Thursday, July 24, 2008

Glance at history

As a result of World War I and the Armenian genocide, the forceful exodus and extermination of Armenians from their historic lands brought up the issue of demarcation of Armenian-Turkish borders. From 1918 to 1923 five treaties determined the Armenian-Turkish border. The Sevr Treaty was signed on 10 August, 1920. It was followed by the Alexandropol Treaty (3 December, 1920), the Moscow Treaty (16 March, 1921), the Kars Treaty (13 October, 1921), and finally, the Lousanne Treaty (24 July, 1923). More notably are the Sevr Treaty and the Lousanne Treaty.

The most important point is that the Armenian-Turkish border was determined by the arbitration award of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Armenia was among the winners of World War I and put its signature under the Sevres Treaty. Wilsonian Armenia refers to the boundary configuration for a proposed Armenian state drawn up by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson for the Treaty of Sèvres.

The proposed state incorporated Erzurum, Bitlis, and Van Provinces, which were parts of the region referred to as Ottoman Armenia (also referred to as Western Armenia). This region was extended to the north, up to the west side of Trabzon Province to provide the Democratic Republic of Armenia with an outlet to the Black Sea at the port of Trabzon.

The Turkish War of Independence forced the former wartime Allies to return to the negotiating table prior to ratification of the Treaty. The parties signed and ratified the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, which annulled the Sèvres Treaty, and also established the current borders of Turkey. This included the previously established eastern borders obtained by the Treaty of Alexandropol, signed on November 2, 1920, and the Treaty of Kars, signed on October 23, 1921 and ratified in Yerevan on September 11, 1922, the Treaty of Lausanne confirming them.

While the Sevres Treaty was not ratified, it remains valid. Today, the Republic of Armenia is still claiming that the Wilsonian Armenia as it is mapped out above is more reflective (still not fully) of historic Armenia than what was established by the Lousanne Treaty. In fact, the Lousanne Treaty was a political compromise among allies with no attention to the real grievances of Armenians against Turkey. Turkey's denial of the Armenian Genocide carries two-fold policy: reject the very occurrence of the genocide, and close any avenues for renegotiation of the border.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On July 20...

1969, Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the Moon. The Apollo 11 launched onto space in Florida at 9:32am on July 16, 1969. On board were Commander Neil Armstrong, Colonel Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Lieutenant Colonel Michael Collins. On July 20, Apollo 11 began to orbit the Moon. Armstrong overrode computer controls and guided the Eagle, the landing module, to a more suitable spot with less than a minute's fuel remaining. The mission was accomplished.

1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became Prime Minister of Ceylon, the world's first elected female head of government. She entered politics when her husband, Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike, was assassinated in 1959. A socialist, she focused all her efforts in nationalizing key sectors in the economy.

1989, after political protests in Burma (Myanmar), military rulers placed the opposition leader and human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.

1973, Bruce Lee, the greatest martial arts professional died. "Be like water. When needed you can freeze, but when necessary you may spill out of the glass and join the river," (paraphrase) was his advice, touching upon the wisdom of flexibility and ability to function in all situations. In his opinion, you must be able to transform from a tiger to a monkey, from a dragon to a cat, when needed and when you wish to regain control of your existence. He also advised, "The key to immortality is to live a life worth remembering."

"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." (Benjamin Franklin)

Click here for all-time favorite Valeriy Leontiev

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Global 'suicide'

Al Gore has just made an inspiring speech, calling again and again to stop and think over the reality of what we are facing not only as a nation, but as a member of this Earth. 'Wake up from slumber and do something!' is his message. Can we appreciate his call and act upon it?! Or are we just going to sit there, self-oblivious and lethargically suicidal, and watch it all happen... Will the Earth slip into a fireball, like Venus and Mars?

A portion of his speech:
On July 16, 1969, the United States of America was finally ready to meet President Kennedy’s challenge of landing Americans on the moon. I will never forget standing beside my father a few miles from the launch site, waiting for the giant Saturn 5 rocket to lift Apollo 11 into the sky. I was a young man, 21 years old, who had graduated from college a month before and was enlisting in the United States Army three weeks later.
I will never forget the inspiration of those minutes. The power and the vibration of the giant rocket’s engines shook my entire body. As I watched the rocket rise, slowly at first and then with great speed, the sound was deafening. We craned our necks to follow its path until we were looking straight up into the air. And then four days later, I watched along with hundreds of millions of others around the world as Neil Armstrong took one small step to the surface of the moon and changed the history of the human race.
We must now lift our nation to reach another goal that will change history. Our entire civilization depends upon us now embarking on a new journey of exploration and discovery. Our success depends on our willingness as a people to undertake this journey and to complete it within 10 years. Once again, we have an opportunity to take a giant leap for humankind.

For the full speech here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Criminal justice or Kafka's novels?

The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution provides for impartial trial to the accused. However, as I take my clients to trial, I realize how this Amendment is shed and trampled over daily… Once a judge told me, ‘Before you start your Sixth Amendment business, let me tell you something…’ And when I object to the court on the basis of this Amendment, judges frown on me and look at me as if I just cursed. Well, as you are sitting there in court next to your client, an individual charged with a crime, you remember Kafka’s writings. The judge is sitting as a representative of the prosecution (with some exceptions, and most are former District Attorneys), the prosecutor is sitting as the representative of a world where the law does not matter, and the jurors are sitting there influenced and under the impressions of the judge’s attitudes towards your client and case. Jurors also are humans who are afraid of crime and who want the streets safe. So, what happens to the idea of presumption of innocence. Trust me, it is surreal. Your objections are overruled even before you state your grounds. Your jury selection is limited by sua sponte objections by the judge. The prosecution’s groundless objections are sustained. And when the prosecution makes his/her closing argument, the law is erased and replaced with something totally different. Prosecution is allowed to shift the burden of proof on the shoulders of the defendant. ‘Prove your innocence, Mr. Defendant. While we do not have any hard, real proof that you committed this crime, we are asking for a Guilty verdict because you cannot prove your innocence.’ The judge nods her head and when you object on Sixth Amendment grounds and case law, you are basically made a clown in front of the jury. You are viewed as the incompetent, unethical lawyer. The jurors who have little idea about the law, are not even allowed to get the real law from your mouth. Then you try to cross-examine prosecution’s witnesses, all you get is objections that are invalid, but sustained. Before you even try to explain that the objection is invalid because of certain reasons, the judge sustains and does not even want to hear it. So, what is going on with the Bill of Rights and how they are applied? All the prosecution is interested is conviction, whether there is evidence or not. All the judge wants is to keep her position and not be found ‘soft’ on crime. As far as all the law that has taken a while to develop and function to protect the rights of the accused, that law is erased and replaced with a practical ‘substitute’—easier to apply... It is very easy to be 'tough' on crime and punish. It is much harder to be compassionate and empathetic towards a human being who has committed a disgusting crime. And it is very hard to dispassionately recognize that person's rights.

It takes a while to turn a democracy into a dictatorship. It really takes decades. One day our children, their children will wake up and see their rights taken away from them, unnoticeably and slowly. It will be too late to fight then and demand them back. That is why, it is important to defend these rights now, relentlessly, at every step of it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Integration v. disintegration

Read more about the European Union puzzle in an insightful article by Christopher Bickerton in Le Monde Diplomatique. The author has given a pretty good panoramic description of the background behind current turmoil... Will the European Union have the same fate as the Soviet Union? But the Soviet Union was based on forceful integration and totalitarian, maximalistic perception of 'Union,' whereas the European Union is based on Western liberal democratic principles... But does it matter? Perhaps, the United States experiment cannot be duplicated? (of course, it took a very bloody war in the US to keep the Union). Perhaps, the 21st century that continued the late 20th century highly nationalistic and secessionist movements will result in the re-making of the world map even further.

Was Napoleon's dream of 'United States of Europe' so unrealizable? Skeptics should recognize though that the European countries are still moving towards integration, but on what terms, what conditions, and to what degree, that is the question...

It should also be remembered that integration takes much, much longer than disintegration, which only needs seconds... The Soviet Union was building up since 1920s and yet, it collapsed in the matter of 4-5 years... One of the theories of physics is that it takes longer for a soluble to be created than it takes for it to dissolve...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

E Pluribus Unum?

Very interesting developments are on the way with regard to the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union. I earlier posted about the basics of this Treaty here. Now, however, following Ireland, Poland, Chech Republic and Germany have declined to ratify it, presenting various counter-arguments on the basis of various motivations... One of the most vociferous concerns is that the Treaty is inconsistent with local/domestic laws... This is a classic example of the clash of the universality with exceptionalism. While European countries at some level are interested in a stronger union, understanding the big advantages, they also resist shedding their 'exceptionalistic' cultural tendencies... Each wants special treatment and special recognition... Perhaps, Lisbon Treaty should be modified to amalgamate these voices... It is unfortunate that nationalism is always a problem in the world.

European Union is facing serious challenges that could very much affect its very existence... Some analysts blame these events on the United States. They claim the U.S. policy is to 'divide and rule' and that it would not be in the interests of the U.S. to have a strong European Union... But this is only one of the angles and possibilities... One could argue that in fact a stronger EU would be very handy to the U.S. given its difficulties in the Middle East...

(EuroUnion symbol above, statue in Austria)

(for more here and here)

(Virtual visit to Europe with Patricia Kaas here)