Friday, July 25, 2008

The American Dream

(Photo Credit: Paul Fraughton/The Salt Lake Tribune)

To me, what makes one an American is not where you were born or who you were born to (that's citizenship) but rather, whether you strive to make your family's lot in life better. The American Dream isn't limited to 2.34 kids with a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. It trying to make the Haratio Alger myth a reality.
Abdulkarim Abed Hasan and his family endured war and hardship in their Baghdad home for three years before moving to Syria. After two years there, the family was admitted to the United States as refugees and into an Avenues apartment in Salt Lake City in June.
If the parallel [to the story of the Mormon Pioneers] seems a bit strained, 49-year-old Abdulkarim would be the first to admit it.
"When I came here I saw that Mormons are very good. No drinking. No drugs. Better here than Las Vegas," he said. "But the past [of Utah], I don't know much about."
No matter. The Hasan family embraced its first Pioneer Day.
Adul-Karim is right, but I will add two more things Islam has in common with the LDS faith (one which he implied): believing that gambling is a sin, and that women should dress modestly. The forbidding of eating pork, charging interest, and eating with the left hand, of course do not apply (along with the other obvious ones). So who's to say that they won't feel at home in Utah, which is also a desert?
The Hasan family embraced its first Pioneer Day. Abdulkarim took his wife and five children to the Steiner Aquatic Center for a swim the day before, a luxury they have long missed since Baghdad's recreational centers were left destroyed or neglected. They gathered on the lawn to watch the evening's fireworks, then ventured downtown the morning after for celebrations. The parade was nice, but the fireworks impressed.
"When I see fire in my country, people die," Abdulkarim said. "This was different."
The family members count themselves among the lucky few who have left the violence and chaos of their home country to make it into the United States. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) estimates the war and its aftermath created more than 4 million Iraqi refugees. Half remain uprooted inside Iraq; the remainder live in Syria or Jordan where they are denied work.
A sobering fact. Let's hope their country (and the region) can be stabilized and that the next president will allow more refugees come to share in the promise that is America.
The family is loath to name a sectarian allegiance. "We are Muslims," said 10-year-old son Abdulrahman. "There is no Sunni or Shia."
Not content to sit at home, Abdulkarim said he is searching for work as a translator for construction companies rebuilding Iraq.
"Next year I'd like to see all Iraqis living here go to the [Pioneer Day] celebration together," he said. "Because we live in Utah, and benefit from life here, we must say thank you and celebrate with the community."
I am sure I speak for Utahns when I say, "You are welcome and welcome here."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Neither gaffes nor mistakes

When John McCain has made false statements, like mixing up Shia with Sunni, saying Iraq instead of Pakistan when talking about the boarder area where Al-Qaeda/Taliban remain, saying that Iran is allowing Al-Qaeda [in Iraq] to move about freely across their boarder, or saying the Surge is responsible for the Anbar Awakening, he is not (as some have claimed) confused or senile or ignorant of foreign policy .

Rather, it appears that these are intentional mistatements, ones designed to convey a message: that we should attack Iran, stay in Iraq indefinitely, and beef up in Afghanistan.  (Where all of the troops and equipment necessary for such efforts would come from, he never explains.)  

The misstatements are perfect precisely because they can be chalked up as mistakes.  This gives McCain the ability to claim that he didn't mean what he said when  fact checkers call him on it, but when not confronted with reality, he can get his message across to those who don't follow the details.

The whole thing is a revival of the Bush Administration's tactics to get us into war with say things to suggest more than even their flimsy evidence would support.  But the literal meaning of the statements allowed them to wriggle out of what they had hinted at. [Like the famous 16 words, "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."]

Oh and my verdict on McCain repeatedly saying Czechoslovakia instead of the Czech Republic? Force of habit, like some older people who still say the now passe version of words like "Asian" "African-American" "Russia" and in McCain's case "Vietnamese"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kanab-ing tax dollars for nepotism

First suspicious stuff in Kane County tourism board, now their economic development board?
Kelly Stowell, son of Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan, was hired last week as a special consultant/executive director for southwestern Utah's Center for Education, Business and the Arts, located in Kanab. Sen. Stowell represents Kanab and surrounding counties and supported the funding for CEBA.

In addition to his [$80,000 per year] base salary, Kelly Stowell can earn another $20,000 if certain goals are met over the next year, said Christina Schultz, chairwoman of CEBA.

A number of state senators received an e-mail Tuesday complaining about Kelly Stowell's hiring. A July [16] story in The Spectrum, a St. George newspaper, has on its Web site a posted comment that makes the same allegations as the e-mail: that Kelly Stowell is unqualified for the position and that Sen. Stowell helped get CEBA a $125,000 grant funded by the 2008 Legislature that provided the money to hire a new consultant/executive director.
That's right by using 'the Google' I discovered that the Deseret News got the wrong date. Oh and the CEBA people say Kelly's the right son man for the job, even though he "is probably about 25 years old."

It seems the whole state is rife with examples of, at the very least, appearances of impropriety of actions that could be seen as quid pro quos involving members of the legislature.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

four-days a week

Governor Huntsman's innovative idea (I think Burmingham, AL might have proposed it first, but Utah is the first state to adopt it) to switch to a 4-day work week is already popular with state government employees:
Employees were asked a series of questions to measure their attitude toward the new schedule. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. announced the workweek as a way to save an estimated $3 million annually in energy costs by closing many state buildings on Fridays.

Fifty-six percent of those responding said they preferred working four 10-hour days to the traditional five-day workweek. Under the governor's plan, on Aug. 4 about 23,000 employees will begin working from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Most respondents said they anticipated the new schedule would have no impact on meeting child-care needs, using public transportation, holding second jobs or attending school.

More than 40 percent said they believe the shorter workweek will have a positive impact on their personal activities outside of work, while nearly 31 percent said the impact would likely be negative.

But more than 60 percent disagreed with the statement that there were many negatives associated with the new schedule that could not be overcome. Nearly as many disagreed that working four 10-hour days would be very inconvenient.

The results are similar to those found by another recent survey, which was conducted by the Utah Public Employees Association. The four-day workweek was favored by 75 percent of the state workers who took the association's e-mail survey, the UPEA reported.
The quasi-union likes it, the state-sponsored survey like it, it saves energy, both public tax dollars and private fuel costs. What's not to like? The only drawback is trying to get any state government related chore done on a Friday. But then again, you can use's online services to do things like renew a driver's license or vehicle registration...that saves time and stamps.

Monday, July 21, 2008

bury that lede

Occationally, I read a headline that makes me laugh, other times it is the lede (aka the opening lines of an article) that intregues. This time it is the later.
Rep. Chris Cannon has a reputation as a wonkish legislator working on the intricacies of intellectual property, technology and financial issues.
Really? According to whom does Chris have such a reputation? Chris Cannon and his staff? Because as far as I can tell, Cannon has a reputation of being a party stalwart and guy who says stupid things. In other words, the exact opposite of a wonkish legislator. Unless by "wonkish" he means "got a lot of campaign contributions from those industries." If that is the case, I agree.

The rest of the article is about his admirable efforts to create prize money to cure a rare form of cancer. But I had to include this last bit of ridiculousness found at the end of the article.
Cannon decided he is principled. He also doesn't consider himself a politician.
"That's why it is not uncomfortable for me to be out of touch with my constituents," he said.
Still, he wouldn't rule out a return to elective office or Congress, saying it was "very possible" he would run again if the political landscape changes and he had a shot at rising into House leadership.
Yes, a "wonk" who "isn't a politician" but is instead "principled" would want to seek a leadership post of his party, requiring ultra-partisanship and political skills to sway hundreds of his fellow House Republicans to promote him to be their leader. Cannon just reaffirmed my assessment of his reputation.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

a good Samaritan

(Courtesy of Liberty News)

Yesterday driving home from my working vacation in Idaho, I had both incredibly bad and then good fortune. This parable from Luke's gospel sums it up.
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
--Luke 10:30-37 (King James version)
Sure, I was going from Sun Valley to Salt Lake, and it was the family from Phoenix and not a Samaritan. But the message is the same.

One of my tires' treads blew off my car while I was going (ahem) 80 miles an hour on the freeway. First off, thank goodness no one was near me, because I swerved as I tried to regain control of the far. Second, thank goodness I was only a mile from a rest stop and only 14 miles from Snowville, UT (basically at the border), a town that had a couple of gas stations and hotels etc.

And most importantly, a family stopped at the rest stop and offered to help. First by lending me their iPhone to call AAA (Sprint had no coverage out there). It soon became obvious that AAA had no idea where I was and wasn't going to be able to help at all for at least a couple hours, so they changed my tire. Yes, I am completely useless on the handyman end of things (just ask my wife). Also, thank goodness that I had a half-way decent spare, of course, it was practically flat. So we crawled to Snowville and put in a quarters into a machine to inflate the tire. Then we drove 55 mph all the way back to SLC...about 110 miles.

But enough of our harrowing tale (check your tires), I wanted to say thank you to all those who offer to help strangers in the middle of nowhere out of the kindness of their hearts. Drive safely everyone.