Oberstar Watch – staff salaries

A story in today’s DNT alerted me to a new website “legistorm” which displays the salaries of all the capital hill workers.

I haven’t exactly been astounded by the blizzard of press releases in the past month which suggest that Jim Oberstar is the only congressman passing any laws or making any appropriations. I worked for a Congressman one summer 35 years ago who had a staff half the size of Oberstar’s but who managed to crank out plenty of PR stuff.

Apparantly this site went down the first day it appeared because so many Capital Hill staff were busy finding out how much everybody else made. Its cooled down since. Here’s a quarter by quarter listing of Jim’s staff and their salaries.

Forest Lake Press Questionnaire

I’ve gotten several questionnaires from the press. I just returned one to the Forest Lake Press which will publish it in mid-October.

Here’s my response to their final question:

  1. What would you like to tell voters about your qualification as their representative in Washington , D.C. ? Why are you the best candidate for the job?
    As a lifelong historian of American politics I am fed up with its current state of polarization and paralysis. Since Jim Oberstar has been calling Rod Grams a  liar and since Rod Grams has been calling Jim Oberstar an “liberal elitist,” I believe that I’m the best choice. I am running as in independent candidate on the “Unity Party” label. I will caucus with the Democrats but work with the many new congressman this election will usher in to put partisan polarization behind us.

Torture discussion

Vic and I have been trading emails arguing about whether torture can ever be excused. Vic took the trouble of looking up an old article by Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz which was published in the L.A. Times. I’m taking a copywrite liberty here by posting nearly half of what Dershowitz said but his comments are worth pondering. Has America had the public discussion about interrogation techniques that Israel had? I don’t know.

“Before 1999, Israel tried to come to terms with the torture issue. Rather than denying it publicly and winking at it privately like many other countries (and many police forces even in the United States), Israeli officials sought to codify what was and was not permissible in order to wage the most effective battle against terrorism within the rule of law.

They set out rules allowing “moderate physical pressure” in specific cases – including such non-lethal tactics as sleep deprivation, tying up prisoners in painful positions with hoods over their heads, violent shaking, and loud music. The argument was that such measures were justified in “ticking bomb” cases in which getting instant information out of a terrorist suspect about an imminent attack was essential.

Esther Wachsman, for example, whose son was kidnapped by militants, has said that she knew Israeli agents tortured a captured Palestinian to force him to reveal the 19-year-old’s whereabouts and that she had no regrets about it. “Was this man going to reveal this kind of information if they served him tea and played some Mozart?” she asked.

For some years the rules were in place, even though opponents argued that torture of any kind was a black-and-white issue – always wrong, never allowable.

In the end, the Israeli Supreme Court issued a decision in 1999 prohibiting all forms of rough interrogation. In rendering this decision, the court described in detail what was prohibited: shaking, stress positions, hooding, playing “powerfully loud music,” and other physical pressures. The court did leave open a tiny window in ticking-bomb cases. It suggested that if an interrogator honestly and reasonably believed that the only way to prevent an attack was to apply moderate physical pressure, he could try to convince a court after the fact that his actions fell under the defense of “necessity.” Thus far, no such defense has been offered.

This decision stimulated an important debate inside and outside Israel. It is unlikely that it ended all physical abuse, but even Israel’s most strident critics acknowledge that it certainly has been curtailed.”

Oberstar Watch – and speaking of raising money

A couple days ago I read the not very surprising news that Jim Oberstar was busy hitting up lobbyists for special interest money for his election. I bet he can’t wait for Congress to adjourn so he can come back “home” and spend it.

Pertaining to Jim was this brief note:

“Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) has also held several fundraisers this month, but his campaign spokesman said he could not find out how many.”

How many? Its probably hard to keep track of them all!


Oberstar Watch – Earmarks

This morning I woke to an interesting bit of intelligence about our seniority rich Congressman. It seems that Oberstar used the much criticized earmarking power to authorize 11 million in pork for an almost nonexistant entity (Its only met once since 2004 according to the post) called the GLMRI or Great Lakes Marine Research Institute.

I’ve grown suspicious of anything Oberstar related with the word “Great Lakes” in it. That’s because of the infamous UGRLC Upper Great Lakes Regional Commission which at federal expense provided the work of three secretaries to help win Jim Oberstar the contested Democratic primary in 1974 and his automatic election to Congress. After writing about this last November the only man convicted for stealing any portion of a much talked about missing million dollars gave me a call and prompted me to begin writing a book about the scandal. Sorry to say campaigning for Congress has forced me to shelve the project for now. If only I had three federally financed secretaries to help me mail out fund raising letters. 

Back to the earmark. Some of you may recall that the so called blogosphere ganged up to discover the US Senator who put a hold on legislation to publicize the names of Congressmen who stick earmarks secretly into legislation unbeknownst to the world. Lots of old salts in the Congress hate the idea of transparancy where people can see whose bidding they are doing. Jim must be one of them as he’s been touting his seniority as an important reason to reelect him. Who can quibble with more pork, especially if its our children who have to pay for it?

More on the Iraq poll

Vic sent me this synopsis of the poll in Iraq. I find it very unsurprising. The headline crows that the murdering thugs of Al Qaeda have lost support. Who said that the terrorist decapitators ever had much support inside Iraq? It sounds as though they were drawn from no more than 5% of the local Sunni population. In fact, I believe most of them came from Saudi Arabia, Syria or elsewhere in the Arab world.

As I read between the lines of this analysis I’m not disuaded from my sense that Iraq should be three separate entities. At best I can only imagine a lose confederation. Its obvious that the three major populations have little use for each. Yes, they are mildly interested in staying united but only if they can either be in charge of the others or independent of them.

Woe to the poor Iraqies who intermarried in the years of secular tolerance.



Debate luck

I may not be invited to appear at the League of Women Voter’s or Debate Minnesota’s 8th District Congressional Debates but I might make it on Public Television’s Almanac on October 13th.

I put in a call to Almanac this morning to make an inquiry and was called back by the program’s Assistant Producer. She told me that they have been holding off on calling me because they didn’t know whether I would make the cut or not.

Almanac’s policy is to invite any third party candidate who is polling at 5% or higher to debate. If, however, no independent polls have been taken of their race they are given the benefit of the doubt and invited anyway.

Now I don’t know whether I want a poll or not because if I my poll numbers are too low I’d lose my chance to star on Almanac. I’ll I have to sit on pins and needles to find out whether anybody checks the temperature of the Eighth Congressional District.

The debate is scheduled for Friday the thirteenth. That must mean bad luck for somebody.

Help me get on a Televised Debate

Now that I know that the Almanac Show on Twin Cities Public Television is planning on holding a debate between Grams and Oberstar I’d encourage my readers to lobby them to include me in the debate.

I’m not aware that they require “minor party” candidates to prove that they have any particular percentage of the currents polls before them allow them to join their debate and since no independent source has conducted a poll I can’t prove that I’d get 5, 10% or 33% of the vote. Lobby them here.

In the Trib again

For the first time in a month my name was mentioned in a story about Grams and Oberstar. Even better it mentioned my campaign website’s URL. Sadly it was about my exclusion from three debates scheduled between the congressional candidates. However, I think I may have a shot at getting myself on the most recent debate they’ve agreed to on Public Television’s Almanac. As far as I know Almanac has no policy about candidates registering x percentage on a poll. Its time to give them a call.

More on Dividing Iraq

Just an hour after I posted my thought for the day calling for the division of Iraq I heard a report on NPR saying the the majority of Iraqis wanted a unified nation based on a poll.

The poll also said that most Iraqis wanted the US out of Iraq in a year’s time. How an accurate poll could be conducted in Iraq today, whether respondents would be honest, and whether the 600 people interviewed are representative of the 25 million Iraqis was not explained.

Perhaps a million Iraqis have fled since the invasion including many of the educated people the Administration told us would help bring order after the invasion. As the administration pulls its College Republicans out of the Green Zone law and order will have to be maintained by the National Guard.

Iraqis may indeed wish to keep their nation in one piece but even if this is so it may be wishful thinking.

Welty’s Iraq plan- thought for the day and the rest of the campaign

As my campaign manager points out bashing the Bush Administration for the mess its made of Iraq doesn’t solve the problem. There is the only credible and sensible solution. This idea is not originally mine but I’ve been thinking about it almost from the start of the war. If I am in Congress I will push this with all my might.



My name is John Batiste

“My name is John Batiste. I left the military on principle on November 1, 2005, after more than 31 years of service. I walked away from promotion and a promising future serving our country. I hung up my uniform because I came to the gut-wrenching realization that I could do more good for my soldiers and their families out of uniform. I am a West Point graduate, the son and son-in-law of veteran career soldiers, a two-time combat veteran with extensive service in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq, and a life-long Republican.

Bottom line, our nation is in peril, our Department of Defense’s leadership is extraordinarily bad, and our Congress is only today, more than five years into this war, beginning to exercise its oversight responsibilities. This is all about accountability and setting our nation on the path to victory. There is no substitute for victory and I believe we must complete what we started in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Donald Rumsfeld is not a competent wartime leader. He knows everything, except “how to win.” He surrounds himself with like-minded and compliant subordinates who do not grasp the importance of the principles of war, the complexities of Iraq, or the human dimension of warfare. Secretary Rumsfeld ignored 12 years of U.S. Central Command deliberate planning and strategy, dismissed honest dissent, and browbeat subordinates to build “his plan,” which did not address the hard work to crush the insurgency, secure a post-Saddam Iraq, build the peace, and set Iraq up for self-reliance. He refused to acknowledge and even ignored the potential for the insurgency, which was an absolute certainty. Bottom line, his plan allowed the insurgency to take root and metastasize to where it is today. Our great military lost a critical window of opportunity to secure Iraq because of inadequate troop levels and capability required to impose security, crush a budding insurgency, and set the conditions for the rule of law in Iraq. We were undermanned from the beginning, lost an early opportunity to secure the country, and have yet to regain the initiative. To compensate for the shortage of troops, commanders are routinely forced to manage shortages and shift coalition and Iraqi security forces from one contentious area to another in places like Baghdad, An Najaf, Tal Afar, Samarra, Ramadi, Fallujah, and many others. This shifting of forces is generally successful in the short term, but the minute a mission is complete and troops are redeployed back to the region where they came from, insurgents reoccupy the vacuum and the cycle repeats itself. Troops returning to familiar territory find themselves fighting to reoccupy ground which was once secure. We are all witnessing this in Baghdad and the Al Anbar Province today. I am reminded of the myth of Sisyphus. This is no way to fight a counter-insurgency. Secretary Rumsfeld’s plan did not set our military up for success.”