Sunday, June 30, 2013

On Vacation: No Blog Postings In July

Rest & More Rest

There will be no blog posting in July; I am taking a much-needed rest. It has been an eventful and difficult year, as many of you know. I plan to return on August 1 with many new articles. I wish everyone in Canada “A Happy Canada Day” tomorrow; and a “Happy Fourth of July,” or “Independence Day” a few days later for my American friends. To everyone else around the world, I hope and trust that you enjoy July, wherever you might be.

All the Best,
Perry J. Greenbaum

Too Much Chocolate Sauce

Human Indulgences

“Those that much covet are with gain so fond,
For what they have not, that which they possess

They scatter and unloose it from their bond,

And so, by hoping more, they have but less;

Or, gaining more, the profit of excess

Is but to surfeit, and such griefs sustain,
That they prove bankrupt in this poor-rich gain.” 


William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece



When a a power outage and a professional day at school coincided, I took my two young boys out for breakfast, since I couldn’t write or do any work at home. At the restaurant, I was soon reminded of how the idea of "more is better" might be hard-wired into our genetic code. My older son (aged nine) ordered French toast with chocolate sauce; and my youngest (aged three) ordered eggs, potatoes and toast. Well, actually I ordered it for him and he agreed with me. I should mention here that my two boys are thin and tall, much like their parents, and like a majority of children, love chocolate. It can be an indulgence.

As soon as my oldest boy received his order, he promptly poured the full container of chocolate sauce on the two thick pieces of French toast, so much so that I could see that the pieces of bread were saturated. I didn't say much as I enjoyed my eggs Florentine and my youngest his scrambled eggs and some of the strawberries and melons that came with my dish.

After about 15 minutes, I noticed that my oldest boy had left one of the two French toast on his plate, making half-hearted attempts to eat it.  To which I remarked, as any parent would: “I think that you put too much chocolate sauce on it. But you don't have to eat it. It’s OK. But you might remember this as a lesson for next time.” His remark was: “No, it's good, I like it this way. It’s just that I am full. Did you see the size of the French toast. They're huge.”

I nodded my head and smiled, and allowed my son to save face. But this little anecdote reminded me of a number of things about excesses, inside and outside the kitchen or dining room. In the area of eating, Prof George Jochnowitz wrote an essay, “Eat, Darling, Eat”on how parents have often used guilt as a mechanism to make children clean up their plates. It didn't happen often with me while I was growing up, but was fairly common among Jewish immigrant households, notably immigrants coming out of the Second World War. It’s an essay worth reading. 

Now, when I think of other excesses, there are many that come to mind, as excesses come in many shapes and sizes and in various forms. One is in the world of business, where the idea or fad that more is better has long been with us. As a journalist working for the trade and business press (between 1996 and 2007), I wrote many articles on corporate mergers and how they would result in “expected” cost savings through increased “synergies, efficiency and productivity”—a triad of meaningless words used in almost every press release that landed on my desk. 

Whether these cost savings ever materialized is hard to know, and if they did it was not through any efficiencies gained via mergers. But what employees always knew and dreaded was that mergers translated to a a reduced or trimmer workforce. In other words, most of the anticipated savings, passed on to shareholders through higher stock prices, would come about only through mass lay-offs and firings. About 20 per cent was a standard figure.

Wall Street would love what it saw in a “bigger is better” mania and reward the companies, so to speak, for their diligence and perhaps their indulgences. Stock prices would temporarily increase, the shareholders would become elated, including not surprisingly the top executives holding huge stock options. The rest of the story is so well known that it has become almost a business cliché: each year every chief executive sees his pay increase, and then walks away with millions after leaving his position.

It matters little how well his company fared post facto. All that mattered was that the stock prices went up, and costs went down. The excesses, well, that’s another matter. With increased excesses came increased cynicism from the public, not a good thing, but expected.

More is not always better, either for companies or for children. I thank my oldest son, chocolate on his face as we left the restaurant, for reminding me of this important lesson for life.

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A version of this post originally appeared at Perry J. Greenbaum (September 4, 2011).

Five Stories Of The Week: Ending June 29, 2013

News & Commentary



Here are five stories that shaped my world this week:

Sex In Italy “Bunga Bunga” Style: An article, by Colleen Barry, in AP and published in the National Post says that former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, 76, has been found guilty of paying to engage in sexual relations with an under-age girl, and has been sentenced to seven years in prison and barred from public office for life.
However, there are two more levels of appeal before the sentence would become final, a process that can take months. Berlusconi holds no official post in the current Italian government, but remains influential in the uneasy cross-party coalition that emerged after inconclusive February elections.

His lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, immediately announced an appeal and said the sentence was as expected as it was unjust. “This is beyond reality,” Ghedini told reporters outside the courthouse. The sentence was even stiffer than the six-year prison term and lifetime ban on public office that prosecutors had originally requested. “I’m calm because I’ve been saying for three years that this trial should never have taken place here,” Ghedini said.
The charges against the billionaire media mogul stem from the “bunga bunga” parties in 2010 at his mansion near Milan, where he wined and dined beautiful young women while he was premier. He says the dinner parties were elegant soirees; prosecutors say they were sex-fueled parties that women were paid to attend.
This case is about personal conduct, namely, that a man traded sex for cash with an under-age girl of 17. That he was a man of political influence and power has no bearing in the case. What this shows is that moral issues, notably those that revolve around sex, still have power and influence today. Whether this case really has any merit in a modern society is debatable.

The Three Forbiddens in China: An article in The Economist says that China’s ruling Communist Party is ensuring that dissent and liberal values do not disarm China’s unity.  This is all contained in a state briefing entitled “Document Number Nine,” which says more than the bureaucratic title suggests:
The strident tone of this document, which is also called “A briefing on the current situation in the ideological realm”, has caused anxiety among liberal intellectuals, and confusion about the agenda of China’s new leader, Xi Jinping. On the economic front, signs remain strong that he wants to speed up the pace of reform. Caixin, a Beijing-based news portal, said on June 24th that a blueprint for this was “finally taking shape” and hinted that it would be unveiled at a meeting of the Party’s central committee in the autumn. It said history would “remember well those who lead China forward on its path to reform”. On the political front, however, the signs are pointing in the opposite direction.
Chinese leaders are past masters at juggling reformist tendencies in economics with hardline political ones (Deng Xiaoping, the founder of China’s “reform and opening” policy, was an exemplar). But the speed with which Mr Xi has moved to establish his conservative ideological credentials, having at first struck a somewhat more liberal tone, has still been a surprise to some observers. The party faces no unusual threats from dissident groups or disaffected citizens. Mr Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, took over at a far more troubled time a decade ago, following millions of layoffs in the state sector. But he waited longer than Mr Xi before showing a tougher side (see this report by the Washington Post in 2003).
The message of Document Number Nine can be divined from official accounts of the secret briefings given to officials. Many of these use similar language, which it is safe to assume reflects the wording of the circular. In Yueyang city in the central province of Hunan, for example, officials at such a meeting reached a consensus that because the situation at home and abroad was “complicated and changeable”, struggles in the ideological realm had therefore become “complicated, fierce and acute” (see here, in Chinese). The officials identified several threats, including calls for “Western constitutional democracy” and universal values (as Analects reported here); promotion of “civil society”; support for “neo-liberalism” (an attempt, the officials said, to change China’s “basic economic system”); and endorsement of “Western news values” (an attempt, they said, to loosen the party’s control over the news media and publishing). Such calls, the officials agreed, were “extremely malicious”.
At another such meeting, officials were reminded to uphold the “three forbiddens” (here, in Chinese): no public expression of disagreement with the party line, no spreading of “political rumours” and no making of remarks that taint the image of the party or state. At yet another, officials were given warning of what was described as an attempt by “Western forces” to undermine China’s “political stability” by sowing confusion in the ideological realm. They were told to “resolutely resist any erroneous way of thinking”.
The document’s nervous tone is also conveyed by a campaign that has been gathering momentum in recent weeks to persuade citizens to display “three self-confidences”: confidence in the political system, in the party line and in party theory. The frequent repetition of these “self-confidences” in officials’ speeches (Hu Jintao first raised them in his final big address to the party, before stepping down in November) suggests that leaders worry about a widespread lack of conviction both among the public and within the party itself. At the end of May the People’s Daily, the party’s main mouthpiece, reminded readers that pursuit of the “Chinese dream”, a catchphrase of Mr Xi’s, had to be guided by Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong thought (here, in Chinese).
China’s leaders want all the economic benefits of market capitalism, be what they may, but also wants to remain as a state guided by the political and social principles of Marxist-Leninism, which is essentially about censorship and control. That this hybrid has worked for 20 years says something about the astuteness of China's leadership; and yet it says more about the control that the leadership has over its people.

An Islamic or Secular Turkey: An article, by Hillel Fradkin & Lewis Libby in CIJR, first published in Real Clear World says that the battle for Turkey is essentially between those who want to roll back the secularization of Turkey and those who want to progress it forward.

Fradkin and Libby write:
The protest in Istanbul's Gezi Park marks another round in a battle for Turkey's future. Among the silent stand those who seek a return to the moderate, secular path set by modern Turkey's founder, Kemal Ataturk. They face down not the tanks, but the bulldozers of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the narrowest sense, Erdogan plans to bulldoze the last remaining green square in Istanbul (another weighty metaphor) to rebuild an Ottoman barracks. In the larger sense, he hopes to bulldoze the modern legacy of Ataturk, amend Turkey's constitution to create a presidency more powerful than even Ataturk ever held and then restore the glory of Ottoman Turkey and the caliphate that once bound the Sunni Islamic world together.
Erdogan's neo-Ottoman aims are not the paranoid musings of the crowd, but self-proclaimed; he and his AK Party's leadership invoke them regularly. His words will be felt, he habitually claims, from Sarajevo to Damascus to North Africa, all former Ottoman lands. Since gaining power ten years ago, he has steadily carved away at Ataturk's secular policies, with acts such as restoring the headscarf for woman and restricting alcohol sales. But he has moved, as well, against broad, democratic rights: jailing journalists and impinging on free media, undercutting an independent judiciary and using suspect prosecutions -- often without even specifying charges -- to curb the secular military leadership and political opponents.
Here, too, Gezi Park is symbolic, for it was Erdogan who first used the power of the state to decree the demolition of the park, then violated a court order to cease, and, still frustrated, attacked protesters with great force. In the "March 31st Incident," part of the Countercoup of 1909, Ottoman troops from the barracks Erdogan so eagerly wishes to rebuild (to house a shopping mall) fought to reverse pro-constitutional reforms instituted by the famous Young Turks movement and to restore the Sultan's power, the Caliphate and Islamic law.
This protest is more than about green space and Gezi Park; it's about how Turkey will be ruled., whether as an Islamic state with all its severe rules and restrictions or a modern secular state with all of its rights and freedoms. Given Turkey's recent history, this might be the last gasp for Turkey’s Islamists, who see an opening for them to squeeze through. It’s unlikely to succeed in Turkey, however, a modern secular state where a good percentage of the population identifies more with Europe than with the mid-east.

Gay Marriage Gains Victory in U.S.: An article, by Adam Liptak,in the New York Times says that the U.S. Supreme Court  handed proponents of gay marriage a victory, setting aside, in a 5-4 ruling the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and not deciding a case in California, effectively allowing such uni-sexual marriages to be performed in this the nation's most-populous state.

It was not a complete victory, Liptak writes:
The rulings leave in place laws banning same-sex marriage around the nation, and the court declined to say whether there was a constitutional right to such unions. But in clearing the way for same-sex marriage in California, the nation’s most populous state, the court effectively increased to 13 the number of states that allow it. The decisions will only intensify the fast-moving debate over same-sex marriage, and the clash in the Supreme Court reflected one around the nation.The ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act will immediately extend many benefits to couples in the states where same-sex marriage is legal, and it will give the Obama administration the ability to broaden other benefits through executive actions.
The case concerning California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, was decided on technical grounds, with the majority saying that it was not properly before the court. Because officials in California had declined to appeal a trial court’s decision against them and because the proponents of Proposition 8 were not entitled to step into the state’s shoes to appeal the decision, the court said, it was powerless to issue a decision. That left in place a trial court victory for two same-sex couples who had sought to marry.
The decision on the federal law was decided by 5 to 4, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy writing the majority opinion. He was joined by the four members of the court’s liberal wing. “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
He said the law was motivated by a desire to harm gay and lesbian couples and their families, demeaning the “moral and sexual choices” of such couples and humiliating “tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples.” The constitutional basis for striking down the law was not entirely clear, as it had elements of federalism, equal protection and due process. Justice Kennedy said the law’s basic flaw was in its “deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
He added that the ruling applied only to marriages in states that allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.
Although the Court made a generally good ruling, it could have gone further, giving a clear constitutional guarantee to gay couples. Now, the  battles will continue on a state-by-state level, despite that their conservative’s position is weakened and out-of-step with most Americans. Even so, that will not deter the conservative and the traditionally religious, chiefly evangelical Christians, from trying to turn the clock back.

Russia Refuses To Hand Over Snowden: An article in the New York Times says that Edward Snowden, currently in Russia while deciding where to go, will not be extradited by Russian authorities, Russian president Vladimir P. Putin says:
In his first public comments on the case, Mr. Putin said that Mr. Snowden — the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked documents about American surveillance programs — had committed no crime on Russian soil and was “a free man” who could choose his own destination. “We can only extradite some foreign nationals to the countries with which we have the relevant international agreements on extradition,” he added. “With the United States, we have no such agreement.”
But while American officials remained angry at China for letting Mr. Snowden fly to Moscow, they and their Russian counterparts toned down the red-hot language that threatened a deeper rupture in relations. Mr. Putin said he saw little to gain in the conflict. “It’s like shearing a piglet,” he said. “There’s a lot of squealing and very little wool.” Some American officials interpreted the comment as a positive signal and speculated that Mr. Snowden would be sent to another country that could turn him over.
Yet the Russian president’s remarks during an official visit to Finland also underscored what may be the lasting damage the case has caused for American relations with both Moscow and Beijing. In noting that Mr. Snowden viewed himself as a “human rights activist” who “struggles for freedom of information,” Mr. Putin made clear that it would be harder for President Obama to claim the moral high ground when he presses foreign leaders to stop repressing dissenters and halt cyberattacks.
In the days since Mr. Snowden fled Hong Kong for Moscow, the Russians and the Chinese have seized both on his revelations about surveillance and the fact that the United States is seeking his arrest to make the case for a you-do-it-too argument. Igor Morozov, a Russian lawmaker, wrote that the case exposed an American “policy of double standards.” Xinhua, the state-owned Chinese news agency, editorialized that “the United States, which has long been trying to play innocent as a victim of cyberattacks, has turned out to be the biggest villain in our age.”
I don’t generally agree with the official positions of both China and Russia on such issues, but I do in this case in that the U.S. is not innocent of espionage activities. That the U.S. has lost any official moral position, any international good will, is undeniably true, despite what the top officials in the U.S. say or think; they are essentially clueless to the ill effects that such programs will have on future international relations. They can bluster and try to bully all they want, but it won’t work this time. The Obama Administration’s actions are not merely unethical or immoral, but far worse than that and have been revealed for what they truly are: Criminal.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Ignorant Leader

Ideas of the Mind

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.
Charles Darwin

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity
Martin Luther King, Jr

What is the greatest disability: a physical one or an intellectual one? It’s the latter but not in the way it is typically understood. Ignorance is the greatest disability for humanity, and couple that with a political pulpit and you have a standard mode of inflicting on others views and ideas that do damage. Progress is halted, and sometimes nations move in reverse, to the detriment of humanity.

Stupidity is not a crime, since not everyone has the gifts of the mind; but it disables society when individuals who hold power conscientiously cultivate both ignorance and stupidity. Leaders ought not be stupid, yet many are—wilfully and arrogantly so. Stupidity becomes a crime when it informs the thinking (or lack thereof) of politicians, who inflict their noxious, irrational, often divisive, ideas on others. It's often the case that behind every political leader with an irrational partisan mind there lies an individual full of hate and animus, whose purpose is to inflict his limited vision on others.

Too many politicians today are truly ignorant, untrained and unschooled in the principles of democracy, human rights, individual liberty; they are largely ruled by other passions and other interests, many of them monied and narrow. Listen to how many politicians speak, trying to explain their position on matters of importance to the electorate, often saying nothing, hiding behind a veil of meaningless words, and showing arrogance and contempt while doing so. Eloquence escapes them as much as genuine sharing and sincerity does.

In effect, we are witnessing the opposite from our nation’s democratic-elected leaders. Ad hominen attacks have today become the norm, doing nothing to promote debate, deliberation and and democracy.  It’s not a pretty picture for democracy. I am here referring to those “ruling” over ostensibly democratic states; other forms of government do not concern this argument. (Totalitarian & authoritarian leaders do not pretend to be democratic.)

And, yet, such are the leaders who get elected, time after time, which shows that a limited understanding of the world is the best way to convey your message to the electorate. Keep it simple; keep it positive; and most important say it with confidence and a smile. When I first wrote this article I made an exception for U.S. President Obama, but I have since changed my views in light of the NSA Scandal and other similar revelations about his administration’s mass-surveillance programs and the illegal over-riding of the U.S. Constitution (namely, the First and Fourth Amendments).

It also helps that most—but not all— of the mainstream media and some of the online media are themselves ready to keep the message simple and partisan. Complexity scares them, for obvious reasons. Watch a partisan political channel, and it becomes clear this is so. [Note to politicians: Much of the electorate is smarter and more informed than you or your handlers think.]

Truly, it takes effort to fight ignorance, the disease of every generation and people. It takes education, and the reading of philosophy, literature, history and political science—all within the possible reach of most educated persons. That is, if people can take the time and have the will to do so. I would add the following thought: If democracy is, to a large degree, rule by the people (politicians are only representatives), then the people have to become informed of the foundational principles of democracy and its application in modern times.

Too much of politics today is full of demagoguery, an appeal to emotions, the baser the better, it seems. If democracy is to ever become a robust institution, it requires less demagoguery and more rational, thoughtful arguments to encourage greater participation by the electorate—and not only during the election cycle. What this means is that individuals ought to progress beyond their fears, most of these being unfounded and  irrational.

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A version of this post was originally published at Perry J. Greenbaum (April 18, 2013)

Five Stories Of The Week: Ending June 22, 2013

News & Commentary



Here are five stories that shaped my world this week:

The North Korea File: An article, by Choe Sang-Hun, in The New York Times says that North Korea has proposed high-level talks with the United States.

Sang-Hun writes:
The North’s proposal indicated that it was shifting to dialogue after months of bellicose language, including threats to launch nuclear strikes at the United States and South Korea, that have raised tensions to the highest in years. North Korea had also proposed dialogue with South Korea this month, though their initial agreement to hold high-level dialogue in Seoul collapsed last week over a difference over the level of their chief delegates.
We “propose high-level talks between the North Korean and U.S. governments to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and establish regional peace and security,” a spokesman of the National Defense Commission, the North’s top governing agency, said in an “important statement” carried by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency. The spokesman said North Korea and the United States could meet “any time and at any place the United States wants.”
He said North Korea reaffirmed that “the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was an unchanged will and resolution of our military and the people.” To stress the credibility of that statement, the spokesman attributed it to the founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, and his son Kim Jong-il, who led North Korea until he died in 2011. He was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-un.
Of course, the North has made such announcements in the past, with little being accomplished. This time it will likely be different, with China acting more boldly in encouraging North Korea to act less belligerent and more conciliatory to the west, the U.S. in particular. The North is suffering economically with wide-spread famines, so it would be in this isolated nation's best interest to come to some reconciliation with the west and its souther neighbour.

The Iran File: An article, by Robert Tait, in The Telegraph says that election results where Hassan Rowhani was elected president is good news for a more moderate stance in Iran, he faces many problems that cannot be easily and quickly solved.

Tait writes:
As ecstatic nationwide street celebrations greeted his success, Mr Rowhani – a relative moderate in Iran's theocratic regime – said his presidency would herald a new era but sought to lower expectations amid the euphoria."The country's problems won't be solved overnight and this needs to happen gradually and with consultation with experts," he told the state news agency, IRNA.

Local media speculated on Sunday that Mr Rowhani might appoint Mohammad Hossein Adeli, a former Iranian ambassador to the UK, as governor of the central bank with the aim of repairing an economy battered by international sanctions and perceived mismanagement by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the outgoing president. Mr Adeli, 60, an economist and academic, was Iran's envoy to London for a year until being ousted in 2005 in a purge by Mr Ahmadinejad of established diplomats.

In a live television address, Mr Rowhani, a 64-year-old cleric, made clear that his presidency would signal a departure from Mr Ahmadinejad's confrontational style, which has been marked by inflammatory attacks on Israel and repeated denials of the Holocaust.
No, president-elect Rowhani has more pressing problems, including trying to roll back the many international sanctions that has affected daily life for Iranians. Rowhani is considered a pragmatic leader, looking for solutions rather than evading problems by provoking distractions. With that much in consideration, a more moderate voice in Iran is always welcome news.

I wish President Rowhani good luck in his new position, looking for good and positive changes in the years to come, including reconciliation with the west. This includes opening negotiations with the U.S. on the nuclear issue; the reasons why the U.S. is so keen on this approach are spelled out in an article in the New York Times.

The Turkey File: The situation is worsening in Turkey, as government authorities are clamping down with increasing force on protesters and dissenters. This action on the part of Prime Minister Erdogan, only proves the protesters right. But like all authoritarians, he is blind to the reality in front of him, and he has a ready script prepared.

In an article in Bloombeg, Selcan Hacaoglu writes:
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the main opposition party of inciting weeks of protests and vowed to strengthen police in “every way” to fight a “conspiracy” by traitors and foreign agitators. Earlier today, Turkish police raided homes in Istanbul and Ankara, rounding up 85 people suspected of violence against police. Overnight, they fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters in Ankara. The European Union, which has denounced the use of force by police since the unrest began May 31, canceled a planned visit.
In a speech to parliament, Erdogan alleged, without saying where he got the figure, that 76 percent of the protesters who occupied Istanbul’s Gezi Park had voted for the secular Republican People’s Party. He accused its leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, of acting like a “militant of a terrorist organization” and said other opposition lawmakers disseminated “lies on Twitter” to incite masses. “From now on, police will not turn a blind eye to any illegal activity,” said Erdogan, who has promised to probe the use of excessive force by police against protesters. “We will further strengthen our police in every way, so it can intervene in these kind of incidents more forcefully.” He did not elaborate.
The biggest street demonstrations against the decade-old Erdogan government erupted in frustration over what protesters say is his increasingly authoritarian conduct and attempts to impose Islamic ways on a country once defiantly secular. At least four people have died in clashes between demonstrators and police, and thousands have been injured.
This is all too predictable; it happens around the world in similar fashion, sometimes with greater quickness and ferocity, sometimes a little less. But the authorities, no matter if it is a democracy or an authoritarian or totalitarian stare— no matter whether it is theocratic or secular—dissent through protests are limited. It seems that two weeks is the norm.

The Syria File: Can the situation in Syria get worse? It might. The U.S. position to provide arms to the rebels is a bad one on the part of the Obama Administration. Syria is in the midst of sectarian violence, and no foreign nation ought to get involved militarily, since it is impossible to sort out the good guys from the bad.

And what is the end game—militarily and politically? Has not the United States learned its lessons from past military actions? In an article (“Syria Should Not be an American Problem”; June 13), in The Guardian Express, James Turnage writes:
The Vietnam War began by sending ‘advisors’ to the south. A minimal beginning led to a full scale U.S. involvement resulting in the first loss America experienced when it entered a war. Since that time, we made serious mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq. Syria should not be an American Problem. 
There has been no exception in the 21st century. We have failed at every attempt to invade or wage war on another country. The costs to the United States created a nearly terminal situation. Thousands of lives were lost, and trillions of dollars were spent without any way of reimbursing the American taxpayer. Multiple lies were told to the American people, and our country’s citizens remain divided. If you add into the equation the last war of the 20th century, the Vietnam debacle, we have proven that we’re not very good at intervening in the events occurring in other countries.
I, and most Americans, who are not members of the federal government, do not care what the results of the insurgency in Syria become. It is not our responsibility, and is of no concern to us. It would only cost the American taxpayer more money, and probably result in the loss of American life, and finally make the world less safe for Americans. The Syrian rebels, right or wrong, are Islamic extremists. Any aid from the United States will only result in increased enmity between the Arab world and the West.
Such is true; nothing more need be added other than a recent Gallup poll that says that 68% of Americans oppose military action. This shows that the people are smarter than the Administration, since they have more to lose and nothing to gain by any military action.

The Israel File: In an article in Haaretz, originally published in AP, an argument is put forward by Leon Wieseltier that Israel must now find a way to peace with its Palestinian neighbours, and unless it does so, Israel's existence as democratic sate is in question.

The article says:
Wieseltier, 60, the child of Holocaust survivors and a fluent Hebrew speaker, is a widely respected, if contentious, intellectual and philosopher. He has been the literary editor of The New Republic for three decades, where his essays contribute to national conversations on current affairs. He is also the winner of the 1998 National Jewish Book Award for "Kaddish," his meditation on the ancient Jewish prayer of mourning.
"Unless there is a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there will not be a Jewish state for very long," Wieseltier said in an interview at Tel Aviv University after accepting the $1 million Dan David Prize late Sunday for his contributions to ideas and contemporary philosophy. The international prize is awarded every year for contributions to humanity through science, art, public service, humanities and entrepreneurship.
Wieseltier's argument echoes that of Israel's political left and center, that time is working against Israel, and if it doesn't withdraw from the Palestinian territories, it will either become an undemocratic Jewish state, or a non-Jewish democratic state.
In the next few decades, the number of Palestinians is expected to exceed the number of Jews living in areas now under Israeli control. Those who agree with Wieseltier insist that if Israel maintains the status quo, it will end the country's democracy but maintain its Jewish character. Or it could grant Palestinians equal rights, threatening the country's Jewish majority.
[…]
"One of the most shameful aspects of the Netanyahu government has been to succeed in taking the Palestinian question off the table," said Wieseltier, identifiable by his tall frame and white, unruly mane of hair.
It’s undeniably true that the Netanyahu administration has no real interest in making peace with the Palestinians, believing with a certain faith that his policies can survive Israel. Such irrational thinking has the support of many in Israel, who for various reasons, including a fundamental faith in the biblical narrative of God’s chosen ones, hang on to an idea that has already divided the nation.

That Israel was founded as a secular state matters little to most Israelis, who are no better-informed about its history than many others living in the west. Ignorance is bliss.

& One More

The NSA-Snowden File: An article, by Peter Finn and Sari Horwitz, in the Washington Post says that the U.S. authorities have filed a number of charges against Edward Snowden, who revealed information on the American government's wide-ranging  surveillance operations, including snooping on its citizens and foreign nationals.

Finn and Horowitz write:
Snowden was charged with theft, “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person,” according to the complaint. The last two charges were brought under the 1917 Espionage Act.
The complaint, which initially was sealed, was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, a jurisdiction where Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, is headquartered and a district with a long track record of prosecuting cases with national security implications. After The Washington Post reported the charges, senior administration officials said late Friday that the Justice Department was barraged with calls from lawmakers and reporters and decided to unseal the criminal complaint.
[…]
The leaks have sparked national and international debates about the secret powers of the NSA to infringe on the privacy of Americans and foreigners. Officials from President Obama on down have said they welcome the opportunity to explain the importance of the programs and the safeguards they say are built into them. Skeptics, including some in Congress, have said the NSA has assumed the power to soak up data about Americans that was never intended under the law.
There was never any doubt that the Justice Department would seek to prosecute Snowden for one of the most significant national security leaks in the country’s history. The Obama administration has shown a particular propensity to go after leakers and has launched more investigations than any previous administration. This White House is responsible for bringing six of the nine total indictments ever brought under the 1917 Espionage Act. Snowden will be the seventh individual when he is formally indicted.
Old laws; old thinking. The Obama Administration is acting in a desperate and duplicitous way as a means to divert attention from a program that is as unconstitutional as it gets. This witch hunt against Snowden (and others like-minded) will fully expose (eventually)  the policies of a government that has become increasingly paranoid and so far-removed from the people it is supposed to serve and protect.

Instead of creating a climate of security, the power-mongers in Washington have created a climate of fear, justifying their illegal ways as necessary to fight world-wide terrorism. Where is the real proof that such methods are both necessary and effective?

Who can blame the American electorate for holding such individuals in contempt? They deserve nothing less. In the latest news, Edward Snowden, 30, has legally left Hong Kong on a flight to Moscow, an article in Reuters says. His final destination might be a number of nations, who would grant him asylum including Cuba, Venezuela or Iceland.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Love & War From A Generation Left Behind

Our Modern Society

“Where else? I belong to a lost generation and am comfortable 
only in the company of others who are lost and lonely.”
― Umberto Eco, essayist, literary theorist, & novelist


Ernest Hemingway: Ernest Hemingway with friends at a cafe, Pamplona, Spain. (L-R): Ernest Hemingway, Harold Loeb (wearing glasses), Lady Duff Twydsen (wearing hat), Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, Donald Ogden Stewart, Pat Guthrie. The lives and relationships of these individuals formed much of the material for ”The Sun Also Rises” which was published a year after this photo was taken.
Photo Credit: Ernest hemingway Collection; July 1925

After the Great War, World War I, a generation of men returned to their homes, many wounded, maimed, and sick. Even those without any noticeable outward infirmities suffered from a sense of  being déracineruprooted; these were a “lost generation”—men who were not trained in the basics or essentials of life while away at war; in other words, they suffered from a decided deficit, including a connection to the past traditional myths and glories. Such was the thinking then, as it is today.

The term was coined by Gertrude Stein, with broader social implications, after a garage owner, viewing a mechanic, a war veteran, who lacked the necessary skills to repair her car said they were part of “une génération perdue”; it was later used by Ernest Hemingway in his novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926), a fine novel of that period.

In this scene, the bull-fights take centre stage; the matador Belmonte at the end of his career as a bull-fighter:
This way he gave the sensation of coming tragedy. People went to the corrida to see Belmonte, to be given tragic sensations, and perhaps to see the death of Belmonte. Fifteen years ago they said if you wanted to see Belmonte you should go quickly, while he was still alive. Since then he has killed more than a thousand bulls. When he retired the legend grew up about how his bull-fighting had been, and when he came out of retirement the public was disappointed because no real man could work as close to the bulls as Belmonte was supposed to have done, not, of course, even Belmonte (214)
The symbolism is palpable: war, killing and destruction cover the scene above like a death canopy. Wars change people and their societies, and this war (i.e., the First World War) was no exception. It was a brutal and senseless war, but that does not explain everything. For many, the war ended the hope and spirit of modernism and left many persons, including writers, poets, composers and artists disillusioned and without hope in humanity. Who could blame them?; this was the first mechanized war, fought with airplanes, bombs, artillery, chemical weapons and machine guns. The death toll on all sides was astoundingly high, and the winner was no one, save misery. And misery became a friend of the lost, as is the case today.

The generation who went through the war were considered lost by those who weren't. Perhaps so, but a better, less tidy and more humane explanation was that they were abandoned by their nations who placed them in harm's way, into battle over virtues such as honor, duty and patriotism to nation and flag? One can and should questions such pre-modern ideas as “honor” and “duty,” particularly since they serve the unique needs of the state so well. These quaint ideas are antiquated. The generation of writers following the Great War lost their values of good and evil, their abstract ideas of morality and their connection to the past. Their writing and their art reflected such, these works becoming a critique on economic optimism, materialism and consumerism—so well encapsulated by such terms as the Roaring '20 or the Jazz Age. I guess that some profited from these terms.

So these lost (or abandoned) ones acted accordingly, in keeping with their experiences, sensibilities and melancholy. The commercialization of everything rubbed these lonely ones the wrong way; as it has been said, you can be lonely in a crowd, if it’s the wrong one. Malcolm Cowley in Exile’s Return writes in 1934 about this period in a way that makes the best use of his experience and skills of observation:
The late 1920s were an age of islands, real and metaphorical. They were an age when Americans by thousands and tens of thousands were scheming to take the next boat for the South Seas or the West Indies, or better still for Paris, from which they could scatter to Majorca, Corsica, Capri or the isles of Greece. Paris itself was a modern city that seemed islanded in the past, and there were island countries, like Mexico, where Americans could feel that they had escaped from everything that oppressed them in a business civilization. Or without leaving home they could build themselves private islands of art or philosophy; or else—and this was a frequent solution—they could create social islands in the shadow of the skyscrapers, groups of close friends among whom they could live as unconstrainedly as in a Polynesian valley, live without moral scruples or modern conveniences, live in the pure moment, live gaily on gin and love and two lamb chops broiled over a coal fire in the grate. That was part of the Greenwich Village idea, and soon it was being copied in Boston, San Francisco, everywhere.
The idea eventually failed, as it always does once reality and commercial interests overtake dreams. But while it lasts the individual feels a taste of freedom—real unconstrained freedom—that he will never feel again. And that explains much. But don't try explaining such concepts to the anti-Romantic types, who enjoy sharp corners, straight narrow paths and clear lines. As well as making money on misery, without a trace of guilt or shame; it makes for a nice bottom line.

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A version of this post was originally published at Perry J. Greenbaum (November p, 2012)

Five Stories Of The Week: Ending June 15, 2013

News & Commentary



Here are five stories that shaped my world this week:

No Protests In Russia: An article in The New York Times say that President Vladimir Putin is taking an even tougher stance on street protests; he’s not allowing it and prosecuting those who defy his will.
Mr. Belousov, 21 and the father of a 2-year-old son, had no previous criminal record, but he has been in jail for a year and could serve 12 more years if convicted on all counts. He is one of a dozen participants in the May 6, 2012, demonstration — representing a cross section of the middle-class Muscovites who turned decisively against Mr. Putin — whose trial opened Thursday in a Moscow court. Legal experts say they face stiff sentences and slim chances of acquittal.
What sets the case apart from a series of recent political prosecutions in Russia is that not one of the defendants was a high-profile opposition leader when arrested. Most are unknown to the public, and their prosecution seems intended as a sharp warning to other ordinary Russians, especially educated professionals, about taking part in street protests.
“When they arrest not the leaders, not the heads of the opposition but the ordinary people representing different social strata, of different ages and views, when these people are just being pulled out, this is, of course, intimidation,” Tamara Belousova, Mr. Belousov’s wife, said Wednesday in an interview at a cafe across the street from Red Square.
The case against Mr. Belousov and his co-defendants, along with a barrage of criminal cases against opposition leaders, has succeeded in suppressing the protest movement, as its initial enthusiasm has been overtaken by fear and exhaustion.
It seems that President Putin has learned well the lessons of the former Soviet Union, notably those of Stalin. But if he reads further on in the book, he will come to the part that he doesn’t like. The tenor of the times is so remarkedly and strikingly different than it was a decade ago: I think of Paul McCartney's concert at Moscow's Red Squrae in May 2003 and the open, hopeful feeling that was then present.

No Privacy In America: An article, by Daniel Ellsberg, in The Guardian says what many already know; the United States has all the infrastructure to become a police state.

Ellsberg writes:
In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material – and that includes the Pentagon Papers, for which I was responsible 40 years ago. Snowden's whistleblowing gives us the possibility to roll back what has amounted to an "executive coup" against the US constitution.Since 9/11, there has been, at first secretly but increasingly openly, a revocation of the bill of rights for which this country fought 200 years ago. In particular, the fourth and fifth amendments of the constitution, which safeguard citizens from unwarranted intrusion by the government into their private lives, have been virtually suspended.
The government claims it has a court warrant under Fisa – but that warrant is from a secret court, shielded from effective oversight, and with the broadest possible interpretation. This makes mockery of the rule of law, let alone of the bill of rights. As Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency analyst, put it: "It is a kangaroo court with a rubber stamp." 
For the president then to say that there is judicial oversight is a nonsense – as is the oversight function of the intelligence committees in Congress. The fact that their leaders were briefed on this and went along with it, without question, only shows how broken the system of accountability is in this country. As the founder James Madison wrote:
The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
When national security is invoked in the United States, that is what we now have. In effect, Congress has delegated its responsibilities and powers to the executive. The oversight structure has been shown to be a total sham: the congressional committees concerned have been totally co-opted. They are simply black holes of information that the public needs to know. The surveillance revealed by Snowden's disclosures exposes this executive coup: that this is done with Congress briefed, but without the ability to resist or even debate the measures openly, makes a mockery of the separation of powers. What has been created is the infrastructure of a police state.
Americans do not want to believe that their nation could soon become a police state; after all, it the U.S. who likes to lecture others on democracy and human rights. Well, it can stop the lecturing; no one is now listening. They are listening to Edward Snowdon, the courageous 29-year-old former CIA employee, who has stood up for individual freedom and the protection of the Constitution where Congress has not. Neither has the Executive Branch, which is far too totalitarian in thinking and action to understand such mundane things as privacy rights and press freedom.


Mr. Snowdon’s courageous revelation—I don’t like the word leak, which implies an illegal action, which is what the Obama Administration would like you to believe—will hopefully at least incite some deep and serious discussion on where America is heading. As for its future, it is more precarious today than it was during the Watergate Scandal 40 years ago.

No Cancer In Grapefruits: An article in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that nanoparticles derived from the juice of a grapefruit might one day deliver cancer therapies to humans that are less toxic than current chemo drugs derived from synthetic materials. The research is in its
early stages.

The NIH article says:
Nanoparticles are emerging as an efficient tool for drug delivery. Microscopic pouches made of synthetic lipids can serve as a carrier, or vector, to protect drug molecules within the body and deliver them to specific cells. However, these synthetic nanovectors pose obstacles including potential toxicity, environmental hazards and the cost of large-scale production. Recently, scientists have found that mammalian exosomes—tiny lipid capsules released from cells—can serve as natural nanoparticles. But making therapeutic nanovectors from mammalian cells poses various production and safety challenges.

A research team led by Dr. Huang-Ge Zhang at the University of Louisville hypothesized that exosome-like nanoparticles from inexpensive, edible plants might be used to make nanovectors to bypass these challenges. The scientists set out to isolate nanoparticles from the juice of grapefruits, grapes and tomatoes. Their work was funded in part by NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). The study appeared on May 21, 2013 inNature Communications.

The researchers found that grapefruit juice yielded the most lipid nanoparticles. They then prepared grapefruit-derived nanovectors (GNVs) and tested them in different cell types. GNVs were taken up by a variety of cells at body temperature. These nanovectors had no significant effect on cell growth or death rates. They proved to be more stable than a synthetic nanovector and were also taken up by cells more readily.

The scientists next tested the GNVs in mice. Three days after fluorescently labeled GNVs were injected into a tail vein or body cavity, they appeared primarily in the liver, lungs, kidneys and spleen. After intramuscular injections, GNVs were found predominantly in muscle. After intranasal administration, most were seen in the lung and brain
.
Anything that can reduce the toxicity of therapeutic drugs would be welcome new for cancer patients, who often suffer side effects from synthetically produced chemo drugs. That researchers are looking to natural products, that is, common fruits, as a possible solution to the toxicity problem shows that some of our advances in medicine might now come from nature. The article says, quoting Dr. Zhang::

These nanoparticles, which we’ve named grapefruit-derived nanovectors, are derived from an edible plant, and we believe they are less toxic for patients, result in less biohazardous waste for the environment, and are much cheaper to produce at large scale than nanoparticles made from synthetic materials. The GNVS are now in the early stages of clinical trials for colon cancer patients.

No Cannabis in Canada: An article in CBC News says that the Harper government has added more restrictions to the medical use of marijuana.

The article says;
After two years of study and discussion, the federal government has finalized new rules for medical marijuana and granted a reprieve to pharmacists who opposed the rules in their draft form. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq rolled out the regulations today for formal publication in the Canada Gazette on Wednesday.
Under the new regime, the government will no longer produce or distribute medical pot and medical marijuana users will no longer be allowed to grow the product at home.
Health Canada said since the medical marijuana program was introduced in 2001, it has expanded to 30,000 people from the original 500 authorized to use the product.
"This rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health, safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce marijuana in their homes," the department said in a news release.
"Under the new regulations, production will no longer take place in homes and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further enhance public safety."
Under the new regulations, the government will allow patients to buy prescribed amounts only from licensed growers who will be required to meet strict conditions.

In previous versions of the regulations, pharmacies were to distribute the product just like other medications, provoking concern from pharmacists, who expressed concerns about dispensing a product without sufficient research. They also cited security concerns. The final version removes the pharmacists from the loop, leaving patients to rely on mail order for their medical marijuana.
Of course, this solves nothing. Individuals now seeking relief from chronic pain and cancer patients from chemo-induced nausea will seek other sources for their drug of choice. This will keep the police busy arresting individuals for carrying small amounts of cannabis, thus focusing their resources on things that are less important than fighting real crimes. Bad governments make bad policies; this is one such case.

No Peace In Turkey: Protests continue in Turkey, says an article, by Tim Arango, Sebmem and Ceylan Yeginsu in The New York Times; the locus of protests are Istanbul’s Taksim Square, which has become a symbol of dissenters' desire for freedom.

Arango writes:
Taksim Square erupted in chaos on Tuesday night as the riot police hit protesters with tear gas and water cannons, sending thousands of people fleeing down side streets, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey struggled to contain a political crisis that has threatened the nation’s economy and paralyzed the government.
For nearly two weeks, the prime minister has remained largely defiant, demanding that protesters leave the square, placing armed police officers on standby to sweep the area and insisting that the demonstrations were nothing like the Arab Spring protests that ousted entrenched leaders. But as homemade firebombs and tear gas wafted in the city center it seemed that Mr. Erdogan and his supporters had miscalculated the opposition’s tenacity and conviction “Thugs! Thugs!” a protester shouted at the police as she was shrouded in a cloud of tear gas. “Let God bring the end of you!”
The demonstrations began over a plan to tear out the last green space in the center of the city, Gezi Park in Taksim Square, and to replace it with a mall designed like an Ottoman-era barracks. Mr. Erdogan, who once advised the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, to negotiate and compromise, sent out the police to clear the park. 
The tactic backfired, leading to large protests and expressions of frustration at Mr. Erdogan’s rising authoritarian streak. Environmentalists and conservationists were joined in the protest by radical leftists and street hooligans. Mr. Erdogan pulled back the police, but for days Taksim has been a sprawling hub of grievance against him and his Justice and Development Party. On Monday, he offered to talk on Wednesday — but then sent the police back to clear the square Tuesday.
And so yesterday (Saturday), now that the police have cleared Taksim Square of protesters, the government authorities are  probably pleased with themselves for showing such decisive action; yet, this action has resolved nothing. Even today, no resolution is in sight. Remember this: The protests have morphed from a protest against plans to destroy a park to that against authoritarian rule. It is now a protest, although it might now be silent, built by years of frustration and resentment, against a government that refuses to listen to the will of the people. That Prime Minister Erdogan does not get it, to use the parlance of everyday people, is symptomatic of all too many governments everywhere.

The situation in Turkey might be worse than it is in many western nations, but it is not alone in how governments today are either authoritarian or becoming more so.The protests might end, potentially by force on the government’s side, but the frustration and resentment will live on until real and genuine change is made.

& One More For Its Importance to Advances in Medicine

No Patents for Human Genes: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously 9-0 that human genes cannot be patented, an article, by Adam Littak, in the New York Times says.

Liptak writes:
Human genes may not be patented, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday. The decision is likely to reduce the cost of genetic testing for some health risks, and it may discourage investment in some forms of genetic research.

The case concerned patents held by Myriad Genetics, a Utah company, on genes that correlate with an increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. The patents were challenged by scientists and doctors who said their research and ability to help patients had been frustrated. After the ruling, at least three companies and two university labs said that they would begin offering genetic testing in the field of breast cancer.
“Myriad did not create anything,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court. “To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.”
The course of scientific research and medical testing in other fields will also be shaped by the court’s ruling, which drew a sharp distinction between DNA that appears in nature and synthetic DNA created in the laboratory. That distinction may alter the sort of research and development conducted by the businesses that invest in the expensive work of understanding genetic material.
This is a sensible and rational decision;  no one has the right to own, via patent, the genes of the human body that nature has endowed. To be sure, pharama and biotech companies can still patent synthetic genes and thus earn a profit on them.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Merits Of A Diplomatic Apology

International Relations 
apology (n): a written or spoken expression of one's regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another.
When someone says “I am sorry that you were offended” what is he really saying? Is he saying that his words should not have been taken in a bad way, but that you unfortunately did? Is he really defending his actions as morally right? In some cases, this is how an apology is offered between individuals, not sincere or contrite. It might have to do with another older meaning of the word. An apology in classical terms comes from the word apologia. (Gk: an apology, as in defense or justification of a belief, idea, etc.). It is a speech in defense of an idea or action, as was the case in such famous apologetics as Plato’s Apology of Socrates and Milton's Areopagitica.

Today, however, apology has a more emotional, if you may, visceral meaning and is closest to the dictionary denotation cited above, an expression of regret, remorse or sorrow for an action that wronged someone or a group of persons, a people, a nation, a race. Such is particularly the case when we come to define national apologies. So, what is the reason that apologies are given? Essentially, it's a form of communication, whether to skillfully defend an action or idea, or to express regret.

Apologies at the highest level can also offer therapeutic value to the nation or group that offers the apology and heal its internal wounds. Some consider such gestures symbolic and hollow, even meaningless. Others as a sign of weakness. Such are the words of cynics and skeptics. I disagree and believe that apologies form a foundational way for nations to amend for wrongs committed. They make things better, similar to how relations between individuals can become better by one making a simple apology to another.

Remember that apologies have been part of diplomatic strategies and rhetoric among nations and are as ancient as they are human. They are also desired, even demanded on the international stage. When for example, one nation deems another nation's action wrong, it requests (or demands) a formal apology accompanied by some form of financial restitution (or redress), the amount dependent on the severity of the loss—similar to a civil lawsuit but with greater political implications. 

Of course, placing a value on a human life might seem callous to some, but there is no other remedy under international law and precedent deems this as the best remedy to settle disputes. A recent incident is the diplomatic rift between Israel and Turkey over the Mavi Marmara incident (see here and here.)

The Silent Apology: During a state visit to Poland on December 7, 1970, coinciding with a commemoration to the Jewish victims of the Warsaw Ghetto, Willy Brandt, the chancellor of West Germany, joined in and spontaneously dropped to his knees before the monument of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Source:  FacingHistory
Notable National Apologies

We'll return to that case shortly, but first it's important to review some notable national apologies of some consequence and historical significance: 
1. Germany—The Shoah (“Holocaust”):  During a state visit to Poland in December 1970, coinciding with a commemoration to the Jewish victims of the Warsaw Ghetto, Willy Brandt, the chancellor of West Germany, joined in and spontaneously dropped to his knees. Brandt was silent, and later said in his autobiography, that upon “carrying the burden of the millions who were murdered, I did what people do when words fail them.” Germany has since paid out billions to Israel and to Jewish survivors.
2. United States— American Slavery and Jim Crow laws: After U.S. President Barack Obama was in office for six months, the American Congress issued a federal apology on July 29, 2009. In the legal document, it said the resolution could not be used as a legal basis for reparations. It said: “Nothing in this resolution authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.” A totally symbolic gesture, now forgotten, leading to no real and genuine resolution of past injustices; thus, the festering wound remains.
3. South Africa—Apartheid: F.W. de Klerk, the last South African leader of the apartheid era, appeared before the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission on August 21, 1996, to apologize for 46 years of oppression, saying the racist policy was “deeply mistaken.” The government paid out US$74 million—$300 million less than the sum recommended by the commission—to more than 19,000 victims. That is less than $4,000 per victim.
4. United States—Internment of Japanese-Americans. During the Second World War, between 1942 and 1945, more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were placed in internment camps. More than forty years later, President Ronald Reagan signed the official Civil Liberties Act of 1988 on August 10, 1988, which included a $1.25-billion education fund. Two years later, on October 9, 1990, the George H.W. Bush administration started paying out $20,000 to each of the surviving internment victims. (Here is an example of a presidential letter of apology that accompanied the cheques.)
                                                                                     
Canadian Apology: Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine (right, wearing headdress) watches as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologizes, on June 11, 2008, for more than a century of abuse and cultural loss involving Indian residential schools.
Photo Credit: Canadian Press/Tom Hanson
Source: FindingDulcinea
Notable Canadian Apologies

In Canada, my country of birth and residency, the federal government has offered apologies and compensation to: 
1.Japanese-Canadians:  In September 1988, the Government of Canada formally apologized in the House of Commons and offered compensation for wrongful incarceration, seizure of property and the disenfranchisement of 22,000 Japanese Canadians during the Second World War: As Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s said in the House of Commons, on September 22, 1988: “I know that I speak for Members on all sides of the House today in offering to Japanese Canadians the formal and sincere apology of this Parliament for those past injustices against them, against their families, and against their heritage, and our solemn commitment and undertaking to Canadians of every origin that such violations will never again in this country be countenanced or repeated.” Each of the 13,000 survivors of the camps were eligible for $21,000 compensation. Art Miki, of the National Association of Japanese Canadians, called the apology and $300 million compensation package “a settlement that heals.”

2. Aboriginals: On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on behalf of the Government of Canada, delivered a formal apology in the House of Commons to former students, their families, and communities for Canada’s role in the operation of the residential schools. From 1870 until the 1970s, more than 150,000 aboriginal children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to strip them of their native culture and assimilate them into Canadian society. In the televised remarks Prime Minister Harper said: “We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions, and that it created a void in many lives and communities and we apologize.” The federal government also agreed to set aside a fund of $1.9 billion for about 80,000 survivors.
These are attempts to make things right and ought to be accepted as such. In other cases, little has been done to heal the wounds. There have been other genocides, including in China, the USSR, Cambodia and Sudan. Too many in the twentieth century alone.

The Young Turks

With that in mind, let’s return to Turkey’s diplomatic dispute with Israel, now ostensibly settled with Israel's apology (March 22, 2013) almost three years after the May 2010 flotilla incident; and yet Turkey now faces far greater internal problems with civilian unrest. I am not sure if Israel had to issue a formal apology to Turkey, but now that it has done so, it might be a good time to progress forward. It’s noteworthy that Turkey's demand of an apology from Israel fails to take a sober account of its own record of wrongdoing.

In 1915 Turkey massacred and displaced upwards of two million Armenians, the majority dying through forced death marches and starvation, in what some would call the twentieth century's first genocide. Tribal nationalism—through a ruling group called Young Turks— was at the heart of it. As the Genocide Education Project puts it:
The adult and teenage males were separated from the deportation caravans and killed under the direction of Young Turk functionaries. Women and children were driven for months over mountains and desert, often raped, tortured, and mutilated. Deprived of food and water and often stripped of clothing, they fell by the hundreds of thousands along the routes to the desert. Ultimately, more than half the Armenian population, 1,500,000 people were annihilated.
 As Wikipedia reports:
In 2005, the International Association of Genocide Scholars affirmed[5] that scholarly evidence revealed the "Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire began a systematic genocide of its Armenian citizens – an unarmed Christian minority population. More than a million Armenians were exterminated through direct killing, starvation, torture, and forced death marches." 
There is also the United Nations Human Rights Council report here. And here is a letter that the IAGS sent to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (June 13, 2005). The evidence is unassailable, and one can be blind to its conclusions and findings only if one lacks an operating moral conscience and cares little about humanity. Many people, and not only Armenians, say that Turkey ought to make a formal apology and monetary restitution to the Armenian people.  That would be a step in the right direction. That would take courage, no doubt. That would take a statesman.

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A version of this post was originally published at Perry J. Greenbaum (September 16, 2011).