Yesterday morning, I had a post here saying that Ahmet Altan, the Turkish journalist and novelist, had been released from prison after three years. Turkey, as you know, is the world’s No. 1 jailer of journalists, “ahead” of Iran and even China. Later in the day, news came that Altan had been rearrested.
The Erdogan government looks increasingly like a dictatorship. And Erdogan is meeting President Trump in Washington today. I explored some of the issues in “Turkey, NATO, and a Shifting World.”
In that piece, I mentioned “an Ottoman slap.” The phrase had been used by Erdogan in a speech to his parliament last year. He was responding to an American general, Paul Funk — who had warned Turkey not to tangle with U.S. troops in Syria. “You hit us,” said General Funk, “we will respond aggressively. We will defend ourselves.”
To the parliament, Erdogan said, “It’s obvious that those who say, ‘You hit us, we will respond aggressively,’ have never received an Ottoman slap.”
My friend Bill Walsh, an expert on Turkey and Central Asia, e-mails to say,
So that’s an actual thing. Originally called the “janissary slap” (yeniçeri tokadı), it was an element of unarmed combat in the Ottoman military. Allegedly, the janissaries (elite troops) would train by striking a marble pillar until they could deliver an openhanded blow that could stun or even kill an opponent. So what Tayyip is getting at is delivering a stunning blow to his enemies. Typically macho rhetoric.
On the homepage today, I have an Impromptus column, here. It begins with Elizabeth Warren and ends with Peter Collier, the late writer and editor. (Wonderful guy.) For some weeks, I have been saying that a Warren nomination would be a gift to Trump and the GOP. Others say, Not so fast.
A longtime reader in California writes to me, “Something in me always rebels against that kind of thinking” — the thinking that says, Candidate X could not possibly win. He is too outside the mainstream. “I think of President Carter, who thought that Reagan would be the easiest candidate to beat in 1980.”
Our reader continues, “Being really old, I can remember 1966, when Reagan first ran for governor. The incumbent, Pat Brown, wanted to run against him instead of the other Republican, George Christopher, who had been mayor of San Francisco.”
Yes, “Be careful what you wish for” is always, or often, sage advice.
Let me end this post on the light side. In an Impromptus last week, I had an item on redheads and their (alleged) temper. (I am treading in hate-speech territory here, I realize.) I quoted Tip O’Neill, who said of his successor as Speaker of the House, Jim Wright, “He’s a redhead — he’s apt to flare.”
A longtime reader says,
I can speak only for myself, but, as a lifelong redhead, I believe that I am no more disposed to flaring than the next guy.
That all goes out the window, though, if my beloved Villanova Wildcats are trailing by double digits with less than ten minutes to play. It’s full-on flare, then.
Today’s column, again, is here. There are no redheads in it, that I can recall. The issue of hair is kept well out of sight.