Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Democracy Now! on Diebold Security Flaws

Amy Goodman conducts an outstanding interview with two guests who have knowledge of the security problems of Diebold touch screen voting machines. Bruce Funk, County Clerk in Emery County, Utah for 23 years, was fired from his job after he commissioned an investigation of the Diebold machines. David Dill is a professor of computer science at Stanford and founder of

More detail about Bruce Funk's Utah odyssey can be found here. Note that the Diebold TSX model for which he discovered massive problems is the same one proposed for Winnebago County. Scary.

County Board: Taking the Public out of the Public Hearing

The attempt to have a public hearing on the issue of touch screen voting technology in Winnebago County has taken a turn for the worse. After the full Board could not muster up enough votes to accept voting machine grant money, County Board Chair David Albrecht asked the Judiciary Committee to discuss the issue. Then it was announced that the Judiciary and Information Systems Committees would hold a public hearing on June 14th at the Coughlin Center at 6 p.m.; then the meeting was moved to the County Courthouse as a full county board meeting.

Today we read that the meeting now begins at 5 p.m., with the county supervisors having the opportunity from 5-6 to test the Diebold machine in question. No other vendor has been invited to the meeting. I assume the public can speak at 6 p.m. See Jef Hall's perspective on this.

Having supervisors practice using the machine will prove nothing, of course. The issue here is not how the Diebold machine performs during PR demonstrations. The issue is whether the Help America Vote Act requires states and localities to purchase voting technology that comes with well documented security flaws.

In Colorado, a Denver law firm is planning a lawsuit to block nine counties and the state from purchasing electronic voting machines. Citizens in other states are pursuing similar actions. If Wisconsin election officials continue to ignore the mountain of evidence indicating that electronic voting systems are not yet ready for prime time elections, lawsuits will be filed here too.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

House May Grow To 437

According to the Boston Globe (registration may be required), there's a strong chance that after the 2010 census the US House of Representatives will increase in size from 435 to 437. The additional two seats would be a voting member for the Washington, D.C. area (an addition that has been shamefully long overdue), and another representative for Utah (to pacify Republicans since the DC seat would almost certainly be a Democratic one).

The 437 members would still be a ridiculously small number for a country the size of the United States. We have been at 435 since 1911 (except for 1959-1963 when the size increased to 437 because of Hawaii and Alaska), when the nation's population was around 100 million.

Each member of congress today represents, on average, anywhere from 450,000 to 800,000 constituents. That's absurd, and makes a mockery of the entire idea of representative democracy. As I said in a previous post: "Contrast that with the United Kingdom, which has a population of just under 59 million yet 646 members of the House of Commons. Germany has a population of around 80 million with a 603 member Bundestag (parliament). The United States has a population of about 282 million with a 435 member House of Representatives. Do US citizens get better representation from their relatively small legislature than the British and Germans get from their large parliaments? I don't think anyone can say "yes" to that with a straight face."

Monday, May 29, 2006

Washington Post: Debating the Bugs of High Tech Voting

The Washington Post is one of the few mainstream media outlets to take the issue of voting machine security seriously. The May 30th edition includes an article summarizing (registration may be required) some of the key issues. Some excerpts:

The latest dispute occurred several weeks ago after it was discovered at a test in Utah that someone with a reasonable knowledge of computer code could gain access to and tamper with the system software on a popular brand of voting machine manufactured by Diebold Election Systems . . .

Many of the criticisms of voting technology were originally dismissed as exaggerations promulgated by partisans displeased with election results. But the criticisms have been viewed with increasing gravity as prominent computer scientists have rallied behind them . . .

Unlike many colleagues in his field, Michael I. Shamos, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has worked on election issues for about 20 years, has not generally been seen as a friend of the activists.

In 2004, they assailed Maryland's decision to buy Diebold touch-screen machines and asked a court to stop the state from using them. Shamos testified that with a few additional steps, the machines could be used without problem, and the court agreed.

Now, Shamos wonders. He is confident in his testimony and believes most security holes can be plugged. But he wonders whether Diebold cares enough about security and the sanctity of elections.

"There's a broader philosophical question that's been worrying me more and more lately," Shamos said. "What are these companies really doing? They don't seem to have embraced the seriousness with which people in this country take their elections. It's been kind of an adversarial thing where companies want to make profits, and they just haven't spent enough time and energy designing secure systems."

Note: The article neglects to point out that Maryland's House of Delegates voted 137-0 to suspend electronic voting and go back to paper ballots.

Garbage: An Iraqi Perspective

I am opposed to the imposition of a garbage fee in Oshkosh and hope citizens can find a way to get it repealed. That topic generates lots of emotion and verbal sniping in town. Imagine how petty that sniping would sound to people living in Iraq:

Garbage chokes the city of 4.5 million people. Trash collection is erratic or nonexistent, depending on which part of the city you live in. Insurgents use heaps of garbage to hide roadside bombs. More than 300 garbage collectors have been killed in Baghdad in the past six months, city officials say. Insurgents target them because they work for the government.

"Once we hoped to plant gardens in the medians and on street corners; now we throw our garbage there," said a Sunni woman who lives in the affluent western Jihad district. (The Chronicle agreed not to identify the woman and other Iraqis interviewed for this story because they feared for their safety.)

Garbage clogs sewage pipes, causing raw sewage to overflow into the streets and fill the air with the stench of decay. In the Shiite slums of Sadr City in northeastern Baghdad, residents live in dwellings made of bits of corrugated metal, chunks of concrete and rusted oil canisters. Snowy white egrets skim the surface of putrid, greenish-black pools of sewage in the streets.

More on the terrible living conditions in Iraq can be found here.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bruce Schneier: The Problem With Electronic Voting Machines

Internationally renowned security technologist Bruce Schneier's 2004 essay on "The Problem With Electronic Voting Machines" does an excellent job of summarizing the issue.

Meanwhile in Ashville, North Carolina: "The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday rejected a staff recommendation to buy touch-screen voting machines, with four of the five members saying they don't believe voters would have confidence in the machines." Looks like at least 4 elected officials in the country have some common sense.

No Recount: York County, PA candidate trusts accuracy of electronic voting machines

Check out this story from the York County (PA) Daily Record for an example of how the myth of electronic voting accuracy can be used to discourage a candidate from asking for a recount. Republican Larry Homsher lost by only 9 votes in a primary race for state representative. He told the newspaper that if the county was still using lever-operated machines, he would have asked for the recount. Then he got hit with the myth: "But Homsher said he met with county elections director John Scott. And he walked away convinced that the voting office's procedures, combined with the accuracy of the computerized voting machines that made their debut in York county this month, were efficent enough to ensure an accurate result - even down to the single digit margin."

York County uses the Sequoia AVC Edge touch screen electronic voting machine. Voter's Unite provides a partial list of docmented failures of that technology. Let's hope for York County that the alleged winner of the primary, Karen Emenheiser, is more adept at doing homework than Mr. Homsher.

I purposely said "alleged winner;" as long as electronic voting remains open to software manipulation, and as long as voter verified paper audit trail requirements for these machines remain inadequate, it is impossible to have complete trust in the outcome of elections using the technology.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dan Rylance on Last Radio Commentary

Radio Commentary will be on hiatus for the summer, and maybe even longer. The final interview was conducted tonight with regular guest Dan Rylance. That interview can be found here. We talk about a variety of local issues including the recent school board recount election, the Miller's Bay Pier, the garbage tax, and many others.

Hentz: Rescind Pier Decision

Cheryl Hentz argues (registration required) that the Oshkosh Common Council should rescind its earlier, not adequately discussed decision to place a donated pier in Miller's Bay. Since the Otter Street Fishing Club refuses to budge on the choice of location (even though Michael Burayidi's report demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that that the New York Ave. location would be a disaster), rescinding the decision is now the only way to get the pier built in a more suitable area.

More information about this issue can be found in the Miller's Bay Archive.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Touch Screen Recount Procedures + Security Recommendations

2005 Wisconsin Act 92 describes, among other things, recount procedures to be used with electronic voting machines. Try to imagine this procedure in actual practice such as that which occurred during the recent school board recount:

(4) If a valid petition for a recount is filed under s.9.01 in an election at which an electronic voting system was used to record and tally the votes cast, each party to the recount may designate one or more persons who are authorized to receive access to the software components that were used to record and tally the votes in the election. The board shall grant access to the software components to each designated person if, before receiving access, the person enters into a written agreement with the board that obligates the person to exercise the highest degree of reasonable care to maintain the confidentiality of all proprietary information to which the person is provided access, unless otherwise permitted in a contract entered into under sub. (5).
(5) A county or municipality may contract with the vendor of an electronic voting system to permit a greater degree of access to software components used with the system that is required under sub. (4).

Really builds voter confidence, eh?

Meanwhile when the State Elections Board approved the use of the Diebold touch screen machines, they also approved five security recommendations:

1. Memory cards shall have a permanent serial number assigned.
2. Once a memory card is programmed for an election, it should be immediately inserted into its assigned unit and sealed with a serialized, tamper-evident seal.
3. The municipality should maintain a written log that records which memory cards and which serialized tamper-evident seals are assigned to which units.
4. Prior to any ballots being cast on any unit, the integrity of the tamper-evident seal must be verified by the chief election inspector before opening the compartment containing the memory card and unit power switch.
5. The municipal clerk should maintain a written log that records the chain of custody of each memory card and unit from the point of programming the memory card for use in the election through the official canvass.

Imagine a recount in which any one or more of the security recommendations were not followed properly? Would the public have confidence that the final outcome was the correct one? I think not.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Young Turks: Interview with Steve Levy about unreliable voting machines

Check out this Young Turks interview with Steve Levy of Newsweek. Levy is the author of a recent article on security problems associated with Diebold touch screen voting technology. The most important point he makes in the interview and in the article is that the voting public will never trust touch screen technology. He also makes a great point about the need to maintain public control of public elections.

It's the money, stupid: Brown County Dem Chair Endorses $teve Kagen

Republican Congressman Mark Green's run for governor has opened up his 8th congressional district seat. The Republican candidate to replace him will likely be current assembly speaker John Gard. Democratic challengers are former Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum, allergist Steve Kagen, and consultant Jamie Wall.

Brown County Democratic chair John Baraniak has personally endorsed Steve Kagen, even though a poll conducted by national Democratic pollster The Mellman Group (and not paid for by any of the candidates) showed Nusbaum as the only Democrat beating Gard (43-38). The pollsters said that all three Democratic candidates could beat Gard, though Nusbaum enjoys better name recognition and "surprising strength among independents."

The Mellman Group findings make Baraniak's endorsement of Kagen, at this stage at least, puzzling. All poll data should be taken with a grain of salt, but the Fairbank poll cited by Baraniak showing Kagen with a commanding lead is saltier than Mellman because it was done FOR Kagen. Baraniak also cites Kagen's "energy, resources, and campaign team" as reasons for his support. Those of us who are recovering Democrats recognize that as code for "he's got money and will spend what it takes to win." Kagen, an allergist, started his campaign by donating $1 million of his personal fortune to it.

The Democratic Party chair can endorse anyone he wants, but it sure looks as if he is drawn not to Steve Kagen, but to $teve Kagen. Nancy Nussbaum has great name recognition, campaign experience, and a record of governing. No doubt the Dem chair would have supported a Nu$$baum against Kagen.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Forum: June 14, 6 p.m., Coughlin Center

As noted in today's Northwestern, a public forum on the touch screen voting machine issue will be held on June 14 at 6 p.m. at the Coughlin Center. Looks like representatives of Diebold were invited to attend, but not other other voting machine manufacturers.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Journal Sentinel, Newsweek on Voting Machines, IS Meeting

Winnebago County figures prominently in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about security issues rasied by Diebold electronic voting machines.

Steven Levy asks "Will your vote count in 2006?" in the May 29th issue of Newsweek. Levy is discussing paperless electronic machines, though the paper problems with the Diebold model being considered by Winnebago County are summarized here by Jef Hall.

Meanwhile the County's Information Systems Committee will meet on Wednesday, May 24th at 6:30 p.m. in Room 500 (Setup Room) of the County Courthouse. On the agenda as a discussion item is the touch screen voting machine issue.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Gonzales Declares War On Journalists

Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales kept open the possibility of prosecuting reporters for publishing classified information. This is actually old news. Back in March, the Washington Post reported that the Administration was trotting out language from the Espionage Act of 1917 to justify going after reporters. Former CNN Crossfire co-host Bill Press called it correctly at that time:

Isn't it ironic? Bush resurrects a 1917 law to go after journalists. Yet he said he couldn't obey a 1978 law requiring a court order before tapping our phones because it was "an old law."

Friday, May 19, 2006

Abbreviated Interview With Jay Heck

Due to some technical difficulties, the Radio Commentary interview with Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin is abbreviated (it starts at about the 2o minute mark.). The interview can be found here. In the first 20 minutes, Bob Roberts and I talk about legislative corruption and the Winnebago County electronic voting machine issue.

Hall Blogs on Voting Machines

Winnebago County District 17 Supervisor Jef Hall's County Board Blog is maintaining an archive of voting machine related information. He notes that the County's Legislative Committee will be meeting this coming Monday (5/22) at 9 a.m. at the Coughlin Center. The voting machines are on the agenda! I will be teaching on Monday morning so will not be able to attend. If you are available, please do go to the meeting.

A year ago I argued that real conservatives, real liberals, and real radicals need to work together to protect our constitutional freedoms. If ever there was an issue on which such unification is necessary, it is the issue of maintaining the integrity of our votes.

Kraus, Palmeri "Week in Review"

Joy Cardin's WPR Friday "Week in Review" with Bill Kraus and I can be found here. We spent much time talking about immigration reform, which is not exactly my favorite topic, but we had a few callers tell us they were impressed with the overall discussion so I guess we were okay.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections

A voter advocacy group called Voters Unite! has produced a valuable document called "Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections." (in pdf). The document is extremely thorough and well researched. Of particular value for what is currently going on in Winnebago County is the section showing that the "Help America Vote Act" (HAVA) DOES NOT REQUIRE the purchase of touch screen voting machines. The HAVA myth is a powerful one, preached even by the Winnebago County Clerk and propounded by anonymous posters in a previous thread.

The Myth Breakers report makes it clear that there are other ways to meet the handicap accessibility requirement of HAVA. To simply say that "the Diebold touch screen equipment is compatible with what we currently have" just does not cut it. The handicapped are as deserving of reliable voting equipment as any other voter.

For those who still refuse to open their eyes to the unreliability of electronic voting, the city of Philadelphia in its primary election this past Tuesday reported hundreds of malfunctions. Check out this statement from a popular Philly blog. And this one.

Still think HAVA was meant to force touch screen voting on us?

Palmeri on Friday WPR "Week in Review"

I'll be the guest "on the left" on Joy Cardin's Wisconsin Public Radio "Week in Review" tomorrow from 8-9 a.m. The guest "on the right" will be legendary Wisconsin pundit and activist Bill Kraus.

The Cost of Corruption

The corruption plaguing Wisconsin state government comes with a heavy price for taxpayers. Case in point: in 2001 the state agreed to buy the private Stanley prison for $87.1 million. The Journal Sentinel now reports that the building was not up to code, and will cost taxpayers an additional $5 million to repair. According to the Journal Sentinel story:

"The prison played a role in the corruption conviction of former state Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison). Dominion executives gave $125,000 to Independent Citizens for Democracy, a campaign group Chvala illegally controlled in the summer of 2001, records in Chvala's criminal case show." Chavala, originally against the prison purchase, agreed to it after the contributions came in.

Employees of Dominion Asset Services, builders of the prison, gave then-governor Scott McCallum $4,000. Then Assembly speaker (and now convicted felon) Scott Jensen led the push to purchase the prison during the 2001 legislative session at a time when his friend Ray Carey was working as a paid lobbyist for Dominion. Carey was a former Director of the Assembly Republican Caucus.

Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison) told the Journal Sentinel that "this was a serious mistake, and a boondoggle of the nth degree."

More on the cost of corruption in Wisconsin can be found in the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's Graft Tax reporting.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"He told me that he didn't understand why he was there"

Private 1st class Grant Allen Dampier, 25, of Merrill, became the 56th US soldier killed in Iraq when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb. He leaves behind his 44-year-old mother, his wife, and three children (ages 5, 4, and 1). His mother's comments are quite telling:

"He told me that he didn't understand why he was there," Goulee said. "One day they feed (the Iraqis), the next day shoot them. He was at the point he couldn't understand why he was there."

The Journal-Sentinel includes more information about Dampier.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Touch Screen Voting Will Go Back To Judiciary Committee

It wasn't a pretty deliberation, but the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors tonight ended up sending the resolution to approve acceptance of a grant to purchase touch screen voting machines back to the Judiciary Committee. A motion to send the resolution back to the committee was defeated on a 19-17 vote. However, the vote to then approve the resolution failed on a vote of 24 Aye and 12 No--it failed because the resolution needed two-thirds of the membership (26 votes) to pass. Board Chair David Albrecht then said he would ask the Judiciary Committee to bring the matter back up.

Dr. Ann Frisch, Ron Hardy, and I presented the Board with information related to the problems with electronic voting technology that have been reported nationally. Supervisors Claud Thompson, Bill Wingren, Paul Eisen, and Jef Hall led the move to get the resolution back to the Judiciary Committee. Supervisor Hall was especially effective in documenting problems that have been found with the very Diebold model that the County plans to purchase.

The supervisors who voted against referring the resolution back to committee and for the original resolution seemed persuaded mostly by specious arguments. They argued that the "Help America Vote" act provides them with no choice but to purchase this technology. Seems to me that any law that forces you to buy something that has been demonstrated to be unreliable is not a law worth following. Counties and municipalities should tell the feds in the strongest possible terms that "helping America vote" does not mean undermining the integrity of elections with technology that is deeply flawed.

Other supervisors argued that since the County Clerk is such a good and competent person, we should simply take her recommendation to purchase the equipment. That's one of those arguments to which the only response possible is "huh?!"

Winnebago County does not need Diebold touch screen voting. In order to defeat it, citizens will have to make their voices heard. Contact your county supervisor and let him or her know that we refuse to have the integrity of our elections undermined by bad federal law. When the next Judiciary Committee meeting is scheduled, try to attend and speak out if you are available.

County Board Should Say NO To Touch Screen Voting

Tonight the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors will be asked to approve the acceptance of a grant to allow the purchase of touch screen voting machines. Due to real vote security concerns, the Board should reject touch screen voting.

As recently as May 12, the New York Times reported on "New Fears of Security Risks in Electronic Voting Systems." They say that "with primary dates fast approaching in many states, officials in Pennsylvania and California issued urgent directives in recent days about a potential security risk in thier Diebold Elections Systems touch-screen voting machines . . ." The article goes on to talk about the nature of the security risks and the legal challenges to the machines going on across the country.

Wisconsin law requires that all electronic voting systems produce a paper record of all votes cast. That is not enough to ensure voter confidence. The recent Becker/Weinsheim recount cost $20,000 due to Becker's vigilance in uncovering every possible flaw in the system. Can you imagine a recount in an election using touch-screen voting? Recounts could go on endlessly and $20,000 will seem like pocket-change as candidates employ computer technicians and software experts to uncover flaws in the touch-screen system.

Andrew Kantor had it right in a June of 2004 USA Today op-ed: "Today's electronic voting machines are unreliable and unsecure. Until the multitude of problems they present are worked out, these systems need to be removed from service, period."

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Scanner Darkly

My interview with Stephen Richards last Friday dealt extensively with the failed "War on Drugs." Turns out the new movie "A Scanner Darkly," based on the 1977 novel by the late, great Philip K. Dick, paints a terrifying picture of the drug war's police state path. Writer Steven Kotler says that the movie, "presents a land where paranoia reigns supreme. Unlike Orwell’s Big Brother iron fist, 'A Scanner Darkly' gives us governmental oppression that’s two-thirds mind-fuck and one-third surreal tragedy—in other words, something very akin to what we’re seeing from the Bush administration." Kotler's worried that the film may actually be providing prescriptive advice for HOW the feds can undermine individual rights even more than is currently the case.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

T2T Salutes Moms and Blog Heroines

T2T sends out a special Mother's Day greeting to grandma Rosa Palmeri, who will be 103(!) on May 20th. The picture is from her 100th birthday party.

T2T would also like to recognize all the Blog Heroines, many of them moms, who have participated in this blog since its inception in December of '05 (with apologies to anyone inadvertently left out!):

  • Jody Thompson
  • Jan Thompson
  • Angel Aiken
  • Melanie Bloechl
  • Cheryl Hentz
  • Michelle Monte
  • Teresa Thiel
  • Kay Springstroh
  • Karen Bowen
  • Mary Stevens
  • Stephanie Barnard
  • Tina Haffeman
  • Wendy Matheson
  • Joan Leininger
For grandma and the Blog Heroines, we dedicate Julia Ward Howe's 1870 Mother's Day Proclamation:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice." Blood does not wipe our dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Radio Commentary Interview With Stephen Richards

My Radio Commentary interview with UW Oshkosh Criminal Justice professor Stephen Richards can be found here. He speaks passionately about the dreadful impacts the so-called "War on Drugs" has had on American society. On May 18th Cheryl Hentz and I will tape an interview with Steve for Eye on Oshkosh. We welcome any questions you might have for Steve.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bin Laden, Bush, and Brandeis

Almost as if to provide Osama Bin Laden with even more propaganda victories, the Bush Administration continues its assault on the Bill of Rights, pretty much gutting what was left of the 4th Amendment. Justice Brandeis' words from early in the 20th century still hold:

Stephen Richards on Radio Commentary Tonight

Last February the Legislative Audit Bureau released a report revealing that in the previous fall 40 felons were employed at the UW System. Republican State Representative Scott Suder, a member of a felon breeding legislative body (yesterday and today) and who has his own checkered employment history, led the shrill attack against the UW.

Tonight on Radio Commentary (6:20 - 7:00 p.m., WRST 90.3 FM) I'll be talking to UW Oshkosh Criminal Justice professor Stephen Richards. He spemt nine years in federal prisons on a drug conviction. Lake Winneblogo wonders if the legislative idiots object to having someone like Richards in the UW System.

Stephen Richards has authored (with Jeffrey Ian Ross) Behind Bars and Convict Criminology.

Radio Commentary is a part of Bob Roberts' Wild Eyed Radio program. Radio Commentary is a live call-in show (920-424-3113 or 920-424-0444) produced by Abby Zellmer. Comments/questions can also be left in the comment space here or emailed to me (

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ahmadinejad's Letter to Bush

A complete text of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letter to George Bush can be found here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Save The Internet!

Please read this piece by Chellie Pingree of Common Cause. Under the sway of massive telecom industry lobbying, the Congress is getting set to pass the "Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement" (COPE) Act. The potential consequences of this legislation are outlined clearly on, a "Coalition made up of groups from across the political spectrum that have banded together to save the First Amendment of the Internet: network neutrality." FightingBob.Com features a good explanation of what's at stake.

Go to this page to learn how to act to preserve net neutrality.

Dane County Board: Withdraw From Iraq Now

The Dane County Board of Supervisors on May 4th, 2006 passed a resolution on a 19-6 vote calling for the immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. The resolution was authored by newly reelected Green-endorsed
County Supervisor Kyle Richmond

It's time for those recognized or self-described as progressives on the Winnebago County Board (Ben Farrell, Jef Hall, Mike Norton, Donna Lohry, and others) to introduce a similar resolution for our region.

RES. 308, 05-06


The United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003 was predicated on finding and eliminating weapons of mass destruction possessed by the government of Iraq. No such weapons were found, but the ensuing three-year occupation has incurred many costs.

The human costs include the lives of more than 2,300 U. S. soldiers and more than 37,000 Iraqi civilians. At least another 17,000 U. S. soldiers have been injured, and civilian injuries are difficult to estimate.

The financial costs include more than $247 billion that the United States has spent on the occupation, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. That translates to more than $4 billion paid by Wisconsin taxpayers and nearly $153 million by City of Madison taxpayers. On Thursday, March 16, 2006, the U. S. Senate voted to raise the national debt limit for the fourth time in five years. The occupation of Iraq is a major reason for the continued raising of the debt limit and the record budget deficits recently sustained by the U. S. government.

The cost to United States’ stature in the international community – and the accompanying levels of safety and security that U. S. citizens around the world may rely on – has also been great due to the occupation of Iraq. The United States’ continued involvement in Iraq risks putting even more Americans in danger and further damage to its ability to earn respect and cooperation around the world.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Dane County Board of Supervisors hereby calls for the withdrawal of the United States from Iraq in an effort to stop mounting military and civilian deaths, re-direct U. S. efforts to end terrorism worldwide, and reduce animosity toward the United States in the Middle East and around the world.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be sent to President George W. Bush and all members of Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation.

Adopted by the Dane County Board of Supervisors May 4, 2006.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

General Fund For Golden Commodes, Not For Garbage

On Tuesday night the Oshkosh Common Council voted to keep the unpopular garbage fee in place for the last quarter of 2006, but amended the ordinance so that the fee will not be in place for 2007 unless the Council approves it again.

During the deliberations, Bryan Bain asked City Manager Dick Wollangk what would happen if the Council voted to get rid of the fee for the last quarter of 2006. Wollangk said that the city would have essentially two options: cover the $600,000 with money drawn from the city's general fund equity, which could harm our bond rating, or lay off 10-20 workers. Those councilors who favored keeping the fee in place for the last quarter of 2006 kept coming back to the possibility of layoffs if the fee were lifted. The idea of covering the shortfall with money from the fund equity was completely cast aside.

I do not like the idea of going to the general fund equity for anything but serious emergencies. But here's the problem: last year the Council established that the fund equity could be used to pay for the Leach Amphitheatre bathrooms, a classic "want" in the battle of wants vs. needs.

Garbage pick-up, on the other hand, is a classic need. You mean to tell me that the Council could go to the fund equity for golden commodes, a want which more than half the city will never use, but not for covering garbage collection--a service that everyone needs?

The Council could have easily gone to the fund equity to cover the $600,000 shortfall, thus eliminating the fee for the last quarter of 2006, and then make the same pledge that they ended up making anyway: to look for ways to avoid the garbage fee in 2007.

The message coming from City Hall is clear: We will harm our bond rating for golden commodes, but not to pick up your garbage.

Oshkosh resident Carl Sosnoski said he is going to try and get a binding referendum placed on the November ballot to "end this nonsense." He said people should look him up in the directory and give him a call. If interested, you can call Sosnoski at 235-1727.

Burayidi Report on Miller's Bay Pier

UW Oshkosh Professor of Urban Planning Michael Burayidi has released an in-depth and well documented report called "Miller's Bay Fishing Pier Location: An Analysis and Response by Menominee Neighborhood Residents." On June 14, 2005 the Oshkosh Common Council, with little public input, rubber stamped a Parks Advisory Board decision to place the pier in the Bay. In October the DNR gave the city the green light to proceed with the pier. In December DNR Secretary Hassett said that pier opponents would be granted an official hearing, essentially one more chance to offer reasons why an alternative location should be found for the pier. More information can be found in the TonyPalmeri.Com Miller's Bay Archive.

Dr. Burayidi's report closes with this summary and suggestion:

As the foregoing analysis shows, the location of the fishing pier at the east end of New York Avenue on Miller's Bay would pose significant problems. It would contribute to neighborhood stress, and destroy a pristine lakefront. It would also be located in an area without adequate public facilities and thus cause inconvenience and distress for patrons. Also, any new permanent pier of the size suggested to be located on Miller's Bay should undergo a public hearing as to its appearance and location.

An alternate location of the pier further south of New York Avenue and at the foot of Melvin Avenue across from Webster Stanley School would be a better site. There already are earthen berms in the area, ample parking space, and convenient bathroom facilities. In addition, the site is well illuminated with lights from the nearby parking lot. The fishing pier would also fit in with the existing recreational uses in the area - baseball courts, children's playground, a gazebo and soccer fields. The synergy of uses makes this area a better location than the proposed site on Miller's Bay. Most importantly, the location of the pier at the foot of Melvin Avenue is far enough from the boat docks that it would alleviate fears from the Otter Street Fishing Club that sailboaters would tie up their boats to the fishing pier.

On the basis of the preponderance of evidence showing the potential adverse effects of the pier's location on the neighborhood, we respectfully request that the Council reverse the decision to locate the pier off New York Avenue on Miller's Bay.

Northwestern: Becker "virtually unelectable"

The Gannett editorialists today call former Oshkosh Area School District Board of Education member Dan Becker the "$20,000 Recount Guy." They claim Becker is now "virtually unelectable."

I don't think the $20,000 recount fee makes Becker unelectable. The public will forgive, maybe even praise, someone who fought to make sure every vote was counted and ran up whatever bill necessary to do so. The problem is that it is not clear that Becker wanted every vote counted--I'm still shocked that he even suggested that the votes of an entire district should be thrown out due to a technicality. If anything would make him unelectable it would be THAT.

Would you vote for someone who might later ask that your vote be thrown out because a ballot bag was not properly signed? I think a candidate asking for such an extreme measure would remain unelectable until he acknowledges a serious lapse in judgement and apologizes to the voters for it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Maguire: MPSA Paper on Blogs

In April, UW Oshkosh Journalism professor Miles Maguire presented "Online Debates: Using the Blog to Promote an Engaged Electorate" at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. Maguire says the key sections include:

A political debate necessarily involves multiple constituencies with often conflicting agendas. What works well for candidates may not work well for the media. Similarly, what suits the media or debate sponsors may not well serve the public (Jackson-Beeck and Meadow). As demonstrated in Oshkosh, the Web log has the potential for bringing these agendas and priorities into greater alignment. Because, like the rest of the Internet, it can be a disintermediating force, the Web log can create an arena where candidates and voters interact directly without the distorting effects of the traditional news media or the formats that may be favored by traditional debate sponsors.
Nonetheless the Oshkosh debates can best be described as a qualified success. There is scant evidence that the blog format either increased voter participation or affected voting decisions. But the blog debates demonstrated a willingness among candidates and voters to engage with new technology as a way of furthering political debate. Both candidates and voters saw benefits to the blog format, and there were indications that the blog format could enrich and improve local political discourse.

Because of its low cost and ease of use, the Internet provides enormous opportunities to address complaints about political debates. In addition to the blog format, debate sponsors should consider experimenting with other possibilities provided by the Internet, including chat rooms, video, and audio.

What A Bunch Of Garbage

This morning we learn from Gannett that regardless of taxpayer concerns, the city is not likely to retract the $10-a-month garbage fee in Oshkosh this year.

Much of the discussion of the fee over the last few weeks centered around how garbage collection for condo dwellers would fare. Yet the major problem with the fee is that each resident is charged the same fee regardless of how much garbage they produce. A single person throwing out a bag of garbage per week (for some even less if they use composting) gets the same $10 fee as a family of four throwing out 3 or 4 bags. It would be like being charged for 10 gallons of gas even if you only need 5 gallons. Instead of simply looking for ways to get garbage collection back on the tax rolls, the council should direct the administration to look for ways to institute a system that charges residents based on the volume of garbage they produce.

The other ruse in this entire discussion has been the idea that certain businesses were treated unfairly when garbage collection was on the tax rolls because they were paying for pickup but not getting it. Everyone pays taxes for things that they do not use but are allegedly good for them anyway. Childless couples and childless single people pay taxes for the public school system--should they be exempt? There are people who never go to the public library yet their taxes help to maintain it--should they be exempt? My guess is that probably half the city of Oshkosh will never go to the Leach Amphitheatre but their taxes are paying for the development of the infrastructure that supports it--should they be exempt?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Dartboard Confessional

"Life & Liberty," the publication of the UW Oshkosh "Conservatives in Action," includes in the latest issue a back page "Idiot Dartboard" (scroll down to the last page). I'm worth 10 points! More than Michael Moore! Does anyone know who the idiot worth 16 points is? He's the only one I cannot recognize. (In all seriousness, I'm not sure why I'm on the dartboard because I'm not a Democrat--everyone else on there is a Democrat with the possible exception of Louis Farrakhan who I believe does not identify with any party).

By the way, the word on the street is that Wal-Mart is seeking $20,000 from "Life & Liberty" for unauthorized reproduction of a photo taken in their portrait studio. How greedy is Wal-mart that they would even try to extort some cash from a group of not-very-bright-but-harmless wingnuts? They can call me an idiot, but I'll defend them against Wal-Mart any day.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cindy Sheehan: Invite Me To Oshkosh!

Today on Kathleen Dunn's Wisconsin Public Radio show, peace mom Cindy Sheehan took a call from "Mike" from Oshkosh. She said (skip ahead to the the 22:15 mark in the interview), "I just wish I would be invited to Oshkosh. I hear it's an amazing community. You know I've never been to Wisconsin to speak, and I hear you guys are leaders in the progressive movement."

Some are already working to bring Cindy to Oshkosh . . . developing.

Coles Bashford, We Hardly Knew Ye

Yesterday Oshkosh's historic Coles Bashford House met the wrecking ball, the victim of being located in a city where the municipal government can waste money on floating docks and golden commodes, but can't find a fucking dime to rescue a major part of the city's heritage. Last year the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation placed the Coles Bashford House on its 10 most endangered properties list, but a private fundraising drive to save the building came up short.

Coles Bashford was the first Republican governor of Wisconsin, and he came to office after being declared victor in an election rife with fraud. Bashford himself was later implicated in a bribery scandal, forcing him to leave office and the state after one term.

Debbie Laffin of Oshkosh wrote a letter to the Oshkosh Northwestern that sums it all up nicely:

Oh, what a great idea to burn and demolish the Coles Bashford House, a beautiful landmark and historic site for the entire state of Wisconsin. What will go in its place? A Sam's Club? Maybe an adult toy store, or something we really need, a tavern.

Yeah, let's go ahead and destroy our history and then we can moan about it for years like we do the Athearn Hotel.

Think about it and we are so worried about a little angel statue, while this slips through the crack.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hey Mr. DJ, Play Brenda Lee For Doug Pearson

Today Doug Pearson, CHAMCO Executive Director, said in a press release that he "blew my usual professional cool and left behind my typical political correctness" when making comments openly critical of the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce and the OAEDC. How big of him.

Pearson's press release never retracts his critical comments, so we have to believe that he meant it when he said, among other things, "the current structure is broken and cannot be fixed" and "We've missed the boat on many things."

Actually Pearson only made one questionable comment last week, and it was this one: "The political leadership of this community will have to decide who is the community development vehicle of this city." That comment assumes that there is in fact political leadership in the city of Oshkosh. There's not. At least not any political leadership that is recognized, respected, and ready to lead.

Why did Pearson back down from his comments? My guess is that it has much to do with the fact that $140,000 of CHAMCO's budget comes from "private industry donations." These folks have a pretty good deal working within the current broken structure, producing a kind of interesting twist on the old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." In Oshkosh, the saying goes this way: "If it's broke but benefits inside special interests, DON'T FIX IT."

So now on WT2T, here's a special tune going out to Doug Pearson. It's Brenda Lee singing an old favorite, "I'm sorry."

BC Faculty Protest Condi the Crusader

More than 100 faculty at Boston College, following the lead of two leading theologians, signed on to a letter strongly disagreeing with the college administration's decision to grant Condoleeza Rice an honorary degree at the May commencement. They say that "Secretary Rice's approach to international affairs is in fundamental conflict with Boston College's commitment to the values of the Catholic and Jesuit traditions and is inconsistent with the humanistic values that inspire the university's work."

Secretary Rice's approach to international affairs is consistent with at least some Catholic tradition--the tradition of the Crusades most obviously.

Below is the text of the Boston College faculty protest letter.

Condoleezza Rice Does Not Deserve a Boston College Honorary Degree

We, the undersigned members of the faculty at Boston College, strongly disagree with the decision of the university's leadership to grant Condoleezza Rice an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and to invite her to address the 2006 commencement. On the levels of both moral principle and practical moral judgment, Secretary Rice's approach to international affairs is in fundamental conflict with Boston College's commitment to the values of the Catholic and Jesuit traditions and is inconsistent with the humanistic values that inspire the university's work.

As a matter of moral principle, Rice maintains that U.S. foreign policy should be based on U.S. national interest and not on what she calls the interests of an "illusory international community." This stands in disturbing contrast with the Catholic and humanistic conviction that all people are linked together in a single human family and that all nations in our interdependent world have a duty to protect "the common good of the entire human family."

On the level of practical judgment, Rice has helped develop and implement the strategic policies that have guided the United States in the tragic war in Iraq. Pope John Paul II and the United States Catholic bishops opposed initiating this war on ethical grounds. We also believe the policies that have shaped the war's ongoing conduct cannot be justified in light of the moral values of the Catholic tradition or the norms of international law.

For these reasons, we object to Boston College honoring Condoleezza Rice at its 2006 commencement. Doing so contradicts the university's Catholic, Jesuit, and humanistic identity.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Rain Song For Bernie

To teach my 11:30 a.m. "Foundations of Speech Communication" class (which deals with Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and all those old dudes who sound like, well, Greek to most modern students) at UW Oshkosh, I have to walk from the Arts and Communication Center to Swart Hall. Most professors enjoy teaching all their classes in the same building housing their office; I enjoy having one class in a different building so that I can get some air, mingle with the students as they change classes, marvel at the sheer amount of people now totally engulfed in cell phone and ipod communications, or--when there is no one to mingle with because they are all cell-phoned or ipoded--do some of my best daydreaming.

Before leaving my office for the Wednesday 11:30 class, I said to myself, "self, should you bring an umbrella today?" I'd heard reports of rain coming, but I looked out the window and it did not seem at all threatening. So, no umbrella. As 12:30 and the end of my class neared, it started to get very, very dark outside. It started to rain very, very hard.

In the 11:30 class right now, in which are enrolled almost all graduating seniors, the students are delivering final "after dinner" speeches, the goal of which is to reflect on their college experience using lots of schemes and tropes. Students enjoy learning how to use figures of speech, mostly because they quickly learn how the simplest turn of phrase can make the difference between a blah sentence and one that can prod an audience to laughter, tears, or something equally emotional.

One student's speech today was incredibily funny, well delivered, and used the humor to enforce a serious point about the ethics of communication. The speech almost brought me to tears not because of tearjerking content, but because the student had shown dramatic improvement from her earlier performances in this class and a class that she had with me previously. For a teacher there is little that is more thrilling than seeing the evidence that someone has learned something, especially when the student's display of what they have learned also reflects some kind of personal growth and development. Her speech did more than merely meet assignment guidelines; something about her demeanor while delivering it betrayed the fact that she had developed a real appreciation for critical thought, creativity, and the power of language (I actually had suspicions last week that this particular student was moving in that direction when, during a simple class exercise designed to practice writing figures of speech, she and a class partner came up with a brilliant hypothetical public service announcement written for Laura Bush and urging parents to read to their children.).

When class ended I asked that student to stick around for a second and I told her how much I appreciated the speech. I have such a reputation as a tough grader and difficult prof to please on assignments that she initially seemed shocked. She left seeming very happy and motivated to write and speak more.

Back to the rain . . . on my way down the stairs to get to the door to lead me out of the building, I started to think of Bernie Brock, my former professor who I had recently eulogized in this blog. On Tuesday night I had received an email from Joan Leininger, Bernie's companion of many years and a great professor of communication in her own right. She asked me if I knew that Bernie had died, so I sent her the blog posting. Later she emailed me again: "Your eloquence touched me deeply. Bernie and I both watched you develop from a young student zealot.....somewhat wild-eyed....into a fine scholar who has distinguished himself in both academics and politics. We were/are very proud of you. Bernie spoke often of you with pride in what you have accomplished. He would be happy to know how much he influenced you. .....and he probably does." His son Arthur has started a memorial website.

It was pouring outside and I did not want to get drenched, so I just stood by the door with some students and thought about Bernie for a while. He had this habit, which I found irritating at first but then grew to love and look forward to hearing, of placing an "eth" at the end of peoples' names. So if your name was Tim he'd call you "Timeth," George was "Georgeth," etc. I of course on occasion became "Toneth." So I'm watching the rain, thinking about the inspired student speech in my class, visualizing and hearing Bernie call me "Toneth" as I walked into a graduate class and . . . yes, I shed a tear. Maybe more than one. By that time the rain had slowed a bit so I left Swart Hall and ran back to my building.

You know there's really only a couple of Led Zeppelin songs that I really like. The greatest is "The Rain Song," which I hereby dedicate to Bernie Brock.

This is the springtime of my loving-
The second season I am to know
You are the sunlight in my growing-
So little warmth I’ve felt before.
It isn’t hard to feel me glowing-
I watched the fire that grew so low.

It is the summer of my smiles-
Flee from me keepers of the gloom.
Speak to me only with your eyes
It is to you I give this tune.
Ain’t so hard to recognize-
These things are clear to all from
Time to time. ooooh...

Talk talk-
I’ve felt the coldness of my winter
I never thought it would ever go
I cursed the gloom that set upon us...

But I know that I love you so
But I know that I love you so.

These are the seasons of emotion
And like the winds they rise and fall
This is the wonder of devotion-
I see the torch we all must hold.
This is the mystery of the quotient-
Upon us all a little rain
Must fall.
Just a little rain?
Ooooh, yeah yeah yeah!

Moussaoui Jury Deserves Praise

Today a federal jury, after 41 hours of deliberation that followed a lengthy trial and heartbreaking testimony from families of 9/11 victims, spared the life of confessed conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. Fourty-one hours is actually not very long when you consider the 42-page ballot the jury was instructed to fill out. The jury will take much criticism for that verdict, especially from those hungry to heap vengeance on someone for the events of 9/11. The criticism will be unfair and outrageous.

The defense in the case showed convincingly that Moussaoui is mentally ill, a delusional paranoid schizophrenic. CNN's legal expert Jeffrey Toobin says the evidence against him was not really that strong. His execution would not represent justice for the 9/11 families, would not deter any future acts of terrorism, and would not even snuff out Moussaoui's influence; in fact his execution would only make him a martyr--he would become the David Koresh of al Qaida.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Media Rants: Medea's Media

The May Media Rant is an interview with Medea Benjamin, long time peace and social justice activist. The piece can be found here.

(picture: Me and Medea down by the schoolyard. Actually, the pic was taken at the 2004 national Green Party convention in Milwaukee.).

Troop Deployment Resolution Discussed On WPR

My discussion with Joy Cardin about the Green Party resolution on troop deployment can be found here. I think WPR and Joy Cardin should be commended for addressing a topic that the mainstream, lapdog press won't get near--at least not yet. Send Joy an email of thanks:

Jody Thompson, who recently had a guest post on T2T, writes on her Side Street blog today about Doyle's Dilemma.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Greens to Doyle: Veto Deployment, Bring Troops Home

At its spring gathering in West Bend this past weekend, the Wisconsin Green Party unanimously passed the resolution below calling on Governor Jim Doyle to exercise state control over the Wisconsin Guard, to veto the April 22, 2006 deployment of 430 Wisconsin soldiers to Iraq and surrounding areas, and to take additional action to keep the guard home. I authored the resolution after watching the governor send off another 430 soldiers to service on April 22 and coming to the conclusion that our state, like the other 49, is only a Katrina away from a disaster in which we will find ourselves without the forces necessary to protect the population. A Green Party press release explains the legal basis on which this request stands.

Wisconsin Green Party Resolution calling on Governor Doyle to exercise state control over the Wisconsin Guard, to veto the April 22, 2006 deployment of 430 Wisconsin soldiers to Iraq and surrounding areas, and to take additional action to keep the guard home.

WHEREAS the Wisconsin Constitution in article V, section 4 empowers the governor to act as commander in chief of the military and naval forces of the state; and

WHEREAS the 1986 US Congress’ Montgomery Amendment permits governors to veto federal military missions which interfere with the State Guard’s capacity to respond to local emergencies; and

WHEREAS rescue and recovery efforts in Louisiana and other gulf states were severely impaired due to excessive amounts of State Guard and equipment stationed in Iraq; and

WHEREAS roughly three-fourths of Wisconsin Guard’s 9,700-members have served on active duty since 2001, including 430 deployed on Saturday, April 22 for a one year tour in Iraq and surrounding areas; and

WHEREAS the excessive deployment of the Wisconsin Guard places an unfair burden on their families, negatively affects the state’s economy, and makes the state less able to handle local emergencies; and

WHEREAS on April 4th citizens in 24 communities across Wisconsin voted yes to bringing our troops home from Iraq;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that that Wisconsin Green Party demands that Governor Jim Doyle veto the deployment of the 430 soldiers sent overseas on April 22; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Governor Doyle use his veto power on future deployments of the Wisconsin Guard that threaten our state security; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Governor Doyle exercise his State Constitutional authority to bring the Wisconsin Guard home now; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that copies of this resolution be sent to Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation, Senators Kohl and Feingold, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and President George W. Bush.