Sunday, April 30, 2006

George W. Bush's Stunning Disregard For The Law

Remember grade school civics? Remember being taught that the legislative branch of government makes the laws, the judicial branch interprets the laws, and the executive branch enforces the laws? Most of us learn at a young age that the civics lesson is more hope than reality, but few realize just how completely broken the system of checks and balances really is.

In an important and disturbing piece (registration required) by staff reporter Charlie Savage, the Boston Globe today reveals that, "Since taking office in 2001, President Bush has issued signing statements on more than 750 new laws, declaring that he has the power to set aside the laws when they conflict with his legal interpretation of the Constitution."

In contrast, President George H.W. Bush in four years challenged 232 statutes, while Bill Clinton in eight years "only" challenged 140. George W. Bush has set aside more than 750 laws in only five years, effectively turning the Congress into a kind of Saddam-era Iraqi Parliament that only gets to make suggestions to the Usurper In Chief.

Here are some outrageous examples from the Globe story:

March 9:
Justice Department officials must give reports to Congress by certain dates on how the FBI is using the USA Patriot Act to search homes and secretly seize papers.

Bush's signing statement: The president can order Justice Department officials to withhold any information from Congress if he decides it could impair national security or executive branch operations.

Dec. 30, 2005: US interrogators cannot torture prisoners or otherwise subject them to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Bush's signing statement: The president, as commander in chief, can waive the torture ban if he decides that harsh interrogation techniques will assist in preventing terrorist attacks.

Aug. 8: The Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its contractors may not fire or otherwise punish an employee whistle-blower who tells Congress about possible wrongdoing.

Bush's signing statement: The president or his appointees will determine whether employees of the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can give information to Congress.

Dec. 23, 2004: Forbids US troops in Colombia from participating in any combat against rebels, except in cases of self-defense. Caps the number of US troops allowed in Colombia at 800.

Bush's signing statement: Only the president, as commander in chief, can place restrictions on the use of US armed forces, so the executive branch will construe the law ''as advisory in nature."

Between a president that ignores the laws and a Roberts Supreme Court that could turn out to the most reactionary activists in the history of the country, the US Congress may well be the most irrelevant legislative body in the world. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it is long past time for we the citizens to take our government back.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

According to this morning's Journal-Sentinel, from 2002-2005 the eight members of Wisconsin's Congressional delegation spent nearly $1.7 million on "franked mail" privileges.

We are mostly paying for these characters to send us newsletter propaganda, which according to the Journal Sentinel story are designed to make them look like "men and women in action":

• Democrat Ron Kind of La Crosse appears in the classic turkey hunter's pose, wearing camouflage, bearing a shotgun and fanning the feathers of his kill. In another shot, he's touring a dairy plant in a white lab coat and hairnet.

• Republican Tom Petri of Fond du Lac tests a General Motors prototype hydrogen car.

• Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Madison turns up in biking gear on a state trail.

• Democrat Gwen Moore of Milwaukee touches a patient in a wheelchair at Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Mark Green, Republican governor wannabe, spent $1,600 to purchase and mail calenders to municipal officials in the state. Now there's a fiscal conservative for ya'.

The story points out also that in 2004, 98% of the incumbents won their seat back. Isn't a good feeling to know that your tax dollars are helping people keep their jobs?

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Interview With Michael Hopkins

The Radio Commentary interview with music critic Michael Hopkins can be found here. I think this is one of the better Radio Commentary shows. We talk mostly about Neil Young and "Living With War." Four songs are played during the interview: "Cops of the World" by Phil Ochs, and then by Neil Young: "Living With War," "Let's Impeach the President," and "Rockin' in the Free World." Many thanks to Abby Zellmer for a great job of producing.

Meanwhile Fox News' John Gibson (the "War on Christmas" dude) lays out what will be the wingnut critique against Young. Sounds like he'd like to see the "Canadian singer who's been living in the U.S. for the last 40 years" take up residence at Abu Ghraib.

Friday, April 28, 2006

"I have here in my hand a list of . . ."

There I am at the Appleton Public Library on Thursday night with Brian Farmer (left) and Michael Bergan, doing my best impression of Joe McCarthy delivering his famous Wheeling, West Virginia speech of February 9, 1950. Many thanks to Chuck Miller for the photo.

Brian and I repeated many of the themes found in our Valley Scene essays. An audience of about 75-100 people (close to full capacity in the basement meeting room) watched "Good Night, and Good Luck" and then I delivered some remarks, followed by Brian and Michael. Audience members then made comments and asked questions. Appleton Public Library director Terry Dawson was beaming after the event, claiming it fully met his expectations and was very educational.

I was thrilled to have the oppportunity to speak. Many thanks to the Appleton Public Library and the Valley Scene for sponsoring such a special event.

Living With War Is Here!

I have to admit I did not expect much from this album. From the press reports it seemed like it may have been rushed and overly sloppy; an aging rocker jumping on the BBB (Bash Bush Bandwagon).

Well, I am pleasantly surprised to say that the album sounds inspired--has the energy of the electric side of 1979's Rust Never Sleeps, which till now has been my favorite Neil album.

I'm not too proud to admit that the song "Living With War" literally brought me to tears this morning. Even though the United States has been at war or contributing to war somewhere, someplace almost continuously since WWII, our hyper-consumer culture, cartoon media, and all volunteer military allow most of us to ignore or forget that fact. The song "Living With War" simply and powerfully reminds us what we are in fact living with every day.

Good job Neil. You can listen to the entire record here.

Michael Hopkins to Discuss "Living With War" on Radio Commentary

Neil Young is set to audiostream Living With War off his website some time on Friday. To mark the event, I will be discussing Neil's music on Radio Commentary with Michael Hopkins. Michael has written about the arts for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Philadelphia Weekly and MAGNET Magazine, along with the Valley Scene. Radio Commentary airs on Friday from 6:20 - 7:00 p.m. on WRST 90.3 FM.

Neil's calling "Living With War" a "metal version of Phil Ochs." I guess that means he ain't marchin anymore. Also means he's sick of Uncle Sam being the Cops of the World.

Radio Commentary is a live call-in show (920-424-3113 or 920-424-0444).

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Thursday: Free Showing of "Good Night, and Good Luck"

Just as a reminder, the Appleton Public Library and the Valley Scene are sponsoring a FREE showing of "Good Night, and Good Luck" on Thursday, April 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Library (225 N. Oneida St.).

After the movie, Brian Farmer and I will be discussing Murrow v. McCarthy. Also speaking will be Mike Bergan, a retired Mass Communication teacher at Appleton East who currently overseas a "Media Matters" program at the Library.

Sign Petition: Get Country Joe & Canned Heat in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

Okay, so for all the sold out, aging, hemorrhoid-pained, hypocritical ex-hippies out there looking to recreate the acid hazed joy of days of future passed, here's your chance: Sign an online petition in support of getting Country Joe McDonald and Canned Heat into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And if you're young and cool, or just want to do something to humor your parents, you should sign the petition too. (Someday you'll be sending around a petition trying to get Death Cab For Cutie into the Hall and you'll feel much better about doing that if you support Country Joe and Canned Heat today.).

In the 1960s Country Joe and the Fish released the most memorable anti-war song of the era, "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag." He's still folk-rockin'; his recent "Cakewalk to Baghdad" is one of the best songs of this decade IMHO.

As for Canned Heat, their "Going up the Country" remains as THE song of 1969, a Woodstock-era anthem that to this day makes you want to roll-up for the mystery tour every time it comes on. The late Bob "The Bear" Hite could belt out a blues tune with the best of them, as evidenced by the hit "Let's Work Together." Alan Wilson was one of the most unique rock/blues vocalists of all time, sounding like Billie Holiday on hallucinogens on tunes like "Going up the Country" and "On the Road Again." He committed suicide in 1970, but his death is never mentioned in the same vein as Hendrix, Joplin, or Morrison. Yet if there is a rock and roll heaven, my guess is that Elvis is probably jamming with Wilson--two white guys who put a refreshing pale twist on the blues. (Assuming that Elvis is really dead, of course (:-)).

So do something for America. Do something for your parents. Do something for your children. Sign the Country Joe/Canned Heat petition today.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

DNR: Floating Docks Can't Swim

The 2005 Oshkosh Common Council will long be remembered as the gang that said yes to charging a fee for a need--garbage collection--at the same time finding money for a classic "want": floating docks. With the election of Dennis McHugh and with Mr. Bain taking the leadership to encourage citizen input, there is still a chance to defeat the garbage fee.

Now it looks like the Department of Natural Resources may sink the floating dock. Alex Hummel reports that the city's dock permit may be nixed due to environmental concerns. A rejection of the permit would mean the city could cancel the plan to borrow $284,900 for the dock.

I'll bet that the late Otis Redding would have voted for the dock, maybe even would have been sittin' on it, wastin' time.

Yo-Yos Take On Yo-Yos

A few years ago Green Bay Press Gazette columnist Lou O'Malley argued that the only solution to Wisconsin's pervasive legislative corruption was to vote out of office every single incumbent. He had in mind all 33 members of the state senate and all 99 members of the assembly. Even though most of the incumbents are not directly implicated in corruption, and even though most of them are very nice people, only a complete house cleaning would get the legislature back on track.

I bring this up because today's announcement by Representative Vruwink and Senator Lassa concerning their intent to hold a hearing on the dastardly yo-yo waterball toy is a classic example of what's wrong with the legislature.

Without question the yo-yo waterball is a dangerous toy that should be banned. Illinois has already banned the toy while federal legislation remains stalled in committee. So I am not making light of the danger posed by the toy or suggesting that Wisconsin shouldn't act while the feds do nothing.
What I'm troubled by is that all it took for the dynamic duo of Vruwink and Lassa to act was "a complaint from a constituent." Indeed, all members of the legislature are willing to act on "a complaint from a constituent" when the issue is risk free and makes the representative(s) look like the saviors of children and everything else decent and good in our land.

Why is it that "a complaint from a constituent" is not enough to hold hearings on lobbyist control of the legislature? Why is it that "a complaint from a constituent" is not enough to hold hearings on how the closed partisan caucuses are an abuse of the open meetings law? Why is it that a "complaint from a constituent" is not enough to hold hearings on the excessive sacrifice being asked of the National Guard and Reserves?

You get the idea.

I understand that politicians will frequently exploit "slam dunk" issues like banning a dangerous toy in an effort to look responsive and heroic. But wouldn't it be nice if every now and then the politicians announced an intention to hold hearings on something that might actually rock the boat of the power brokers running the show in Madison? Wisconsin's legislature used to have a few risk-taking boat rockers.

Now we've got yo-yos.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Early Eye on Oshkosh: Shout Fest?

Stew Rieckman says this about Eye on Oshkosh, yesterday and today:

"Hentz, meanwhile, moved freely between the roles of freelance journalist, television host, Web master and candidate with an ease that confounded and flummoxed me. The fact that the early years of Eye on Oshkosh were shout fests with rare moments of substance did not enhance her standing in my eyes. However, if you haven’t tuned in recently, you have missed the fact that Hentz and her regular co-host Tony Palmeri have elevated Eye on Oshkosh into a program that is taken seriously for it’s discussion with newsmakers about local public affairs."

As an alpha gnat, I suppose I should appreciate the Everyday Editor's crediting of Cheryl and I with "elevating" Eye on Oshkosh. However, I sincerely believe that the program has always been of high quality, whether it was co-hosted by my badly gnatted self or by Melanie Bloechl. In fact, when Stew talks about the show being a "shout fest" in its early years he is really taking a not so subtle shot at Bloechl, whom he has been at odds with since her days on the Oshkosh Common Council.

I think Bloechl and I bring different qualities to a show like Eye on Oshkosh. Though I am from a solidly working class family (father a shoemaker, mother a McDonald's worker) and identify strongly with the blue collar Joe Lunchbuckets, my position as a college professor doesn't always lend me credibility in that role. Melanie, on the other hand, provided Eye on Oshkosh viewers with a more no-holds-barred, "call it as I see it" approach to hosting. I don't see that what Cheryl and I do on the program is any better than what Cheryl and Melanie did--I think it's different. For people who like a more reserved, journalistic type of program, then the Hentz/Palmeri program is probably preferable. But for people who believe that cable access television should really be a voice of the grassroots in all its glory or gruffness, then the Hentz/Bloechl program gets high points.

I believe both versions of Eye on Oshkosh were/are valuable and that there is ample room on cable access for both types.

Fund on Cole: Real Libel?

Locally, the Fremgen v. Full of Balogna affair provided an opportunity to learn about legal standards for libel and defamation.

Today, wingnut apologist John Fund of the Wall Street Journal launched into a tirade against University of Michigan History Professor Juan Cole, whose award-winning Informed Comment Blog is one of the most popular dealing with mideast issues. In his response, Cole says the Fund piece libels him and is "an apparent attempt to interfere with my professional life." (Cole may soon receive an offer of a professorship at Yale).

Some scholars have suggested that in situations like this, the Wall St. Journal should by law have to provide Cole with the space to reply to the attacks on his reputation that appear in their pages. In Miami Herald v. Tornillo (1974), the Supreme Court rejected a mandatory "right of reply." If the Wall Street Journal had any decency, however, they would not have to be legally prodded to give space to Cole. Rather, they would invite him to respond. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hear John Lennon From The Other Side -- For $9.95

Perhaps in a fit of jealousy over all the attention Elvis received after he left the building, John Lennon is allowing himself to be heard in a seance. You can hear the Peace Beatle for only $9.95.

I suspect he will come through singing "God."

Perhaps he will verify this little tale . . .

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Doyle Should Veto Guard Deployment

Less than 3 weeks after 24 Wisconsin cities, towns, and villages said yes to referendum questions asking for immediate withdrawal from Iraq beginning with the National Guard and Reserves, 430 additional members of the Guard were shipped out on Saturday. According to the Associated Press, “With this latest deployment, the state has sent roughly three-fourths of the Guard's 9,700-members to serve on active duty since the terrorist attacks in 2001. The 1157th Transportation Company of Oshkosh will begin active duty in June with about 160 soldiers.”

According to the Wisconsin Constitution (Article V, sec. 4), the governor is the commander in chief of the military and naval forces of the state. Governor Doyle should use that power, and the power granted him by the 1986 Montgomery Amendment, to veto the Bush Administration’s order to deploy the 430. Such an action would provoke a much needed court battle over whether the Iraq War represents, as I and many others believe it does, an abuse of the federal government’s power over the Guard and Reserves.

In 1933, the US Congress declared that any state’s National Guard unit could be called into federal service during periods of national emergency. In 1952 the Congress eliminated the national emergency requirement, but provided that a federal call-up of a state National Guard unit required the consent of the governor of the state.

In 1986, after some governors withheld their states’ National Guard members from Reagan Administration military training initiatives in Central America, Congress responded with the Montgomery Amendment. The Amendment states that, “The consent of a governor . . . may not be withheld (in whole or in part) with regard to active duty outside of the United States, its territories, and its possessions, because of any objection to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of such active duty.”

Minnesota Governor Perpich took the Department of Defense all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1990 ruled unanimously that the Montgomery Amendment was Constitutional. However, the Court’s decision included a caveat that would seem to allow any current governor to veto a deployment to Iraq. The Court said:

“The Minnesota unit, which includes about 13,000 members, is affected only slightly when a few dozen, or at most a few hundred, soldiers are ordered into active service for brief periods of time. Neither the State's basic training responsibility, nor its ability to rely on its own Guard in state emergency situations, is significantly affected. Indeed, if the federal training mission were to interfere with the State Guard's capacity to respond to local emergencies, the Montgomery Amendment would permit the Governor to veto the proposed mission.” (italics added).

We are now long past the time of talking about “a few dozen, or at most a few hundred, soldiers are ordered into active service for brief periods of time.” As noted earlier, three-fourths of our state’s 9,700-members have served in active duty since 2001. Many of them have had their tours of duty extended against their will. Should Wisconsin suffer a natural disaster, we will face the same tragedy faced by Louisiana when huge numbers of military forces and equipment that could have helped with Katrina rescue and recovery efforts were deployed instead in Iraq.

Jim Doyle should veto the mission of the 430 and cite the Montgomery Amendment in doing it. He can also argue that the April 4th referendum results represent convincing evidence that his state's residents do not support the continued exploitation of the Guard.

Happy Birthday, WRST

WRST-FM 90.3 celebrated its 40th birthday on April 20th. Yesterday I had the privilege of interviewing Robert L. "Doc" Snyder on Radio Commentary. Doc founded the station in 1966 and has been the host of "Doc's Jazz City" since that year! The show is now aired on Mondays from 5-6 p.m. on WRST. In the Radio Commentary interview, Doc and I talk a little nostalgia, a little politics, and lots of jazz.

Today there was a WRST 40th birthday meet and greet at the New Moon Cafe, and I met Joy Cardin! She's extremely cool.

In honor of the 40th birthday, here's Bart Simpson and Michael Jackson singing Happy Birthday to Lisa.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Neil Blogs; Takes on the Southern Man Again

Neil Young has an anti-war album, "Living With War," coming out soon. One of the songs advocates impeaching George Bush. Go to the Huffington Post to watch a video of Neil explaining himself to an interviewer who should be in the running for Twit of the Year honors. (I don't think she's bad enough to top the Watertown Common Council).

Neil's even blogging!

Being that Dubya's from Texas, this looks like another case of Neil taking on the Southern Man.

GOP outfoxed while Dems get out of the way

You know things are going downhill for George W. Bush and the Republican congress when even Fox News can no longer hide the bad news. The most recent Fox poll found the president's approval rating at 33%. That's Nixon-during-Watergate territory.

Meanwhile only 25% approve of the job the Congress is doing, with 54% agreeing that this is a "do-nothing" Congress.

What's shocking about this is that it's still not clear that the Democrats will make any significant gains in November. Last night at UW Oshkosh, Code Pink's Medea Benjamin explained why. She said consultants have advised the national Democratic Party that "when a tree is falling, the best thing to do is get out of the way." Indeed, that does seem to be the Democrats' strategy right now, which explains the party leadership's lukewarm or no support at all for even mild gestures like Feingold's censure resolution or Jack Murtha's plan to redeploy the troops in Iraq.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Official Recount Minutes + Monte's

The official minutes from the Oshkosh Area School District Board of Education election recount can be found here. I would like to thank Teresa Thiel for passing them on to Talk To Tony. Some parts of the minutes are in bold/italics. The bold/italics were placed there by ME and were not bolded/italicized in the original (I bolded/italicized those parts I found interesting and/or were parts of discussion on this and other blogs.).

Michelle Monte's minutes/notes from the recount can be found here.

Union of Concerned Scientists--Bunker Buster: The Movie

Explosive stuff. (pun intended).

See also Dr. Kurt Gottfried's statement, "Administration's Nuclear Saber Rattling on Iran Threatens Global Security."

Herzig, Shields Walk the Walk

Jeff Herzig, the outgoing president of the Oshkosh Student Association, calls for increased student participation in this week's Advance-Titan:

"As I depart though I need to mention some concerns that I have which focus on student apathy. It’s disturbing to see and hear students not care about the issues that affect them on campus, and in the state. Many students here at UWO don’t realize how much they can influence changes if they were to just get involved and help out. Students here at UWO are respected and encouraged when they participate, and OSA works hard to maintain that image. We could be even more effective if more students got involved and participated within OSA in some function."

An example of excellent participation is outgoing OSA vice-president Tom Shields. He has just been named as the first non-traditional student rep on the System Board of Regents. This is not only great news for Tom, but great news for our campus also. Over the last few weeks it appeared as if we were coming dangerously close to once again becoming a campus that appears preoccupied with partying as the "pub crawl" seemed to be the only issue getting any sustained attention on campus.

Many thanks to Jeff Herzig and Tom Shields for not only talking the talk, but walking the walk on student participation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bain Sandwich On Cobblestoner Bread

The new Oshkosh Common Council today showed little enthusiasm for all three of Mayor Bill Castle's stink bomb proposals at today's organizational meeting. Burk Tower was named deputy mayor.

Meanwhile in the new council seating arrangement, Bryan Bain gets to sit in between Dennis McHugh and Paul Esslinger.

Bush won't rule out nuke-you-ler option

After last week dismissing as "wild speculation" Sy Hersh's New Yorker report claiming the administration is seriously considering the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Iran, Dubya' today refused to rule out the possibility. "All options are on the table," he said.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Legendary Lyle Lahey Now Online

Lyle Lahey, legendary former cartoonist for the Gannett-guillotined Green Bay News Chronicle, is producing new 'toons! They can be found at this site. Some great Lahey cartoons dealing almost exclusively with Fox River clean up issues can be found at the Fox River Watch site.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Weinsheim: No Lawyer

I just received an email from Amy Weinsheim. She said she did not have a lawyer at the recount: "I never contacted any lawyers nor did I have a lawyer at the recount with me--not once, not one." In addition to her 11-month-old daughter Lola, the people who were there with her at various times were: her mother, her husband, Karen Bowen, Teresa Thiel, Janey Robson, and Jerry Steger (stepfather). Her mom believes that because Jerry came to the recount from work wearing a suit and looking distinguished, someone assumed that he was a lawyer.

Happy Birthday, Lucy

April 16, 1943: At the Sandoz lab in Switzerland, Dr. Albert Hoffman experiences the first known LSD ("acid") trip: "I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away."

LSD played a key role in the development of the 1960s counterculture, most notably due to the efforts of Harvard professor Timothy Leary. In this recording from 1965-1966, Leary provides instructions for those about to embark on their first acid trip. Should the experience become too mentally daunting, Leary urges the trippers to "turn off your mind, relax, float downstream," an admonition that found its way into the Beatles' first psychedelic song, "Tomorrow Never Knows." (note: I've never been impressed with the drug references in that song as much as the fact that it proved Ringo Starr was a big league drummer.).

Few Americans are aware that during the Cold War the United States government over a long period of time investigated the chemical warfare possibilities of LSD. The Central Intelligence Agency took an active interest in hallucinogenic drugs, with the Cold War era MK-ULTRA project being the chief research program. In 1985 Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain released Acid Dreams--The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, The Sixties, and Beyond (New York: Grove Press), a minor classic exposing how the CIA's obsession with LSD as a potential tool of counter espionage led to the exploitation of human guinea pigs. Lee and Shlain's exhaustively researched book presents scenes that would be too incredible to believe were it not for the fact that they obtained documents via Freedom of Information Act requests to prove them. For example, in 1955 the CIA commissioned narcotics officer George Hunter White to initiate Operation Midnight Climax, "in which drug-addicted prostitutes were hired to pick up men from local bars and bring them back to a CIA financed bordello. Unknowing customers were treated to drinks laced with LSD while White sat on a portable toilet behind two-way mirrors, sipping martinis and watching every stoned and kinky moment. As payment for their services the hookers received $100 a night, plus a guarantee from White that that he'd intercede on their behalf should they be arrested while plying their trade . . . White's harem of prostitutes became the focal point of an extensive CIA study of how to exploit the art of lovemaking for espionage purposes." (pp. 32-33).

While the CIA was running a taxpayer financed whorehouse, the US Army Chemical Corp had, by the mid-1960s, conducted LSD experiements on fifteen hundred military personnel. According to the authors, "Some later claimed they were coerced into 'volunteering' for these experiments by their superior officers. A number of GI veterans complained they suffered from severe depression and emotional disturbances after the LSD trials." (p. 40). In the early 1950s, the Agency had performed LSD experiments on POWs, federal prisoners, Security officers and, according to the CIA's own language, "at least twelve human subjects of not too high mentality." (p. 14).

The late John Lennon was an enthusiastic LSD disciple in the 1960s. In a Rolling Stone interview shortly after the Beatles broke up in 1969, he claimed to have taken over 1,000 trips. Shortly before his death in 1980 he said: "We must always remember to thank the CIA and the army for LSD. That's what people forget . . . They invented LSD to control people and what they did was give us freedom. Sometimes it works in mysterious ways its wonders to perform." (quoted in Acid Dreams, p. 289).

Lennon penned Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds for the 1967 Sgt. Pepper album, a record that was the epitome of the "acid rock" trend of the time. It must also be noted that William Shatner's version of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds might literally be the worst piece of music(?) ever recorded in the entire history of the universe. But if you're an old hippie, you might find the video a bit trippy.

Happy Birthday, Lucy.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Simple Question of Fact: Did Amy Have A Lawyer Present?

Be sure to go to Michelle Monte's blog for recount updates from Tuesday and Monday. She also has notes from Friday, April 7th. The Tuesday notes, under Wards 15 and 16, says, "Lawyers for both sides present." Simple question of fact: Did Amy Weinsheim have a lawyer present? In a previous thread on this blog, Mrs. Thiel said, "I have heard no mention of a lawyer and Amy has never said to me that she has one . . . "

I don't really care if Amy had a lawyer or not. It just seems fascinating to me that there could actually be disagreement over something like that. The lawyer was either there or s/he wasn't.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Civil Dialogue on Iraq

Take a listen to my Radio Commnetary interview with Jim Hanson, Madison's favorite hawk. It's a good example of how two people who have very different views on Iraq can have a civil dialogue. We need more of that in the mainstream media.

Madison's Favorite Hawk on Radio Commentary Tonight

In February I shared a stage (well, a small front part of a crammed coffee house anyway) in Madison with John Nichols of the Cap Times. While there, I met Jim Hanson. "Uncle Jimbo -- Madison's Favorite Hawk"-- is retired from the Army Special Forces and runs the Military Matters Blog for Madison.Com. He brings a solid conservative voice to Radio Commentary tonight (6:20 - 7:00 p.m. WRST). Jim put in a plug for the show on his blog today.

Jim also manages a site called Black Five and the Milblog Wire, a wire service providing stories from deployed military folks and other defense experts.

We're going to be discussing the recent troop withdrawal referenda along with a variety of other issues. For those who've been waiting to hear me get whupped by a real conservative, tonight could be the night. If anyone would like to call-in live to bail me out, the number is (920) 424-3113.

Fitzhenry: The Enduring Image of Dan Becker

Jim Fitzhenry has an interesting "fill in the blank" exercise going on over at his blog. Check it out here. Perhaps after checking that out you might want to come back to this post and fill in this blank: Jim Fitzhenry is ________________________. (:-)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Extra! Extra! Developer Pays Taxes!

Whenever Stew Rieckman writes about Ben Ganther, I find myself humming "That's What Friends Are For." Can you imagine being a local power broker--the kind that can land sweetheart TIF deals, influence political campaigns, and put off paying taxes for "strategic" reasons--and have a buddy in the editorial room of the largest print media outlet in town to boot? Would that be a dream gig or what?

Stew's upset that the "Web gurus, bloggers, pundits and muckrakers," those with the "attention span of a gnat on crack" (that's actually pretty clever), revealed their lack of fairness by not picking up immediately on the story that --suprise!!--the 100 Block of North Main St. is now caught up on its delinquent tax payments. This after the gnats "went nuts" in January when it was revealed that the property was in arrears and "good old Ben Ganther and his partners were roasted on a public spit of indignation and vilified by anyone and everyone with a computer keyboard." Sing now with Dionne, Stevie, and Elton: "For good times and bad times/I'll be on your side forever more/That's what friends are for"

The blogosphere created the pressure necessary for the 100 block partners to start getting serious about meeting their tax obligations. I don't think anyone can seriously believe that those taxes would be paid today were it not for the web reporting, especially that which appeared on Oshkosh News and Eye on Oshkosh.

Wisconsinites: Leave Iraq

A growing body of data demonstrates clearly that Wisconsinites want the US to leave Iraq. First we saw the results of the Green Party sponsored April 4th referenda across the state, in which 40,043 voters (61%), including voters in 6 communities that went for George Bush in 2004, said YES to immediate withdrawal.

Now we have the results of a WPR/St. Norbert College poll, in whch 51% were in favor of this statement: A number of communities in the state of Wisconsin have placed on their local ballots a question about withdrawing troops from Iraq as soon as possible. If this were on your local ballot, would you vote in favor of withdrawing troops or against withdrawing troops?

Today in a WPR discussion of that poll, conservative blogger Owen Robinson of Boots and Sabers told Joy Cardin and John Nichols that the "as soon as possible" in the question would have allowed even war supporters to say yes. Robinson believes the US should leave Iraq "as soon as possible after victory."

But another poll, this one sponsored by the Strategic Vision firm, suggests strongly that Wisconsinites do in fact want the US to leave Iraq as close to immediately as possible. In a poll conducted April 7-9 (scroll down to question #7), 55% said YES to the question, "Would you like to see the United States withdraw all troops from Iraq within six months?"

Local activists will soon make a decision as to whether to attempt a November referendum for the city of Oshkosh. Since Bush toadies and war apologists (both of whom seem more than willing to fight the war to the last drop of other peoples' childrens' blood) will continue to try to undermine the results of local referenda, I agree with Xoff that we should have a statewide referendum.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bicycle Race

It was really great to see Babblemur come out of the closet to reveal his not-yet-addicted to American Idol status. I predict Kellie Pickler will win because she has the Suzanne Somers in the first season of Three's Company kind of appeal for the mass audience. As noted by Jim Fraenkel, executive producer of MTV News, " . . . Americans are watching reality shows like they used to watch sitcoms. I think that's why stupid plays well." (from the New York Post).

But as Babs said, the Idol contestants have been singing Queen songs. Since we are getting very close to biking season (hooray!), I was reminded that one of my favorite Queen songs is Bicycle Race.

Dan Becker's Search For Dimpled Chads

The front page of today's Oshkosh Northwestern has a photo of School Board candidates Dan Becker and Amy Weinsheim observing ballots during the recount procedure currently going on. Becker asked for a recount after he came up eight votes short on April 4th. According to the Northwestern story, Becker literally wants the 262 votes cast at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church on Main St. (the place I vote at, in case anyone is interested) nullified because the ballot bag was not signed by the chief election inspector at that district.

I disagree with Dan Becker on board issues, but he takes his board responsibility seriously, is responsive to citizens, and I think overall did a good job in his first term. However, if he is seriously trying to suppress 262 votes on the basis of what appears to be a technicality, then he is turning this recount into Florida 2000. A request to suppress votes will also force many people who voted for him to question their support, resulting in a situation where even if Becker wins the recount he will go back on the Board with his reputation seriously tarnished.

Becker and Weinsheim should vigorously defend their rights during the recount. But let's remember this is not Bush-Gore 2000 and we are not dealing with dimpled chads.

Finally: if the Board of Canvassers decides to suppress my vote at St. John's Church, I will seek a legal remedy to make sure my vote counts.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Castle: Muzzle Citizens, Muzzle Mattox, Support Scheuermann

Well, you have to give Oshkosh Mayor Bill Castle some credit for at least giving everyone a week's warning about the tripe he plans to propose at next Tuesday's new Council organizational meeting. During tonight's Council meeting, Castle floated three stink bombs:

1. Claiming that too many people use the forum as a "soapbox," Castle wants to limit citizen statements to one each quarter for each individual citizen. This is clearly aimed at the curmudgeonly Ken Ben Bender and Gordon Doule, though Castle did not mention them by name. A similar proposal was made last year but went nowhere.

2. Claiming that some Council member statements feature inappropriate advertisements for events, Castle wants to eliminate such "advertisements." This is clearly aimed at Councilor Shirley Mattox, who typically uses her Council member statement to act as somewhat of an entertainment guide for an element of the population who apparently rely on annoucements at government meetings to plan their social and activity calender. If I'm at home watching the meeting on Oshkosh Cable Access Television I change the channel faster than you can say "the cost of two butter burger baskets" when Shirley starts the announcements, but I still defend her right to make them. All politicians are entitled to some pointless rhetoric, and at least Shirley's announcements aren't mean spirited, self-serving, or divisive. They are merely . . . pointless.

3. Claiming that the Deputy Mayor position is not based on seniority, and that the person in that position should have an interest in evaluation of the city administration, Castle said he plans to nominate Meredith Scheuermann. This in spite of the fact that Meredith is just finishing her first year, her interest in evaluation of city personnel is no greater than any other councilor, and she will not even be attending the organizational meeting at which her nomination for the position will be voted on. If, as seems likely, Scheuermann receives the 4 votes necessary to become Deputy Mayor, she will be replacing Frank Tower in that position. Mr. Tower decided not to run for reelection this year. Meredith and Frank are essentially similar in political outlook and approach to governance, so in some ways her ascendance to the position represents more of the same. Besides, Castle's golf buddies like her a whole lot.

For his citizen and council member statement proposals, Bill Castle is certainly putting himself in competition for a muzzle award.

The 2006 Jefferson Muzzles

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has announced its annual list of the worst free speech "muzzlers" of the past year. They say that "the Jefferson Muzzles are awarded as a means to draw national attention to abridgments of free speech and press and, at the same time, foster an appreciation for those tenets of the First Amendment. " Here's an Associated Press Summary of the "Winners."

For engaging in wiretapping of American citizens without paying heed to FISA requirements, George W. Bush is named the Muzzler In Chief. Other 2006 Jefferson Muzzles go to:
Locally, by far the most deserving Muzzle Recipient is Fond du Lac County Judge Robert Wirtz, who treated cheap-shot comments on a local Web site as if they were a national security threat and ended up shutting the site down for several days. Other candidates include UW Oshkosh administrators who send thinly veiled warnings to select faculty contemplating runs for political office, along with "reminders" of what constitutes "political activity" on campus. And of course our local closed meeting advocates deserve a muzzle too.

Xoff On Twisting The Referendum Results

Bill Christofferson does an excellent job of showing the extent to which the Bush toadies and elements of the mainstream media are attempting to twist the results of last week's troop withdrawal referenda. As noted in his blog piece, the LaCrosse Tribune has been absolutely shameful on this issue, suggesting last week that the reason the referendum passed in LaCrosse was because of the concentration of votes coming from students and nuns. Then the Tribune felt compelled to commission a poll of LaCrosse County, using the results (a whopping 51.5% said no to "cut and run") to suggest that if the entire couny had voted instead of the city of LaCrosse the referendum would have lost. What the F _ _ k are they teaching in journalism school these days?

Xoff challenges LaCrosse County to place the referendum question on the ballot in November. The same should happen in Winnebago County.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Awful Poll Numbers

The Washington Post-ABC News poll released today reveals a population deeply dissatisfied with the president's performance, the Iraq War, the performance of the Congress, and virtually everything else. Conservative Andrew Sullivan says the poll represents the "unraveling of this presidency."

With dreadful numbers like these, Howard Dean ought to be able to manage at least a takeover of the House of Representatives for the Democrats in November. If he can't, the party would suffer a midterm funk and he should turn in his resignation letter as DNC chair the day after the elections.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Wirtzian Threshold + Outagamie's Sore Losers

First, it was nice to see the Everday Editor make "somewhat of a concession" today in granting that the quality of supervisors on the Winnebago County Board is more important than the quantity of seats. He also says some very nice things about new supervisor Donna Lohry and concludes that "If the county board was smaller, it would be much more difficult for candidates like Lohry to unseat incumbents." I guess great minds think alike, eh?

The rest of the column deals with supervisor Mike Norton's ill-fated March Madness scheme to solicit bets on the election outcomes, and if I were a bettin' man myself I'd say Mike's probably right about now thinking that a Judge Wirtzian effort to shut down the Northwestern wouldn't be such a bad idea. (Perhaps if Stew had accused Mike of setting a point "spread" or "laying" odds, that would have met the Wirtzian threshold for enforcing prior restraint.).

But the real purpose of this post is to alert T2T readers to some serious sore losin' goin' on in Outagamie County. According to the Post-Crescent, three ousted Outagamie County Board supervisors are blaming their losses on a conspiracy involving County Executive Toby Paltzer, supervisor Helen Nagler, and Sheriff Brad Gehring. "They put a machine together," said ousted supervisor Bob Spahn.

Ousted supervisor Larry Cain says the machine politicians are "terrified" of him because he "forced them to do what they should do." Yet he apparently doesn't think the fact that he missed 39% of the Board's meetings had anything to do with his defeat.

I think this video from a Japanese game show is a perfect going away present for the Outagamie County sore losers.

Thoughtful Conservatism on Iraq

Much of what passes for "conservatism" these days is merely blind partisanship--funereal flimflam espoused by flesh and blood robots who'd support George Bush even if he publicly pissed on the Constitution. Very much like the so-called "liberals" during Clinton's reign of error.

For thoughtful conservatism (thoughtful conservatism is NOT an oxymoron), the American Conservative magazine is an excellent source. Former Pentagon official Wayne Merry's "What Victory Lost" provides 10 reasons why the US would be better off today had the Iraq invasion and occupation not taken place. As the Constitution takes a daily beating these days, Merry's not-so-merry eighth reason why we'd be better off without the Iraq fiasco is terrifyingly on target:

. . . . the integrity of the American Republic would be under less strain, our civil liberties more secure, and our constitutional institutions less endangered by the demands of a wartime executive. A reality of our history is that wars are bad for liberty at home, even if we help spread it abroad. The true peace dividend of the end of the Cold War should have been restoration of the proper balance of powers in our national government and restitution of the primacy of the rights of our citizens. Sadly, it did not happen and will not so long as the national-security justification covers a myriad of governmental sins. Without the Iraq War, the fundamental struggle between those Americans dedicated to the Republic and those intoxicated by the quest for empire would be less skewed toward the imperialists.

Merry's essay comes at the same time that the New York Times is reporting on the contents of an internal report by the US Embassy and military leadership in Baghdad. The report was provided to the Times by a government official unhappy with the progress of the war, and it directly contradicts the upbeat assessments provided by VP Cheney, Rummy, and General Pace.

Conservatism should mean defending the Constitution and avoidance of military adventurism. What's running the show in Wasthingon right now surely is not liberal, but it ain't conservative either. Not by a long shot.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Rylance on Recount, Monte Response

The Radio Commentary interview with Dan Rylance can be found here. The first 5 minutes or so are spent talking about the School District recount. Michelle Monte responded in the previous post--I'll reproduce it here so that the interview and the response are in the same blog post:

I am listening to the recorded version of Tony's show and have always enjoyed interviews with Dan Rylance. I am curious about something and maybe I am reading too much into the tone of his voice when discussing Dan Becker's "team."

I have never been in an election like this much less a recount and I am studying Political Science at UWO this semester. I am at the recount for two reasons: 1. I am trying to learn everything I can about the election laws and processes; 2. I am disturbed by the number of bungles that supposedly occurred during the election. I want to know if something went wrong and not every vote was fairly counted. I would also like to know if Amy won by votes or a computer glitch. It would be nice if she deserved her seat, wouldn't it?

Paul Esslinger was there as a taxpayer and a council member who was also disturbed by events of Tuesday night. I don't know what his assumptions are or motives, you would have to ask him.

I chose to sit by Dan because he invited me from the cheap seats and he has always been nice to me as a "freshman politician," so to speak, unlike others currently on the board; even when we have disagreed.

I realize Amy's team of her friend and her mom were not as "famous," but it isn't like she was all alone with her baby in the big bad board room with only the superintendent to talk to.

I was coaching junior bowling so I couldn't call in to the show to ask what Mr. Rylance meant. I certainly don't know him well enough to make assumptions or guess what he feels about anyone or anything. I have chosen, as a candidate, to pull a "McHugh" and be there to learn everything I can about election process, good or bad, exciting or dull.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Dan Rylance on Radio Commentary Today

Regular guest Dan Rylance will join me on Radio Commentary tonight from 6:20 - 7:00 p.m. on WRST - FM 90.3. Dan is Radio Commentary's answer to Mark Shields, a clever pundit with a knack for shedding light on often abstruse local issues (I really do believe that, but to tell you the truth I was just looking for a way to use the word "abstruse" in a sentence.). We had Dan on before the primary and after.

Radio Commentary is a live call-in show. The direct line is (920) 424-3113.

Judas' Own Personal Jesus

Biblical scholars and archaeologists have restored and authenticated the Gospel of Judas, said to be "the most significant archaeological discovery in 60 years." The Gospel offers a view of Jesus quite unlike that offered in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There, Judas is a condemned traitor. In the Gospel of Judas, Judas is Jesus's closest friend, "someone who understands Christ's true message." In this account, Jesus asks Judas to sell him out; he prefers that the "liberation from his human body" be put in place by a friend rather than an enemy. (I have a feeling this Gospel will be used by supporters of assisted suicide to give Biblical creedence to their conviction.).

The Gospel of Judas will be the topic of a special National Geographic television program this Sunday (7 p.m. CST).

As for me, I'm still trying to decide if Johnny Cash's version of Personal Jesus is better than the Depeche Mode original.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Hall, Lohry Victories Show Benefit Of Large Board

Two Winnebago County Board of Supervisors incumbents were defeated on Tuesday. Paul Sundquist lost his District 17 seat to Jef Hall, while District 14's Harold Steineke was defeated by Donna Lohry. Neither Sundquist nor Steineke were involved in any scandal, nor were voters upset with them over any particular issue. Hall and Lohry simply worked harder to win the seats.

Contrast the Hall and Lohry victories in small, walkable districts with what has been happening at other levels of government in Oshkosh. In both the Oshkosh Common Council and School Board, election victories the last two years were largely the result of the power of incumbency, amount of money spent in the election, and special interest group endorsement. In a truly representative democratic system, incumbency, money, and special interest endorsement should be the least important factors in deciding who gets elected. Yet as the size of the governmental unit gets smaller and the number of voters in a district gets larger, it becomes more difficult for a Hall or a Lohry to win a seat just by outworking their opponent.

Oshkosh Mayor Bill Castle, he with great name recognition, financing, and special interest buddies, has never lost an at-large election in the city of Oshkosh. Yet when he tried to win a county board seat, he lost to Bill Wingren who simply worked harder to meet voters of District 18.

It is true that too many county board seats go uncontested. But to solve that problem by eliminating the seats would be like curing a dandruff problem via decapitation. Perhaps the Hall and Lohry examples will show potential candidates throughout the county that the incumbents can be beat fairly easily if you simply take the time to meet the voters of your district and rally some volunteers to your side.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Wisconsin Towns Say Withdraw!

On Tuesday voters in 24 of 32 Wisconsin towns said it is time to bring the troops home from Iraq. For me, the key cities were Madison and LaCrosse. Since the referendum was expected to pass in Madison, what was key was that it pass by a large margin. It did:

Yes: 24,344 (68.39%)
No: 11,252 (31.61%)

LaCrosse is a working class city of a little over 50,000 and moderate to conservative in its politics. The city council there rejected the referendum, but activists gathered enough signatures to place it on the ballot. A victory for a referendum calling for immediate troop withdrawal in a city like LaCrosse, no matter how large or small the margin of victory, would send a powerful message to the White House. The LaCrosse referendum passed handily:

Yes: 3,614 (54.78%)
No: 2,983 (45.22%)

Results from all 32 towns can be found here.

The Bush Administration and its Congressional enablers cannot ignore these results. Remember, almost all of these referendum questions were calling for IMMEDIATE withdrawal of troops, a position that media spin doctors and Republicrat hacks have been telling us for months has no support within the population. Wisconsin proved them wrong tonight. Had the referendum question called for withdrawal according to some kind of timetable, no doubt they would have passed by much larger margins.

The results in LaCrosse suggest that Oshkosh area activists should seriously consider trying to get the referendum on the November ballot.

From Blackstone To Blogging

Fremgen v. FOB is providing our community with a civics lesson on the First Amendment and freedom of Speech. Miles Maguire and Stew Rieckman, among others, have expressed outrage at Judge Wirtz's enforcement (now lifted) of a "prior restraint" against the Full of Balogna Web site. Their outrage is rooted in the idea that freedom of speech and expression exists when there is absence of prior restraint; i.e. the censorship of a message before it is communicated.

The First Amendment itself does not define what freedom of speech means. It says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The Amendment became law in 1791, yet by 1798 the Congress was "abridging the freedom of the speech" and of the press. On July 14th of that year the Congress passed The Sedition Act (scroll down to section 2). According to Thomas Tedford and Dale Herbeck (Freedom of Speech in the United States), "At least twenty-four newspaper editors and one congressman--all supporters of the Democratic Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson--were arrested and tried under the Sedition Act. A number were convicted and were fined or jailed." (p. 29).

The 1798 Sedition Act is not an isolated, unique event in American history. The federal government and the states have passed numerous restrictions on speech over the years that blatantly violate the letter of the First Amendment. How is that possible? Very simply, US Courts have defined freedom of speech to mean what Maguire and Rieckman think it means: the government cannot prevent you from communicating, but once you do communicate there could be punishment. This view of freedom of speech actually comes from British Jurist William Blackstone's 1769 Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. 4, Chapter 11, "Of Offenses to the Public Peace." On pp. 151-152 Blackstone said:

"The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state: but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publication, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press. But if he published what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequences of his own temerity."

That is a very weak standard of protection for speech and press, a kind of "chilling effect" standard that always holds out the possibility that governments can define messages as "criminal matter." Blackstone of course was looking for a standard of speech and press protection that could exist comfortably with the British monarchy. The philosopher Jeremy Bentham, an influential 19th century advocate of expanded individual freedoms, called Blackstone's Commentaries "ignorance on stilts," mostly because he saw the Commentaries as preserving outmoded legal traditions and privileging the powerful.

A Blackstone inspired understanding of the First Amendment has allowed the government to place numerous restrictions on speech over the years. Moreover, the Blackstone inspired understanding of the First Amendment has tied the courts up with countless suits that are often vindictive or frivolous, and even allowed corporations to silence their critics by filing "strategic lawsuits against public participation" (SLAPP suits).

The Blackstone standard, in my opinion, is fine if we are talking about certain forms of defamation, pornography, or other messages that can be shown to have real destructive effects. My concern is that the standard has been used too often to stifle DISSENT and enabled government to target individuals for prosecution merely because they disagree with them. Critics of World War I urging draft resistance were jailed, for example, under a Blackstone inspired "Espionage Act" that the courts justified on the grounds that the First Amendment does not allow for "yelling fire in a crowded theatre." Yet as historian Howard Zinn and others have argued, what those dissenters were actually doing was warning people not to enter a theatre that was already on fire. The Blackstone standard has been and can be used to persecute and harass messengers of such warnings, and that's my problem with it.

Blogs can be great forums for dissent. I'd hate to see them bludgeoned by a Blackstone standard.

Monday, April 03, 2006

RIP: Dr. Bernard L. Brock

I teach my First Amendment class from 5-8 p.m. on Monday nights. Tonight was difficult. About an hour before class started I found out that one of the major influences in my life died last Saturday. Dr. Bernie Brock, Professor Emeritus of Rhetorical Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, was 73. Bernie was a highly respected scholar in the area of political rhetoric, and a much loved teacher who directed scores of M.A. theses and doctoral dissertations.

Bernie was not my doctoral advisor, but he was on my doctoral committee. While I was at Wayne from 1984 - 1987 I took every graduate level class he offered, enjoying them immensely. Bernie's classes were graduate seminars in the best sense; graduate students presented summaries and critiques of class readings along with original papers while Bernie offered his own insights and musings. Actually, whenever I talk about the definitions of Radical, Liberal, Convervative, and Reactionary, just about everything I know about those labels comes from listening to Bernie in class.

When it came time for me to write my doctoral dissertation, Bernie approached me one day and said that I should write the definitive study of the rhetoric of the Reagan Administration. At the time the prospect of studying Ronald Reagan for a year did not impress me, so I didn't do it.

I grew closer to Bernie after I left Wayne. We would see each other just about every year at the annual meetings of the National Communication Association and the Central States Communication Association. We were on many panels together and developed into a kind of mutual admiration society.

About 5 years ago Bernie somehow got on my email distribution list, and he always sent me supportive comments about my activities and writings. He was a hard core Democrat, yet he appreciated my third party activism. A few years ago he started sending me copies of op-ed pieces he was writing for the Michigan Citizen. Here they are:
Bernie is survived by his son Arthur, daugher Leslie, and two grandchildren.

The Shifting Legal Landscape of Blogging

Lawyer Jennifer L. Peterson has an excellent article in the March, 2006 editition of Wisconsin Lawyer on "The Shifting Legal Landscape of Blogging."

Legal wonks following Fremgen v. FOB should also be sure to check out the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in Torgerson v. Journal Sentinel, Inc. Though that case did not deal with Internet defamation, the Court's opinion shows how extremely difficult it is for public official defamation plaintiffs to prove "actual malice." (The Court's actual malice findings can be found on pp. 16-27 of the opinion).

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Fremgen v. FOB: Relevant Case Law

Miles Maguire has begun collecting documents related to the defamation case launched by Winnebago County Clerk of Courts Diane Fremgen against the Full of Balogna web site. As others have already noted, it is shocking that a judge ordered the shutting down of the site. Diane Fremgen and her family have every reason to be outraged at FOB, and have every right to pursue a defamation suit, but in shutting down the FOB site Fond du Lac County Judge Robert Wirtz has created a chilling effect that can intimidate web site operators and participants into silence. This is not acceptable. Wirtz's order is so drastic and out of line with traditional remedies that one cannot help but question his competence and fitness to serve on the bench. I applaud the Oshkosh Northwestern for its reporting, seeking out of First Amendment experts in its reporting, and its editorial position. Today the paper wisely counsels Wirtz to reconsider his decision and lift the injunction.

One reason why Internet defamation cases are difficult is because the federal government and state legislatures have yet to define precisely the legal status of computer bulletin boards and blogs. This creates bizarre situations such as Fremgen v. Full of Balogna, where because the Full of Balogna site is not a newspaper or other kind of print periodical, Fremgen did not legally have to provide those responsible for allegedly libelous posts "a reasonable opportunity to correct the libelous matter." (Wisconsin Statutues 895.05(2)). In "It's in the Cards, Inc. v. Fuschetto, 193 Wis. 2nd 429, 535 N.W. 2d 11 (Ct. App. 1995)" a judge concluded that a computer bulletin board is not a periodical and thus not subject to 895.05(2).

Here's why this is bizarre: if Fremgen had been defamed in the Oshkosh Northwestern, a publication with a subscriber base in the thousands and high Internet readership, she would have to ask for a retraction before going ahead with a libel case. Yet the FOB site, whose readership statistics cannot even come close to a mainstream periodical and whose readership appears limited to local political junkies and Internet Trolls, does not get a chance to retract? Talk about the picture being upside down. The legislature needs to correct this imbalance in the law immediately to help avoid situations like this.

Because the Internet is still a relatively new form of communication, case law regarding defamation issues is slim. Stanford University has a user friendly page of general information regarding defamation and the Internet. The page is somewhat old but most of the information on it is still valuable. That page can be found here. AOL also maintains an archive of Internet defamation cases. That archive can be found here. Below are brief descriptions of some of the cases that might apply to Fremgen v. FOB.

Cubby v. CompuServe (1991). A federal court decided that an Internet Service Provider (message distributor) is not responsible for the content of individual messages.

Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy (1995). A New York State court decided that whovever exercises editorial control over a website can be held responsible for editorial content.

Zeran v. AmericaOnline (1997). A federal district court decided that Internet Servive Providers cannot be held responsible for defamatory messages.

McIntyre v. Ohio (1995). Not a defamation case, but has implications for the Internet because it dealt with whether anonymous communications deserve First Amendment protection. The United States Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment DOES protect anonymous messages.

ACLU of Georgia v. Miller (1997). A US District court decided that the First Amendment protects even anonymous Internet messages.

Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co. (1990). Not an Internet defamation case, but the decision has implications for the Net. In Milkovich the US Supreme Court found that statements of opinion CAN be defamatory. This is important because defenders of sites like FOB frequently say things like "well, it's only their opinion."

Hopefully Fremgen v. FOB can help to bring some clarity to the law regarding Internet defamation. On the other hand, if this case does go forward we should expect it to degenerate into a circus. Proving actual malice will require Fremgen's legal team to show that those responsible for the FOB posts "in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth" of the posts (St. Amant v. Thompson) or had a high degree of awareness that what was published was false (Garrison v. Louisiana). We could have a situation where the FOB crowd end up having to explain their state of mind about Fremgen via recourse to the infamous tape recordings of former District Attorney Joseph Paulus made by E.J. Jelinski.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Media Rants: Media Coverage of McCarthy

On April 27th at 6:30 p.m. the Appleton Public Library and the Valley Scene are sponsoring a free screening of George Clooney's "Good Night, and Good Luck," an award-winning rendition of Ed Murrow's 1954 "See It Now" expose' of Senator Joe McCarthy. Brian Farmer of the John Birch Society and I will be on a panel that night and discuss the issues raised by the film. In a special section of the Scene Brian and I wrote intro pieces for the film. Mine is here.

In my longer Media Rant for April, I decided to write about media coverage of Joe McCarthy in more depth. That piece is here.

Radio Commentary Interview With Bruce Murphy

Last night I interviewed muckraking journalist and editor of Milwaukee Magazine Bruce Murphy. The interview can be found here. He writes a great column for the magazine called Murphy's Law. We spend the first part of the interview talking about a story that appeared in the March issue of the magazine by reporter Geoff Davidian called "Lawyers Run Amok: Members of the Club." The story deals with the problems of Wisconsin's Office of Lawyer Regulation, especially in light of the scandal involving former Winnebago County District Attorney Joseph Paulus. Unfortunately the article is not online and it is difficult to get Milwaukee Magazine up here. Some troubling information from the story:
  • Wisconsin leads the Midwest and the nation in the percent of its lawyers against whom complaints were filed. 11% vs. 9.6% national average.
  • Compared to the Midwest and the nation, Wisconsin pursued formal charges against a smaller percentage of lawyers accused of misconduct: 1.6% vs. a 4% national average.
  • Since 2000 in Wisconsin, the Office of Lawyer Regulation has received more than 11,000 misconduct complaints from judges, lawyers, clients, and others, leading to at least two dozen disbarments – about 2 disbarments for every 1,000 complaints.
In the interview Bruce also takes on Charlie Sykes and mentions Jim Romenesko's Media News, a column very popular among journalists and media watchers.