Foreign Affairs, Europe, Travel, Espionage, Fiction, Non-Fiction, In the News
Challenging everything you think you know
Washington Post, December 22
Britain in the early 1970s was decayed, ungovernable and globally irrelevant, done in by the cumulative effect of postwar socialist reforms. Margaret Thatcher, who came to power as the nation’s first female prime minister in 1979, returned Britain to the realm of the great powers. Worshiped, feted, loathed and mocked, she is one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century. And now Thatcher, as interpreted by Meryl Streep, will be coming to a theater near you in the movie “The Iron Lady,”opening Dec. 30.
But even those most sympathetic to her tend to misunderstand her personality, her governing style and her accomplishments. Let’s examine these misconceptions.
A new biopic has raised hackles, but her achievements are as relevant now as ever.
CITY A.M., London, November 21
The place is Britain; the year, 1978. It is the Winter of Discontent. Labor unrest has shut down public services, paralyzing the nation for months on end. Rubbish is piled high on the street. The government been obliged to supplicate for a loan from the International Monetary Fund. Soon the Soviet trade minister will tell his British counterpart, “We don’t want to increase our trade with you. Your goods are unreliable, you’re always on strike, you never deliver.”
Some virtues are by accidents of history associated with utopianism, hostility to private property, anti-clericalism, and other core beliefs of the Left. I can scandalize a yoga instructor anywhere in the world by declaring myself an avid admirer of Margaret Thatcher, though I challenge you to read the yoga sutras and conclude from them that devotees must favor an overregulated financial sector.
Concern for the welfare and dignity of animals is such an issue, associated with nihilist leftists such as Peter Singer and local totalitarians who seek to regulate pets out of existence. But one need not believe that animals have been endowed with all the rights of humans to insist that they are more than a commodity that tastes good."
What it was like to be an American in France in the aftermath of 9/11
9 September 2011
I was in Paris, alone. My father was in Washington, D.C., with his parents. After seeing the images on television, my grandfather, already ill, collapsed. My memories of September 11 are bound up inextricably with my grandfather’s death.
BY OKAN ALTIPARMAK AND CLAIRE BERLINSKI
The Wikileaks cables on Turkey reveal a surprising paradox. U.S. diplomats present themselves as highly-informed, perspicacious observers of Turkey with more insight than one would expect into the Islamist complexes and prejudices of Turkey’s governing AKP, the role of the Gulen movement in Turkey, the political talent and personality of Prime Minister Erdogan, his increasing isolation from competent advisors, and the central problems that characterize AKP governance: lack of technocratic skill, corruption, and influence-peddling. Yet time and again, these diplomats fail to draw from these observations the obvious conclusion: This represents a risk to Turkey, the United States, and its regional interests.
In an increasingly urbanized world, earthquakes threaten unprepared cities with mass destruction.
Seismic risk mitigation is the greatest urban policy challenge that the world confronts today. If you consider that too strong a claim, try to imagine another way in which bad urban policy could kill a million people in 30 seconds. Yet the politics of earthquakes are rarely discussed, and when discussed, widely misunderstood. Take the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, which released 600 million times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb. The ensuing partial meltdown of the Fukushima reactor prompted international hysteria about nuclear power, but few seemed to realize that a far deadlier threat had been averted. As seismologist Roger Bilham has aptly put it, houses in seismically active zones are the world’s unrecognized weapons of mass destruction—and Japan’s WMDs didn’t go off. Its buildings—at least those that weren’t swept away by the accompanying tsunami, a force of nature against which we are still largely helpless—remained standing, and the people inside survived.
Thoughts on the recent elections, mostly ignored around the world
Having long before accepted a lecturing assignment on Hillsdale College’s Baltic Cruise, I wasn’t in Istanbul for the June 12 general election. So despite months of following the campaign in minute detail, when it actually happened, I was physically and metaphorically isolated from the mood in Turkey. There was some value to that: contemplating the pale, glassy, silent Baltic Sea puts Turkish hysteria in perspective.
Istanbul’s history deserves preservation, but at what cost to development?
Anyone who has ever sat in one of Istanbul’s endless traffic jams, listening to a taxi driver blast his horn and curse the son-of-a-donkey unloading a moving van in front of him, will agree that the city’s transportation system leaves much to be desired. City planners meant to solve this problem when they began construction of a $4 billion subway tunnel beneath the Bosporus. Then, to the planners’ horror, the project’s engineers discovered the lost Byzantine port of Theodosius. Known to archaeologists only from ancient texts, the port had been sleeping peacefully since the fourth century AD—directly underneath the site of the proposed main transit station in Yenikapı.
Ahmet Sik and Turkey’s increasingly paranoid politics
15 April 2011
Zaytung is the Turkish equivalent of The Onion, and like The Onion, it tends to parody reality so well that for a moment you aren’t sure whether you’re reading fact or fiction.
Here in Turkey, we’re consumed by the hunt for the forbidden manuscripts of The Imam’s Army. The police have arrested the author, Ahmet ??k, on suspicion of membership in the Ergenekon conspiracy, and they’re hunting down every copy of the draft of his book.