Monday, December 28, 2009

Censored In 2009, Part I

The following Media Rants column will appear in the January, 2010 edition of The SCENE.--TP

Censored in 2009, Part I

Media Rants


Tony Palmeri

Annually since 1976, Project Censored has identified news stories "underreported, ignored, misrepresented, or censored in the United States." Censored 2010 (Seven Stories Press) cites the Congress’ sell out to Wall St. as the top censored story. Mainstream media minimized or ignored the fact that “Nearly every member of the House Financial Services Committee, who in February 2009 oversaw hearings on how the $700 billion of TARP bailout was being spent, received contributions associated with these financial institutions during the 2008 election cycle.

Inspired by the Project, every year I dedicate two columns to the top ten stories censored by the local and state corporate media.

And now the censored stories:

No. 10: Obama’s Big Sellout: In punting away campaign promises, Barack Obama is no different from all 43 politicians preceding him over at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Still, it’s rare to see such a complete 180 degree reversal on something as fundamental as economic policy. The Obama sellout is narrated in excruciating detail by Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi:

What's taken place in the year since Obama won the presidency has turned out to be one of the most dramatic political about-faces in our history. Elected in the midst of a crushing economic crisis brought on by a decade of orgiastic deregulation and unchecked greed, Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place. This new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle-up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside.”

Probably because corporate media barons perceive they’ll benefit from a Wall St. friendly White House, the mainstream press rarely comment on the real ideological makeup of the president’s policy makers. The Obama administration on economics is still presented to us as governing from the “left”. Thus the tea baggers, birthers, and other Obama foes, of which there are many in the Fox Valley, really do believe that the administration is teeming with “socialists.”
[Note: An excellent recent interview of Taibbi by Thom Hartmann can be seen/heard below; the interview starts at about the 3:50 mark.].

No. 9: Democracy Now! Alone In The Bella of the Beast: The most important international conference in world history was held December 7-18 in Copenhagen’s Bella Center. On opening day, 56 newspapers from 45 countries ran a common editorial arguing, “Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security.” Only two US newspapers (one a Spanish language paper) ran the editorial.

Mainstream media failed to cover Copenhagen with the urgency required. Thank goodness for Amy Goodman; her Democracy Now! program staked out “In the Bella of the Beast” and provided the finest grassroots reporting of the event available.

No. 8: GAB Website FUBAR: I asked the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s politics watchdog Mike McCabe for an opinion on underreported stories. He said in part: “At or near the top of my list is the failure or at least serious shortcomings of outsourcing of government services. ABC News made a big deal out of screwed-up information on the federal government's website showing how stimulus funds have been used. The next day the problem was fixed. But we tried calling attention to data on the GAB's campaign finance website that was totally FUBAR for the better part of a year, and there was next to no media coverage. The state contracted out this project; the initial cost estimate was $1 million but now the tab has been run up to over $2 million and the meter is still running.” [Note: GAB is Government Accountability Board and FUBAR means F*cked Up Beyond All Recognition.]

No. 7: The Twisted Saga Of Mercury Marine. The October Media Rants column discussed Mercury Marine’s low road strategy of extracting huge concessions from workers at the Fond du Lac plant. Also in October, the nonpartisan Institute for Wisconsin’s Future told the true story, a “twisted saga” that Merc’s corporate media lapdogs won’t tell:

The story of Mercury Marine is a sad documentary on how large corporations can reward executives for failure while dismantling the manufacturing structures that generate real value. Wisconsin’s income tax didn’t scare the company. Workers didn’t drain the firm’s cash. Rather, the company’s senior executives and directors presided over an internal fiscal meltdown while collecting massive incomes. Employees, stockholders and taxpayers are paying the price for their mismanagement and their luxuries.

No. 6: The Councilor Appointment Process. The election of Paul Esslinger as Mayor of Oshkosh created a vacant city council seat. In a ridiculous display of press arrogance, the Oshkosh Northwestern refused to report or editorialize accurately or fairly about procedures used across the state to fill such vacancies. Anxious to pressure the Council into appointing the Northwestern’s endorsed candidate, the editorialists became his mouthpiece. I’m proud to say the Council stood up to the bullying, applied procedures commonly used across the state, and appointed an individual (Harold Bucholtz) who’s everything the corporate press isn’t: fair, independent, and trustworthy.

Next month: The top 5 censored stories of 2009.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Not Quite Blowin' In The Wind . . .

. . . but Bob Dylan is now using music to help feed the hungry. Proceeds from his "Christmas in the Heart" recording will support anti-hunger efforts. From Investment News:

“The problem of hunger is ultimately solvable,” Mr. Dylan said in a statement. That “means we must each do what we can to help feed those who are suffering and support efforts to find long-term solutions,” he said.

The recording features Dylan's cover of Brave Combo's cover of "Must Be Santa."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Buyer Beware Care Passes Senate

I had an opportunity to watch some of last night's US Senate "debate" over health insurance reform. Earlier in the day, the extent of the sell-out to lobbyists was depressingly documented, so the end result was no surprise.

The saddest speech had to be Senator Dick Durbin's (D-Illinois). Durbin, usually one of the more sane members of the Senate, with a straight face tried to compare passage of what is, at best, a national version of Romney Care (i.e. mandating the purchase of private insurance) to the battles over Social Security and Medicare. He wants to call the new law "Kennedy Care."

Durbin is smart enough to know that Social Security and Medicare analogies went on life support the moment genuine single-payer was taken off the table; and smart enough to know that the analogies died when even a diluted public option could not make the cut through the insurance industry's Senate. I realize he and other Dems desperately want to score a legislative victory for Barack Obama, but c'mon.

If the legislation gets through conference and becomes law, I think it should be called "Buyer Beware Care." The main feature of the reform, after all, is the provision to buy private health insurance. Think of how distinguished this Senate will sound when the history of the era is written 50 years from now: "In the 1930s FDR and the Democrats in Congress created Social Security to ensure some measure of retirement security for seniors. With Medicare, LBJ and the Dems expanded the New Deal vision. Then at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, Barack Obama and a Congress bought by the private insurance industry gave us Buyer Beware Care. Some called it de-evolution."

And Russ Feingold? The "maverick" ultimately took one for the team. Apparently he has decided he's going to pacify Wisconsin libs by blaming Barack Obama for the lack of a public option in the final bill. I didn't think the Republicans had any chance of unseating Feingold in 2010, but as more details of this monstrous bill become known, anything can happen.

Barack Obama is sending Democrats into the 2010 elections having to defend:

*The TARP (Wall St.) bailout
*Escalation of the war in Afghanistan
*A mandate to buy private insurance

Good luck with that.

Actually, some statistics in this month's Harper's Index now makes sense. It said since assuming the presidency, Obama has attended 26 party fundraisers. At the same point in his presidency, GW Bush had attended 6.

Even Jay Leno gets it: "I'm trying to...sum up President Obama's first 11 months in office. He gave billions to Wall Street, cracked down on illegal immigrants getting healthcare, sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. You know something? He may go down in history as our greatest Republican president ever."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tell Feingold to vote NO on Lieberman Bill

Back in June Senator Feingold said he was "not interested passing health care reform in name only." He called a strong public option "fundamental" to reform.

The Lieberman Bill (i.e. the current "reform" bill under consideration in the Senate) is a travesty, shown by Howard Dean and many others to be much worse than anything Senator Feingold could have imagined in June. Go here to tell the Senator to vote against the bill.

Below is Feingold's statement from June followed by Keith Olbermann's "special comment" from last night.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dean: Vote NO on Health Bill

Howard Dean urges the Senate to kill a "reform" bill that no longer includes even a diluted public option. Russ Feingold, who ought to be tough enough to stand up to the insurance and big pharma lobbies that wrote the bill, should be speaking out against this mess as forcefully as Dr. Dean.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

House Honors "Kind of Blue"

Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan), who recently received a request from the POTUS to stop "demeaning" him, hasn't been able to get the House to vote on or even talk about a genuine single-payer health care plan.

But Conyers was able to get 409 votes for a resolution honoring the late Miles Davis' jazz classic "Kind of Blue."

Given that Conyers is from Detroit, perhaps he might see fit to get the House to recognize the 40th anniversary of the Detroit-based MC5 classic "Kick Out The Jams." The album is #294 on Rolling Stone's top 500 and includes the rebel anthem "Motor City Is Burning." Somehow I don't think Conyers would get 409 votes for that one, and he might even end up getting another tense call from the POTUS.

HRES 894

1st Session
H. RES. 894
Honoring the 50th anniversary of the recording of the album ‘Kind of Blue’ and reaffirming jazz as a national treasure


November 5, 2009
Mr. CONYERS (for himself, Mr. SCOTT of Virginia, Mr. GRIJALVA, Mr. MCGOVERN, and Mr. ABERCROMBIE) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
Honoring the 50th anniversary of the recording of the album ‘Kind of Blue’ and reaffirming jazz as a national treasure
Res. 894

In the House of Representatives, U. S.,

December 15, 2009.

Whereas, on August 17, 1959, Miles Davis, Jimmy Cobb, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, John Coltrane, and Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley collaborated to record the album ‘Kind of Blue’;

Whereas ‘Kind of Blue’ ranks 12th on the list of the ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’ published by Rolling Stone magazine;

Whereas ‘Kind of Blue’ was recorded in 1959, the year Columbia Records declared ‘jazz’s greatest year’;

Whereas ‘Kind of Blue’ marked the beginning of the mass popularity of jazz in the United States;

Whereas in 2008, the Recording Industry Association of America awarded ‘Kind of Blue’ quadruple-platinum status, meaning 4,000,000 copies of the album had been sold;

Whereas in 2002, the Library of Congress added ‘Kind of Blue’ to the National Recording Registry;

Whereas ‘Kind of Blue’ was recognized as the bestselling record in the history of jazz;

Whereas 50 years after the release of ‘Kind of Blue’, MOJO magazine honored the Legacy Edition of the album by giving it the ‘Best Catalogue Release of the Year’ award;

Whereas ‘Kind of Blue’ both redefined the concept of jazz for musicians and changed the perceptions of jazz held by many fans;

Whereas today, the sole surviving member of the Miles Davis Sextet, Jimmy Cobb, is performing and touring with his So What Band in tribute to the 50th anniversary of ‘Kind of Blue’; and

Whereas ‘Kind of Blue’ continues to be the standard masterpiece of jazz for American musicians and audiences: Now, therefore, be it



Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brooklyn Guerrilla Bike Lane Painters

Thanks to Lo for passing this on. I'm actually from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn where this biketroversy is taking place.

Palmeri, Egelhoff on Friday "Week in Review"

Jo Egelhoff of and I will join Joy Cardin for WPR's Week in Review on Friday, Dec. 11 from 8-9 a.m. You can call in during the program at 1-800-642-1234 or email

One topic that will certainly come up is President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance speech. You can watch it below.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The 2009 TONY Awards

Yes, what everyone's been waiting for . . . the 2009 TONY Awards Media Rants for excellence in local media. The hard copy can be seen in the December SCENE. Here's the column:

In its annual report, the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism late last year identified an important emerging trend: “Power is shifting to the individual journalist and away, by degrees, from journalistic institutions. The trend is still forming and its potential is uncertain but the signs are clear. Through search, e-mail, blogs, social media and more, consumers are gravitating to the work of individual writers and voices, and away somewhat from institutional brand.” Given the low journalistic quality of, and citizen disgust with, local corporate media, that trend can’t come fast enough to the Fox Valley.

Every December since 2002 I've given TONY Awards to local independent media practitioners who think outside the corporate box and show excellence in educating, agitating, enlightening, or entertaining Valley audiences.

And now the 2009 TONY Award recipients. Drum roll please.

Most Missed Editorial Writer: Alex Hummel. For years Oshkosh Northwestern editorials often featured cheap shots, ornery gripes, and a general dumbing down of the issues under discussion. All that changed when Alex Hummel became the editorial writer. Though I frequently disagreed with Alex, his editorials were always well argued, civil, and demonstrated a desire to move the community forward as opposed to the traditional Northwestern model of settling scores or serving as mouthpieces for favored special interests and ad clients. Disagreeing with Alex’s editorials required reflection and contemplation of counter-argument.

Not anymore. Early in 2009 Hummel announced he was leaving the Northwestern for a position as Community Outreach and Education Coordinator for Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services in Oshkosh. No one is indispensable, but it’s difficult to exaggerate the depths to which the editorial page has sunk since his departure. The ornery dumbing down returned with a vengeance, making it too easy to ignore the page. Alex, you’re missed.

Best Investigative Journalism: “Rumors of Murder” by Daphne Young in The Scene. The State Department of Justice recently announced that felony vehicular homicide charges in the 2004 death of Kevin McCoy would be filed against Rory Kuenzi, one of the rocket scientists also facing charges for the snowmobiling massacre of deer in Waupaca County. No doubt the DOJ was aided by Daphne’s Scene piece, which exposed in depth the incompetence that resulted in Kuenzi avoiding charges for 5 years. Daphne’s follow up piece, “Remembering Kevin McCoy,” provided readers with a moving portrait of McCoy as told by his family.

Best Independent Local Film: Dr. Kickbutt’s “Kick Savin’ a Beauty.” A project of Leif Larson and Aaron Baer, the film’s slapstick comedic antics evoke marriage of Monty Python, the Three Stooges, and Laurel & Hardy. Shown at the Time Community Theater in Oshkosh in September, the production represented grassroots filmmaking at its bedraggled best.

Community Arts Award: The Time Community Theater. Not only did the Time provide space for Dr. Kickbutt, but also fine musical acts. Great young bands were featured at the “Oshstock” concert, while the alt-country sound of the Blueheels, smooth jazz of Amina Figarova and soulful singing of Eli Mattson graced the Time’s stage in 2009. If you believe in supporting venues that provide a space for local artistic talent, then you need to go to the Time website ( and make a contribution. Do it today.

The Snyder-Jarman Award For Excellence in Radio. Randall Davidson. A former newscaster for Wisconsin Public Radio, Randall Davidson in 2008 replaced Ben Jarman as Director of Radio Services for UW Oshkosh radio station WRST. Randall has already expanded the station’s outreach efforts, brought new alternative programming, and established himself as a mentor for students seeking to become radio professionals. Under Randall’s guidance, students produce excellent public affairs programs and special features like election night programming. Quite the refreshing alternative to commercial radio.

Best Blogging About A Local Issue: Roger Bybee. During the Mercury Marine Corporation’s summer of heavy handed tactics in extracting concessions from union workers while at the same time demanding boat loads (pardon the pun) of taxpayer money to keep jobs in Fond du Lac, it was impossible to find any quality local news coverage of the travesty. Roger Bybee, a Milwaukee-based freelance writer, wrote about the issue in the “Working In These Times” blog with the kind of guts and integrity rarely found in the mainstream press. Sample Bybee:

“The onslaught of plant closings and relocations—both threatened and real—will continue until the Obama administration comes up with an industrial policy that prevents corporations from playing off workers and states against each other in order to further drive down wages.”

General Excellence: Jo Egelhoff, This is Jo’s second TONY. Though the former Appleton alderperson leans much more to the right than Media Rants, her site is a treasure trove of useful information. Every morning, usually before 8 a.m., Jo sends subscribers to her email list a huge archive of northeast Wisconsin news, news from around the state and nation, provocative pieces on politics and elections, and opinion pieces. Jo wrote something in a blog post not too long ago that we agree on completely: “It continues to be time to participate in our local media – and indeed – to hold our local media accountable to ask the tough questions and persist as long as it takes to get meaningful answers.”

Prior TONY Awards columns can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.