Archive for June, 2009


Ayatollah Orders Election Probe

Sorry, kids, no snark here. This election may be the most exciting and fascinating since…well, our last one. And I’m following it avidly, partly because I love a good protest, and partly because I feel for the protesters (what if McCain had been “elected” and there was no one around to stop it?). It all brings back memories of 2000, and what should have happened at the highest levels of decision making. Amazingly, rather than rubber-stamping the results, the Ayatollah is listening to his populous (and the reform candidate), and calling for an investigation.

From the AP, by way of HuffPo.

Iran’s supreme leader ordered Monday an investigation into allegations of election fraud, marking a stunning turnaround by the country’s most powerful figure and offering hope to opposition forces who have waged street clashes to protest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

State television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directing a high-level clerical panel, the Guardian Council, to look into charges by pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has said he is the rightful winner of Friday’s presidential election.

The decision comes after Mousavi wrote a letter appealing to the Guardian Council and met Sunday with Khamenei, who holds almost limitless power over Iranian affairs. Such an election probe by the 12-member council is uncharted territory and it not immediately clear how it would proceed or how long it would take.

Election results must be authorized by the council, composed of clerics closely allied with the unelected supreme leader. All three of Ahmadinejad’s challengers in the election — Mousavi and two others — have made public allegations of fraud after results showed the president winning by a 2-to-1 margin.

“Issues must be pursued through a legal channel,” state TV quoted Khamenei as saying. The supreme leader said he has “insisted that the Guardian Council carefully probe this letter.”

The day after the election, Khamenei urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad and called the result a “divine assessment.”

Jesus God, man, if the Ayatollah will damn the political torpedoes and look into allegations of malfeasance perpetrated by an overzealous and unpopular hardline leader, how far off can a torture truth commission be, regardless of the White House’s reluctance to pursue it?


Sarah Palin Secretly Thinks Jokes About Molesting Willow Are Teh Funneh

‘Kay, so anyone who’s not up on the Palin-Letterman feud, buckle in, cause I got a lot to say about it. Here’s what happened:

The Palins visited NYC, and attend a Yankees game with Giul911ani. Letterman, to paraphrase, said the following about their trip:

1. The best part was that they got to go to Bloomingdale’s to update Sarah’s “slutty flight attendant” look.
2. The worst part was keeping their daughter away from Eliot Spitzer.
3. The most surprising part was when their daughter got knocked up by A-Rod during the 7th inning stretch.

The Palins got livid, and released the following statements:

“Any ‘jokes’ about raping my 14-year-old are despicable. Alaskans know it and I believe the rest of the world knows it, too.”

– Todd Palin

“Concerning Letterman’s comments about my young daughter (and I doubt he’d ever dare make such comments about anyone else’s daughter): ‘Laughter incited by sexually-perverted comments made by a 62-year-old male celebrity aimed at a 14-year-old girl is not only disgusting, but it reminds us some Hollywood/NY entertainers have a long way to go in understanding what the rest of America understands – that acceptance of inappropriate sexual comments about an underage girl, who could be anyone’s daughter, contributes to the atrociously high rate of sexual exploitation of minors by older men who use and abuse others.'”

– Governor Sarah Palin

First thing’s first. Read that statement given by Sarah Palin again. Sweet weeping Jayzus on a popsicle stick, have you ever SEEN so much punctuation trying to reign in a pointless ramble (aside from here)?!?! The unnecessary parenthetical, followed by a colon followed by her quoting herself within her own statement. Of course, there’s then the dash, the repetition and artless nature of her speech…the whole thing is seriously mindblowing. It reads like someone who not only doesn’t speak English well, but just doesn’t understand the nature of language and communication (i.e. that it should convey to someone else your interior monologue, rather than just reflect it directly). Now, I ramble. I know this. But in official capacities, I tend to err on the side of brevity if I want to be taken seriously. I mean, really. An elected official sat down to write an official statement, and this is what she came up with. Let me edit this fer ya, elite that I am: “Any time a member of the bi-coastal elites uses his or her celebrity to make light of the tragic molestation and sexual exploitation of minors in this country, I take serious offense, but never more so than when the victim of the satire is my own young daughter, who merely wanted to see New York, not enter the political arena. Mr. Letterman should be ashamed of himself.” KTHXBAI.

Anyway, given Sarah Palin’s total lack of understanding of the basics of communication, even with her precious journalism degree, I am starting my own “birthers” movement, postulating that Sarah Palin was born a turtle, and is therefore ineligible to be Governor of Alaska. Run with it, kiddos!

So, anyway, in true Letterman form, he spent 7 minutes smacking them down, claiming the jokes were about Bristol, saying they were tasteless, and driving home the point they were jokes. To which the Palins followed up yet again, with Todd issuing another terse, simple, but to-the-point statement, saying that, since their 14-year-old was the only daughter on the trip with them, they’d assumed the jokes to be at her expense (truth be told, so did I).

Sarah, no longer to be trusted around the writing bit, responded via Meg Stapleton, Sarah’s spokesperson:

“The Palins have no intention of providing a ratings boost for David Letterman by appearing on his show,” Stapelton said in an email to ABC News. “Plus, it would be wise to keep Willow away from David Letterman.”

So jokes about Willow getting molested really are hilarious. But only when her parents do it. *shudder*


Michael Steele’s Big Boner Hat

Noted failure and hapless funnymaker, Michael Steele, has once again unwittingly helped Democratic claims about the GOP’s lack of inclusiveness.

Steele told the audience that “no one knows what the hell it means” when the GOP refers to itself as a “big tent.”

So he offered another analogy: The GOP is a hat.

Some people wear a hat frontwards, others cocked to the left, he explained. Some wear it backwards, he added, echoing a past statement,”because that’s how they roll.” But “the strength of the party is in this: … the fact that you’re willing to put the damn thing on… The problem we’ve had as a party is: too many of our friends, neighbors, colleagues are taking the hat off, because we’ve decided we don’t like the way they wear it… The GOP is not about how you wear the hat, but the fact that you want to wear the hat.”

I see where he was going, but, as usual, he didn’t convey HIS message so much as he did Obama’s. Cause, seriously, who wears hats regularly nowadays? Besides white guys in the deep South (where trucker caps and cowboy hats are still king), no other demographic is regularly sporting headgear anymore. So, yes, it was a perfect analogy to the GOP base as of now: You can wear your cowboy hat while fake-clearing brush, or your trucker cap while listening to Rush in the morning, but both are acceptable. As are those whose hat-wearing habits date back to the 1930s. Everybody else, though, is irrelevant. Or maybe invisible. Certainly they’re not in the party.

Well said, my good sir.


Jews Already Having The Worst Week Ever

It hasn’t been a good month for the sons and daughters of Abraham. First, Israel has to watch as its greatest (only?) close ally in the world cozies up to the people who most want it demolished. And, while I’m in favor of the two-state solution, I seriously feel for Israel, and I understand

No, the OTHER Chuck Taylor

No, the OTHER Chuck Taylor

that it can’t be easy to have to negotiate with Hamas, who will inevitably experience “Oopsies” in their bomb-over-the-Israeli-border mechanism the day after they get their state granted. Really, I get it.

But this is really too much.

Former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, currently imprisoned at the Hague awaiting trial for war crimes in Sierra Leone, has apparently decided to convert to Judaisim

George Bluth jokes aside, what next? Is Jon Stewart going to convert to Southern Baptism? Will Barney Greengrass Sturgeon King shut its doors? Will rugelach be found to be carcinogenic?

Ay, gevalt.


About Fucking Time

We all know that two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, are being held in North Korea for supposed treasonous acts (but really as leverage so North Korea can continue its nuclear weapons program without the U.S. stopping them). Their trial date was set for June 5, which everyone thought was a good sign (they rarely even set trial dates). And then the nuclear test happened, and our attempts at diplomacy with Pyongyang were shot to shit.

Long story short: The two innocent American women were just sentenced to 12 years hard labor.

The thing that’s been amazing me about this is that they work for Al fucking Gore’s TV station, and where the hell has he been? No one can tell me that Laura Ling’s sister, Lisa–who is moderately famous for having been on some mid-morning talk television show–would hold more sway in a public statement than a previous Vice President of the United States (and elected President, but I digress).

Anyway, so it appears that Gore may finally be getting off his fat ass and getting over there tout de suite to campaign for these poor women’s lives.

In a column published May 9 in the Washington Post, Victor Cha, a former adviser to president George W. Bush on North Korea, suggested that President Barack Obama’s administration should send Gore to Pyongyang.

“The United States needs to send a high-level envoy to North Korea to bring these women home. The obvious candidate would be Gore,” wrote Cha, who is now a a professor at Georgetown University.

“The North Koreans would respect someone of his stature, and his stake in the issue would make his mission eminently credible,” he added.

“Without fear of setting or breaking diplomatic precedent, he could issue whatever ‘apologies’ were necessary to secure the two women’s release,” according to Cha. “Similar token apologies have been issued in the past.”

In the 1990s, Washington obtained the release of two US nationals who were arrested by the North Koreans. One was a young man suspected of espionage and the other was a military helicopter pilot who was shot down after having entered North Korean air space.

Meanwhile, Hillary’s putting on the big-boy pants and looking to interdict their shipments, in the name of blocking their nuclear weapons program. As she said Sunday, “We will do everything we can to both interdict it and prevent it and shut off their flow of money,” she said. “If we do not take significant and effective action against the North Koreans now, we’ll spark an arms race in Northeast Asia. I don’t think anybody wants to see that.” Sure, North Korea said this would be an act of war, but what don’t they think is an act of war? Shit, that’s practically what they said about the two journalists who unknowingly and unwittingly stepped over some arbitrary line in China, thereby infiltrating Dear Leader’s lair with malicious intent. Feh.

If this tough tack doesn’t work to stop the little man from jumping up and down till we notice him, perhaps we should try the loving approach. After all, everyone else who hates us has gotten a visit from our internationally-beloved Unicorn King, and we all know Kim Jong Il lerves him some American rock/movie stars. So, get ready, Hopey: You may have to jump in bed with this:

I’m sure he’s only hotter now that he’s been dead for a while.


Bill Killed

This makes me genuinely sad.

David Carradine has been found dead in a Bangkok hotel room. Thai police told the BBC the 72-year-old was found dead in his hotel room with a rope around his neck.

Jesus God, man, this is shockingly tragic. And seemingly inexplicable. Was it because of the confluence of two of his quotations?

“I don’t need to convince anybody that I know kung fu, but maybe somebody needs to know that I really can act, without doing a Chinese accent or a funny walk.”
“If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.”

Regardless of why, it seems we have to say goodbye to the poetry.


It’s Tiananmen Square’s China Anniversary

Yup, the 20th anniversary is the china anniversary. How appropriate.

For you kids out there, this is the perfect opportunity to inform you that our overlords and loan-holders over yonder in China do not, to put it kindly, have the best record on human rights.
The Guardian and PBS have both put out a handy dandy summation of the events we’re remembering today, which I’ll sum up in the following timeline:

15 April
Former Communist party chief and reformist Hu Yaobang dies. Mourners gather in Tiananmen Square to grieve and call for reform.

17 April Tens of thousands of university students begin gathering spontaneously in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, the nation’s symbolic central space. They come to mourn the death of Hu Yoabang, former General Secretary of the Communist Party. Hu had been a symbol to them of anti-corruption and political reform. In his name, the students call for press freedom and other reforms.

18-21 April Demonstrations escalate in Beijing and spread to other cities and universities. Workers and officials join in with complaints about inflation, salaries and housing. Party leaders fear the demonstrations might lead to chaos and rebellion. One group, lead by Premier Li Peng, second-ranking in the Party hierarchy, suspects “black hands” of “bourgeois liberal elements” are working behind the scenes to undermine the government. A minority faction, led by Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, believes that “the student mainstream is good” and that their patriotism should be affirmed, “although any inappropriate methods of action should be pointed out to them.”

Li argues that the protests should be “nipped in the bud;” however, Zhao convinces them to wait, stating, “Our main task right now is to be sure the memorial service for Comrade Yaobang goes off smoothly.”

22 April More than 100,000 university students assemble outside the Great Hall of the People, where Hu’s memorial service is being held. Three students carry a petition of demands up the steps of the Great Hall and insist on meeting Li Peng; he does not respond. Over the next days, the students boycott classes and organize into unofficial student unions — an illegal act in China.

25 April With Zhao Ziyang on a state visit to North Korea, Li Peng calls a meeting of the Politburo, a meeting dominated by Party members antagonistic to the students. They convince Party elder Deng Xiaoping, the de facto head of state, that the students aim to overthrow him and the Communist Party. Deng decides the Party has thus far been “tolerant and restrained,” but the time has come for action. “We must explain to the whole Party and nation that we are facing a most serious political struggle. … We’ve got to be explicit and clear in opposing this turmoil.”

26 April The state-run People’s Daily accuses protesters of rejecting the Communist party, sparking further demonstrations. “The Necessity for a Clear Stand Against Turmoil” is the title of the editorial, and it closely follows the opinions expressed by Deng at the meeting the day before. “This is a well-planned plot … to confuse the people and throw the country into turmoil,” it reads. “… Its real aim is to reject the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system at the most fundamental level.”

27 April The editorial sets off more demonstrations in other cities. In Tiananmen Square the ranks of protestors now include a cross-section of society. “In Beijing one in 10 of the population was joining in … all of the old people, all the little children, so it was massive,” explains Jan Wong, a foreign journalist in Beijing at the time. “You had doctors and nurses and scientists and army people demonstrating. The Chinese navy was demonstrating, and I thought, ‘This is extraordinary because who’s left? It’s just the top leaders who aren’t out there.'”

4 May Tens of thousands of students march into Tiananmen Square to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1919 “May Fourth Movement,” which also took place in the square. They pledge to return to classes the next day but intend to keep pressing for reforms.

Zhao Ziyang, in a speech to foreign bankers, expresses support for the students’ “patriotism” and essentially contradicts the government’s April 26 editorial. This angers senior Party members.

5 May – 12 May Many students return to classes, and the movement is in flux and lacks clear leadership. Certain factions plan more demonstrations and a hunger strike. Meanwhile, tensions escalate within the Party as they prepare for Soviet Party Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev’s historic visit to Beijing.

Deng Xiaoping wants to settle things peacefully, but insists the students must be out of the square before Gorbachev arrives. Zhao, unable to convince the students to call off the demonstrations, begins to lose favor with the senior Party members.

13 May 160 students begin a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square.

15 May Mikhail Gorbachev arrives. Protests force the cancellation of plans to welcome him in the square.

16 May More than 3,000 people are now participating in the hunger strike. The embarrassing protests during Gorbachev’s visit further polarizes the Politburo. During an emergency meeting, Zhao maintains that the way to end the strike is for the government to retract its April 26 editorial, accept the students’ demand for dialogue and begin reforms.

17 May When the case is put to Deng Xiaoping, he decides against Zhao’s recommendations and proposes instituting martial law to end the hunger strike. “The aim … will be to suppress the turmoil once and for all and to return things quickly to normal,” he is reported to have said. “This is the unshirkable duty of the Party and the government.” Zhao expresses his problems with this position but concedes: “I will submit to Party discipline; the minority does yield to the majority.”

18 May Zhao Ziyang visits hospitalized hunger strikers and tries to convince them to call off their fast. Afterward, he is reported to have drafted a letter of resignation to the Politburo, but it is never sent. Li Peng holds a televised meeting with student leaders in the Great Hall of the People. It ends without any progress.

That evening a meeting of Party elders and Politburo members, including Deng Xiaoping and Li Peng, approves the declaration of martial law. Zhao Ziyang does not attend.

19 May Student leaders learn of the plan to declare martial law and call off their hunger strike. Instead, they stage a mass sit-in in Tiananmen Square that draws about 1.2 million supporters, including members of the police and military and industrial workers. Zhao Ziyang appears in Tiananmen Square in a final, unsuccessful effort to appeal for compromise. It is his last public appearance. He is soon removed from office and replaced by Jiang Zemin.

That evening, Li Peng appears on state television to declare martial law. “We must adopt firm and resolute measures to end the turmoil swiftly, to maintain the leadership of the party as well as the socialist system.”

20 May Martial law is declared in parts of Beijing. For the first time in 40 years of Communist rule, the PLA troops attempt to occupy the city. A huge number of civilian protestors block their convoys on the streets. Beijingers begin a dialogue with the soldiers, trying to explain to them why they shouldn’t be there. “You had these … touching moments of the people appealing to the army to join them, and feeding them, and giving them water, and saying, you know, ‘Could be your son. Could be your daughter,'” says Orville Schell, who was in Beijing at the time. “And [you have] these sort of doe-eyed, puzzled soldiers, who were mostly country people, weren’t experienced with big city life, just wondering what was going on here. And not wanting to hurt anybody.”

The soldiers have been ordered not to fire on civilians, even if provoked. They are stuck — unable to reach the protestors in Tiananmen Square and unable to withdraw from the city — for almost three days.

24 May Troops leave. For the next week demonstrations continue. “The party leaders feared that the whole edifice of communism was going to collapse,” says journalist John Pomfret. “They needed to make a stand, and a bloody stand, to show their population, and in effect, to cow their population, back into submission.”

2 June Party elders approve decision to put down protest by force.

3 June Thousands of soldiers move towards the centre of Beijing. As word spreads that hundreds of thousands of troops are approaching from all four corners of the city, Beijingers flood the streets to block them, as they had done two weeks earlier. People set up barricades at every major interstion. At about 10:30 p.m., near the Muxidi apartment buildings — home to high-level Party officials and their families — the citizens become aggressive as the army tries to break through their barricades. They yell at the soldiers and some throw rocks; someone sets a bus on fire. The soldiers start firing on the unarmed civilians with AK-47s loaded with battlefield ammunition.

4 June At about 1:00 a.m., the People’s Liberation Army finally reaches Tiananmen Square and waits for orders from the government. The soldiers have been told not to open fire, but they have also been told that they must clear the square by 6:00 a.m. — with no exceptions or delays. They make a final offer of amnesty if the few thousand remaining students will leave. About 4:00 a.m., student leaders put the matter to a vote: Leave the square, or stay and face the consequences. “It was clear to me that they stay votes were much, much, much stronger,” recalls eyewitness John Pomfret, who was near the students. “But Feng Congde, who was a student leader at the time, said, ‘The go’s have it.'” The students vacate the square under the gaze of thousands of soldiers.

Later that morning, some people — believed to be the parents of the student protestors — try to re-enter Tiananmen Square via Chang’an Boulevard. The soldiers order them to leave, and when they don’t, open fire, taking down dozens of people at a time. According to eyewitness accounts, the citizens seem not to believe the army is firing on them with real ammunition.

No one knows for certain how many people died over the two days. The Chinese Red Cross initially reported 2,600, then quickly retracted that figure under intense pressure from the government. The official Chinese government figure is 241 dead, including soldiers, and 7,000 wounded.

5 June The army has complete control. About midday, as a column of tanks slowly moves along Chang’an Boulevard toward Tiananmen Square, an unarmed young man carrying shopping bags suddenly steps out in front of the tanks. Instead of running over him, the first tank tries to go around, but the young man steps in front of it again. They repeat this maneuver several more times before the tank stops and turns off its motor. The young man climbs on top of the tank and speaks to the driver before jumping back down again. Soon, the young man is whisked to the side of the road by an unidentified group of people and disappears into the crowd.

Let’s repeat that last part again, this time with feeling: A young man repeatedly blocks a column of tanks.

No one knows who he was, what he went on to do, or how in the hell to contact him to give him his new dinner set.

June 2009