Thursday, August 31, 2006

Vogeler Challenges Media Blackout

My September Media Rant can be found here. I'm including it also in the body of this blog post:

Wisconsin’s millionaire Democratic Senator Herb Kohl visited Oshkosh in late August to deliver a $150,000 federal grant to the UW Oshkosh Living Healthy Community Clinic. No one is really sure what Kohl’s role was in securing the grant, nor does it really matter. Herb Kohl sits in the Senate because of his personal fortune, because he is marginally competent and avoids controversy, and because an irresponsible corporate media won’t give challengers a fair shake. Kohl’s September 12th Democratic Party primary challenger, Madison activist Ben Masel, is all but nonexistent in the mainstream press, ensuring that Kohl will be on the November ballot seeking a 4th term.

The Wisconsin Green Party’s candidate for US Senate, Rae Vogeler (, will be on the November ballot. Running a spirited grassroots campaign, Vogeler last month met voters in northeast Wisconsin at the Fond du Lac public library, South Park in Oshkosh, Appleton’s Harmony CafĂ©’, and a peace rally in Green Bay. Cheryl Hentz and I also had the opportunity to interview her for an hour on our cable access television program “Eye on Oshkosh.” Vogeler, a 50-year-old working mom originally from Milwaukee and now residing in Oregon, WI, is an articulate citizens’ candidate who presents herself as a viable alternative to the wealthy Kohl.

“For the last three years, George Bush and Herb Kohl have been spending our nation’s wealth on Iraq. It is time we bring it home and start focusing on rebuilding our own communities here in Wisconsin,” said Vogeler in a press release announcing the northeast Wisconsin tour. “Voters across the nation are demanding their voices be heard. I am running to be the voice of Wisconsin voters in Washington.”

Vogeler wants to be the voice of Wisconsin in Washington, but will the establishment media allow voters to hear HER voice? As a Green party member and someone who has worked on Green campaigns and run for office as a Green, I can attest to the difficulty of getting heard when one chooses to challenge the Republicrat duopoly. During Vogeler’s Fox Valley visit, I asked her about media non-recognition of her campaign:

“Wisconsin’s major media gave us a ton of stories about whether or not Tommy Thompson would challenge Kohl, and then a ton more when Tommy decided not to run,” she said. “Why not give the focus instead to candidates like me who are actually in the race?”

Vogeler pointed to Ned Lamont’s victory over long-time incumbent Joe Lieberman in last month’s Connecticut primary as an example of the appeal of anti-war candidates: “Lamont’s a millionaire who has the resources to produce expensive ads, but the success of his campaign really had more to do with word of mouth at the grassroots level. Connecticut’s primary voters discovered that they had the power not only to send Joe Lieberman a message, but to remove him from office.” Not surprisingly, Lieberman is now running for the seat as an Independent after a lifetime of castigating anyone who dares run for office as anything other than a Republicrat.

Is Herb Kohl vulnerable on the Iraq War? John Nichols of the Madison Capital Times thinks so. After Kohl’s re-election campaign announcement was disrupted by peace activists who asked the senator to sign an Iraq withdrawal pledge and vote against supplemental funding for the war, Nichols wrote:

Kohl missed a chance to be the sort of leader that is needed at a point when a disastrous war is spiraling deeper into chaos.

The senator refused to sign the pledge, which was his right. But, after criticizing President Bush for misusing the authority given him by Congress to pressure Iraq and for mishandling the war itself, Kohl essentially echoed the administration's line on staying the course.

"My own position is we ought to do much more to encourage, if not insist, that the Iraqi government, the leadership, come together in a unified manner so that they can, number one, govern their country and, number two, take over security," Kohl said. "That will enable the U.S. to draw down and then hopefully phase out of the occupation."

By any meaningful measure, those words are indistinguishable from the talking points of a White House that Kohl admits has misused its authority and mishandled one of the most important responsibilities given any president - that of sending the sons and daughters of this country into combat.

Incredibly, Kohl’s campaign website does not even include the Iraq War under its “Issues” link. What a sad commentary on the major media in this state that it is willing to let a United States senator go through a reelection campaign without seriously challenging him on the most critical issue of our time. Last spring 24 of 32 Wisconsin communities voted to bring the troops home now, powerful evidence that the electorate wants to hear about peace candidates on the ballot.

Kohl’s Republican challenger, Robert Lorge, supports the war. That leaves Rae Vogeler as the only peace candidate in the race. She says, “It’s really our obligation to come forward and challenge this business- and politics-as-usual.” Mainstream media should have the same obligation, which is why the blackout of the Vogeler campaign is wrong and should end now.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Deadly Deja Vu: US Cluster Bombs In Lebanon

In 1982 the Reagan Administration suspended exports to Israel of the Lockheed-Martin manufactured M26 cluster bomb after a congressional inquiry found the weapon had been used against the civilian population in Lebanon. The suspension ended in 1988.

During the most recent invasion of Lebanon, Israel once again used cluster munitions, drawing a harsh rebuke from United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland. He called the Israeli military leadership "completely immoral" and said: "It's an outrage that we have 100,000 unexploded bombs among where children, women, civilians, shop keepers and farmers are now going to tread."

Human Rights Watch has a good introductory primer on cluster munitions that can be found here.

The video below is a CBC National news report on the Bush Administration's horrifying use of cluster bombs in Iraq.

The Fruits of Doylenomics

Jim The New Democrat Doyle has given Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce everything it wanted. Never before in the history of Wisconsin have big corporations, whether in or out of state, had as much of a friend in the guv house. Not even in the dog days of Tommy Thompson did big business call the shots like they do now.

The result? Wisconsin experienced a "stunning" drop in median household income in 2004-2005. What's funny about the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report is watching Doyle sympathizers like David Newby of the AFL-CIO and Laura Dresser of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy minimize the numbers. Had the stats been released under a McCallum or Mark Green administration they would RIGHTFULLY express outrage. These folks are so addicted to lesser evil politics and so unwilling to support a politics of conscience (i.e. endorse Nelson Eisman for governor) that they are no longer even in a position to influence the policies of the Doyle administration--he knows they are in his camp regardless of what he does so why even bother?

Meanwhile the Doyle toadies warn that Mark Green's economic plan will just send more money to business, which is true, but what the hell do they think the Doyle plan was/is? Wisconsin has a "Development Finance Board," completely endorsed by Doyle, that doles out millions to business with no public hearings or oversight. It's a first order scam that the toadies would be screaming bloody murder about if McCallum or Green presided over it.

Only one candidate in the race stands for honest budgeting to meet the needs of real Wisconsinites, and that's Nelson Eisman. Too bad the We The Pinheads, I mean "People," organization gave in to Republicrat pressure to keep him out of the debates.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Media for the Birds

While the American media has been obsessing once again over JonBenet, it is left to the European Press to give currency to important happenings in the United States. Today, for example, the London Independent gave front page treatment to a story on bird extinction that features a study out of Duke:

Last month, a study by Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences concluded that without the impact of human exploration and activity, a natural rate of extinction would be around one species of bird a century. Instead, one species a year is being lost.

If current trends continue, more than 1,200 different types of bird could become extinct during the course of the 21st century.

Perhaps Hitchcock was a prophet.

Ian Gillan in Milwaukee

Singer Ian Gillan, formerly of Deep Purple and one of the great heavy metal shrieking vocalists of all time, will be in Milwaukee this Wednesday. Gillan sang the part of Jesus in the original studio recording of Jesus Christ Superstar, and back in the day I preferred his vocals to other notable metal screamers like Robert Plant and Ozzy Osborne.

As much as I like Gillan, he didn't belong on stage with Pavarotti.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Keep Your Blog To Yourself

I won't be blogging for the next couple of days in order to attend a party for newlyweds Justin and Mandy Mitchell (and baby Anabel). The party is in Door County and I hear there might be some live music.

War Crimes In Lebanon

Amnesty International's findings as regards the conduct of Israel's war in Lebanon paints a devastating picture of a wide range of atrocities committed against the civilian population. Even if the Israeli government's assertion that Hizbullah's hiding within the population makes civilian casualties unavoidable is taken at face value, the report shows a pattern of gross excess:

The widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports, in addition to several statements by Israeli officials, suggests a policy of punishing both the Lebanese government and the civilian population in an effort to get them to turn against Hizbullah. Israeli attacks did not diminish, nor did their pattern appear to change, even when it became clear that the victims of the bombardment were predominantly civilians, which was the case from the first days of the conflict.

The report calls for"immediate establishment of a comprehensive, independent and impartial inquiry into violations of international humanitarian law by both Hizbullah and Israel in the conflict. The inquiry should examine in particular the impact of this conflict on the civilian population. It should propose effective measures to hold accountable those responsible for crimes under international law, and to ensure that the victims receive full reparation." No doubt the United States will use its Security Council veto power to block any UN attempt to create a body to perform such an inquiry.

In the video below, the always entertaining George Galloway leaves a British interviewer befuddled:

Thursday, August 24, 2006

America's Drunkest City says Milwaukee is America's drunkest city. I suppose if Scott Walker was your county executive you'd want to get drunk for sheer escapist purposes.

Gotta love the way Finnish rocker Pelle Mijoona sings "Wishkey."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mike Ellis' Words and Deeds

Neenah Senator Mike Ellis, a Republican with an independent streak, has been on a 10 year quest to reform Wisconsin's corrupt and corrupting method of electing public officials. While the governor and the Republican controlled Senate have been obstacles to reform, the Republican controlled assembly has shown contempt for even the idea of changing the system of legalized bribery that got them into the majority.

Because of Ellis' outspokenness on reform issues, you'd think that in an election year he'd only support reform candidates regardless of party affiliation, right? Of if he can only support Republicans, you'd think that his support would at best be lukewarm for Republicans who refuse to embrace reform, right?

Not so. 54th District Republican candidate Julie Pung-Leschke, the only candidate in the district to fail to complete the League of Women Voters/Common Cause/Wisconsin Democracy Campaign ethics survey, in her campaign finance report shows a $500 contribution from Mike Ellis. I'd say that's pretty enthusiastic support.

Leschke even received a PAC contribution from "Friends of Mike Huebsch"--a legislator who has been openly hostile to the kinds of reforms advocated by Ellis.

No one would expect Ellis to endorse Democrat Gordon Hintz, but giving $500 to a candidate who refuses to embrace reform calls into question whether Ellis really believes the rhetoric coming out of his mouth. Looks like he's just one more partisan Republican.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ed Garvey's Words and Deeds

I thought it was real nice the other day when Ed Garvey bashed the DemoPublican front group "We The People" for excluding Greens from their "debates" (i.e. Jim Doyle/Mark Green Snoozefests). He even lamented how the "Green candidate for Senate" probably won't be invited to debate Herb Kohl. (Dear Ed: Her name is Rae Vogeler).

Being that Ed is so upset at the exclusion of Greens from sham debates, you'd think he would then use his influence to get some exposure for Green candidates, right? Wrong. Neither Rae Vogeler nor Nelson Eisman (Green candidate for governor) have been invited to speak at the September Fighting Bob Fest, an event which is supposedly designed to "promote solidarity" among progressives.

Last year I argued that Ed should change the name of the event to the Gaylord Proxmire Fest, something I believe even more strongly today.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Wheezin' in the Wind

Chris Richards in the Washington Post says that Bob Dylan's failing voice is making his tunes unrecognizeable these days. Of course Dylan's appeal never was his singing, anyway (nor was it his guitar and harmonica playing). He's one of those artists I never really liked, yet always ended up buying his records anyway. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Being that his voice is shot, perhaps we will start seeing more covers of his tunes. I like Scottish singer KT Tunstall's version of "Tangled Up In Blue." (see below)

Zeidler Interview On YouTube

Our friends over at the Nate Report have placed the Frank Zeidler interview into seven easily viewable YouTube videos. You can get them here. Thanks Nate!

Boston Massacre II

As a New York city boy and life long Yankee fan/Red Sox hater, I just have to take a break to congratulate Joe Torre's Yanks on their 5-game SWEEP of the Sox, completed today at Fenway Park. Lots of people believe that today's millionaire pro athletes don't play with the passion of yesteryear, but the Yankees' complete ass kicking of the Sox showed something different.

New Zogby Poll on Electronic Voting Attitudes

Michael Collins of The Scoop Independent Media summarizes the finding of a new Zogby Poll:

A recent Zogby poll documents ground breaking information on the attitudes of American voters toward electronic voting. They are quite clear in the belief that the outcome of an entire election can be changed due to flaws in computerized voting machines. At a stunning rate of 92%, Americans insist on the right to watch their votes being counted. And, at an overwhelming 80%, they strongly object to the use of secret computer software to tabulate votes without citizen access to that software.

The American public is clear in its desire for free, fair, and transparent elections. An 80%-90% consensus on the right to view vote counting and opposition to secrecy by voting machine vendor is both rare and remarkable in American politics. If only the public knew that these options are virtually non existent in today’s election system.

Part I of Collins' II part series can be found here.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Interview with former Milwaukee Mayor Frank Zeidler

The link below is to a "Commentary" interview with the late Frank Zeidler, socialist mayor of Milwaukee from 1948 - 1960. The interview was originally recorded in August of 2001. The cohost is former Oshkosh mayor James Mather.

The video is in quicktime format and may take a long time to load:
Frank Zeilder interview.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Judge Finds Warrantless Wiretapping Unconstitutional

From the Associated Press. Nice to see there is at least one judge out there who sees the Constitution as something more than a doormat.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Images of the King

Having been to Memphis recently, I can attest that it is impossible to traverse that fine city without being subject to constant reminders of Elvis Presley. This week is "Images of the King" week in Memphis, kind of like the Elvis impersonators' equivalent of the Muslims' hajj to Mecca.

I once read a brilliant piece [by an author I cannot recall] which argued that the first Elvis impersonator was . . . Elvis. His performances in his latter years were such a pathetic parody of his former self that he was in fact an Elvis impersonator.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Veto Power Works When Mayor Votes Only In Case Of Tie

According to Gannett, Oshkosh Common Councilors Esslinger and McHugh are getting set to introduce referendum language that would allow the voters to decide if the mayor of Oshkosh should have veto power. If the story is accurate, the mayoral position would remain unchanged except for the addition of veto power that would take 5 of 7 council votes to override. That is, the mayor would remain primarily a member of the legislature with equal voting powers.

I'm a strong supporter of mayoral veto power; however, such power can be easily abused if the mayor's position remains unchanged except for the addition of the veto. We could find ourselves in an absurd position in which every time the mayor is on the losing end of a 4-3 vote, he vetoes the measure. He then gets to vote to sustain his own veto! Veto power was not meant to serve as another vote for a sore loser among equal members of a legislature. Nor was veto power meant to serve as a vehicle for legislative grandstanding. Rather, veto power was meant to serve as an EXECUTIVE check on the legislature.

The solution is simple: allow the mayor to vote only in the case of a tie. Suppose the council is having a tough deliberation over the budget the mayor wants to see defeated. If the Council passes the budget by a 4-2 vote, the mayor vetoes it and then 5 votes would be needed to override. If the council votes 3-3, the mayor votes NO and the budget is defeated.

Allowing a mayor to veto a piece of legislation that he already voted NO on not only runs the risk of creating image of the "sore loser legislator," but it is also a violation of the spirit of the system of checks and balances on which a constitutional form of government is founded.

Let's give the mayor veto power--but only if the mayor's voting privileges are changed so that s/he only votes in the event of a tie.

257 Potential Key to the City Recipients in Pentagon

Last month the city of Oshkosh in conjunction with the Experimental Attendance Association awarded the Key to the City to Jack Pelton, recipient of two "degrees" from a diploma mill.

Turns out that there are 257 potential key to the city of Oshkosh recipients employed at the Pentagon. Yes, a congressional study (cited in the September Harper's Index) found that 257 Pentagon employees actually listed "degrees" received from diploma mills on their resumes. According to Harper's, approximately 100,000 Americans each year receive "degrees" from diploma mills.

Soon millions of students will start another semester at accredited colleges and universities, going deep in debt to earn legitimate degrees. What fools. Using the Jack Pelton/Pentagon method of degree attainment, they could save lots of time and money. If they learn how to fly a plane and kiss the right butts they might even get a key to the city of Oshkosh.

Isn't it time for someone in a position of authority in Oshkosh city government to stand up and insist that Pelton's key to the city award be rescinded?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Ahmadinejad Blogs

Iranian President Ahmadinejad now maintains a blog.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Jill Carroll Story

Jill Carroll, the reporter held hostage in Iraq for several months, has told the story of her ordeal to the Christian Science Monitor. The first of ten installments is here.

The video below is an interview Carroll was forced to participate in by her abductors before her release.

County Board Size Debate In Fond du Lac

Fond du Lac County voters in November will have the opportunity to reduce their County Board's size from 36 to 18. Gannett's Fond du Lac Reporter today presents a debate on the issue. It looks like the side in favor of reducing the Board size is using cost savings as the major argument in favor, a position that appeals to voters but doesn't pan out in the real world. There is no evidence that smaller boards spend less money, and some evidence that they actually spend more.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Fiona Apple's Tarantism

Saw Fiona Apple at Milwaukee's beautiful Riverside Theatre last night. Opening act David Garza wowed the audience with his frenetic acoustic guitar playing and soulful voice. His closing number was a duet with one of Fiona's band members; they performed an inspiring version of Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages" that gave me chills.

Fiona rocks with angst that is definitely not for upbeat, optimistic types who don't like to be brought down every now and then. My favorite number was "Sleep to Dream" (from her first album), which she sang with a kind of reckless defiance that was quite intense. Equally compelling was another tune from her first record, "Shadowboxer," which includes one of my all time favorite lines: "What a cunning way to condescend."

I'm not really sure how to describe Fiona's stage movement, except to say that it seems to be a good example of tarantism, an uncontrollable urge to dance. I found it quite unique and intriguing, actually.

Friday, August 11, 2006

RIP: Mike Douglas

Mike Douglas, perhaps the most underrated TV interviewer in the history of the medium, died today at age 81. As a teen in the 1970s, I used to watch the show regularly because of the musical acts. I remember actually watching the interview below with Tom Waits when it first aired in 1976.

Bertolt Brecht Year

The year 2006 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Bertolt Brecht, one of the great political dramatists of the 20th century. The German newspaper Deutsche Welle marks the occasion here.

Below is the legendary Louis Armstrong singing "Mack the Knife," the famous tune from Brecht's Threepenny Opera.

Mushroom Cloud's Silver Lining?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Musings From Patti Smith

I've been a Patti Smith fan since her first album in the mid 1970s. Since the 1990s she's been outspoken on a range of social justice issues; the roots of her politics are disclosed in this interview with John Nichols of the Cap Times in 1997. Below are some musings Patti recently emailed to her fans:

August 9 full moon. This is the day Jerry Garcia died.
He was born on the first of August and passed away on
the ninth, so it's nice to think of that span as Jerry
week. It certainly seems that he well deserves a 9 day
week. So it's winding to a close. I lit him a candle,
listened to him singing Palm Sunday, and looked
at his paintings in a big Jerry book.

August 2, the birthday of my sister Kimberly,
was the anniversary of William Burroughs' passing.
While in my old house in Michigan I found my seventy
year old bottle of Chartreuse squirreled away. I
bought it in the eighties with him in mind. We promised
each other we'd share a drink one day, but we never got around
to it. I reread his Port of Saints and looked at a catalogue of
his gun shot paintings. I traced my son and daughter's names
written in his hand on an old Christmas card.
Then I cracked open the Chartreuse and poured us
each a shot. The green sugary liquid put me in mind
of nineteenth century absinthe, so while I had my
ritual drink with William, I kept in mind the likes of Paul Verlaine,
Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud.

August 3, on the birthday of Beverly Lee, a member of the wondrous Shirelles, Arthur Lee passed away. I met him a long time ago. He was just a little older than me. He was soft spoken with a vague criminal air. Forever Changes left its mark. I was in Michigan when he died and I walked down to the end of my dead end street and sat on a bench beneath a weeping willow. It was at least one hundred degrees but I still had my trusty black coffee, steaming fresh from Seven Eleven. I played back Amoreagain and Orange Skies in my mind. These songs of Love are so deeply rooted I can hear them as clear as if they were wafting from a turntable.

My son's birthday rolled around. August 6 was the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Over one hundred thousand people were massacred in that drop. Too many candles for one to light. I was back at my post on the bench looking out at Lake St. Clair. A huge Monarch brushed my cheek. I figured the butterfly, symbol of immortality, served to evoke them.

A few weeks ago I was in London. I visited a small bar painted green and lit with a green light. William used to frequent this joint some years ago. You can only enter through private subscription. I wasn't drinking. I was just visiting. It was three in the afternoon. There were a few old-school characters nursing their whiskies. Suddenly, in the center of the friendly yet oppressive silence, one of them cried out "Syd Barrett is dead." This took me off guard. But the fellows spontaneously raised their glasses, issued a " here! here! Syd!" and then retreated into their private worlds. For that one moment they were of one mind. And I was with them, saluting someone I never knew. Someone who made music. Someone who loved Arthur Lee.

Today is my friend Betsy Lerner's birthday. It's the day the United States dropped an Atomic Bomb on Nagasaki. It's the day Hermann Hesse died. The day Jerry died. I have returned to the city. Children are racing up and down my street. We humans keep in mind. That's what we do. Tonight is a full moon. Guess when it sets, I will get me a cup of black coffee, sit on the stoop, and contemplate the bombing of Qana, the miracle of love and Dark Star.

Patti Smith

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

We Don't Stop, We Don't Slow Down, We Don't Swerve

Here's local Iraq War vet Jason Moon telling his story. A radio interview with Jason can be found here.

Lieberman Loss: Will Hillary Get The Message?

The biggest loser in last night's Connecticut US Senate primary was not Joe Lieberman, the "Democrat" who stands a good chance of keeping his seat by running as an Independent in November. The biggest loser was Hillary Clinton, whose hawkish stands on Iraq were matched only by Lierberman in terms of the extent to which such stands have provided crucial Democratic shield for the Bush Administration.

Hillary's public spanking of Don Rumsfeld last week hardly represented movement toward an anti-war position on her part. Rather, she's framing the problem with Iraq as largely a management problem. For the most part, that's the Lieberman position that was soundly rejected last night by Connecticut's Democrats.

Progressive alternatives to Hillary are available to New York voters. Jonathan Tasini is the real Democrat in the primary race, though unlike Connecticut's Ned Lamont he is not independently wealthy and probably won't be able to overcome Hillary's war chest. The Green Party's Howie Hawkins, a Vietnam Vet and a teamster, is running on a platform most in touch with the majority of New Yorkers, but he is not likely to overcome the barriers faced by all third party candidates.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Plugged In Again

I just managed to go an entire week with: (1) no television, (2) no newspapers, (3) no Internet. Other than a touch of public radio here and there, I was completely unplugged. I did hear about some flooding in El Paso . . .