WTF Friday, 12/20/2013

Strange news out of North Korea this week. The surprise execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle Jang Song Thaek led many to wonder if the regime was gearing up for an act of international provocation. Yesterday they got their answer, and they got it in the most mid-1990s-est way possible: by fax.

Remember fax machines? We used to use them back in the days when we were still waiting to see whether Kelly would choose Brandon or Dylan. They looked like this:


Anyway, according to news reports, the South Korean National Security Council received a fax from Pyongyang, threatening to “strike mercilessly without notice”. Seoul responded, also by fax (apparently all their Doc Martens-wearing bike messengers were busy), to say that South Korea is prepared to “firmly retaliate” in the event of an attack. No word yet on whether floppy disks will figure in the counter-assault plans.


*Photo from the Wiki.

We Did It!

Advocacy organization Falling Whistles, which we’ve covered in the past, has recently revealed that they and their followers “stopped M23.” That’s pretty swell and all, but we’d be more impressed by their success if it weren’t for the fact that we’ve just arranged for the destruction of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

That’s right. We wanted those weapons to be gone, and said so to a whole bunch of people. And wished super hard every time we found a stray eyelash. And now the weapons are dunzo, so clearly our campaign worked! Hooray for us.

We are realistic about our accomplishments, and are not trying to take more credit than is due. While a single wish on a single eyelash might not have much of an effect on a despotic regime’s weaponry, we travel all over the world, wishing on stray eyelashes everywhere we go. That’s powerful.

We would also like to offer our gracious thanks to our partners in this struggle: Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, countless Syrians who risked (and in many cases lost) their lives, and the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Their work was very important, and we’re grateful that they decided to take action because of us. Even the Assad regime, which initially seemed resistant to our organized wishing campaign, eventually came around.

Great work everyone, but particularly Amanda and Kate!

For the Stylish LRA Supporter in Your Life

This is the “Call to Action Stanley Tote” From Kate Spade:

I Heart KONY Tote

It has a matching iPhone case:
I Heart Kony iPhone

Obviously, the Lord’s Resistance Army has decided to take a page out of Al Shabaab’s book and begin recruiting in the United States, and has managed to enlist the help of Kate Spade.

Given American young people’s proven susceptibility to accessory-based campaigns, it’s only a matter of time before legions of young women accept this “call to action,” snap on some enameled bangles, have their colorists update their highlights to something “low maintenance, for, like, the jungle,” and head off to the bush.

And ye shall know them by their sparkling tote bags.

H/T @Laurenist.

Because We All Love Amy Poehler: Her Speech In Support of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation

Amy Poehler, offering an important insight into the value of charity work: “it’s good for your skin, and it makes your ass smaller.”

Because I am blinded by my love for the Poehler Bear, I have no idea if the Worldwide Orphans Foundation she’s supporting here does good work or not. Anyone have more information about them?

Thousands of Screaming Fans Go Wild for a Power Ballad About the Former Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch

If any kids out there are wavering about whether to pursue a human rights career and have written “no one will ever write a rock ballad about me and play it live to thousands of screaming fans” on their lists of “potential downsides,” they can go ahead and cross it off.

I give you “Jan Egeland,” an anthem singing the praises of everyone’s favorite Norwegian humanitarian:

Sample lyrics:

When there’s war and all is hell,
send in Jan Egeland!
The United Nations Superhero Man.
Mad dictator with a gun,
Send in Jan Egeland!
Oh how I wish….
I was Jan Egeland….

It’s sung by Ylvis, the Norwegian comedic duo responsible for this summer’s viral hit “The Fox”.

Well played, Ylvis, well played. (For your next human rights personnel anthem, might I suggest rhyming “Aryeh Neier” with “burning fire”?)

*Yes, I know that this song came out in 2012.  For any internet timing police who might be tempted to remind me in the comments that this is old news, let’s just agree that the Ohio State University’s marching band playing “The Fox” during a halftime show last weekend constitutes a current news hook, mmkay?

My Head Asplode

Batten down the hatches and hunker down in your place of safety, because the end times are upon us.

Here’s the proof:

Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) in the Washington Post, advocating for the establishment of a Syria War Crimes Tribunal. (The Bible is pretty clear that Republican Congresspersons proposing the creation of new international institutions is a sign of the apocalypse, right?)

Rep. Smith, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s human rights panel, believes that rather than approving a limited strike, or an International Criminal Court referral, or any of the other options currently on the table, the United Nations Security Council should create a brand spanking new war crimes tribunal, specifically tasked with bringing the perpetrators of atrocities in Syria to justice.

As evidence that this is a feasible proposition, he cites the Security Council votes to create the ICTY in 1993 (unanimous) and the ICTR in 1994 (China abstained).

Here’s the thing, though, Congressman: You know what didn’t exist in 1993 and 1994, when the Security Council decided to establish those ad hoc bodies? I’ll give you a hint: It rhymes with Shminternational Shriminal Shourt.

Yes, that’s right, it’s the ICC! And it is, in fact, a permanent international body set up to do EXACTLY the thing you would like your Syria War Crimes Tribunal to do. Isn’t that exciting?

And do you know why the ICC was set up? It was so that every (depressingly frequent) time some jackass dictator or rebel leader decides to mow down peaceful protestors, massacre villagers, or engage in a campaign of mass rape, the Security Council doesn’t have to go to the trouble and expense of creating a new court.

And that expense is not minimal. The ICTY, which you seem to be such a fan of, currently clocks in at $2.3 billion. The ICTR: $1.7 billion. Even the hybrid courts, which save costs by utilizing the judicial systems of the country where the crimes occurred, have already racked up price tags of over $200 million (Special Court for Sierra Leone, in place since 2002) and $350 million (Khmer Rouge Tribunal operating since 2006). And frankly, I just don’t see President Assad loaning his pet judges out to the effort to punish him. Do you?

Meanwhile, the costs to establish the ICC have already been paid. It’s there, lurking just outside of The Hague, waiting for someone to request that it investigate the command structure of the Syrian Armed Forces. All you have to do is ask.

Or rather: All you have to do is persuade Russia and China not to veto a referral. But you’d have that issue with your harebrained “chuck a new tribunal at the problem” scheme too. So yeah, maybe go back to the drawing board with this one.


*Facts and figures courtesy of the Leitner Center’s “International Criminal Tribunals: A Visual Overview.”

Chauncey, End Poverty!

This is Jefferson Mok‘s awesome Burundi dog, Chauncey:

Disco Chauncey

He moved to New York about a year ago, and apparently his prodigious skills have been going to waste ever since. Jefferson asked for our help coming up with some new tricks for Chauncey to learn.

Naturally, this is where our minds went:

  1. Chauncey, raise awareness!: Chauncey chases his tail.
  2. Chauncey, mainstream gender!: Chauncey stares at you without moving until you give him something else to do.
  3. Chauncey, SWEDOW!: Chauncey fetches his oldest, most slobbery toy and places it in your lap.
  4. Chauncey, consult stakeholders!: Chauncey lies down on the floor and covers his ears with his paws.
  5. Chauncey, apply for funding!: Chauncey jumps through a series of unnecessary hoops.
  6. Chauncey, review best practices!: Chauncey sniffs his own butt.
  7. Chauncey, report to donors!: Chauncey sniffs another dog’s butt.
  8. Chauncey, issue report!: Chauncey barks for 30 seconds even though no one is listening to him.
  9. Chauncey, protect civilians!: Chauncey stays close by and watches carefully as Jefferson is savaged by a labradoodle.
  10. Chauncey, achieve MDGs!: Chauncey rolls over on his back and puts his paws in the air.

Please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Saving the World Makes Chauncey Very Tired

Photos courtesy of the aforementioned Jefferson Mok. Thanks Jefferson!

Are You Ready for the Zimbabwe Elections?

Zimbabwe goes to the polls next week amidst reports of an “alarming clampdown” by security forces loyal to long-time (seriously, it’s been a really long time) incumbent Robert Mugabe.

Apparently, we’ll all be able to track the election results in real time. In the meantime, if you need a quick refresher on what’s at stake, check out the latest edition of Ikenna Azuike’s “What’s Up Africa?”

H/T: Max Fisher

Politics in Other Places

Does it ever seem like other countries’ domestic politics are just way funnier than ours?

In New Zealand, Greenpeace has pronounced MP Simon Bridges a liar, using what I hope to god is the traditional Kiwi method of calling someone out for dishonesty: a gigantic billboard in the capital city. 

The billboard accuses Bridges, who has been leading the fight against peaceful protesting at sea (a modern-day scourge on the order of highway banditry, obviously), of hiding his connections to the oil industry. Fingers crossed he responds via dot-matrix skywriting!

And in Ireland, MP Tom Barry decided the middle of a parliamentary debate on abortion was a good time to pull fellow lawmaker Aine Collins onto his lap

Barry admitted he’d been drinking, but not, he claimed, “excessively.”

Meanwhile, all we’ve got to get excited about is this horrible kid and his insatiable flag-lust.

Hattips go to (in order): Golriz Ghahraman, Fedelma Smith, and Alissa Stollwerk. Thanks, guys!

Melinda’s Book is Out Today! Kirkus Says It’s “A Perfect Blend of the Intimate and the Epic.”

We interrupt our normally scheduled atrocity coverage to bring you the message that my sister, the talented Melinda Taub, has a novel out today!

It’s called “Still Star Crossed,” it’s a sequel to Romeo and Juliet, it’s available on Amazon and in book stores near you, it’s awesome, and you should buy it.

I’m obviously biased, but there’s no need to take my word for this. Here’s what Kirkus said in its (ahem, starred) review:

Love and violence intertwine in this spectacular sequel to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.


Taub splits her focus between the personal and the political, sending the narrative shuttling among Rosaline, Benvolio, Rosaline’s spirited sister, Livia, and desperate Prince Escalus without losing the thread. Rosaline and Benvolio’s tale is equal parts historical fiction, detective story and high adventure, relayed in accurate but not overwhelming period language, informed by Romeo and Juliet and Shakespeare’s other works but offering an expanded and original perspective.

A perfect blend of the intimate and the epic, the story both honors its origin and works in its own right. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Now excuse me while I go wander the city, bragging about my little sister, the novelist.