Time check

by Michael Bérubé on May 3, 2007

I teach my last class of the semester tomorrow, and what a semester it’s been. In the four months since I gave up full-time, long-form solo blogging, I have put my extra time to good use: freed from the demands of daily blog posting and comment-section maintenance, I found time to work out every day for 90 minutes, meditate for an hour, cook dinner nightly, and brush up on my French. As a result, I am fit and sane and centered, enjoying a balanced diet and the consolations of the <i>passé simple</i>.

Actually, that’s not true. And Bourdieu didn’t really appear in <i>Slap Shot</i>, either. This semester, neither did I: my Nittany Hockey League teams had 28 games scheduled this semester. I made it to <i>ten</i> of those. I worked out once, maybe twice a week. I last meditated in 1999. I last cooked in 1994. (Janet and I have taken to asking each other, “whom shall we dial tonight?”) And my French is just as abysmal as it ever was.

So what happened to all that time?

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by Belle Waring on May 3, 2007

I have been meaning to write an update to my post of last month. When I skimmed the first accounts of the captured British sailors’ time in Iran I was under the impression they had been subjected to full-on mock execution, of the Dostoyevsky type. That is, told they were going to be executed, lined up and blindfolded, etc. Reading more I learned that it was more of a confused situation (still very alarming, no doubt), in which they were blindfolded and cuffed and could hear weapons being cocked. So, not actually torture (and some people pointed this out in the thread at the time.) It was scary as hell, no doubt, and I hope I’m never in that situation, or at least that, if I am, John Derbyshire is there to rush the armed soldiers and bite their throats out. I’m still ready to go nuclear, though, and I actually learned a lot reading that not-flamewar comments thread.

On the other hand, I thought that the comments to Kieran’s post on Megan’s difficult situation were unusually useless for the most part. This from John Quiggin was good, though:
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From Istanbul to God Knows Where

by Henry on May 3, 2007

Like a few other CTers, I’m swamped with end of semester duties at the moment, but wanted to point to this “very useful FT article”:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/8f938380-f781-11db-86b0-000b5df10621.html on the background to the Turkey crisis, and make a few short arguments in lieu of a proper post. As Brad DeLong often says, the FT is the best newspaper in the world (albeit not entirely without flaws); certainly, I haven’t seen any detailed English language analysis anywhere of the lead-up that competes with this piece.

the story of the past few weeks is a tale of misunderstandings, sexism, snobbery, bruised egos and mutinous soldiers, from which nobody emerges with much credit. … Mr Erdogan seemed to be racked with indecision over whether to run for the presidency himself … But he knew that his would be a divisive candidacy … he and his closest advisers settled on two possible candidates from his party who would be acceptable to the army. … Getting the generals on side had proved unexpectedly easy. … The man he had to convince most of all was Bulent Arinc, the speaker of parliament. … Mr Arinc also wanted to be president. But his candidacy would have been even more divisive than Mr Erdogan’s. … After much deliberation, the three agreed that the candidate would have to be Mr Gul. …at general staff headquarters, … there was a sense of shock. What had happened to the two agreed candidates?

The immediate roots of the crisis are in internal divisions in Turkish society and personality politics. But it’s interesting how outside actors have influenced these domestic battles over the last several years, and have responded to what’s happened in the last few days. The European Union, over the longer term, has exacerbated internal tensions in Turkey badly over the last few years, or in the very kindest interpretation has done nothing to help relieve them. The prospect of EU membership helped stabilize relations between Islamists and the army, promising Islamists a greater degree of religious freedom and human rights, while reassuring the army that Turkey wouldn’t become an Iran-lite style Islamist republic. The underlying tensions that have now exploded can be traced back in part to the ever more explicit reluctance of powerful EU member states to countenance Turkey joining, even in the long run. Even so, during the current impasse, the EU’s enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn has played a positive role by making it clear that a military coup, or anything like it, will stymie Turkey’s chances of membership more or less indefinitely. He’s also publicly warned member state governments that are skeptical of Turkish membership of the EU not to play politics. In contrast, the US, which should be held much less to blame over the longer term, has hinted that it isn’t entirely averse to the generals’ actions, saying that it considers the battle taking place to be an internal matter.

The current events in Turkey highlight starkly the contradictions in US policy. While the US has publicly committed to the spread of democracy etc, it hasn’t wanted to acknowledge that this spread is liable to go along with Islamists of one sort or another coming to power in regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere. Even the relatively mild variety of political Islam in Turkey (which seems likely, under the right conditions, to turn into a Muslim version of Christian Democracy) seems to make US policy makers break out in hives. If the US doesn’t take a more forthright stance on the implicit threat of the Turkish generals to overthrow the regime if they don’t get their way, it says rather a lot about their actual, as opposed to their nominal, commitment to the spread of democracy (but then, its mostly supine “attitude”:http://abuaardvark.typepad.com/abuaardvark/2007/03/results.html to the Egyptian ‘constitutional referendum’ in March has said quite a lot about that already).