Page A5 1st edition Cyan Magenta Yellow Black
Bangor Daily News, Monday, February 6, 2012, OpEd A5
Assad’s fate ALEXANDRA PETRI
a crucial An IPO bigger than the rapture
esus had better not return to flatter our face shapes. It is going to you’re the product. If so, I am the The company’s unofficial philoso-
question earth this week. We will be too
busy with the Facebook IPO to
deal with Him. “That’s very nice,
find us dates on the Internet who are
neither creepy nor excessively ear-
nest. What penicillin did for medi-
product, and anyone who invests in
Facebook is investing in me — or,
more specifically, in my capacity to
phies are “move fast and break
things” — which might explain
Timeline — and that it’s easier to
Lord,” we’ll say, escorting Him cine, the Facebook IPO will do for click on ads. I should warn investors beg forgiveness than ask permis-
mperial regimes can crack when to a chair in the corner. “But we’re everything else. that, while I excel at clicking on ads, sion.
they are driven out of their major looking at an initial stock price of And I fear that I’m understating I am less good at buying things after- Facebook users are the definition
foreign outposts. The fall of the $100! Initial! Do you know what that things. ward. of a captive audience. And with the
Berlin Wall did not just signal the means?” I am not sure how Facebook de- This monetization question is the failure of a viable alternative to
liberation of East- “Stop talking to Him, He only had cided to value itself at $5 billion. big problem of the Social Internet: emerge in Google(plus)+, things are
ern Europe from Mos- 11 friends,” someone will shout. Consider that Facebook contains Everyone’s here, but how do we make likely to remain that way for a while.
cow. It prefigured the “And 12 subscribers.” Farmville and users like my friend them pay for things without under- Half the world’s Internet population
collapse of the Soviet The Facebook IPO has passed who updates on an hourly basis to mining the premise? sounds like it should be worth $5 bil-
Union itself just two through the stratosphere of hype say how “fierce” she is feeling. And People expect a lot from this IPO. lion.
years later. and is hovering somewhere between this IPO is supposed to spin the But I’m chary. Facebook has a But monetizing us? Forget the
The fall of Bashar “Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phan- questionable straw of Facebook user strange track record when it comes loaves and fishes — that’s a miracle
al-Assad’s Syria could tom Menace” and M. Night Shyama- profiles into, well, actual gold. to privacy, and pressure to squeeze I’d like to see.
be similarly ominous lan’s second film. How? No one is quite sure. They money from users for its advertisers
for Iran. The alliance CHARLES The Facebook IPO is going to cure say that if you are using something seems unlikely to improve things on Alexandra Petri is a member of The
with Syria is the cen- KRAUTHAMMER cancer and also tell us what glasses for free, you aren’t the consumer — that front. Washington Post’s editorial staff.
terpiece of Iran’s ex-
panding sphere of influence, a mini-
Comintern that includes such clients as CARRIE SHEFFIELD
Iranian-armed and directed Hezbollah,
now the dominant power in Lebanon;
and Hamas, which controls Gaza and
threatens to take the rest of Palestine
(the West Bank) from a feeble Fatah.
Additionally, Iran exerts growing
Mormon church badly needs reform
pressure on Afghanistan to the east and here has been much talk .”
pornography BYU’s dean of religious
growing influence in Iraq to the west. recently about whether education wouldn’t answer my grow-
Tehran has even extended its horizon America is ready for a ing list of questions. Ot her leaders
to Latin America, as symbolized by Mormon president. This told me that questioning is acceptable
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tolerance question .
so long as it’s done secretly I became
solidarity tour through Venezuela, Ec- should cut both ways. distraught. For years my faith was an
uador, Nicaragua and Cuba. Nearly a quarter of unshakable part of my identity, and if
Of all these clients, Syria is the most Americans told Gallup last summer I openly voiced my concerns I risked
important. It’s the only Arab state that they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon rejection from the community I loved.
openly allied with non-Arab Iran. This president, which is unfortunate since Since Mormonism is highly central-
is significant because the Arabs see the former Gov. Mitt Romney and former ized, without the local doctrinal flexi-
Persians as having had centuries-old candidate Jon Huntsman are both bility that exists in Judaism and many
designs to dominate the Middle East. smart, capable men. Christian churches, I had no place to
Indeed, Iranian arms and trainers, Meanwhile, though the Pew Forum live a moderated, reformed existence.
transshipped to Hezbollah through on Religion & Public Life recently Salt Lake City’s male gerontocracy
Syria, have given the Persians their found that 56 percent of Mormons told me to avoid books and marry, but I
first outpost on the Mediterranean in think America is ready for a Mormon could not stomach all their teachings.
2,300 years. president, the church isn’t exactly wel- For example, mainstream Mormons
But the Arab-Iranian divide is not coming of outsiders. Mormons ac- banned polygamy in 1890 to obtain
just national/ethnic. It is sectarian. count for 57 percent of Utah residents Utah’s statehood, but they continue to
The Arabs are overwhelmingly Sunni. yet some 91 percent of Utah state legis- perform temple ceremonies that “seal”
Iran is Shiite. The Arab states fear Shi- lators self-identify as Mormons. The one man to multiple women in the
ite Iran infiltrating the Sunni home- state that’s home to the Church of hereafter. My idea of heaven did not
land through (apart from Iraq) Hezbol- Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has involve a husband whose love could be
lah in Lebanon, and through Syria, run elected only two non-Mormon gover- shared with many wives.
by Assad’s Alawites, a heterodox off- nors in nearly 116 years and has sent Staying in the church meant I would
shoot of Shiism. just one non-Mormon to Congress in have my family, but I couldn’t pretend
Which is why the fate of the Assad the past five decades. to believe. And it was difficult to live a
regime is geopolitically crucial. It is, Some of this distrust of outsiders is fulfilling life without Mormonism. My
of course, highly significant for rea- understandable because the church parents shut me out of their home for
sons of democracy and human rights has been persecuted by religious and nearly five years because of religion,
as well. Syrian Baathism, while not as secular foes since its inception. Many and some former friends shunned me.
capricious and deranged as the Sad- mainstream Christians consider Mor- Many other dissident Mormons find
dam Hussein variant, runs a ruthless monism a cult — a fact thought to have themselves discouraged from voicing
police state that once killed 20,000 in given Romney trouble in South Caroli- doubts and ostracized if they do. Those
Hama, and has now killed more than .
na’s primary To combat anti-Mormon- whose spouses leave the church are
5,400 during the current uprising. ism, last year church leaders expanded sometimes encouraged to get divorced
Human rights — decency — is rea- a multimillion-dollar image campaign and remarry a faithful Latter-day
son enough to do everything we can to begun in 2010 that is nearly identical to Saint. Non-Mormons are not allowed to
bring down Assad. But strategic oppor- the “I Am A Scientologist” campaign attend family members’ weddings in
tunity compounds the urgency With its from a year earlier: On airwaves, You- Mormon temples. Many gay Mormons
archipelago of clients anchored by Tube, billboards and more, smiling, have been driven to suicide, deeply
Syria, Iran is today the greatest re- family-oriented people declare, “I’m a conflicted about whether acting on
gional threat — to Saudi Arabia and the Mormon.” It’s part of a series of ef- their sexuality is, as the church teach-
Gulf states terrified of Iranian nuclear forts to buy public affection. OP ART BY JOHN ROBERGE es, a sin.
hegemony; to traditional regimes men- Yes, Mormons love families. But the With public interest in Mormonism
aced by Iranian jihadist subversion; to family-values facade applies only if lead conscientious lives. stifles efforts to openly question church so high, I hope the scrutiny will help
Israel, which the Islamic republic has you stay in the fold. Former Mormons I was born into an multi-generation- pronouncements, labeling such behav- break down the church’s fundamental-
pledged to annihilate; to America and know the family estrangement and big- .
al Mormon pioneer family The mantle ior as satanic. ist trappings: secrecy about its financ-
the West, whom the mullahs have otry that often come with questioning of those ancestors who made the ulti- Critics of Mormonism include ge- es, anti-women doctrine and homopho-
vowed to drive from the region. or leaving the church. mate sacrifice while crossing Ameri- neticists, Egyptologists and even the bia, to start. Perhaps someday the
No surprise that the Arab League, The church I was raised in values ca’s plains to Utah weighed heavily on Smithsonian Institution, which church will not excommunicate, fire
many of whose members are no tender- unquestioning obedience over critical me as I grew up romanticizing the stopped Mormon apologists from and demote people who want honest,
hearted humanitarians, is pressing thinking. This caused trauma and cog- church’s worldwide missionary suc- claiming the institute viewed the Book church-wide dialogue about Mormon
hard for Assad’s departure. His fall nitive dissonance when I questioned cesses. of Mormon as a factual document. history and doctrine.
would deprive Iran of an intra-Arab .
church doctrine and official history In But I struggled after realizing that While studying at Brigham Young Some Mormons compare Joseph
staging area and sever its corridor to online forums and support groups, for- Mormonism’s claims about anthropol- University, I spiritually imploded after Smith, the church’s founder, to Martin
the Mediterranean. Syria would return mer and questioning Mormons gather ogy, history and other subjects contra- learning these things and other facts Luther, the Protestant reformer who
to the Sunni fold. Hezbollah, Tehran’s and offer comfort. Some of us are dict reason and science. While many outside official church curriculum. exposed Catholic power abuses and
agent in Lebanon, could be next, with- prominent, such as Steve Benson, the faiths’ irrational claims are obscured Disturbed, I met with a high-ranking doctrinal inconsistencies. Mormonism
ering on the vine without Syrian sup- Pulitzer Prize-winning political car- by centuries of myth and rubble, the Mormon leader who told me to quit needs a Luther of its own.
port and Iranian materiel. And Hamas toonist, or singer Tal Bachman. Most LDS church lacks the moderation and reading historical and scientific mate-
would revert to Egyptian patronage. of us are quiet dissidents who wish to scholarship of its older peers. It also rials because they were “worse than Carrie Sheffield is a writer in New York.
At the end of this causal chain, Iran,
shorn of key allies and already reeling
from economic sanctions over its nucle- COLLEEN M. KELLEY
ar program, would be thrown back on
its heels. The mullahs are already
shaky enough to be making near-sui-
cidal threats of blocking the Strait of
Nothing fringe about these benefits
Hormuz. The population they put down
in the 2009 Green Revolution is still s a longtime member of CBO admits these are “more uncer- find a balance between offering a like fund, the Thrift Savings Plan,
seething. The regime is particularly the Federal Salary Coun- tain than its estimates of wages.” fair and competitive wage, a secure may provide around $400 per month
reviled by the young. And its increas- cil, which studies and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said that retirement and a satisfying work en- if the average employee is able to
ing attempts to shore up Assad finan- makes recommendations the report shows “government bu- vironment for those who believe in contribute 5 percent of his or her
cially and militarily have only com- to the executive branch on reaucrats in Washington continue to public service. Especially for the salary for 30 years.
pounded anti-Iranian feeling in the re- federal pay, I take issue with some of enjoy significant advantages over most educated, highly skilled and While many private-sector enti-
gion. the methodology and conclusions in those whose tax dollars finance their highly compensated federal employ- ties have taken to eliminating or
It’s not just the Sunni Arabs lining this week’s Congressional Budget compensation.” This seems to be an ees, the importance of the mission, slashing health insurance and re-
up against Assad. Turkey, after a recent Office report comparing federal em- attempt to rally support for his ef- the challenge of the work and the tirement benefits, especially for low-
flirtation with a Syrian-Iranian-Turk- ployee compensation to that in the forts to slash pay for all federal em- commitment to public service pro- paid employees, our leaders should
ish entente, has turned firmly against private sector. ployees. vide nonmonetary incentives. not support a race to the bottom for
Assad, seeing an opportunity to extend The CBO concluded that the most But the employees that the report It is clear that the public and its working Americans. Rather, they
its influence, as in Ottoman days, as highly educated and highly paid fed- claims may be overcompensated are representatives in Congress do not should seek out ways to increase
protector/master of the Sunni Arabs. eral employees are underpaid by hardly those whom people would support compensating even the most economic and retirement security
The alignment of forces suggests a more than 20 percent compared with think of as “government bureau- educated and skilled employees at for those who may never be able to
unique opportunity for the West to help employees with similar “character- crats in Washington.” No, these “bu- the level they could attain in the pri- retire.
finish the job. istics” in the private sector. Those reaucrats” are among the lowest- vate sector. Nor would these employ- This report veers from the middle
How? First, a total boycott of Syria, with college degrees — which the paid federal employees, doing un- ees ever see the kinds of monetary path that allows the government to
beyond just oil and including a full bulk of the federal workforce has — glamorous but critical work around and non-monetary perks their coun- attract and retain the best civil ser-
arms embargo. Second, a flood of aid to are about on par with their private- the country. They include border-se- terparts in the private sector re- vice workforce while keeping both
the resistance (through Turkey, which sector counterparts; those with less curity personnel, customer service ceive, such as paid sabbaticals, 12 the top and bottom compensation
harbors both rebel militias and the po- than a college degree, the lowest- representatives and food safety weeks of paid maternity leave, bo- levels reasonable and fair. If Con-
litical opposition, or directly and clan- paid federal employees, are overpaid workers. And the main reason they nuses, stock options, on-site spas gress were to implement legislation
destinely into Syria). Third, a Security by about 20 percent, it found, and come out ahead of their private-sec- and more. based on the report’s findings, the
Council resolution calling for the re- have more generous benefits than do tor counterparts in the CBO report On the other hand, the report’s resulting bills would not call for
moval of the Assad regime. Russia, their private-sector counterparts. is because the federal government, conclusions would also suggest se- across-the-board pay freezes or ben-
Assad’s last major outside ally, should First, the CBO’s expertise is really as any responsible business should, verely cutting the compensation of efit cuts, as many have suggested.
be forced to either accede or incur the in crunching numbers and applying provides basic benefits such as paid the lowest-paid federal workers, with They would call for eliminating
wrath of the Arab states with a veto. the arcane rules of congressional sick l eave and health coverage. the focus on slashing basic benefits. health coverage and retirement ben-
Force the issue. Draw bright lines. budget scoring. In this report, it The logical policy implications of Here is why that would be wrong: efits for the lowest-paid federal
Make clear American solidarity with compared characteristics of the fed- the CBO conclusions would be to The federal government, as one of workers while increasing salaries
the Arab League against a hegemonic eral and private-sector workforces, provide significant raises to the the nation’s largest employers, must for the highest-paid employees to
Iran and its tottering Syrian client. In rather than comparing jobs done in highest-paid federal employees, set a standard of basic fairness. Con- more than $200,000 per year. Would
diplomacy, one often has to choose be- each sector. The latter is the ap- which would amount to $30,000 to trary to portrayals of “generous” Congress really pass such legisla-
tween human rights and strategic ad- proach of the Bureau of Labor Sta- $50,000 for annual salaries of $150,000 federal benefits, federal employees d tion?
vantage. This is a rare case where we tistics, which has consistently found to $200,000. The union I lead repre- o not receive paid dental or vision The writer is president of the Na-
can advance both — so long as we do a pay gap in favor of the private sec- sents some very highly educated and coverage or paid parental leave, nor tional Treasury Employees Union,
not compromise with Russia or relent tor . The latest BLS report shows skilled attorneys, physicians and do they get rich off their pensions. which represents 150,000 workers in
until Assad falls. that gap to be an average of 26 per- nuclear scientists in this pay range; The typical lifetime federal employ- 31 government agencies.
cent. we would support, but do not expect, ee will have an annuity from the de-
Charles Krauthammer’s email address is Many have focused on the report’s such increases. fined benefit of approximately $1,000 Colleen M. Kelley wrote this for The
letters@ charleskrauthammer.com. comparisons of benefits. But the The federal pay system aims to per month. The government’s 401(k)- Washington Post.