Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I was driving through southern Pennsylvania, watching the sun set over West Virginia to my right, while I listened to President Obama's speech on Afghanistan over the radio.
The speech appealed to me in some ways but bothered me in others. On the one hand, I appreciate Obama's efforts to place emphasis upon the theme of withdrawal. He's setting expectations for continued withdrawal, rather than continued occupation, and that's a good thing.
Monday, June 13, 2011
I saw an interesting piece in Juan Cole's Informed Comment yesterday. Cole wrote a really sensible response to Robert Gates' recent speech, in which Gates criticized NATO allies for not emulating the United States in spending lavish sums on defense.
This is part of what Gates said:
Saturday, June 11, 2011
...the style and the content of these reports and pieces gives a repugnant impression and the feeling that they do not even consider these priorities and benefits. The authors of these pieces are either unaware of the realities of the country they are reviewing or they are governed by the same center. The second option seems to be more relevant and valid, given that they are repeating the same arguments. It is impossible to conclude that these articles do not have any prior concerns, considering that they are written as if Turkey is not witnessing a bitter struggle against gangs, military juntas and deep state structures whose extensions can be found in politics, civil society and the media.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
I saw a semi-interesting Reuters story a couple of days ago (Facebook Borderlanders may have already seen it) about the apparently growing wealth gap in Turkey.
Much of the article is made up of rather empty fluff about a couple of individuals the journalist happens to talk to, but there were some statistics thrown out which surprised me a bit. This is what the Reuters piece sez:
The ruling AK Party, poised to win a third term in an election on June 12, has presided over an unprecedented period of economic prosperity for Turkey. Per capita income rose from $3,492 (2,124 pounds) in 2002, the year it took power, to $10,079 in 2010.
Latest Turkish data from 2009 showed income inequality rose that year and that the richest 20 percent of the population had a household income 8.5 times higher than the bottom 20 percent, up from 8.1 times in 2007.
I'll be honest, I should know a lot more about the Turkish economy than I do. But one thing I do know is that, since so much of the Turkish economy is under the table, economic statistics like this should probably be taken with a very large grain of salt.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
There was a quite long piece in the New York Times a couple of days ago on American charter schools, particularly in Texas, that are associated with the Turkish religious figure Fethullah Gulen. Gulen, who was forced out of Turkey in 1999, is the center of a large network of schools, businesses, and media holdings (including Today's Zaman) located in Turkey and in other countries.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Former coup leader and Turkish president Kenan Evren gave testimony to a prosecutor yesterday regarding, apparently, the 1980 coup. Claiming ill health, Evren managed to have the interview take place at his house, rather than at the prosecutor's office. (Here is Today's Zaman take on the story).
Monday, June 6, 2011
According to this Agence France-Presse piece, Russia is to "enter the world of Islamic finance."
Actually what appears to be happening is that the Republic of Tatarstan, which is a republic within the Russian Federation, will guarantee sukuk bonds for the construction of a new finance center. Sukuk don't pay interest, but rather give the owner a share of the enterprise.
Here's what the article says:
"Right now Islamic banks cannot work in Russia, because our legislation does not take into account the Koran's restrictions."
Islam forbids borrowing or paying with interest, and sukuk (the plural of the Arabic word for a financial deed) are not based on debt like traditional bonds.
The first sukuk to be issued in Tatarstan's capital Kazan on June 20 will be going toward financing a major business centre in the city whose construction will cost $200 million.
"Sukuk are guaranteed by the Tatarstan government, the operator will be based in Luxembourg, and we know that the international market is ready to buy," Yakupov said.
According to the article, Tatar president Rustam Minikhanov has called bringing Islamic banks to Russia "possible and even necessary."
Sunday, June 5, 2011
"Don't vote for the best government in 66 years."
This is how Taraf newspaper sarcastically sums up the logic of recent editorial in the Economist on the upcoming Turkish elections.
Actually, Taraf's headline is (predictably) misleading, since the Economist piece (which can be compared to a similar editorial in the New York Times) doesn't call the AKP government the best in 66 years. But the piece does praise Erdogan and his government: