Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays

I'll be in New York for the holidays. No more blogging until around January 5th. My Media Rant for the January 2008 Scene will be part 1 of a two part column on the most censored stories of the year. Previous editions can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Regardless of what each person chooses to call this time of the year, let's hope it is a season of love for everyone.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Save The Date: Feb. 11

What Ever Happened to Good Government in Wisconsin? How Can We FIX it?

Monday, February 11, 2008 6:30–8:00PM
Room 227C – Reeve Memorial Union – UW Oshkosh
1748 Algoma Blvd - Oshkosh, WI


  • State Senator Carol Roessler – (R-Oshkosh)
  • State Representative Gordon Hintz – (D-Oshkosh)
  • Professor James Simmons – UW Oshkosh Political Science Department
  • Professor Tony Palmeri – UW Oshkosh Communication Department/Oshkosh Common Council
  • Kathy Propp – League of Women Voters of Wisconsin
  • Jay Heck – Executive Director of Common Cause in Wisconsin

    Moderator: Alex Hummel – Editorial Page Editor of The Oshkosh Northwestern


    For more information: or call Scott Colson (608) 256-2686

Increase in Income Inequality Highest on Record

From the Economic Policy Institute, summarizing Congressional Budget Office data:

Earlier this week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) updated its authoritative data series on household incomes (1979-2005). The new data—highly regarded as a particularly complete source of information on this important topic—reveal a sharp increase in income inequality over the past few years. In fact, the increase in income inequality (both pre-and post-tax) as measured by the change in the shares of income going to different income classes, was greater from 2003 to 2005 than over any other two-year period covered by the CBO data. Over these years, an amazing $400 billion in pre-tax dollars was shifted from the bottom 95% of households to those in the top 5% (all income data in this report are inflation adjusted and in 2005 dollars). In other words, had income shares not shifted as they did, the income of each of the 109 million households in the bottom 95% would have been $3,660 higher in 2005 . . .

Back in 1979, the post-tax income of the top 1% was eight times higher than that of middle-income families and 23 times higher than the lowest fifth. In 2005, those ratios grew to 21 (top compared to middle) and 70 (top to bottom), a vast increase in the distance between income classes.

In looking at the increase in income inequality from 1979-2005, I can't imagine a more powerful indictment of the economic policies of Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43. Not to mention the bipartisan majorities of both houses of congress that enabled those policies.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Corporate Tax Accountability Act

The Institute for Wisconsin's Future recently released an important report, "Wisconsin's Revenue Gap: An Analysis of Corporate Tax Avoidance." Kudos to Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay; yes Virgina, there are Green Bay politicians interested in something other than nativity scenes) for introducing the "Corporate Tax Accountability Act" in response to the report. According to the Cap Times:

The Corporate Tax Accountability Act is aimed at stopping what backers estimate was $1.3 billion in lost state and local tax revenue in 2006 through exemptions, credits and aggressive use of subsidiaries.

For example, three of the largest corporations in the U.S. -- Microsoft Corp., Merck & Co. and Sears Holdings, owner of Kmart and Lands' End -- paid no corporate income taxes in Wisconsin in 2005, according to information released at a Capitol news conference today . . .

A report from the Milwaukee-based Institute for Wisconsin's Future, released today, said that "corporate tax leakage" is shifting the tax burden onto small business and working families. It's also putting pressure on local government and school districts to make tough decisions.

"The resulting gap in income is creating budget shortfalls which can only be resolved by cutting services, raising property taxes or both," the report said.

My understanding is that IWF will, if requested, provide communities with a local analysis of tax accountability. At the common council's first meeting in January I plan to ask Mayor Tower to schedule an IWF tax accountability presentation as a workshop item.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Big Media's Christmas Present

From big media watchdogs

Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to remove the longstanding “newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership” ban that prohibits a local newspaper from owning a broadcast station in the same market. When the Commission voted today, 3-to-2 along party lines, they did so in spite of enormous public pressure and stern warnings from Congress.

But that’s not all. In a series of late night revisions to his rule, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin fattened his holiday gift to Big Media by granting permanent waivers to companies across the country who have been in breach of the cross-ownership ban for years. Already ignoring the millions who have spoken up against media consolidation, this last-minute immunity for Big Media is a slap in the face to the American people. Read More

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dan Fogelberg

Another fallen rock star--Dan Fogelberg passed away today as a result of prostate cancer.

Fogelberg was an activist on environmental and other issues; his song "Face The Fire" was a great anthem for the no-nukes movement of the early 80s and he performed as part of Musicians United For Safe Energy during that time period.

I think Fogelberg's best tune is "Longer," a Beatlesque love song with a timeless quality to it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ike Turner

Ike Turner, most known these days as the guy who beat up Tina, died yesterday at the age of 76.

In teaching the Rhetoric of Rock and Roll class this semester, I was reminded of Ike's contributions in the early years of the genre. The song "Rocket 88" from 1951 (the first song on the tribute video below) is arguably the first rock record and features Ike's band. And who could ever forget Ike and Tina's version of "Proud Mary"?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Advertising in Corporate Media: Wise Use of Tax Dollars?

As noted in Jef Hall's blog, the Oshkosh Northwestern recently included an unnecessary sidebar that provided information as to what kinds of consumer items could be purchased with the $2,208.00 tax bill of the owner of a $100,000 home. Jef correctly points out that the paper left out what services the taxes pay for.

Also left out is the amount of tax dollars that the Northwestern receives from the city of Oshkosh for advertising that is not required by statute. At the request of councilor Paul Esslinger, Finance Director Ed Nokes prepared an itemized list of 2007 advertising dollars the city has paid out to Gannett. The total advertising bill for 2007 (as of this week) is $24,363.53. That's enough money to hire another part-time librarian, or plant more trees in the city, etc. etc.

State law only requires the city to place a few legal notices in the local newspaper. While I am not sure if we should suspend all other advertising in the paper, I do think it is time for us to examine how much "bang we are getting for our buck." It may well be, for example, that the city's website and/or local blogs are more than sufficient to advertise certain activities.

One of the consequences of the print media monopoly enjoyed by Gannett in our region is that they can charge literally whatever rates they wish without any fear of competition. All I am suggesting here is that, where possible, we should compete with Gannett via use of the city's website and other sources. Who knows, perhaps Gannett might then be compelled to lower their rates or--gasp--even provide some free advertising to give the taxpayers a break.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Palmeri on Friday Week in Review + Frisch

On tomorrow's WPR "Week in Review" from 8-9 a.m. I'll be the left guy. On the right will be Dave Blaska, a former member of the Dane County Board of Supervisors. You can join the discussion by calling 1-800-642-1234 or email

On another note, in today's Northwestern Dr. Ann Frisch does an excellent job of cutting through the crap in the mainstream press coverage of Venezuela's failed referendum. Excerpt:

The propaganda machine calls Chavez a dictator, but dictators don't lose elections.

This was evidence of participatory democracy.

I am, however, ashamed that the U.S. government has allegedly been using our tax money to destabilize a democratically-elected government, artificially creating some of the opposition. The CIA's alleged "Operation Pliers" plan was to foment rebellion among the armed forces by creating phony polls to show the "No" vote would prevail, releasing phony early reports that the "No" vote was winning, all against election rules. T-shirts with "fraud" had already been printed. Opposition advertising claimed that if the referendum passed, children would be taken away from their parents and businesses would be seized.

The media propaganda has not been limited to Venezuela. We have been drowning in assertions that are false and misleading.

The full opinion piece can be found here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Council Needs Waterfront Backup Plan

The optimism once associated with the Akcess Group's office building development seems to be absent in today's Northwestern blip. Securing tenants for the building--which the common council and city administration should have required as a condition before approving the project--is apparently proving to be much more difficult than the developers expected.

I'm going to ask that the Waterfront development be placed on council member statements at the next meeting so that we can have an open discussion of possible backup plans.