Sunday, January 31, 2010

Family Portrait


A friend of mine, Ozgur, at another blog, has some of the best photographs of Istanbul you can find online. Please take time to check out his site at: 

I made this bit of artwork using one of his photos of his family.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Footbridge Mishap

In Turkey I have seen this sort of thing too often. I think it has something to do with an attitude- which you can see practically anywhere nowadays- that rules apply to OTHER people. Or that rules and regulations are a unnecessary and just make life too complicated.
This way of thinking is changing. The government realized it had to spend less time drafting new laws and more time explaining why the laws and regulations were important to obey. It used to be much worse.
Another factor- which is quite common around the world- is that accidents- all accidents and disasters, man-made or natural - are merely an expression of God's will. Unfortunately with this perspective, an unbiased, thoughtful investigation into the causes and prevention are all but impossible. Most man-made disasters are a result of more than one factor and eliminating only one of them might have prevented the accident or lessened the effects. (But I don't know the specifics in this case.) Add improper training (or none at all), a lack of qualifications in hiring and, when necessary, a no proper way of monitoring performance.
I think what I find more disappointing and dangerous is the arrogance shown in the clip above of the news-readers (that's really all they are) as if incidents like this do not happen in the USA.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Waters of Izmir

From Hurriyet Daily News,

glass-of-water1İZMİR - International scientists visiting İzmir hailed the city’s battle for cleaner water, comparing it to other countries’ attempts to reduce arsenic levels. Scientists gather in İzmir for the International Congress of Safe Water Production.

İzmir’s successful battle to purify its waters has been praised by international scientists. Visiting the western city for the International Congress of Safe Water Production, international scientists cited examples of cities that had high amounts of arsenic in their waters and hailed İzmir as undertaking one of the most prolific efforts to fight it. First discovered in tests conducted in the summer of 2007, arsenic levels in İzmir’s water were declared to be dangerous. Metropolitan Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu said after measures had been taken the arsenic level had now been reduced to standard levels.

The arsenic level, which should be 10 micrograms per liter of was found to be 59 micrograms per liter in the Goksu water reservoir and 32 micrograms per liter in the Sarikiz water reservoir. Accordingly, Governor Kirac issued a notice banning its consumption. The Hurriyet article goes on,

"The numbers in İzmir may seem high, but in fact they are not, compared to our country," said Dr. Marta Litter of Argentina’s General San Martin University. "In Argentina, the arsenic level can be as high as 1,000 micrograms per water_health_wellness_expertliter, although it differs among seasons."

"Since 1990, there has been a serious arsenic problem in Bangladesh," said Bhattacharya. "There, the arsenic levels are almost 10 to 15 times higher than in İzmir, as high as 900 micrograms per liter. People are still not using the filtration system and drink arsenic-filled water."

Paul Sylvester from the U.S.-based Solmetex said the problem could also be seen in the United States. "In some parts of the United States, especially in the Northeast and the Southeast, there are 400 to 500 micrograms of arsenic per liter, which is way higher than İzmir’s levels," said Sylvester. "Some states were given five years to move their levels to within EU standards but it can be very expensive."

What are the dangers of arsenic?

The World Health Organization includes among the risks posed by excess long-term exposure to arsenic (arsenicosis): “skin cancer, cancers of the bladder, kidney and lung, diseases of the blood vessels of the legs and feet, and possibly also diabetes, high blood pressure and reproductive disorders.

It is believed that recurring droughts in the Izmir left reservoirs low and amounts of naturally-occurring arsenic had been allowed to build up to unacceptable levels.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Human-Faced Lamb Story

When it comes to sterling works of journalism, we all know exactly where to turn. Fox News. But when it comes to still born lambs with human faces with just teensy-weensy bit of bestiality thrown in, where would you go? You got it, Fox News. The headline, itself, is a work of tabloid art, promising much titillation in the name of science.

Human-Faced Lamb Result Of Unnatural Act?
I mean, seriously how could enquiring minds not want to know more? The article reports that last week that in a village outside of Izmir, Veterinarian Erhan Elibol, 29, delivered by Cesarean a lamb with a human-like face.

“I’ve seen mutations with cows and sheep before. I’ve seen a one-eyed calf, a two-headed calf, a five-legged calf. But when I saw this youngster I could not believe my eyes. His mother could not deliver him so I had to help the animal,” the 29-year-old veterinary said.

The lamb’s head had human features on – the eyes, the nose and the mouth – only the ears were those of a sheep. Veterinarians said that the rare mutation most likely occurred as a result of improper nutrition since the fodder for the lamb’s mother was abundant with vitamin A, reports.

But you ask, where are the naughty bits promised in the headline? The article continues with a similar incident in Africa:

A goat from Zimbabwe gave birth to a similar youngster in September 2009. The mutant baby born with a human-like head stayed alive for several hours until the frightened village residents killed him.

The governor of the province where the ugly goat was born said that the little goat was the fruit of unnatural relationship between the female goat and a man.

"This incident is very shocking. It is my first time to see such an evil thing. It is really embarrassing," he reportedly said. "The head belongs to a man while the body is that of a goat. This is evident that an adult human being was responsible. Evil powers caused this person to lose self control. We often hear cases of human beings who commit bestiality but this is the first time for such an act to produce a product with human features," he added.

The mutant creature was hairless. Local residents said that even dogs were afraid to approach the bizarre animal. The locals burnt the body of the little goat, and biologists had no chance to study the rare mutation.

So the alleged "messing with the sheep aspect" never allegedly even happened here. That was a goat. An African goat. Not a Turkish sheep. Marvelous, it slanders a village, a governor, a nation and the virtue of all Turkish sheep.

Never mind, Nomadic View sent our investigative team to the village in order to get exclusive photos of the lamb. Lawyers have insisted that I warn that some readers may find the pic below disturbing.


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A Quiet Moment In A Turkish Plaza

Quiet moment in a Turkish plaza

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I hear the noise of many waters


Once upon a time, if you had lived for any duration  in Turkey, at least once, you'd have encountered the following scenario. I am not sure how often this happens nowadays. Nobody likes to discuss it and humiliate themselves- like I do.

Suddenly in the middle of the night, awakened from your dreams of laying on an Aegean beach, you hear frantic Fluffy mewing for a lifesaver. And you step out of bed and into... a puddle. A cold black pool of water. Papers floating lazily around the room like square clouds. Bedroom slippers bob like unmanned dinghies. And this deluge extends down the hall and into the kitchen or bathroom. The last hours of Atlantis! Visions of the Titanic! How did this disaster happen?

You run to the kitchen and find your answer. You have left the faucet wide open, like a complete imbecile. This calls into serious doubt your standing as a reasonable responsible adult, capable of living in a world of dangerous everyday risks and hazards. You need your momma.

You spend the next two, three or four hours with cold wet towels and a mop and bucket, broken-heartedly assessing all the losses. The water-soaked clothes. Perfectly good shoes you bought last year in New York. The precious books, now water-soaked, bloated and bulging, look like second-hand concertinas. The rug you bought in Cappadocia. (And then- thank the lord- the extension cord is not in the water. If it had, you would be doing quite a final jig.)

The beautiful hardwood floor? How proud your were. However, you can't worry about it. Your brain is saturated with grief and anyway, it will take a week to learn if the water has or has not destroyed the Parke. A small fortune to replace, you whisper.

The doorbell rings. It is your neighbor downstairs. He tells you that YOUR water is dripping into HIS apartment. Sympathetic looks and self-pitying tears will hardly placate his anger. He storms away, clicking his tongue, muttering vague demands of compensation. Another neighbor steps out into the hall, "N'oldu?" she asks, trying to peer into your devastated wetlands.

Now... stop. Before you beat yourself up too badly, you might keep in mind that almost every expat I've met has done this very stupid thing. You turned on the faucet, found no water and walked away with the faucet still wide open.

Most people coming from other yabanci lands, when they turn on the faucet, know that water will come gushing out. When they hit a switch, the lights will come on. It is a fact of life, something you just take for granted.

It always comes as a mighty rude shock when all you get is a long dying gasp of an empty water pipe. (Or a hollow clicking of the switch.) Maybe they are doing work on the street below. Maybe you, naughty you, forgot to pay your water/electric bill.

Your tired mind leaps off to all your complaints about being far from home and exasperated, you go into another room, to get to bottom of this. Maybe it is late and you decide you will have to investigate the matter the following morning. Too tired to think about it now. Or maybe you are late for work and you just don't have the time to solve this water shortage problem. In any case, you walked away, mindlessly leaving the faucet open.

Oh well. Rest assure you are not the first traveler to have flooded his/her own apartment. It is not completely your fault. You, unlike the majority of people in this world,  just happen to have been born in a land and a time of dependable supply.

Dough Tip

FotoSketcher - the_world.1124809980.img_0126 For all the expats living in Turkey who like to cook but don't really want to fuss too much, here is a neat trick I picked up.

The other day, I went to the pide place down the street where I live- pide (pee-DAY) is like a Turkish pizza joint- and asked the owner "hamur alabilir miyim?" which in English means "Can I purchase some dough?" The owner studied me with his moustache twitching and said dimly, "Pismemis mi?" Uncooked?

I tried to hide my smart-ass smile.  After all, can dough be cooked and still be dough? Wouldn't it be bread then?

Eventually after I passed through that awkward stage, I bought three portions. I suppose each portion was based on the usual size of pide. I paid for it with the loose change I had in my pocket. Anyway, since the dough is unflavored, it is really quite useful if you don't wish to bother with making your own dough and flour in your hair. And you can also learn whether they deliver!

For fantastic rolls, I just squeeze out to ping-pong size balls of dough and put them in a muffin pan, set them out in a dark, warm place for about 30 minutes and then pop them into the oven. Three portions made about 10 or 12 good-sized rolls too. Of course you have to eat them as soon as possible because without all the preservatives and whatnot, they don't stay very fresh for long.

You can buy bread cheaper I guess but having ready-made dough is more useful for other things, like homemade pizzas or, better yet,  calazone (shown in picture).  If you have all the ingredients chopped, grated and at hand, you can whip up some fairly impressive things in about a half hour.

I don't see any reason why you couldn't use the same dough for pies as well, although I haven't tried it yet. Someday I will surprise you with pictures of my apple-apricot and cranberry pie.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Want It.. Now

This looks like a lot of fun.  I can see live home entertainment at parties, guests taking turns. I wonder if you can record the music as well. Be a shame to create your masterpiece to be heard only once.

Update: According to the FAQ:

Can I record with the Beamz?

Absolutely. The Beamz is designed for novices and experienced musicians. You can record your original songs right into the computer. You can save the music as a wave file (*.wav) or as a Windows Media file (*.wma) to share with family and friends.

Here is a LINK  for further spec information.

For ordering this product click HERE.

Seagull Irony


Meet the Neighbors

I have rarely had much luck with my neighbors in Turkey. That Turkish people are usually so hospitable to foreigners makes it that much more disappointing. Maybe because I wasn't a tourist anymore. I was not going to be moving on. Also, back then I was a single male, and therefore looked at by the families with a certain amount of suspicion.

If you have ever read, "The World According to Garp" you might recall the term, "a sexual suspect." The idea is that if you don't fit into the socially culturally acceptable pattern of life, then people who have done this duty- marriage, career and oodles of babikins- will look at you with a kind of skepticism. It reinforces conformity and is very much alive in Turkey. We do it because we have always done it this way. Why are you NOT doing it?

(Before Turkish readers get themselves into a froth about this remark, I can assure you that Turkey hold no monopoly on this attitude. I grew up in the Midwest, for pity's sake. And lived in Oklahoma and if you were not married at 18, not a father at 18 and a half and not divorced at 20 with a part-time job just to pay alimony and child support, then, brother, something was wrong with you.)

My general rule is: Treat all neighbors with smiles and greetings in the elevator or in the parking lot but be wary. It is sad to think that every small act of kindness has to be examined from all obsessive angles but I have so often felt this "small end of the wedge." A slice of cake in the doorway suddenly becomes a in-depth look at your love life. A bayram greeting can transform into a conversation about how much you earn. A warm hello at the entrance of the apartment building can become a request for English lessons to a drowsy 10 year old.

The last building I lived in was probably one of the worst examples. It was absolutely unbelievable but readers, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, believe me,. everyone in the building seemed a bit on the other side of sane. To them, all the things they did were perfectly normal.

In front of my living room window, there was a lovely view of a plum tree. One spring day, I see a child climbing the tree to pluck off all the green plums. For some reason, Turks love green- immature- plums, despite being sour enough to lock your jaw. The poor tree was still quite young and the branches were cracking as he climbed further and further out. I shooed the cluster of children away. I asked them if they thought they were monkeys, as a matter of fact. A few days later, I was gob smacked to see a middle-aged woman, headscarf and overcoat, climbing the tree for the remaining plums. Her friend was goading her on.

As much as grumble here, I really really do enjoy having fun and trust me when I say I have done a lot of silly (and dangerous) things in the name of a good time. But seriously, how much do these unripened plums cost in the market? Is it really worth breaking your neck for? This example took place outside the building so it might not actually qualify in the neighbor category.

One thing I noticed that tended to disgust and stun me was how often my neighbors would quicken their pace into the building in order to get the elevator. Alone. It seems they didn't like to share it. You could even shout to ask them to hold it and you would arrive with your shopping bags, just as the door closed shut on a pair of nervous eyes. And often I would be coming in as they were going out and it would never occur to them to hold the door open. I know what you must be thinking, is that so important?

I would say, yes and no. No. I won't cry about it. My heart wasn't broken. No, it wasn't a strain for me to open the door for myself. And no, there was no mandate or obligation for them. They were perfectly within their rights to walk right past, without giving the least amount of consideration for me. However, these little things are the social lubrication for a society. Giving up your seat on a bus to an elderly person. Allowing somebody to go before you at the check-out aisle when you have a lot and they have one or two items. and the best part is, it doesn't cost anything to do these things.

Some friends of mine moved to Izmir from Istanbul and my first advice was: beware of your neighbors. About a week later, after they have settled in, she told me, "Well, we already had a problem with one of the neighbors. On the day we were moving in!" I said, "Let me guess. He told you that you couldn't use the elevator to move any of your things." She was taken aback a bit but I couldn't count how many times, the self-elected elevator protector has made this announcement. I understand it and I obeyed the dictate but, when you first arrive, it is hardly the most attractive display of hospitality and neighborliness In short, Welcome Wagon, it ain't.

In my last apartment, I had a running battle with the people upstairs. It all came from their side because I never return fire. The father was a booming retired army commander type. An especially dreaded type too, because for the last 30 years of their lives, they have been allowed to bully poor recruits and have had underlings fawning over them and everything in their regimented lives has been arranged, inspected and perfected. Now, in retirement, they learn that bluster and bullying doesn't always work and life isn't perfect. The wife was also directly out of central casting, deceptively mousy. Frizzy-haired, bony, tired looking.

The son was a huge monster with a stupid look on his face. For the first year I was there, I listened to him burn through his hobby of playing drums- lucky me- and later watched him, tootle off to start his career in high finance with suit and tie.

After about a year or more, they suddenly developed this fixation about my two cats. She complained about the smell. Admittedly I could have been cleaner, I was working at the time and, short of putting diapers on them, there wasn't much I could do when I wasn't there. As it was, I spent a lot of time, worrying about it, hosing down the balcony (where their litter box was) and using bleach and room deodorizers until my head spun. I closed off all the shutters but for one- it was like living in a cave.

No offense to Turks but I was rather surprised that anybody here would be so sensitive to foul odors. I remember Izmir bay in 1995. Perhaps they should have worked in customs at the airport if their noses were that finely tuned.

The wife was the note-giving type. I find this lack of spine particularly irritating, especially when she would leave it on my door for all the other people in the building to read. Threatening notes on the door with promises to call the authorities ( The Feline Excretion Division at the police department?) This campaign also included loud hour-long corridor conferences with the other neighbors in the building. Talk about humiliation. Having watched many cowboy films, I was aware that this was exactly how lynching parties are formed.

My landlady called and informed me that they had found her telephone number and abused her as well. Thankfully, she was a bit astounded by their attitude as well and told them, "I don't even know you." She came for a visit- store bought cookies and tea- and found nothing extraordinary in the scent category.

Although she was, herself, not fond of cats, (she flinched when one walked by) she had no problem with the pets or with any imaginary smells. However, she did mention one thing they said which was enlightening. They'd asked her when my lease was up and when she planned to rent the apartment.

I found that strange. Subsequently, I learned that the neighbor's son was engaged and they were trying to get me out so he could move in. Honestly. And that son must REALLY be more of a fool than he looked.

Finally, one afternoon, I am sitting in front of my PC and my cats suddenly tore through the apartment like they had just seen "The Exorcist for Cats." I looked out to my balcony and I see clods of dirt. and then I hear another. hitting the balcony shutter. That's correct. The crazy loon was throwing dirt onto my balcony, although I cannot exactly tell you why. I called up to her and asked what the blankety-blank she thought she was doing? She denied doing anything and started in on my cats again. It was all so surreal.

On the day that both my cats became ill at the same time-cat puking, by the way, is like the crescendo of Bolero- I decided that enough was enough. I couldn't be sure she wouldn't poison them and they are stupid enough to trust any human- even madwomen- with a bit of steak. Paranoid? It happens all the time.

As a postscript, after I moved away- within a week- I found out that the pushy brow-beating father had died of lung cancer. Was I over-wrought with grief? Not much. Perhaps this could explain their belligerent and un-Turkish behavior but I am not sure. Some kind of drama that I was forced to play a cameo role in. Maybe that's it. Maybe not. In any event, as the victim of persecution by obnoxious neighbors I should not be expected to show too much genuine sympathy.

Late Summer Evening in Turkey

Original photography by Jan Besselink

Monday, January 25, 2010

John O'Hara on America


America may be unique in being a country which has leapt from barbarism to decadence without touching civilization.

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Where There Isn't Smoke


Turkey says not to backtrack on smoking ban

Turkey's health minister said Wednesday government had no plans to soften country's smoking ban.

In July 2009, Turkey launched a new phase of smoking ban, extending the prohibition to all indoor areas including cafes, bars and restaurants. 
At his meeting with World Health Organization (WHO) official Armando Peruga, Recep Akdag was asked whether or not government planned to retreat from the ban. 

Akdag said, "Turkish people are happy with this ban. There will be no amendments to the law as long as people stand by the Health Ministry." Restaurant owners have been complaining about the ban and they had demands from the government to soften it.  However, WHO official Peruga said that the number of smokers declined after public smoking ban and that restaurants increased their profits by 5 percent since the ban, despite economic crisis. 

Peruga, the WHO Tobacco-Free Initiative's Acting Coordinator for National Capacity Building, said Turkey was a model country for tobacco control, adding that he saw media reports claiming that Spanish model was the best. On the contrary, he said, Spanish authorities had intention to copy Turkey's implementations. Spanish government plans to extend smoking ban to bars and enclosed public spaces, a move which will bring the country in line with other Western European countries, and end its reputation as one of the last smokers' paradise in the region.

I got lucky on this one. I decided to quit smoking about a year before all the new regulations came into effect. Turks have a passion for bending rules or the police always had a tendency to look the other way so I was rather doubtful about the success of the no smoking laws in Turkey. I was especially "disenchanted" by the Health ministry's encouragement of citizens to report violators. Basically to become narcs, as anybody in my high school would have said. That kind of thing, in my opinion, smacks of the Gestapo storm-trooper tactics. All in all, it has, however, been fairly- surprisingly- effective.

While I was in New York, I watched the real-life application of no-smoking laws. The atmosphere in the bar was, admittedly fresher, but I always felt a brief pang of pity for the small cluster of smokers, huddled against the wind and rain outside the door. It never lasted very long, though. I did kind of wonder what they had to talk about. The weather? Anti-smoking laws?

To all the smokers out there, looking for sympathy, you can, at least, take comfort in the fact that summers are long and so far, at least, the smoking ban applies to indoor establishments.

One time, I was in an outdoor cafe in Cesme, and I was smoking as a few of us waited for the bus to take us back to Izmir. There was an American woman with her Turkish boyfriend and suddenly, she began to look around anxiously. For some reason, I thought she needed to find the restroom. I asked her if she needed any help- I mean, she appeared quite anxious and flustered. She turns and says, "No. It's your cigarette!"  My cigarette smoke? I was about 8 feet away.. in the open.. and menthol too. Thank God, I didn't fart.. I might well have killed the poor woman. I really did wonder how such a  tight-assed person survived in Turkey on a day to day basis. This level of intolerance is not something the government should encourage I think.

Nowadays, my only objection to the Turkish no-smoking laws is the silly blurring of smoking in films on television. Worse, I have seen them use crazy smiley faces or something more distracting than blurs. Is it really necessary?


Beyond Reason

The passenger of the Turkish SunExpress plane which made an emergency landing in Greece because of a bomb threat, was released after being questioned by police at the Adnan Menderes Airport in the western province of Izmir.
The plane bound from German city of Stuttgart to Izmir with 62 passengers and 6 crew members on board, made an emergency landing at Thessaloniki after a crew member found a threat written on mirror in toilet with a marker pen reading, "bomb. We are going to die today".
The passenger was detained after police found a market pen with the same color of the threat note.
He denied any wrongdoing and said that he always carried a market pen in his bag during his interrogation.

Why would anybody do something like this?

Roosevelt Takes on the Supreme Court

A recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States appears to allow unprecedented interference by private corporations into the political process. The court struck down as unconstitutional a key part of the bipartisan campaign reform which prohibited corporations from using its vast funds to criticize a candidate for federal office within thirty days of a primary election or sixty days of a general election.

It was argued that, since all news outlets are now corporations and the Constitution forbids the restriction of a free press in the first Amendment, this feature of the reform could be used to silence free speech. Not surprisingly, "fair and balanced" Fox News saw this decision as a victory for unrestricted free speech, one which the founding fathers would have applauded.
Unfortunately, the funds that corporations have at their disposal, especially when one or more corporations gather behind particular candidates can easily outweigh any pooled resources by individuals. By focusing on the incidental and potential dangers to freedom of speech- of groups, unions and corporations-instead of weighing the necessity for campaign reform to prohibit the corrupting influence of corporations, the Supreme Court has created a threat to democracy as a whole.
Ruth Marcus writing for The Washington Post- (also a news corporation, by the way) opines," Under federal election law before the Supreme Court demolished it, corporations and labor unions were free to say whatever they wanted about political candidates whenever they wanted to say it. They simply were not permitted to use unlimited general treasury funds to do so. Instead, they were required to use money raised by their political action committees from employees and members. This is hardly banning speech."

Battle Between the Branches

This event would not be the first time the Supreme Court has been accused of activism and overstepping its prescribed powers. This isn't the first time a crisis has developed between the Judicial and the Executive branches of the United States Government.
On March 9, 1937, Franklin Roosevelt, speaking by radio to the nation in a "fireside chat," described the problem of an obstructionist Supreme Court, and the need for a drastic re-evaluation of the process. Roosevelt stated the problem very directly "The Court" he claimed,"has been acting not as a judicial body, but as a policy-making body." He went on to cite, with quotes of dissenting opinions from other High Court judges, instances after instance in which the Court went beyond its duty.
I want - as all Americans want - an independent judiciary as proposed by the framers of the Constitution. That means a Supreme Court that will enforce the Constitution as written, that will refuse to amend the Constitution by the arbitrary exercise of judicial power - in other words by judicial say-so. It does not mean a judiciary so independent that it can deny the existence of facts which are universally recognized.
His proposal was that " hereafter, when a Judge reaches the age of seventy, a new and younger Judge shall be added to the Court automatically."
The words of the speech might well have been written yesterday.
If we learned anything from the depression we will not allow ourselves to run around in new circles of futile discussion and debate, always postponing the day of decision. The American people have learned from the depression. For in the last three national elections an overwhelming majority of them voted a mandate that the Congress and the President begin the task of providing that protection - not after long years of debate, but now. The Courts, however, have cast doubts on the ability of the elected Congress to protect us against catastrophe by meeting squarely our modern social and economic conditions.
He described the government in terms the average farmer or laborer could well visualize.
Last Thursday I described the American form of Government as a three horse team provided by the Constitution to the American people so that their field might be plowed. The three horses are, of course, the three branches of government - the Congress, the Executive and the Courts. Two of the horses are pulling in unison today; the third is not. Those who have intimated that the President of the United States is trying to drive that team, overlook the simple fact that the President, as Chief Executive, is himself one of the three horses.
It is the American people themselves who are in the driver's seat.
It is the American people themselves who want the furrow plowed.
It is the American people themselves who expect the third horse to pull in unison with the other two.
We have, therefore, reached the point as a nation where we must take action to save the Constitution from the Court and the Court from itself. We must find a way to take an appeal from the Supreme Court to the Constitution itself. We want a Supreme Court which will do justice under the Constitution and not over it. In our courts we want a government of laws and not of men.
Roosevelt was fully prepared to answer the charge of "Court-packing"
Let me answer this question with a bluntness that will end all honest misunderstanding of my purposes.
If by that phrase "packing the Court" it is charged that I wish to place on the bench spineless puppets who would disregard the law and would decide specific cases as I wished them to be decided, I make this answer: that no President fit for his office would appoint, and no Senate of honorable men fit for their office would confirm, that kind of appointees to the Supreme Court.
But if by that phrase the charge is made that I would appoint and the Senate would confirm Justices worthy to sit beside present members of the Court who understand those modern conditions, that I will appoint Justices who will not undertake to override the judgment of the Congress on legislative policy, that I will appoint Justices who will act as Justices and not as legislators - if the appointment of such Justices can be called "packing the Courts," then I say that I and with me the vast majority of the American people favor doing just that thing- now.
Strong words indeed. In any case, this kind of "court-stacking" has become a common practice in modern American politics and is usually checked- at least, in some degree- by the nomination process.
On the potential accusation that the proposal was radical or unprecedented, he assured the people.
Is it a dangerous precedent for the Congress to change the number of the Justices? The Congress has always had, and will have, that power. The number of justices has been changed several times before, in the Administration of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson - both signers of the Declaration of Independence - Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.

Modern Revision

Interestingly, Wikipedia's entry on Roosevelt's proposal reads:
..his plan, usually called the "Court-packing Plan", failed in Congress and proved a political disaster for Roosevelt.
And yet, upon further investigation, the text cited in this Wikipedia is not as clear cut. Calling the proposal "a political disaster" is misleading and an opinion of the contributor, not supported by the citation itself.
Only weeks into his second term, President Franklin D. Roosevelt took on the U.S. Supreme Court--which had invalidated a series of New Deal programs--by offering a plan to ease the load of the “aged, overworked justices,” whom critics derided as the “nine old men.”
The plan would have allowed the president to nominate an additional justice whenever one over age 70 did not resign, until the court had 15 members. And it just so happened that six of the nine justices were already over 70.
The proposal was roundly denounced, going down to defeat in Congress. But soon the court began upholding New Deal programs, muting calls for its radical restructuring. Seven justices left the bench over the next four and a half years, allowing Roosevelt to remake the court through traditional means.
The proposal was, indeed, soundly defeated in Congress and yet, before the end of the same year, before the end of his second term as president, Roosevelt had accomplished what he had desired. His threat to reform the court, specifically the retirement age seems to have had the desired effects.
For whatever reasons, the radical restructuring of the court system proved unnecessary. By the end of 1937, with the retirement of Willis Van Devanter and the confirmation of Hugo Black the balance of the court had changed. This trend continued and by the end of 1941, Roosevelt had appointed seven Supreme Court justices. Therefore calling the proposal "a political disaster" is misleading and an opinion of the contributor and not supported by the citation itself.
Again Wikipedia's entry on the the bill is slightly misleading and, at least, conjectural.
Ultimately, Roosevelt's proposed legislation failed when the U.S. Senate voted 70–20 to recommit the bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee following the sudden death of Senate Majority Leader Joseph T. Robinson, whose efforts would have been essential to the bill's passage. In recommitting the bill, the Senate explicitly instructed the Judiciary Committee to strip the bill of its court-packing provisions. The entire episode garnered several negative consequences for Roosevelt that lasted through the rest of his administration, leading many scholars to conclude the President's victory was a Pyrrhic one.[7]
In this passage, "many scholars" are cited but only one is actually given. (William Leuchtenburg, professor emeritus of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at Chapel Hill and the leading scholar of the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt) The "negative consequences are also unlisted and calling the president's victory a "Pyrrhic"- a win that causes additional problems- is debatable. Franklin Roosevelt's goal was achieved. By eliminating the obstructionist court, Roosevelt's plan for the rebuilding of the economy and the re-establishment of a court based solely on constitutional interpretation can hardly be deemed "Pyrrhic." (The citation, itself, is inconclusive and somewhat unconnected to the text shown, referring only to the problem of labeling judges by political views.)

Beyond the Age of Competence

Last week, many felt, from both parties, that the Supreme Court judges misused- or at least, stretched beyond the limits of credibility the intention of the Constitution and went beyond their Constitutional powers in doing so. In the minority dissenting opinion, other Supreme court judges agreed, "The court, on its own volition, decided to render a sweeping decision, although nothing required it to do so."
Be that as it may, what exactly is wrong with prescribing a retirement age for Supreme Court Judges? Why, except for the fact that it has not been considered seriously, is it so unusual? In what other profession would a person be allowed to work, unsupervised and unquestioned, beyond all age of competence? At present, there are five Supreme Court judge past the age of 70 with the oldest, John Paul Stevens aged 89 was appointed to the Court by President Gerald Ford in 1975.
Larry Sabato, Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, director of their Center for Politics, and a political analyst wrote: "The insularity of lifetime tenure, combined with the appointments of relatively young attorneys who give long service on the bench, produces senior judges representing the views of past generations better than views of the current day."
Ironic, isn't it? It is precisely the views of the past, that of Roosevelt, in this case, which can ultimately provide insight into the problems we face today.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Snow storm


Wake Up Already

- cat in your face

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LIFE Examines Banking in 1946

The most amazing thing about a casual look through the back pages of LIFE magazine is how relevant the articles can sometimes be. For example, take the January 7 1946 issue about Wall street "the Citadel to US Capitalism." One of the side articles details the more conservative approach to banking following the world war and its origins. The story provides quite an education in the varied aspects of banking.

On Wall Street there are two principal kinds of bankers: Commercial bankers and investment bankers. The commercial banks, such as Chase and National City, make loans, accept deposits, finance foreign credits, buy government and state bonds. They also usually have a trust department which executes wills and acts as trustee. The investment bankers, such as Morgan Stanley and Kuhn, Loeb underwrite and distribute new security issues for corporations. They also have a brokerage department which buys and sells securities.

The Banking Act of 1933 made it illegal for one firm to act both as a commercial act and investment banking house. Until then, the two were often combined. In his triumphant days, J.P. Morgan, a banker, merged railroads and steel companies into nationwide corporations. In the 1920s, Wall Street made idols of men like Charlie Mitchell, chairman of National City Bank, who was also the greatest securities salesman in history and an adroit market manipulator. The 1929 crash exposed the dangers of these dual functions, With one hand, banks were taking deposits. With the other, they were financing new securities. When the business they were promoting failed, the depositors, security holder and the bank itself were in trouble.

Today the very nature of Wall street bankers has changed. In place of the speculators and market manipulator there are sound, deliberate investors who by choice as well as by law are more interested in government bonds than in a flier in market.

The Banking Act of 1933, also known as the Glass-Steagall Act, introduced banking reform and safeguards on deposits following the crash of 1929. Many of the provisions were also designed to reduce the amount of wild market speculation which was thought to be contributing factor to the collapse.

The Glass-Steagall Act passed after an ambitious former New York prosecutor, collected enough popular support for stronger regulation by bringing bank officials before the Senate Banking and Currency Committee to answer for the role in the crash.

In addition to the Banking Act of 1933, the Bank Holding Company Act was passed in 1956 and extended the restrictions on banks. According to this, bank holding companies owning two or more banks could no longer engage in non-banking activity and could not buy banks in another state.

Altogether, an impressive bit of banking regulation. The Banking Act of 1933 reduced the amount of free-wheeling risk-taking- with depositor's assets, I mean. And the Bank Holding Company Act clearly defined the role of banks and kept bank holding companies from becoming "too big to fail."

And you know something? It actually worked. Nations, which adopted such regulations and stuck to them when the rest of the world began to de-regulate, such as China and Turkey, have emerged from the latest crash, jolted but not devastated.

Another Fine Mess

So what happened? How did we come back in a full circle? Through a careful whittling away of the legislation through intensive and sustained lobbying by special interest groups, starting as far back as 1980 with the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act.

This allowed banks to merge. Subsequent decisions by the Federal Reserve Board in 1986 and 1987, after the Board heard proposals from Citicorp, J.P. Morgan and Bankers Trust advocating the loosening of Glass-Steagall restrictions, further undermined the regulatory effects of the the Banking Act of 1933. For a full account of the various steps, see HERE.

The record shows a Federal Reserve Board, at the very least, flawed by its willingness to accept the demands of institutions to circumvent the laws were designed to regulate and control precisely those sectors.

Finally- perhaps inevitably- the Banking Act of 1933 was repealed in 1999 by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. The legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on November 12, 1999. From there, it was a slow predictable march to the sorry mess of 2009.

Greed is Good?

What on earth could have persuaded, sensible people with all the wisdom a chastising experience as the Great Depression, to lift restrictions and to deregulate and repeal? The only answer seems to be the temptation of tremendous profits that de-regulation allowed financial institutions. In short, greed.

Last year, much to their credit, Republican Senator McCain of Arizona and Democratic Senator Cantwell of Washington made a proposal for a return to the Glass-Steagall Act, specifically the distinction between commercial and investment banking. Ironically this regulation rollback to the 1930s is being called " Obama's banking reform", making it sound untested and potentially risky when a stronger case of risk by deregulation of the banking industry in the 1980s could- and should- have been made at that time.

Banks which, despite the latest crisis continue to rake in vast profits, have, not surprisingly, been strongly opposed to a return to the restrains of the Banking Act of 1933.

According to the latest news, President Obama is set to propose wide-ranging moves on bank regulation first proposed by his economic advisor Paul Volcker who, has been an outspoken advocate for the reimplementation of many aspects of Glass-Steagall.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Look. Look. I'm gonna do it

eskimo After moseying around this wonderful blogosphere a bit, I located an  interesting and hilarious post  from JesterTunes.  Not unlike the Balloon Boy incident,  here is just another report of a person trying desperately to get attention by any means possible.  This time apparently it is Nick from Florida, now living in San Francisco who threatened to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge using Twitter.  He tells his followers:

Taking the 22 bus to the Golden aGate bridge. Too kill myself. Life isn’t worht living. Fuxk u all. Cya 10:45 PM Dec 15th from HootSupe

Alright I’m here…fuck u all…esp the one who knows it th emost. At the bridge..try and stop me now you asshole. Fuck u all for not caring 11:25 PM Dec 15th from HootSupe

Jester, the blogger, was less than impressed by both Nick's plausible suicide plan and his faulty spelling. He replied:

is it @nickstapp-suicide-from-golden-gate-bridge o’clock again already? 11:39 PM Dec 15th from Twestie

Naturally (and fairly) this remark caused howls from all of Nick's followers and charges of insensitivity. Jester, being better informed, was nonplussed by the reaction. Having been taken in in the past, Jester was  rather bored with Nick's shenanigans.

...anyone who has followed Nick for more than, say a month, know that makes these statements on a regular basis. Like, really regular. As in “I’ve lost count how many times this has happened.

To take just one example of the game, Nick's homelessness is not what it appears to be.

Nick has voluntarily chosen to live on the streets in an effort to save money for elective cosmetic surgery. He hasn’t lost his job (surprisingly). He’s not like millions of Americans who are unemployed, or living below the poverty level. He’s not a discarded disable veteran. He’s not a victim of foreclosure. He’s not suffered some horrible string of events that has left him with no place to live. No, Nick has lost around 100 pounds and instead of being happy about his positive and healthy changes in his weight, he’s fixated on the extra skin that has been left behind. In other words, he wants a tummy tuck so badly that he has chosen to sleep in parks and on sidewalks, and begging for on-line donations.

Jester states that this cheap kind of positive attention is not the kind of help that Nick needs.

I understand that he is mentally ill, there really is no question about it. Anyone who voluntarily lives on the street and threatens suicide with every third cosmopolitan clearly has issues.

But I am also certain that he habitually and routinely abuses his facebook and twitter followers by manipulating them into providing him with some sick positive attention.

All this reminds of my nephew when he was three. His mother, my sister, was quite keen of her ability to "multi-task." It created a kind of acquired  Attention Deficient Disorder. Her mind became like some huge disembodied eyeball that would wander from item of momentary interest, zoom in, and discard.

One time, I watched as she tried to read her son a bedtime story while watching the local news on TV. He suddenly prodded her with his elbow and shouted,"Well.. go on!"

In response to this behavior, he developed a strategy. As the adults would sit on the enclosed deck in the summer evening, Carter would edge over to the slicing and dicing blades of an electric fan with his finger stuck out and say, "Look. Look. I'm gonna do it." In the beginning, being that type of person, I would inevitably overreact and say something like, "Get away from there!!" The next time, "What do you think you are DOING?!"

But after the fifth or sixth time, my attitude became more relaxed. I would just look up and say, "That's nice, dear." After all, he DID have nine more chances to learn a valuable lesson for life. For pity's sake, it was only an index finger. Let's get some perspective. He has another one on his left hand.

Besides, losing his right index finger raises the chance that his sister wouldn't lose one of her eyes by a whopping 50%. After awhile, he got bored with taunting us this way.

Anyway, for an amusing look at what people, presumably adults, will do to get attention in the age of Twitter, 24 news and all the social networking sites, check out the blog post at

The Battle for Paradise


Another discovery in the archives of LIFE magazine, courtesy of the brilliant people at Google Books. In addition to the  "too precious" images of Jackie Kennedy as a child, the April 26 1963 issue has a fascinating story that (in my humblest of opinions) would make an excellent screenplay.

The article, "Hell Breaks Loose in Paradise" – sleepy  small-town Paradise, California, that is- begins with a bit of low-down,  teen James Bond  espionage. A student in Virginia Franklin's high school class has brought a fairly innocent looking book to her social studies class. In fact, the book is not at all what it appears; a cassette recorder has been hidden inside in order paradise 2dto record the teacher's words.  Accusing Franklin of attempting to subvert young, impressionable minds with her leftist philosophy, members of the American Legion post of Paradise, the John Birch Society and a few unhappy townspeople decided to recruit the teenage to entrap the instructor and obtain damning evidence. Besides instilling liberal values, she was accused of being a Communist and handing out "sex materials" to the students.

Franklin encouraged her students to debate issues, to read differing viewpoints from a wide variety of resources, from the paradise 2bliberal to the extremes of the right wing. In fact, Mrs. Franklin had won an award from the Freedoms Foundation as an outstanding member of the American credo.

The student was attempting to record evidence that the Franklin was anti-religious by suggesting an opening prayer to a mock Senate debate in the classroom. The attempt, however, failed.  Upon learning of the attempted entrapment, Franklin was distressed for the student, that the student had not tried to express his opinions instead of resorting such tactics.

Among the questions this article raises: how much trust should be given to teachers in matter of ideology? Should students be exposed to open political debate?

The article goes on to give details about the next phase of the war in Paradise – replacing the school board members at the next local election. This, in turn, would allow members to remove the instructor, the principal and any other teacher they considered "un-American." This ideological battle would involve the entire town and the voters would be  asked to decide the issue- and all its implications- with their votes.

Whenever I read articles like this, I am impressed with the  general level of civility that once came with public debate back then. So much and so little seems to have changed in the American forum.  For the full story and the result of the election, click HERE. I would love to hear what you thought of the article too.


3569300_large (1)

Although it is quite cold (for Izmir) this artwork in no way is meant to depict conditions here. The worst we can expect is cold drizzle, something like late October in New England. However, out in the east of Turkey, it is reported that, due to heavy snows, the roads to 76 Turkish villages are impassable.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

John Updike on Religion

FotoSketcher - Updike

Religion enables us to ignore nothingness and get on with the jobs of life.

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Arctic Monkeys- Only Ones Who Know

National Hero Atatürk

When I was in elementary school, hanging in my classroom were prints of George Washington and Abe Lincoln. Garrison Keillor describes them best when he says, "They were like an old married couple. I was always fond of Lincoln. He looked like somebody you could tell your problems to. Washington always looked like he had a headache." Exactly.

As children, we were taught stories about Washington which in fact were, by that time, little more than confusing legends. His honesty was proven by his cutting down  of a cherry tree and confessing to his father. For children this goodie-goodie act hardly cut the mustard. First of all, had I conducted such vandalism, my parents would hardly have been impressed by my honesty. I would have been shown the value of a handy cherry branch, I suspect. It was all a bit ethereal and hard to conceive, even for a child of eight who was unusually gullible.

That poor exhausted Lincoln was more to my taste. Honest Abe. Tall and ugly and ill-at ease but with a certain glint in his eye that seemed to hint at vast empathy for human failings. Minding his own business, taking in a little light entertainment with the wife, having freed the slaves and saved the union earlier that day, shot in the back of the head, poor man, by some attention-seeking maniac actor. This kind of high drama was something that children could appreciate far more than broken cherry trees and a midnight crossing a river in winter.

The Turks have Mustafa Kemal, better know as Ataturk- that is, the father of Turks. You cannot live in Turkey without seeing his face somewhere, everywhere and even this is an understatement. At first, before I studied his biography, I dismissed it as a peculiarity of the Turks, just something that Turks did and usually left it at that. (This is the only way to adapt when living in a foreign land sometimes. Study, shrug and move on.)

  He is beloved. Yes, sometimes this adoration is in the form of the blind, flag-waving kind. Sometimes it is based on well-rehearsed platitudes drummed into the young minds. However, more often than not, inside the average Turkish heart, there is deep respect- like nothing I have ever seen in my own country- for Kemal and his philosophy and his belief in the Turkish spirit. Most amazing to me, this kind of admiration cuts across generational lines. It is a rare event whenever a grandfather, father and son can agree on anything in the USA.

Every year on November 10 at exactly 9:05 in the morning, the moment of his death, the nation pauses for one minute to pay respect for Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. It is a voluntary act and has never failed to impress me over the years. In practically every town, there is a statue or a square named after this man and nine times out of ten, you will see his portrait in a businessman's office. (One theory: the choice of portrait can determine the overall atmosphere of the office.)

As a father-figure and national hero, Kemal certainly has more going for him than, say, Woodrow Wilson or Teddy Roosevelt - fine men in their own right. (If you do not know much about Kemal, then reading several books is certainly no waste of time, even if you are not particularly interested in Turkey.)

The scale of his reforms were as breath-taking then as they are today. Imagine, after driving out occupying coalition troops, establishing a new form of government, creating a philosophy of secularism where once was an antiquated and backward religious authority- after all that.. imagine your leader attempting then to change the entire system of writing. Even this does not do justice to all his accomplishments for the Turkish people. In the very least, taking what might very well have amounted to a despotism, and creating a secular republic from the ashes of the Ottomans is no small feat. Among a majority of Turks, his concepts, are valued as much today as when Atatürk was alive.

In the West, we spend a lot of time tearing down heroes and reducing them to human scale. It is a national preoccupation, I suppose. Our skepticism being proof enough that we are smarter than our parents and grandparents. We sit back with folded arms and a smug smile when we see other countries and their national heroes.

Europeans, even more than Americans, tend to look at this hero-worship as a inevitable prelude to fanatic nationalism This is a harsh and shallow conclusion, I think. Turks, fortunately, did not suffer the disastrous results of the personality cults as Europeans did. They have no reason to see this admiration in such a negative perspective as, say, the average German or French would. The events of the last hundred years have made Europeans question and reject an unchallenged devotion to any ideology and to any demagogic espouser. The rule in Europe generally appears to be, as John Monash once said, "No man is a hero in his own country." Not so in Turkey, at least as far as Mustafa Kemal is concerned.

When it comes to fanaticism or rabid nationalism, I am not so worried about Turks becoming blinded by their hero worship. When I first came to Turkey, I recall witnessing a small town rally by a candidate for prime minister. There was the usual excess and noise and behind the speaker, was a building size cloth poster of Mustafa Kemal and next to it, was the candidate's. A week later, his opponent came to the same town, stood in the same town square, making his same droning speech and behind him.. that's right, the huge face of Atatürk and the huge face of the candidate. So I am fairly convinced that Turks will not be rushing to join, in some kind of wild nationalistic fervor, any politician that tries to use this hero for his own purposes. Been there, done that.

Every country should have its own sources of pride and there is a necessary amount of pride that every country should be allotted from their national icons. We have a need in the heart for a heroic figure from our nation's past. It is like taking pride in claiming kin.

Perhaps such heroes- or rather, the idea of their existence. spur us into believing that we, presumably, are made of the same stuff, may, when called upon, achieve similar results, if only on a smaller scale. At the end of the day, a world without heroes is one where it is impossible to believe that men can decide their own course of action. A world without the possibility of heroes reminds me of a quote from Robert Frost's "Death of a Hired Man,

..nothing to look backward to with pride,
	And nothing to look forward to with hope,
	So now and never any different.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Good Housekeeping It Ain't

Abandoned Houston apartment.



Obviously the person who lived there had a serious problem. I knew a British woman here in Izmir whose apartment was so messy that she would never allow anybody in.. ever. (That made me intensely curious.) Perhaps her apartment looked similar to this. And when she finally- somehow- got around to getting somebody to clean it- they carried out 15 hefty bags of garbage- at least, this is what she who knows? 30? 45?

On the outside, however, she was able to keep up appearances so you could never have guessed what a complete slob she was.

For more photos of the messiest apartment in the world click here.

Monday, January 18, 2010



Turkish News on Haiti

In the past week, I have to confess that I am disappointed in the coverage given to the Haitian earthquake and the relief effort by Turkish news media. News coverage in Turkey implied that all relief efforts were being handled by the United Nations or from NGOs. (Even the fine work of Turkish survivor rescue units have received little attention.)

It was shocking to me that the Turkish news organizations - in a country with its own recent history of earthquake disaster and struggles during the relief effort-  could give so little importance to  events so similar to the 1999 Izmit quake. 

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told ABC News that at least 70,000 dead bodies have been collected. Official and unofficial estimates of the death toll have ranged up to 200,000.

Instead, the newspapers and TV channels seemed inordinately preoccupied with an overblown spat between Israeli and Turkish diplomats over protocol and apologies.  On that subject:

Credit where Credit is Due

When it comes to the United States, I am, by no means, a flag waving nationalist. Certainly I am not disloyal to my homeland but when called upon to explain any policy from the Bush era I usually shrugged with an attempt at an apologetic smile. However, giving credit where credit is due is really not asking so much.

In Internet forums, I saw a few members from the USA who say, "But why should we Americans help Haiti? We are not the world's ATM machine. We give and give in times of crisis and in the end, they hate us for it." My initial response is that you should not do humanitarian acts for the glory and admiration of the rest of the world. It is not about the potential benefits this help might bring. You should help because it is the right thing to do.

On the other hand, it is just as right for other nations, such as Turkey, to, at least, acknowledge this kind of assistance? I suppose it doesn't fit into the fashionable anti-Americanism that has appeared here in recent years under the calamitous Bush era.

But here are a few facts, for what they are worth. In terms of aid given by the US government, Haiti has been a steady recipient of U.S. aid and in recent years has received nearly $300 million a year.

The Common Cliche Americans Believe in

Personally I have mixed feelings about the validity of this approach (that is, government to government aid). Corruption takes it cut and instead of aiding the people tends to create a source of further problems, such as government corruption and fiscal mismanagement.  I wonder, like anybody who has ever given money to a homeless person, whether my money is a short-term solution or just continuation of the problem. Too often this aid seems to end up in the wrong hands, spent on the wrong things- military hardware and palaces, or is merely payment for services rendered, or, worst for all parties, it may  create a deeper dependency on further aid.

Staunchly conservative radio host, Rush Limbaugh told his audience that they should not give donations to the relief fund. "Why should I give my money to Haitians? I already give.. with my taxes."

Despite these narrow-minded remarks, in times of crisis, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, or floods, time after time, so much of the financial assistance comes directly from the pocket of the individual American.  And I am not speaking on involuntary tax.

"There, but for the grace of God, go I" is a common cliche where I come from, meaning, "When I see people enduring hardship, I must never forget that this could be me."

True, to many people, this philosophy may seem old-fashioned with a low return of investment. Yet, during this past year, when many Americans have lost their jobs, in debt up to their Adam's apples and in  real danger of losing their homes, projections show that donations will be higher than in any other recent disaster, including Katrina.

Experts believe that donations are on course to be the biggest ever, topping Katrina and the 2004 Tsunami, reports CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston.;contentBody

By Friday afternoon, individuals donating $10 at a time to the Red Cross by text message had given more than $10 million, and the contributions were still arriving, sometimes at a rate of more than $300,000 an hour.

Americans have been giving at what could be a record pace. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, as of Saturday, $150 million has been donated by Americans.

Beyond Investments

I am also not great fan of the capitalist system (from which I have been chewed up and spit out more times than I care to say) but even the business world is playing a part in the relief effort.

Businesses and business charities (in the US) have pledged more than $48 million to the earthquake relief effort in Haiti, including more than $10 million from two investment banks. The donations include cash, promises to match employee gifts and contributions of medicine, food, water and other supplies and services.

It is easy to write off any assistance from businesses or corporations with a jaundiced eye and say, "this is merely a way of protecting their investments, or to open new markets." I would just remind you that Haiti is not Kuwait, or Europe after the World War -by any stretch of the imagination- and any return on " investment" would be long-term, indeed. And after all, in a crisis like this, giving free food and water to people dying of thirst and hunger for whatever self-centered reason is still better than turning your back and not giving at all.

Many companies are also providing goods and services. In Colorado, Crocs has donated 70,000 pairs of shoes and 20 truckloads of medical supplies. Several airlines, including American and Spirit are giving bonus frequent flier miles in exchange for donations to Haitian earthquake relief.;contentBody

Apart from that, US-based aid agencies are on the ground doing what can be done given the situation.

On Saturday, U.S. aid agencies helped deliver 50,000 emergency food packets to Haiti as part of an initial effort to distribute $48 million in food aid. Roughly 250,000 liters of water have also been distributed through 52 relief centers in recent days.

Many celebrities are also contributing to the effort.

US magazine reports that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie donated $1 million to Haitian relief (via Doctors Without Borders), as did Sandra Bullock and supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Madonna gave $250,000. George Clooney will host a Haitian relief show this week on MTV. Chelsea Clinton is raising money through a 90-minute spinning class in Manhattan. And the Tiger Woods Foundation wants to donate $3 million for a mobile hospital staffed with Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs).

A Team Effort Goes Unreported

I wouldn't want anybody to think I am, for a minute, suggesting that the USA is single-handedly managing the relief effort in Haiti. Superman of the world, etc. (I think the entire concept of superpower is obsolete and dangerous.)

In fact, many countries are involved and in the search and rescue, countries who last week made noises about seating positions and television shows are working together attempting to locate trapped victims. This is what being a member of the community of nations means, I believe  and it is always an inspiration to see the humanitarian uses of power, acts of heroism and selflessness wherever they may originate.



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