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During both the Bush and Clinton years, the White House argued that the United States should “engage” with governments in the Caspian region, saying that such a strategy would do far more to promote democracy than pressuring Caspian regimes about human rights. Of course, American pressure on human rights might also threaten U.S. access to energy reserves in countries like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, though that was rarely mentioned.
And guess what? The strategy was a total failure, which shouldn’t come as a great surprise since “engagement” hasn’t worked well anywhere as a force for democracy, viz Saudi Arabia and China. In 2007, a year after Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazerbayev (in power since his country was a Soviet Socialist Republic) visited with George W. Bush at the White House, lawmakers in Kazakhstan waived term limits, paving the way for “president-for-life” status. And now Azerbaijan has gone down the same path:
Election officials in Azerbaijan said Thursday that citizens had overwhelmingly voted to scrap presidential term limits in a referendum boycotted by the opposition in the oil-rich country courted by Russia and the West.
The result opens the door for indefinite rule by President Ilham Aliyev in the Caspian Sea nation that critics say is closer to a monarchy than a democracy. The Central Election Commission reported 92 percent of voters approving the referendum, with 71 percent turnout
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
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2011 for “furtive movements”:
The faces of Lego people were growing angrier.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature