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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
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The End of the American Presidency

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

The American presidency came to an end on October 15, 1992 during a Town Hall debate between Bush I, Ross Perot and Bill Clinton. The stage of the Town Hall seemed more like a place for Phil Donahue or Sally Jesse Raphael to strut around, biting their lips, and dragging out tawdry tales for audience applause, than for three presidential candidates to discuss the future of the country.

The audience had more in common with the one that usually showed up to cheer or boo Sally or Phil’s guests, and the high point of the evening and the end of the country came when one of those guests rose and with the distinctive painstakingly slurred pronunciation of the semi-literate demanded that the candidates tell her how the “National Debt” had affected them personally.

Bush I stumblingly tried to turn her stupidity into some kind of policy question, but the WW2 vet was completely out of his depth on Phil Donahue’s talk show stage. The moderatrix however demanded that he answer how it had affected him personally. Forget the country or the consequences, feelings mattered more than policy. It was a Phil Donahue moment and the Donahue candidate stepped into the spotlight.

Bill Clinton understood that the Sally Jesse Raphael audience member did not have a clue what the National Debt is or anything about the economy. But he also knew that it didn’t matter. This wasn’t about the facts, this was an “I Feel” moment. The questioner did not want to know how a problem would be solved, she only wanted to know that the people on top “cared” about her, and Clinton did what he did best– he told her that he really cared.

The draft dodging hippie who had boasted of his drug use and gone to Moscow to defame his country, a man who was at the time every bit the extreme impossible candidate that Obama would become 16 years later, went on to the White House. And the American presidency ended.

Bush II made sure that he would never repeat his father’s mistake. He ran as the “Compassionate Conservative” and the “Uniter, Not the Divider”. He ran as the man who could never be caught flat-footed by an “I Feel” question. Bush II always felt things and insisted on sharing them with us.

The American presidency exited the age of policy and entered the age of empathy. Competency no longer mattered. The man in the grey suit who understood the issues had no place on the stage. To get there he would have to get in touch with his inner child and talk about it. He would have to spill his feelings out so that people really believed that he cared.

Without October 15, 1992, there would have been no Clinton. And without Clinton there would have been no Obama. The Democrats had nominated bad men before, but they came with the patina of experience and credibility. Even the sleaziest and least experienced Democratic President, JFK, spent decades polishing his resume and countering his weak points in a calculated plan to get to the top. But Clinton, reeking of sleaze like the back seat of a beat up Chevy, grinned his way through a primary that no one took seriously because the Democratic Party didn’t believe Bush I could be beaten, and then felt his way through a national election. It was a small step for one man, but a great step for sleazy tricksters everywhere with charisma and no ethics. America had become Louisiana and every Huey Long could aspire to be its king.

The current qualifications for an office holder include the ability to chat on The View, read Top Ten lists for David Letterman and make fun of yourself on Saturday Night Live. Most of all it’s the ability to emote in public, a skill that was once the province of an actor that with the advent of reality TV and the instant internet celebrity has become a basic life skill for everyone.

Bush I was unable to cross the “I” bridge. Obama lives under the “I” bridge. Even more than Clinton, he is the “I” candidate. Conservatives assail him for egotism, but that same shallow self-centered “I’ness” is the lightning in a bottle of modern politics. Only the truly self-centered can fully emote to the back rows. It’s a skill most common to egocentrics who feel their own pain so loudly that they can make it seem like your pain.

The Alternative

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

“We’ve been living under mortar fire for 18 years. We have to do something,” said the young woman from Sderot on Razi Barkai’s radio show.

“What do you want the leaders to do?” asked Barkai.

“I don’t know, but what they are doing now doesn’t help,” replied the Sderot resident.

“Sorry to say this to you, but they also don’t know what to do,” Barkai said. “[It’s] not because they are stupid, but because there is simply no solution.”

It has been about 18 years since the Oslo Accords were implemented. It is simple to understand that the continuous terror raining down on Israel’s cities is the result of those accords. Why then doesn’t Israel’s leadership annul them? Why doesn’t it restore full Israeli control over Gaza, Judea and Samaria? Isn’t it cheaper than digging Beersheba into the ground or covering Sderot with a layer of cement? Isn’t it safer than being the targets of a hail of missiles on civilian targets? What does “there is no solution” mean? After all, just as our very own current president, Shimon Peres, and his cohorts brought this problem upon us, we can free ourselves from the problem.

Why doesn’t that happen?

The answer to that question is two-dimensional. First, the technical dimension: It is impossible to free ourselves of Oslo because those who brought it upon us knew how to tie the fate of a broad spectrum of Israeli elites to the “peace process.” Too many politicians, businessmen, academicians, senior IDF officers, political pundits, journalists, writers and other opinion makers – yes, almost everybody who is anybody in our small land – are sustained in one way or another by Oslo. They are all sitting on the branch that, if we want to solve the problem, must be cut off.

So although we sent the IDF into Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, we stopped precisely at the point when Gaza would have surrendered, leaving us once again responsible over it. That would have cancelled Oslo. That is why I opposed Cast Lead at the time. I knew that the operation was destined for defeat from its very beginning – as later became crystal clear.

The second dimension is the deeper, spiritual reason. It is impossible to blame the Left for the desperate, dangerous and irresponsible Oslo experiment. Zionist normalcy had reached a dead end. Oslo was not anti-Zionist. Oslo was a final, desperate attempt to cling to Zionism, to cling to the return of the Jewish people to its land. (The Disengagement was something else, and the true leftists opposed it.) We returned to history, specifically in this land. If our neighbors cannot accept that – even after they have repeatedly been beaten by us – something is simply not working. “We must compromise,” the Left says. “If we don’t, we will have used the vehicles of secularism and Zionism to return to the exile state of non-normalcy from which we fled. The entire Zionist idea will be proven a failure.”

We cannot claim that the Left has failed because the Right, including the religious Right, never proposed an alternative. That is, until Manhigut Yehudit came along.

“What do you suggest?” Avraham Burg, Molad chairman and the former Knesset speaker, asked Hagai Segal on the Knesset channel. When the answer he got was basically, “We’ll wait and see,” Burg said, “Feiglin is the only person who challenges the political frameworks in Israel.”

That is actually the reason why I am running for Likud leader: to give Israeli society a new direction, an alternative to Oslo. We really can’t nullify Oslo, not because of the technical reason but because, first and foremost, we have no new alternative.

The alternative is already here. When it is internalized, the people of Sderot will finally be able to leave their bomb shelters.

BDS Attacks JNF Concert Goers in Berlin (Video)

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Ten members of BDS interrupted a JNF fundraiser in Berlin. The protesters helped up signs, yelled “Free Palestine”, shoved old women, and knocked people down.

Outreach, Regrets and the Wrong Man for the Job

Friday, September 28th, 2012

In a recent issue of Mishpacha Magazine the important issue of Baal Teshuva (BT) regret was tackled. The Baal Teshuva phenomenon is a subject that is dear to my heart. Organizations like Aish HaTorah (pictured) have been successfully reaching out to young unaffiliated Jews for decades now.

Although I haven’t discussed it in quite some time, those who know my views – know that that my feelings toward the Baal Teshuva (and equally to the sincere convert) is one of immeasurable respect.

To put my views in a nutshell, the idea of coming to observant Judaism on one’s own initiative is something those of us who were born into it (FFBs), cannot possibly achieve. We did not search for the truth to then find it in Judaism. Judaism was handed to us on a platter. Most of us have known nothing else.

Even though we can all achieve great depths of understanding – it is an order of magnitude greater when one does this from scratch. So I stand in awe of such people and echo what the Talmud says in Brachos (34b):

B’Makom She’Baalei Teshuvah Omdim, Ein tzaddik Gamur Yachol Laamod – In the place where the Baal Teshuva stands, even the most righteous among us cannot stand.

I realize that not every Baal Teshuva starts out from the vantage point of simply seeking truth. Some simply find comfort in observant communities. Or appreciate the structure an observant lifestyle gives them. Or the like the values Judaism represents. Sometimes it is about rebelling against a secular past or a dysfunctional family.

In these cases there may be no real dwelling on the great truths of the Torah. But ultimately belief in these truths does play a significant part.

The problem discussed in the Mishpacha article sometimes Baalei Teshuva get “buyer’s remorse.” There could be several reasons for this. For example if the motivation to become observant is too shallow then becoming observant may be only temporary. Sometimes it is because of disillusionment with the negative behavior they see among some of our FFB Orthodox brethren. There are probably a lot of reasons.

However, there does seem to a consensus among those involved in outreach people that the blame in many of these cases may lie in the fact that Baalei Teshuva are often not accepted into the larger Orthodox communities. Rejection can be a big turn off!

I don’t believe this is a Charedi versus Modern Orthodox dichotomy. I think the problem exists in both worlds. No matter how hard they try, some communities just don’t do a good job of welcoming the BT into their lives. That leaves them out in the cold and on their own.

Why is that the case? I’m not entirely sure but I have heard it said for example that a Baal Teshuva or a convert brings a lot of secular baggage with them. Baggage that an FFB community does not want to deal with. For me that is a nonsense and a non issue. Most BTs are sincere and are willing to give up the Issurim they were involved with. Like going to McDonald’s for a cheeseburger. What they may not be willing to give up is everything from their past lives. Nor should they.

For example for those who reject secular culture in their lives in any form – it might be a problem for them if the Baal Teshuva likes listening to popular music. But for me, that is a plus. It shows a normal and healthy approach to life.

A Baal Teshuva need not reject everything from their past. As long as there are no Halachic objections popular culture should not be any more of a problem for the Baal Teshuva than it is for me. I recall a Limudei Kodesh principal of a Chasidic day school – with a long beard and who wore a Kapote daily mentioning that when he took long trips by car he listened to Beatles tapes!

Many of the families whose children were in his school would have been shocked by that had they known. The point is that this Mechanech knew there was no problem with secular culture per se. Only that part of which is not permissible by Halacha. But he never communicated that to his students.

Test Him Before He Fails

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Parents often bring children into my office when they are already failing several subjects in school. These students are dejected, frustrated, and often depressed. They believe that because of their past performance, they will never succeed in school. It is not strange that constant effort and subsequent failure have taught them to believe that failure is the only option.

Recent advances in the way that educators assess learning disabilities can prevent this pervading sense of futility many children who struggle with school feel. This new initiative, called “Response to Intervention” (RTI) is helping educators recognize learning disabilities before the children have a chance to struggle.

Professor Lynn Fuchs, a special education professor at Vanderbilt University, explains that that the traditional way to find out which children need help is to test those who are failing. She continues, “But research shows that failure can lead to depression, and that can make improvement in school very difficult.” To combat this problem, some educators and schools are implementing RTI which helps parents and teachers identify problems much earlier.

Perhaps the most important element of RTI is universal screening, which means everyone gets tested regardless of their scores or perceived aptitude. This allows educators to catch potential struggles without forcing the child to fail first.

Response To Intervention

Screen: the first step in RTI is the screening process. In other words, RTI involves administering a series of short, comprehensive tests that have no bearing on the standard curriculum. Rather, these tests are used to determine whether a child might have difficulty responding to the core curriculum as traditionally delivered in the regular classroom. These tests determine children who are academically “at risk” or who might have undiagnosed learning disabilities. The downside of these tests is that they may produce many false positives for “at risk” children.

Teach. The next step is ensuring that the regular classroom teaching is research-based and field-tested. Trained and qualified teachers should administer this curriculum.

Intervene. In addition to the regular curriculum, children who are determined to be “at risk” during the screening process should be provided enhanced opportunities to learn, including, additional time with the core curriculum, small group lessons, and other supplementary instruction.

Probe. Given that children who are identified as at-risk are provided with extra instruction, their progress in essential skills must be monitored to ensure that this instruction is sufficient and effective. Short, frequent assessments that test specific skills help teachers understand the usefulness (or lack thereof) of the instruction provided.

Chart. Based on the probes above, a specialist should create a chart that provides a visual record of the rate of gain in specific skill areas that lead to a specified goal. Because the goal of intervention is to help the child improve his skills, this chart helps indicate whether the intervention is working.

Adjust. After several sessions and charts, the educator should evaluate in what ways the intervention is successful and in what ways the intervention is failing. Adjustments should be made in both directions, pumping up the successful methods and skills and reworking the unsuccessful ones.

Potential Learning Disabilities Aided Through RTI

Visual Processing Disorder: A visual processing (or perceptual) disorder refers to an inability to make sense of information absorbed through the eyes. This does not mean that the child has trouble with sight and needs glasses; rather it involves difficulty processing the visual information in the brain. Reading and math are two areas that can be severely affected by visual processing disorder because these subjects rely heavily on symbols (letter, numbers, signs). Some indications of visual processing disorders are:

Spatial Relation: Spatial relation involves distinguishing the positions of objects in space. For reading, confusion of similarly shaped letters such as “b” and “d“ or “p” and “q” can be attributed to a problem with spatial relation. In addition, for many math problems, the only cues are the spacing and order between the symbols. For instance, for the problem “13 + 6,” the child must be able to recognize that 13 is one number rather than two distinct numbers (1 and 3) and recognize that the “+” is between the 13 and the 6. While this is automatic for many people, these activities presuppose an ability and understanding of spatial relationships.

No Business Like Government Business

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

As the great anchor of the election hits bottom, plummeting past feeder fish, political plankton and eyeless creatures that lurk in the depths of MSNBC and Current TV to rise during election season to lecture us on how angry we should be, the theme of the season is that the choice between Romney and Obama is the choice between big corporations and big government.

Most people have already been primed by decades of songs and shows to pick the right answer to this one. We know that corporate boardrooms are full of menacing characters who are always laundering money, dumping toxic waste on children’s playgrounds and plotting to blot out the sun. And then they temporarily step out to work in government for a few years before returning to do their sun-blotting duties.

A choice between big corporations and big government is a choice of choices and no choice at all. There isn’t much good that can be said about corporations, just as there isn’t much good that can be said about any branch of the government. The difference is that you have a choice whether to deal with a corporation or not. Unless the government mandates that you buy health insurance from one of them; because most cases where people are forced to do business with a corporation is due to government regulations.

Imagine a big corporation. A really big corporation that monopolizes as much as it can and compels you to buy its low quality overpriced services and imprisons you if you refuse to pay for them whether you use them or not.

Now imagine a CEO who has no accountability, who cannot be put on trial for his actions while serving in that position, who picks and chooses which laws to follow, who breaks the law, causes thousands of deaths, lies repeatedly and wants to spend another four years doing it all over again.

We are all shareholders of the corporation of government. A corporation whose board and CEO we can vote for, but the corporation also has a variety of undemocratic governing mechanisms that make those votes much less meaningful. And the biggest problem is that many of the shareholders are part of blocs that make money from the current unsustainable practices of the corporation and vote in bad boards that rob us blind so they can make more money.

Once upon a time, Americans were shareholders of government. Today Americans are consumers of government.

The current incarnation of the American Republic (is it the Fourth or the Fifth incarnation? At least the Europeans have the good grace to tack on those numbers) is primarily a provider of domestic services and international defense. This is a striking contrast from the older American Republic where the government provided domestic defense and not much else.

It’s simplest to think of a thing in terms of its function. With the majority of Federal spending going to Social Security and Medicare, our government is essentially an insurance company, taking a percentage of salaries and “investing” that money to provide a social safety net. Except the money isn’t invested, it’s squandered, and much of it goes to people who are not paying into the system.

As insurance companies go, our government is completely financially unreliable and untrustworthy, its payouts are poor, its customer service is terrible and the people running it would be in a jail cell if they were serving on corporate boards.

To understand what our government is, imagine a wasteful non-profit obsessed with Third World children, merged with some kind of domestic poverty charity, merged with an insurance company, attached to a bunch of umbrella trade and regulatory groups for entire industry with a huge military arm that exists to stabilize troubled regions for the business community and occasionally does pro bono genocide interventions.

This Frankenstein America monster is what the current Republic looks like and the people running it insist that this unwieldy beast, its bulky body that can hardly walk in a straight line and its deviant brain, are a massive step forward into the future. Well Dr. Frankenstein thought the same thing and whether it’s the Tea Party or OWS, there are no shortage of peasants with pitchforks out there.

In Radical Eyes, Libya Makes Obama an Imperialist Enemy

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports

It is amazing how events in international affairs that would have been easily and accurately understood decades ago are now surrounded by obfuscation and misunderstanding. Such is the case with Libya and the U.S. role there. Forget Obama’s Cairo speech and all that bowing, apologizing, appeasing, and empathy. All of it is meaningless now.

The facts are clear. Along with its NATO allies, the United States helped overthrow the dictatorship of Muammar Qadhafi in Libya and installed a new regime. This government, non-Islamist, technocratic, and led by defected old regime politicians or former exiles, won the election and is now in power.

What does this mean? Simple. Libya is now a U.S. client state. In the eyes of many Arabs and Muslims—especially the radicals but not just them—Libya is now an American puppet state. Most important of all it is not an Islamist Sharia state. The revolutionaries—a group including the Muslim Brotherhood, radical small groups, and the local al-Qaida affiliates–want to change that situation.

How do you do that? One way is to attack the regime’s institutions, including raiding police stations to get weapons. Another way is to assassinate officials. A tempting way to build popular support is to murder Americans.

The killing of the ambassador and five other Americans (a Foreign Service reserve officer, two bodyguards, and two Marines) has nothing to do with a video made in California. It has everything to do with the Libyan Islamist revolution. This revolution will go on for years and will become increasingly bloodier. It is nothing short of amazing that U.S. leaders don’t seem to recognize this.

Let’s sum it up in a slogan:

Bush occupied Iraq and Afghanistan; Obama occupied Libya and killed Usama bin Ladin. Have no doubt that the revolutionaries—including the Muslim Brotherhood—and a lot of others view Obama as just as bad as Bush. Obama’s attempts at appeasement have further convinced them that America is finished and easily bullied. In his speech of September 2010 calling for revolution in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad al-Badi explicitly said that.

In Iraq, a combination of factors has defused the situation directly, though resentments born years ago still are part of the package of genuinely popular but also Jihadi-stimulated anti-Americanism. The surge won the war and the long-planned withdrawal was implemented by Obama. A government exists which is hardly a model of democracy but sufficiently stable for the foreseeable future. The Sunni have basically given up trying to take over the country; the central government accepts the Kurds having a de facto state in the north. A lot of people are still being murdered by terrorism.

Afghanistan, because it isn’t an Arab country, has a relatively small impact in the Arabic-speaking world and eventually the U.S. forces will withdraw from there as well. The Taliban, treacherously aided by forces including official government agencies in Pakistan, will go on trying to overthrow the U.S.-sponsored government and might succeed. But that’s a problem for the future.

As for bin Ladin, obviously his death is a cause for al-Qaida to seek revenge. But, of course, they’d be attacking Americans and U.S. installations even if he was still alive. It’s a myth that al-Qaida has been defeated. Precisely because it is so decentralized, the group’s local affiliates are quite active in North Africa, Yemen, Egypt (especially the Sinai Peninsula for the first time ever), the Gaza Strip, and increasingly in Syria.

Others who are not al-Qaida and never saw bin Ladin as their leader will opportunistically use the U.S. killing of the September 11 architect to stir up anger. They will also use inevitable periodic incidents like this You-Tube video. There will always be more such incidents. Jihadis are surfing the Internet looking for some obscure incident or writing to promote. That’s what happened with the video, which some of them translated into Arabic and widely circulated. And when there is no real such incident the revolutionaries will fabricate one, as they have been doing against Israel for decades.

Aside from everything else, Libya has two special factors. First, it is beset by tribalism and regionalism which create a complex web of conflicts. Despite its oil wealth, this factor makes Libya extremely hard to govern. Some tribal and regionalist forces will remain interest groups; others will adopt a revolutionary Islamist ideology. There is no way of resolving these issues. Any Libyan government will have to go for massive repression—which Qadhafi did and the current government won’t—or engage in a constant juggling game.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/in-radical-eyes-libya-makes-obama-an-imperialist-enemy/2012/09/24/

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