Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The US Embargo on Cuba and A Look at The Miss America Pageant
September 22, 2014 4:50 PM - Season 1, Episode 18 - Subscribe

After historic turnout, Scotland elects remains in the UK. The ruling party of New Zealand uses an Eminem song in a campaign commercial without permission, and is pretty dismissive about it. More NFL players are under fire from domestic abuse allegations. (2.5m, extended web exclusive) Newscasters refering to the future using the fifty-old cartoon The Jetsons. Obama extends the US trade embargo with Cuba. People on the news insincerely laugh at each other. A long piece on the Miss America pageant and their questionable claims for funding woman scholarships. (15.5m) Surprise guests: Kathy Gifford, and "Giuseppe," who they objectively determine on a runway is a better host than John Oliver.
posted by JHarris (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Using the fifty-year-old cartoon, the Jetsons, the post should read. Sigh.
posted by JHarris at 5:00 PM on September 22, 2014

Also, I'm not sure if I'm going to do the full recap this time, or if I do when it'll be ready. Just warning you guys. If someone else wants to have a shot....
posted by JHarris at 5:13 PM on September 22, 2014

Kathy Griffin, not Gifford
posted by polymath at 8:08 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

So it IS Griffin. Goddammit. I miscorrected it!
posted by JHarris at 8:22 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just watched this. Two things really struck me:

1. G.W. Bush lifted trade embargoes with North Korea? American companies can now do business in arguably the most evil, repressive country that has ever existed, but just not with Cuba?

2. That Oliver and his stuff dug into the math behind the Miss America scholarship claims, and found the boasts of "$45 million annually" to be, essentially, bullshit.

I mean, I'm actually not totally anti-beauty pageant. But, like Kathy Griffin says in the bit, only as long as men get subjected to the same treatment, and as long as we stop trying to pretend we actually expect the winners to somehow also be diplomats on the level of Eleanor Roosevelt.
posted by dnash at 8:52 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

The surprise was the contestant who actually gave as good an answer as could be expected when asked about how to handle the threat of ISIS. Everyone else can go home, WE HAVE A WINNER.
posted by JHarris at 10:08 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

This may have been the best episode yet. I always knew the scholarships claims were probably bullshit but the level of BS is amazing. Why can't my news be this informative and well-researched?

The embargo piece was frankly amazing. The clip of President Obama was gold.

Would Oliver be up against Colbert for an Emmy? I would trade at least two of Colbert's statues for this one episode.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 11:46 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've love to see a good bit with both Colbert and Oliver, two comedians who've never really had the chance to work together, before Colbert leaves for Network Late Night Apoliticalness.
posted by JHarris at 12:55 AM on September 23, 2014

Ooh! I just noticed there's a new Bugle in my queue!
posted by Sys Rq at 7:29 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

G.W. Bush lifted trade embargoes with North Korea?

What was the specific claim? All I can find is that the US eventually relaxed Clinton-era sanctions in order to fulfill its obligations under the 1994 Agreed Framework:

June 30, 2008: President George W. Bush signs into law the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2008, which includes a provision allowing the president to waive sanctions on North Korea related to the 1994 Glenn Amendment imposed on Pyongyang following its 2006 nuclear test.
posted by dhartung at 11:34 PM on September 23, 2014

In the episode, it's revealed that the trade embargo with Cuba is something that has to be renewed yearly, and its periodic signing has become routine to the point that it is no longer considered news by English-speaking American news media.

This NBC News story appears to relate to the event: "President Bush said Thursday he will lift key trade sanctions against North Korea and remove it from the U.S. terrorism blacklist, a remarkable turnaround in policy toward a regime he once branded as part of an 'axis of evil.'" The event occurred in exchange for information on North Korea's nuclear program. The nation remains heavily sanctioned by the United Nations.

Here's the event covered on NPR's All Things Considered.

The US Treasury has this page detailing current sanctions against North Korea.
posted by JHarris at 1:19 AM on September 24, 2014

That's the same event I was pointing to. I wasn't asking for verification that it took place, but what the show claimed about it in comparison to Cuba. I'm still waiting (since this material has not been uploaded) for someone to explain the specific claim made on the show. I assume it is correct, but it is also not exactly lifting the trade embargo to relax some sanctions. It's also part of a broad-based agreement that has, at least for periods of time, relaxed the threat of immediate war and international concerns about a nuclear and missile program.

(Sorry, I don't mean to be all poli-sci-splaining here, but there are valid reasons for foreign policy to not be reduced to a rational rules-based system.)
posted by dhartung at 2:19 PM on September 24, 2014

Are you asking me to transcribe it, or that part of it, like I usually do? I am having difficulty telling exactly you're asking for.

From memory, what Oliver went over:
- Obama just renewed the long-running yearly embargo against Cuba. They identified that the embargo does have to be renewed every year, due to a specific piece of legislation whose name escapes me right now. The embargo was established by President Kennedy in the 60s, in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
- They identified that the fact of the renewal was only reported on one Spanish language channel.
- They revealed that Bush had relaxed an embargo on North Korea in 2008. My own searching revealed that the embargo had been relaxed as a concession in exchange for information on NK's nuclear program.
- The implication was clearly, North Korea is a nation that we have ongoing troubles with and is an eternal thorn in our side. Cuba hasn't been a problem for a long time, yet we still find the national will to periodically say "naughty naughty" to them in a way that harms their people. Why?

Anything more and I'll have to rewatch that bit. I was thinking about not doing a direct recap of this one, since it often takes hours of rewinding and playing and some web searching too, and I've been having large personal life problems lately. And I was concerned that there was no need to do it. Well, I guess this is one point in favor....

I don't know what you mean by "rational rules-based system." Rules aside, it does make sense, IMO, to compare how we behave towards different countries to each other, and apply some rational thinking to that comparison.
posted by JHarris at 3:20 PM on September 24, 2014

"The truth is, even our own standards for this embargo seem a little bit shaky. Remember the Trading with the Enemy Act from earlier? Well, Cuba is currently the only country on it. There used to be another one, until this happened:
[G.W. Bush, June 26, 2008] "I'm issuing a proclamation that lifts the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act with respect to North Korea."
"Not even North Korea is on that list anymore. And, look, a list of enemies without them is like a list of cycloptic, clawed penises without the 2012 Olympic mascots. It's meaningless. Your list is incomplete."
posted by Sys Rq at 3:30 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

John Oliver’s takedown of Miss America boosts donations to women’s scholarships.

That's great. The sad irony of that piece was after showing how inflated the numbers are, they still had to concede Miss America was the largest women's scholarship available.
posted by Gary at 3:51 PM on September 24, 2014

Anything more and I'll have to rewatch that bit. I was thinking about not doing a direct recap of this one, since it often takes hours of rewinding and playing and some web searching too

Your recaps were great but way above and beyond what anyone else does for FanFare. Don't worry about providing them.
posted by Gary at 4:02 PM on September 24, 2014

To be honest, I'm glad JHarris didn't do his recap as he usually does, because I feel like such a text dump just impedes the discussion. I appreciate the time you must take to do it, because Jesus Christ you go all out like it's your job or something. You have to think though, if someone hasn't watched the show and comes here, they won't read your recap because it's so detailed it spoils something as unspoilable as a satirical news show. If they have watched the show, they won't read it because they've already seen the show. It's a wasted effort, no offense.
posted by malapropist at 1:10 AM on September 25, 2014

I appreciate the recaps because I don't have HBO and only watch the stuff that makes it to YouTube, but by all means, don't keep them up on my account. Like Gary says, it's way beyond necessary.
posted by donajo at 9:45 AM on September 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

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