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Johnsplaining
September 16, 2019

"Immigration is the subject that [President] Trump campaigned on the hardest, and as president, his tone hasn't exactly softened," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. But Trump "and his political allies will tell you they love" legal immigration, and that's a large category, he said. About 13 percent of the people in the U.S. are immigrants, and 77 percent of those are here legally.

"So tonight let's talk about our legal immigration system, because there are a lot of misconceptions about a process that, to be fair, most Americans have never experienced," Oliver said. "And a key misconception is captured in a phrase you hear all the time, both from politicians and from ordinary voters": Get in line. "The truth is, for those who want to come here, there is no one 'line' to get in, the lines that do exist can be prohibitively long or have sudden dead ends, and for many people — and this is really important — there simply isn't a line at all."

There are essentially four paths to a green card or U.S. citizenship now, Oliver explained: Family, employment, good luck — you won the visa lottery — or bad luck, meaning you're a refugee or seeking asylum. He ran through all of them and described the extremely complicated, stressful, and expensive path he took to permanent resident status. First lady Melania Trump's parents had it considerably easier, he added, with a disturbing side note about the president's mother-in-law.

"The point here," Oliver said, is that "for all of their talk about how fine they are with legal immigration, this administration has worked hard to reduce it as much as possible across the board," including slashing refugee numbers and tweaking the system to gum it up or put other bricks in Trump's "invisible wall." "If you are going to say 'Get in line' to people, you should at least make sure they actually have a line to stand in," he added. Because "for many people there is literally no way to come in 'the right way.'" Parts of the video are NSFW. Watch below. Peter Weber

September 9, 2019

Democratic presidential hopefuls are making "big promises about the fabulous bills candidates will sign when they're elected," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. But they probably won't, "because they'd have to go through the Senate," which is currently "a giant nonfunctioning roadblock." The Senate's "low level of production is likely thanks to one incredibly annoying legislative tool — not actually this tool," he said, showing a photo of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), "although he is certainly at fault. I'm referring to the filibuster."

The filibuster, or "any tactic aimed at blocking a measure by preventing it from coming to a vote," has "often been presented in TV and movies as a heroic act, like when Jimmy Stewart talked himself to exhaustion in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," but "the modern filibuster is nothing like the Jimmy Stewart version," Oliver said. "It's become an overused tool of obstruction." Because any legislation now needs 60 votes to pass, he said, "theoretically, senators from the 21 least populated states, representing just 11 percent of Americans, could overrule everyone else. Which seems pretty extreme."

"To recap the main arguments in favor of the filibuster: We've always had it (no, we haven't); it enables debate (no, it doesn't); it protects minorities (not the ones you're thinking of); it encourages bipartisanship (not even close)," Oliver said. "It has become so difficult to pass a law, the big issues of our day are now being handled by other branches of the government," notably via executive action or court rulings. Killing the filibuster "is undeniably a gamble," since your side won't always have power, "but personally, I have come around to thinking it is a risk worth taking," he said. "The Senate is supposed to address America's problems, and the filibuster is making it basically impossible for them to do that." To convince risk-averse skeptics, Oliver turned to "the exact kind of big, stupid speech that I hate." Watch him "filibuster the filibuster" below (if you don't mind NSFW language). Peter Weber

August 19, 2019

"If you're a woman and/or a person of color in the U.S., you may well have a very different relationship to our health care system than a white man," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "So frankly, who better to talk at you for 20 minutes about this than me, the whitest of white men?"

"Tonight, let's talk about bias in medicine in two specific areas: first sex, and then race," Oliver said. "And in the words of every therapist I've ever had, let's start with sex." He did, focusing on why some doctors have "woman-shaped blind spots" and how "the consequence can be deadly," like with heart attacks. "And now, if I may quote the inside of Donald Trump's head when energy at one of his rallies seems to be flagging, let's get to the racism stuff," he said. "Because there is a huge disparity in life expectancy between black and white Americans, particularly for black men."

But "there's perhaps no starker expression of where sex and race can negatively impact health care outcomes than maternal mortality," Oliver said. "Currently, the United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world — which is already terrible. But it gets even worse for black women," whose odds of dying in childbirth are three to four times higher, largely because doctors believe black women less when they express concerns about symptoms, especially pain. "These racial disparities exist even when you control for socioeconomic factors like education or insurance status," he said. "We are literally disbelieving black women to death."

At this point, Oliver finally stepped aside and let Wanda Sykes offer some solutions, including her fallback plan, "bring a white man" to repeat your complaints to the doctors — and if you don't have one, she has a loaner "who loves complaining to doctors." You can access Larry David's women's complaints at WhatsLarrysProblem.com, and you can watch the occasionally NSFW video below. Peter Weber

August 12, 2019

Turkmenistan is "one of my favorite countries to talk about," Trevor Noah said on Thursday night's Daily Show, and he might have been serious. "You may not know this, but for the last 12 years, Turkmenistan has been ruled by this man, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. He is a dictator with a poor record on human rights, and for the last few weeks, there have been rumors that he is actually dead."

Noah played some highlights of the 25-minute video Turkmenistan state TV put out to try and prove Berdimuhamedov is alive, showing him bowling, recording music, and driving an off-road vehicle around a fiery crater. Aside from the fact that he's "actually known for putting out the best propaganda videos we've ever seen," Noah added, "there are a couple of things you have to know about President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov," most importantly that "he's basically turned his whole country into a cult of personality. Everything he does as leader is about showing off how perfect he is, how everyone loves him, how everything he does is tremendous. And I'm sure Americans can't relate to this, but that's how it works over there."

Berdimuhamedov "is a fierce authoritarian" and under his rule "Turkmenistan remains one of the world's most closed and oppressively governed countries," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "But that is not the reason that we're talking about him — after all, dangerous world leaders are currently a dime a dozen."

"No, what makes Berdimuhamedov unique is that even among strongman dictators, he is truly, deeply, and compellingly odd," Oliver said. "And while this story is going to get very weird, I promise you: In 20 minutes, you're not so much going to be wondering why we talked about Turkmenistan as why we'd ever talk about anything else ever again." Things get NSFW when Oliver talks about how Berdimuhamedov "likes horses; like, a lot; like, the incorrect amount," but he ends with "one last bizarre obsession of his" that's fun and, presumably, tasty. Watch below. Peter Weber

August 5, 2019

About 60 percent of people in prison actually have jobs, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "In fact, prisons are basically operated by the inmates." But "there are some major differences" between jobs inside prisons and on the outside, starting with wages, which average 63 cents per hour in prisons, he said. Some states pay inmates nothing for work they are compelled to do. If that sounds like slave labor, Oliver might not entirely disagree.

"Look, I know to many, inmates are not a naturally sympathetic group of people," as Fox News pundits have illustrated, Oliver said. But while their "crime doesn't pay" argument may sound persuasive, "the truth is, when you combine the low-to-nonexistent wages that prisoners get paid with the surprisingly high costs that they and their families can incur while they're inside, the current system can wind up costing all of us."

One problem with most prisoners "doing routine labor for little to no money" is it "can lead to them being seen less as humans paying their debt to society and more as a pool of virtually free labor," Oliver said, showing one Louisiana sheriff effectively "saying some people need to stay behind bars because they're too valuable as a source of free labor — which is exactly the same plan as the villain in The Shawshank Redemption. Normally to qualify as a Stephen King villain, you have to be something way less stupid, like an evil car or a guy who forgot to wear a coat."

"The current system of low wages and high cost is clearly no good for anyone but for the companies who are somehow managing to massively profit from this," Oliver said, focusing on Securus Technologies and its stranglehold on prisoner interactions with loved ones. "That is just evil," he said. "'Machine that makes money by stopping people from seeing their families' sounds like an item at the top of Satan's Amazon wish list." (There's NSFW content.) Peter Weber

July 29, 2019

John Oliver didn't mince words when assessing the United Kingdom's new leader. "The U.K. is about to be completely f--ked," he said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "Incredibly, Britain's new prime minister is Boris Johnson, and even if you know nothing about British politics, you're probably already vaguely aware of him," Oliver said. He's "a clownish figure with silly hair" and "eccentric, chaotic outfits," and "it's honestly hard" to find photos "where he doesn't look ridiculous."

But "Johnson's bumbling persona is a carefully calibrated act" — he "learned at an early age the benefit of making yourself the butt of the joke," Oliver said. It's just not very funny anymore: "An absolutely crucial leader in the Brexit campaign," Johnson now has to finalize a Brexit deal by Oct. 31, "and the consequences of messing that up could have catastrophic ramifications for Britain, Europe, and the world."

There's a definite charm in Johnson's calculated "lovable mess weathering adversity with humor and good cheer," but "beneath all of Boris' surface charm are some truly nasty elements." like lying and careful bigotry, Oliver said. And "unfortunately, Boris the prime minister may have just hit the limits of where that charm can take him, because crucially, he now has less than 100 days to negotiate a Brexit deal, and his well-engineered clumsy-Brit persona does not necessarily travel well."

"His bumbling charm may work wonders in low-stakes situations, but that's not where he is now," Oliver said, finally arriving where you knew he must. "Think of it this like this: Hugh Grant is delightful in romantic comedies: the stammering, the hesitation, the inability to relate to his immediate surroundings with any level of competence. You want to see Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral, but no one wants to see him in United 93, because the context would make his character a lot less charming." He acted that out. There is NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber

July 1, 2019

The convenience of online shopping is "irresistible," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "It's frankly no wonder that e-commerce is gradually chipping away at brick-and-mortar retail sales, and it can seem like the retail jobs are shifting, too," with warehouse jobs apparently "absorbing America's lost retail employees." And that "initially sounds kind of nice," Oliver said. "It's like hearing that there's actually a farm upstate where Borders, Circuit City, and Tower Records employees can run around and be free."

Occasionally, "companies like Amazon choose to give us entertaining glimpses into what a fun workplace" their warehouses are, Oliver said. "But the truth is those jobs are not all dance-offs and box hugging, they are physically hard." He described his segment as a look at "the warehouse part of the logistics industry and the people who work inside them," and it was mostly about Amazon.

Amazon "is not the worst actor in this industry" but it has "increased the competitive pressure across the industry," and "being 'not the worst' is a low, low bar," Oliver said. "Basically, Amazon is the industry trend-setter — they're the Michael Jackson of shipping: They're the best at what they do, everyone tries to imitate them, and nobody who learns a third thing about them is happy that they did."

"The more you look at Amazon, the more you realize that its convenience comes with a real cots," Oliver said. "Because think about it: We used to have to drive to stores to buy things. Now those things are brought directly to us, and they're somehow cheaper. The didn't just happen with a clever algorithm. It created a system that squeezes the people lowest on the ladder, hard." He chastised Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, for spending his Amazon fortune on phallic space rockets rather than his warehouse workers. And he ended with an Amazon promo of his own. The video below has NSFW language and insect sex. Peter Weber

July 1, 2019

This past week "was a big one for Trump and diplomacy — two words that go together like 'fire' and 'Chicago 1871,'" John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. President Trump met "with his favorite authoritarians" at a G-20 summit in Japan and the DMZ between North and South Korea, and he was evidently "thrilled" that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un had invited him to set foot north of the border line.

Oliver played Trump's comments: "Oh, that's actually nice," he said. "So Trump wanted to step over the line, was ready to do it, but waited until he received affirmative consent. What a refreshing change of pace for him. Maybe Trump's mantra going forward should be 'treat women with the same respect you show murderous autocrats!' He's growing. Good for him!" He pivoted to the Mideast peace plan put forward by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, last week, and he was underwhelmed.

What Kushner president "is not a real plan," Oliver said. "Essentially he describes hypothetical investments in Palestine and its neighbors worth more than $50 billion once peace is achieved — but achieving peace is the really important part. Without that, you got nothing." And his path to peace is equally empty, he added. "Yes, after years of thinking about it, Jared's arrived at the conclusion that the Middle East would be better off if people 'stop doing terrorism.'" Watch snippets of Oliver's recap of last week, plus his mocker of Kushner's thought process, below. Peter Weber

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