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Op-Ed: E-News - October 9, 2009


Location: Washington, DC

The Week Just Past

"The nation marked a solemn anniversary this week -- the 8th anniversary of the beginning of U.S. and coalition military action against the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on September 11, 2001 and their Taliban hosts in Afghanistan.

"Today, our U.S. soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen and their NATO partners find themselves locked in a serious struggle with the Taliban and al Qaeda. The professional terrorists of al Qaeda have found sanctuary in Pakistan and Africa and elsewhere, but those who remain in Afghanistan are well dug in.

"It was just last March that President Obama unveiled a "comprehensive new strategy . . . to reverse the Taliban's gains and promote a more capable and accountable Afghan government." He promised to provide all necessary resources to conduct this "war of necessity." He even handpicked and then promoted General Stan McChrystal, a highly decorated expert on counterinsurgency, to be NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

"What has changed since then?

"It has now been over a month since General McChrystal delivered his professional assessment that President Obama asked for. And I recognize that there have been many meetings at the White House in recent weeks publicly billed as an effort to develop a new strategy in Afghanistan and a nuclear-armed Pakistan.

"But while the Administration remains undecided, our Allies question our requests for more NATO troops, the Pakistani government wonders why they should increase their commitment to the fight and the Taliban is getting a huge morale boost. But most important, As another day goes by, our courageous men and women in uniform -- all volunteers -- do not have the support and the resources they need to protect themselves and accomplish their mission."

Recommended Reading: "Obama and the General" in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal:

Recommended Reading II: "Gates Hints at More Secret Nuke Sites in Iran," October 6 on Danger Room (

The Quiet Campaign for a Government Takeover of Health Care

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that while the President has ‘backed off from vocally supporting the idea of government-run health care,' but he's quietly working to build a coalition of supporters for the very same concept.

With the Senate Finance Committee completing its work on a health care ‘reform' bill last weekend and Speaker Nancy Pelosi working to cobble together legislation that can pass the House, one might think that health care has been pushed to the ‘back burner' in Washington. If someone thought that, they would be dead wrong.

In the last two weeks, the President's senior advisors and ‘czars' have been holding private meetings almost daily with key Democratic staff to discuss ways to include a version of the public plan in the health care bill that Senate Majority Leader Reid will bring to the Senate floor this month. Indeed, senior Democrats on Capitol Hill are furiously working on detailed compromises to ensure enough votes to pass these bills.

Just last week, two amendments to create a ‘government option' for health care were defeated in the Senate Finance committee. Many predicted that those votes were the end of the ‘government option.' But as this week's behind-the-scenes lobbying by the White House proves, a government takeover of health care is still a possibility!

Recommended Reading III: Three former Presidents of the American Medical Society writing in Monday's Wall Street Journal, "What We Would Have Told Obama":

Recommended Reading IV: "States of Personal Privilege" by Kim Strassel in Friday's Wall Street Journal:

Bad Idea of the Week: A New Tax on the Table!

The Democratic Majority is expected to ‘look the other way' when several important tax cuts expire at year's end. In addition, the House approved this summer, over Rodney's objection, a ‘cap and trade' bill that includes major energy tax increases that will effect every family and business budget. Of course, Congress will soon be asked to approve a government-takeover of health care, partially fueled by a series of major tax increases on individuals, employers and small businesses.

As if to continue this trend in the future, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has now put yet another tax ‘on the table.' She told the Public Broadcasting Service(PBS) this week that Congress should consider a ‘value-added tax' (VAT) to help the U.S. improve its fiscal condition.

The VAT is a tax on manufacturers at each stage of production on the amount of value an additional producer adds to a product. It is commonly used in Europe.

House Advances Picatinny Modernization

The House of Representatives yesterday gave final approval to legislation which will advance modernization efforts at Picatinny Arsenal. In passing the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, the House endorsed $10 million in additional funding for the construction of a new Ballistics Evaluation Facility (BEF) at Picatinny.

"This is a critical military readiness priority for the Army," Rodney said. "Our goal is the construction of a ‘one-of-a-kind' testing facility that will help Picatinny's scientists and engineers produce cutting edge capabilities for our warfighters. In the process, we will cut the Army's operational overhead and improve safety for Picatinny's workers."

When completed, the BEF will provide the new capabilities to prepare prototype weapons, propellant charges, and projectiles for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The existing capability for ballistics experimentation resides in five separate, antiquated facilities at Picatinny. These facilities are widely separated and susceptible to work stoppages due to foul weather. Additionally, the current facilities were never designed to withstand the overpressures generated from today's modern high-velocity gun systems.

"The Ballistic Evaluation Facility construction project is a leading example of how Picatinny's new role as the military's ‘joint specialty site for guns and ammunition,' will greatly benefit our warfighters overseas," Rodney said. "By consolidating military capabilities under one roof, this construction will help the Arsenal significantly improve its ability to rapidly deliver smarter weapons systems and munitions to our deployed troops."

Passenger Rail Line Moves Forward

The following was excerpted from this week's The Progress of Caldwell and relates to recent positive developments in the effort to bring the Lackawanna Cutoff passenger rail line back to life:

"…The second train or trains in the news this week are Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's Lackawanna Cutoff project that would connect Scranton, Pa., with Hoboken and Grand Central Station, New York City.

"The reconstruction project has received state approval for phase one which is a seven-mile extension of the existing NJ Transit Montclair-Boonton and Morris and Essex Lines from Port Morris to Andover at a cost of $24 million.

"But, one step at a time, the project has been under way since May 2001 when the state purchased the cutoff property.

"In 2006, it was estimated the project would cost $551 million to connect New Jersey's existing rail systems to Pennsylvania's freight lines.

"Conrail abandoned the right of way for the cutoff in the 1970s and eventually most of the cutoff rails were removed.

"Putting down new rails on the cutoff and connecting with Pennsylvania's freight rail line will allow direct passenger traffic from Scranton, Pa., to either Hoboken or Penn Station in New York City.

"We commend Frelinghuysen for doggedly supporting the project and helping to bring funds to the first phase.

"We think this is a solid move. It brings jobs to the state at a time when they are desperately needed.

"Adding public transportation opportunities will also help reduce the state's carbon footprint.

"Imagine how much more pleasant Route 80 will be without the daily grind of commuters…"

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