Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Turkey: Where East Meets West

We landed in Istanbul yesterday on a cold, rainy day after a stop in Ephesus. Istanbul is where “east meets west” since part of the city is in Europe and part is in Asia. The Bosporus River splits the city between the continents.

If you study the Bible, you know about Ephesus. It is where St. John came along with the Virgin Mary to spend their last days. We saw the ruins of his basilica located on a hill and where he was buried. He wrote his Bible book there. At the ruins there is also a mosque on the hill below it, and a pagan temple below that. At the house where the Virgin Mary lived, you can make a wish and post it on a wall. Few Americans know that Muslims respect both Mary and Jesus–and all the prophets from Christianity and the Torah (so the guide said at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.) I will post photos when I am not on a ship since the satellite uploads are SLOW.

You cannot lead a world you know nothing about, and I am learning much from this trip. Gasoline costs over $10 a gallon here – more than in Norway. We found the prices the same in Greece and Italy. The gas tax in Turkey is 100% -- so it would still be $5 a gallon without a tax. Over 80,000 ships a year pass through the Bosporus – compare that to the 6,000 ships a year that visit the Port of Houston.

Although Turkey is 99% Muslim, it has been a secular country. There are 2,000 mosques in Istanbul. Many of the women dress western style; some wear more traditional clothes or just a headscarf.  The average wage is $10,000 a year, yet apartments in Istanbul are expensive. Those along the river cost from $3 million to $7 million dollars.  The problem here is that the Prime Minister has been trying to make Turkey more Islamic and conservative – but the young people want nothing to do with it. And over half the population is under 25.

Austerity has hit countries like Italy and Greece hard. Part of the problem in Greece is a generous pension system that let people retire at 52. That problem is made worse by the failure of many to pay taxes – especially the rich. 

We have the same problem in the USA – where major corporations can make billions and pay zero taxes (like GE), leaving us with chronic deficits. As a former international attorney, I know that they hide money overseas in places like the Caymans and Switzerland.  We need to eliminate these tax loopholes in order to get our fiscal house in order. Since the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 (which Sen. Cornyn voted for,) our budget has had a 40% shortfall while we spend more in defense than the rest of the world COMBINED!

Turkey is not part of the European Union, so its trade is not limited by EU rules.  The unemployment is about 10-15%. It is now big into organic farming. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is amazing – over 4,000 shops under one roof. The people are very friendly and the vendors are aggressive. Negotiation is a way of life here – never pay the asking price for anything. Walking away is a way to determine if they will lower the price again. If you have hit rock bottom the vendor is silent. If not, you will get a better offer.

I haven’t been online much since Internet cost 40 cents a minute on the ship – and that is the best rate. Pay-as-you-go is 75 cents a minute. Next stop in three days is Naples, Italy.

In the meantime, if you want to know how America gets back to being No. 1 in the world, read my FREE book chapter of “Agenda for American Greatness” at this link. As I said, we lead a world we know nothing about. If Sen. Cruz thinks killing Obamacare will promote “growth” I have news for him – he hasn’t got a clue. And he hasn’t got a plan either. I do – it’s in Agenda for American Greatness. If you elect me, I will do my best to implement it in a capitol that belongs to the lobbyists that only want tax loopholes that citizens never get.

Remember Proverbs: “Where There is No Vision, the People Perish.”

Michael Fjetland

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