Category Archives: Travel

The Indian Century?

Education, entrepreneurialism, and democratic institutions bode well for the country’s future—but profound challenges remain.

City Journal

Spring 2015

I attended a dinner in Paris full of tech experts, scientists, and investors, all of whom were gloomy about the West. Progress isn’t progressing, they complained. There are too many impediments to innovation. What on earth has gone wrong with our universities? We once put a man on the moon, and now we can’t even figure out a humane way to fly from Silicon Valley to Paris. Everything’s overregulated. The Scientific Revolution is over; the Industrial Revolution has reached the end of the line. No one understands what made America great anymore. We haven’t conquered death, but taxes have conquered us. We’re doomed.

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They Kill Because They Like It


Turkey’s Marxist terrorists strike again—this time, against America.

4 February 2013

Americans seem surprised that the February 1 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, was carried out not by Islamists but by a Marxist—specifically, by a member of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, or DHKP/C. But no one in Turkey was remotely surprised.

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When Turkey’s Weirdest Televangelist Met Sean Ali Stone Or: Why I don’t bother writing fiction anymore

The Turkish televangelist Harun Yahya, also known as Adnan Oktar, is a controversial figure in Turkey, controversial among other things for his litigiousness—scores of websites in Turkey, including WordPress, have been banned at his behest—so forgive me for couching my language in the utmost of circumspection. He is best known for sending his anti-Darwinian magnum opus, the Atlas of Creation—weighing in at more than 13 pounds—to tens of thousands of journalists worldwide. No one knows where he received the money for this project. I received a copy and quite liked and appreciated the book, which is beautiful.

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The Museum of Innocence

May 14, 2012

Orhan Pamuk, born in 1952 to a wealthy but waning Istanbul family, is Turkey’s best-known, best-selling, and most controversial novelist. Cevdet Bey and His Sons, published 1982, was awarded the Orhan Kemal and Milliyet literary prizes; The Silent House, received the Prix de la découverte européene in 1991. With The White Castle and The Black Book he achieved international renown, particularly for his evocative and experimental exploration of Istanbul, past and present. Snow, which he describes as “my first and last political novel” was published in 2002. In 2003 he received the International IMPAC award for My Name is Red. His books have been translated into 46 languages. Not all of them are great, but some of them are. The Museum of Innocence is one of the great ones.

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The Sound of Turkey Clapping

Thoughts on the recent elections, mostly ignored around the world

22 June 2011

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.

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Can’t Go Back to Constantinople

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.

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What Turks really think about the Arab uprising

Washington Times Communities
ISTANBUL, February 5, 2011

I’m being asked by everyone I know how Turkey is responding to the uprising in Egypt. The assumption in the question is that Turks must be really be quite interested in these events.

The assumption is dead wrong.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan did give quite a canny speech last week upon realizing that Mubarak was doomed. There’s a reason he’s a successful politician. He did not actually call for anything, although somehow, immediately, he was understood to have “taken the side of the Arab people.”

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Ottoman Fantasies

Extracts published by Michael Totten in Pajamas Media
FALL 2010

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the first major world leader to congratulate Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the wake of Iran’s fraudulent elections. “There is no doubt he is our friend,” he insists, dismissing Western anxieties about Iran’s nuclear program as “gossip.” He has invited Hamas to Ankara, feted Sudan’s genocidal President Omer Hassan al-Bashir, and almost in the same breath harangued Israeli President Shimon Peres at Davos for “knowing well how to kill.”

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Weimar Istanbul

Dread and exhilaration in a city on the verge of political catastrophe

Autumn 2010

The City grew rapidly, dwarfing in size and population any other in the country. The streets stimulated like cocaine; horns honked, crowds surged, nerves jangled. To step outside was to be electrified by the harlequinade of roaring colors, bright lights, rushing traffic. Sybaritic nightclubs thrummed until dawn and well thereafter; strange and perverse sights were to be found on every boulevard, in every alley, at every hour, the aesthetic of contradiction between civilization and barbarity heightened by the ersatz baroque of the old architecture and the shocking ugliness of the new. Transvestites prowled, thieves pickpocketed, and in the fashionable cafés, intellectuals smoked furiously and complained of their anomie.

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Dominican Republic or Bust

Santo Domingo Diarist

Summer 2010

The key to understanding the Dominican Republic is to imagine a country where Jennifer Lopez is the president, Ricky Martin the secretary of the interior, Christina Aguilera the secretary of state, and their backup singers the Supreme Court. An election was taking place while I was in Santo Domingo, visiting my family. They lived in Haiti but had been displaced by the January earthquake. Not speaking Spanish, I couldn’t grasp the political details, but I sensed that whichever party succeeded in putting the most trucks on the street, blaring the loudest Latin music and with the most scantily clad young women dancing on top of them, was going to win.

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