Visit Istanbul Now

With inflation at 15.4% officially and expected to rise, Turkey is in a tough spot. President Erdogan is feuding with his NATO ally America and his currency is in free fall. In a more political post I’d suggest that having himself elected Super-Extra-Special Potentate means President Erdogan maybe should have been careful what he asked for.

But for visitors, Erdogan’s problems make it just about an ideal time to plan a trip to Istanbul, via the outstanding Turkish Airlines international network, while the Lira stands at fifteen American cents and struggling. So far foreigners haven’t been scapegoated and you can still get a beer in Karaköy and Beşiktaş. And Turkey, while civility prevails, is a fabulous destination.

See a larger version of the Istanbul photo above, and 385 other photos in the Turkey Gallery at


Goma, DRC, across Lake Kivu

Difficult man? Probably. Pretty much nobody says not. But whether or not you’d enjoy his company at your next ice cream social, V. S. Naipaul’s fictional Kisangani in A Bend in the River sticks with you.

Congo will just not stop being a compelling place. Kabila’s reign in Congo is drawing to a bitter close, even as Kivu provinces totter close to armed conflict – again – and  the Latest Ebola Outbreak Is Centered in a War Zone. All in Congo.

Remind me to post a Congo reading list. Just now though, on the occasion of Naipaul’s death, let’s all pull out A Bend in the River or A House for Mr. Biswas and reread.

Weekend Reading

Take a day off.

It has been an unusually wet summer in our corner of Appalachia, which makes for foggy, cool mornings. Just the right atmosphere to brew up some coffee and settle in on the back porch with a view of the forest and a batch of enjoyable weekend reading. Some suggestions:

A burst of good stuff from yesterday: Strange escapism in Stranger Places, Brief encounters with cuckoos by Adam Petry, and really faraway escapism in Predators, Prey, and Vodka, Surveying muskoxen in the Russian far north by Joel Berger.

What are Chinese authorities up to in the far western Xinjiang region? See Crackdown in Xinjiang: Where have all the people gone? by Emily Feng in Urumqi in the Financial Times.

Two stories about people and whales: We May Never Understand the Ocean-Wide Damage Done by Industrial Whaling by Peter Brannen in The New Yorker, and It’s Tough Being a Right Whale These Days by J. B. McKinnon at The Atlantic.

“To hide in plain sight while on assignment in foreign nations, agents needed precisely tailored clothes made to look local.” Such an obscure topic, the very idea that someone thought to write about it is a pleasure Clothing Britain’s Spies during World War II by Jocelyn Sears at JStor Daily.

Alarming reading from Cynthia Lazaroff, who was in Hawaii when that ballistic missile attack false alarm came in last January: Dawn of a new Armageddon in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Pertinent as voices in the UK urge stockpiling goods in case of a Brexit-gone-bad, Swedish journalist Elisabeth Braw looks at how Global Supply Chains Are Dangerously Easy to Snap in Foreign Policy.

Quillette calls itself “a platform for free thought.” To use a Finnish saying, I’m not sure yet if it’s a fish or a bird, but it mostly seems to enjoy poking at today’s mainline leftish “correct thinking.” In Britain’s Populist Revolt, the point I think Matthew Goodwin, a young academic, wants to make is that if Leave won because the social contract is broken, the Remainers and the anti-Trumpists have no interest in fixing it.

Granted, this is not for everyone: because of the stir created by an emergent “Democratic Socialist” movement in the U.S. ahead of the fall midterms, my weekend mission is to compare and contrast two articles. The first, in Jacobin, A Time to Be Bold by Mathieu Desan and Michael A. McCarthy, and a reply in The Atlantic called Democratic Socialism Threatens Minorities by Conor Friedersdorf.

Enjoy the weekend. See you next week.


Quotes: On Being a Slave

“My people, you unnerstand me, dey ain’ got no ivory by de door. When it ivory from de elephant stand by de door, den dat a king, a ruler, you unnerstand me. My father neither his father don’t rule nobody.””

This is a quote from Kossula, aka Cudjo Lewis, born around 1841, and sold into slavery. Kossula sailed as a captive on the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to the US from Africa, arriving in 1859. He sailed from the then kingdom of Dahomey, now Benin.

The book is Barracoon, The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” by Zora Neale Hurston, who visited Kossula in and around 1927 in Plateau, Alabama.

Quotes: A World Without Passports

A world without passports isn’t some aspirational future place, like a nuclear-free world. It was just the regular old world pre-World War I. Here is Stefan Zweig from his memoir, The World of Yesterday:

“Before 1914 the earth had belonged to all. People went where they wished and stayed as long as they pleased. There were no permits, no visas, and it always gives me pleasure to astonish the young by telling hem that before 1914 I traveled from Europe to India and to America without passport and without ever having seen one. One embarked and alighted without questioning or being questioned, one did not have to fill out a single one which, with their customs officers, police and militia, have become wire barriers thanks to the pathological suspicion of everybody against everybody else, were nothing but symbolic lines which one crossed with as little thought as one crosses the Meridian of Greenwich.”

(a book review by John Gray, here, pointed me to this quote.)