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Johnsplaining
November 12, 2018

John Oliver began his look at President Trump's swampy administration by grimacing at Trump's Razzie-winning cameo in the 1991 film Ghosts Can't Do It. "That kissy face is the single most disgusting thing that's ever been in a movie, and I'm very much including The Human Centipede," he said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight.

Oliver didn't have a problem with Trump's two-year-old campaign promise to "drain the swamp" in Washington. "Limiting the power of industry lobbyists and special interests is a genuinely good idea," he said. "But as much as people have taken to Trump's 'drain the swamp' promise, it won't remotely surprise you to know that he has not drained the swamp even one little bit."

The problem isn't limited to the "many swamp creatures" in Trump's Cabinet, running agencies that "could directly benefit themselves and their former employers," Oliver said. In fact, "just focusing on the famous alligators in Trump's swamp is missing some of the most important damage that is getting done by lesser-known bureaucrats" at places like the EPA and Interior Department, where "the swamp runs deep" and "there is real power at every level." For example, the agency in charge of oil-rig safety is headed by Scott Angelle, an offshore drilling enthusiast who loves to give oil lobbyists —and thanks to Oliver, you — his work number.

"Trump never meant drain the swamp," and that's obvious "by what has happened since," Oliver said. "Because he promised to clean up D.C., and instead the guy in charge of the CFPB is holding hands with loan sharks, the EPA might as well be run by a sentient piece of coal, and his head of oil-rig safety wants the industry to blow up his digits like an under-regulated oil well." You can watch the video — which is NSFW — below. Peter Weber

November 5, 2018

President Trump, to the chagrin of a handful of House Republicans, has made immigration his closing salvo for the midterms, stoking terror and sending up to 15,000 troops to counter a slow-moving caravan of Central American migrants. On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver accepted Trump's challenge to make Tuesday's election about Trump and immigration — but not on "hypotheticals," like birthright citizenship or U.S. troop deployments. He focused on family separation.

After Trump ended that policy following a national uproar, "the story kind of faded from the headlines," Oliver said. But new government reports show that while the policy "seemed malicious and chaotic at the time, at every step, it was even worse than you might assume."

The enactment of the policy was unpardonably sloppy, the motives baldly racist, and the whole thing tragically unnecessary, Oliver said. "Contrary to what you might think, most of the parents who were separated from their kids were charged, pled guilty, and served their sentence, all fairly quickly." And the vast majority of asylum seekers show up for their court hearings. Trump and his allies still argue that family separation was a necessary evil, but "we don't have to do any of it," he said. "There is not a war, and the only reason people keep talking like there is one is to give themselves permission to make the choices they want to be forced to make." He showed a real-life example of how family separation traumatized one mother and son. "Yeah, we did that — and not because we had to, but because we chose to," Oliver said. "And horrifically, we may actually be about to do it again."

So sure, let's make Tuesday about Trump and immigration, Oliver said. "Because family separation is perhaps the most emblematic moment of his presidency so far: It was cruel, sloppy, needless, racist, and ultimately exactly what we should have expected." There is NSFW language and heartbreak. Watch below. Peter Weber

October 29, 2018

"State attorneys general — and yes, that is the correct plural, and if you already knew that, I'm sorry that high school was such a rough time for you," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. A show about state attorneys general "sounds like a tedious prospect," he conceded. "But look, it is worth the effort to learn about state AGs because they are very important," even if "most of us probably don't who ours is." Most attorneys general are elected partisan officials, and 30 states will choose theirs on Nov. 6. "Those elections are going to be unusually competitive," Oliver explained, in part because a record $100 million has been poured into them.

"So tonight, let's look at who AGs are, what they do, and why they matter," Oliver said, and he started with what they do: basically, act as the lawyer for a state's citizens. The office has steadily become more partisan, though, especially with groups of Republican AGs suing the federal government under former President Barack Obama. He focused for a bit on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), indicted for securities fraud and apparently caught on camera stealing an expensive pen, but he noted that since President Trump took office, Democratic AGs are the ones filing suit.

Many voters just leave the AG box blank on the ballot, which is "actually a cause for genuine hope," because it means "your vote for AG may technically be even more valuable," Oliver said, pointing again to Texas. "If there is one thing sure to damage Ken Paxton's reputation, it's an awareness of Ken Paxton's reputation. So please, before Nov. 6, just think about your AG race." He provided pointers for some states, then sent everyone else to the nonpartisan Vote411.org. Then, to push viewers to go research candidates, Oliver produced an increasingly discordant cacophony of instruments plus one lovely theremin. Watch the first 18 minutes, which include NSFW language, below. Peter Weber

October 15, 2018

On Oct. 2, U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi vanished, and Turkey said it has conclusive proof that a Saudi death squad killed and dismembered Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. This "incredibly grim" story is "absolutely horrific, and the Saudis denied it happened — although let us all agree on this: A bone saw in any context is an immediate red flag," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight.

Khashoggi was a "thoughtful and by no means radical critic of the Saudi royal family," Oliver said. "And this is all worrying, because the only reason to kill a journalist in your own consulate with 15 people and a bone saw you flew in that day is because you wanted to send a message, and you were sure you could get away with it." He had a pretty good idea why the Saudis would think they'd face no consequences.

America has a "long and morally compromised history" with Saudi Arabia, and while many "U.S. presidents have, to varying degrees, been willing to pander to Saudi Arabia," turning "a blind eye to a lot of things," Oliver said, President Trump has really embraced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, an overhyped reformer whose every positive achievement has "a much grimmer truth underneath" it. "Trump's intense bromance with MBS is bad news," Oliver said, but it makes sense because the Saudi royal family has "the two qualities he admires most in the world: Having a lot of money, and giving it to him. He basically said as much on the campaign trail."

Trump says Saudi Arabia faces "severe punishment" if it's proven they murdered Khashoggi, but "does anyone really believe that that's something he is honestly committed to?" Oliver asked. In more honest remarks, Trump "openly demonstrated to the entire world, and to Saudi Arabia specifically, that [an] arms deal [is] much more important than [a] butchered journalist." Watch below. Peter Weber

October 1, 2018

Sunday's Last Week Tonight is basically "one long recap of one very long week, and one event in particular," John Oliver said, ruefully: Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Oliver started with Christine Blasey Ford, who testified credibly about what she called Kavanaugh's attempted rape in high school. "That is Fox News calling Ford's testimony a 'disaster for the Republicans' — and not like one of those Puerto Rico disasters," Oliver said. "One they might actually care about." But just when it looked like curtains for Kavanaugh, he hit back, with weirdly placed emotion: "I hate to say it, but I'm starting to think that men might be too emotional for the Supreme Court."

And "when pressed on his drinking, Kavanugh became either dismissive or outright hostile, and it was at those moments that you got a real sense of who this man actually is," Oliver said. His "surly tone" was not that "of a man who hopes to one day have the honor of serving on the Supreme Court but the tone of someone who feels entitled to be on it and, frankly, can't believe that you're being such a dick about this."

Oliver went through Kavanaugh's troubling pattern of "misrepresenting the truth" and his staunch refusal to endorse an independent investigation to clear his name. Even if you think Kavanaugh is innocent or the allegations unprovable, the "judgment and temperament" he showed this week should be disqualifying, Oliver said. We're "all basically calloused to people talking" like "unhinged partisans," he added, "but we are supposed to have at least nine people left in America who do not talk that way."

"This brings me to the most basic question that remains: Why?" Oliver said. "Why this particular a--hole? Why is he the hill that conservatives are willing to die on?" He has some thoughts. There is NSFW language throughout. Watch below. Peter Weber

September 24, 2018

"Facebook has been in the news a lot recently over concerns about everything, from privacy to fake news to Russian trolls, but tonight we're actually going to go in a different direction," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight: Facebook's "behavior overseas." More than half of Facebook's revenue and 80 percent of its users now come from outside the U.S.

Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, have aggressively pushed the "utopian" idea that connecting billions of people around the world is an unvarnished good, Oliver noted, but "it's important to remember that when it comes to the internet, a certain number of those people are then going to say 'Jews control sharks who did 9/11!' and you really have to think that through. Unfortunately, thinking things through has never really been Facebook's strong point." In fact, he said, Facebook "has made some hugely consequential mistakes overseas, and that's what tonight's story is about."

Oliver pointed to a few examples but focused mostly on Myanmar, where Facebook is ubiquitous on smartphones — and the company has been very slow in policing its posts for violence-inciting posts against the minority Muslim Rohingya community by military leaders, politicians, and especially a Buddhist monk so hateful he's been called the "Burmese bin Laden." One teacher in Myanmar compared Facebook to a toilet, but Oliver said that's unfair, because "there is a purity and integrity to toilets that Facebook seriously lacks."

Until Facebook fixes this, he said, "it is painfully obvious everyone should be treating everything on their site with extreme skepticism and see Facebook for what it actually is: a fetid swamp of mistruths and outright lies interspersed with the occasional reminder of a dead pet. That's it." While his audience gasped, Oliver played his own version of a Facebook commercial. There is NSFW language throughout, plus mildly disturbing verbal imagery about Care Bears and sex. Watch below. Peter Weber

September 10, 2018

America is starting the final sprint to the 2018 midterm elections, but "six million people are unable to vote because at some point in their life, they committed a felony," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "If any of you are thinking at this point, 'Well, who gives a s--t if convicted felons can't vote?' you frankly wouldn't be alone." But despite what you might think, and what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says, the vast majority of felons were convicted of nonviolent offenses like property or drug crimes, Oliver said, "and for those who haver served their sentence but are still unable to vote, this situation is understandably frustrating."

"In most states, people with felony convictions automatically regain their voting rights at some point, but there are a few where they do not," Oliver said, "and the worst state of all concerning this — and, arguably, everything else — is Florida." More than 1.5 million Floridians, including more than 20 percent of black residents, can't vote due to past convictions, Oliver said, and Gov. Rick Scott (R) has enacted an "insane," openly arbitrary process for restoring voting rights.

For example, one member of Scott's rights-restoration panel repeatedly asks felons the same very odd question, Oliver noted. "Do you go to church? Now, if the answer to that question is important, that is f---ed up, and if it's not, why are you constantly asking it? Either you're factoring religious habit into evaluation of whether someone should be able to vote, or you're making a list of people's houses that would be easy to rob on a Sunday morning." Floridians can approve a constitutional amendment in November that automatically restores voting rights to most nonviolent felons, Oliver said, and he made a direct appeal to Florida voters that doubled down on Florida's history of making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The video is often NSFW. Watch below. Peter Weber

August 20, 2018

"Trade is a subject on which our current president considers himself particularly expert," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. The problem is, President Trump "seems genuinely confused" by the basics of trade economics, including tariffs and trade deficits, he said, succinctly explaining both concepts for the edification of viewers and in case a certain president of the United States was hate-watching.

To be fair, trade is "one of the most complicated issues there is, technically, politically, and emotionally," Oliver said, but Trump gets almost everything backwards. "The overwhelming consensus among economists is that trade between countries, generally speaking, can create jobs, lower costs, and be a net benefit to both nations," he said. "Essentially, think of trade like sex: If you're doing it right, it can be good for both partners — though the odds of that happening plummet as soon as Donald Trump gets involved." For example, Trump's tariffs may create 26,280 steel and aluminum jobs, according to one estimate, and eliminate 432,747 U.S. jobs elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Trump is listening to the one economist who agrees with him, Peter Navarro, Oliver said. "We're engaged in an escalating trade war that almost no legitimate economist supports, led by a man who honestly doesn't seem to fully understand the mechanics of what he's doing, getting advice from the human equivalent of an all-caps email from your uncle. And the crazy thing is, the effect of all this is the exact opposite of what Trump says he wants. Because if you want to create jobs, you don't do that by cutting off American companies' markets and suppliers, and if you want to curb the abuses of countries like China, you don't do that by pissing off the leaders of every other nation on Earth." He made a short, over-the-top, Navarro-style film to explain trade to Trump, who probably won't see it. You, however, can watch and learn below. Peter Weber

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