Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
December 21, 2009
The Honorable Mark Warner United States Senate SDB Building 40C Washington, DC 20510 The Honorable Jim Webb United States Senate 144 Russell Building Washington, DC 20510
RE: Federal Healthcare Reform Legislation
Dear Senators Warner and Webb: I have been following with great interest the important debate currently taking place in Washington with respect to the proposed reform of our nation's healthcare system. While I certainly agree that we face serious problems with respect to the affordability and availability of healthcare for many Americans, it is important that any reform legislation address these issues without creating other problems for American consumers and businesses or jeopardizing the quality of our healthcare delivery system, which is currently the best in the world. For many reasons, I strongly oppose the healthcare reform legislation that is currently pending before the United States Senate and I encourage you to vote against this legislation and any procedural votes that would allow this legislation to come to a final vote.
In my judgment, the legislation currently pending in the Senate will ultimately increase the cost of healthcare and result in higher health insurance premiums and higher taxes for the vast majority of the American people.
In addition, I believe that this legislation will jeopardize the quality of healthcare that is currently available in our country and take important healthcare decisions out of the hands of consumers and turn these decisions over to government bureaucrats.
Perhaps most importantly, I am concerned that the cost of this legislation will be much higher than currently estimated, and it will inevitably add significantly to the cost of our federal deficit, which is, quite frankly, out of control and threatens the long term financial viability of our nation. If these concerns were not reason enough to vote against this misguided legislation, I am writing to you today to let you know that I am outraged by reports that surfaced this weekend regarding concessions that were made to Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson to secure his vote in support of this legislation.
As you know, one of our major concerns with this legislation is the potential impact it could have on the cost of Medicaid for Virginia's state government. Many reports have suggested that this legislation could result in much higher Medicaid costs for state governments across the nation, costs that state governments simply cannot bear. Against this background, I was amazed to hear that the Senate's Democratic leadership had made concessions to Senator Nelson that would hold his home state of Nebraska harmless as to any additional Medicaid costs that might come about as a result of the enrollment of new Medicaid recipients after 2017. I find these reports particularly troubling since they come on the heels of similar concessions that were given to Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to secure her vote in support of this legislation just a few weeks ago. In addition to the "pay offs" that were offered to Senators Nelson and Landrieu, unconfirmed media reports over the weekend have revealed that other Senators may have negotiated similar special treatment deals for their states. If these reports are accurate, this type of quid pro quo is unacceptable, and you and your colleagues should object strongly to the practice, which I have no doubt the American people will find offensive as well.
If the Senate's leadership is so desperate to obtain votes to secure the passage of this legislation that they would make these types of concessions to these Senators, I would ask that you demand that the same concessions be extended to Virginia, and for that matter, to every other state in the nation.
Allowing key provisions in this legislation to be used to essentially buy votes from Senators Landrieu and Nelson at the expense of other states such as Virginia should be as offensive to you as it is to me, and it should give you all the reason you need to oppose this misguided legislation. Thank you for your service to the people of Virginia and for considering my views on this important issue.
Very Truly Yours,
WILLIAM T. BOLLING
Lieutenant Governor Commonwealth of Virginia
A plan in need of clarity
By Senator Jim Webb
December 4, 2009
I have great regard for the careful process the Obama administration employed in its efforts to define a new approach for the long-standing military commitment inAfghanistan and to put an operational framework in place for our responsible withdrawal. I intend, nevertheless, to continue to call on the administration to clarify to the American public and Congress how it defines success and how we reach an end point.
Since early 2009, I have said repeatedly that the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan must proceed based on four considerations: (1) the fragility of the Afghan government; (2) whether building a national army of considerable scale is achievable; (3) whether an increased U.S. military presence will ultimately have a positive effect in the country, or whether we will be seen as an occupying force; and (4) the linkage of events in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the coming weeks I intend to examine the administration's plan to see how it addresses these criteria and how it will affect our troops.
Since the president's address Tuesday, there has been much discussion of the date that the United States will begin to draw down military forces and transfer security responsibility. Just as important is a focus on creating the conditions to enable this transfer of responsibility. The administration has not defined them with sufficient clarity. Our strategy is sound only if framed with clearly defined and attainable goals, an understandable end point and a regional perspective. We must also avoid the inherent risks of allowing our success in Afghanistan to be defined by events that are largely beyond our control.
When U.S. troops entered Afghanistan in 2001, no true central government had existed in that country since 1979. The agreements reached in Bonn, Germany, in December 2001 led to a new constitution, an interim government and the national election of 2004. The agreements also gave considerable power to a central government in a country that is very disparate and historically far removed from the concept of central governance. The result today is a weak, fragile government inKabul whose power on paper is far greater than in reality. It is plagued by a lack of capacity and rampant corruption. Many observers say that power needs to be devolved to a more decentralized form of governance consistent with tribal realities to achieve the Afghan government's long-term viability.
We are ramping up deployment to about 100,000 troops, along with tens of thousands of American contractors and civilians, to implement a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. This greatly enlarged presence runs the risk, well rooted in Afghanistan's history of resisting foreign influence, that the United States will be perceived as an occupying force instead of a presence seeking to assist Afghans in improving their stability and development.
Another key question that remains to be answered is: How do we define our enemy in Afghanistan? When we talk about the Taliban, we interchange terms that aren't particularly interchangeable. Three different types of actors are associated with the Taliban. First came those in a vicious government that the United States assisted in removing. Second, there is an ideologically charged group that operates principally in Pakistan, associated with the forces of international terrorism. Third, we have a separate group, presumably growing with the greatest speed, that is viewed by many Afghans as something of a regional militia defending local interests and that doesn't particularly want to threaten U.S. interests outside Afghanistan.
I have said consistently that countering international terrorism requires highly maneuverable forces able to strike an intrinsically mobile enemy. The departure of al-Qaeda from Iraq and, in large measure, from Afghanistan demonstrates why more maneuverable U.S. forces are to be favored against mobile international terrorist movements. In each instance, al-Qaeda relocated to other areas, including Pakistan and the Horn of Africa. Our military must retain the same maneuverability.
On the personnel front, our active-duty military has been deployed repeatedly for combat operations since 2001. Guard and reserve components also have deployed at levels not envisioned when the all-volunteer force was introduced. We are in uncharted territory in terms of the long-term effects these deployments are having on the well-being of our men and women in uniform, especially the Army and Marine Corps. I introduced dwell-time legislation nearly three years ago to ensure that we achieved a better balance in deployment cycles with a minimum interval before follow-on deployments. The new commitment of some 30,000 U.S. troops will put additional strains on our forces and their families. I plan to press the administration on this point to ensure that we are more vigilant in safeguarding the welfare of our men and women in uniform.
The writer, a Democrat from Virginia who was secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he is chairman of the subcommittee on personnel.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
This morning my family and I found more than 20 inches of snow on the ground. As of this post we have almost 26 inches in low spots and 30+ inches in some drifts and other high spots. My oldest daughter tried to go out and play in it, however, after only a few moments found that she was unable to move in all the snow. My wife and I tried to dig out our 4 wheel drive Ford Escape. You can see that my snow boots were not tall enough for the snow so I had some garbage bags on under the boots and over my legs to keep the snow from soaking my socks. We worked at getting the car out for hours to no avail. We gave up when the snow plow that was working in our neighborhood got stuck and blocked any vehicle that would have tried to get in or out of the subdivision. So far we have started filling jugs with clean drinking water and getting prepared in case we lose power and the pipes freeze. I hope all of you stay warm and safe during the storm, in the mean time enjoy the snow. More pictures below.