So Annie, what is Baku like?
What kind of government does Azerbaijan have. I asked this in summer 2014 when she was sent to teach English to children of the rich who lived in the oil kingdom on the dying Caspian Sea.
The answer went something like this: “The center of the city is marvelous and the hotel I teach in is a 4 star Klimpton. I can use the swimming pool, gym, internet and air- conditioning which is good because my apartment without air conditioning is in the poor part of the city which is everywhere except the center. Daily, from my bus window, I check on the old grandmother who has tied up her skinny lamb to a post with a ‘for sale’ sign. I don’t think it was for a pet. One day, it was gone.”
As for the government, she said ”It is a hereditary kleptocracy”.
HUH? ”Look it up”, she said.
Kleptocracy (from Greek κλέπτης kléptēs, "thief", κλέπτω kléptō, "I steal", and -κρατία -kratía from κράτος krátos, "power, rule") is a government whose corrupt leaders (kleptocrats) use political power to appropriate the wealth of their nation, typically by embezzling or misappropriating government funds at the expense of the wider population.
Kleptocracy is different from plutocracy (rule by the richest) and oligarchy (rule by a small elite). In a kleptocracy, corrupt politicians enrich themselves secretly outside the rule of law, through kickbacks, bribes, and special favors, or they simply direct state funds to themselves and their associates. Also, kleptocrats often export much of their profits to foreign nations in anticipation of losing power.
Could we become Azerbaijan?
The hereditary part is a bipartisan issue. The Bushes, the Kennedys and Clintons show the influence of kinship on Presidential politics. Trump brought it to the next level, bringing his kids to the highest level of policy making- qualified or not. How do we avoid becoming a kleptocracy? How do we avoid becoming Putin’s Russia, Assad’s Syria, Aliyev’s Azerbaijan?
The good news. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists are the folks that brought you the Panama Papers. Now finally, they reported:
Update, Jan. 1, 2021:
The Senate voted to override President Donald Trump’s veto of the defense spending bill, days after the House did the same. It’s the first veto override by Congress in the Trump presidency.
Landmark laws to thwart the use of U.S. shell companies by terrorists, human traffickers, arms dealers and kleptocrats are set to be enacted after more than a decade of lobbying and politicking with rare bipartisan support.
A free and open press with smart, honest, persistent journalists in search of the truth is a necessary defense against corruption in government.
The Anne Krapu-HPR Journalism Scholarship is pleased to support in a small way those who hear the calling to be part of the fight for honest, efficient government.
Anne prided herself as the person with "boots on the ground". She witnessed the various types of corruption in Mongolia, Azerbaijan and right here in ND, the joy of teenagers escaping the constant threat of war in Kosovo at a bootleg party "somewhere in the forest" and extreme homophobia in Russia. The noise, pollution and "Big Brother "government of China truly spooked her while being questioned about the DAPL protest in ND by her students in East Timor, half a world and a century away from 21st Century America took her back for a bit. Yet she always kept her eyes, ears and mind open. Anne's endless curiosity and ability to process objectively her surroundings coupled with her ability to communicate well made her a person of note. The HPR's dedication to act as a platform for under-reported issues important to our city, state, national and global community makes it a necessary counterweight to ND's mainstream media.
In a time of "fake news", AKA shameless lying, and journalists being insulted, threatened and murdered, the HPR and Anne's family salute the men and women who have the courage to go where we do not, report what they see and ask the tough questions.
Morgan Hovde, a political science and journalism student at NDSU received a $500 award in September 2020. She is from Grafton, ND and has written extensively for her local newspaper, the Walsh County Record. Morgan received the North Dakota Newspaper Association High School Reporter of the Year during the 133rd annual convention held in May, 2019.
Congratulations Morgan and we hope that she and the previous winners will guest write for the HPR when publication resumes!
Well, Annie is no longer with us while the US involvement in the Middle East remains. Same problem- no exit strategy, unclear policy goals but now more complicated with more, increasingly violent players. We also now face an active nuclear program in Iran, a fractured Iraq. This is in addition to the tribal and religious loyalties difficult for outsiders to understand, resentment against the US which is easy to understand and, Russia, as always, lurking in the background.
…and now, we have a President who thrives on chaos, division and fear of the “other”.
Annie, as you can imagine, spent a lot of time being labeled” different” when growing up. Her long black hair, later pink, green or yellow depending on mood and/or budget, intense dark eyes which missed nothing, Asian features and Nordic height made her stand out. Combine that with her being an excellent student of pretty much everything except calculus and athletics, wicked sense of humor and willingness to take on any challenge and one could see how she wouldn’t blend in. She wrote this about being” different” in her column on hate for her Say Anything column Oct 16,2015:
…“different” is North Dakota speak for something you can’t quite wrap your head around but it catches you off guard and you don’t want to offend anyone, so “different” is a very good choice of adjective in such a situation. Bison and Sioux fans are different. Gun-owners and non-gunowners are different. Migrant and refugees are different. Democrats and Republicans are different. Christians and Muslims are different. Sexual identities and orientations are a spectrum of different. Not one of these classifications prevents any individual from being a good North Dakotan if the latter term is still defined as working hard, obeying the law, being willing to help your neighbor shovel the drive, and bringing over a hot-dish in times of need.”
So, this is a special invitation for all you North Dakota students who may feel “different” but are curious about the world and want to write about it. Let us help you join the community of journalists who serve as witnesses in these troubled times and ask the questions that must be asked so we can remain an open society.
April 14, 2019
The scholarship board awarded $2,000 in aid to Skyler Dockter of Dickinson, ND and Anna Dragseth of Williston. Awards were announced April 14,2019 at the 6th Annual Bartenders Battle, the main fundraising event sponsored by the High Plains Reader. Craft cocktails, spirited bidding, pirates swarming- Annie would have loved it! We are living through strange Bizarro-like times; yet hope and persistence remain. Annie wrote a few weeks before she died, "Be honest, grateful, and forgive yourself after learning tough lessons. Spend money on experiences, not things. Live a life driven by curiosity and not by fear." She never gave up and neither should we.
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