Ahmadinejad Demand for Apology Denied by President Obama

Iranian thug, bully, tyrant, probably not re-elected but still in office President Ahmadinejad issued a demand for U.S. President Barack Obama to apologize for criticism of Iran’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters.

Not likely.

From the Washington Post:

In Washington, President Obama Friday condemned recent violence against protesters as “outrageous” and dismissed a demand by Iran’s president that he apologize for similar previous comments. Obama suggested that it was President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who should be apologizing to Iranian victims and their families for the violent actions of security forces.

Ow! In your face, Mahmoud!

Said President Obama:

“I don’t take Mr. Ahmadinejad seriously about apologies, particularlygiven the fact that the United Stats has gone out of its way not tointerfere with the election process in Iran.” He said Ahmadinejadshould “think carefully” about his “obligations to his own people,”notably the “families of those who have been beaten, shot or detained.”

Glad to see the global Obama apology tour has its limits.

Congress Apology for Slavery

Or, at least one half of Congress.

The U.S. House of Representatives joins the “apologize for slavery” bandwagon, passing what AP calls, “an unprecedented apology to black Americans for the wrongs committed
against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim
Crow segregation laws.”
(AP)

Apology Index has covered several of the state apologies for slavery. For those keeping score at home Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey have issued official apologies for their role in legalized slavery.

While apologies are nice, and probably do more good than harm, really they can’t compare to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Resolution sponsor Rep. Steve Cohen explained the resolution.

Here is the text of the resolution: (H Res 194):

H. Res. 194

In the House of Representatives, U. S.,

July 29, 2008.

Whereas millions of Africans and their descendants were enslaved
in the United States and the 13 American colonies from 1619 through
1865;

Whereas slavery in America resembled no other form of
involuntary servitude known in history, as Africans were captured and
sold at auction like inanimate objects or animals;

Whereas Africans forced into slavery were brutalized,
humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of being
stripped of their names and heritage;

Whereas enslaved families were torn apart after having been sold separately from one another;

Whereas the system of slavery and the visceral racism against
persons of African descent upon which it depended became entrenched in
the Nation’s social fabric;

Whereas slavery was not officially abolished until the passage
of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865 after
the end of the Civil War;

Whereas after emancipation from 246 years of slavery,
African-Americans soon saw the fleeting political, social, and economic
gains they made during Reconstruction eviscerated by virulent racism,
lynchings, disenfranchisement, Black Codes, and racial segregation laws
that imposed a rigid system of officially sanctioned racial segregation
in virtually all areas of life;

Whereas the system of de jure racial segregation known as `Jim
Crow,’ which arose in certain parts of the Nation following the Civil
War to create separate and unequal societies for whites and
African-Americans, was a direct result of the racism against persons of
African descent engendered by slavery;

Whereas a century after the official end of slavery in America,
Federal action was required during the 1960s to eliminate the dejure
and defacto system of Jim Crow throughout parts of the Nation, though
its vestiges still linger to this day;

Whereas African-Americans continue to suffer from the complex
interplay between slavery and Jim Crow–long after both systems were
formally abolished–through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and
intangible, including the loss of human dignity, the frustration of
careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and
opportunity;

Whereas the story of the enslavement and de jure segregation of
African-Americans and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against
them should not be purged from or minimized in the telling of American
history;

Whereas on July 8, 2003, during a trip to Goree Island,
Senegal, a former slave port, President George W. Bush acknowledged
slavery’s continuing legacy in American life and the need to confront
that legacy when he stated that slavery `was . . . one of the greatest
crimes of history . . . The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end
with slavery or with segregation. And many of the issues that still
trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times. But
however long the journey, our destiny is set: liberty and justice for
all.’;

Whereas President Bill Clinton also acknowledged the
deep-seated problems caused by the continuing legacy of racism against
African-Americans that began with slavery when he initiated a national
dialogue about race;

Whereas a genuine apology is an important and necessary first step in the process of racial reconciliation;

Whereas an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and
injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs
committed can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help
Americans confront the ghosts of their past;

Whereas the legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia has
recently taken the lead in adopting a resolution officially expressing
appropriate remorse for slavery and other State legislatures have
adopted or are considering similar resolutions; and

Whereas it is important for this country, which legally
recognized slavery through its Constitution and its laws, to make a
formal apology for slavery and for its successor, Jim Crow, so that it
can move forward and seek reconciliation, justice, and harmony for all
of its citizens: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved, That the House of Representatives–
      (1) acknowledges that slavery is incompatible with the
      basic founding principles recognized in the Declaration of Independence
      that all men are created equal;
      (2) acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow;
      (3) apologizes to African Americans on behalf of the
      people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and
      their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow; and
      (4) expresses its commitment to rectify the lingering
      consequences of the misdeeds committed against African Americans under
      slavery and Jim Crow and to stop the occurrence of human rights
      violations in the future.

New Jersey Apology for Slavery

Recalling one of the first apologies that Apology Index covered, the New Jersey legislature has adopted a resolution apologizing for that state’s role in slavery.

What’s that, you say? Isn’t New Jersey a northern state? New Jersey didn’t have slaves, what are they apologizing for?

You are correct! New Jersey is, in fact, the first northern state to issue a formal slavery apology, joining Southern states Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.

But if you think slavery was limited to the South … bzzzt! Thanks for playing, but you need to review your American history:

According to the resolution, New Jersey had one of the largest slave populations in the Northern colonies and was the last state in the
Northeast to formally abolish slavery, not doing so until 1846.

The state didn’t ratify the constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery until January 1866, a month after it had already become federal law. (Washington Post)

As usual, some in New Jersey think it is a meaningless gesture. Well, it is in the sense that any actual slaves are not around to receive the apology. But it is not meaningless in recognizing that institutionalized and legally sanctioned slavery was the single worst stain on a nation founded on the principles of liberty and the proposition that “all men are created equal” (and women, I would add, but that’s another whole topic). The consequences of that wrong continue to affect our nation today. In that sense, to whatever extent an apology helps people recognize that history (didn’t know about slaves in New Jersey, did you?) and move toward greater reconciliation, it strengthens America. And that, my friends, is a good thing.

(Although, conceptually, I do think the resolution is incorrect in identifying contemporary racist ideas and action as vestiges of slavery. I think that is backwards. Slavery did not cause racism. Racism is the older evil, of which slavery as practiced in the Americas was one particularly bitter fruit. But racism today is caused by the same things that cause racism in any place or time: ignorance and arrogance being chief ingredients. That’s just how it seems to me, though I could be wrong.)

Good job, New Jersey. Still waiting to hear from Massachusetts …

More coverage:

Philadelphia Inquirer

International Herald Tribune

Jersey Blogs

Read the resolution at Slate

Here is the resolution in full (I know it’s long, but I love “whereas” clauses):

A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION apologizing for the wrongs of slavery and expressing New Jersey’s profound regret for its role in slavery.

WHEREAS, Slavery has been documented as a worldwide practice since antiquity, dating back to 3500 B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia; and

WHEREAS, During the existence of the Atlantic Slave Trade, millions of Africans became involuntary immigrants to the New World, and millions more died during passage; the first African slaves in the North American colonies were brought to Jamestown, in 1619; and

WHEREAS, The Atlantic Slave Trade was a lucrative enterprise, and African slaves, a prized commodity to support the economic base of plantations in the colonies, were traded for tropical products, manufactured goods, sugar, molasses, and other merchandise; and

WHEREAS, Some African captives resisted enslavement by fleeing from slave forts on the West African coast and others mutinied aboard slave trading vessels, cast themselves into the Atlantic Ocean, or risked the cruel retaliation of their masters by running away to seek freedom; and

WHEREAS, Although the United States outlawed the transatlantic slave trade in 1808, the domestic slave trade in the colonies and illegal importation continued for several decades; and

WHEREAS, Slavery, or the “Peculiar Institution,” in the United States resembled no other form of involuntary servitude, as Africans were captured and sold at auction as chattel, like inanimate property or animals; and

WHEREAS, To prime Africans for slavery, the fundamental values of the Africans were shattered; they were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage; women and girls were raped, and families

were disassembled as husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons were sold into slavery apart from one another; and

WHEREAS, A series of complex colonial laws was enacted to relegate the status of Africans and their descendants to slavery, in spite of their loyalty, dedication, and service to the country, including heroic and distinguished service in the Revolutionary War, Civil

War, and all other conflicts and military actions involving the United States military; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey, with as many as 12,000 slaves, had one of the largest populations of captive Africans in the northern colonies; and

WHEREAS, In 1786, the State of New Jersey enacted a law that prohibited the importation of slaves into this State and made owners punishable for the mistreatment of slaves; and

WHEREAS, Although the State of New Jersey passed a gradual emancipation law in 1804, it was the last northern state to emancipate its slaves, and required all children of slaves born after July 4, 1804 to remain the “servant of the owner of his or her mother” until they were twenty-one years of age for women or twenty-five years of age for men; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey had one of the severest slave codes in the northern colonies and was one of the few northern states to sanction the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which permitted authorities in free states to return runaway slaves to their owners, with the result that Underground Railroad passengers had to proceed with utmost caution in this State; and

WHEREAS, In 1846, New Jersey passed a law officially abolishing slavery; and

WHEREAS, The system of slavery had become entrenched in American history and the social fabric, and the issue of enslaved Africans had to be addressed as a national issue, contributing to the Civil War from 1861 to 1865 and the passage of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude on December 18, 1865; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey adopted the Thirteenth Amendment on January 23, 1866 only after originally rejecting it on March 16, 1865; and

WHEREAS, After emancipation from 246 years of slavery, African-Americans soon saw the political, social, and economic gains they made during Reconstruction dissipated by virulent and rabid racism, lynchings, disenfranchisement of African-American voters,

Black Codes designed to reimpose the subordination of African-Americans, and Jim Crow laws that instituted a rigid system of state sanctioned segregation in virtually all areas of life and lasted until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting

Rights Act; and

WHEREAS, Throughout their existence in America and even in the decades after the Civil Rights Movement, African-Americans have found the struggle to overcome the bitter legacy of slavery long and arduous, and for many African-Americans the scars left behind are unbearable, haunting their psyches and clouding their vision of the future and of America’s many positive attributes; and

WHEREAS, Our nation acknowledges the crimes and persecution visited upon other peoples during World War II lest the world forget, yet the very mention of the broken promise of “40 acres and a mule” to former slaves or of the existence of racism today evokes denial from many quarters of any responsibility for the centuries of legally sanctioned deprivation of African-Americans of their endowed rights or for contemporary policies that perpetuate the existing state of affairs; and

WHEREAS, In 2003, during a trip to Goree Island, Senegal, a former slave port, President George W. Bush stated, “At this place, liberty and life were stolen and sold. Human Beings were delivered and sorted, and weighed, and branded with the marks of commercial enterprises, and loaded as cargo on a voyage without return. One of

the largest migrations of history was also one of the greatest crimes of history…. For 250 years the captives endured 1 an assault on their culture and their dignity…. Small men took on the powers and airs of tyrants and masters. Years of unpunished brutality and bullying and rape produced a dullness and hardness of conscience. Christian men and women became blind to the clearest commands of their faith and added hypocrisy to injustice…. We can finally judge the past by the standards of President John Adams, who called slavery ‘an evil of colossal magnitude’…. My nation’s journey toward justice has not been easy, and it is not over. The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end with slavery or with segregation … and many of the issues that still trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times …; and

WHEREAS, In New Jersey the vestiges of slavery are ever before African-American citizens, from the overt racism of hate groups to the subtle racism encountered when requesting health care, transacting business, buying a home, seeking quality public

education and college admission, and enduring pretextual traffic stops and other indignities; and

WHEREAS, European and African nations have apologized for their roles in what history calls the worst holocaust of humankind, the Atlantic Slave Trade, and racial reconciliation is impossible without some acknowledgment of the moral and legal injustices perpetrated upon African-Americans; and

WHEREAS, An apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help African-American and white citizens confront the ghosts of their collective pasts

together; and

WHEREAS, The story of the enslavement of Africans and their descendants, the human carnage, and the dehumanizing atrocities committed during slavery should not be purged from New Jersey’s history or discounted; moreover, the faith, perseverance, hope, and

endless triumphs of African-Americans and their significant contributions to the development of this State and the nation should be embraced, celebrated, and retold for generations to come; and

WHEREAS, The perpetual pain, distrust, and bitterness of many African-Americans could be assuaged and the principles espoused by the Founding Fathers would be affirmed, and great strides toward unifying all New Jerseyans and inspiring the nation to acquiesce might be accomplished, if on the eve of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in the New World, the State acknowledged and

atoned for its role in the slavery of Africans; and

WHEREAS, Acknowledging that there is a difference between wrong and right, and that slavery as an American “institution” was a wrong committed upon millions of African Americans and that their descendants continue to suffer from the effects of Jim Crow

laws, segregation, housing discrimination, 1 discrimination in education, and other ills inflicted upon African-Americans; and

WHEREAS, The State of New Jersey, the Governor, and its citizens are conscious that under slavery many atrocities and gross violations of human rights were imposed upon African-Americans, and that acknowledging these facts can and will avert future tragedies, be they in the Sudan, or other parts of the world; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the General Assembly of the State of NewJersey (the Senate concurring):

1. The Legislature of the State of New Jersey expresses its profound regret for the State’s role in slavery and apologizes for the wrongs inflicted by slavery and its after effects in the United States of America; expresses its deepest sympathies and solemn regrets to

those who were enslaved and the descendants of those slaves, who were deprived of life, human dignity, and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States; and we encourage all citizens to remember and teach their children about the history of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and modern day slavery, to ensure that these tragedies will neither be forgotten nor repeated.

2. It is the intent of the Legislature that this resolution shall not be used in, or be the basis of, any type of litigation.

3. Duly authenticated copies of this resolution, signed by the President of the Senate and Speaker of the General Assembly and attested by the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the General Assembly, shall be transmitted to the New Jersey Secretary of State,

all New Jersey branches of the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People, Garden State Bar Association, the Amistad Commission, and the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education.

STATEMENT

This concurrent resolution issues a formal apology on behalf of the State of New Jersey for its role in slavery and discusses the history of racism and inhumane treatment toward African-Americans in the United States from the arrival of its first settlers to the present day. It calls upon the citizens of this State to remember that slavery continues to exist and encourages them to teach about the history and legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws

APOLOGY ADVICE: Australian article on significance of public apologies

The Sydney Morning Herald online has an article examining the significance of public apologies, mainly from businesses and politicians:

The calculated cost of an apology

Sorry, as Elton John reminded us, seems to be the hardest word.
It’s certainly the trickiest in politics and business.


But what’s more interesting is the noise the S-word has created.
It speaks volumes about how much accountability has changed. There
would have been a time when a simple apology, or the refusal to
give one, would not have blown up into an election issue.

 It’s a different story in an era in which former British
prime minister Tony Blair apologised to Ireland for the 19th
century potato famine and when the Catholic Church, which has
plenty to apologise for, has offered apologies all round to the
Jews, the Gypsies, victims of sexual abuse, Galileo and the
citizens of Constantinople (now Istanbul) for its sacking 800 years
ago by the knights of the Fourth Crusade.

There are two reasons for the change. First is the way news
gathering, the internet and globalisation have changed the flow of
information. Put simply, news good or bad travels a lot faster and
further. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

Secondly, according to Aaron Lazare, professor of psychiatry at
the University of Massachusetts medical school, there is our
increased interdependence and fragile connectedness in today’s
global village. The increased layers and connections mean that more
people are bumping into each other. In such a crowded space, it
only heightens expectations for apologies.

The article makes some points we have made at Apology Index:

… For corporations, the apology itself is less about
contrition than it is about crisis and reputation management….

… In politics and business, the calculated apology is about the
commodification of the mea culpa….


… Done too little or too late, or making it too
obviously tactical, can be disastrous and destructive….

And offers some advice:

Public relations and strategy experts cite 10 questions CEOs
need to ask before embarking on the apology route:

1. Was the offence serious?
2. Should the CEO assume responsibility?

3. Is the cost of saying something likely to be lower than the cost
of saying nothing?

4. What function would the apology serve?
5.Who benefits?
6. Why would an apology matter (for strategic reasons, moral
reasons)?

7. What happens when the apology is made and would it placate the
injured parties and hasten resolution?

8.Will an apology create legal problems?
9. If you don’t apologise, will the problem fade?
10. Will a refusal to apologise make it worse?

As examples, it references several apologies we have covered, including recent apologies from Apple and Mattel.

Worth a read.

Governor Spitzer Apology for Misusing State Police

Here in its entirety is New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s apology for the underhanded tactics of his staff in, among other things, misusing the NY State Police to undermine one of the Governor’s political rivals. Governor Spitzer apologized in the form of an op-ed in the New York Times. No middle of the night faxed press release here! This is just the opening volley of what will be an extended apology tour for the governor. According to Newsday:

Spitzer’s apology will be repeated as he travels statewide to push his
legislative agenda. The combative, workaholic governor plans to answer
citizens’ questions about the scandal “head-on” and “work harder than
he’s ever worked” to regain the public’s trust, his spokeswoman said.
(Newsday.com)

An Apology From Albany
By Eliot Spitzer

WE made mistakes.

Whoa! Stop the presses! A great start. Governor Spitzer has a well-earned reputation for being hard-charging and direct. Politicians usually go for the “mistakes were made” locution, which deflects the blame off to some amorphous unidentified mistake-maker. Spitzer steps right up and takes what’s he’s got coming … the blame.

Though two independent investigations proved that no illegal
activity occurred on my watch, it is crystal clear that what members of
my administration did was wrong — no ifs, ands or buts.

See what I mean?

I have apologized to Joe Bruno, the Senate majority leader, and now I want to apologize to all New Yorkers.

Of course, an apology to the public is very much required here because Governor Spitzer works for the public. He is ultimately accountable to the people and he knows it. Unlike, say, that Nifong guy in North Carolina.

What you’ve been reading about in the papers and watching on
television this week is not what we are about. In fact, it represents
just the opposite.

On my first day in office, I brought my staff together and told them
what our guiding principles must be: “First, we’re going to fight for
what we believe in. And second, we’re going to maintain the highest
ethical standards while doing it.”

Over the past few weeks, two members of my administration forgot
that second principle — creating an appearance that the State Police
were being used inappropriately.

Translation: my team did not live up to my standards or yours, and it’s my fault. This does not have the tone of blaming his staff, the way Senator Obama keeps doing.

As soon as this became clear, we acted immediately and decisively,
suspending one of my longtime advisers indefinitely and transferring
the other out of the governor’s office. These steps were not taken
lightly. Both of these people have served New York with distinction for
decades.

But the message was simple: even though they didn’t break the law, they forgot what we were about, and that won’t be tolerated.

Governor Spitzer here does one of the things that a good apology must … he tells how he has acted to correct the problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The worst thing that could happen now would be for this to stop our
progress, preventing us from building on our many successes of the past
six months: health insurance for every child; historic investment in
our schools tied to accountability; the largest property tax cut in
history; ethics, lobbying and campaign finance reform; breaking the
impasse at ground zero; and a 20 percent cut in workers’ compensation
rates that will save New York businesses $1 billion and make our state
more competitive.

Albany had long been mired in gridlock, but we are changing that.
Working together with the Senate and Assembly, we have managed to make
remarkable progress — and we are on the brink of so much more.

Ok, here we have a little campaign commercial for his administration. He is, after all, a politician. But this also serves to put the kerfluffle in a larger perspective.

There are two ways this can go.

We can get bogged down in partisan politics that serve only to
distract us from the business at hand — the kind of head-hunting that
we’re beginning to see for people in my administration who were cleared
by these investigations.

Or we can move forward and pick up where we left off, addressing the
long list of issues and challenges that matter to all New Yorkers —
which are just as important today as they were last week.

This is a variation on the old “Let’s move on” technique that President Clinton’s administration was so good at. Clinton’s gang had a lot of practice, of course. Bill Clinton pretty much lived in the hot seat, but he was also the Weeble of American politics … he wobbled but he never fell down. Spitzer has a different public persona. He’s Mr. Clean, so this dust up could hurt his ability to advance his public agenda … which is why it’s a good idea for him to remind New Yorkers what that agenda is — and why they elected him in the first place — and then ask the to move forward together with him to get it done. To wit:

So let us keep our eye on the ball and focus our energy and our
resources on the needs of New Yorkers — fighting for a revitalized
economy, more jobs, lower health care costs, better schools and lower
taxes.

Told ya!

We will renew those two guiding principles I spoke about on my first day in office.

We will continue to fight vigorously to change the status quo on
behalf of all New Yorkers. I’m never going to apologize for that.

Nicely played!

But
we must recognize that this effort will succeed only if our means for
changing the status quo are as honorable as our ends.

That is, I promise this won’t happen again. We’ll see how that works out. But at least one New Yorker seems to buy it. From a letter to the editor:

Am I dreaming, or did a politician actually say, “We made mistakes” instead of “Mistakes were made?”

Thank you, Gov. Spitzer, for your honesty, your willingness to apologize, and your rejection of the passive weaseled voice!

I think Eliot is going to get through this just fine.

Nifong Apology for Attempting to Railroad Duke Lacrosse Players

Better late than never, I suppose.  I could also say third time is the charm. There are probably a few other apt clichés that fit here. So many digital trees have been sacrificed to discuss the false and malicious prosecution of the Duke lacrosse players last year by renegade district attorney Michael Nifong that I’m going to skip over the details. Here is a quick summary:

The case started with a woman’s allegations that she was raped at a
March 2006 lacrosse team party where she was hired as a stripper.
Nifong won indictments against three team members, but the charges were
later dropped, and state Attorney General Roy Cooper went a step
farther by declaring the three men innocent victims of Nifong’s “tragic
rush to accuse.” ( Chron.com)

Nifong is now the definition of disgraced. He has been disbarred and removed from office. He is now facing contempt of court charges for his suppression and misrepresentation of evidence in the (now dismissed) rape case. But he has now, through the redemptive power of apology, avoided additional sanctions previously sought by his erstwhile victims. But it wasn’t easy, even at this late hour, for him to admit he was wrong:

It took three tries for disgraced former prosecutor Mike Nifong to
utter the words that three Duke lacrosse players falsely accused of
rape were determined to hear him say.
On Thursday, more
than 16 months after beginning a disastrous prosecution of the former
players, Nifong offered a complete and unqualified apology.

His first try was a non-apology apology. The day after the rape charges were dismissed:

Nifong issued a written statement apologizing “to the
extent that I made judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect.”

Still hadn’t quite sunk in.

In
June, Nifong offered a tearful apology to the families but said, “I
think something happened in that bathroom” and “something happened to
make everyone leave that scene very quickly.”

The response enraged the players’ attorneys, and left the mother of one player in tears.

Hmm, still a bit too much in denial and indulging in self-justification.

This time, Nifong admitted he was dead wrong:

“I agree with the attorney general’s statement that there is no
credible evidence that Mr. Seligmann, Mr. Finnerty or Mr. Evans
committed any of the crimes for which they were indicted — or any other
crimes against (the accuser) — during the party,” Nifong said, adding
that state prosecutors uncovered evidence he didn’t have.

So close. He had it, but just had to throw in that bit about additional evidence. Evidence you didn’t bother to look for, Nifong. Let’s hear the apology:

“I have admitted on more than one occasion that I have made mistakes in
the course of my prosecution of these cases,” Nifong told the court.
“For that, I sincerely apologize to Mr. Seligmann, Mr. Finnerty, Mr.
Evans and their families.” ( Chron.com)

Still sounds a little whiny to me. Will this apology take?

Defense attorney Joseph Cheshire called the previous apologies “far
from sincere” and said the families would have to decide whether to
accept the latest one. None of the three players was in court.

“I
think it is a statement that has much more validity than any of the
other so-called apologies he has attempted to make,” Cheshire said
after the hearing. ( Chron.com)

But apparently it was enough:

After listening to Nifong’s first unqualified apology in the 16-month
case, lawyers for the players dropped their request for sanctions,
except for a criminal contempt charge brought by a judge. Those
sanctions could have forced Nifong to pay some defense legal costs.

So what have we learned? Sometimes it is very hard to admit you’re wrong. Even when the whole world knows it. Perhaps especially when the whole world knows it. If there was any single person in America who needed to be on his knees apologizing and begging for forgiveness for his misdeeds, it was Michael Nifong. The man tried to ruin the lives of three innocent young men for his own selfish gain. He brought trumped up rape charges against them and plowed right ahead even after it was obvious to the entire thinking world that the would-be victim was bonkers and her story had no credibility. He suppressed DNA evidence that pointed to the defendants’ innocence. He persisted in justifying his pigheaded wrongdoing even after being booted off the case, losing his license to practice law and kicked out of office. Yet he still couldn’t admit he was wrong, that he had wronged his victims and that he owed them a public apology, at the very least.

In light of the enormity of his misdeeds, the so-called full apology he finally uttered was weak tea indeed. But it was enough to satisfy his victims who, I am sure, are ready to put this whole sorry episode behind them. They just wanted a public admission from their tormentor that he was in the wrong and, having received that, were willing to drop the sanctions they had been pressing for. Fair enough.

What I have not heard from Nifong — and possibly because I haven’t looked for it, so maybe he has done this already — is an apology to the citizens of Durham and of North Carolina for betraying his oath of office. We endow district attorneys with awesome powers. They can take away the freedom and even the lives of their fellow citizens. We expect prosecutors to use the power entrusted to them for the protection of the public. We expect them to act with restraint, with probity, without fear or favor, to see that justice is done. Nifong abused those power and brought not only himself, but the entire justice system into disrepute. He’s got a lot more apologizing to do before his slate is clean … if it ever will be.

Passport Apology

As we’ve noted before, rarely does our government — at any level, but especially the federal government — actually admit to making mistakes, much less apologize. No, no — they are all-wise and know what is best for us. If we think otherwise, the fault must lie with us.

But sometimes government ineptitude rises to such a magnitude that it cannot be denied. Katrina comes to mind.

Also, this summer’s passport disaster. For those who already had up to date passports, a quick review. In an effort to better protect us all from terrorists the government in its wisdom decided that every American who wishes to travel to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and certain other locations in the Western Hemisphere must henceforth produce to get back into the U.S. Previously, a passport was not required.

Let me say that again slowly so everyone can catch the nuance: American citizens who leave the U.S., go to certain neighboring countries, and then want to re-enter the U.S. must show a passport. And this will protect us from terrorists.

Umm … okay.

How exactly that works, I’m not sure. Presumably any dangerous American citizens could do whatever nefarious things they might want to do without leaving the country in the first place. I’m not sure a long weekend in Bermuda will make someone more dangerous.

What? This was a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission?  Oh, well if those all-wise philosopher-kings suggested it, it must be good idea. I mean, these are the same people who suggested the Department of Homeland Security. If your bureaucracies don’t work very well together, roll them all up into one giant bureaucracy! Sheer genius!

Result: Katrina.

Anyway, our homeland security brain trust decided that we should all show passports when we come back from foreign travel, even to Canada. Dubious homeland security benefits aside, it is not necessarily a bad idea to make passports a blanket rule rather than requiring passports for some countries and not for others. I always take my passport. That isn’t really the problem.

The problem comes when you decide to change the rule … and don’t ramp up your ability to meet the suddenly increased demand for passports:

At the peak of the passport
fiasco in early summer, more than 2 million Americans were still
waiting for passports, with half a million waiting more than three
months for a document that prior to this year was usually ready in six
weeks.
(“Maybe passports will follow apology,” AJC.com)

Well, maybe the State Department never got the memo from Homeland Security.

The Bush administration had
two years to prepare for the change, but for the most part failed. In
the first three months of the year, 5.5 million passport applications
were filed, many of them first-time applications, which take longer to
process. The State Department did not hire enough workers to keep up
with the demand and fell woefully behind, disrupting personal travel
plans, honeymoons and business trips.
(AJC.com)

Oh. They did get the memo. They’re just idiots.

Sorry about your honeymoon. But at least you’re safe from … fellow citizens traveling without a passport!

Okay, yes, I have a low tolerance for government bungling. Imagine — we actually pay these people to make our lives more difficult! But enough snark. On to the apology:

No, wait! First some more complaint:

The massive backlog has destroyed summer vacations, ruined wedding and
honeymoon plans, and disrupted business meetings and educational trips.
Some people have lost days of work waiting in lines, while others have
lost thousands of dollars in nonrefundable travel and lodging deposits
. (“Passport backlog draws an apology,” Boston.com)

Again with the honeymoons. Ok, now you can apologize:

“Over the past several months, many travelers who applied for a
passport did not receive their document in time for their planned
travel,” said Assistant Secretary of State Maura Harty. “I deeply
regret that. I accept complete responsibility for this.”
(Boston.com)

Lovely. I feel much better now. Well, again, I already have a passport. I wonder if this apology will satisfy all of the disappointed newlyweds, vacationers, and other frustrated travelers.

My guess? 

No. Not even close. And why is some Assistant Secretary taking the fall? Condi needs to be apologizing for this one herself.

Some in Congress wonder if the effort hasn’t actually harmed security.
Others question whether more passports actually contribute much to
security at all.
(Boston.com)

Excellent question, Some In Congress. Glad you’re on top of this.

Detroit Zoo Apology

Resume fraud by public and semi-public figures crops up in the news fairly often. You have to wonder what they were thinking. Details about education, degrees and prior job experience are not that hard to check, so it is a cinch that someone in a high profile position who fudges the record will get found out eventually. For that matter, even people in not-so-high-profile positions run a huge risk of getting tripped up–by Google, if nothing else. So never pad your resume, Apology Index readers!

That said, I really was named Time magazine “Person of the Year” for 2006, just like it says in my little bio over there to the left. I am absolutely putting that on my resume. You should too.

But one person who might hesitate to claim that accolade is Dr. Ron Kagan, Director of the Detroit Zoo.

No, wait. Actually, he is non-Dr. Ron Kagan, Director of the Detroit Zoo. It seems that Mr. Kagan never quite finished up the requirements for his Ph.D in zoology from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, though he has claimed the doctorate on his resume for years. A case of low cunning and deception by a fiendish fraud exposed at last?

Not quite.

Kagan told the Free Press last week that he finished his coursework and
wrote a dissertation at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but that one of
his advisers never signed off on the dissertation. He said he returned
to Israel twice to try to clarify the matter, but couldn’t and
eventually quit trying.
(freep.com)

I had something like that happen once in college. A professor miscalculated my final grade in a course. It was holy heck trying to track him down, get him to recognize his error and submit a corrected grade. That would have been even more difficult had my professor been on the other side of the world. I can see how Kagan would be tempted to just throw up his hands. He did, after all, do all the work for his degree. He was just missing a signature.

Still, it was a misrepresentation to say he had the degree once he realized that he didn’t. (You know, my university actually give you a degree you can frame … so you pretty much know if you have it or not.)

So how did this come to light?

His academic qualifications became an issue June 21 after the board
received an anonymous fax stating there were misrepresentations on
Kagan’s resume.
(MyFoxDetroit.com)

Ok, that’s just low. Obviously someone had it in for Ron Kagan, but lacked the guts to come forward with what they knew. So they decided to do him in with an anonymous fax. Hey, real classy, Anonymous Loser!

Still, Kagan is the head zoo keeper. Maybe he has a history of feeding his enemies to the bears and the Anonymous Loser felt that preserving his or her identity was necessary. But I’m skeptical.

Anyway, the Zoo board was obligated to question Mr. Kagan about this allegation and launch an investigation of his background. Kagan admitted the lie and the investigation confirmed that he does hold a bachelor’s in zoology from the University of Massachusetts and a master’s from Hebrew University in 1980.

Now his fate rested with the 43 board of the Detroit Zoological Society. Naturally, they fired him, right?

Wrong.

Zoo board Chairman Gail Warden said Kagan will be ordered to forfeit
one month’s pay and issue a public apology on the zoo’s Web site. (MyFoxDetroit.com)

This is where the story veers into Frank Capra territory.

Detroit Zoological Society Chairman Gail Warden, who said the board
was disappointed that Kagan had misrepresented his qualifications, but
impressed with the way he has run the zoo for almost 15 years.


“We do trust him. We feel he is the person who is best to provide leadership to the zoo going forward,” Warden said. (freep.com)

What? Really? Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, what do you think?


“Ron has done a great job … and I stand by him today just as I did when I reappointed him in 2002,” he said.

Wow. Is he that good?

“There have been many wonderful exhibits developed under
his leadership and the tough decisions he made on animal
welfare,” Warden said. “The board realizes the
important role he played to the zoo and the zoological
society and the work today toward permanent funding for the
zoo and the tax referendum.”



Kagan is credited with bringing innovative exhibits to the zoo
including a National Amphibian Conservation Center and a polar bear
exhibit. (freep.com)

Polar bears! I love polar bears!

So, yes, resume fraud is wrong. But if you do an outstanding job — and bring in polar bears — you might not get fired when someone sends in an anonymous fax questioning your credentials. (Take that, Anonymous Loser!)

Now for the apology:


I want to sincerely apologize to the Detroit Zoological Society staff,
volunteers, members, donors, guests, the community, and all who love
and support our Detroit Zoo for my mistake. While an apology won’t
correct it, I do want everyone to know that I’m truly sorry.


I’m grateful to our Board for accepting my apology — I offer no
excuses — and for inviting me to stay on as Executive Director. I
accept the Board’s sanctions with the seriousness with which they’re
given, and hope that my performance going forward will reinforce that
they made the right decision.

We have a truly great Zoo. Almost 80 years of community hard work and
significant public/private investment have brought us to this point.
Over those many years our wonderful staff and volunteers have pioneered
many innovations, including unique guest experiences, animal habitats,
humane education, conservation and animal welfare. We need to keep
moving forward and we have plenty of challenges ahead. I’m sorry to
have hurt our path, especially since I care so much about this
community and Zoo. I hope you’ll forgive me and that you’ll continue to
help the Detroit Zoo.


Sincerely,
Ron Kagan

(freep.com)

Properly contrite. He’s sorry. He makes no excuses. He knows he done wrong. He acknowledges that the Board had every right to fire him. He pledges to be more dedicated than ever to making the Detroit Zoo awesome.

He also knows several polar bears who would be very angry if the mean Board made their friend go away.

Happy ending! Parade! Hooray!

One last piece to this story. Who hates Ron Kagan so much that they would send that anonymous fax in the first place?  A possible clue:

[Kagan] is perhaps best known for his controversial decision to send the
zoo’s two aging elephants to a California sanctuary. Kagan argued that
the zoo didn’t have adequate space to properly care for the animals.


The decision irked many zoo visitors and officials at other zoos that
keep elephants, but it made him a hero to many in the animal welfare
community. (freep.com)

I suspect the Elephant Mafia.

DATE:  July 2, 2007
APOLOGIZER: Ron Kagan, Director of the Detroit Zoo
APOLOGIZEE: Detroit Zoological Society staff,
volunteers, members, donors, guests, the community, and all who love
and support the Detroit Zoo
FOR: Misrepresenting credentials.

Two Girls Kissing Apology

This story doesn’t involve Paris Hilton, though you can be forgiven for thinking that it could have — or even wishing that it did.

From the local beat in Portland, Oregon comes the story of two girls busted for bussing on the bus … and the subsequent apology by the TriMet transit authority for the bus driver’s actions. The incident happened last week. Portland news outlet KATU reports:

PORTLAND, Ore. – Two gay teen girls who say they were kicked off a
TriMet bus for being affectionate with each other are considering
lodging a complaint against the driver of the bus.

Maika Rich
and Jocelyn O’Neal, both 14, admit they were kissing while on the No.
12 bus traveling on Barbur Boulevard at about 5 p.m. on June 8. They
were headed to the Sexual Minority Youth Recreation Center.

Sexual Minority Youth Recreation Center? We’re definitely not in Kansas. Anyway, there they were, minding their own business, when:

They say a female passenger complained to the driver about the kissing
and that the driver told them to “knock it off” and also called them
“sickos.”

Rich says she then gave O’Neal a hug because it
appeared she was upset about the exchange. They say at that point the
driver stopped the bus and ordered them off.

The girls say they are used to being picked on at school but felt defenseless against an adult.

Used to being picked on at school? That’s why we need Sexual Minority Youth Recreation Centers. Which is kind of a sad commentary in itself, if you think about it. Can’t we all just get along?

Not, apparently, on the  No.  12 bus.

Maika Rich’s mother, Ronnda Zezula, says she doesn’t think the driver
would have treated two gay adults or a heterosexual couple in the same
manner.
(“Girls say driver kicked them off bus for kissing,” KATU.com)

Mom may have a point. But, then again, maybe not. A quick kiss on the bus? Who cares? On the other hand if two people of any age or gender combination are making out on a public bus that could — not necessarily, but could — be annoying to other passengers. And isn’t really appropriate. Even in Portland. The reports don’t make clear the extent of the kissing. So I’ll be fair-minded and say a passenger complaining wasn’t automatically out of line. The driver telling them to knock if off … assuming he would have said the same to a boy and a girl or two adults, still fair. We can reserve judgment up until …

Calling the girls sickos and tossing them off the bus … yeah, that was handled poorly. And does seem to reveal a certain bias unbecoming in a public transit system presumably open to all citizens of the fair city of Portland. (For more on which, see The Portland Mercury’s collection of message board postings by Portland bus drivers)

Anyway, complaint, news coverage, talk of a lawsuit, yadda, yadda, yadda. What does TriMet have to say after looking into this?  From the TriMet website:

June 20, 2007

Operator faces discipline in incident involving 14-year old girls

TriMet
announced that a 64-year old male operator will face disciplinary
action for an incident occurring on June 8, 2007 on Line 12-Barbur Blvd
involving two 14-year old girls. The discipline stems from the operator
violating several agency procedures and policies while driving a bus.
The operator has worked for TriMet for 11 years.

At around
5 p.m. a rider complained to the operator that two riders were kissing
on the bus. The operator approached them and later asked them to leave
the bus. The riders’ actions did not warrant being removed from the
bus, and TriMet policy requires operators to call for assistance before
removing a minor off the bus.

“TriMet sincerely apologizes
to the girls and their families for this incident. Removing the girls
from the bus was not consistent with our policy. I want to reiterate
that we welcome all riders on our system,” said TriMet General Manager
Fred Hansen.

TriMet does not release details of the
disciplinary proceedings or the final results of the proceedings, as
protected by public records law. TriMet is not releasing the operator’s
name per standard procedure when an employee is involved in a
complaint.

Apology by press release … fair enough, it’s not like the bus ran over anybody. General Manager Fred Hansen is quoted directly … not the impersonal corporate voice. He makes clear that TriMet has looked into the incident, found that its policies were not adhered to and that the offending (and offended, we can surmise) bus driver will be disciplined for his action. And, of course, he apologizes to the girls and their families and invites everyone to ride the bus. Hooray!

A run of the mill “please don’t sue us” apology.

DATE OF APOLOGY: June 20, 2007
APOLOGIZER: TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen
APOLOGIZEE: 2 young bus passengers and their families
FOR: Improper ejection of minors from the bus.

Some Thoughts on Apologies via Seth Godin

Doing a quick browse around the ubiquitous internets, I found this February post on apologies from the blog of “bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change” Seth Godin. The guy is a marketing and communications genius and if you are interested in those topics, read his books.

Here, Seth shares some thoughts from his correspondent, blogger Yehuda, who ranks the quality of apologies on a scale of 1 to 10. This is in a business context, with 1 being a thumb in the customer’s eye and 10 being a complete apology.

Good insights to keep in mind as we review apologies here and eventually develop some kind of rating or ranking system.