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Now Hillary Clinton is offering precisely the same service. Just yesterday she met with the president of Turkmenistan, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the Stalinist dictator and former personal dentist to the country’s last Stalinist dictator. Check out this section from the State Department’s most recent report on human rights in Turkmenistan:
Human rights problems included citizens’ inability to change their government; torture and mistreatment of detainees; incommunicado and prolonged detention; arbitrary arrest and detention; house arrest; denial of due process and fair trial; arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association.
Other than those minor issues, the place is a thriving democracy.
When asked by a reporter if human rights had come up in the discussions between Clinton and the Turkmen dictator, assistant secretary of state Robert Blake, Jr. replied: “It does come up. It’s just in these [bilateral talks], we’ve got kind of – we’ve only got a certain amount of time, and so we touch on the most important things. And human rights is not as big an issue in Turkmenistan as it is in some of the other Central Asian countries.”
The important things, Blake left clear, were energy cooperation and Turkmen support for the U.S. in Afghanistan, including overflight rights. When the Bush administration welcomed dictators, it at least pretended that human rights were an issue of concern. The Obama administration appears to have thrown out the pretense.
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.
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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.”