Unemployment amid the political storm
19 March 2017
March 15 was a very interesting day, or at least it was for me. The Netherlands held general elections, and the Turkish Institute of Statistics (TÜİK) released its Bulletin of Unemployment. I think it proved to be a day of glory for the Dutch, and despair for Turks. The Islamophobic Geert Wilders was sidelined by Dutch voters, who have turned up at a record 85 percent. On the same day, we found out that unemployment reached a seven-year high in Turkey, while having declined to a seven-year low in the EU, revealed just a week ago. It is worthwhile to unpack these events a bit.
It's all about that "vision thing"
12 March 2017
In 1987, then-vice president George H.W. Bush was spending a few days at Camp David to think about how to approach his presidential campaign. When the topic of a "vision" came up, Bush is said to have responded in exasperation, "Oh, the vision thing." Lacking vision has become synonymous for failure to articulate compelling and coherent policy positions. Bush of course, ended up being a one-term president, and there is a reason for that. The "vision thing" is the single most pressing problem of Western civilization today. Let me elaborate.
How to think about 'Turkey's Great Normalization'
05 March 2017
In 1980, Turkey’s GDP per capita was around $1,500. It was $3,600 in 2002 and by 2008 it had reached $10,000. Then it stalled. Was that halt only because of the global financial crisis? I don’t think so. The convergence of Turkey’s per capita GDP to that of the United States also stalled at the same time.
Erdoğan and Turkey’s tradition of pluralism
26 February 2017
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was touring the Gulf last week. During the trip, he spoke to a number of Arab media outlets, including the Qatari newspaper Al-Arab. Most remarkable during this interview were his comments on Egypt. What he said wasn’t so interesting, it is what he didn’t say that made this interview so fascinating to me. The journalist asked him specifically about Egyptian President Sisi, but Erdoğan refrained from talking about the former general, instead simply choosing to say a few nice things about his country. This was a significant break from his usual pattern.
Trump’s NATO question is a fair one
19 February 2017
President Donald Trump has entered our lives like an asteroid entering the stratosphere. When a giant rock hit the earth millions of years ago, the explosions from its impacts led to dense fog and filthy air. Imagine it: tons and tons of debris sent into the atmosphere, circling the planet for years. All the fuss about NATO is part of that cloud that’s tossed up into the air. Why has the leader of the free world started to speak a language unknown to his allies? Why is he doing this?
Turkey’s existential angst
12 February 2017
Orhan Pamuk’s most recent novel, “A Strangeness in My Mind,” tells the story of Mevlut, a boza seller, and his life in rapidly changing Istanbul from 1969 to 2012. He is originally from the countryside, and like his fellow migrants to urban areas he has a cloudy anxiety or “strangeness” within himself.
Chancellor Merkel comes to Ankara
05 February 2017
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Ankara on Thursday. This was her first visit after the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt. Like all other visitors, she was shown the section of the Turkish Parliament that was bombed by Turkey’s own fighter jets on that dreadful night. In the past, foreign dignitaries would visit Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Mausoleum when they visited Ankara. Now we have a more authentic experience to offer, like war tourism. Why are Turks keeping that part of the building in shambles? It’s strange. For example, when businessmen are played, they often try to cover it up out of fear of looking weak. Why do we enjoy showing what is clearly our weak spot to everybody visiting the country? It only shows that Turkey still has not recovered.
The politician true to his lies
29 January 2017
We are a week into the Donald Trump presidency, and there isn’t much I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall of the Oval Office. The Washington Post’s account of how Trump pressured the acting National Park Service director to back up the size of his inaugural crowd, for example, is riveting. It starts like this, “On the morning after Donald Trump’s inauguration, acting National Park Service Director Michael J. Reynolds received an extraordinary summons: The new president would like to talk to him.” Why? Because the president needed new pictures to support his claim that more people participated in his inauguration ceremony than that of his predecessor, Barack Obama. That’s awkward, to say the least.
From Star Trek to Star Wars
15 January 2017
Earlier this week, venture capitalist Peter Thiel categorized Star Trek as “communist” and Star Wars as “capitalist” to Maureen Dowd of the New York Times. Why? Think about it. There is no money in the Star Trek universe. But in Star Wars, Han Solo has a debt to pay to Jabba the Hutt, which leads to the movie’s first action scene. There is order in Star Trek with the Federation of United Planets, while there is total chaos in Star Wars. There is more collaboration than competition in Star Trek, while it is quite the opposite for Star Wars.
Turkey’s new IPR legislation
08 January 2017
“The times, they are a changing,’” sang the bard and a recent Nobel laureate, and of course they are. Check the headlines of newspapers published on Jan. 1 if you want to see what I mean. Here is one from Iceland; “First child of 1980 gave birth to the first child of 2017.” This is the kind of pleasant news you’d like to read about over your morning coffee. And here is a headline from Istanbul; “Istanbul new year nightclub attack leaves 39 dead.” It is shocking, terrifying and out of place. Yet it is not out of the ordinary any longer. It is becoming normal.