Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Sometimes it’s hard to read the news without getting angry. Caroline Batten ’14 and Will Sullivan ’17 have stopped trying. War News Radio proudly presents “Filibusted,” an editorial segment dedicated to news that makes us tear our hair out.
Will: So Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize —
Caroline: Which is a real shocker, especially if you live in Georgia or Chechnya —
Will: And instead the prize went to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, the group currently investigating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s arsenal.
Caroline: You would think this would send a pretty clear message to Assad. The people trying to take away your weapons win a world popularity contest. Your most powerful international ally loses.
Will: And after two and a half years of fighting his own people, you’d also think he might want to consider negotiation.
Caroline: But Assad supporters take note: if you want to negotiate on behalf of your government, you’re going to get fired.
Will: Yup. Syrian deputy prime minister Qadri Jamil was dismissed from his post… for being a diplomat.
Caroline: Jamil had been meeting with Russian and American officials in recent weeks. He said it was an attempt to end the bloodshed and broker a diplomatic solution.
Will: But Assad fired him for — get this — spending too much time outside of Syria.
Caroline: So a diplomat… gets fired… for going to other countries. To negotiate deals. You’d really think international travel would be part of the job description, but apparently no one’s told Assad that your diplomats are supposed to engage in diplomacy.
Will: Too bad Jamil is one of Assad’s biggest supporters. He insists that Assad can’t be allowed to step down.
Caroline: So here we have a minister who insists that Assad stay in power, and actually gets a diplomatic audience with the U.S. And then Assad fires him? This is good strategy… how, exactly?
Will: Speaking of good international strategy, Russia and the United States aren’t exactly in a stellar position to criticize Assad’s diplomatic choices.
Caroline: An Italian newspaper, Corriere della Serra, is accusing Russia of illegally recording delegates at the last G20 summit in St. Petersburg.
Will: The paper says the Russians gave the delegates free phone chargers and flash drives… that were bugged.
Caroline: Compromised iPhone plugs aside, Russia’s presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the charges were totally false, and that they’re just a distraction from the really big monitoring scandal: everyone’s favorite busybodies, the National Security Agency.
Will: So Russia is trying to deflect attention away from itself.. by saying this is a way for the United States to deflect attention away from itself?
Caroline: Yup. But, to be fair, the U.S. has a whooole lot it would like to shove under the rug right now. The NSA has apparently been tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone for the past ten years.
Will: Were cell phones even around ten years ago?
Caroline: This news has sent Europe into a bit of a tizzy. Germany’s obviously not happy, and now it’s even looking like the European Union might halt trade negotiations with the United States.
Will: There is one group that doesn’t mind seeing the White House scrambling to cover their… um, buttocks.
Caroline: That would be Congress, which is very happy to no longer be the country’s most hated government branch.
Will: Multiple members of Congress have proudly pointed out that they aren’t fans of the government spying on the country’s allies.
Caroline: Wow, Congress. You’re so progressive. I’m so impressed. It’s great to hear that you don’t approve of the NSA allegedly monitoring over 60 million calls in Spain in a single month.
Will: Wait, we actually did that? Yeesh.
Caroline: So now the US is working to establish a new bro-code with nearly all of Europe.
Will: Which is a foolproof plan, right? I mean, these unenforceable international agreements always go so well.
Caroline: Prime example: you know how the United States has used drones to strike Pakistan?
Will: And how Pakistan has repeatedly condemned the U.S. attacks?
Caroline: Well, apparently that outrage was all for show, because the U.S. and Pakistan already have an agreement- in which the Pakistanis have endorsed the drone strikes for years.
Will: International diplomacy in action.
Caroline: But don’t despair — Sheldon Adelson has the answer to all the United States’ foreign policy problems!
Will: Yup. The billionaire conservative donor has the perfect plan for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program: fire an atomic bomb into the Iranian desert. As a warning shot.
Caroline: Right. Because a bomb with a fifty mile blast radius is totally just a warning.
Will: But Sheldon thinks it, quote, “won’t hurt a soul.”
C: Nuclear weapons short out entire ecosystems. They make cities unliveable. They hurt lots and lots of souls. That’s kind of what they’re for.
W: Even North Korea hasn’t launched an unprovoked nuclear missile at a land target. Come on, Sheldon. Do you really want to be the guy who’s crazier than Kim Jong Un? And speaking of the Dear Leader, Kim’s got a new pet project.
C: And it’s not his budding bromance with Dennis Rodman.
W: He’s building North Korea’s first ever ski resort, and he’s declared it a national priority.
C: According to the World Food Program, one-third of the children of North Korea are stunted due to malnutrition. And this is your national priority?
W: Wait, it gets better. Because of international sanctions on luxury goods, Kim can’t get his hands on the parts needed to build ski lifts. He tried Austria. He tried France. He tried Switzerland. No one is going to sell him ski lifts.
C: So the North Korean government issues a statement saying that Switzerland’s refusal to sell them ski lift parts is — wait for it — a serious violation of human rights.
W: Apparently ski lifts are a human right. Food, not so much.
C: Yeah, you know what’s really a serious violation of North Korea’s rights? The actions of their government. But according to our buddy Kim, forced labor camps, widespread starvation, and complete isolation from international media are nothing compared to being deprived of your right to go skiing.
W: And if you’re going to accuse another country — any other country — of human rights abuse, why, tell me, why, do you pick Switzerland, of all places? What has Switzerland ever done aside from make lots of watches and stay neutral in every war?
C: But seriously — North Korea is one of the world’s greatest offenders against human rights. Statements like Pyongyang’s are painful and totally unacceptable.
W: Seriously, Kim, letting women wear shorter skirts now and then is not going to cut it, and you know it. You’re expensively educated. You lived outside your country for years. You lived in Switzerland.
C: Which leaves us to wonder whether he’s actually delusional, or just putting it on for giggles.
W: Well. Continuing with this month’s list of human rights abuses —
C: “This is the song that never ends” —
W: Kuwait has decided to impose stricter medical tests on expatriates trying to enter the country. But this isn’t a test for meningitis or malaria. It’s a test for homosexuality.
C: Yup. Kuwait is convinced that its gay-dar is so advanced, immigration health centers will be able to figure out who’s homosexual and who’s not.
W: Kuwaiti Health Ministry official Yousuf Mindkar says Kuwait is taking, quote, “stricter measures” on routine medical checks of expatriates in order to quote, “detect gays.”
C: How do you detect gays? Does the Health Ministry have a rainbow-painted backscatter that flashes warning lights if you like same-sex lovin’?
W: There’s definitely no medical test for homosexuality, so I have no idea what kind of “stricter measures” Mindkar means.
C: Maybe he’s just into S and M.
W: Since the thought of that makes me want to hitch a ride on Adelson’s nuclear bomb, let’s move on. The U.S. has found a great new way to scare Somali pirates away from our mercantile ships.
C: Which is weird, cause we’re inviting them to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-u5WLJ9Yk4 (1:16 – 1:19)
W: The U.S. merchant navy blasts Britney Spears music to scare off pirates.
C: Well, technically, they use a Long Range Acoustic Device to blast music at an unbearable volume — like, frequencies loud enough to shut down riots.
W: And Britney happens to be the tune of choice.
C: I guess if we used Miley Cyrus, we’d be violating the Geneva Convention.
W: Good point. For Filibusted, I’m Will Sullivan, in for Sara Morell.
C: And I’m Caroline Batten.
W: A big shout-out to our producer Tyler Welsh.
C: It’s been a pleasure…at least for us.