Johnsplaining
May 18, 2020

"The coronavirus has taken its toll on all manner of industries, but the world of sports was among those hit hardest, earliest, and perhaps most visibly," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. For many people, in fact, the NBA scrapping its season was the moment they "first realized our lives were going to fundamentally change for a while." As shocking as it seemed at the time that all major sports leagues canceled or pushed back their seasons, "the truth is, there was really no choice," he said. "Sporting events with large crowds packed together are the exact opposite of social distancing, and they're a nightmare scenario during a pandemic."

"But though sports shutting down was emphatically the right thing to do, people have been increasingly asking when they can return," one man especially loudly, Oliver said. President Trump probably shouldn't be watching old baseball games during a deadly pandemic, but "he's not entirely wrong — the lack of sports is an emotional blow to a lot of people, and it's not just emotional, it's also financial."

Since "the absence of sport has caused such pain, we thought tonight we'd take a look at what sports have become in the age of coronavirus, and what a path back for them might look like," Oliver said. "To do it responsibly would be a mammoth undertaking. To do it irresponsibly, however, turns out to be pretty easy," as Florida can attest. "Profit is a powerful motivator here, especially for some team owners who won't be the ones taking the risks," he said. "And it's why major sports, like baseball and football, are so eagerly pursuing plans to come back," though "the second you start reading the details of any plan, it automatically becomes ridiculous."

"Look, I will own the fact I really want sports to come back," Oliver said. But "while sports was genuinely helpful at the start of this crisis in showing us how serious this virus was, if it comes back too soon and irresponsibly, it won't be an inspiration, it'll be a cautionary tale." Clearly, "there is currently an absence in people's lives, so ideally what you'd want is something that would fill that gap for a while — you know, until sports can return," he said. And Oliver, of course, had a suggestion. Watch his typically NSFW episode below. Peter Weber

May 11, 2020

"The USPS provides valuable services, from delivering mail and packages to brilliantly ruining TikTok videos," John Oliver demonstrated on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "The current pandemic is obviously making things very difficult for postal workers right now," and along with the 40 who have died of COVID-19 and the thousand more who have tested positive, "these workers are also having to grapple with another existential threat: The Postal Service may be about to go broke."

"Without financial help, the USPS may not make it past September without significant service interruptions, which is upsetting, especially during an election year, a census year, and a pandemic that has people housebound," Oliver said "At the worst possible time, this American institution is on the brink of collapse, so tonight we thought it might be worth asking why that is, and what can be done about it."

The USPS is supposed to be independent and financially self-sufficient, "and you might think that you know why the Postal Service is in such trouble — that the internet and email mean that people just don't use it as much — but that's not actually the main reason," Oliver said. The main reason is a 2006 law.

And "one of the biggest things standing in the way of the USPS getting the federal assistance it so badly needs right now" is President Trump's bizarre insistence on making the USPS quadruple delivery rates for Amazon, almost certainly because he hates Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post and he demonstrably "makes policy decision based on his never-ending game of Six Degrees of How Is This About Me," Oliver said. "Trump is absolutely convinced that the Postal Service's biggest problem is one of the few things that is not actually one of its problems. And that's not just annoying, it's really worrying, especially as just this week he replace the outgoing postmaster general with this guy, Louis DeJoy, a major Trump donor."

The Postal Service is "a literal lifeline for many Americans," a crucial partner for small businesses, and an essential service for rural America, and Congress needs to give it "an infusion of funding as soon as possible," Oliver said. But Congress should also allow the USPS to expand its services, especially to postal banking. Oliver is also selling actual stamps if you want to help the USPS now. (There is NSFW language.) Watch below. Peter Weber

May 4, 2020

Sunday's Last Week Tonight was, once more, about the COVID-19 coronavirus, "the Timothée Chalamet of viruses," as John Oliver described it. With more than 65,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus in three months, he said, it was "jarring to see Jared Kushner, and his resting do-you-know-who-my-father-is face, basically declare victory over the virus on Wednesday."

"Before we can celebrate Jared's 'great success story' and get back to our 'rockin'' selves, we badly need to work out how we can reopen parts of society safely, and experts say that really means one thing," Oliver said: Testing, testing, testing. The lack of early testing is America's coronavirus "original sin," because our blindness as the virus spread means we had "to use the blunt instrument of making everyone stay at home," he said, and to safely get out of his situation, the U.S. needs much more testing: 500,000 to 35 million tests a day, not the 200,000 the U.S. has ramped up to.

"Think of it like this: If our goal to were to eat an Italian dinner, we're currently stuck in traffic on our way to an Olive Garden — we're not even halfway to arriving at the worst place that technically qualifies," Oliver explained. "So if our testing shortage has caused this much damage, this must disruption, and is still not fully resolved, we thought tonight might be a good time to ask: What the f--k happened?"

With diagnostic testing, "logistical and bureaucratic challenges" catastrophically cost the U.S. all of February, and by the time the U.S. got serious, there were global shortages of crucial testing components, Oliver said. The antibody tests, on the other hand, are being sold with "essentially no oversight," most of them "are garbage," and it's not even clear antibodies confer immunity.

"Look, some confusion is inevitable when a new disease starts spreading its way around the world, and it's not like rolling out testing on this kind of scale was ever going to be easy," Oliver said. "But again and again, the people in charge failed to prepare for the worst-case scenario and have been slow in fixing mistakes. All of which means: In May, we are still playing catch-up in the middle of a pandemic, which in turn means thousands upon thousands of people dying preventable deaths. So if this is a 'great success story' for anyone, it's for the f---ing coronavirus." There's NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber

April 20, 2020

"COVID-19 is still dominating the news every day, and it's hard to keep up with all the information about it, to say nothing of the misinformation," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. Unfortunately, people are consuming and acting on this bad information, with dangerous and counterproductive results, he said. "You may have even heard some of those arguments from people you're related to or people you love — which can, incidentally, be two very distinct groups."

Why do people believe this bad information? "There are a lot of media bubbles out there, and getting a glimpse outside of the one that you're in can be eye-opening," Oliver said. "Here in the U.S., one of the biggest and most robust bubbles is the right-wing media sphere."

Some "enormously powerful" figures on conservative TV and talk radio "have found it easy to fold this virus into narratives that they've been carefully building up for decades," Oliver said, pointing to Rush Limbaugh's "Four Corners of Deceit": government, academia, science, and the media — unfortunately, "the four most important groups to listen to during a public health crisis." Infuriatingly, President Trump also gets his advice and talking points straight from Limbaugh and Fox News, he said, showing some startling examples.

"Incomprehensibly stupid" public policy can make for "good TV," Oliver said. But "the skills required to produce TV and to govern are very different, and unfortunately, we have a president who doesn't seem to know the difference." So Trump watches Fox News promoting modest protests that Trump then tweets about and Fox covers, he said, creating an information loop which "might convince Trump that there's a sizable portion of the population that wants to go back to work no matter the cost — but that's not currently the case."

"And look, I get Trump, Fox, and those protesters wanting all of this to be over — I do, too!" Oliver said. "But for what it's worth, I know people who've died from this. I also know people who are taking hydroxychloroquine because they think it will give them immunity, and I know people with lupus who are down to their last few weeks of pills, and it makes me f---ing furious! Because the fact is, the fastest way for this to be over is for all of us to remain united in this very difficult task." Watch below. Peter Weber

April 13, 2020

John Oliver started Sunday's Last Week Tonight with some jokes about pet anatomy, real, fictional, and probably NSFW — though if you are working from home, does it matter? Well, working from home "is something only around a third of people are able to do in this country," Oliver said. He focused instead on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting "the unemployed and those currently having to leave the house because they work 'essential' jobs."

A "staggering" 10 percent of America's workforce lost their jobs in the past three weeks, "and the federal government has taken some big steps to protect those people," Oliver said. "Unfortunately, the execution has been less than ideal," with big glitches in the Paycheck Protection Program and the meltdown of long-neglected state unemployment programs, plus "the fact that for many people who lose their jobs, they then lose their health insurance — and this is, to put it mildly, a very bad time for that to be happening."

"Essential" workers — in health care, maintenance, grocery stores — literally risk their lives when they go to work, and "essential" companies need to do everything to take care of their workers, Oliver said. "More broadly, we need to seriously think about whether having our health insurance system so tied to employment is a good idea. Because I would argue it emphatically isn't."

"While many of the problems we're being forced to confront right now weren't created by the coronavirus, it has thrown a spotlight on some of the biggest flaws in how our system operates," Oliver said. "Things like paid sick leave and hazard pay are essentially band-aids — and we absolutely need them right now, because we're bleeding — but when this is over, this country's going to need more than band-aids. It's gonna need f---ing surgery. Things need to change and not go 'back to normal.' Cntl-Z-ing us back to how we were in 2016 is simply not going to cut it."

It's "infuriating" to watch some conservatives worry "we might do too much," Oliver said. "There is no better argument for a permanent welfare state than watching your government desperately try to build one when it's already too late." America "will get through this," he added. "The question is how we get through this and what kind of country we want to be on the other side." Watch below. Peter Weber

April 6, 2020

President Trump "has made no secret of his disdain for the media," but his COVID-19 press conferences have "highlighted the fact that there is one media outlet he seems to really enjoy calling on," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "OAN stands for One America News, and when you hear the kinds of questions that they ask, you begin to see why Trump calls on them so much." He showed some of the moments that "explain why Trump has such a love affair with OAN," explained "they're punching way above their weight right now," and took "a look at who they are and what they do."

For starters, "OAN is the brain-child of Robert Herring, conservative millionaire," and "since its birth, OAN has been a home for extreme conservatism" and even conspiracy theories, including that the coronavirus originated as a bioweapon in North Carolina, Oliver said. "The whole selling point for OAN is that they are Fox News with even less shame and even fewer scruples. In fact, they're so flagrantly smitten with Trump their network account actually tweeted a "pathetically thirsty" complaint about Trump not thanking them, his "greatest supporters."

"I know that it is easy to dismiss OAN as just a stupid, little-watched, borderline self-parody," Oliver said. "The problem is, if we're learning one thing right now, it's that toxic things that start small can get big fast, and it's dangerous to ignore them. And right now, the president's putting a lot of energy into boosting OAN's profile," even inviting back OAN's White House correspondent after the White House Correspondents' Association revoked her seat for flouting social-distancing rules.

This Trump-OAN symbiosis "is a problem," Oliver said. "In the best of times, you can laugh at an almost Anchorman-esque parody of right-wing news, but much like the problem with Anchorman 2, it's just not the right time for Ron Burgundy right now. OAN's weird combination of far-right-wing talking points and dirt-stupid reporting is incredibly dangerous at a time like this." In fact, some of the "misinformation OAN is spewing right now could end up getting people killed," he said. "And sadly, their message is getting actively spread by the White House." (There is NSFW language.) Peter Weber

March 30, 2020

"COVID-19 continues to rip around the globe," John Oliver said on Sunday's from-his-living-room Last Week Tonight. But the U.S. now has the most confirmed cases in the world, "and the president has only recently seemed to realize the gravity of the situation." Because the federal government "wasted so much time that we could have spent preparing" and "massively botched the rollout of testing for the virus," he said, our best shot at slowing this outbreak is strict social distancing.

President Trump and some of his allies think the cost may be too high. "I'm in no way minimizing the economic suffering caused by the shutdown," Oliver said. "But the idea that people should sacrifice themselves for the economy is absurd. And yet, it actually gained traction this week."

Oliver addressed right-wing market-worshippers like Glenn Beck and the lieutenant governor of Texas: "You get that the coronavirus is not The Hunger Games, right? You can't volunteer yourself as tribute. And what you're doing is actually much darker: You're actively volunteering others, including people of all ages with health conditions, to die. And even if these guys are okay with letting the coronavirus kill as many people as it feels like so that the economy's protected — which, again: really?!? — there are — and I cannot believe I have to say this — significant drawbacks to hundreds of thousands of people dying," Among them, such carnage "also tanks the economy," he said. "So relaxing social distancing right now isn't just trading one bad outcome for another; it's trading one bad outcome for both bad outcomes."

Oliver ran through some things Trump might have done, and could still do, to forestall a catastrophe. "This was always going to be hard," he said. "But it actually didn't need to be this hard. And that is why it's so profoundly disheartening that we're being led through this crisis by a man who may be less equipped to deal with this historical moment than anybody in recorded history."

"For once, something has come along that is more toxic and more threatening than this president, and somehow, he's got f---ing stage envy," Oliver sighed. "And look, I know this isn't exactly the first time that I've criticized Donald Trump, but I can't tell you how much I was rooting for him to do this better." If you don't mind NSFW language, watch below. Peter Weber

March 9, 2020

"When you hear the word 'sheriff,' most of us have two immediate associations: One, a Western lawman who handled cattle rustlin' and other livestock-related crimes, and two, Joe Arpaio, the infamously anti-immigrant sheriff," John Oliver said on Last Week Tonight. There are more than 3,000 sheriffs around the U.S., "and generally speaking, they run law enforcement at a county level," he added. "Cities or towns might have their own police departments as well, but in many areas, sheriffs are the only law enforcement around."

Sheriffs "oversee a lot of officers — around 25 percent of local law enforcement officers," Oliver said. "That's one-in-four cops. And depending on where you live, your sheriff might be good, bad, or a total weirdo." He had examples of all three types, and the last two categories were frequently intertwined.

Sheriffs are generally elected, "and once in office, sheriffs hold much more power than you may realize," Oliver said, "so with over 1,000 sheriff elections this year, possibly where you live, we thought tonight might be a good time to take a look at this job." In many states, sheriffs are constitutionally empowered to form posses and deputize anyone, but they exercise a lot of power by setting law enforcement priorities in a county — for good or bad — and operate the local jail with a lot of leeway. "Removing a sheriff between elections is almost impossible," he said, "so sheriffs operate with a lot of impunity," and "sheriff elections, like most down ballot elections, do not receive nearly enough attention, and often, they aren't even competitive." Oliver encouraged viewers to at least Google who their sheriff is and get a sense of whether he or she fits in the good, bad, or total weirdo category — and this being John Oliver, there is ample NSFW language and some extended jokes about bestiality. Watch below. Peter Weber

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