Monday, March 31, 2008

RIP: Robert L. "Doc" Snyder

Bob "Doc" Snyder, the founder UW Oshkosh campus radio station WRST-FM 90.3, died last Wednesday after suffering a stroke. For more than 40 years, Doc hosted "Doc's Jazz City" on WRST. He was an extraordinarily gifted and talented teacher, earning the campus' Distinguished Teaching Award as well as the prestigious Rosebush Professorship. In 1968 he published a book on depression ere documentary filmmaker Pare Lorentz. The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association inducted Bob Snyder into their Hall of Fame in 2001.

I have a great deal of love, admiration, and respect for Doc Snyder. In the early 1990s he actively encouraged me to get involved with the campus' television and radio stations, and provided much support and guidance for the "Commentary" television and radio programs. He was also a great role model of academic citizenship and service. My campus office is located on the same floor as the WRST studios, and over the years Doc and I had countless conversations about a variety of topics.

I know I have VHS tapes of Bob Snyder appearing on the television Commentary. Perhaps those tapes can be converted to DVD and turned into online videos. The Radio Commentary interview with Snyder, which took place in 2006 at around the time of the station's 40th anniversary, can be found here. It's a fun interview, with Doc sharing lots of anecdotes, and includes in it some of his all-time favorite jazz tunes (by Billy Eckstein, Duke Ellington, and the George Shearing Quintet).

Today it will feel very empty in that office and at the WRST studios. I'll post funeral information and the official obituary as they become available.

(Below: Bob Snyder on the left with Ben Jarman)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Council Compensation in Other Cities

Before last Tuesday's meeting, Councilor Burk Tower provided each of us with a summary table of compensation for elected officials in comparable municipalities and counties. The summary can be found here. As noted previously, Tower is proposing to raise the Mayor's compensation from $3,000 to $6,000 and the Council's from $2,400 to $3,750. The increases would kick in after the April 2009 elections.

How I spent my spring break

UW Oshkosh has been on spring break this week. Here are some of my highlights from the week:

*Monday: Two hour meeting of the Oshkosh Housing Authority, which included a tour of a remodeled apartment in Marian Manor.
*Tuesday: A four hour meeting of the Common Council, which included an extensive discussion of urban deer issues.
*Wednesday: A three hour informational meeting at City Hall on the topic of turning the Westhaven golf course into a wetland. By my count, Department of Public Works representatives at the meeting responded to over 60 citizen questions. There is still time to ask more questions and make more comments before this matter comes to the Common Council. Send written questions/comments to:

City of Oshkosh - Department of Public Works
215 Church Ave.
P.O. Box 1130
Oshkosh, WI 54903
Attn: James Rabe

Mr. Rabe is a civil engineer for the city. His department can be reached at 920-236-5065, fax #920-236-5068.

Director of Public Works David Patek can be reached via email at dpatek@ci.oshkosh.wi.us

Hey, I'm not complaining about the first half of spring break being meeting heavy. Tonight I get to see the Blue Man Group at the Resch Center in Green Bay, and this weekend I'm excited to have the opportunity to hang out with some Green Party friends from around the state.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cutting Corners v. Credibility

Today's Oshkosh Northwestern editorial urges the city not to "cut corners" on the convention center upgrade. Original estimates had the cost for the project at $2.6 million. Now it's looking like a possible $3.5 - $3.8 million dollar project.

The original estimate was done by the Martin/Ganther group. On April 9, 2007 they wrote: "These numbers are assumed valid for the remainder of the year. Following that time an approximate 5% appreciation rate would need to be applied to the estimate." When a request $307,000 in additions was made in January (which was approved), there was no indication from the Department of Community Development or the project architect that bids could eventually be this far off. In fact, the architect brought up the possibility that bids could actually come in lower than expected.

Director of Community Development Jackson Kinney told the Northwestern that Martin/Ganther were chosen to do the estimate because they would not be bidding on the project. It's still not clear why they were even on the city-provided list of contractors who could do the estimate.

The paper said that additional bidders "probably" would be asked to bid on the project. I think that probably needs to be a "definitely." If the only bidders are the usual suspects (i.e. Boldt, Miron, C.D. Smith), I don't think a proposal to go over the original 5% approximate appreciation rate would be very credible.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Why I never voted for Bill Clinton

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Council Pay Raise and Deer Workshop

Next Tuesday the Common Council has on its agenda the first reading of an ordinance that would provide a pay raise for the Mayor and Council. The Mayor's compensation would double (from $3,000 to $6,000 per year), while Councilors would see an increase from the current $2,400 to $3,750. As noted in the Northwestern, the pay increases would not take effect until April of 2009 so that everyone voting on it would have to face re-election before the increases go into effect.

Around budget time last year, I thought there was a good chance that I would support a compensation increase for the Mayor and Council, largely because there has not been an increase in a very long time. Add to that the fact that legislators in Madison make almost $50,000 per year (not including travel reimbursement and per diems when in Madison) while meeting in open session less than 20 times in 2007, and the case for a local government compensation increase is pretty reasonable. Unless we decide to fix the current rates for eternity, someone has to vote for a raise.

But now I have very mixed feelings, largely because of the costs associated with Mr. Wollangk's retirement along with the continuing costs for the city manager search and future compensation for that position. With all of the money we have spent on retirement payouts, legal fees, advertisements, the PAR Group, and other items related to the City Manager position, I'm not sure we can justify asking for more Council compensation. We spent (and are continuing to spend) all of that money on the Executive branch and yet a majority of the councilors would not even allow citizens the opportunity to have a referendum question on a ballot so that they could say yes or no to the Council/Manager form of government. Perhaps voting on a compensation increase should wait until the Council shows that it can hire a City Manager able to restore confidence in City Hall.

But my mind is still open on this topic. What are your thoughts? Should the Council vote for a pay increase? You can post your thoughts here, email me a tpalmeri@ci.oshkosh.wi.us or call me at 235-1116.

We're also going to have a workshop in the urban deer issue at the Tuesday meeting. All citizens will be allowed to participate, so if you've got some thoughts on the topic please do attend.

Rumor has it that an Oshkosh deer had a starring role in the Queens of the Stone Age "No One Knows" video.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barack: It's the Golden Rule, Stupid

From Barack Obama's speech on race in America, delivered in Philadelphia today:
In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Let's celebrate with some classic John and Yoko:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Life During Wartime

I realize they are only in it for the money, but still you have to wonder how American corporate media execs can look in the mirror. From AFP coverage of Winter Soldier, Day One:

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US veterans and active-duty soldiers on Thursday kicked off an event in Washington to protest the war in Iraq, urging other members of the military to join them in speaking out against the conflict.

"There's an upswell of disgust and disapproval for the Iraq war in the military," intelligence sergeant Selena Coppa told AFP at the launch of the four-day "Winter Soldier" event.

"The difficulty is letting them realize they are legally entitled to speak out about it, other than to service members," added Coppa, who is still on active duty in the US army.

Camilo Mejia, the first conscientious objector to the Iraq war, went a step further.

"I want our servicemen and women to know that standing up to an immoral occupation is not only their right but also their duty to their country and humanity," he told reporters.

"My first mission in Iraq was to run a prisoner of war camp where we used sensory and sleep deprivation techniques prior to interrogation," he recounted at the opening news conference, which was heavy with foreign correspondents but light on US media.

You can listen to Winter Soldier online here. Warning: what the soldiers are describing ain't no party, ain't no disco, ain't no fooling around.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Will We Hear The Winter Soldiers?

From March 13-16, veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will be providing public testimony about what they experienced in those lands. This "Winter Soldier" event has been largely ignored by the mainstream media. That's the topic of the March Media Rant. Here's the piece:

Will We Hear The Winter Soldiers?

From the March 2008 edition of The Scene

March 20th marks the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The staggering costs of this unnecessary and immoral experiment in preemptive war boggle the mind: almost 4,000 U.S. soldiers killed and more than 60,000 wounded; 700,000 Iraqis killed and 4 million fleeing the country as refugees; a $500 billion price tag (approximately $4,100 per household).

For journalists, Iraq stands as the most deadly war zone in history. According to Reporters Without Borders, 209 journalists (the majority Iraqi) and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since March of 2003. That depressing statistic compares with 66 journalists killed in Vietnam from 1955-1975, 68 in World War II, and 17 in Korea.

History will show that the Bush Administration’s failed war policy was aided and abetted every step of the way by a docile corporate media that failed to play any kind of meaningful watchdog role. From even before the start of the conflict, big media repeatedly failed to hold government officials to account for false or misleading statements, timidly acquiesced to military censorship of reporting, and systematically minimized or silenced voices of anti-war critics.

From March 13-16, the corporate media giants have an opportunity to redeem themselves. In Silver Spring, Maryland, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be participating in a “Winter Soldier” exercise designed to reveal the truth about what’s been done in those lands in the names of the American people. The major sponsor of Winter Soldier is Iraq Veterans Against the War (http://ivaw.org/). According to their press release: “The four-day event will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan - and present video and photographic evidence. In addition, there will be panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists to give context to the testimony. These panels will cover everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans' health benefits and support.”
The 2008 Winter Soldier resurrects an event first carried out by Vietnam veterans in 1971. Organizers derived the name Winter Soldier from 18th century revolutionary Thomas Paine’s American Crisis #1 (1776): “THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Guided by Paine’s spirit of resistance to unjust authority, 109 veterans testified about war crimes they had witnessed or participated in from 1963-1970. The proceedings became a 1972 documentary film that was largely ignored by the mainstream press.

Local Iraq War veteran Jason Moon plans to testify at Winter Soldier 2008. His story is emblematic of just about everything wrong with the conduct of the war. Moon joined the National Guard in the early 1990s and served eight years in a variety of domestic roles such as helping citizens cope with floods and other natural disasters. In July of 2002 he rejoined, signing up for a “Try the Guard for one year” program. In March of 2003 Moon was deployed to Iraq with a cold weather Guard unit that had neither the training nor equipment necessary for desert conditions. Though his enlistment contract ended on July 30, 2003, Moon was “involuntarily extended” until March 14, 2004.

Jason will testify to observing two types of war crimes. First, in Kuwait convoy drivers were told that insurgents commonly use children as decoys. Therefore, convoy drivers could run over the children and keep driving. When Moon protested this order, he was placed in the rear of the convoy, the part most commonly attacked.

Second, Jason will testify that soldiers were empowered to kill thirty civilians or less--without having even to ask for approval from a commanding officer—if the soldier was convinced that the thirty were being used as “human shields” by an insurgent. Scores of veterans will testify to similar actions. Why? Because they know that silence is consent.

Winter Soldier participants recognize that their testimony will be controversial, but is necessary because “we are fighting for the soul of our country.” They claim to be demonstrating patriotism by “speaking out with honor and integrity instead of blindly following failed policy. Winter Soldier is a difficult but essential service to our country.”

While Iraq Veterans Against the War hope that Winter Soldier wakes up the average American, their desired audience is other veterans. They want all the troops to know that they are not alone in their silent rage about what they were asked to do in battle, and that if they choose to speak out they will have a support network.

Sponsoring Winter Soldier and testifying to atrocities while the war lingers on is a great act of courage on the part of our veterans. Will the corporate media act with some courage and write about and/or broadcast the Winter Soldier proceedings? Will the press finally take its watchdog responsibility seriously and provide anti-war dissent with the space necessary to allow Americans to make informed judgments about the war?

Probably not. But thankfully you can listen to the Winter Soldier proceedings live on the KPFA radio website (www.kpfa.org) from March 13-16.

Tony Palmeri (www.tonypalmeri.com) is an associate professor of communication at UW Oshkosh and holds a seat on the Oshkosh Common Council.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Confess Your Environmental Sins

The Vatican has (finally) declared pollution to be a sin.

So hey now, all you sinners: when you put your lights on, make sure they are compact fluorescent.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Belated Happy IWD

Many countries in the world celebrate March 8th as International Women's Day. In the US the day is not widely recognized by mainstream media, probably because of its Socialist origins with activists like Clara Zetkin.

UW Oshkosh Women's History Month activities can be found here. Of special note is the Wednesday, March 12th visit (6 p.m. Reeve Union 227) to campus by feminist author Ellen Bravo. Ellen teaches Women's Studies at UW Milwaukee and writes for HuffingtonPost.com. I like her explanation for why so many feminists support Obama:

So what's tipped so many feminists to Obama? For some, it was when the Clintons began treating him as women are treated -- patronizing him as merely a "good speaker," trivializing his accomplishments, minimizing the importance of his early judgment and risk-taking in opposing the war in Iraq, and using surrogates to demonize his morality.

At UW Oshkosh Ellen Bravo will be talking about her most recent book, Taking on the Big Boys: Or Why Feminism is Good for Families, Business, and the Nation.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Statehouse Crock

Courtesy of our friends at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign:

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Draft City Manager Ad

Next Tuesday the Common Council will vote on the city manager recruitment profile and job ad. Below is the ad. To email feedback to all members of the council, go here (scroll down). Is the ad too general? Should it include more specific traits or experience desired?

Oshkosh, Wisconsin (64,084) City Manager. Salary $130,000+/- DOQ. ICMA recognition in 1957. Past manager served since 1997. Appointed by Mayor and Council elected to two-year, overlapping terms. $99 million total budget: 554 FTEs/125PTEs. Award winning, full service community in the heart of Wisconsin. Excellent cultural, recreational and educational amenities, home of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. City is seeking energetic, innovative, participation oriented candidates with successful background of service as a City Manager, Assistant City Manager, or in similar executive level position. Bachelors required; Masters or similar advanced degree highly desirable. Residency required. Apply with 5 work related references to: Karl Nollenberger, Vice President, The PAR Group –100 N. Waukegan Road, Suite 211, Lake Bluff, Illinois 60044. TEL: 847/234-0005; FAX 847/234-8309; email: resume@pargroupltd.com

Monday, March 03, 2008

Death of Blogs + Censored in 2007, Part 2


Ron Hardy argues that Oshkosh blogs are showing "serious signs of fatigue," done in by the Oshkosh Northwestern which has "killed" them. Just a couple of brief thoughts on this subject:

*It's hard to find anyone who believes that the Northwestern's online presence, with the possible exception of the Thursday live interviews, is anything other than mediocre or lame. Citizens like CJ, mac1 and Tina Haffeman (and others) frequently make insightful comments in the NW forums, but the forums have for the most part been done in by the same factors that do in the Oshkosh blogs: trolling, obsession with personalities, inability to stay focused on a topic, etc. etc. My point is that if something as mediocre/lame as the Northwestern online presence killed the Oshkosh blogs, then those blogs were not very alive to begin with.

*Political and media junkies often make the mistake of thinking that everyone else is at their level of awareness of things, or that what they say is "common sense." Case in point: most people reading this blog know that the Gannett corporation is a bottom line outfit, and that even if we stipulate that Stew and the (mostly) boys have the best of intentions, the profit motive of the parent company seriously limits what they can do. This is NOT obvious to most casual consumers of media, nor do we have any reason to expect that it would be. Casual consumers of media tend to think the problem is "bias" (i.e. the paper is too liberal, too conservative, etc.). So I think bloggers and other independent sources would do a tremendous public service by just trying to get a larger number of people to simply UNDERSTAND WHAT THE CORPORATE MEDIA ARE. General Motors sells cars. Gannett sells audiences (i.e. you and me) to advertisers.

For a variety of reasons, corporate media under report, ignore, and sometimes flat out suppress important stories. My journalism hero is the late George Seldes, a principled investigative reporter who spent most of his adult life revealing the "missing" parts of the mainstream story. I think blogs are at their best when they serve that function, and probably at their worst when the blogger sees him or herself as a "partner" with the mainstream press. In the latter case, a blogger might say to him or herself, "I don't always agree with the Northwestern, but we have the same goals and so we should work together cooperatively." That blogger is mistaken: s/he does NOT have the same goals as the Northwestern. Mr. or Ms. blogger may be trying to get at the truth; the Northwestern is trying to sell an audience to an advertiser.

All this does not mean that there are not some outstanding people working in mainstream, corporate journalism. Of course there are, and what makes them outstanding is the fact that they understand the limitations on what they can do and they are open about it. The best mainstream media folks view blogs as a kind of healthy competition that might force the mainstream to do the right thing even when it is not profitable. The mainstream hacks see the blogs, at best, as something to co-opt and manipulate in order to maintain or increase market share. Everyone needs to decide for themselves what kind of mentality runs the Northwestern these days.

The March Media Rant is already out (I'll post it later this week or next), but I never got around to posting the February entry. The February Rant is called Censored in 2007, part 2. Here it is.