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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
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
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 naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“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.”