Author Archive: Rosi Efthim

Menendez on Obama’s Afghanistan speech

 Senator Menendez is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. This is his statement, released immediately after the President’s speech televised live from West Point. – – Rosi Efthim

In seeking a range of informed and varied opinions and taking the time to carefully work through them, it is clear that President Obama understands the meaning of war, the lives that are at stake and the impact it has on thousands of families here at home. I know that he thought deeply about those risks and weighed them against the risk posed by threats to our homeland that remain in Afghanistan before coming to his decision.

I will not make a final judgment on this plan until I have had a chance to reflect upon it fully and, just as importantly, draw critical information from Admiral Mullen, Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton, who we will have in front of the Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday. From the time I voted against authorizing the Iraq War, I have said that our focus should have instead remained on the base of operations for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda – the terrorists who killed 3,000 people on our homeland in 2001 and are eager to kill more innocent Americans. That base is now the area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.  I believe if we had not lost our focus by diverting troops and resources to Iraq, we could have captured or killed bin Laden and exterminated al Qaeda by now.

Though we lost precious strategic advantages and international support in the years since, I still believe today that we must finish the job by capturing or killing bin Laden and dismantling al Qaeda. I do not, however, believe that acting as a national police force for Afghanistan on an indefinite basis is worthwhile – American troops will be killed unnecessarily and it will further drain our national budget during an economic recession. Therefore, my preference has been toward a targeted military operation that emphasizes counter-terrorism and focuses on routing al Qaeda, rather than engaging in other flare-ups around Afghanistan. This strategy goes hand-in-hand with what I have insisted upon in our Pakistan policy, which is more pressure on the Pakistanis to go after the terrorists on their side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

I will measure the president’s plan and the testimony that will be presented before the Foreign Relations Committee on the basis of these principles, and based on that, I will make a final assessment of the plan. As always, our thoughts and prayers are with our troops currently serving in harm’s way.


Remarks of President Barack Obama to the Nation on ‘The Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan’

UPDATE: Sen. Bob Menendez, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee released a statement after this speech. It’s posted in our side column here. Lautenberg has one too now.

Text as prepared for delivery, of tonight’s televised speech, live beginning 8pm from West Point.

Consider this an Open Thread, as you watch the President’s speech – Rosi Efthim

Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our armed services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan – the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my Administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion. It is an honor for me to do so here – at West Point – where so many men and women have prepared to stand up for our security, and to represent what is finest about our country.

To address these issues, it is important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of the passengers on board one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.

You did this. Keep it up.

UPDATE: Check out the news crawl on the bottom of the MSNBC screen.

MSNBC scroll 12/1/09A little while ago, Zachary Fink at NJN News posted a bright break of sunshine in the marriage equality fight, and his view – and mine – is that the won’t-back-down stand of the progressive community, and the letter many of us sent to the statehouse this morning, may be turning this fight around.  Zachary Fink:

We all believe in second and third acts, and when it comes to the fate of legislation it can sometimes be a bit of a bumpy ride. Just as opponents appeared to have won the debate over gay marriage which would have prevented the bill from even coming up for a vote, it looks now as though the proponents of gay marriage will indeed get their day. Maybe.

An insider tells me that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo has sent a draft schedule to the Senate President’s office for next Monday which includes the bill S1967. That is the bill legalizing marriage between same sex couples in New Jersey. The Senate President must approve the bills that will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 7th. So for now, it is up to Dick Codey. Should he greenlight it, that bill will finally get it’s long awaited hearing.

What it means is that the stand we all have taken – and I include both the marvelous hotshot Democrats who signed the letter and the Republicans who are willing to stand for what’s right on this issue – may yet overcome the willingness of those in the legislature saddled with inertia and unreasonably worried about their next election. In fact, as Fink says:

This is tricky for some lawmakers who were more than happy to see it die from lack of oxygen. However, some advocates would like to know which legislators may have been talking outta both sides of their mouths on this one – telling the gay rights groups they would vote for it, while promising the church they would not.

It’s not over yet. Nowhere near. But you just showed the state legislature who has the balls to stand and not fade away.  

The Letter drops: What your legislature is reading this morning

New Jersey legislators are waking up this morning to a clear message, signed by the people who get them elected, support their initiatives, provide both shoeleather and strategy, and fund their campaigns. The message: Bring marriage equality to a vote, and pass it. We’re tired of waiting, and this is no longer about the agitation of a minority gay population, advocating for their own rights. It hasn’t been for a long time. This is your foxhole buddies, your braintrust, and the backbone of your party, advising you to do the right thing.

This letter has been signed by more than 200 influential New Jersey Democrats, including Members of Congress Rush Holt, Steve Rothman, and Frank Pallone, Mayor Cory Booker, and many elected officials. Here is the letter:

An Open Letter Calling on Democratic Legislators to Post Marriage Equality Legislation for a Vote

We believe that equality and fairness are fundamental principles of New Jersey’s Democratic Party, and that is why we call on the state legislature to vote immediately on, and pass, the marriage equality bill.  

New Jersey has a proud history of supporting civil rights. It was this legacy that encouraged many of us to become involved in politics. We believe that allowing committed gay and lesbian couples to marry is, at its core, about treating our family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors with dignity and respect.  

We appreciate that this is a difficult issue for some state legislators. But marriage equality is an idea whose time has come. We are confident that the voters will stand by those elected officials who do the right thing.  

When our children and grandchildren look back on this moment, we want to be able to tell them that we, too, did the right thing.  

As Martin Luther King poignantly reminded us, “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” That is why we’re proud to lend our names and our voices to this important cause. We do so in our capacity as private citizens and Democratic voters, and not on behalf of any particular office or organization.

If you would like to add your name, we invite you to do so now, here on line. A full list of signers – including Blue Jersey writers – is below the fold.

Quite a few legislators must already know this letter was coming. It has been quietly circulated by a now-larger group of people, and in some cases legislators will open the door to their offices to find their own staff have signed on. A buzz about this letter has been growing for days, as Democratic stalwarts sign on and help circulate.

The letter represents a grass roots effort within the party amid a sense of frustration that Democratic lawmakers are being tempted to back away from a vote on the bills, even as outgoing Democratic Governor Jon S. Corzine said he would sign into law marriage equality legislation as soon as lawmakers sent the bill to his desk.

Gently written, and evocative of past civil rights struggles though it is, the meta-messages it carries are deadly clear: Do not underestimate where your friends are on this issue. Do not underestimate that the muscle of your party demands a vote, and expects marriage equality to pass, in this legislature dominated by Democrats. And understand that if you vote for what you know is right, do not underestimate how strongly we will stand behind you. And look at the list: This is a civil rights issue for us, an issue of fairness. Both straight and gay people signed.

“A lot of us are feeling let down, especially younger Democrats,” said Ronald C. Rice, a member of the Newark City Council. “We sense there is an enthusiasm gap in Democratic support for this legislation, and we are asking Democrats to live up to the mandate set for them by their own party.”  

News Roundup & Open Thread for Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009

More war, from the anti-war candidate we sent to the White House

  • President Obama will address the nation from West Point tonight at 8pm, on his orders to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.
  • Rob Andrews: Success is possible in Afghanistan.

    Confusing extra fees, tacked on, driving up the price of your ticket

  • Sen. Bob Menendez reads the riot act to the airlines. With tickets reserved by phone costing up to $35, checked bags from $0 to $35, and extra legroom costing up to $109 (um… wow), he’s got legislation requiring fees, charges and surcharges be made clear before you input your name and credit card info.

    State’s wallet closes with a SNAP

  • To close NJ’s budget gap, Gov. Corzine will withhold $20.7 million in aid payments to municipalities. That’s money municipalities were told to expect and based their own spending plans on. Expect a wild re-shuffle, property taxes up and/or services slashed. Newark’s out $3 million.
  • Star Ledger Editorial implores Chris Christie – in light of today’s grim news – to break his promise to cut taxes to the state’s richest households. Yeah. Like they said.

    And in the Too Much Drama department …

  • Republican football player Jon Runyon’s inconsistencies in his maybe-challenge to NJ-3’s Rep. John Adler. And a slamming quote by Jason Springer, that Runyan still wants a Super Bowl ring more than a seat in Congress.

    And in the Really Bad Timing department …

  • This should have been done long before now.

    Paul Sarlo’s little microphone kerfuffle

  • Stile with more detail on how a zeitgeist shift Paul Sarlo clearly wasn’t prepared for led to that curse-word outburst into the sound system a few days ago.

    Making up a heroic record in Vietnam

  • A key NJ official charged with serving New Jersey’s veterans was forced to resign his executive role at the Division of Veterans Services after it was discovered his claim that military service left him totally and permanently disabled – qualifying him for property tax exemption – was a lie.

    Liquor license prices plummet

  • And with them, the revenue they bring in to towns.

    Marriage equality

  • Tom Moran on the suprisingly dark day for gay rights in NJ. And assails the puny men and women in the legislature for their fear to stand up and be counted, from their districts, carefully gerrymandered to ensure their continued electoral success.

    Beldini says Healy knew

  • Superseding indictment against Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Baldini quotes her saying Mayor Jerramiah Healy knew corrupt payments were being funneled from Solomon Dwek.

    Local News

  • Jersey City: New charges for Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini. Extortion, and bribery.
  • Burlington County: Freeholders are asking the largest employee union for concessions.
  • New Brunswick: Rutgers settles a 2006 racial discrimination suit with its groundskeepers that accused the school of denying promotions and ignoring a noose hung on a building.
  • Gloucester County: Want to show off your solar panels to your local newspaper?
  • Newark, Irvington, East Orange: Another gun amnesty buy-back coming soon.  
  • News Roundup & Open Thread for Monday (ugh), Nov. 30, 2009

    Homeless children

  • How would you like to take the bus to school from a shelter?

    Hal Turner’s gone rogue

  • Right-wing blogger and shock jock Hal Turner – now charged with threatening the lives of federal judges – was trained, coddled and paid handsomely by the FBI for years. Code name: Valhalla.

    New Jersey’s Transparency Pest

  • Walter Luers shines sunlight into records and meetings your local governments that might not otherwise see the light of day.

    After War, Finding Peace and Calm in a Garden

  • Growing vegetables, and digging in the earth at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in East Orange. What it means to some scarred warriors to have a garden there.

    How Princeton University ivy covers the White House

  • The think tanks at Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs.

    Thou shalt not marry

  • Catholic bishops instructed their priests to read and distribute anti-marriage equality literature Sunday. In case you missed it, the Archdiocese of Newark website has all the poop.

    Heads-up emails on bombings and Afghani warlords

  • The strange story of how twin surgeons get info the state department doesn’t get, what they think of the war, and how Viagra is a key to their access.

    They want a Mexican Consulate in New Brunswick

  • A year ago, Mexican President Felipe Calderón promised Mexican-Americans a local consulate in the city, and now more than 1,000 people have signed a petition holding him to that promise.

    Local News

  • Essex County: County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, running for a 3rd term, has picked up some fresh Democratic detractors.
  • Bergen County: How the new homeless shelter operates.
  • Madison: One man, and a videocamera. Shooting Madison.  
  • Weekend News Roundup for Nov. 28-29, 2009

    Absolute. Must. Read. Editorial.

  • Bob Ingle – yes, Bob Ingle – on the price of ignoring this community.
  • No … NO. You don’t move on to the next item until you read Ingle. Seriously, he gets it right. BOOM.

    Memo to self for next time:

  • Close barn door before the horses bolt.

    12 Days of Christmas

  • 12 Priorities of Atlantic City.

    Except maybe bring coffee ‘n cookies out to the anti-nuke protesters

  • At NJ’s 4 nuclear power plants, increased fines & possible jail time for trespassing is approved by a state Senate committee.

    Good luck with that!

  • Chris Christie will install LG-to-be Kim Guadagno – with no real business experience – as the person responsible to market New Jersey to the rest of the universe.

    Chop … chop … chop … and …  Powerball Lottery

  • Jon Corzine spent his turkey day gearing up to instruct department heads to shave another $400 million off the state budget. Oh, and also toss in another gambling opportunity to excise good money out of people’s pockets for the hope of swimming in gold.
  • Towns making painful chops, slices and hacks in what they provide.

    Free money checks

  • Banning a deceptive practice.

    Drill, baby, drill?

  • Some senators are smart enough to ask questions.

    Say, didn’t we elect some people who said they would extricate us from Bush’s wars?

  • Anti-war protesters find some support from the streets of Newark.


  • Alive and well?

    Do we really love our home rule?

  • Daily Record Editorial.

    When trees fall next door

  • Neighbors make the noise. Tree ordinance battles in NJ & NY.
  • Tree rules in Jersey.

    Local News

  • Galloway Twp: First-ever African-American woman to be named a college president in NJ, Vera King Farris has died.
  • Wildwood Crest: Going paperless, baby.
  • Middlesex: New mayor looks at revitalization options.
  • Totowa: Did the middle class get screwed just now?
  • Hopewell: Fighting Verizon over telephone poles.
  • What We’re Thankful For

    Thankful we have leaders who are willing to do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do. There aren’t too many, but there’s more of them than cynics think, and they’re important people.

    Thankful for wifi, wireless cards, and hot spots in great coffeehouses, and our BlackBerrys and iPhones, and our gchat, AIM, BlackBerry Messenger accounts. And we’re glad to shut them off today (mostly).

    Thankful the $%@*ing governor’s election is over.

    Thankful that good people take out ads here and help make

    Thankful for good foxhole buddies.  

    News Roundup & Open Thread for Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009

    Senator Lou Dobbs

  • Yeah, I don’t like the sound of that either. Nevertheless, the Sussex resident is considering a run against Bob Menendez. As a stepping stone to his race for President. Really.
  • Dobbs, who gets apoplectic on the subject of immigration, tries a quick fix with Latinos.

    Jon Runyan confirms he’s running against John Adler

  • But first he’s gonna play a little football. In San Diego. And man, that commute’s a bitch.
  • Meanwhile, Adler is focused on actual disasters.

    Jersey Shore towns restricting access

  • Might get left off any federal funding in the wake of the recent nor’easter.

    Mammograms at age 40-49

  • Leonard Lance says ignore the new recommendations of U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to raise the age of first-mammograms without high risk factor.
  • Frank Pallone will hold congressional hearings on the issue next month.

    Aimed at keeping people from returning right back to prison

  • A 4-bill package or reforms from Asw Bonnie Watson Coleman.

    Just in time: financial literacy in the schools

  • Signed into law, a pilot program to teach money management to high school seniors in six districts.

    Merge me, just let me keep the illusion of home rule

  • Q-poll finds New Jerseyans more interested in merging local government and schools.

    Girl power

  • Rutgers, home of the groundbreaking Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), and their Ready to Run campaign trainings for women, takes note of the women now in NJ leadership.

    Christie gets a subpoena

  • Hate blogger and FBI informant Hal Turner, charged with threatening federal judges, is calling the ex-USA to testify on his role in refusing to prosecute Turner.

    A clear distinction of values, incoming and outgoing

  • Christie’s not even governor yet, but apparently wants Corzine to hold to that spending freeze that Christie called for. And Corzine wants to find emergency funding for soup kitchens and food pantries struggling to keep people fed during this recession.
  • If Chris Christie has a problem with your attitude, that’s a clear signal maybe you’re doing something right.

    Next Democratic State Chair

  • Nellie Pou won’t rule out a run.

    Vaccine mandate suspended

  • A flu vaccine mandate for kids in pre-school or child-care is suspended due to inadequate supplies of the seasonal flu vaccine.

    Local News

  • Cherry Hill: Sewer rates to go up, first time in 20 years.
  • Passaic: Fire and police departments are assured: no layoffs.
  • Plainfield: 11 city workers, to be laid off.
  • Camden: Audit makes 50 recommendations.
  • Atlantic City: Council to vote on a huge infrastructure improvement proposal.