Friday, March 31, 2006

Week in Review Interview

I think a gremlin attacked my phone this morning. WPR called me at 8 a.m. and my phone simply would not work! I was able to get to another phone and joined Joy Cardin and Bob Williams about 5 minutes into the show. The interview can be found here.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Friday Week In Review

If you are near a radio or a computer on Friday morning, tune in to Joy Cardin's "Week in Review" on Wisconsin Public Radio. I'll be going against veteran political strategist Bob Williams from Stevens Point. Looks like immigration and Israel--not exactly the two topics I am most informed about (though I have always liked Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song)--will be on the agenda.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Talk to Tony on WFRV TV

I was interviewed today by Olga Halaburda of WFRV-TV in Green Bay about the blogging phenomenon as related to local politics. I must not have communicated very clearly to Olga, because the story makes it sound like I created Talk to Tony for my Green Party campaign for state assembly in 2004. What I thought I told her was that I participated on Miles Maguire's Oshkosh News Blog in 2004, and that I thought it had a positive impact on the campaign. My apologies to Miles--he and everyone over at OshkoshNews deserve ALL the credit for making blogs an important part of local campaigns. Here's the video:

Falwell Group Will Defend City Council

The Oshkosh Common Council recently received an offer from Liberty Counsel, an organization tied to Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, to defend them in court in any future lawsuit involving the Menominee Park Christmas Box Angel Statue.

For more than 30 years Jerry Falwell has played a key role in mobilizing religious conservatives as a political force. The so-called "culture wars" are in large part the result of Falwell-influenced drives to make Christian symbols part of public life. Opposition to feminism, homosexuality, evolution, and the "secular humanism" of public universities play a huge role in the movement too.

In a sermon delivered earlier this month, the Reverend urges his followers to be "the most intolerant people in the world."

Check out the Angel Archive for more information about the status controversy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Too Big For Broadway?

According to a legal complaint (warning: adult language in the complaint), dancer Alice Alyse claims she was fired from the Broadway cast of the Billy Joel show "Movin' Out" in part because her breasts became too large. In the complaint she quotes the stage manager as saying, 'Those (expletive) boobs are huge ... We hired you at a C and now you're a D." The complaint charges sexual harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other things, and seeks over $100 million in damages.

Alice Alyse is originally from Milwaukee. Her lawyer is Larry Klayman, now legendary 1990s Clinton-hater who represented Gennifer Flowers.

Billy Joel is not named in the suit, but he released this quote to the press: "Under no circumstances would I ever have anyone fired for having breasts that were too large."

I'm not a great Billy Joel fan, but his song "Pressure" was one of my favorites of the early 1980s.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie

British folk singer Billy Bragg has just released The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie, a musical tribute to Rachel Corrie, a young American woman who had joined the Palestinian International Solidarity Movement and was killed while trying to obstruct the bulldozing of a home in the Gaza Strip.

Bragg's song borrows its tune from Bob Dylan's The Lonesome Death of Hattie Caroll.

After her death, Rachel's parents started the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice.

Pre-emptive Board Size Reduction

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, some county boards across the state are reducing their size voluntarily by small numbers in order to pre-empt citizen drives to slash them by half or more. The article claims that in Winnebago County, the special interest group Progress Oshkosh is contemplating a petition to cut the size of the the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors by half.

Board size issues have been discussed on this blog here, as well as here, and here.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Greens to Feingold: Join Us

I first went to a Russ Feingold "Listening Session" in 2000, very early in that year's presidential campaign (I think the session was held in the Oshkosh Public Museum but I can't recall exactly). At the time Feingold had expressed disappointment at the Clinton administration's rightward drift and betrayal of some core traditional Democratic principles (most notably Clinton's abandonment of the nation's commitment to poor children when he signed away AFDC, his enthusiastic support of the death penalty and roving wiretaps after the Oklahoma City bombings, and his sellout of working people via his cheerleading for NAFTA).

So I asked Feingold if he would consider endorsing Ralph Nader for President. He said he admired Nader and supported his right to run, but "I'll always be a Democrat."

The next year I attended another Feingold Listening Session, this time in Omro. Looking back at my write-up of the event, I was reminded that Feingold was the only Senate Democrat who supported then Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson's attempt to become DNC Chair over Clinton money man Terry McAuliffe. Feingold said that grassroots Democrats "need to take the party back."

Howard Dean's ascendancy to the DNC post after McAuliffe's disastrous tenure was supposed to represent a return to the grassroots, but that appears to be more true at the rhetorical level than in actual practice. In Wisconsin, for example, we learn that the "Democratic Difference" is a message of "Freedom, Family, Fairness." I'm not making that up. I'm surprised they didn't add "Faith" to that list, especially since it works with the alliteration scheme and might be a big hit with the "values voter". (The Dems like alliterative schemes--when I ran on their ticket in 1996 I sat down with a group of elected Dems including Spencer Black, Shirley Krug, Walter Kunicki, and Jim Kreuser; they urged me to run on "Five Es"--Economy, Education, Environment, Elderly, and I can't remember what the fifth one was).

Meanwhile Russ Feingold, one of the few elected Democrats who really does connect with the grassroots, since 9/11 has found himself opposed by his Democratic peers on everything from opposition to the PATRIOT Act, setting a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, and his recent resolution to censure the president. So today in a press release the Wisconsin Green Party endorsed Feingold's censure resolution while inviting him to join the party. From the press release:

“We know that Senator Feingold is not getting much support from Democrats or Republicans for this minimal request for accountability," said Bob Poeschl, Co-chair of the Wisconsin Green Party. “We would welcome Senator Feingold into the Green Party ­ a party that defends the Bill of Rights and the civil rights of Wisconsin citizens, and holds our President and other elected officials accountable. The Democratic Party’s silence on Feingold’s censure is the latest manifestation of its unwillingness to stand for even the most basic of principles - ­ those upon which our nation was founded.”

The Greens are under no illusion that Feingold will accept the invitation. He appears destined and happy to be the Dennis Kucinich of 2008: the progressive who excites especially young voters at the grassroots while the party's corporate seduced operatives choose a "moderate" as the nominee. Then, as Alexander Cockburn argues, Feingold will "give a powerful speech at the convention, pledging allegiance to the candidate."

At some point Russ needs to ask himself what his hero Fighting Bob LaFollette would do. LaFollette ran an independent campaign for president on the Progressive Party ticket when it became clear to him that the Republican Party could not be a force for progressive policy. Feingold today is as critical of the Democratic Party as LaFollette was of the Republicans in the 1920s. But Fighting Bob did something about it. Will Feingold?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Michelle Monte Is A Campus Candidate

When I interviewed Dan Rylance on Radio Commentary a few weeks ago, he said that "there really aren't any campus candidates" in this year's elections, a sentiment I agreed with. Since then I have had a chance to find out more about the candidates for all of the local offices. There's no doubt that school board candidate Michelle Monte is in fact a "campus candidate."

Michelle is a full time grad student carrying 9 grad credits and 3 undergrad credits. She works two jobs on campus, one as a grad assistant for Dr. Crawford in African American Studies and the other for Dr. Roth in the English Department. She also works in computer based testing in Polk Library. That sure sounds like a campus candidate to me!

When we hear "campus candidate" we usually think of someone in the 18-22 year old range. Michelle is part of the growing number of "non-traditional" students at UW Oshkosh. She is certainly setting an excellent example of civic involvement for her peers.

Voter turnout may be low on April 4th, but it won't be due to lack of a campus candidate. Michelle Monte is that candidate.

The Big Picture

My interview with Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is available here. I think she makes a strong case that the Marshfield and LaCrosse situations would serve as precedent for a legal struggle over the angel in the park.

I really can't understand why the city would want to be embroiled in a court struggle over this issue. Even if the city were to win the lawsuit, which does not seem likely given Marshfield and LaCrosse, it would be a pyrrhic victory. The bitter divisiveness that accompanies these kinds of struggles most assuredly does not benefit grieving parents. Just as important is the fact that a victory in this case would make it next to impossible for the city to turn down a request from any organization willing to raise the money to place their memorial statue in the park. Can you imagine the legal battle that would follow when the city tries to say no to an organization after accepting the angel?

I'm also not comfortable with the idea that's been thrown out of using private funds to pay for a lawsuit against the city of Oshkosh. We have an at-large council that supposedly represents all of us. If they are confident that the city's position is right and just, then they should use taxpayer money to support it. If they are not confident in the position, then they should try to resolve this matter out of court.

More than that, let's remember the big picture here. There are, sadly, too many parents who are grieving the loss of children. Many of them are not only grieving the loss, but are at or near bankruptcy because of medical bills and other costs associated with caring for their loved ones. I'd urge people considering contributions to a legal fund to instead think about contributing to or starting a charity for grieving parents in poverty.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Scott Walker and "God's Will"

It's always fascinating to discover what politicians consider to be "God's Will." Today when Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker announced he was withdrawing from the Republican primary race for governor, he said this: "I believe that it was God's will for me to run. After a great deal of prayer during the past week, it is clear that it is God's will for me to step out of the race."

Keep in mind that the main reason Scooter provides for dropping out is that he hasn't raised enough money to be competitive. I guess it's not God's will that we have public financing of campaigns. It must be God's will that a campaign financing system that now has Chuck Chvala in jail and Scott Jensen awaiting sentencing stay in place.

Hey Scott, this week please pray that God throw the moneychangers out of our political temple. Please pray that He help you become an advocate for reforms that would make ideas and hard work more determinative of who gets elected than the amount of campaign cash they have on hand.

Dick Dale In Madison and Cudahy!

Dick Dale, the legendary "King of the Surf Guitar," will be performing in Madison on May 13 and Cudahy on May 14. Dale might just be the most influential rock and roll guitar player of all time, influencing everyone from Jimi Hendrix on down. His most well known song is "Miserlou"(1962), which Quentin Tarantino introduced to a new generation in "Pulp Fiction."

More surf music heroes can be found at the Surf Music portion of the website I created for my Rhetoric of Rock Music class.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

FFRF's Annie Laurie Gaylor on Radio Commentary

On Friday I will be interviewing Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation on a special one-hour edition of Radio Commentary. The interview will begin right after the 6 o'clock news and end at 7:00 p.m. on WRST, 90.3 FM. The program can be audio streamed live at the WRST website.

If you have questions for Ms. Gaylor, you can place them in the comments section of this blog post, email them to me at or call them in live during the program at 920-424-3113.

An archive of information related to the local angel in the public park controversy can be found here.

Radio Commentary is a portion of Wild Eyed Radio, produced by Bob Knudsen and Abby Zellmer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Northwestern Prints FFRF Letters

The Freedom From Religion Foundation's letters to Mayor Bill Castle and the City Manager/Oshkosh Common Council can be found here and here. Yesterday the Northwestern had a story about 86-year-old Jean Gams, the Oshkosh citizen who first contacted the FFRF about the statue.

Neither the Mayor, City Manager, or any Council member communicated to the public at the last council meeting that there was any opposition to the statue from within Oshkosh, even though the FFRF's letters are clearly written "On behalf of our Oshkosh membership and complainants." Anyone who attended the last council meeting or even watched it on television would come to the conclusion that the opposition was coming merely from the Madison-based person who wrote the letter to the Mayor. I attended the last council meeting and that's the conclusion I came to.

Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that I am approaching the angel statue issue in two ways: (1) trying to understand the constitutional issue of religious symbols and public space and (2) what this event says about leadership and government processes in the city of Oshkosh. #1 can hopefully be resolved without a lengthy, expensive, divisive court battle. #2 will have to be resolved at the ballot box in the next few election cycles.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

54th Assembly District Decision

After much reflection and consideration, I have decided that I will not be a candidate for the 54th Assembly District this year. Since November of 2004 my community and media activism commitments have expanded greatly. To run a full-time campaign for the 54th would put that activism on hold. Additionally, in 2006/2007 I am serving as President of the Wisconsin Communication Association. In that role I serve as a statewide advocate for speech communication education and educators, a role that is difficult to fill effectively while teaching full-time and running for political office.

I am honored by and thankful for the support and encouragement I have received from Oshkosh citizens. They understand that partisan politics is only one way of standing for social and economic justice, environmental protection, peace and nonviolence, and grassroots democracy.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Oops, Parks Board Did It Again

I finally got the chance to look up the actual resolution the Oshkosh Common Council passed on January 24th, 2006 approving the placement of the Christmas Box Statue in Menominee Park. The resolution was initiated by the Parks Department, and indicated that the Advisory Parks Board investigated 3 site options for the Statue--all in Menominee Park.

The Common Council approved the resolution on a 7-0 vote. The minutes indicate that only two members of the Council spoke on it. Paul Esslinger "gave a brief history of the Christmas Box Statue and stated he was pleased to have the statue be part of the city." Bryan Bain "stated the opportunity would be excellent for a citizens group to contribute to the park." Bain sits on the Parks Advisory Board.

It is absolutely extraordinary and almost unconscionable that neither the Parks Director, the Parks Advisory Board, the City Manager, City Attorney, or any member of the Council even considered any possible downsides to placing an angel in the park. Even if we were to take off the table the issue of whether it is appropriate to place religious symbols in park--is the Parks Advisory Board now ready to place in our public parks any statue proposed by any citizens group as long as they pay for it? Did it not occur to them that the city should at least discuss the standards that would be used to determine what art is "in" and what is "out?"

What makes this situation especially troubling is that it follows very closely on the heels of the Miller's Bay fiasco, where the Parks Advisory Board and Common Council passed with very little discussion the approval of a pier. You mean that the Iowa City Parks Board and Common Council are capable of discussing the appropriateness of angel displays in public parks but Oshkosh is not? I think the Parks Board needs to adopt Oops, I did it again as their theme song.

Happy Great American Meatout Day

March 20th is Great American Meatout Day. The Journal Sentinel provides some context. If you've never had a veggie burger, today is a good day to try one.

Related: On Tuesday, March 21st People of for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will be holding a demonstration outside Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant, 1805 Jackson St. in Oshkosh (corner of Jackson and Murdock) from 3-4 p.m.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

54th Decision to be Announced Tuesday

On Tuesday I will release a statement announcing my decision as to whether or not I will be a candidate in 2006 for the 54th Assembly District. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Iowa City Angel Debate v. Oshkosh Rubber Stamps

One reason why the angel statue in the public park decision has become so controversial is because Oshkosh city government AGAIN failed to ask any questions when they had the chance to. Our friends over at the ABV Town Square state it well: "Why didn't any of the counsel (sic) members who stated 'they would ask the tough questions' not even ask one question about this. Clearly at least to some degree placing a possible religious symbol on a public land would raise eyebrows." Very much like the Menominee Park Miller's Bay Pier fiasco, the Council once again finds itself embroiled in controversy because it simply does not do its homework or have sufficient discussion before approving controversial items.

Contrast the Oshkosh Rubber Stamps with what happened recently in Iowa City. There, the city's Parks and Recreation Commission had extensive disussion of placing the Chrismas Box Angel Statue in City Park at their May 11th, 2005 meeting and also on July 13th.

At the May 11th meeting, the Parks Commission passed a resolution "to support the concept of the placement of an angel statue in city park subject to approval of size, script and location and subject to a legal opinion." Notice that the Commission, acting responsibly, was seeking a legal opinion BEFORE sending the resolution to the Iowa City Council.

At the May 11th meeting, Parks Commission staff revealed that they had done research about similar statues located in city parks in other states:
  • St. Charles, Missouri: No controversy at all. They feel it is an “asset to their community.”
  • Rockford, Illinois: Viewed more as a work of art than a religious symbol. One person raised a concern regarding the name of the statue (“Christmas Box Angel”), therefore changed the name to “Angel of Hope.” No problems after that.
  • Perham, Minnesota: No controversy or opposition. City provided undeveloped parkland. Park is named “Angel of Hope Memorial Park.”
  • Maple Grove, Minnesota: Did extensive research. Their City Attorney determined it was art, not a religious symbol.
  • Belleville, Illinois: No controversy.
At the July 13th meeting, the Iowa City Parks Commission staff distributed a memo from Iowa City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes. According to the minutes, "It is Dilkes findings that it would not be unconstitutional to place this statue in City Park, however, she urged the Parks and Recreation Commission to develop a policy that governs the placement of permanent structures in a park."

On November 1st, 2005 the Iowa City Common Council approved by a 6-1 vote the placement of the Angel of Hope statue in City Park. The transcript of the meeting (scroll down to page 53) reveals that the Council did not have an in-depth discussion of the matter, but Councilor Connie Champion states her reasons for dissenting. One councilor voted in favor of the resolution even though he expressed a concern that the statue may end up being used as a location for antiabortion protests.

The Iowa Common Council may or may not have made the right decision, but government in Iowa City clearly works much better than what we see here in Oshkosh. Iowa city staff did their homework, the city attorney was asked to provide an opinion BEFORE the City Council vote, and minutes of the Parks Commission and City Council reveal a serious awareness of the potential for controversy. If Iowa City were to get sued to remove the statue from City Park, at least their city government will not look like a group of ignorant rubber stamps who say "YES" without even considering the consequences of their actions.

In Oshkosh, city government is in the embarrassing position of doing homework on the consequences of placing the angel statue in a public park AFTER the city council vote. Not only is this an irresponsible way to do city business, but we're now in the position of having to expend significant taxpayer dollars to defend the city in Court if the statue placement decision stands and the Freedom From Religion Foundation files suit. A responsible government would have anticipated the potential for conflict and possibly worked out a compromise before getting to this point.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Angel in Rockford

There's an Angel of Hope in a public park in Rockford, Illinois. According to the Rockford Park District website:

This four-foot bronze angel atop a granite base is inscribed, "Forever in Our Hearts. With hope in her wing, may anyone who has ever felt the loss of a child find this place to mourn and heal." The angel is inspired by the best-selling novel, "The Christmas Box" by Richard Paul Evans, and was purchased by a coalition of area hospitals and volunteers, spearheaded by the Rockford Memorial Development Foundation. The Angel of Hope is tucked into a quiet corner of Waterside Park, at East State Street and Water Streets in downtown Rockford.

I don't have time to do it myself, but perhaps someone could contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation to find out if they have taken action (or plan to take action) to get the Rockford angel removed from the public park?


NPR's "All Songs Considered" features a band called Ambulance LTD doing a cover of a 1971 song by Pink Floyd called "Fearless." That is one of my all time favorite songs, and what got me thinking about it was the last few posts on religion. In the late 1970s at Archbishop Molloy High School in New York, one of the religion teachers asked all of us to bring to class a rock and roll record that we thought had something to do with religion (I brought in "Presence of the Lord" by Blind Faith with Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood). One student brought in "Fearless," in which he saw Christian symbolism. I'm still not sure I see that, but I loved the song then and still do. I find it soothing--the way some people experience angels ;-). Here's the original. And the lyrics:

You say the hill's too steep to climb
Just climb it
You say you'd like to see me try
You pick the place and I'll choose the time
And I'll climb
The hill in my own way
Just wait a while for the right day
And as I rise above the tree lines and the clouds
I look down
Hear the sound of the things you said today

Fearlessly, the idiot faced the crowd
Merciless, the magistrate turns 'round
And who's the fool who wears the crown?
And go down in your own way
And every day is the right day
And as you rise above the fear-lines in his brow
You look down
Hear the sound of the faces in the crowd

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Marshfield and LaCrosse

The Oshkosh Northwestern today charged Mayor Bill Castle with taking an "unnecessarily confrontational stand" in the Christmas Box Angel Statue controversy. The editorialists argue that Castle is setting the city up for a "long, expensive, and protracted legal fight" in which there exists "ample precedent" showing how federal courts lean. Attempts to place a Ten Commandments display in a LaCrosse Park and a Jesus Statue in Marshfield are probably most related to the Christmas Box Angel situation. Summaries from the Freedom From Religions Foundation:

In February 2004, the Freedom From Religion Foundation won its challenge of a Ten Commandments monument in a public park in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and the city's convoluted attempt to sell a small bite of the park to the Fraternal Order of Eagles in order to maintain the monument in the same park. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin noted: "It borders on preposterous to argue that the government can avoid an establishment clause violation by 'dedicating' a religious object to a nonreligious group. Adopting such a view would permit municipalities to erect crosses and build churches on public property throughout the city so long as it could think of a new group to which it could dedicate each one." The city and the Fraternal Order of Eagles, represented by television evangelist Pat Robertson's legal group, have appealed the ruling to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation's two-and-a-half year court battle over a shrine to Jesus in a public park in Wisconsin concluded in November 2000 with the erection of a 4-foot, wrought-iron fence and two "private property" signs around the statue. The Foundation, with Clarence Reinders of Marshfield as plaintiff, filed suit in 1998 after receiving complaints by residents and motorists about a Jesus statue dominating a public wayside park, reading "Christ Guide Us On Our Way." The statue had been given to the town by the Knights of Columbus in the 1950s. The Foundation's lawsuit was initially dismissed by Shabaz after the city sold a prime parcel of the park to a group formed expressly to save the statue.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago agreed with the Foundation that the sale did not remedy the violation, because there was no wall or sign indicating the statue is now on private land. A three-judge panel ordered Shabaz to oversee the erection of a wall or fence with a visible disclaimer.

Mayor Castle, for his part, has labeled as a "bully tactic" the FFRF's sending to him a second letter warning of a court battle.

As I suggested in an earlier post, for me the issue is whether an angel statue is a religious symbol in the same way that Jesus statues or Ten Commandments displays clearly are. I'm not yet convinced that it is. City attorneys could make the argument that angels are now commercial, secular symbols as much as religious. The chances of winning such a case are not great, so the Northwestern editors are probably correct in urging Castle to remember that what's important is the purpose, not the place of the statue and try to facililate placement at one of the area hospitals.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The WI Constitution and the Christmas Box Angel

According to an Oshkosh Northwestern report, "The Christmas Box Angel statue proposed for Menominee Park would be the first of its kind on public land in the state of Wisconsin." The Madison based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) plans to lead an effort to prevent the statue from being placed in the park, arguing that such placement would represent unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. Last night Mayor Bill Castle said the statue placement is a "done deal" and challenged the FFRF to take the city to court.

Would placing the statue in a public park be unconstitutional? FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor calls angels "Biblical creatures," but they are found in many religions. Conversely, bereaved Oshkosh parent Sharon Fisher, who is organizing the fundraising drive to place the statue in the park as a source of comfort for parents who have lost children, told the Oshkosh Common Council (as quoted in the Oshkosh Northwestern) that
"How it is looked at and interpreted comes from one's own mind, and we cannot control how people think. If you want it to be a religious symbol, then you can see it as such."

I think a Wisconsin Court trying to resolve this controversy would be most concerned with Article I, section 18 of the Wisconsin Constitution:

"The right of every person to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any person be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, without consent; nor shall any control of, or interference with, the rights of conscience be permitted, or any preference be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship; nor shall any money be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of religious societies, or religious or theological seminaries."

If the Christmas Box Angel statue is in fact a religious symbol, then it would appear to be a violation of the Wisconsin Constitution to place it in a taxpayer supported public park.

But in 2006 are angels necessarily religious symbols? Author Richard Paul Evans, on whose work the statue is based, does not appear to shroud its meaning in Christian terms even though it is called the "Christmas Box" angel. Pop songs with angel themes by singers like Jessica Simpson and Madonna are enjoyed mostly by secular audiences--you could probably play them on your boom box in a public park and no one would much mind. Meanwhile at websites like can be purchaed angel jewelry without any overt religious trappings. Perhaps it is a sad commentary on our hyper-consumer culture, but angels today are really just one more thing to be sold as a fashion statement--or as a source of comfort to grieving parents ($12,500 for the statue + up to another $6,000 for a foundation).

I do teach a course on the First Amendment, but the establishment of religion clause is admittedly not the area I typically focus on. I'd be interested in hearing what others think about this topic.

Sunshine Week: End The Closed Partisan Caucuses!

A major flaw in Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law is that the state legislature's closed, partisan caucuses are exempt from it. This means that the Democrats and Republicans get to work over the fine (and not so fine) parts of legislation completely out of the public view. The closed partisan caucuses are the main reason why the proposed C-Span style WisconsinEye television network, if it ever gets off the ground, will be mostly pointless. When I ran for State Assembly in 2004 one of my major campaign planks was that if elected I would hold a Citizens' Caucus on the steps of the Capitol each time the Republicrats went into closed caucus.

Last night during Oshkosh Common Council citizen statements, I urged the Council to adopt a resolution similar to one passed by the Waukesah County Board of Supervisors in 2004. The Supervisors voted 26-9 on a resolution to "Support legislation that would require the state legislature to be subject ot the same Open Meetings laws and regulations which local governments in Wisconsin must abide by under current law." The Winnebago County Board of Supervisors should pass the same resolution.

Don Huebscher, editor of the Eau Claire Leader Telegram, argued in an opinion column that "Wisconsin legislators ought to hold themselves to the same standard of openness required of local elected bodies. The only losers would be those with something to hide from the rest of us, and the party leaders whose influence would diminish under a truly open system."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bain's Crucial Vote On Five Rivers

Oshkosh Common Councilor Bryan Bain tonight joined Paul Esslinger in voting against a resolution to modify the Five Rivers Resort term sheet that would have given the developer more time to get his financing in order. He said his enthusiasm for a project like Five Rivers was still high, but that sufficient concerns had been raised so that he could no longer support it. Councilors Bill Castle, Shirley Mattox, Frank Tower, and Burk Tower voted for the the term sheet modification. Meredith Scheuermann did not attend the meeting.

In my statement on the resolution I asked the Council, if they were going to vote in support, to at least indicate that they would oppose a "direct pay" option that would place the city at greater risk. Sadly, none of the yes votes even addressed the issue. This served to solidify the fears of many that when the Council went into closed session last month, they became convinced that direct pay would be a possibility if the Five Rivers developer met certain conditions.

Bryan's vote was crucial. If Esslinger and Burk Tower are re-elected and IF it turns out that Mrs. Scheuermann cannot vote on the Five Rivers due to conflicts related to her bank employment or other factors (remember, I said IF), that would mean that the Five Rivers project could be approved with a maximum of 4 votes. Depending on the results of the election, it is entirely possible that the Council could end up facing a 3-3 deadlock on Five Rivers.

The Final Thought: Bain's vote tonight represents a major step in possibly halting this project, perhaps even bigger than he thought when he cast it.

Closed Meeting: Lennon To Issue Decision Soon

Today the Northwestern reported that District Attorney Bill Lennon needs another week to decide if the Common Council broke the law by going into closed session on February 14th. If Lennon does the right thing, which is to state the obvious that the law breaking here was flagrant, we can be certain of only two results:
  1. The City Administration will blow it off as "only an opinion."
  2. The Northwestern will issue open government platitudes but then lament that really the main problem is a public relations crisis that makes it more difficult to build support for special interest projects.
Cheryl Hentz and I submitted a complaint to Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager last week. State law allows citizens to submit open meetings complaints to the local DA or the Attorney General. I personally felt it was important for the AG's office to see the complaint because one of Peggy's assistants told an Oshkosh Northwestern reporter the meeting seemed proper based only on his conversation with the reporter. Cheryl and I believe the AG's office need to see all of the facts of the case before issuing opinions.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Lennon Clears WEAC

Shortly after the primary election the Eye on Oshkosh website (registration required) featured a thread alerting readers to a complaint that teacher's union (WEAC) members had possibly made illegal phone endorsements.

Dan Rylance just forwarded me some information he read in WEAC materials: "Nothing that occurred was illegal and DA Lennon closed the case. Furthermore, Lennon stated that we do not need a disclaimer if we are calling WEAC members."

Near East Neighborhood Plan

On Tuesday night the Oshkosh Common Council will be asked approve a resolution to adopt the "Near East Neighborhood Plan." The Council should lay over this resolution until they and the public at-large gain a much clearer understanding of exactly what is being proposed. Not only does the plan seem too eager to begin tearing down homes as a solution to deferred maintenance and blight issues, but it also lacks clarity about the role of police contacts in the determination of how a neighborhood is targeted by the Planning Department. I have heard that residents of the area have contacted the American Civil Liberties Union to inquire about the legalities of this. The Common Council should delay a vote on the plan until those residents have a chance to get their questions answered.

Also on Saturday many residents of Oshkosh received an anonymous postcard in the mail from someone clearly not supportive of the plan. On the card are ten reasons given to tear down homes that the person writing the card heard given at the March 7th Plan Commission meeting. The writer of the card concludes that the plan represents at attempt to "Tear down economical housing while at the same time complain that there is not enough economical housing for low income."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Northwestern's Sunshine and Clouds

Citizen activists and journalists have been singing the Open Records Blues for a long time. Sunshine Week (March 13-20) is a time to raise awareness about the barriers to open government and how to overcome them. It's really heartwarming to see the local Oshkosh Northwestern endorsing Sunshine week, but the newspaper today included some clouds blocking the sun.

First, Executive Editor Stew Rieckman in his weekly column starts off by revealing he was "startled" to hear this comment from a candidate for local office: "It's hard to get things done in the open. We pay a price for it (open government) … you get some ugly things." But then he never tells us who that candidate is! (It sounds like Burk Tower, but Stew chose to protect the identity even though the candidate clearly recognized s/he was speaking on the record and even though more than a few voters would be equally startled.).

More troubling is that the paper then editorially endorses Five Rivers developer Tom Doig's request to delay construction until September, implying that the closed meeting and confidentiality agreements are mostly public relations problems. However, the editorialists have now even softened the PR stance. Back on Feb. 16 they wrote this: "Common Council members must insist in the next few weeks that the members of the Five Rivers development team hold at least two evening public meetings to meet with people. Local citizens need to see the charts up close, examine the financial specifics and get straight answers to their questions." Anyone seen any effort made in that direction? I didn't think so.

Another editorial today says that the city needs a "Plan B" in case Five Rivers doesn't happen. One of best ideas for the land remains the "living, learning, service community" proposed by UW Oshkosh Chancellor Wells some time ago. The editoralists call this a "bold plan" that "never made it past the planning stages." WHY did the plan not make it past the planning stages? Clearly it is because when Mr. Doig showed up his proposal took priority along with staff time that could have been used to build support for the Wells or other proposals like Paul Esslinger's call for a Bay Beach type of project.

On Tuesday the Common Council should reject Five Rivers' call for more time, commit themselves to openness and public involvement, and direct staff to get back to work soliciting proposals more appropriate for the area.

Eye on Oshkosh Viewer Mistakenly Selected Madison

Below is an email received from Eye on Oshkosh viewer John Frings. After watching Cheryl Hentz and I interview Common Council candidates Mark Madison and Kent Monte, Mr. Frings came to the conclusion that he mistakenly voted for Mr. Madison in the February primary. I'm not sure any other candidate will earn Mr. Frings' vote, because if the last sentence is taken literally it looks like he'll be voting in Canada from now on. The email is reproduced here with Mr. Frings' permission:

I have a few observations regarding your recent discussion on the television show with candidates Madison and Monte.

I voted in the primary a few weeks back and made the mistake of selecting Mark Madison as a candidate. I was not fully aware of his position on certain issues.

After watching the show I became aware that Mark Madison is yet another politician who represents the Big Brother school of government. His support of a city wide smoking ban disqualifies him for my consideration as a candidate.

If such a ban goes into effect I simply will not comply. Americans have enough rules and enough government intrusion into their personal lives, we need no more.We need much much less so let's commence the repealing.

There was discussion regarding the amphitheatre. I will propose a total boycott of the facility if smoking is banned. It may be that these people have that as a long range goal. Let's just filter out all the miscreants and those who do not march like lemmings to the beat of the new conservative philosophy. They envision some sort of utopian world order and they can always count on reactionary political types who will support whatever misguided ideas they come up with.

Every day we hear about yet another proposed law that we are going to be subject to. It is time for a total rejection of these things. We have far too many laws that govern private behavior and public behavior as well. We have the health Nazis preaching to us about how they can manage even our most personal habits for our betterment. We have the religious zealots preaching Old Testament pablum and we have the type of overly ambitious would be candidates who will invariably always propose some new law for every societal ailment. They have sterilized this society to the point that one wonders if some of the sycophants are indeed human at all. It has poisoned every facet of American life and threatens to envelope the entire world with a human race that are more automaton then human beings. Enough is enough.

These are the same clueless nitwits who wanted to legalize concealed carry weapons, want the death penalty returned to Wisconsin law and the list is nearly endless with all the other ideas they have to turn control over our lives to some government functionary.

I said some time ago and I will continue to say it until I die. America is dead or at least near death. It is time for a real revolution and that is a revolution where the people say enough is enough we want our freedom back now.

I have lived in this backwater town for 37 years. And for those who say a city that does not progress is a city that will die. Those were Mr. Madison's words. From my perspective Oshkosh has grown quite alot in some ways, frankly all the ways that matter very little. Yes we have all the strip malls, all the fast food dumps and all the rest of the service sector non job economy that fit in nicely with the "new global world philosophy". What we do not have are many good paying jobs where employee's have rights and are treated like free human beings. What we don't have is a place where people go anywhere because there is little in the way of culture, the liberal kind, and besides there's that cop waiting outside to arrest anyone who has a few drinks, heaven forbid. This ain't the Oshkosh I remember it ain't the United States I remember either. The whole damn country has gone nuts. What we get is an unceasing assault from the media, from the corporate flunkys who want to sell us some shit we don't need or want, we get the phony media who are really nothing but shills for the aforementioned, we get the flaky old farts who preach to us on cable access TV about how Jeeezus is on the side of the right and America is really not a democracy but a "REPUBLIC" (EVER HEAR ABOUT THE BILL OF RIGHTS) Which supersedes the constitution in any case. This is what we get and frankly I want to leave. I cannot stand another day of this screwed up right wing fascist country. And speaking of country I don't need to hear any more corn bred, redneck, dumb ass uneducated rural types and their sickening shit country music either. I am a damn liberal and a very pissed off one at that. Gimme my ticket to Canada I am outtttttaaaa here.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Jay Heck Weighs in on the Jensen Verdict

Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin sent the press release below after a jury convicted former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen of misconduct in office. Jay Heck can be reached at I interviewed Jay Heck on Radio Commentary several months ago. That interview can be found here.

Press Release:

After nearly 18 hours of careful and thoughtful consideration of all the testimony and evidence, a jury of Wisconsin citizens has rendered a resounding verdict of guilty on all counts in the felony misconduct trial of Scott Jensen. This is the first time that citizens--real and normal people who are not Capitol insiders, political junkies or partisans with a direct interest in the outcome of this trial--have weighed in and had their voices heard in the so-called Legislative Caucus Scandal--the most serious and widespread political scandal in Wisconsin's history. And what they have said is signficant and clear: Scott Jensen violated the public trust in a manner profoudly detrimental to Wisconsin.

The jury agreed that this violation was massive, pervasive--occurring on a large scale over a long period of time. The jury said that the expenditure of hundreds of thousands--perhaps millions of taxpayer dollars to gain private, dishonest advantage is clearly not tolerable to the citizens of this state. This jury was able to distinguish the clear line between expenditure of taxpayer money for the public purpose with the illegal use of the state treasury for partisan political campaiging--even if Scott Jensen was unable to do so. This jury also recognized that Wisconsin's long tradition of clean, honest and accountable state government had been seriously undermined and compromised by Jensen.

In addition to jail time and fines that will be imposed on Scott Jensen as a result of his conviction, he must also be forced to reimburse the taxpayers for the approximately $70,000 to $100,000 of taxpayer funds he utilized in his defense leading up to his criminal charging in October of 2002. Common Cause in Wisconsin sued to stop the payment of these taxpayer funds to Jensen and others in December of 2001, and in the settlement of January 2003 brokered by Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager between CC/WI and the legislative leadership, anyone convicted in this scandal must reimburse the taxpayers of Wisconsin.

The guilty verdict in Scott Jensen's case today is not the end of this long, sorry episode in Wisconsin's political history however. The Wisconsin Legislature and the Governor must act soon and decisively to reform Wisconsin's throughly compromised and corrupted campaign finance and ethics laws before this state's once good name can be reclaimed and restored.

Grooming the Guinea Pigs

This Five Rivers deal just keeps getting better and better. Today Alex Hummel tells us that "The Oshkosh Redevelopment Authority plans to spend $2.87 million to buy and move a Mercury Marine plant on the Fox River west of Jackson Street, another step necessary for the proposed $60 million Five Rivers Resort."

Here's the best part: "The $2.87 million purchase package — while including relocation costs — is more than 171 percent higher than what city of Oshkosh's assessor's records list for the property's fair market value."

Sounds like the Redevelopment Authority and the Director of Community Development are grooming the guinea pigs for Tom Doig.

Only in Oshkosh could a deal like this be announced with no statement from the mayor, no statement from the city manager, and no statement from any member of the common council. Who’s leading this city?

Hopefully Kent Monte will soon post what he found out from his conversation with Gladstone City, Michigan City Manager Brant Kucera.

Tom Fox's Challenge To Us

Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) activist Tom Fox, held hostage in Iraq since November, was found dead outside of Baghdad yesterday. The CPT claimed that Tom "combined a lightness of spirit, a firm opposition to all oppression, and the recognition of God in everyone." They ask that: " . . . everyone set aside inclinations to vilify or demonize others, no matter what they have done. In Tom’s own words:

'We reject violence to punish anyone. We ask that there be no retaliation on relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. We hope that in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening nonviolently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation.'"

Friday, March 10, 2006

Mike McCabe Interview Available

My Radio Commentary interview with Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is available here. When I booked Mike for the show I thougt that the jury in the Scooter Jensen trial would have already reached a verdict. Alas, as of Friday evening at 8 p.m. there was still no verdict. Apparently the jury ordered dinner at 7 p.m. Progress of the deliberations can be found at the site.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Pal-Meri or "Trollin' on the Blog Sites"

I had on oldies radio today in the car and they played the old Creedence Clearwater Revival Song "Proud Mary" ("Rollin' on the River"). I spent the ride home composing some lyrics for a 21st century version of the song, "Pal-Meri" ("Trollin' on the Blog Sites"). You can find the original Creedence tune here, while some prefer Ike and Tina's classic cover. Here are the new lyrics:

I wrecked a blog site in the city
Trollin’ for THE MAN every night and day
And I never had one minute of sleeping
I was worrying ’bout the way blogs might have been

Troll weasels keep on burning
Pal-meri keeps on learning
And we’re trolling, trolling yeah
Trolling on the blog sites

Preached a lot of hate on websites
Typed a lot of pain down on News Oshkosh
But I never saw the good side of a blog site
Till I wrecked a thread on the one called Babbleme

Troll weasels keep on burning
Pal-meri keeps on learning
And we’re trolling, trolling yeah
Trolling on the blog sites

If you log on to the blog sites
I bet you gonna find some losers who troll
You don’t have to worry if you got no patience
Losers on the blog sites are happy alone

Troll weasels keep on burning
Pal-meri keeps on learning
And we’re trolling, trolling yeah
Trolling on the blog sites

McHugh: No Conflicts

The Oshkosh Northwestern featured a front page story today explaining why Common Council candidate Dennis McHugh, a retired city employee, would not be prevented from voting on labor contracts or benefit issues if elected in April.

Completely missing from the story was the fact that the issue of McHugh's potential conflict was raised first by local pundit Dan Rylance on Radio Commentary.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rapture Riders

NPR's "All Songs Considered" this week features a new track from Blondie's soon to be released Greatest Hits CD. The track is a DJ Mark Vidler mix of Blondie's "Rapture" with The Doors' "Riders on the Storm." I think it's pretty cool. Go to the NPR site to find the link to "Rapture Riders."

ABV Releases Photo From Secret Republican Meeting!

The ABV Town Square has released a picture from a secret Republican Party meeting featuring Baby Jed and Baby Bela.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Cap Times: Keep Large County Board

The Madison Capital Times has once again come out against reducing the size of the Dane County Board. They oppose a measure that would reduce the Board from 37 to 19. They write, "Slashing the size of the board will not make supervisors better representatives. It will not make them more 'connected' with constituents. And it will not increase the importance of the board except, perhaps, to special interest campaign contributors who see an opportunity to gain the same sort of influence over the political process at the local level that they currently enjoy at the state and national levels."

In Winnebago County the situation is somewhat different. Special interests would like to see a smaller county board not to gain the same sort of influence over the political process they currently enjoy at the state and national levels, but to gain the same sort of influence they currently enjoy with the city of Oshkosh government. Can you imagine what a small Winnebago County Board would have done with Park View Nursing Home? Alzheimher's patients would soon be dodging Hazel Street traffic and soccer balls from Menominee Park because the small board would have eagerly given developer Ben Ganther the green light to build the home at the site of the old Mercy Medical Center.

I'm no big fan of the 38 member Winnebago County Board of Supervisors. Their budget deliberations leave much to be desired. But compared to the 7 member Oshkosh Common Council--secrecy obsessed, equally troubling budget deliberations, and with 6 members ready to set fire to the state statutes if the city attorney tells them to--the Board looks like a dignifed Roman Senate.

Previous blog entries on county board size can be found here and here.

Monday, March 06, 2006

New Jersey Legislature Takes On Internet Trolls!

All the trolls invading T2T, OshkoshNews, EyeonOshkosh and other sites should stay away from New Jersey for awhile. Assemblyman Peter Biondi is sponsoring legislation requiring that "The operator of any interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish, maintain and enforce a policy to require any information content provider who posts written messages on a public forum website either to be identified by a legal name and address, or to register a legal name and address with the operator of the interactive computer service or the Internet service provider through which the information content provider gains access to the interactive computer service or Internet, as appropriate." An operator or Internet Service Provider would be liable for compensatory and punitive damages if defamatory anonymous comments appeared on their sites.

I think this is terrible legisation, but unfortunately because the problem of trolling is so pervasive I predict it's only a matter of time before all states pass some such legislation.

Here in Oshkosh the Internet Trolls even post anonymous attacks in public restrooms!

"Depleted Uranium is a War Crime"

Political rock band Anti-Flag have a new song appearing on the After Downing St. site. The song, "Depleted Uranium is a War Crime," addresses a topic that has for too long been silent in the mainstream media. I'm not a big fan of Anti-Flag's style of music, but the lyrics of the song are powerful and include statements from an interview ith US Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Washington State). Rep. McDermott is a Vietnam vet and a medical doctor by trade, and he has introduced HR 2410 ("The Depleted Uranium Munition Study Act") which would mandate studies of DU and its effects on the health of people exposed to it. In the song he is quoted as saying:

“The doctor said, ‘Women (in Iraq) at the time of birth don’t ask if it’s a boy or a girl, they ask: Is it normal?’ …The military denies first, and then after the evidence builds to the point where they can no longer deny, then they do the research. That’s what happened in the Vietnam era around Agent Orange and I suspect and I’m worried that that’s what will happen this time.”

After Downing St. includes an activism page leading to more information about DU and a plea that we ask our own member of congress to cosponsor the bill.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Russert Should Interview Chomsky

On Sunday's Meet The Press, host Tim Russert asked Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Pete Pace if he is troubled by the fact that Iraqi interim Prime Minister Jafari apparently lists Noam Chomsky as one of his favorite American writers. Here it is from the transcript:

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Jafari said that one of his favorite American writers is Professor Noam Chomsky, someone who has written very, very strongly against the Iraq war and against most of the Bush administration foreign policy. Does that concern you?

GEN. PACE: I hope he has more than one book on his nightstand.

MR. RUSSERT: So it troubles you?

GEN. PACE: I would be concerned if the only access to foreign ideas that the prime minister had was that one author. If in fact that’s one of many, and he’s digesting many different opinions, that’s probably healthy.

Chomksy has been the leading critic of US foreign policy since Vietnam, yet he has been virtually censored in mainstream American media throughout most of that time. A good archive of his works can be found here.

Tim Russert should invite Noam Chomsky to appear on Meet the Press. Send him an email requesting that Chomsky be on. Russert can be reached at this address:

Here's a sample email that I just sent. Feel free to copy my wording:

Dear Tim Russert:

On Sunday's program you asked General Pace if he is troubled by the fact that Iraqi interim Prime Minister Jafari lists Noam Chomsky as one of his favorite American authors. You described Professor Chomsky as "someone who has written very, very strongly against the Iraq war and against most of the Bush administration foreign policy." As you know, Professor Chomsky has been a principled critic of United States foreign policy and media since the Vietnam era. Why not invite him to appear on Meet the Press? I think a Russert/Chomsky discussion would represent a major contribution to our understanding of American foreign policy.

Thank you for taking my request seriously.


Tony Palmeri

In the meantime, you can hear a recent Noam Chomsky interview with my good friend Bob McChesney of the University of Illinois on the February 26 edition of Bob's show "Media Matters"

"I wouldn't want to be the guinea pig for this guy"

That headline is a actual quote from Gladstone City (MI) City Manager Brant Kucera in today's Oshkosh Northwestern. "This guy" is Five Rivers Resort developer Tom Doig.

Yesterday the newspaper revealed that city officials want Doig to prove by May 31 that his long-term financing is "secured." I interpret that as meaning that Mr. Doig has until May 31 to get 4 members of the Council to vote for the "direct pay" option that would satisfy Doig's potential financiers but place the city at greater risk.

If the City Council votes at its March 14th meeting to grant Doig the extension, they should amend the resolution to include language rejecting any direct pay option. It is not enough to have such language in "term sheets" because city officials have now made it clear that the term sheets are not worth the paper they are printed on. We now know that when they don't want to abide by term sheet requirements, they feel empowered to go into illegal closed meetings to work out changes.

Gladstone City was smart not to be a guinea pig for Five Rivers. Thankfully for the Gladstoneians, their local government was not secrecy obsessed and it placed the needs of the citizens above the developer.

Here in Oshkosh the picture is turned upside down. We are dangerously close to being turned into guinea pigs for this guy.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Report on Guantanamo Detainees

In his latest column, Nat Hentoff (one of America's great civil libertarians) summarizes the findings of a troubling new report on the detainees held at Guantanamo. The report, compiled by counsel for the detainees and professors/students associated with the Seton Hall University School of Law, represents the most in-depth look at exactly who is in Camp Gitmo and why they are there. The report is not lawyer spin--the writers worked only from information and data made available by the government. The findings are incredible:

1. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.

2. Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.

3. The Government has detained numerous persons based on mere affiliations with a large number of groups that in fact, are not on the Department of Homeland Security terrorist watchlist. Moreover, the nexus between such a detainee and such organizations varies considerably.

Eight percent are detained because they are deemed “fighters for;” 30% considered “members of;” a large majority – 60% -- are detained merely because they are “associated with” a group or groups the Government asserts are terrorist organizations. For 2% of the prisoners their nexus to any terrorist group is unidentified.

4. Only 5% of the detainees were captured by United States forces. 86% of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody.

This 86% of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were handed over to the United States at a time in which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies.

5. Finally, the population of persons deemed not to be enemy combatants – mostly Uighers - are in fact accused of more serious allegations than a great many persons still deemed to be enemy combatants . [Note: Uighers--pronounced WEE-gers--are Chinese Muslims].

The Full Report in pdf format can be found here.

Last night the Pentagon released the names of the detainees. Might sound like damage control, except for the fact that the names were only released because a federal judge ruled against the government in a freedom of information suit brought by the Associated Press.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Rylance posits "McHugh Doctrine" on Radio Commentary

On Friday evening I interviewed local pundit Dan Rylance on Radio Commentary. The interview can be found here. During the second half of the program Dan and I talked about how the majority of school board candidates believe that current board member Don Sween should not vote on the district budget because he is a retired teacher who could benefit from the package voted on. Dan makes the point that the opposition to Sween voting is a carry over from the "McHugh Doctrine" established on the board a few years ago when then school board president Dennis McHugh insisted that board member Theresa Thiel could not vote on the budget because her husband is a teacher in the district. Current board members Ben Schneider II and Dan Becker have taken the lead in applying the McHugh Doctrine to Mr. Sween.

Dan Rylance wonders if Mr. McHugh, a retired city employee who is now a candidate for Oshkosh Common Council, will apply the McHugh Doctrine to himself. As a retired city employee, the city budget directly affects him. If elected, will he recuse himself from voting on the budget?

Facing Poverty in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association has released a 24-page report on "Poverty Matters: Facing Poverty in Wisconsin." Scroll down to page 11 of the report for the disturbing facts about poverty in Wisconsin.

Poverty in our state is actually much greater than the report indicates, because in order to be declared "poor" in America you have to be dirt poor. An excellent article from In These Times Magazine, "Lies, Damn Lies, and Poverty Statistics," shows how "an archaic measurement keeps millions of poor Americans from being counted."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Teacher of the Year

A Parsippany, New Jersey high school teacher is drawing criticism for having students in an Advanced Placement government class hold a mock impeachment hearing of George W. Bush.

I think the teacher, Joseph Kyle, deserves a Teacher of the Year award. He is asking his students to think seriously about whether Mr. Bush's conduct related to civilian casualties in Iraq and the Abu Ghraib torture rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. That our establishment politicians and editorialists are too cowardly to engage in this discussion in any sustained fashion does not mean our young people should be prevented from thinking also. Maybe some of those students will walk away from the experience realizing the the US Constitution and international law are real documents and that world leaders who violate them ought to suffer real consequences.

The same teacher had his students engage in a mock impeachment trial of Bill Clinton in the 1990s. I don't remember hearing any outrage then.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Now why did they need a closed session?

Today Alex Hummel provided us with a clearer picture of just why the Oshkosh Common Council went into closed session two weeks ago. I just received the following email from Oshkosh citizen Dan Rylance who responds to this nonsense much better than I could:

The Common Council had a closed meeting so the Five Rivers group could tell them they had no money. Wow! I thought everyone who has followed this knows or had a suspicion that this was a shell game. They had no money. So we go closed to talk about this.

To make matters worse, two Common Council members, who voted for the closed meeting then break the secrecy of the closed meeting and spin to the Northwestern their take on the closed meeting. How self-serving!

All this proves that sunshine is a better solution to doing the people's business than darkness.

Death Knell For College Student Speech?

That's the title of my March Media Rant. The piece deals with the Supreme Court's recent refusal to hear an appeal of a Circuit Court decision which reduced college student speech to the same status as high school.

See Stephanie Barnard's Advance-Titan op-ed for an examination of how the Court's (in)action might affect UW Oshkosh.