Friday, April 23, 2010

Turkey: 'There is no deadline for Iran'

     Friday, April 16, 2010
By convening one of the largest international summits Washington, D.C., has ever seen, U.S. President Barack Obama proved that he could be a leader. By all measures, he had not proved to be one before.
The apparent success of the International Nuclear Security Summit was, however, due by and large to its uncontroversial targets. The goals of the summit were basically to prevent a terrorist group or groups from gaining access to nuclear weapons. So dozens of countries’ legal administrations signed the communiqué at the summit, without much disagreement.
I was at the convention center to follow the summit, without knowing how much the meetings would be restricted. None of the bilateral meetings that took place on the sidelines of the summit had a segment for a quick Q and A. Everyone ended up being thankful for whatever they could squeeze out of the diplomats from the participating countries.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s meetings with Armenian President Serge Sarkisian and U.S. President Obama were likewise heavily restricted; there was very little information available on the meetings through some diplomatic sources and the White House readouts.
Among more than a dozen of the readouts on Obama’s bilateral meetings, only the readout on the Obama-Erdoğan meeting sent from the White House attached a picture; Obama is seen with a dead-serious face as opposed to Erdoğan’s smiling posture.
The Turkish delegation was in Washington for the nuclear security summit, but the sideline meetings with Sarkisian, Obama, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian weighted the visit. The Turkish-Armenian normalization process, in addition to Iran’s nuclear program as well as the partly strained U.S.-Turkey relationship following the “genocide” row in early March, were the main issues discussed.
By Tuesday, Erdoğan made it clear through media interviews and statements that Turkey opposes the sanctions against Iran at this time. And by Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also declared, following my question during a press conference before he departed for Brazil, that Turkey does not have a deadline for the talks with Iran.
“One of the most dangerous things in a process like this is to give a deadline. It is not the right course of action,” Davutoğlu said. “If one wants to manage the psychology of the process, one must avoid deadlines. Therefore, we do not say that this should happen at this time, and that should happen at that time."
Turkey does not see itself bound to the American deadline, which has been repeatedly stated as the “end of this spring” – though it is not clear that the spring deadline would be attainable by the U.S. administration anyway.
According to some good sources in Washington, Saudi Arabian officials have already been shown the “sanctions package” that Davutoğlu reproachfully stated, in a speech in the U.S. capital, that the Turkish administration has not yet been shown, even though his country sits on the United Nations Security Council.
According to one important source in Washington, the Saudis asked the Americans to bring the sanctions to the Security Council after May, when the Lebanese government will finish its chairmanship of the council. It is well known that Lebanon, along with Turkey and Brazil, likely will say “no” if a vote is held on sanctions against Iran.
Ian Lesser, a well-known Turkey expert at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, said the meetings between Obama and Erdoğan “have not produced much in terms of the bilateral relationship.” Lesser added that “there is a stark difference when it comes to the view of the utility of the sanctions on the parts of the two governments.” And he hinted that it will be an interesting journey to watch when or if the sanctions reach the U.N. Security Council and to see how the positions will be taken.
One of the of the most visible foreign affairs deputies from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, told me within the last couple of months that “at the end of the day, Turkey will take the side of the West against Iran, if the voting day comes to the Security Council.”
During the last week, the leadership of the AKP displayed its decisiveness, in terms of being in the opposition against the position that favors sanctions, by making some strong economical points as well as other political ones.
It must be noted: Obama still has not ruled out the diplomatic solution, including the one that is currently being developed and was briefly discussed by the U.S., Brazilian and Turkish leaders during the summit. However, the U.S. is not as patient as the Turkish administration would like it to be.
The Israeli lobby in the U.S. Congress, with a letter signed by three-quarters of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, urging the Obama administration to stand with U.S. ally Israel, is pressing hard to change Obama’s position in regard to Israel.
It is not only from Congress that Obama is receiving heavy pressure; in the international arena, the Germans and the French have been more aggressive lately in pursuit of heavier and faster sanctions against Iran. Just as Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley stated last Wednesday during a press conference, the U.S. administration thinks it has already spent more than a year trying to find a diplomatic solution for the Iranian problem and nothing is moving “behind the curtain.” Now it seems Turkey is where America was a year ago.
The climate in Washington says that unless Turkey and other countries that want to work more on a diplomatic solution find that hidden diplomatic solution sometime soon, the U.S. and Turkey might have a clash over bigger problems than they do today.
There is, of course, always the Russian and Chinese opposition and it would require creative thinking on the part of the Obama administration to create such a magic solution that could both assure the Israelis enough so they will not attack Iran and assemble sanctions that are soft enough to cajole Russia and China into supporting them. It is a very a narrow line to walk.
The Turkish-Armenian track
On the Armenian-Turkish track, even though Turkey tried hard to give an impression in Washington that the normalization process is continuing, one needs to put in extra effort to see anything progressing for a while.
Both Erdoğan and Mr. Murat Mercan, the head of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Turkish Parliament, a committee in charge of the ratification of the protocols, have repeatedly ruled out any move unless there is a positive step on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
In response to this expectation, Armenian President Sarkisian, following the meeting with Erdoğan, went to visit Woodrow Wilson’s tomb in the National Cathedral and told members of the gathered Armenian representatives that: “Turkey cannot speak in the language of preconditions with Armenia and the people of Armenia. We simply will not allow it.”
Ross Vartian, the executive director of the U.S.-Armenian Public Affairs Committee, said “Armenia’s patience is not unlimited” with regard to the ratification of the protocols. And he recalled that both the Armenian and the U.S. view on the Karabakh issue are the same, and that view does not link the protocols with the Karabakh issue.
In the coming weeks, relations between the U.S. and Turkey will continue to be dominated by these two massive impasses.
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Guest - Ferdinand
2010-04-18 23:32:58
 Hammad Sethi is 100% Correct. 
Guest - Max Gonzales
2010-04-18 18:06:03
 What is going on in this world, how come no one is questioning the Israeli Nuclear Program,..... We should all have world with free nuclear, but I disagree that we are allowing one to have (Israel) and telling the other one you cannot have it (Iran) Shame on you people, shame on you,,, how come we lecture our kids on to be fair when we ourselves are NOT 
Guest - Hammad Sethi
2010-04-18 13:29:11
 America is the biggest thug in the world and Americans cannot afford to lose this status. Iran really is no threat to anybody in the presence of a Mighty Terrorist Thug such as the USA. The USA just wants to make it clear to all the Muslims that it can ensure the safety and security of the (tiny terrorist) Israel no-matter what it does to Muslims and Muslim Governments cannot do anything about it and that Muslim Life, Honour and Property does not mean anything. The USA wants all Muslim countries to know that it can step on any Muslim country's sovereignty and Muslims cannot do anything about that. Iran is the only Muslim country that stands up against this tyranny and the USA has officially threatened to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear Iranian Muslims. The USA keeps Muslim world divided and enslaved with threat of violence, and economic blackmail and it is for us Muslims to beat them back with the help of Muslim Unity and determination.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The nuclear security summit and Namık Tan resumes his post

   Friday, April 9, 2010
U.S. President Obama will be hosting an unprecedented nuclear security summit in Washington on April 12 and 13. Obama, after passing health care reform in Congress, received a big boost in his standing. And after this historic achievement, he now wants to go on a roll by building international consensus on a variety of nuclear non-proliferation issues, as well as he is hoping to find some solidarity among the international actors against Iran's misbehavior.
In the last couple of weeks, the Obama administration has signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, with the Russians to cut both countries' nuclear arsenals by one-third.
The Obama administration also released its New Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, last Tuesday, and declared to the world that he is radically narrowing down the conditions under which the U.S. could use nuclear weapons.
Obama spelled out his “nuclear dream” almost a year ago in Prague for the first time. In that speech, Obama said he would work to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the U.S.'s National Security Policy and eventually work to fully eliminate nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth, even though he will probably not see such a goal realized in his life.
In both of these cases, START and NPR, Obama has been criticized by the left and right on the domestic political spectrum. The liberals think that already Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama did not go far enough (such as Michael Levi). And the conservatives think that Obama is weakening the country by putting too many constraints on its biggest deterrence policy (like Tunku Varadarajan.)
On the other hand, Obama is realistic enough to see that he needs two-thirds of a majority of the Senate to ratify international treaties such as START, and it means that as long as he does not secure some of the Republican support, however big the promises he wishes to extend to world, he will end up failing at home.
The nuclear security summit that will start on Monday also stems from another goal that was set in Prague a year ago by Obama, which was to do more to prevent nuclear arsenals from falling into the hands of non-state actors.
Turkey will be attending the summit as well, but not because it has much to say on the topic, but because it sits at the U.N. Security Council and its proximity to Iran.
While the Turkish Prime Minister visibly increased his anti-sanctions posture recently, according to the latest reports, China and Russia have been moving slowly to support some kind of sanctions against Iran. The final version of the sanctions will not be tough or as “biting” as America or more importantly like Israel wishes to see, according to experts. Still it looks like we are headed to a voting day at the U.N. Security Council this spring.
Will there be a bilateral meeting?
While it took some time for the prime minister of Turkey, Tayyip Erdoğan, to make his decision to participate in the summit, following this decision to visit, the Turkish side expected to secure a “bilateral” meeting with Obama. When the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that Obama would have a one-to-one meeting with the president of Armenia, Serge Sarkisian, but not with Erdoğan, it felt like another cold shower for the Turkish delegation that is gearing up to leave for Washington.
I reached a senior White House official after Gibbs announced that there would be no meeting bilaterally or trilaterally with Turkey. The senior official, who wanted to stay anonymous, confirmed the no-meeting news but added that "[they] expect the president will have a chance to talk with PM Erdoğan as they will be seated next to each other at one of the events."
Namik Tan, who was recalled after the resolution of "genocide" passage at the key House Committee last month, returned to Washington Tuesday night, and had some meetings at the White House the next day.
Mr. Tan, during his meeting in the White House, along with other issues, raised the issue of “bilateral” meetings as well, but the reaction he received from the White House was the same reaction that I received from the senior White House official a day before.
Though I must add, the Turkish diplomats believe that there will be a “bilateral” meeting between Obama and Erdoğan at the end, even though the current ambiguity is a bulky annoyance.
The meeting between the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Armenian leader Sarkisian is already agreed on, but still the parties are working on the details.
Erdoğan recently sent his special envoy, Mr. Feridun Sinirlioglu, to Erivan to deliver a letter. According to people who know the developments first hand, the “meetings in Erivan went well."
The Turkish administration also believes that "there are some hopeful signs in terms of reaching a some kind of understanding over the Karabakh issue" with Armenia. The reaction from Armenians is not the same. Instead, the Armenian side insists that the Karabakh issue was not even addressed before and during the signing of protocols last year, according to daily Radical.
Different Armenian officials have constantly given the same message with the backing of the U.S. and many other European countries in recent months, which is that they already did enough work for the protocols and rest is up to the Turkish administration. "It is impossible to ratify protocols before April 24," says the Turkish side, while the Armenian diaspora is increasing pressure and lobbying the White House in run up to the April 24.
‘Nuclear option’ for genocide?
From various discussions in circles in Washington recently, there is another option being implied to handle the issue of “genocide” in Turkey. I would call this “thinking” the “nuclear option” and it basically suggests Turkey consider what would happen if it changes its official view of the 1915 events, which it does not see as genocide currently. This option is not valid before the 24 April apparently, but can be put into perspective in times to come.
Omer Taspinar, director of the Turkey Program at the Brookings Institution, a Washington based think tank, gave one of the most “straight” talks of this option in Washington at the Gulenist Rumi Forum last week. Taspinar suggested that Turkey has not compromised yet as Armenia did during the “normalization process.” According to Taspinar, Turkey should come to terms with regarding to the events of 1915 as well.
Taşpınar also predicted in a phone conversation later on that, "there is a 99 percent chance that, this year like the last year, President Obama will cite the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia and avoid using the word of genocide while he will give his annual Armenian Remembrance Day statement on April 24."
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Guest - Harry Garifallidis
2010-04-12 16:24:51
 @ guest MARK, yes indeed MARK, some of us do know the reason(s) why the mighty US of A nuked Japan. I believe it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor, signifying the declaration of war between Japan and the mighty US of A. However, the point one should consider is that the mighty US of A did not have to detonate nuclear weapon(s) over populated areas (cities) to convince Japan to surrender. They could have detonated them over unpopulated areas and still yield the same unconditional surrender from Japan. Failing to do the latter, and God only knows why, resulted in the brutal and immediate death/murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. Furthermore, countless thousands suffered and perished for many years thereafter due to the after-effects of radiation. Now this is what I call GENOCIDE. Surely it advanced American knowledge of the effects of nuclear radiation on innocent civilians. Remember, Americans are the ONLY race that has ever done this in the World’s history. It’s a matter of perspective isn’t it? Best regards, Harry Garifallidis, Canada 
Guest - MARK
2010-04-12 08:26:23
 @Sethi-Do you know why the USA used a nuclear bomb on Japan. In case your history eludes you the Japanese attached the USA without provocation killing thousands at Pearl Habor. The use of the bomb saved many Americans lives. And, it would be done again in a heartbeat if we are attacked. And just who are we blackmailing and threatening? Furthmore, we will support whatever nation we feel is in our best interest just like all other nations. So, why don't you just attended to your own business and know what you are talking about before chastizing others. 
Guest - Hammad Sethi
2010-04-10 23:34:00
 What gives an international thug like the USA the right to lead the world in nuclear affairs? USA is the only country that used nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear country, thus murdering hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians and causing endless suffering to a nation. USA can terrorise other nations, it can subjugate other nations through threat of violence and economic blackmail, but it does not have the moral high ground to lead the world. USA has no right to interfere in the internal affairs of other sovereign nations. First these thugs should stop supporting the (tiny terrorist Israel) in the Middle East, and the (Mighty Beggar India) in Kashmir, apologise to Muslim world starting from the Spanish Inquisition all to way to Afghanistan, before they start lecturing the world about morals and nuclear safety. 
Guest - antoine
2010-04-10 19:30:10
 erivan??? are you serious, it's like some british journalist reffering to india as british raj in it's articles in this day and age in some respected newspaper. actually it's YAREVAN and not erivan.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Embattled Vatican

   Friday, April 2, 2010
Child abuse scandals are engulfing the Catholic Church in Europe. And the reports that argue Pope Benedict XVI did not do enough about those sexual abuse claims in the past raise even more tension and questions about how bad the institution of accountability is within the Vatican and whether it can ever be transparent.
The pope gathered 24 bishops from Ireland to listen to how they handled the child abuse cases in their territory in mid-February. The Vatican meeting came two months after the Murphy Commission Report, which investigated crimes by pedophile priests. Some of the report's conclusions said the church in Ireland implemented a policy of "don't ask, don't tell," and "obsessively concealed child abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese from 1975 to 2004."
Sylvia Poggioli, from National Public Radio, or NPR, said, "The Murphy Report came just seven months after another investigation revealed chronic beatings, rapes, near starvation and the humiliation of 30,000 children in schools and orphanages — all run by the Catholic Church in Ireland."
Another effect of these unraveling and ugly stories across Europe is that it mounts a lot of pressure on the Pope himself. There are many different arguments on how much he knew about these scandals, especially while he was cardinal, and when he knew about them. Many now accuse him openly that he, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, did not come out as frank as he was supposed to.
According to John Allen, a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, "The Pope isn't just part of the problem, but also an important part of the solution" in his op-ed published in the New York Times. Allen argues that the current Pope Benedict started the “zero tolerance” policy for such complaints since he became the pope and after Pope John Paul II put Cardinal Ratzinger and his office in charge of the abuse complaints in 2001. Allen said, "He began to talk much more openly about what he described as 'filth' in the Catholic Church, and became much more aggressive about prosecuting abusers."
The experts who follow the Vatican closely argue that one of the biggest problems of the ongoing situation is “bishops.” During the last several decades, many bishops connected to these scandals, with their limitless discretion, took no action or moved very slowly to tackle the problem while complaints piled up. How will the Vatican step forward to bring new accountability measures for bishops is the real problem, according to some religious experts. And whether the pope will be able to investigate and fire bishops, will determine how serious the Vatican is about solving this epidemic and relieve the victims.
If there will be any formal policy put in place to instruct bishops by the Vatican will be an important follow-up to watch, Allen argues, after this episode ends. Though, according to the latest tally so far, five Irish bishops already gave letters of resignation to the pope, and resignations of two of them already are accepted.
So far, the list of countries in which the scandals first appeared are in Europe. And when one knows that two-thirds of the members of the Roman Catholic Church live in the Southern hemisphere such as Latin America, Asia and Africa, then the picture becomes even grimmer for those regions with mostly under-developed countries.
It would be naive to think that this epidemic is only limited to European countries but not other parts of the globe. However, the issues with the judiciary or cultural loyalty and respect to the elders, such as priests of the churches, could veil such cases from coming to light. When illiteracy and poorness are also taken into consideration, one would imagine how difficult it would be to bring law suits, prepare independent studies and or file complaints against one of the most well-organized and powerful institutions of a country, the Roman Catholic Church.
While the Vatican is going through one of its most significant crises in recent history, expecting a resignation from the Pope is useless. It is almost impossible because the Pope is perceived as more of a father figure in the Catholic Church, not a CEO that can held be accountable following such a failure episode. Pope Benedict XVI, who also served as bishop and cardinal in the past, and appeared less than concerned for such complaints in the 1990s according to many accounts, should have had his share of responsibility, under the normal circumstances.
David Gibson, a papal biographer, who has been following Pope Benedict XVI since his years as a Cardinal stated in an interview recently that “popes don't resign.” It has never happened since the 14th century and there is no mechanism to put pressure on the pope currently, he concludes. That is why it is so panicking to the Vatican for these complaints to get closer to the Pope Benedict, himself.
The Vatican City is being ruled by elective monarchy. In this system the pope takes all the power which is combined with legislative, executive, and judicial forces. It is an absolute monarchy with no independent judiciary, and is certainly not a democracy. There is neither a strong branch to oversee the executive power, the pope, nor any other independent watchdog to open investigations by itself.
Not having independent judiciary, and other branches to oversee the executive power bring corruption, and it brings corruption everywhere in the world.
There are strong arguments over some of the constitutional changes that are put forward by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, that they might also work to lessen the Constitutional Court's independence even further.
I think the Vatican can be a good example of different kind of corruption when the branches cannot monitor each other healthily. It is because how "God" wanted it to be, Vatican would argue, any criticism over their current absolute monarchy.
Not sure how the AKP would explain possible damages that would do to the independence of the judiciary with some of its constitutional changes.
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Guest - dr p
2010-04-05 14:06:23
 @brian: in the us, the priests were all classified as paedophiles even though many of the victims were adolescents and older; nambla aside, it's a lot easier to go after paedophiles than gays, but the predators fit both descriptions. 
Guest - Zonkey
2010-04-04 20:52:09
 There's already enough evidence to arrest Ratzinger for conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Useful for him that he can continue to masquerade as a Head of State and so enjoy immunity. Whilst this is a disgrace I can only hope that it forces so called Catholics to examine their own conscience and decide the day of kneeling before frock wearing virgins should be consigned to their own very dark history. 
Guest - Brian
2010-04-03 20:40:51
 It is true what Gitch says regarding celibacy. It is a perversion of human nature, but this isn't the answer to the problem. A priest who is a normal man would have an affair with a woman (as has happened many times, or a gay priest will have secret affairs with other gay people) But this is different. These men are pedophiles. It is a fact that pedophiles are attracted towards professions and activities that give them easy access to children. These perverts have been discovered not just in the church, but in schools, scout troops, junior swimming clubs, football clubs, etc. The rule is, NEVER allow your children to be with any unknown adults without you or someone you trust being present. As fot the Catholic Church in Ireland, it is a rotten and disgraced organisation and wish it never existed. "Organised religion is the greatest trick the devil ever played on mankind" 
Guest - donha
2010-04-03 17:36:32
 National will? Like Erdogan often states. 
Guest - Vigge
2010-04-03 11:21:38
 The issue of course has to be dealt with in a fully transparent manner. Bring all of out in the open light, disusss it in an open manner and from there decide how to proceed to avoid such horrible crimes to occur again in the future. We saw a similar case a couple of years ago in Turkey with some kind of sect leader who mollested young girls (and the mother who was smiling at the pictures) but since Muslims are not organized in the same way, with Popes etc, it does not become more than an isolated event. However, the religious authorities (regardless religion) has to do everything in their power to stop this abuse in the name of religion, regardless if it is sexual abuse as for the catholics or terror and violance for the Muslims. 
Guest - mir
2010-04-03 01:06:08
 it is easter.. let 'his holiness' enjoy the day.. dont spoil it for him 
Guest - Gitch
2010-04-03 00:33:19
 It doesn't take a genius to know that if the Catholic Church only let these guys get married ... YOU WOULDN'T HAVE THESE PROBLEMS!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Spirit of San Francisco

   Monday, March 29, 2010
“Be aware,” I said to Jane while we were riding a cable car in San Francisco, “this is the spirit of San Francisco we are in.”
I was not sure if the bearded, hat-wearing ticket inspector in the car heard me saying this to my friends, but on Thursday morning, while we were barely hanging onto the sides of the cable car, I was stunned by the beauty of San Francisco in every corner of the city.
The city’s personality was visible in the first minutes of arrival. Its famous hills at first sight show that personality even more strongly. Its cable cars are still in operation, all of them, I think, from the 1920s and ’30s: “It is the world’s last permanently operational manually operated cable-car system.”
I had just tagged along with Jane to see San Francisco at last. We first went to visit its Chinatown and entered one of the authentic Chinese restaurants during lunchtime. The two-story restaurant was packed with only Chinese people. Our waiter, who could hardly speak English, was not happy to see and have to serve our table. He knew that it was going to take forever for us, the only non-Chinese table in the basement of the restaurant, to figure out the menu, following countless questions.
In the streets of Chinatown, it was not hard to read through history, and see the pain of Chinese immigrants in the beginning of the last century, who apparently tried to build another city with the same architecture as their homeland.
I sneaked into one of those Chinese bakeries, in which I hoped to find some rare Chinese sweets. Instead, I was caught by surprise by a Chinese saleswoman in the shop, who appeared to be in her late 60s or early 70s but was aggressively after customers to buy more sweets and do it quickly.
San Francisco’s homeless
San Francisco is flocked with the homeless. Every corner has its own group of homeless people. I have never seen that many homeless people anywhere in my entire life. I asked many random people in the city about this, including a bank guard I met on Powell Street downtown. The guard, who is not married but expecting his first baby soon with his girlfriend, told me that homelessness is kind of a chosen way of life for many of them. I was perplexed by this explanation, having difficulty understanding how not having a home could be part of one’s preference.
One needs to get along with homeless people to enjoy San Francisco. During our nights out, especially in the downtown area, there was not one block without a homeless person begging for change or a cigarette. Without having enough change or cigarettes to share, going to venture out in the city is just a grave mistake.
I had one of the best experiences in my life when entering a tiny, underground stand-up comedy show without knowing what to expect. In this teeny room, along with 20 to 22 other people, I watched seven different stand-up comics within an hour’s time. These amateur comics were fully engaging their small audience, and there was no way to be distracted by other occurrences. During the several performances, a couple of audience members took a beating for their inattentiveness and were grilled ruthlessly by these penniless, but snobby comics.
I also took a swing from one of the comics. We were a little late for the show, and when we entered, we suddenly became the center of attention in the room. After I answered a question, Turkey became the center of the comedy, and the performer started to go on a roll, concluding with more harsh jokes about Ottoman history and especially Ottoman-Armenian issues.
‘Grass’ offered on the streets
I became friends with one of the performers at the show, a 22-year-old guy named Sam. During one of the breaks, we started to have a casual conversation about Montaigne, the 16th-century French writer. After some time, he took out some “grass” from his pocket and offered it to me as well without any hesitation. I was stunned by Sam’s relaxed attitude and hastily asked him whether this could be a matter of concern for the San Francisco Police Department. He looked at me and said sarcastically, “I am sure they have bigger issues to handle at the moment.”
Far from being a war between hippies and police, the fight to legalize marijuana in California focuses on whether decriminalizing and taxing it can help with the state’s fiscal crisis. Marijuana has been legal for medical purposes since the mid-90s in California. However, in the November elections, there will be also a ballot question for the Californians to legalize its use for fun as well.
Many California lawmakers support this new initiative and hope that the potential tax windfall will help the state, which currently faces the biggest fiscal challenge in its history. California is known to be the initiator of many new laws in the history of the U.S., new laws that have, in the past, quickly spread to other states. Many argue that legalizing marijuana in California could also make a nationwide impact on relaxing drug regulations.
When I saw the situation on the ground, on the sidewalks of San Francisco, where many times I came across a group of hippies smoking in the midst of everyone without seeing any reason to hide, it was clear that pot has been already legalized on the West Coast. For someone who does not leave Washington and its political theaters much, seeing the West Coast, its homeless people, its laid-back nature and the great Napa Valley, where we tasted some of the best wines in the world, was a great treat indeed, an experience I just wanted to share at this time.
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Guest - SF-Tehrani
2010-03-30 22:52:35
As a 20-year denizen of San Francisco, otherwise known as "The City", I'm glad you enjoyed your visit here. I currently live in a suburb of SF in the middle of the Silicon Valley, I commute to "The City" to my job where I pass by the homeless everyday. I know the sight of the homeless people is not familiar for the out-of-towners, but we are used to them. Two points that are worth mentioning. One, San Francisco is not ashamed of its homeless and we don't hide them. Two, the kind of homeless people that you see on the streets usually have major mental health problems who spend years on the streets. The other and much bigger homeless population consist of families and adults who have been affected by the major economic recession that has hit the American working families for some time now. Fortunately there are many forms for assistance for them here so those families don't have to sleep on the sidewalks. SF is generous to the poor. Beside the Chines there are a lot of "Asians" in SF.
Guest - Murat
2010-03-30 22:47:10
If I have to pick one city that reminds me of Istanbul, it would be SF for sure. The bay, the bridges, the boats, deep blue sky, that constant cool breeze, the hills, all reminds one of Bosphorus, impossible to miss if you have ever been to both. The climate is the closest to Mediterranean in the whole of North America, and hits your face warmly as soon as you step off the plane. As in many Western and Southern cities, homeless abound in street corners unfortunately, and as explained, for many, it is a way of life, a choice. It is always one of my favorite desintations.
Guest - Yilderim Beyazid
2010-03-30 19:30:07
Hey, I got an idea!! If you liked all the hippies and homeless people from San Fransicko so much, then why didn't you take any back to Istanbul with you. I'm sure the Turkish government would just love to have people roaming the streets, smoking hash, and using the streets as their personal toilets, the grand prize for being a socialist utopia. I personally would send you money to take them all with you, they would fit in great with the AKP folks. Allahallah !! what is this world coming too?
Guest - Mike
2010-03-30 17:09:05
I'm a California native who is from the SF Bay Area. I'm fortunate to be from such a dynamic area. As was stated, the homeless problem seems a little overblown. However, yes there are a lot of homeless. It's almost part a the culture in the city. I have also spent a great deal of time in Turkey. I find Turkey a wonderful country. I have been fortunate to have traveled a great deal throughout the land. And find the culture, people, cuisine, and boundless history pulling me back.
Guest - Brian
2010-03-30 14:48:14
Having been lucky enough to live in both SF and Istanbul, I have to agree with Wolf. It is an exaggeration to say there are homeless people on every street corner, but having said that there are many more visible in SF than Istanbul. It is a beautiful city, far nicer than the concrete jungles in most of the USA,
Guest - denny
2010-03-30 14:01:48
SF has many other treats... its lovely bridges, forests, sea, alcatraz etc. and it needs more tourists!! come over!
Guest - wolf
2010-03-30 13:16:28
That is not true that you see home less people in every corner of Frisco. I was there fore three weeks last summer, and I did not see more beggers or homeless there, than I do during a regular saturday morning walk along the Bosphorous in the Bebek area. It was mentioned about the pain of the Chinesee, but it should also be noted that they are now very successful in California. For example, 40% of all hightech companies today in Silicon Valley are owned but Indians (from India, not native americans) and Chinesee. The prestigious universities in California are also full of Chinesee faculty.
Guest - Former Californian
2010-03-30 05:11:41
Thanks for a very nice sketch. Your first-impression views as a foreign visitor provide important perspectives.
Guest - Squeedle
2010-03-30 03:45:54
While reading your account I kept thinking, wow he really didn't like SF! And then I got to the end and realized that you did. I guess that shows how hard it is to communicate one's tone in print. I'm glad you enjoyed our fine city. I hope you come back. There are actually quite a few Turks in the area as evidenced by the number of people who flocked to the Hüsnü Şenlendirici concert . . . this summer I will be visiting Istanbul. I hope I'll be able write a similar account of how much I enjoyed it :)
Guest - A Walrus
2010-03-30 00:52:59
Sounds like you had a good time there. Have you noticed, a lot of your politicians are trying to get the Ottoman Empire back under their control?