap Times summarizes the decision here. Writing for the court, Judge Terence Evans' intro paragraph describes a harrowing scene:
"Stripped naked in a small prison cell with nothing except a toilet; forced to sleep on a concrete floor or slab; denied any human contact; fed nothing but 'nutri-loaf;' and given just a modicum of toilet papers - four squares - only a few times. Although this might sound like a stay at a Soviet gulag in the 1930s, it is, according to the claims in this case, Wisconsin in 2002."
Such conditions at the prison are part of a "Behavioral Modification Program," the perfect Orwellian descriptor for practices that reek of Stalinism.
Judge Evans was appointed to the bench by Bill Clinton, which some looney wingnuts will interpret as "soft on crime." However, the three-judge panel was unanimous; Chief Judge Joel Flaum and Circuit Judge Kenneth Ripple were appointed by Ronald Reagan.
Congratulations and thanks to Ed Garvey for his successful involvement in this case.
only country in the world that deploys nukes in foreign countries. Hardly a non-proliferation role model.
Scientists associated with the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and the National Resources Defense Council have spent years trying to identify the locations of our WMDs. In the FAS summary of a new report, they say:
The highest concentration of nuclear warheads is at the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific in Bangor, Washington, which is home to more than 2,300 warheads – probably the most nuclear weapons at any one site in the world. At any given moment, nearly half of these warheads are on board ballistic-missile submarines in the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 1,700 warheads are deployed on Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines operating in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and about 400 warheads are at eight bases in six European countries – Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and Great Britain . . .
The overview finds that more than two-thirds of all U.S. nuclear warheads are still stored at bases for operational ballistic missiles and bombers, even through the Cold War ended more than 16 years ago. More than 2,000 of those warheads are on high alert, ready to launch on short notice. Only about 28 percent of U.S. warheads have been moved to separate storage facilities. The largest of these, an underground vault at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, stores more than 1,900 warheads. The 10 U.S. sites that currently host nuclear weapons are: the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific, Bangor, Washington; Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada; Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming; Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico; Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana; Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota; Pantex Plant, Texas; Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana; Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri; and the Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic, Kings Bay, Georgia.
See a map of the locations here.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Barrett Not Leaving U.W.-Madison
Lecturer Taking “Poor Man’s Sabbatical,” Plans to Return Next Fall
Contrary to a recent flurry of inaccurate reports in the corporate media, University of Wisconsin lecturer Kevin Barrett will not be leaving the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
As long ago as last June, Barrett made it clear that he would almost certainly not be applying for a position in spring 2007, but would instead be taking a “poor man’s sabbatical” to work for the nonprofit Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth (http://mujca.com). He intends return to teaching in fall 2007.
“This is not the university’s choice, this is my choice,” Barrett explained. “As a lecturer on a semester-to-semester contract, I get to decide which jobs I apply for. If I’m the best guy for the job, they hire me. It ain’t rocket science. But this simple procedure seems too difficult for the corporate media hacks to grasp. And for some reason they don’t want to call up the University and check the facts. They’d rather put out an unsubstantiated myth. Sound familiar?”
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Barrett gets good student evaluations of teaching for the class he is teaching this semester, without any complaints that he uses his class as a forum for 9/11 conspiracism. In fact let's assume that he's a popular teacher who upholds high academic standards in the classroom. Assume further that when he applies to teach a class next fall, he is in competition with other applicants who are not as qualified and/or cannot demonstrate the same level of effective teaching. Would the UW hire the less qualified teacher just to avoid more criticism from Rep. Nass and others bothered by Barrett's presence on the campus? If so, what would that say about the ethics of the UW system?
The new Democratic US Senate will replace Reedism with Reidism (as in Harry). Reidism is guided by the motto, "the most corrupt Democrat is still preferable to an honest Republican."
Jack Abramoff goes to prison today, but he's still singing and his tunes may let us know just how deep is the corruption in the Reid Senate. He has reportedly named "six to eight seriously corrupt Democratic senators."
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Monday, November 13, 2006
*Passage of a "Civility Package" that will replace the "most corrupt and closed" Congress in history with the most honest and open.
*Passage of a bill that would mandate no new deficit spending. [Note: The problem with deficit spending in Washington has never been deficits per se; using the family metaphor employed by Pelosi in her speech, everyone agrees that it is okay for a family to go into debt for things like purchase of a home, quality transportation, or education. The problem is that since Reagan we have, as a nation, been going into debt in order to enrich mostly hi-tech and military producers--we have NOT been going into debt to benefit the population at large.).
So civility and no new deficits are just the first day. In the first week, Pelosi says that we can expect:
*Passage of legislation putting into place the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
*Passage of an increase in the minimum wage.
*Passage of legislation making prescription drugs more affordable.
*Passage of legislation cutting interest rates for student loans in half.
*Passage of legislation rolling back tax cuts for the oil industry and other energy producers.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that the conservative, "blue dog" Democrats sign on to this agenda. Is it a progressive agenda, or even a moderate one? Consider this:
*The 9/11 Commission Report is deeply flawed, casting all of its recommendations in doubt.
*We need national living wage legislation; another paltry minimum wage increase does little to help struggling workers.
*The Democrats' allegiance to the pharmaceutical companies is almost as great at the Republicans' and will make any reform of prescription drug pricing difficult. Even if we do get it, that gets us no closer to a national health care plan.
*Making student loans more affordable is nice, but progressivism requires legislation to REPLACE loans with GRANTS.
*Cutting back breaks for the oil industry is necessary, but the Dems like the Republicans still haven't a clue as to what real "energy independence" means. See Jim Kunstler's blog for November 13th.
Whether you agree or disagree with Pelosi's direction, we should all be sure to make sure she and the Dems stick to their word.
Rather than contribute toward making Oshkosh city government compliant with the state's sunshine laws, Kraft's response seems designed to defend the bad advice he provided the Common Council back in February. The DOJ response acknowledges that on the meeting notice and the second part of the closed meeting, it would be difficult to prosecute anyone under current state law.
However, the DOJ response is quite clear that the first part of the closed session held on February 14th was illegal under current state law. The DOJ response includes copies of supporting documentation culled from prior open meetings disputes to bolster the case for illegality. Reading that material makes it clear that the first part of the closed meeting held on February 14th was illegal under a plain reading of the open meetings statue as well as according to prior legal precedent.
If anything, the DOJ response to the Council's actions and Kraft's advice is much too kind to both (the only reason the DOJ concluded that the second part of the meeting wasn't illegal is because they accept as true the city administration's disingenuous claim that the agreement with developer Tom Doig was not a "done deal" on February 14th. Everyone who has their head above ground knows that the resort complex would be under construction right now if Doig had been able to come up with the money--it was a done deal.) . The response goes out of its way give city leaders the benefit of the doubt even while admitting that Kraft's and Wollangk's reasons for supporting a closed meeting do not withstand serious scrutiny.
The Common Council needs to expect more from the City Attorney's office than "Protect Your Ass" responses to serious legal matters. The fact of the matter is that we have now had two DOJ findings against the city in the last two years. The Common Council needs to establish some kind of accountability standards for city staff. Failure to do so will only further reduce public confidence in city government.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
All of us know at least one person for whom the television town of Mayberry and Andy Griffith represent that epitome' of moral character and decency. I remember sitting in the Lizard Lounge tavern in Oshkosh sometime in 1999 or thereabouts; the bartender had the television turned on to coverage of the Clinton impeachment. A guy sitting several chairs down from me had clearly had one too many and he blurted out something like, "none of this crap would be happening if Andy Griffith was President." Think about it--would Clinton have been able to reject the advances of the jailhouse groupie?:
I think radio is a great medium for independent news, as Amy Goodman has skillfully demonstrated. Radio Commentary will almost certainly return at some point in the future, maybe as live radio but perhaps or also as a podcast.
Here's last Friday's interview with regular guest pundit Dan Rylance.
Classic Orson Welles' Radio Broadcast of War of the Worlds:
Friday, November 10, 2006
For the six Councilors to resort to the "Kraft Defense" (i.e. "We were only following the City Attorney's advice.") is crafty, but just doesn't wash. When we elect people to the Council, we should be able to expect that they are capable of comprehending the plain language of the state statutes governing open meetings. We should also expect that they will act independently and according to their own conscience, especially when millions of tax dollars are involved. In the case of the February 14th closed meeting, the impropriety was so clear that the Councilors should not even have had to ask for Kraft's advice before refusing to attend. Or at the very least, they should have listened to the citizens who warned them of the probable violation of law that would take place should they attend, and ask Kraft to solicit advice from the AG's office before proceeding.
As noted in today's Northwestern coverage of the open meetings violation, this was not the first time Mr. Kraft has given the Council bad advice:
Councilor Paul Esslinger, the only member of the board who protested the meeting and did not attend, said he believed Kraft should apologize to the public.
"I'm concerned that our own city attorney couldn't see that we should not have had that meeting to begin with," Esslinger said.
. . .
Esslinger said he felt his protest of the meeting was appropriate at the time based on the issues Palmeri, Hentz and The Northwestern raised at the time of the meeting. But he also was concerned that this is the second ruling against the city's practices by the attorney general's office.
"The other one was not bidding out the bathrooms (at Leach Amphitheater)," Esslinger said. "And when you have two such transgressions in two years, that's troubling."
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Shortly after crashing the meeting, Cheryl Hentz and I filed a formal open meetings complaint against the Common Council with Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager. Almost 10 months later, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has finally responded to the complaint. Today we received a 15-page, single-spaced response. We are a bit peeved that it took so long for the AG's office to make a decision, but we are content that the response's findings, conclusions, and recommendations should contribute to better government in Oshkosh.
The response was written by Assistant Attorney General Paul L. Barnett. He starts by saying that, "The Department of Justice Public Integrity Unit received a complaint from Ms. Hentz and Mr. Palmeri alleging violations of the Open Meetings Law by members of the Oshkosh Common Council in connection with a closed session of the Council held on February 14, 2006. Subsequently, District Attorney Lennon referred a similar complaint from the Oshkosh Northwestern to this office after determining that he had a conflict of interest."
The DOJ investigated two major allegations made against the city. First, the Oshkosh Northwestern's allegation that in the closed meeting, the Common Council discussed subjects that fell outside of the scope of the agenda notice for the closed session. Second, the Hentz/Palmeri allegations that the Council's closed session was illegal according to a plain reading of Wisconsin statute 19.85(1)(e).
On the Northwestern's compaint, the DOJ found that the closed session notice failed to reasonably apprise the public of subjects that would be under discussion; "however, we must acknowledge that, based on the majority decision in H.D Enterprises, a reasonable argument can be made that the notice complied with the Open Meetings Law."
As regards the Hentz/Palmeri complaint regarding whether the closed session was proper, the DOJ treated the closed session as consisting of two parts. The first part included the Common Council's discussion with Doig regarding the term sheet, status of financing, etc. The second part included the Common Council's discussion of its strategies in light of what was said in part one.
The DOJ argues that the second part of the meeting justifiably took place in closed session, claiming in essence that the fact that the city had already signed a term sheet agreement with Doig did not mean that the city could not reconsider that agreement based on what Doig said in the first part of the meeting. The DOJ claims that such reconsideration is allowed to be held in closed session under the statute language.
It is in the discussion of the first part of the closed session that the DOJ vindicates the Five Rivers Five: "It is harder to justify a closed meeting for the first part . . . The contents of the term sheet were public knowledge. The developer's adherence to those terms, including important deadlines which were set forth in the document, was clearly a matter of public interest for this major project in which the City had committed millions of public dollars. Given the presumption in favor of openness, it was incumbent upon the City to establish a sufficient basis for conducting the question and answer period in closed session." (empahsis added). Interpreting the statute under which the Council went into closed session, the DOJ writes that "inconvenience, delay, embarrassment, or frustration is an insufficient basis on which to close a meeting for competitive or bargaining reasons. Similarly, a general concern that the subject matter might have an indirect effect on negotiations will not suffice either."
Examining the City Mananager and City Attorney's reasons for keeping the first part of the meeting closed, the DOJ claims that "none of these reasons survive serious scrutiny . . . There is no doubt that information which revealed that the developer may not be able to comply with some of the terms is both embarrassing and frustrating. However, that is no reason for withholding the information from the public. Moreover, given the extent of the City's commitment of public funding to support the project, this is precisely the kind of information that should be in the public domain." (emphasis added; those lines represent exactly the position of the Five Rivers Five).
The DOJ goes even further: "Mr. Doig's concern about revealing the status or substance of his financial negotiations was a relevant factor for the City to consider in determining the propriety of closing this meeting. However, his concern cannot drive that decision unless it directly implicates a public interest at stake if the meeting were not closed. Here, none of those interviewed, including Mr. Doig himself, identified a specific concrete reason why a public discussion of whether he would be able to meet certain terms of the agreement, including with respect to financing, would directly and adversely affect an important public interest sufficient to justify a closed session for that purpose . . . Besides, the session was closed not because Mr. Doig requested it but rather because the Community Development Director did in his January 19, 2006 memo."
Finally, the DOJ pointedly disagree with certain City officials: "Of course, the City Attorney's and City Manager's non-particularized fear of avoiding an 'anti-development' reputation can never justify a blanket closing of a meeting. Given the Open Meeting Law's presumption of openness coupled with the restrictive language governing the specific exemption relied upon here, much more than this generalized concern is needed to justify a closed session for competitive or bargaining reasons."
The clincher: "In our opinion, a court that engaged in a searching inquiry as contemplated in Pleva would find that the first part of the closed session was not justifed and did violate the Open Meetings Law." (empahsis added).
The DOJ will not prosecute members of the Common Council who attended the closed meeting because "it is a recognized defense to prosecuting an open meetings violation that a body's members relied on legal advice by someone authorized to give it." Thus, because the 6 members of the Council who went into closed session did so on the advice of City Attorney Warren Kraft, that advice is the "out" that saves them from being prosecuted. The DOJ does say that the fact that one member of the Common Council (Mr. Esslinger) voted against the motion to convene in closed session and refused to participate in it "should have given pause to the other members." However, "the refusal of a lone member to 'go along' in unlikely to overcome the other members' reliance on the City Attorney's advice, even when . . . the advice may be in error."
The DOJ response closes by recommending that the City revisit the manner in which it prepares closed meeting notices. "Given the legal and practical importance of a proper meeting notice, we disapprove of the apparent practice employed by the City in preparing its meeting notices, particularly for a closed session, where, as here, the specific contents of the final notice are left to a subordinate in the City Clerk's office who can simply borrow language from a prior notice without regard to (and probably without knowledge of) the specific matters that were known by others would be discussed at the meeting. We strongly urge the City to require that someone in a position of authority, such as the Mayor or the City Manager, review and ensure that the final draft accurately and adequately notifies the public of the subject matter to be taken up at Common Council meetings."
Of course, the implication of the DOJ's suggestion is that if the City does accurately notice the meeting, it will be that much more difficult to go into closed session. Indeed, it SHOULD be difficult to go into closed session.
The six Common Councilors who went into closed session will not be proseduted because they have the "out" that they merely followed the legal advice of the City Attorney. Still, they should at the very least apologize to the public for their violation of the law and pledge to be more vigilant in demanding openness. They should also advocate openly for putting the DOJ's recommendations in place.
I'm sure some Republicans will claim Hintz ran a negative campaign. The reality is that the race was nasty on both sides, but Gordon worked hard and was able to overcome huge amounts of outside spending by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, "All Chidren Matter," and other "go for the jugular" groups. The only way to defeat the viciousness coming out of groups like that is to go door-to-door and meet voters one-on-one. Gordon did quite a bit of that kind of retail campaigning, and it shows in the election results.
I like and respect Julie Pung-Leschke, but she never quite found her voice during the campaign. She never seemed able to see the irony of rejecting the label "politician" at the same time refusing to answer--or taking very long to answer--some basic questions about political reform in the state. And while everyone running for office wants to believe that when they get elected they will be the most independent representative who ever lived, the fact of the matter is that in Wisconsin there is a very high correlation between who pays the campaign bills and what policies get passed. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, All Children Matter, the realtors, and others attempted to so completely hijack the Pung-Leschke campaign that I think it had a backlash effect: swing voters were able to see all too clearly the attempt that was being made by outside groups to buy the seat and they resented it. After this experience, I hope Julie will become a leader in the much needed effort to reform the way politics is played in this state.
What can we expect from Gordon Hintz? Because we are living in a time when the Republicans win even when they lose (almost all the major issues in our state and nationally are framed in ways that benefit the Republican agenda), I think Gordon (like Jim Doyle) will spend much time trying to restrain Republican excesses. Things that would actually benefit the population (e.g. progressive income taxes, guaranteed health care, tuition freeze, instant runoff voting, ending the closed partisan caucuses, etc.) are off the table in the lobbyists' legislature, but Gordon can still be a strong voice for restoring shared revenue, making sure financial aid keeps pace with tuition increases, and other moderate measures. He will also be much more responsive to local governments than his predecessor, Republican Gregg Underheim, ever was.
For those of us who have spent more than a decade trying to move the politics of the Fox Valley in a more progressive direction, Gordon's victory tonight represents a step in that direction. I guess we'll have to see what he does once he gets to Madison to see how big or small of a step it really is.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
The passage of the amendment shows how irrelevant the mainstream, corporate press editorial pages have become. Corporate newspapers in virtually every major city came out against the amendment, yet that opposition along with the well-funded "A Fair Wisconsin Votes No" drive of the organization Fair Wisconsin came up short. Why?
We know that newspaper readership is down and that even those who continue to read them no longer look to the editorial page for guidance. So scratch that as a factor.
I suspect when all the votes are in we will find that the 18-30 year old vote, while perhaps higher this year than expected, still was not close to the numbers turned out by the over-50 year old group. Fair Wisconsin spent a great deal of time and resources trying to mobilize the youth vote, and I certainly don't want to second guess them, but in hindsight maybe a stronger appeal was needed for the likely voters. Fair Wisconsin srupulously did not want to debate the theology of marriage--a strategy which I thought would make sense IF the majority of elderly voters were not also religious in some way. But again, I don't want to second guess especially since activists in other states HAVE debated the theology and lost by even bigger margins than what we saw in Wisconsin.
The good news is that the amendment created thousands of new social justice activists around the state. At UW Oshkosh this semester I have met scores of students who never were interested in politics until they became mobilized by this issue. In exploiting a wedge issue to help Mark Green in the short term, the Republicans may have ended doing much long term damage to themselves.
How They Stole The Mid-Term Election
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
Here’s how the 2006 mid-term election was stolen.
Note the past tense. And I’m not kidding.
And shoot me for saying this, but it won’t be stolen by jerking with the touch-screen machines (though they’ll do their nasty part). While progressives panic over the viral spread of suspect computer black boxes, the Karl Rove-bots have been tunneling into the vote vaults through entirely different means.
For six years now, our investigations team, at first on assignment for BBC TV and the Guardian, has been digging into the nitty-gritty of the gaming of US elections. We’ve found that November 7, 2006 is a day that will live in infamy. Four and a half million votes have been shoplifted. Here’s how they’ll do it, in three easy steps:
Theft #1: Registrations gone with the wind
On January 1, 2006, while America slept off New Year’s Eve hangovers, a new federal law crept out of the swamps that has devoured 1.9 million votes, overwhelmingly those of African-Americans and Hispanics. The vote-snatching statute is a cankerous codicil slipped into the 2002 Help America Vote Act — strategically timed to go into effect in this mid-term year. It requires every state to reject new would-be voters whose identity can’t be verified against a state verification database.
Sounds arcane and not too threatening. But look at the numbers and you won’t feel so fine. About 24.3 million Americans attempt to register or re-register each year. The New York University Law School’s Brennan Center told me that, under the new law, Republican Secretaries of State began the year by blocking about one in three new voters.
How? To begin with, Mr. Bush’s Social Security Administration has failed to verify 47% of registrants. After appeals and new attempts to register, US Elections Assistance Agency statistics indicate 1.9 million would-be voters will still find themselves barred from the ballot on Tuesday.
But don’t worry: those holding passports from their ski vacations to Switzerland are doing just fine. And that’s the point. It’s not the number of voters rejected, it’s their color. For example, California’s Republican Secretary of State Bruce McPherson figured out how to block 40% of registrants, mostly Hispanics. In a rare counter-move, Los Angeles, with a Hispanic mayor, contacted these citizens, “verified” them and got almost every single one back on the rolls. But throughout the rest of the West, new Hispanics remain victims of the “Jose Crow” treatment.
In hotly contested Ohio, Kenneth Blackwell, Secretary of State and the Republican’s candidate for Governor, remains voter-rejection champ — partly by keeping the rejection criteria a complete secret.
Theft #2: Turned Away - the ID game
A legion of pimple-faced Republicans with Blackberries loaded with lists of new voters is assigned to challenge citizens in heavily Black and Hispanic (i.e. Democratic) precincts to demand photo ID that perfectly matches registration data.
Sounds benign, but it’s not. The federal HAVA law and complex new ID requirements in states like New Mexico will easily allow the GOP squads to triple the number of voters turned away. Rather than deny using these voter suppression tactics, Republican spokesmen are claiming they are “protecting the integrity of the vote.”
I’ve heard that before. In 2004, we got our hands on fifty confidential internal memos from the files of the Republican National Committee. Attached to these were some pretty strange spreadsheets. They called them “caging lists” — and it wasn’t about zoo feeding times. They were lists (70,000 for Florida alone) of new Black and Jewish voters — a very Democratic demographic — to challenge on Election Day. The GOP did so with a vengeance: In 2004, for the first time in half a century, more than 3.5 million voters were challenged on Election Day. Worse, nearly half lost their vote: 300,000 were turned away for wrong ID; 1.1 million were allowed a “provisional” ballot — which was then simply tossed out.
Tomorrow, new federal ID requirements and a dozen new state show-me-your-ID laws will permit the GOP challenge campaign to triple their 300,000 record to nearly one million voters blocked.
Theft #3: Votes Spoiled Rotten
The nasty little secret of US elections is that three million ballots are cast in national elections but not counted — 3,600,380 not counted in 2004 according to US Election Commission stats. These are votes lost because a punch card didn’t punch (its chad got “hung”), a stray mark voided a paper ballot and other machinery glitches.
Officials call it “spoilage.” I call it, “inaugurating Republicans.” Why? According to statisticians working with the US Civil Rights Commission, the chance your vote will “spoil” this way is 900% higher for Black folk and 500% higher for Hispanics than for white voters. When we do the arithmetic, we find that well over half of all votes spoiled or “blank” are cast by voters of color. On balance, this spoilage game produces a million-vote edge for the GOP.
That’s where the Black Boxes come into play. Forget about Karl Rove messing with the software to change your vote. Rather, the big losses occur when computers crash, fail to start or simply don’t respond to your touch. They are the new spoilage machines of choice with, statistically, the same racial bias as the old vote-snatching lever machines. (Funny, but paper ballots with in-precinct scanners don’t go rotten on Black voters. Maybe that’s why Republican Secretaries of State have installed so few of them.)
So Let’s Add it Up
Two million legitimate voters will be turned away because of wrongly rejected or purged registrations.
Add another one million voters challenged and turned away for “improper ID.”
Then add yet another million for Democratic votes “spoiled” by busted black boxes and by bad ballots.
And let’s not forget to include the one million “provisional” ballots which will never get counted. Based on the experience of 2004, we know that, overwhelmingly, minority voters are the ones shunted to these baloney ballots.
And there’s one more group of votes that won’t be counted: absentee ballots challenged and discarded. Elections Assistance Agency data tell us a half million of these absentee votes will go down the drain.
Driving this massive suppression of the vote are sophisticated challenge operations. And here I must note that the Democrats have no national challenge campaign. That’s morally laudable; electorally suicidal.
Add it all up — all those Democratic-leaning votes rejected, barred and spoiled — and the Republican Party begins Election Day with a 4.5 million-vote thumb on the vote-tally scale.
So, what are you going to do about it? May I suggest you… steal back your vote.
It’s true you can’t win with 51% of the vote anymore. So just get over it. The regime’s sneak attack via vote suppression will only net them 4.5 million votes, about 5% of the total. You should be able to beat that blindfolded. If you can’t get 55%, then you’re just a bunch of crybaby pussycats who don’t deserve to win back America.
Monday, November 06, 2006
In the above paragraph I am arguing that the hardest working candidate will win the race. But it might be fun to do a little Democrat and Republican wacko analysis too. There are some upstanding Democrats and Republicans who really believe in small-d democracy and encourage citizens to vote their conscience and interests. Then there are the wackos who see elections merely as establishment thuggery designed to limit choices and guarantee the continuation of what has become, in effect, a spoils system for well-connected special interests.
The wacko analysis of the 54th starts by looking at the results of the 2004 election:
*Underheim (R) 14,040 (47%)
*Hintz (D) 12,025 (40%)
*Palmeri (G) 2,653 (9%)
*Carpenter (I) 1,157 (4%)
According to the wacko analysis, all of Palmeri's votes go to Hintz. But that would give him only 49%, not a majority, so the swing voters become those who voted for Carpenter. Turnout probably won't be as large for this midterm election, but this is the wacko analysis so none of that matters. The wackos love to "target" voters; maybe they should spend today trying to find those Carpenter voters and give them one more reason to vote against the other candidate.
Wednesday will be a tough morning for Democrat and Republican wackos in the 54th--one of them will not be able to blame other candidates for their defeat.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
I also interviewed Bethany Parker, UW Oshkosh campus organizer for WISPIRG (Wisconsin Public Research Interest Groups). That interview can be found here.
Friday, November 03, 2006
But the editorial stressed that its pick of the Green Party was not a protest vote.
“We believe Whitney, a 51-year-old attorney from Carbondale, could clean up state government while leading Illinois toward school finance reform, job growth, environmental responsibility and social justice,” the editorial said.
What a shame that Wisconsin, the "progressive" state, does not have any major corporate newspapers willing to act with that kind of integrity in their endorsements.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
John Sharpless earned 49% of the vote against incumbent Tammy Baldwin in the year 2000 election to represent Wisconsin's 2nd congressional district.
You can call in to the show at 1-800-642-1234 (263-1890 if you are in Madison).
Streaming URL: http://streamos.wbr.com/qtime/wbr/neilyoung/litpv9_4.mov
Streaming URL: http://streamos.wbr.com/wmedia/wbr/neilyoung/litpv9_4.wvx
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Makar, who has been active in opposition to the marriage amendment referendum question that will appear on the November ballot, apparently decided to resign publicly after a group called Wisconsin Family Action mentioned the amendment in a postcard attack ad against Democrat Gordon Hintz. Makar's opposition to the amendment has been in the open (she spoke publicly against it at a UW Oshkosh rally); I was shocked she was able to stay in the Pung-Leschke campaign as long as she did.
The treasurer resigning from the campaign does not change the fact that an awful lot of money is being spent by outside special interests on Leschke's behalf, much of it primarily attacks against Hintz. The Hintz campaign estimates that $130,000 in special interest money has been spent on Leschke's behalf, including:
*Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce: $20,000 in cable TV.
*Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce: $20,000 in radio.
*Wisconsin Home Owners Alliance: $20,000 in TV.
*Wisconsin Home Owners Alliance: $28,000 for 4 district wide mailings.
*All Children Matter (a pro school voucher group based in Michigan): $21,000 for 3 district wide mailings (2 negative, 1 positive).
*Wisconsin Right to Life: $14,000 for 2 district-wide mailings.
*Wisconsin Family Action, Inc.: $7,000 for 1 district-wide mailing.
According to the Hintz campaign: "These totals are estimates based on average rates for TV time political purchases, printing, and mailing costs. Since these groups do not have to disclose their financing, we are not able to know the exact amount being spent."
Senators Ellis (R) and Erpenbach (D) today announced that they would be sponsoring reform legislation to curb the influence of special interest groups that have hijacked campaigns. According to Wispolitics.com:
“Our elections are being hijacked,” Ellis said. “The public is being shoved aside by a few special interests who flood the airwaves with garbage and negative ads. As a result, campaigns become negative and personal. They avoid discussion of the issue that matter to most voters. Even worse, they threaten to turn off voters and endanger democracy.”
“Our bill will once again put the public interest front and center,” said Erpenbach.