Monday, October 14, 2013

A family uses its strength to help others By Sally Friedman


October 13, 2013

Her favorite Barbies live in a pink world, and Noa David clearly loves the color. It’s even the color of a temporary cast on her arm after a recent fall.

As she gives her attention to the dolls, their accessories, and to a new toy camera that has stolen her heart, the 6-year-old with huge brown eyes and long brown hair also readily shows a visitor another touch of pink in her life: her hearing aids. Of course, they’re pink, too.

For Noa, these hearing aids are hardly just an accessory. Diagnosed wirh moderate hearing loss in both ears at birth, she wears them in order to better communicate with the world. Her parents, Rabbi Ben David, spiritual leader of Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel, and Lisa David, recently shared how they first learned of their firstborn’s condition.

“We were, of course, very excited when we became parents, and our heads were kind of spinning when we learned that Noa’s newborn hearing test showed some problem,” said the rabbi. “There were more tests, and by the time our daughter was 6 weeks old, we had the diagnosis of moderate hearing loss.”

From the start, these new parents made a deep and abiding commitment to do everything they needed to for their daughter, and that most of all, they would be sure that she grew up with a strong sense of confidence and pride in herself.

Lisa David, whose pregnancy was perfectly normal, recalls Noa’s early introduction to hearing aids. “She would pull them out, and just getting her to sit still so we could get them on her was a struggle. But very soon, Noa herself realized that with her hearing aids, she could connect with the world. As she got older, she’d remind us to put them back on after her bath.”

These days, Noa holds her own in the household, with two younger brothers, who have no hearing issues, as her playmates. She attends kindergarten at Springville Elementary School, where two of her classmates also are hearing impaired.

Her speech is perfect, but she gets supplemental speech therapy, which is geared to social issues such as eye contact and initiating dialogue, which tend to be more challenging for children with hearing issues.

“We’re determined to teach Noa that she can thrive and succeed, and we really believe that we’re blessed to have a little girl who is so intelligent, so alive and so spirited,” said Ben David, who admittedly finds himself even more aware of those in his congregation, and in the wider world, with challenges. “We want our gift to Noa to learn to advocate for herself, and have a strong sense of her potential.”

The other gift that the Davids have given their daughter is their own activism. Lisa, who has a demanding career as a director of camping for a national Jewish organization, and the rabbi, are deeply involved in the Hearing Loss Association of America’s Garden State-NJ Walk4Hearing event on Oct. 20 in West Windsor.

“Noa has benefited tremendously from the support of numerous therapists, teachers, audiologists and advocates,” said Ben David.

The event, the largest walk of its kind, is taking place in various cities across the country.

“The goal is to raise funds for programs and services, and also to raise public awareness about hearing loss,” he said, noting that another overall mission is to eradicate the stigma that sometimes is associated with hearing loss.

Congregants of Adath Emanu-El will be among the walkers, and the Davids are hoping that other local residents may join “Noa’s Team.”

Noa is well-versed in the event, and is proud to explain that it’s all about her hearing aids, and others who share her condition.

“I’m going!” she said, eyes dancing. “And I’m walking fast!”

No doubt that she will.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Embattled Obama's 2013 Federal Government Slimdown

Government Shutdown More of a Slim-Down By Richard Larson


October 11, 2013

Listening to the mainstream media and the dominant party in D.C. this week would lead one to believe that the earth would quit revolving on its axis, the sun would no longer rise, and all life forms would cease to exist if the government was shutdown. But low and behold, life continues, and one can’t help but feel just a little more free, although even that is undoubtedly illusory.

While opinions may vary regarding who gets the credit for curtailing spending by shutting down non-essential federal government functions for a few days or weeks, most of the credit must be ascribed to the president and the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. After all, they were the ones who decided that the spending bills passed by the House were not to be even considered in the Senate; all twelve of them, to date.

Harry Reid actually had the audacity to say of the House, “Who are they that they can pick and choose what programs to fund or not to fund?” As is the case with most who belong to his political party, the good senator should acquaint himself with the U.S. Constitution, which specifically states that all spending bills originate in the House. As such, the House has every right to decide what to fund and what not to, and is fulfilling its constitutional duty in the process. If Reid had any integrity or backbone whatsoever, he’d take up a version of one of the House’s resolutions and at least bring it to the floor for a vote. Since he refuses to do so, the credit for extending the quasi-shutdown is all his and the president’s, as they refuse to even consider anything that varies from their desires.

What’s most perplexing about the positions of the House and the Senate is in how the priorities of one party are somehow less important, hence negotiable, while the other’s is not. The president and the Senate are obdurate in their resolve to not accept anything but a complete funding of government. The House has some divisions even within the Speaker’s party over funding Obamacare. Yet the media and the liberal punditry seem to think that the only ones who should capitulate are those in the House. Granting the benefit of the doubt to both parties that their positions are based in principle, why is one principle deemed negotiable while the other’s is not?

[Hear More: The Affordable Care Act - A Roundtable Discussion]

If the funding and operation of Obamacare is so critical to governmental operations, according to the governing party, why has the president by fiat simply changed certain implementation dates and requirements? The fact that he’s granted over 1,000 waivers, mostly to unions and political allies, and by the stroke of his pen delayed the employer mandate by a year, clearly evidences that the health care law is not inviolable. Yet he and Reid will not even consider a spending bill that includes a one-year delay in the individual mandate. It appears that a delay in implementation is only a good idea to Obama if it’s his idea or it benefits his benefactors.

Reviewing the list of what constitutes “essential” versus “non-essential” federal workers makes one realize this is not really a government “shutdown,” it’s more of a slow-down or a slim-down. There are a total of about 2.7 million federal government employees, including 589,000 postal workers. According to reports, there are 800,000 “non-essential” employees who’re on furlough until full funding is restored. That means 63% of the federal work force is still working, including almost all of the Social Security Administration, Homeland Security, and our military and most of the defense department. Even Health and Human Services is nearly fully staffed.

With the modus operandi motto of “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” the administration is acting the same way they did when their sequester went into effect. They want to make sure everyone feels the pain and discomfort of the slim-down. Not being content to close the national parks, the administration ordered barricades, (or should we call them Barry-cades?) and closed signs posted for parks that aren’t even staffed. They even attempted to close national landmarks that are not funded by the government, including Mt. Vernon, the Claude Moore Memorial Farm, and over 100 campgrounds near the Grand Canyon, which are all funded privately.

The Washington Times quotes an angry Park Service ranger in Washington as saying, “It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation. We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”

You’ve got to admire the hutzpah of our “greatest generation.” A group of World War II veterans from Mississippi took matters into their own hands at the open-air WWII Memorial. They tore down the Barry-cades and tweeted, “Normandy was also closed when we got there.”

It would appear that the president’s desire is to make the slim-down more painful to the average citizen than needs be, if for no other reason than to make sure everyone notices, is inconvenienced, or is perturbed. After all, what kind of a “good crisis” would this be if the government “closed down” and no one noticed?

AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at rlarsenen @

83% of Washington D.C. Still Operating During Government Slimdown By Kyle Becker


October 6, 2013
83% of Washington D.C. Still Operating During Government Slimdown

What government “shutdown”? Despite the off-the-wall rhetoric about “blowing up the economy,” taking “hostages,” and politicians with bombs strapped to their chests — 83% of the government is still operational.

Not only that, but the Republicans have passed bills on everything from veterans’ benefits to re-opening National Parks. The House also passed back pay for furloughed federal workers. In addition, about 80% of the federal government’s 4.1 million total employees are still at work, anyway.

Doesn’t jibe with the cataclysmic rhetoric from the ‘we refuse to negotiate’ party? Check this out from a Senate Republican source via the Washington Examiner:

“Based on estimates drawn from CBO and OMB data, 83 percent of government operations will continue. This figure assumes that the government pays amounts due on appropriations obligated before the shutdown ($512 billion), spends $225 billion on exempted military and civilian personnel, pays entitlement benefits for those found eligible before the shutdown (about $2 trillion), and pays interest costs when due ($237 billion). This is about 83 percent of projected 2014 spending of $3.6 trillion.”

That’s right, entitlements aren’t affected by the shutdown, the president has already authorized military spending, and what remains are such things as veteran’s benefits, local Washington D.C. operations, and the National Park Service.

But Forbes actually broke this down further, based on the proposed 2014 budget. Paul Roderick Gregory argues that the actual amount of government being “shutdown” is around 13%:

After payment of defense, entitlements, and net interest, we have a grand total of $.6 trillion ($624 billion to be more exact) of discretionary spending that could be subject to a government shutdown. At most, we can shut down 20 percent of the federal government. This hardly deserves the moniker of “government shutdown.”

I would not count reducing federal government spending by 13 percent a “shutdown.” A more appropriate term would be a “reduction in non-essential discretionary spending,” or “government slim down” for short. I invite the Republican members of Congress to use this term instead of “shutdown.” In politics, he who controls the rhetoric of political discourse wins. “Shut down” is a loser. “Slim down” is a winner, and it captures the reality of what is going on right now in Washington.

The proposed federal government spending graphic for 2014 approximates the breakup (the U.S. government doesn’t bother passing actual budgets nowadays). Then it boils down to if 800,000 “public servants” can dictate the future of the country to those they are supposed to be “serving.”

Hate the government slimdown, the endless bickering? Here five Republican governors getting it right By Cal Thomas


October 8, 2013

With frustration building over Washington’s refusal to behave in the public interest, perhaps it’s worth noting a drastic solution tried by the Irish.

Last Friday, Irish voters cast ballots on a referendum to abolish the country’s Upper House, known as the Seanad. Prime Minister Enda Kenny said Ireland didn’t need all of its politicians and they should be made to suffer along with everyone else as the country continues to struggle economically.

The measure to abolish the Seanad lost by just 42,500 votes out of more than 1,226,000 cast (51.8 percent to 48.2 percent).

While many Americans might wish they could abolish Congress, it is unlikely, unless voters take a page from the Declaration of Independence and “institute new government,” so another approach by Republican governors to break the cycle of systemic ineffectiveness in Washington might work.

It isn’t that we don’t know how to solve problems; it is that too many Washington politicians refuse to solve them

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) has produced a video in which five Republican governors highlight successes in their respective states. 

Given the dysfunction in Washington, the video provides some powerful reasons for people to turn their backs on the nation’s capital and begin to look to states that have succeeded in solving many problems Washington is unwilling to solve. The featured Republican governors are:

Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) who wants you to know that his state’s GDP has grown by $36 billion since 2008, nearly twice the national rate. That puts Louisiana eighth best in the country and third best in the South. 

According to Jindal, other categories in which Louisiana has succeeded while Washington piles up debt include: unemployment (below the national average with new jobs being added); per capita personal income (increased more than $3,600 since 2008); charter schools — Jindal says his state has become a “national leader” in charter schools with 80 percent of New Orleans students enrolled in them.

John Kasich (Ohio) closed an $8 billion shortfall without raising taxes and cut taxes by $3 billion. He eliminated the “death tax,” modernized Medicaid, eliminated the bureaucratic Department of Development and created a private, nonprofit corporation — JobsOhio — to “respond to job creators’ needs at their pace instead of at ‘the speed of statute.’”

Susana Martinez (New Mexico) boosted funding for education and Medicaid without raising taxes; cooperated with a Democratic legislature, passing the New Mexico Jobs Package, which reduced the tax rate on businesses from 7.6 percent to 5.9 percent; moved the state from 38th in the nation in export growth three years ago to first today; turned a structural deficit into a surplus and enacted comprehensive tax reform.

Nikki Haley (South Carolina) pushed through tax reform on small businesses, which she claims, resulted in South Carolina having the fastest growing manufacturing sector on the East Coast and creating 38,000 new jobs, which have contributed $9 billion in new investment.

Scott Walker (Wisconsin) reversed a $3.6 billion deficit he inherited and turned it into a surplus. He provided nearly $1 billion in tax relief for families and businesses that sparked a two-year job growth, which he says is the best in the state under any governor in 10 years. 

Oh, and those “controversial” union reforms that caused demonstrations at the state capital two years ago? Gov. Walker says those reforms saved the state more than $2 billion.

More can be seen on the video.

The “American Comeback” campaign should resonate with those who long for an economically, politically and culturally sound America, something we do not have under the Obama administration. 

It isn’t that we don’t know how to solve problems; it is that too many Washington politicians refuse to solve them, preferring instead to lobby for positions of power and curry favor with special interest groups that hand them cash, stroke their egos and promise them votes on Election Day.

Real problem-solving is taking place in states headed by Republicans. If you’re tired of the bickering, turn away from dysfunctional Washington, follow their lead and emulate their successes.

Maybe then Washington will be forced to pay attention. Republican governors might even be able to teach Ireland a thing or two.

Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated newspaper columnist and a Fox News contributor. Follow him on Twitter@CalThomas. Readers may e-mail Cal Thomas