SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
A few weeks back I posted an item about a 2005 Senate trip Barack Obama made to Azerbaijan during which he lobbied dictator Ilham Aliyev on behalf of McDonald’s and complained about obstacles faced by the company in opening restaurants in Baku, the Azeri capital. A Westerner residing in Baku subsequently sent me the following note:
Obama should be happy to know that McDonald’s is now thriving in Baku, with four locations, including one in the swanky, central Fountain Square. Every day Baku’s growing elite, clad in the most ostentatious plastic outfits that money can buy, parade in and out while techno music is pumped through the speakers, giving the place more the feel of a nightclub than a fast-food joint. Speaking of Obama, Azerbaijanis are generally suspicious of him because of his connections to the Armenian lobby and his public support for the recognition of the genocide. And speaking of Armenia, I’ve been told by a number of proud Azerbaijanis that there are no McDonald’s restaurants in Armenia. Obviously the future belongs to Azerbaijan!
I also received another letter of complaint, with the writer saying,
I was disappointed in your unfounded attack on Obama today. In your post “Obama to Azeri Dictator: Set Our Big Macs Free,” you suggested that Obama’s visit to Azerbaijan and subsequent meeting with President Aliyev was limited to questions about McDonald’s and Boeing. In fact, a few minutes on Google reveal that more issues than that were raised.
The writer included articles that showed Obama had discussed topics with Aliyev ranging from biological weapons to elections (and, of course, “the exploitation of energy resources.”) He also met, according to the articles, with other Azerbaijani officials and opposition leaders.
Which is a fair point and gives a fuller account of Obama’s agenda during the trip. On the other hand, Obama as far as I can tell made few public comments in Azerbaijan that were critical of the government. And it’s discouraging that he used his personal time with the dictator to lobby for McDonald’s and Boeing.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”