Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Troops Want Out

Today the Zogby Poll organization and Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies released the results of a poll of US troops serving in Iraq. The poll was conducted using a methodology designed to maximize valid and reliable results: "The survey included 944 military respondents interviewed at several undisclosed locations throughout Iraq. The names of the specific locations and specific personnel who conducted the survey are being withheld for security purposes. Surveys were conducted face-to-face using random sampling techniques. The margin of error for the survey, conducted Jan. 18 through Feb. 14, 2006, is +/- 3.3 percentage points. "

The findings completely contradict the balderdash about soldiers' sentiments being spewed by the Bush Administration, congressional war boosters, cowardly editorialists, and oppponents of the Wisconsin troop withdrawal movement. Some key findings:
  • 29% of troops believe the US should leave Iraq immediately.
  • 22% said the US should leave Iraq within the next six months.
  • 21% said the US should leave between 6 and 12 months.
  • 23% said the US should stay "as long as they are needed."

That means 72% of US troops believe the US should leave Iraq within a year.

The majority of troop withdrawal referendums on Wisconsin ballots urge the US to begin an immediate withdrawal from Iraq beginning with the Reserves and National Guard. According to the poll, 89% of reserves and 82% of National Guard believe the US should leave Iraq within a year.

These findings demonstrate that the "Vote No" pro-war hawks opposing the Wisconsin referendums, many of them chickenhawks, have been engaging in wildly inaccurate and unethical smears of those who want the troops home. As noted by John Nichols in today's Cap Times: " . . . despite the fact that some of the most conservative members of the Republican caucus in the U.S. House have split with the Bush-Cheney administration and endorsed efforts to bring the troops home, the list of reasons to vote no makes repeated references to the need to counter 'the anti-military Left,' 'the extreme Left,' 'the Radical Left' and the 'Left wing of the Democrat Party.'" Are the 72% of American troops who want troops home within a year part of some Left conspiracy? Are the 29% of soldiers courageous enough to tell a pollster they want immediate withdrawal (and you know that many more feel that way but fear a backlash if they say it) part of some Left conspiracy?

President Bush should listen to conservative icon Bill Buckley. The founder of National Review now says this: "One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. "

Water Wars

Britain's Defense Secretary John Reid (standing next to Rummy) is predicting that water shortages brought on by global warming will result in chaos involving military conflict if the world does not act soon.

The London Independent provides some facts about water consumption:

* On our watery planet, 97.5 per cent of water is salt water, unfit for human use.

* Most of the fresh water is locked in the ice caps.

* The recommended basic water requirement per person per day is 50 litres. But people can get by with about 30 litres: 5 litres for food and drink and another 25 for hygiene.

* Some countries use less than 10 litres per person per day. Gambia uses 4.5, Mali 8, Somalia 8.9, and Mozambique 9.3.

* By contrast the average US citizen uses 500 litres per day, and the British average is 200.

* In the West, it takes about eight litres to brush our teeth, 10 to 35 litres to flush a lavatory, and 100 to 200 litres to take a shower.

* The litres of water needed to produce a kilo of:

Potatoes 1,000

Maize 1,400

Wheat 1,450

Chicken 4,600

Beef 42,500

The Independent's Michael McCarthy explains how dire the situation truly is:

Across the globe, perhaps a third of all people suffer from "water stress". There are 1.1 billion people lacking access to clean water, 2.4 billion lacking access to improved sanitation, and half the world's hospital beds at any one time are thought to be occupied by people suffering from water-borne diseases. You think this is bad? It's going to get worse.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Scooter Doyle's Ticket To Re-Election?

If Ed Garvey is right, and I think he is, Scooter Jensen's refusal to take a bullet for Mark Green and Scott Walker might be the single biggest factor deciding whether or not Doyle is returned to office.

Talk about PATHETIC.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Wispirg Interview Dedicated To Gloria Link

My Radio Commentary interview with Robin Novak and Abby VanStraten of the student Wisconsin Public Interest Research Groups (Wispirg) is available here.

The interview is dedicated to the late Gloria Link, a dear friend of mine and professor of theatre arts at UW Oshkosh from 1959-1992. Gloria died on February 23rd at the age of 79. The campus press release regarding her passing can be found here. (In 1971 Gloria starred in "The Visit," the inaugural play produced at the new Fredric March Theatre when the Theatre program was part of the then Department of Speech; "The Visit" was produced again this year in celebration of the Theatre Program gaining Department status).

Prior Radio Commentary interviews can be found here.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Hentz: Five Rivers Info Owed To Taxpayers, Citizens

Note: This piece by Cheryl Hentz appears on the Eye on Oshkosh site (registration required).

Earlier this evening I was told that certain council candidates who have spoken with Five Rivers developer Tom Doig about his proposed project, are "sitting on" information Mr. Doig shared with them, saying they can't share it with people in the general public because they promised Mr. Doig it would remain confidential. If this is, in fact, true, then it is a big concern to me and I think it should be to every taxpayer in Oshkosh.

We are talking about millions of dollars in taxpayer money and these council candidates who want our votes, by promising confidentiality, seem to be saying to us by their silence that they feel more of an allegiance to a possible developer who is asking for a handout than to the people they say they want to serve and protect the tax dollars for. These are also some of the same people who felt that the closed session meeting of Feb. 14 should have been done in the open. There seems to be a disconnect there. They are either willing to put the taxpayers first or they're not.

I was also told by one council candidate that Tom Doig did not ask for the recent closed session meeting; that, instead, it was community development director Jackson Kinney who pushed for it. This is both troublesome and problematic. It's also a little unbelievable.

But this is not the first time I have heard of Jackson Kinney trying to stop Tom Doig from making information public. Mr. Doig himself told me he had wanted to put certain information out there for the public but that Jackson Kinney stifled it. I asked Bryan Bain, Frank Tower and Burk Tower about this at the last Fifth Tuesday Forum and not one of them was able to answer my question. They said they'd find out though. I hope to hear the answer soon.

I also have a hard time believing that Mr. Doig so desperately wants a public forum on his project. If that is true, why is he "swearing" certain existing council members and candidates to secrecy - even having at least one councilor (Paul Esslinger) sign a confidentiality agreement, which under state statutes he can't require of sitting council members, I'm told. But if Mr. Doig truly does want a public meeting and Mr. Kinney is resisting, there is a simple enough fix. Mr. Doig simply needs to tell Jackson Kinney that the meetings are going to be held in public and with Q & A sessions being shared with the public or he is taking his multi-million dollar dream development elsewhere. This is not that complicated. In some ways it makes one wonder (but then again, not really) who's in the driver's seat here. Let's not forget it was Mr. Kinney who offered TIF money to Mr. Doig - Doig told me himself that he did not initiate the discussion about it.

We also learned at the Fifth Tuesday Forum that Mr. Kinney is speaking to banks for developer Doig. Why? Exactly whose payroll is Jackson Kinney on and why is he speaking to bankers for a developer instead of the developer talking to banks himself?

Council candidate Kent Monte has said on his blog that he spoke with Tom Doig. That conversation has taken place since Doig missed the January financing deadline and since this month's closed session meeting. Did Mr. Doig share with Mr. Monte or perhaps the council itself in the infamous closed session meeting why his financing is not in order after months and months of tying up our staff and working on this? Has he explained to anyone why he is so opposed to the "pay as you go" option? I can venture an educated guess and the two are probably tied very closely together: I bet it's because his potential financiers are not going to go for the "pay as you go" option. They'd rather have all the risk on the city and its taxpayers. That risk can be avoided or at least greatly reduced with the "pay as you go" option rather than "direct pay." To do anything less than "pay as you go" is dangerous and the council that votes on this project would be well-advised to not do it. Jackson Kinney himself recommended the "pay as you go" option in the early stages of term sheet options being presented. But it would not surprise me if (a) this is part of the reason financing seems to be somewhat of a stumbling block for Doig and his partners, and (b) we eventually see Mr. Kinney change his tune and recommend that the council approve the project with a "direct pay" option. Better to do the project under any conditions than not do it at all, right? Wrong!

The council needs to be smart about this project. Look at all the evidence to suggest that these types of projects are not the financial windfalls they are projected to be. There are far too many questions still unanswered and far too many risks. No one seems to be too concerned, if at all, about money when it comes right down to it: not the redevelopment authority, not the plan commission and not the council - at least that we've seen so far. The only ones concerned about money seem to be the developers and how much they can get from us and with the least risk possible for themselves. If that's not the case, then maybe some conversation and honest answers in public will start to dispel some of the mystery and skepticism. Until then, one can't help but feel we're being sold down the river again - this time down Five Rivers

Back in the Radio Saddle

Tonight I return to hosting Radio Commentary on WRST 90.3 FM from 6:20 - 7:00 pm. My guests will be Robin Novak and Abby VanStraten from the UW Oshkosh WisPIRG (Wisconsin Public Interest Research Groups). WisPIRG currently has recognized chapters at UW Madison, UW Milwaukee (scroll down), and UW Stevens Point. Robin and Abby are active in organizing a UW Oshkosh WisPIRG. Radio Commentary is a live call-in show (numbers are 920-424-0444 or 920-424-3113).

I want to thank Justin Mitchell for his outstanding guest hosting while I was off working in The Visit.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Iraq: Assault on Journalists Continues

The horrific wave of violence in Iraq yesterday claimed the life of broadcast journalist Atwar Bahjat and two of her news crew.

According to Reporters Without Borders: “A total of 82 journalists and media assistants have been killed since the start of the war in Iraq. Seven of them have died since 1st January 2006, making this start of the year the most deadly in three years. Atwar Bahjat is the 7th woman journalist to be killed since the war in Iraq began.”

According to the BBC, Atwar Bahjat was only 26 years old.

How's this for a decisive Doyle

Wisconsin Governor Jim The New Democrat Doyle was recently asked for his view on the troop withdrawal referendums that will be appearing on the ballot in more than 20 Wisconsin municipalities in April. All of the referendums call for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. How's this for a decisive answer from the Guv: "I think an immediate (withdrawal) would be a very difficult thing to accomplish. And I'm not sure we would like what the results are. Having said that, I guess it's in the meaning of the word immediate."

Dear Governor: On issues like the referendum people want to know if yer fer it or agin' it. If yer agin' it that's fine. Stop with the New Democrat triangulating already. It's disgusting and won't gain you any votes. (Democrats lost the majority of governorships and state legislatures when this kind of mealy-mouthed hogwash became the discourse norm for the party leadership.).

What about Doyle's view on Russ Feingold's relatively tame call for a "timetable" for withdrawal? "I think there are good arguments on both sides," said Doyle.

Say what you want about Mark Abramoff Green, but at least he's been clear that he's solidly behind Bush's conduct of the war.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

College Student Journalists Screwed

On Tuesday the United States Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a case involving the right of college student journalists to criticize school administrators in student publications. The Court's failure to hear the appeal means that administrators at public universities in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin (and most likely the rest of the nation since the Supremes have now left the earlier Seventh Circuit decision in place) can now legally censor the student press.

This is a frightening development in the de-evolution of student speech rights. The Supreme Court in its silence has now consented to allowing the horrific Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision of 1988 (the decision that legitimized administrative censorship of high school students) apply to college students. For more background on the history of student speech rights (especially at the K-12 level), see my "Administrative Regulation of Student Expression."

John Nichols and Tony P. Celebrate THE George W.

That's George W. as in Washington. On Wednesday evening I will have the honor of sharing the platform with the great Progressive journalist/editorial writer John Nichols of the Madison Capital Times:

What: "From George W to G.W: Taking Back Our History and Talking to Americans on Matters of War and Empire" will celebrate George Washington's anti-monarchist and anti-imperialist principles and protest the abandonment of those American values by President George W. Bush.

Details: 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, Escape Java Joint & Gallery, 916 Williamson St, Madison, WI Mapquest directions from Oshkosh can be found here. A preview of John's remarks can be found here. The organizers have asked me to talk about "how to" engage in public argument on topics like the war. At least part of what I talk about will be a summary of how conservative, liberals, and radicals need to stand together against real tyranny.

Organized by the Peregrine People's History ProjectCo-Sponsored by The Nation Magazine, Bring Our Troops Home,Madison Area Peace Coalition, World Can't Wait, 4Lakes Green Party and Rainbow Books. Free parking available in directly in front of Escape and in the lot next to Reflections one door west.More information: Peregrine Forum 608-442-8399 Escape Java Joint & Gallery 608-255-0997

Monday, February 20, 2006

Palmeri's 4 Under 40

(Palmeri realizes that speaking in the third person forces the loss of respect of at least one internet troll. Somehow Palmeri thinks he can handle that loss. In fact he wishes all trolls to know that he wants neither their respect nor their attention to this site, and wishes that they would just go away and do whatever it is trolls do when they are not making asses of themselves on other peoples' websites.).

Anyway, this year's "4 Under 40" include UW Oshkosh Education instructor Courtney Bauder, teen activist Angel Aiken (who has posted a few times on this blog), Winnebago County Supervisor Ben Farrell, and working mom Mandy Mitchell. Here 'tis:

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cliff Kurowski Nails It

I must admit that I have not been a big fan of Cliff Kurowski's cartoons in the Sunday Northwestern, but today he absolutely nailed it on the Five Rivers closed meeting imbroglio.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

List of Iraq Referendum Sites

Below are a list of Wisconsin cities, villages and towns that will hold advisory referendums April 4 asking whether U.S. troops should be immediately brought home from Iraq. The list came from here. Conspicuously absent from the list is the city of Oshkosh, due to the efforts of 6 members of the common council that can find technical reasons to meet in closed session with a developer who does not want to discuss his finances publically, but couldn't find it within themselves to allow the public to vote on the referendum. Shame.

- Algoma

- Amery

- Baraboo

- Town of Draper in Sawyer County

- Town of Edgewater in Sawyer County

- Egg Harbor

- Ephraim

- Evansville

- Forestville

- Frederic

- Kewaunee

- La Crosse

- Madison

- Monona

- Mount Horeb

- Town of Newport in Columbia County

- Osceola

- Shorewood

- Sister Bay

- Sturgeon Bay

- Watertown

- Whitefish Bay

Northwestern: Palmeri feels "singled out"

Recently I posted a letter I received from the UW Oshkosh administration reminding me of system rules for professors seeking public office. Today the Oshkosh Northwestern published this story by Jeff Bollier on the matter.

To repeat my position on all of this: I have no objection to system administration sending rules to candidates or even potential candidates employed by the UW. However, one would think that UW employees who have already announced their candidacies (Gordon Hintz has been clear since November of 2004 that he will be a candidate for the 54th in 2006) and those who are currently running (Burk Tower is in the Common Council primary election of Feb. 21) would receive the rules first.

Lake Winneblogo says, "It appears that there is nothing to dispute Palmeri's claim that he was singled out by the administration, for some unknown reason."

Friday, February 17, 2006

But it's "only an opinion," right?

The Northwestern's Alex Hummel includes some quotes from me in his report on Assistant AG Alan Lee's first impression comments regarding Tuesday's closed Council meeting. Apparently Oshkosh City Attorney Warren Kraft forwarded Hummel's earlier online version of the story to the Councilors, City Manager, and staff. I'm not sure why Kraft would care what Alan Lee thinks. After all, it's "only an opinion," right? City Hall has made it clear that when it comes to the law, only what Kraft thinks matters. (Unless citizens are willing to spend money and time they do not have to haul the city into court after each one of these digressions.).

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Will we let Jill Carroll be killed?

Ethicist Peter Singer penned this provocative piece (registration may be required) in the Wednesday Los Angeles Times. Journalist Jill Carroll was kidnapped in Iraq last month and her captors have threatened to kill her if their demands are not met by February 26th. Singer asks why the possibility of meeting the kidnappers demands is not discussed openly, especially when there is precedent for meeting such demands. He writes:

"Which of us would not seek to meet the kidnappers' demands if Carroll were our daughter? If one of President Bush's daughters were in a similar situation, do we believe he would not be thinking about whether to meet the demands? Indeed, wouldn't we think worse of him as a human being if he did not?

"Admittedly, the duties of a president may override the duties of a father. The leader of a nation sometimes has to stand firm, and he may even be required to sacrifice his children for the good of the nation. But of course that would be a last resort and should not be done unless the stakes are truly momentous.

"Are the stakes that momentous in this case? They don't seem to be. The kidnapper's demands, if indeed they are limited to the release of the five female prisoners being held by the military in Iraq, seem relatively modest, a small price to pay for saving the life of a young woman."

Jill Carroll Updates can be found at the Christian Science Monitor Site.

Support Feingold's PATRIOT Act Amendments

From the Bill of Rights Defense Committee:

Late yesterday, Senator Russ Feingold gained Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's commitment to postpone a final vote on the House-Senate PATRIOT Act reauthorization "conference report" (to accompany H.R. 3199) until March 1. A vote on Senator John Sununu's bill, S. 2271, which makes a few insignificant changes to the conference report, is expected later today and is likely to win. Senate Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter (R-PA) acknowledged that Sununu's amendments were merely cosmetic and said, "Sometimes cosmetics will make a beauty out of a beast and provide enough cover for senators to change their vote."

Please continue to support Senator Feingold's courageous effort to pass stronger safeguards by urging your Senators to support Senator Feingold's four proposed amendments! Thus far Senator Frist has refused to consider votes on those amendments. Call both your Senators via the Capitol switchboard, 202-224-3121 (24 hours), or look up their numbers at http://www.senate.gov. Find out whether your congressional representatives are holding town hall meetings in your area during their recess next week (week of February 20th).
Summary of Senator Feingold's amendments: (Read Senator Feingold's prepared floor statement for today here.)
  • Guard against "fishing expeditions" by replacing amendment to section 215 business records orders in the conference report with the more meaningful relevance standard in Senate reauthorization bill S. 1389, which would require a connection between private records sought to a suspected foreign terrorist or spy rather than simply to an authorized intelligence investigation.
  • Give third-party recipients of business records orders and National Security Letters a meaningful opportunity to challenge automatic, permanent gag orders.
  • Add a four-year sunset on section 505, National Security Letters
  • On section 213, "sneak and peek" searches, reduce initial notification deadline from 30 days to 7 days (retaining ability to go to court for extensions if needed).
Other suggested talking points about changes needed to the conference report:
  • Remove the new provision that expands the authority of the Secret Service and allows them to arrest demonstrators at any 'special event of national significance' if they believe there has been a breach of a security perimeter. Demonstrators can be charged with a felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison. (This amendment was added to the conference report without any hearings or discussion.)
  • Eliminate proposed new death penalties from the reauthorization.
Please don't forget to remind your senators of the resolutions passed in their state, and of the 403 resolutions passed nationwide! Look up your state's resolutions here: http://www.bordc.org/list.php?sortAlpha=1.

Find more talking points here: http://www.bordc.org/callin.php.

DON’T DELAY! Call your senators now, and urge your friends and contacts to join you.

"Legitimate" closed meeting?

An assistant attorney general told Oshkosh Northwestern reporter Alex Hummel today that the Oshkosh Common Council Tuesday night closed meeting "sounds to me like it would be okay." It is clear from Assistant Attorny General Alan Lee's comments that he is not aware of all the facts of this situation. Indeed, Hummel's report on the closed meeting from this morning's Northwestern says that "It's unclear what the city is still negotiating with Doig."

Let's assume for the sake of argument that on Tuesday night in closed session the Council spent 45 minutes in deep negotiation with Doig. That in itself means nothing in relation to the legality or illegality of the meeting. The Attorney General's office has said many times (and not just the current attorney general) that the key question for a governmental body to ask is whether the negotiations are REQUIRED to be held in closed session for competitive or bargaining reasons. To make the case that Five Rivers (for which the Council has already approved a detailed term sheet, a TIF district, the developer is already booking conventions and advertising the complex on a web site, while the city attorney claims the city can be sued if it pulls out at this point) fits the closed session requirements is to make those requirements meaningless. Indeed, if this kind of closed meeting is okay then it would be difficult to imagine any situation in which a developer would have to appear in open session; virtually ANY public discussion could be defined as placing the developer at a disadvantage against "rival developers."

More important, the burden of proof is not on citizens to prove that a meeting should be open. The burden of proof is on the governmental body to show that it should be closed. The Common Council has not met that burden of proof, and in fact refused (except for Mr. Esslinger) to request that the city administration resolve the confusion BEFORE going into closed session.

Since city attorney Kraft does not seem to care for attorney general Lautenschlager, let's quote former AG Bronson LaFollette instead. In a 1979 opinion he said: "While the questions whether there are bargaining reasons and whether circumstances require [emphasis in original] closed sessions are of mixed fact and law, the governmental bodies themselves must make a good faith determination of both the applicable facts and the legal conclusion that flows therefrom, given the basic legal guidance already provided by their respective legal counsel and advice provided by this office (pursuant to sec. 19.98, Wis. statutes)."

The Oshkosh Common Council did not make a good faith effort to find out if this closed meeting was proper. A Gannett reporter calling the attorney general after the fact does not cut it. A good faith effort would involve giving the AG's office all of the relevant facts rather than simply acquiesce to the city attorney's logic which even Oshkosh News called "tortured." For once I agree with the Oshkosh Northwestern editorial board: "The public backing for this immense project is now in jeopardy. The demand for secrecy and the city council's sheep-like acquiescence is so infuriating that we think it could threaten public trust in future development projects."

Soon the local DA will have the relevant facts of this situation in a formal complaint. If what the Common Council did on Tuesday constitutes a legal closed meeting, the legislature should give serious consideration to repealing the open meetings law since it would have been shown to be a toothless tiger subject to suspension at the whim of openly confused city officials who cannot even be bothered to inquire from the state AG as to whether they are acting properly.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Talk to Tony Mentioned in Two AT Stories

This week's UW Oshkosh Advance-Titan mentions this blog in two stories:

"Radical" Professors Researched by Julie Becker and

Practicing a "New Kind of Journalism" by Kate Briquelet

The latter story does a nice job reporting on Miles Maguire's groundbreaking OshkoshNews

Complaints Will Follow

On Tuesday night the Oshkosh Common Council voted to go into closed session to discuss Five Rivers Resort financing. Only Councilor Paul Esslinger, to his credit, voted no and refused to attend the closed session. I asked the Mayor in open session whether citizens who tried to attend the closed meeting would be removed by the police if necessary, and he said yes. Approximately seven citizens did indeed try to attend the closed session, but we did leave when the mayor asked us to so there was no need to bring in the police.

I think you'd have to search far and wide to find such a clear cut example of an open meetings law violation. The Council discussion of this matter in open session revealed that most of the seven were conflicted about whether they would be doing the right thing by going into closed session, a revelation that in and of itself should have prevented them from closing the meeting. Rarely has a city attorney given a governing body such bad advice; Mr. Kraft went through his familiar song and dance of interpreting the law to meet the needs of city hall, along with the tired canard of the Attorney General's views being "only opinions."

On Polly Briley's blog, someone just reported a rumor (scroll down) that the Oshkosh Northwestern will be filing a complaint against the Council. If that's true, it will mean that the Council will be facing at least two complaints (Cheryl Hentz and I plan to file one as soon as we get time). All the Council had to do was postpone the meeting and ask Kraft to get a formal opinion from Lautenschlager on the matter. But they apparently would rather be subject to the laborious investigation that will now be the result of the complaints. Anything for a developer, I guess.

Monday, February 13, 2006

If Council Breaks Law, Citizens Must Crash Closed Meeting

To Review: The Oshkosh Common Council plans to go into closed session on Tuesday night to discuss financing of the Five Rivers Resort proposal. City Hall claims the meeting is legal under Wisconsin statute 19.85(1)(e) Deliberating or negotiating the purchasing of public properties, the investing of public funds, or conducting other specified public business, whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session.

In response to my statement of the obvious--that the closed meeting will be clearly illegal according to the plain language of the statute--city attorney Warren Kraft sent this email to the Councilors on Monday:

"Four Council members either telephoned or e-mailed me about Mr. Palmiri's (sic) website claims. It appears that Mr. Palmiri is assuming that all negotiations have concluded, and a contract is developed and ready for Council approval. Until such time as those assumptions become reality, there are sufficient "competitive bargaining reasons' to permit a closed session."

Warren P. Kraft
City Attorney Office
215 Church Ave | P. O. Box 1130 | Oshkosh WI 54903-1130
(920) 236-5115 | (920) 236-5090 fax

As has become typical, Mr. Kraft presents the broadest possible interpretation of a statute to justify a City Hall action. This is the kind of legalese that resulted in the city last year illegally waiving bids for the Leach Amphitheatre bathrooms.

The City Council must reject Mr. Kraft's flawed interpretation of 19.85(1)(e) and refuse to go into closed session. The Attorney General's office has said that "the exemptions in 19.85 that allow closed sessions must be interpreted strictly and narrowly, rather than broadly. Any doubt as to the applicability of an exemption or, if an exemption applies, the need to close the session should be resolved in favor of openness."

Recall that the key language of the statute asserts that a closed session is appropriate only when competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session. There is no competition here--Mr. Doig has a green light to proceed if his financing package is in order. Avoiding public scrutiny of financial issues might make Mr. Doig, the city administration, and some members of the City Council more comfortable, but there is no legal basis on which to avoid such scrutiny. Indeed, the pro development League of Wisconsin Municipalities urges municipal governments confused about whether 19.85 exemptions apply to ask this question: "Is there a reason why this matter is best discussed privately, other than the desire to escape the scrutiny of the public eye or the media?" To say that Mr. Doig and/or his potential investors are uncomfortable with a public discussion of the financial package just does not cut it.

I also find it interesting that Mr. Kraft faults my assumption that a contract is developed and ready for Council approval. First, I made no such assumption. Second, I find it disturbring that the City can claim not to be under contract with Mr. Doig at the same time Mr. Kraft is claiming (in response to Paul Esslinger's questioning at the last Council meeting) that Doig could sue the city if the Five Rivers project were rejected at this point. On what grounds could Doig sue other than a breach of contract, even it were only an implied contract? Third, the contractual status is irrelevant based on 19.85(1)(e). What is relevant is that there are no competitive or bargaining reasons that require a closed meeting.

The purpose of the open meetings law is to provide the public with the maximum amount of opportunity to view the behavior of their elected officials. If in this closed meeting Mr. Doig or his representatives were to make a request for a "direct pay" financing option (which will require more up-front money from the city and greater risk) as opposed to the "pay as you go" approach which Doig has claimed is not preferred by his financial backers, the public has a right to see their elected officials asking tough, pointed questions.

If the members of the Council have any doubt at all about the appropriateness of a closed meeting, they are obligated to NOT go into closed session.

Given all of the above, if the Council still insists on going into closed session I fear that there will be no choice but to crash the closed meeting. If the Mayor and Council want to avoid public scrutiny that badly, they will have to have the police remove citizens from the meeting room. So be it. The Oshkosh Northwestern, which claims to be an open meeting law advocate, should insist that a reporter be allowed into the meeting.

New Blog: Weapons of Mass Instruction

UW Oshkosh Advance-Titan writer Stephanie Barnard has started a new blog, Weapons of Mass Instruction. Stephanie was a guest on Radio Commentary last year and will appear again this coming Friday (2/17) with guest host Justin Mitchell. Cheryl Hentz will be a guest on the same show.

Last Friday Justin interviewed labor and peace activists Steve Dedow and Bob Poeschl.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Common Council Closed Meeting Will Be Illegal

According to the Sunday Oshkosh Northwestern, the Oshkosh Common Council on Tuesday will have a private meeting with Five Rivers Resort President Tom Doig to discuss financing of the project. If that meeting takes place, it will be illegal.

Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law for governmental bodies allows only a few exemptions. The Oshkosh Common Council on Tuesday plans to go into closed session according to this exemption identified in the law:

19.85(1)(e) Deliberating or negotiating the purchasing of public properties, the investing of public funds, or conducting other specified public business, whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session.

The important language is "whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session." In the case of Five Rivers, the competitive and bargaining season is over. For better or worse, Five Rivers won the competition; the city has already bargained with Mr. Doig. Indeed, Mr. Doig has already booked two conventions for 2008. At this point he only needs to show that he has the financial backing necessary to make the project happen. This is not the proper topic for a closed session according to the plain language of the statutes.

I must remind each member of the Common Council that they are sworn to uphold the laws of the state of Wisconsin. If they go into closed session they will be breaking the law. Contact the members of the Council and urge them to have their discussion with Mr. Doig in public.

Friday, February 10, 2006

WPR Interview Available

My Wisconsin Public Radio discussion with host Joy Cardin and Dane County Supervisor Dave Blaska is available HERE.

It's Official: Referendum WILL be on Watertown Ballot

According to the Watertown Daily Times, the Watertown Common Council has finally agreed to place a troop withdrawal referendum on the April ballot. Watertownians will have the opportunity to vote on a resolution similar to that which Oshkosh activists were not able to get the most expensive Oshkosh Common Council in history to place on the ballot: “Be it resolved that the city of Watertown urges the United States to begin an immediate withdrawal of its troops from Iraq starting with the National Guard and Reserves.

The Watertown Common Council only agreed to place the question on the ballot after a judge ordered them to pass it or place it on the ballot. But in order to maintain their reputation as anti-democratic, Bush/Cheney lackeys, they "
unanimously approved a resolution that allowed them to go on record as opposing the referendum question." Check out some of the rocket science coming from the referendum opponents:

“People can have their opinions and that is fine,” said Niel Wright, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Tom Petri. “But local governments do not have a say in when the troops can come home.”

“Where the troops go and when they come home is determined by the president of the United States and the Department of Defense,” said state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc. “The state Legislature does not have a say as to where and when the troops go.”

“Obviously any citizen has the right to express their opinion and the people of Watertown will vote on this in its advisory sense,” he added. “The Legislature doesn't determine where the troops go, the city council doesn't determine where the troops go and county boards don't determine where the troops go.”

Kleefisch said he certainly would not count on an immediate return of troops if the voters overwhelmingly urge their withdrawal.

Congratulations are due to the Watertown activists who were able to take on ignorance, dogmatism, abuse of power, irresponsible media, and bullying, yet were still able to get the question on the ballot.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Palmeri on Friday WPR "Week in Review"

I will be the "liberal" on Wisconsin Public Radio's "Week in Review" program tomorrow from 8 - 9 a.m. with host Joy Cardin and "conservative" Dave Blaska from the Dane County Board of Supervisors.

"The Visit" Opens Tonight

Fredrich Duerrenmatt’s The Visit opens tonight at the UW Oshkosh Fredric March Theatre.

The Visit will run at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9-11 and 16-18, and 2 p.m. Feb. 12 and 19 in the 500-seat theatre.

Ticket prices are $10, $8 for seniors and $3 for UW-Oshkosh students with university identification. The Box Office is open from noon to 2 p.m. on weekdays and 5-7 p.m. the evening of the performances. The box office will open one-hour before Sunday performances. For more information, call the box office at (920) 424 4417.

I have a couple of small parts in this play (a waiter in Act I, part of a group of gun-toting townsmen in Act II, and an air-headed cameraman in Act III). Only my cameraman part has any lines, and I guess the air-headedness dictates that all I have to do is act naturally.

The UW Oshkosh Theatre faculty and production staff uphold Broadway quality standards in their work. I was chair of the Department of Communication when Theatre was an area within the department and, while I attended most of the shows and had high regard for what they do, the experience of actually working on a production has been awe-inspiring.

Director Richard Kalinoski, himself an award winning playwright most known for the spectacular "Beast on the Moon," managed to get the most out his large cast of UW Oshkosh student performers. Maria Bartholdi, in the role of the justice seeking Madame Claire Zachanassian, is a stunning mixture of Lady Macbeth, Alexis Carrington, and a touch of Zsa Zsa Gabor. Bryan Vandehey as Anton Schill, a man against whom Zachanassian seeks revenge and comes to accept his fate, plays the part with a maturity and range of emotion that I think is rare for a young actor.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle taught us that great drama features a believeable plot, characters with whom the audience can identify, provocative ideas and language, appropriate music, and visual spectacle. Under Kalinoski's direction, the Aristotleian categories shine in Duerrenmatt’s troubling story of a small town willing to commit a crime for financial return.

"The Visit" takes place in a poor town called "Gullen," which apparently is Swiss for "excrement." In the play the police, city hall, the clergy, the town council, and the educators all prove to be self-centered, weak, and untrustworthy. At first shocked and appalled by Zachanassian's offer to financially bail out the city in return for the life of Anton Schill, a man slated to be their next mayor (called a burgomaster in the play), they soon find themselves having a change of heart as credit allowing them to purchase new shoes and other material things is extended. A town once oppressed by poverty is now oppressed by false riches. Schill comes to believe that death may represent the only hope for freedom.

Duerrenmatt wrote the play in the mid 1950s and it was first performed at the March Theatre 35 years ago, but its themes have an almost eerie application to today. My hope is that audience members will see that "Gullenesque" side to their own town and perhaps reflect on their own contributions to the excrement.

The Visit has been reprised at the March Theatre in celebration of the Theatre program attaining Department status. I'm honored and thrilled to be part of the celebration, and I offer my most sincere congratulations to the entire Theatre Department faculty, staff, and students.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Watertown Mayor: Likely will not appeal judge's order

Watertown's Mayor says the city likely will not appeal Judge Snyder's order to place the troop withdrawal referendum before voters in April. The council will meet at 5 p.m. to make a decision.

Watertown--Not So Fast

I just received an email from an activist in Watertown who has been working to get the troop withdrawal referendum on the ballot. He says:

Unfortunately, Adam Tobias' article in yesterday's Daily Times, made me cringe when I read it in the paper last night. It jumps to the conclusion that the question will now appear on our April ballot. That, I'm afraid, may not be the case.

Our common council, heavily influenced by alderman and former mayor, Pastor Fred Smith, goes into closed session at 5pm today to consider its options. One action is to appeal the ruling, which could presumably stonewall it past the deadline for getting it on the ballot. Failing that, the council could (if Smith is as rabidly intent as he appears to keep this out of our voters' hands), perversely vote to adopt the resolution.

Today's Wisconsin State Journal has better coverage of the Watertown situation.

I guess the moral of this story is to never doubt the power of anti-democratic scumbags on city councils.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Victory in Watertown!

Waukesha County Judge Patrick Snyder today directed the Watertown Common Council to either adopt a troop withdrawal referendum question submitted by petitioners, or place it on the April ballot. The story can be found in the Watertown Daily Times.

The morally challenged Watertown Common Council, most of whom displayed an utter contempt for democratic processes last month, almost certainly will not vote to adopt the referendum. But it looks like even they will no longer be able to obstruct the will of the people to place it on the April ballot.

Judge Snyder's decision is important for Oshkosh activists who might attempt to get the referendum question on the ballot in November. The decision contradicts the bureaucrats, editorialists, and politicians who have been insisting since August that a troop withdrawal referendum question is not a matter for direct legislation.

Finally, it should be noted that the Watertown Common Council's hostility to its own citizens will now cost the city money. According to the report:

As part of a condition of the civil action, the city must cover [Watertown Peace and Democracy Coalition representative Penny] Eiler's court costs and attorney fees. City Clerk Mike Hoppenrath said today he has no idea of what the costs are and will probably not know until the bill is received.

Somebody's Watching Me

Ever get that feeling?

Yesterday I received via campus mail a memo from UW Oshkosh Provost Lane Earns regarding "Political Candidacy." It was copied to College of Letters and Science Dean Michael Zimmerman and Department of Communication Chair Kay Neal and included hard copies of UW policies as attachments. Here's what it says:

In the February 1, 2006 edition of the Advanced (sic) Titan, you mentioned that you are considering running as a candidate for State Assembly in the 54th district. As you contemplate your decision, I remind you that in these times of intense scrutiny of university practices, we need to follow closely University and Board of Regents policies. I draw your attention to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Faculty and Academic Staff Handbook, page 170, GEN 3.B.13. "Leaves of Absence." This policy directs us to the Board of Regents policy 89-8 "Leave of Absence Policy and Policy for Unclassified Employees Seeking or Accepting Political Office or Appointments." Both of these policies have been attached to this memorandum.

In this Board of Regents Policy, you will note under section II, parts 3 and 4:

3. "If a staff member chooses to enter a primary campaign, he or she, in consultation with the appropriate department chairman and dean, or director, should determine whether or not this activity will impair or encroach on performance of university duties. If it is determined that the activity will have an adverse effect, a reduced-time appointment should be arranged for the period of the primary campaign.

4. "If a staff member is a candidate in a regular election, step 2 should be followed with the expectation that a reduced-time appointment would be in order.

I imagine that point four would be of particular importance to you. In order to be in compliance with the University Faculty and Academic Staff Handbook and the Board of Regents policy, you will need to meet with your department chair, Dr. Kay Neal, and establish a reduced-time appointment why you are campaigning for political office.

I have no problem at all with the Provost or any university official sending me copies of UW policies. However, I did just email Dr. Earns to ask if Gordon Hintz was sent a similar memo and I also requested a copy. The UW policies do not single out full-time faculty, and Gordon has been teaching part-time in the Department of Political Science for the last two semesters. On his website he says, "I have spent the past two years talking to people in the 54th District about the issues that directly affect them . . . " I have no problem at all with Gordon Hintz being an active candidate for the 54th District while he is employed by UW Oshkosh. I just want to make sure that we are all playing by the same set of rules. --Tony

Monday, February 06, 2006

Wonder and Nausea at the Twittering Idiots

I don't think any working writer today launches invective quite like James Howard Kunstler. Here's what he has to say in his latest blog about Dubya's State of the Union and the Dem Response: (Note: Kunstler is a registered Democrat in New York).

The key to the stupidity evinced by Mr. Bush's speech is the assumption that we ought to keep living the way we do in America, that we can keep running the interstate highway system, WalMart, and Walt Disney World on some other basis besides fossil fuels. The public probably wishes that this were so, but it isn't a service to pander to their wishes instead of addressing the mandates of reality. And reality is telling us something very different. Reality is saying that the life of incessant motoring is a suicidal fiasco, and if we don't learn to inhabit the terrain of North America differently, a lot of us are going die, either in war, or by starvation when oil-and-gas-based farming craps out, or in civil violence proceeding from failed economic expectations . . .

Meanwhile, the official Democratic Party response to Mr. Bush's fucking nonsense was the stupendous fatuousness of newly-elected Virginia Governor Tim Kaine's rebuttal, a saccharine gruel of platitudes and panderings that made me want to shoot members of my own party on sight.

History will look back in wonder and nausea at the twitterings of these idiots as the world they pretended to run lurched into darkness.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Orwell Man

I was at a national convention of speech communication professors a few years ago (we are a real exciting group, let me tell ya') at which the keynote speaker was Bill Moyers. During Q & A someone asked him what advice he would give to speech teachers who want to understand the true nature of political communication. Without missing a beat, he said "read George Orwell's Politics and the English Language." Good answer, Bill.

GOP leader sees democracy as "embarrassing"

Troop withdrawal referendum questions will be on the ballot this year in more than 20 Wisconsin communities. In each community the ballot question is the result of the hard work of scores of citizen activists, most of them employed, or full-time students, or with family obligations, or engaged in other activities that make it difficult to dedicate the time necessary to collect petition signatures. Most have also had to deal with a hostile establishment press, double-talking local politicians, and uncooperative city attorneys. These obstacles proved to be too difficult to overcome in Oshkosh, at least in order to get the question on the ballot in April.

Regardless of where one stands on the war, you'd think that this experiment in democracy would be something to celebrate. "Small d" democracy is, after all, something that we say we stand for.

Not so for Wisconsin Republican Party Executive Director Rick Wiley. Asked to comment on the referendum drive, he told the Journal Sentinel that "I think it's kind of embarrassing, quite honestly."

Let's see if the state Democratic Party condemns Wiley's remarks. Don't hold your breath.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Patti Smith Indicts Bush

UW Oshkosh graduate and "suburban legend" folk singer Barry Weber forwarded me a new tune from legendary punk rocker Patti Smith. The tune is a reading of the Declaration of Independence and an indictment of George W. Bush. Here it is.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Colin Crowley on Radio Commentary Tonight

Be sure to listen to Radio Commentary tonight at 6:20 p.m. on WRST-FM 90.3. Guest host Justin Mitchell, editor of the ABV Army Times, will be joined by Oshkosh resident Colin Crowley. Colin recently returned from a fascinating trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Check out the blog he kept of his experiences.

Justin is guest hosting because I have a part in the play "The Visit" that will open on February 9th at the Fredric March Theatre, and our grueling rehearsal and performance schedule will force me to miss Radio Commentary for the next three weeks.

Cartoon Controversy

Matt Bors, one of my favorite bloggers, has an interesting take on the politics of cartoons.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Censored in 2005, Part II

Every year for the Valley Scene I compile a list and description of what I see as the top-10 stories most censored by mainstream media in the previous year. The major criticism I have received of these columns over the years is that in them I am using an inappropriate definition of "censorship." The critics are thinking of censorship in its most narrow, legal sense of government prior restraint of a communicator's message; that is, the suppression of a message before it is published, broadcast, or sent via another medium. For example, when the Nixon Administration blocked the publication (at least initially) of the Pentagon Papers in 1969, that was a classic form of government censorship. (The great George Bernard Shaw once said that "assassination in the most extreme form of censorship." Can't argue with that!).

Government prior restraint--i.e. the classic form of censorship, still occurs but is rare even post 9/11. Yet we would be naive to think that the absence of formal government censorship means that real censorship does not take place every day in the United States.

In 1976 professor Carl Jensen of Sonoma State University founded Project Censored. For 30 years the Project has produced an "annual list of 25 news stories of social significance that have been overlooked, under-reported or self-censored by the country's major national news media." Jensen, who retired from Sonoma State in 1996, in a 1989 article provided a definition of censorship:

To me, the definition of the term goes beyond the traditional examples of the military censor deleting classified information from documents or the acts of the bookburning barbarians. I define censorship as the suppression of information whether purposeful or not, by any method - including bias, omission, under-reporting, and self-censorship - which results in the systematic omission of information, thereby preventing the public from fully knowing what is happening to its society.

Blogs, much to the chagrin of the mainstream media establishment, have made censorship as Jensen describes it much more difficult to maintain. That's a topic worthy of a longer discussion that I do not have time to get into right now.

With that context, here's Censored in 2005, Part II.

P.S. A few years ago I wrote a review of Larry Soley's Censorship, Inc., a work that explores in great detail the nature of corporate censorship in America. The review can be found here.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It's The Development Approval Process, Stupid

Reading the establishment press these days, one senses a longing for the old days. You know, the days when emergency shelters could remain close to empty for no good reason, plan commissions could rubber stamp developments without doing any financial review, policy could get made on the golf course, bids could get waived illegally, a business that gets major support from the county for its annual aviation show could inflate its attendance at will without any fear of press investigation, developers could avoid or put off paying taxes, and no one had to worry about pesky online "snipers" or "back alley journalists" asking questions about any of this nonsense.

As it stands, all of that nonsense still goes on to a disturbing extent (perhaps even worse than the old days), but the genie has been let out of the bottle. There are some questions being asked. Not enough questions, but at least some. Finally.

So now when it comes to the 100 block of North Main St. those nostalgic for the old days of journalism want us to fixate on whether Cheryl Hentz or other "snipers" should call Ben Ganther before reporting tax data from a city web site. Then we can simply forget or ignore the big questions, like: how do developments like this happen in the first place? And once they have happened, how do we ensure more accountability especially when the same developers show up as partners in other costly projects?

You see, the nostalgic gents want it to be just like the old days. Anyone remember April of 2001? Remember when a few of us pre-blogging era "gadflies" (that's the print era term for sniper) insisted that there needed to be more open, public discussion of the Council's plans for the 100 block?

Remember when the Northwestern editorialists wrote this: "While we are sure the Common Council will want to peer into all of the nooks and crannies of the proposals, which is prudent, it cannot afford protracted, frivolous deliberations." The fact that Stew and Ben refer to each other as "Stew" and "Ben" in friendly email exchanges has nothing to do with that editorial position, of course, since ONLY THE SNIPERS allow personal feelings to be interjected into reporting and editorializing.

You see, in the old days if you disagreed with the privileged view you were being "frivolous." When the City Council was investigated for a possible open meetings law violation related to the process for choosing the Ganther proposals, then Councilor Kevin McGee said the council used "a flawed procedure to make a flawed decision about a flawed development that's probably not going to occur." Well, he was wrong about the development not occurring, but flawed procedures and flawed decisions?

Reporters in a War Zone & Delusional Presidents

The tragedy of kidnapped journalist Jill Carroll underscores the risks faced by serious journalists working in a war zone. In a remarkable essay, reporter Alissa Rubin examines the situation in Iraq; she says that Jill Carroll was "unable to avoid the wash of fury and hatred that now confronts Westerners. We are not wanted."

Rubin describes a frightening reality:
"The truth is that journalists are working in a war zone where no rules apply. No one is safe; not Iraqis, not Westerners, not men, not women."

On Tuesday night George Bush, as usual sounding delusional on the topic of Iraq,
spoke of "a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure." He also made what may go down in history as the most ironic statment of the millennium: "With so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candor."

Candor is what we got and with prayers may continue to get from Jill Carroll. Candor is what we're getting from Alissa Rubin. From George Bush we're getting claptrap, not candor.

Fourty years ago another Texan in the White House suffered from foreign policy delusions. LBJ said this in his 1966 State of the Union:

"And let me be absolutely clear: The days may become months, and the months may become years, but we will stay as long as aggression commands us to battle." With those words LBJ condemned the nation to a horrific Vietnam quagmire. Bush is determined to repeat the mistake, enabled just as LBJ was by lapdogs in the Congress and in the mainstream press.