An Artful Robbery

The National
May 2, 2010

Recently, a Turkish museum's staff discovered that a large number of famous Ottoman-era drawings from their collection were forgeries, the originals probably stolen years ago. Claire Berlinski finds that the theft of valuable artworks across the world is more common than many think.

How to Skin a Moose

Volume 2

Going Rogue: An American Life
Sarah Palin
Harper Collins, US$ 28.99, 413 pp.

The poetry of Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell noted, is always good for a snigger in pansy-left circles. So are the writings of Sarah Palin. The former governor of Alaska, former vice-presidential candidate and great populist hope of the American right tends to inspire derision that is manifestly patronizing and misogynistic. Such is often the fate of charismatic female politicians from small towns, as Margaret Thatcher well knew.

Dark Continent

The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism
by Theodore Dalrymple
(Encounter, 163 pp., $23.95)

National Review
April 19

Many books have now been written about Europe's malaise, most making similar observations, but Dr. Theodore Dalrymple has two great gifts and an advantage. His gifts are his prose style-effortlessly fluent yet never affected-and his keen powers of observation. His advantage is his experience of life.

A Nation of Conspiracies

MARCH 13, 2010

Last fall, having observed that few women in Istanbul took martial-arts classes, I conceived the idea to work with local instructors on creating a women's self-defense initiative. My project met with initial enthusiasm, particularly among women concerned with the high rate of domestic violence in Turkey. But other martial arts instructors in the city grew uneasy, sensing a plot to swindle them out of their small pieces of the martial-arts pie. Istanbul quickened with lunatic rumors that the initiative was a conspiracy to disparage the other instructors' martial prowess and steal their students. Martial-arts cliques consumed themselves with plotting and counter-plotting. Secret tribunals were held, covert alliances formed, poison-pen letters sent, friends betrayed. I gave up in disgust.

The Wrong Ban

Winter 2010

My qualifications as an alarmist about the Islamization of Europe are second to none, according to my critics. But even I cannot find a good legal, political, or moral argument for Swiss voters’ decision, in a November referendum, to ban the building of minarets. Legally, it introduces a contradiction into the Swiss constitution, which is quite clear on this point: “Nobody may be discriminated against, namely for his or her . . . religious, philosophical, or political convictions.” If a citizen has a right to erect a cross, in other words, his fellow citizen must have the right to erect a minaret. This isn’t a minor technical point. The antidiscrimination article is not in the Swiss constitution arbitrarily. We in the West do not believe in banning religious symbols; that’s one of the key reasons we consider our societies superior to those that do. How can anyone in Switzerland be taken seriously now if he criticizes the Saudis for refusing to permit the building of churches?



26 January 2010

Americans with relatives in the earthquake-ravaged country can’t even get our bureaucrats on the phone.

To judge from the State Department’s response to the earthquake in Haiti, our government has not learned the obvious lessons about disaster preparation that it should have after September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. I know, unfortunately, because my family was in Port-au-Prince, where my sister-in-law worked for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Her father, my brother, and my ten-month-old nephew were with her. They were all unharmed; obviously, many were not so fortunate. I cannot comment on the United States’ relief efforts in Haiti, which I have not seen firsthand and about which I have heard only confused reports. But I did observe the State Department’s response to the relatives of Americans in Haiti, and they suggest that our preparation for disasters needs far more thought.

Dealing with the aftershocks

The Spectator
Washington, DC
21 JANUARY 2010

By chance, my father and I were together when we heard the news. We had both just flown to Washington DC—he from Paris, I from Istanbul—to care for my grandmother, who’d had a heart attack. Before the words “major earthquake in Haiti” came over the car radio, we had been under the impression that we were living through a serious family emergency. Then we learned what those words really mean.

The Age of Steam

January 17, 2010

ISTANBUL Shafts of misty light pierce the steam of the Ca?alo?lu hamam in Istanbul’s Eminönü district, once the heart of walled Constantinople and the seat of the Ottoman Sultanate. Built by Sultan Mahmud I in 1741 to provide revenue for the Haghia Sophia mosque, its marble rooms are opulent, timeless pleasure-domes of fountains and gilded columns. In the women’s section, a pleasant gabble of feminine voices mingles with the sound of sluicing water; the bathers gossip languidly, gently washing one another’s hair. Nothing could be more authentically Turkish than this.

Or so the tourists like to imagine it.

Turkey's Capital of Culture shrugs off the jibes

The National
January 12, 2010

ISTANBUL As officials at the European Capital of Culture Agency here know all too well, once you’ve been named a Capital of Culture, it's only a matter of time before the "Capital of Corruption" jokes start.

Less-than-Splendid Isolation


The world is vanishing from Americans’ awareness.

22 December 2009

If you get your news from the sources most Americans do, you will not know that India recently test-fired the Agni II, an intermediate-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Nor will you know the test’s results, which were reported all over the subcontinent but not in America. You will probably be unaware of Sergei Magnitsky’s death in a Moscow prison, or of who he was; the news was barely reported in the United States.

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