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Will Simcha Felder Save NY Republicans from Extinction?

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

New York’s Republican party has little to celebrate Thursday, seemingly close to losing control of the state Senate in addition to losing the state for the presidential election.

Democrats are expected to hold a 33-30 majority in the state Senate, though a couple of races will not be concluded until absentee and affidavit ballots are counted.

Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich lost to Democratic Senator Joseph Addabbo.

According to a report in the New York Daily News, “The GOP’s best hope is to convince five renegade Democrats to join their team. Four Dems last year formed the Independent Democratic Conference and have worked closely with Republicans”

Former Councilman Simcha Felder, a Democrat who defeated incumbent Republican Senator David Storobin on Tuesday is also considered to be a potential partner with a Republican minority who would help the party maintain control of the chamber.

New York Republican US Senator Wendy Long was also defeated on Tuesday.

Our Best To The President

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

We salute President Obama on his solid reelection victory. Though we were highly critical of his performance these past four years in a variety of areas, we hope he succeeds in his second term, as his success is America’s success.

The challenges of the next four years will be the same had Mr. Romney prevailed. We have an economy headed toward disaster with out of control spending, spiraling deficits, limited growth and high unemployment. Iran’s threat to peace and international security continues, as do the provocations of terrorist groups in Gaza, Lebanon and other parts of the world.

We hope the president will focus on these fundamental bread and butter problems and eschew any grand, Pollyannaish visions of changing the world. Only a strong and resilient America with its own house in order can reach out to help others.

The Safety Net You Need

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

The last time you were at the circus did you gasp as the trapeze artist swung through the air?

Even though his antics might be scary, there’s a strong safety net catch him in the event of a fall. Hopefully, the trapeze artist won’t ever need to use it. But it is always there – just in case.

Even the world’s best acrobats have safety nets to catch them if the unfortunate occurs. So what does that say for the rest of us, who aren’t the world’s best?

Even if you’re not a trapeze artist, you need a safety net. As long as you have dependents, you need a safety net to save you from fiscal free fall.

Sometimes, the “fall” can be the result of poor financial planning and decision-making, but often it’s due to circumstances that are beyond your control.

For this reason, it’s important to make sure you have a safety net in place. In terms of personal finance, this is a two-pronged approach: making sure that you have adequate insurance and having an emergency savings account.

If you have young dependents, insurance is absolutely vital. What would happen if your family’s breadwinner(s) died or was seriously injured? While insurance won’t solve every problem, it definitely helps alleviate some fiscal concerns.

And in a situation that is far less drastic, but still costly, emergency savings can make all the difference between being unable to put food on the table or repairing the car.

Review your insurance portfolio to make sure that your family is covered in the event of a possible disaster, and evaluate your bank accounts to ensure that you have an emergency savings plan in order to catch you in case you fall. And like the trapeze artist, let’s hope that you never actually need to use it.

Stopping A Child’s Tantrum

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

I am married and have a two and a half year old son. He is a wonderful child, but when he does not get his way, he often has a tantrum. Sometimes, I just give him what he wants because we are in public and his behavior is embarrassing. But I cannot always give in, especially when what he wants is dangerous or unhealthy. It is then that I do not know what to do.

I try to ignore his behavior, but he just gets louder and louder. Then I get very frustrated and, I am embarrassed to say, yell at him or give him a potsch. While I feel terrible afterwards and try to make it up to him, the situation has becomes a vicious cycle.

What can I do to stop my son’s tantrums? I don’t want to yell at him, but I don’t know what else to do.

A Frustrated Mother

Dear Frustrated Mother:

Tantrums are hard to deal with, but there are some true and tried techniques that can help lessen them.

It is important to first understand why your son is having tantrums. Often children act out because they are seeking attention, are tired, hungry or are uncomfortable with or about something. Children also tantrum because they are frustrated, generally due to not being able to get something they want, e.g. an object or a parent’s attention. Frustration is an inevitable part of children’s lives as they learn how people, objects and their own bodies work.

This type of behavior is very common in children ages 2-3 as they are acquiring language skills and generally understand more than they can verbally express. It is this inability to communicate their needs that causes the frustration, which may trigger a tantrum. As children acquire more language and better communication skills, their tantrums usually decrease. However, it is important to not make it seem as if they are getting what they want because of the tantrum, as that does nothing more than cause it to be habit-forming and more difficult to control.

The most effective way to deal with tantrums is to, whenever possible, avoid them in the first place. Here are some strategies that can help:

1) Distraction is a very effective technique when it comes to tantrums. Children have short attention spans and can be distracted fairly easily. Give your son a replacement item for whatever he wants or begin a new activity to replace one that does not meet your approval.

Changing the environment can also be helpful. Consider using an excited voice and saying, for example, “Let’s go for a walk!” Even if your child is still screaming, chances are good that he will stop when you get outside. You can even begin to walk outside alone, knowing that most children will want to follow their parent – even when they’re upset. If you are unable to go outside, go to a different room and use a distracting activity to divert your son’s attention.

2) Children often tantrum because they want attention. This is because they prefer negative attention to no attention at all. This includes a parent’s reaction to a tantrum. Many studies show that when a parent gives a child attention, including the negative kind, the child will increase the level of his or her current behavior.

It is important to reward your son when he behaves well. Any positive reinforcement for non-tantrum behavior sends your son the message that he will get attention when he does not throw a tantrum. This will increase his positive behavior.

3) It is important to give your son a feeling of control. Giving your son choices is a great way to help him feel autonomous while still doing what you want him to do. For example, instead of asking him what he wants to drink, ask him if he would like a drink of water or orange juice (or something else that you find acceptable). This way, you are giving him the freedom to choose without the opportunity to ask for something you will not allow. So instead of asking your son whether he wishes to take a bath, an offer he is likely to refuse, use choice questions such as, “Do you want to brush your teeth before your bath or after your bath?” By giving your son as many acceptable to you choices as possible, you will avoid having arguing over his decision.

The Whole-Brain Child: An Effective Approach To Parenting

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Your toddler throws a tantrum in the middle of a store. Your preschooler refuses to get dressed. Your fifth-grader sulks on the bench instead of playing on the field. Do children conspire to make their parents’ lives endlessly challenging? No – it’s just their developing brain calling the shots!

(The Whole Brain Child, Daniel J. Seigel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD)

I have often been talking about parenting the “explosive child” or a child who struggles with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). In that context, I often mention Dr. Ross Greene’s groundbreaking work on using “Plan B.” However, recently, another approach has been gaining popularity. It is from Daniel J. Siegel, MD and is often used to promote “the whole-brain child.”

The strategies Seigel suggests are not just for explosive children, but everyday parenting struggles. Seigel explains that parents are often experts about their children’s bodies. They know how much temperature is considered a fever, the correct dosage of Tylenol, how to clean a cut and bandage it, and which foods they are allergic to. Interestingly, he points out that even educated and concerned parents know very little about how the mechanics of the brain work. Yet, the biology of the brain is responsible for so much of what parents care about: discipline, decision-making, self-awareness, school, relationships and self-esteem.

The more we know about how our children’s brains work, the better we will be able nurture stronger, more resilient children. Not only that, but it can make parenting easier and more meaningful. The goal of this article is to give you a taste of how Seigel’s “whole brain perspective” can be applied to everyday parenting moments. This is not a manual that will eliminate all the stress involved in parenting, however, it should help explain and tackle some often-inexplicable occurrences.

Integration

The main concept behind the whole-brain child is integration – creating connections between different parts of the brain. When the different parts of the brain collaborate, they create more robust connections. The better and more powerfully connected, or integrated, the different parts of the brain, the more harmoniously those parts can work together.

So, how can you recognize when your child’s brain (or your brain) is in a state of integration? Seigel explains that integration is like floating in the middle of a river – and avoiding the river’s two banks. One side, he explains is the bank of chaos, where you feel out of control. “Instead of floating in the peaceful river, you are caught up in the pull of the tumultuous rapids, and confusion and turmoil rule the day.” On the other bank of the river lies rigidity. As opposed to being out of control, you are “imposing control on everything and everyone around you.” You are unwilling to compromise or adapt.

We all move back and forth between chaos and rigidity throughout the day. When we are farthest from the middle of the river, we are also farthest from mental and emotional health. The better we are at avoiding the extremes, the more time we spend in “the river of well-being.”

Our children float along their own “rivers” and when we are in situations in which they lose their tempers or throw tantrums, framing their behavior through this lens can help us understand how well-integrated the different parts of their brains are at that moment. With this knowledge, you can help guide your child back to the middle ground.

Right and Left Brain

Your right and left brain not only are anatomically separate, they function differently as well. Your left brain craves order as it is logical, literal, and linear. On the other hand, your right brain is creative and nonverbal, focusing on the big picture rather than the minutiae of a situation.

How can you make sure your child’s left brain and right brain work together? Seigel suggests two strategies:

Connect and Redirect: If your eight-year-old is throwing a fit because he can’t believe his birthday isn’t for another 8 months, chances are that he is experiencing a lot of right brain (emotional or illogical activity). Rather than responding to your child with logical questions, which he will not be able to hear because he is in the midst of a wave of emotional thinking, react to him with emotions. Hold him tight and tell him that you understand how frustrating that might be. Once he is able to calm down, then you help him work through the problem logically. In this way, you are connecting to him through his left brain (emotions) and redirecting his emotions through his right brain (logic). This will help him become better integrated in the future as well.

Bayonets, Horses and Ships, Oh My

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

There are so many ways to criticize President Obama’s now-infamous “horses and bayonets” comment from the foreign policy debate that one hardly knows where to start.  The snarky attitude alone is worth a column.  What is Obama, a blog troll?  If he has a case to make about having a smaller Navy, he could surely have made it without being snide, specious and condescending.

At any rate, there are the obvious points, such as the fact that the U.S. military still uses bayonets.  Some of the first U.S. military and intelligence personnel into Afghanistan operated in the prohibitive mountainous terrain on horseback.  Horse cavalry may be a thing of the (recent) past for classic battlefield engagements, but terrain and local living patterns are dictatorial when it comes to military operations.  For some applications, you need a horse.

The key question implied in all this is what kind of operation you envision, as you consider which military forces to develop and buy. (In August 2011, no one envisioned the U.S. military needing horses for special operations in Afghanistan.)

The president’s statements about our inventory of naval combat ships imply much the same question.  Obama’s statement suggests that aircraft carriers and submarines (“ships that go underwater”) have made the surface combatant – the cruiser, destroyer, and frigate – less necessary.  If we have only as many of them as we had in 1916, that’s not a problem, in Obama’s formulation, because technology changes.

U.S. Policy

But what is it we are trying to do with these naval forces?  Mitt Romney’s approach is to assume that we intend to exercise control of our ocean bastions – the Atlantic and Pacific – and effectively resume our position as the primary naval influence on the world’s strategic chokepoints: the approaches to Central America; the maritime space of Northwestern Europe; the Mediterranean; the chokepoint-belt from the Suez Canal to the Strait of Hormuz; and the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea.  Being well briefed, Romney no doubt has in mind as well the increasingly maritime confrontation space of the Arctic, where Russia and Canada are competing, but the U.S. – with our own Arctic claims – has in recent years been passive.

Romney thus sees the Navy as a core element of our enduring strategic posture.  For national defense and for the protection of trade, the United States has from the beginning sought to operate in freedom on the seas, and, where necessary, to exercise control of them.  We are a maritime nation, with extremely long, shipping-friendly coastlines in the temperate zone and an unprecedented control of the world’s most traveled oceans, the Atlantic and Pacific.

We have also chosen, since our irruption on the world geopolitical stage a century or so ago, to project power abroad as much as possible through expeditionary operations and offshore influence.  Indeed, seeking the most effective balance between stand-off approaches, temporary incursions, and boots-on-the-ground combat and occupation has been a perennial tension in our national politics and our concepts of war throughout the life of our Republic.  We have always naturally favored offshore influence and quick-resolution campaigns, from which we can extricate ourselves just as quickly.

The character of these preferences and military problems has changed with the passage of time – but in comparison to the United States in 1916, they are all bigger today, as well as faster-moving and more likely to be our problem than, say, Great Britain’s.

In the modern world, America’s favored posture requires the sea services: the Navy and Marine Corps.  It also requires the Air Force, in virtually any theater where we might operate.  That said, in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Navy was able to put strike-fighters into Afghanistan from carriers in the Arabian Sea, while the Air Force didn’t have a base close enough to get strike-fighters into the fight at the time.  That situation is rare, and was soon corrected, but it does highlight the point that the Navy can get tactical assets in, even where we have no bases close to the tactical battlespace.

For completeness, we should note that in addition to its greater depth of air assets, the Air Force can get long-range bombers into a fight anywhere from the continental United States.  For full effectiveness, that capability does depend on the ability to recover and refuel abroad (e.g., in Guam, Diego Garcia, the U.K.).  But the B-2 or B-52 strategic bomber brings a different order of combat power to a fight.  The differing capabilities of the Navy and Air Force are complementary, for the most part, rather than being in competition.

The Rise of American Mediocracy

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

A nation where governments are elected by the people is most vulnerable at the interface between the politicians and the people. The interface is where the people learn what the politicians stand for and where the politicians learn what the people want. The bigger a country gets, the harder it is to pick up on that consensus by stopping by a coffee shop or an auto repair store. That’s where the Mediacracy steps in to control the consensus.

The media is no longer informative, it is conformative. It is not interested in broadcasting events unless it can also script them. It does not want to know what you think, it wants to tell you what to think. The consensus is the voice of the people and the Mediacrats are cutting its throat, dumping its body in a back alley and turning democracy into their own puppet show.

Media bias was over decades ago. The media isn’t biased anymore, it’s a player, its goal is turn its Fourth Estate into a fourth branch of government, the one that squats below the three branches and blocks their access to the people and blocks the people’s access to them. Under the Mediacracy there will still be elections, they will even be mostly free, they just won’t matter so long as its upper ranks determine the dialogue on both sides of the media wall.

The Mediacracy isn’t playing for peanuts anymore. It’s not out to skew a few stories, it’s out to take control of the country. In military empires, the military can act as a Praetorian Guard. In political empires, it’s the people who control the political conversation who also control the succession.

In 2008, the Mediacracy elevated an Illinois State Senator who had briefly showed up in the Federal Senate to the highest office in the land. They did it even though he had no skills for the job and no serious plan for fixing any of the country’s problems. They did it to show that they could. They did it because they wanted to tell a compelling story and inflict radical change on a country that would have never voted for it, if it had not been lied and guilted into making the single worst decision in its entire history.

Propaganda is a powerful weapon and seizing control of the newspapers, radio and television stations is one of the first things that tyrants do. That wasn’t supposed to be an issue in a country where anyone could open their own newspaper. But that changed with the transformation of journalism into the media. The media, plural, embraces multiple mediums, most of them expensive and requiring a license and often, government approval.

Two hundreds years ago, a few friends could open a printing press and take on the big behemoths and often did. Today the only place they can do that is on the internet. Radio and television are walled cities controlled by a small number of interlinked corporations that keep merging together. Their staffers come out of carefully controlled environments, where with the pyramid of indoctrination, political gurus pass down their wisdom to professors who program students with its doctrines, to create the Mediacracy.

FOX News, for all its faults, is under constant attack by the Mediacracy because it is independent of that same rigid coercion. Wrong or right, it represents a view that is fundamentally different from the same mind-numbing conformity to be found everywhere from the weekly news magazine in your dentist’s office to the talking heads on your cable channel to the honeyed voices of the anchors giving you the news every 5, 10 or 50 minutes over the radio while you’re driving to work.

The real crime of FOX News is not that it’s especially right-wing, it isn’t. It is far less conservative than CNN is liberal. But FOX News’ existence, its patriotic color scheme and attempts at appealing to the heartland while putting a conservative spin on issues, forces viewers to notice how conformist and identical the rest of the media landscape. And that is what makes FOX News truly dangerous. Like a goat among the sheep, it makes you realize the sameness of their generic competitors who all cheer for the same team, shop at the same stores and dream of the day when everyone thinks like them.

They are the Mediacracy and they are the Ministry of Propaganda. They are the smirking people who got tired of telling you how many people died in an earthquake in Indonesia and decided to begin explaining to you why the earthquake is your fault because you don’t ride a bike to work. These are the people who longer want to report on a shooting, but want to tell you that it’s time for a firearms ban. They no longer want to report on Washington DC, unless they can control Washington DC.

The Memorandum of Understanding for the Town Hall debate was that the moderator would relay questions from the audience, but would not ask the candidates any questions or comment on what they say. Candy Crowley made it clear before the debate that she would not abide by those rules and liberal organizations piled on, deploying a petition against the silencing of Candy Crowley. And so Candy Crowley wasn’t silenced, in true Mediacrat fashion, she silenced others.

The Mediacracy’s insistence on being the third candidate at every debate, its outrage that anyone would expect it to be silent and let the actual candidates speak, reflects its power and arrogance. Its elites are not interested in the conversation except as a means of controlling its outcome. They are not here to let other people talk, except as vehicles for making their own points.

Candy Crowley, in true Mediacrat style, was not there to facilitate a conversation, but to tell us what to think. Unlike Obama or Romney, Crowley had no legitimate reason for being there. She was not a political candidate and had not passed any of the democratic tests that Obama and Romney had to be able to sit there. Her influence had no basis of any kind in the voice of the people. Instead she was there as a representative of the powerful and unelected Mediacracy which was determined to have its say. She was there to remind the pols that even in a Two Party system, the Third Estate acts as the third candidate, never running for office but always winning by controlling the conversation.

It is not in the public interest for the Mediacracy to have its say, no matter how often the Mediacrats trot out their public good routine. Power is either vested in democratic institutions or undemocratic ones and the media corporations and their talking heads are about as undemocratic an institution as can be conceivably imagined. And when Mediacrats try to control the outcome of a popular election, their actions are an attack by an undemocratic institution on a democratic institution.

Mediacrats fill the airwaves with rantings about corporate influence on politics. The 800 pound gorilla of corporate influence on politics is the media. Candy Crowley’s employer, CNN, is owned by Time Warner, the second largest media conglomerate on the planet. Not the country, the planet. The only media conglomerate bigger than it is the one that owns ABC News. But the Mediacrats never report on their own influence, never turn the camera back into the studio while warning about the danger of corporate lobbyists. But the corporate lobbyists sitting in the CNN studio don’t just want to chat with a few politicians in a closed room, they do their best to dictate the outcome of elections.

Businesses turn to lobbyists when the times are bad. The media is losing the public, so they are turning from being mere media into Mediacracy. Media is subject to the whims of the viewing public, but Mediacracy subjects the public to its whims. And they are dreaming of a country under the enlightened rule of the Mediacrats. One nation under a thousand channels all serving the interests of a dying media state.

The media, with its expensive equipment and its licenses, is confronting an era when everything is being reduced to a single medium, print, voice and visuals falling into the internet singularity and leaving them with some expensive equipment, exclusive rights to broadcast on frequencies that no one watches anymore and the ability to print millions of papers, when they can hardly move a tenth of them. And like all imploding tyrannies, they are confronting the crisis by grasping for power. They know that they will either be a Mediacracy or they will be nothing.

The greatest challenge to the integrity of our democracy may be the coup of the media corporations. Information is the lifeblood of a free society and the consolidation of information outlets in the hands of a small and powerful elite with no ethics and no boundaries is leading us down the road to a virtual tyranny that will maintain the illusory workings of a democratic society without any of the substance.
The old institutions of elections are becoming a charade, a formal routine where the outcome is determined by the employees of a handful of major media corporations that present the public with the inevitable result. And America is falling into the hands of the Government-Media Complex.

The Mediacracy has directed all its efforts into hijacking the public dialogue, turning elections into a cheap sideshow accompanied by sneering commentary. It has insisted on being the third candidate in every election and turned its corporate shills into the pretend voice of the people. It has stomped all over the traditions of this country, its independent institutions and its freedoms with thousand dollar shoes while wrapping itself in any available flag. And it cannot be allowed to get away with it.

A free society does not only become unfree at the point of a gun. It becomes unfree when its mechanisms of freedom are jammed, when the institutions that are meant to provide power to the people are taken over by unelected forces and twisted into the apparatus of a new tyranny. When undemocratic institutions seize control of democratic institutions then democracy dies, strangled by men and women who keep on smiling while they tighten their grip.

America can be a Democracy or a Mediacracy. It cannot and will not be both. And the only way to preserve democracy is to challenge the Mediacrats and force them out of the public space that they have usurped and back into the private sphere of their financial interests where they belong.

Originally published at Sultan Knish under the title “The Rise of Mediocracy.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-rise-of-american-mediocracy/2012/10/21/

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