International Students At Our Dinner Table, “Too Many Who Hold A Rifle Never Have Held A Pen”

I have long contended the best way to spend time is with a great meal and leisurely conversation.  The only way to improve on that is to add some international flavor to the faces around the table.   Such was the case today at our home.

Two international students, Manzoor from Pakistan, and Ferit from Turkey found out how some of the traditional Thanksgiving foods are served and tasted.  As they enjoyed the flavor of an early holiday the remarkable dinner conversation will go down as one of the best that has taken place this year around our table.

Both of the men are in college and are also immersing themselves in American culture when they are not cracking the books.  They are older than the traditional students so their level of maturity and seriousness was already known to us.  After all, they had been invited to our home weeks ago but felt they could not take the time away from studying.   They wanted to keep pace with others in the class. There are certainly relatives on the other side of the globe that can be mighty proud.

What struck me about both of these people is the insightful way they view the world.  Traveling to other lands does provide that larger clue to how all the international pieces can fit together.

Both Manzoor and Ferit connected the dots from viewing our news coverage that much of the real story is never told about international events.  The old saying ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ when speaking of what gets press attention was not lost on our dinner guests.   They each found that troubling as the real story of nations far from our shores is not really known to Americans.

Manzoor lamented that too many people think that all of Pakistan is in disarray and turmoil.  In fact, it is not.  He spoke of most Pakistanis not being embroiled in the tensions that make the front pages of the newspapers.  Islamic extremists are a small minority of his country.   Manzoor says he would estimate that apart from the region near Afghanistan only 1% of  Pakistan is made up of Islamic fundamentalists.

As a tour guide in the mountain regions near China Manzoor spoke of the 20 languages that one can find in his country.  He speaks three of them, and also English.  I reminded him that some Americans can barely speak one.

Both of the men follow Islam and resembled every other person of that faith I have ever met.  In other words, the average every-day people.  I wished that all those who have grabbed headlines this year for anti-Muslim remarks could have eaves-dropped into our kitchen.

After all, it is all about education.

When I asked about the clerics who foment divisiveness in Pakistan Manzoor said: “Too many who hold a rifle never have held a pen.”   The line was direct and perfect.  All the ills of the world boil down to a lack of education.

Manzoor spoke fondly of Greg Mortenson and the work he does in the region by building schools.  The book “Three Cups Of Tea” and the work behind it is the source of hope for many.  Educating children and changing realities is where we should be spending our money and time when it comes to foreign aid dollars.

Both of these guys were more in touch with life and priorities than many men their age I know in America.  I am sure it has everything to do with how they were raised, and the culture they carry with them.  It was so refreshing.  So noticeable.  There was no macho type of language or attitude.  It was a level of genuineness that made for easy laughs and deeper thoughts to be voiced.

Ferit spoke about the need for traditions to be honored.  He asked about how Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent, and James and I told of our childhoods.  We spoke of the old ornaments that hang on the Christmas tree, and special foods that transport us back to childhood memories.  We told of the stockings and how Santa visited.  Ferit spoke of watching American films about Christmas when he was younger and wanting Santa to stop at his home.

Several times Ferit made note of the importance of honoring one’s heritage.  That to me was wonderful to hear from someone of an age where that type of sentiment is rarely heard.  He spoke of values and used the word over and over.  That was not lost on me.  It made me aware again that good parenting is priceless.

The taste of apple pie has made quite an impact on Ferit during his time in Madison.  With the promise that we would get him the recipe for his mom back home, we, in turn, served homemade pumpkin pie.  With a smile, I told him he needed to learn how to put on whipped cream topping.  “You need more!” I told him after he had only added a small spoonful.

At the end of our meal and conversation, Ferit looked at me and stated he needed to ask for permission.  I thought he wanted to use the bathroom and was about to say ‘down the hallway’.  But he quickly added that it was a custom to ask permission to end the meal and leave.  I looked at Manzoor and he added it was also customary in Pakistan as well.  It was perhaps the most polite ending to a meal I have ever encountered.

I wanted to ask, “what happens if people say no”  but left that joke for another day and another meal.

As they left our home I thought of how big the world is, and how little of it I come in real contact with.  I also was left with the wonderful sense of something I have long felt.

People are so much more alike than we are different.  That fact was again made clear thanks to Ferit and Manzoor.

Is Scott Walker Considering Raising Sales Tax In Wisconsin?

Let me be among those who know and publicly state that some taxes need to be raised in the state, and at the federal level.

Added revenues are essential for government to meet the needs of the citizenry, be it to pay for two wars or make sure we have enough meat inspectors keeping our food safe.  On the state level we need to insure that our public schools are competitive, and that state residents have health care.  We need  additional revenues to reduce the debts that we have incurred. 

Like it or not taxes are required to be part of the fiscal discipline if we are in fact serious about fixing the structural debt we face in Wisconsin.

But when talking about taxes there are two hurdles to clear. 

The first is the knee-jerk reaction that taxes should always go down, and never up.  That is perhaps the largest falsehood that was planted in the electorate by Republicans.  There is no way to pretend that the growing needs of society can be handled with the continuing series of tax cuts that have resulted in reductions of revenue.  Getting a rational and sober discussion about the need for more revenue is one that the Republicans will have to engage in actively if there is to be a shift in public thinking.

The second hurdle is some taxes are progressive in nature and benefit a society by increasing, and others are regressive and hit certain segments harder and more unfairly.  We must be mindful of which ones get promoted, and why.

I am most serious about my desire for a real dialogue to take place on the revenue side of the fiscal woes we face.  So to be charitable I will say the news today was half-a-loaf type story.

Some close to Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker are thinking about raising taxes.  That, in and of itself, is a news story.  After all Walker’s conservative campaign all over the state was about the need to curtail taxes and spending.   It will be a step in the right direction if Walker actually is thinking about long-term solutions to the state budget, and correctly understands revenue is a means to an overall fix.

But if the tax increase is a sales tax hike then it must be rejected.  Sale taxes are the most regressive of all taxes.  Here is how the story is unfolding.

I am hopeful….after all we must be….that sanity will prevail and a collection of strategies will be employed…. tax increases being one of them…. that will help Wisconsin’s state budget see a brighter future.

A member of Governor-elect Scott Walker’s transition team is proposing raising the state sales tax to as much as 7.5% in exchange for lowering income and property taxes.

Raising the sales tax from 5% to 7.5% and lowering other taxes would amount to a $2.1 billion shift in taxes every year, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Walker, a Republican, ran an anti-tax campaign, but his spokesman, Cullen Werwie, in a statement did not rule out the idea of raising the sales tax.

“Governor-elect Scott Walker is committed to actually cutting taxes while balancing the state budget that faces a deficit of more than $3 billion (over two years),” Werwie’s statement said.

But Werwie did not say whether Walker was open to the idea of shifting taxes from one type to another.

Rick Chandler, who serves on Walker’s transition team, proposed the idea of raising the sales tax and lowering other taxes in his role with the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. He said he was speaking on his own behalf, and not for Walker, according to The Capital Times in Madison, which first reported on the proposal.

Sarah Palin Scared Of Another Katie Couric Interview

Lets be clear about one thing.  Sarah Palin is a dolt.

Before you read this story lets recall one of those moments that will linger forever from Election 2008.  Remember that this video below was one of the hard questions for Sarah Palin to answer.  Which is why we know her ‘Federal Reserve” speech recently was mouthing words she had never uttered before.  Lord knows she did not know the meaning of what she said.

Now we have Sarah Palin running from potential reporters who may want to ask more questions.

Now read this. 

Media quote of the day, courtesy of former Alaskan governor-turned-vice presidential candidate-turned-author-turned-Fox News contributor and proud “Dancing With The Stars” mom, Sarah Palin, who was asked by Sean Hannity if she would ever do another interview with Katie Couric.

“As for doing an interview, though, with a reporter who already has such a bias against whatever it is that I would come out and say?  Why waste my time?  No.”

If Sarah Palin is scared to sit down with Katie Couric how would she be able to sit down with Russia’s Putin?  You know that Russia that can be seen from Palin’s house!

Pictures Of North Korea Military Strikes On South Korea

More here. 

See Map of conflict zone here.

A spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korean shells had started falling in the waters off the island of Yeonpyeong at 1434 local time (0534 GMT).

At least 50 landed directly on the island, most of them hitting a South Korean military base there. Sixteen South Korean marines and three civilians were injured.

A resident on the island told the AFP news agency that dozens of houses had been damaged by the barrage. Television pictures showed plumes of smoke rising above the island.

“Houses and mountains are on fire and people are evacuating,” a witness on the island told YTN television station. “People are frightened to death.”

Local government spokesman Yoon Kwan-seok said the shelling lasted for about an hour and then stopped abruptly.

“All of the island’s 1,600-odd residents were evacuated to shelters,” he said.

Map Of Flare-Up Between North And South Korea

This is one of the worst clashes since the Korean War ended. 

South Korea says it has returned fire after North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells at one of its border islands, killing two marines.

The South’s military was placed on its highest non-wartime alert after the shells landed on Yeonpyeong island.

Pyongyang accused the South of firing first. The Southern military said it had conducted exercises but shelling was directed away from the North.