Johnsplaining
February 24, 2020

President Trump has landed in India for his first state visit, "and at the center of it will be Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a man for whom Trump seems to have a great deal of affection," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. While Modi may have charmed Trump, however, "within India he's an increasingly controversial figure, because his government has pursued a steadily escalating persecution of religious minorities — persecution so intense that for the last two months, Indians across the country have been taking to the streets in anger."

The charismatic, previously Teflon-coated Modi has both a "cult of personality" inside India and a new groundswell of opposition, Oliver said, "and if citizens in the world's largest democracy, home to over a billion people, are either wearing masks of Modi or marching in the streets, it seems like tonight it might be worth exploring why that is" and "where things could be heading."

One of Modi's "defining beliefs" is Hindu nationalism, the idea that "India is a fundamentally Hindu nation — which is provocative, given that India's founders, Gandhi and Nehru, explicitly disavowed that," Oliver said. While they created India as a secular nation, Modi's BJP party "has served as the political arm of a hard-core Hindu nationalist paramilitary group, the RSS," whose founders admired Hitler's aim to purify the race, he noted. India is home to the world's second-largest Muslim population, and while Modi doesn't say much publicly about Muslims, "those closest to him are comfortable saying a lot."

And "since winning re-election, Modi has moved from quiet support for religious intolerance to concrete action," his government working to "strip millions of Muslims of citizenship, and they did it in a diabolically clever two-step way," Oliver said. "They're basically Marie Kondo-ing India, and it's only Muslims that don't seem to 'spark joy' in them." Now, "the government is now building detention camps for all the illegal immigrants that they are creating," and "the only glimmer of hope here is that for perhaps the first time in Modi's whole career, his actions are creating a massive and sustained backlash." Oliver ended with an image of the Taj Mahal and a message: "India, home to this enduring symbol of love, frankly deserves a lot more than this temporary symbol of hate." There is NSFW language. Watch below. Peter Weber

February 18, 2020

John Oliver kicked off his new season of Last Week Tonight on Sunday by looking at "an issue that has dominated the Democratic primary — and I'm not talking about why Tom Steyer doesn't look richer" (though he did address that). Mostly, he tackled Medicare-for-all, comparing the "government-funded, single-payer program" proposed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) with the current U.S. system championed by conservatives and, with various degrees of modifications, other Democratic candidates.

Conservatives are right, Oliver conceded, that "America does have one of the best health care systems in the world for rich, famous people. Unfortunately, too many people are born in this country with a terrible pre-existing condition called Not Being Beyoncé." For so many Americans, "our system is badly broken," he said, not just the 27.5 million with no insurance but also the nearly 44 million underinsured and at risk for bankruptcy from medical expenses.

The current system is a patchwork of private insurance, government programs, and crowdsourcing gambles, Oliver said. "Any solution that might put an end to that is worth at least considering, surely, and to be honest, I personally think there is a lot to be said for Medicare-for-all. So tonight, let's take a look at it: Not the politics of whether it can pass, but what it actually is." He focused on the three main objections: Cost, wait time, and choice.

"I get that big change is scary — it is human nature to prefer the devil you know over an uncertain alternative — but the devil you know is still a devil," Oliver said. And for all the U.S. fearmongering about Britain's National health System, "I will be honest with you, I've never had a bad experience and I don't know anyone who has, but since moving to America, I don't think I have met anyone who doesn't have at least one insurance industry horror story." There is a lot of NSFW language — so much so, it makes sense when Oliver calls the U.S. system "the Kama Sutra of health care." Watch below. Peter Weber

November 18, 2019

John Oliver spent the bulk of Sunday's season finale of Last Week Tonight on something that will take place before he starts filming his next season: The decennial U.S. census. "The concept of the census is very simple," he said. "At the start of each decade, the government does a comprehensive count of every single person residing in the United States — not just citizens, not just voters, every single person. Because only by knowing how many people live where can communities effectively plan to provide things like roads, schools, and emergency services."

"However hard counting every single person seems, it's actually much harder," Oliver said. "Conducting the census is the largest and most complicated peacetime operation that the government undertakes, and the 2020 census is likely to be even more challenging than usual, for reasons ranging from budget shortfalls to active Republican meddling. So tonight, let's talk about it. And let's start with what questions are actually on the census, because a lot of people don't know what they are — and that very much includes the current president."

Oliver ran though the simple list of questions, listed some reasons people refuse to provide the government that basic information — there's a quick trip down a libertarian YouTube rabbit hole — and laid out why participation in the census is so important. He recapped the flap about the citizenship question President Trump wanted to add to the 2020 census, explained how it was revealed to be explicitly driven by a scheme to entrench Republicans in power, and lamented that the damage might already be done.

"All in all, there is a lot working against this census, and experts are worried an undercount next year is inevitable," possibly by millions of people, Oliver said. "So what can we do?" Fill out the census, mostly — and he gave some incentives, ending with how much your participation would "irritate" Trump. There's NSFW language. Watch below. Peter Weber

November 4, 2019

"Election Day is this Tuesday — yes, there are elections this Tuesday," John Oliver reminded America on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "But before you vote — which you absolutely should — it may be worth asking: How much do you trust the system that counts your ballots? Because the truth is, many of us don't know the first thing about how our votes get counted," and "it's not unreasonable to have some questions about out election security."

"We now know that in 2016, Russian hackers targeted election systems in all 50 states," and though they wanted voter registration data back then, America's aging voting machines are increasingly vulnerable to hacking, Oliver said. He explained how some voting systems are more problematic than others, and ran through some of the vulnerabilities of electronic voting machines.

"So to recap, I've now shown you how to hack voting machines in less than 2 minutes and how to find unattended voting machines," Oliver said. "It's the kind of important education work we do here at I Really Hope Putin Doesn't Watch This Show With John Oliver." Seriously, he added, "every voting machine can be tampered with in some way or other," and "the solution isn't to make unhackable machines, that's impossible. Instead, we should be making them as secure as we possible can, while also creating systems so that we know for sure when a problem has occurred."

"Now the good news is there is actually a consensus on what we should do here, specifically that after each election we do what's called a 'risk-limiting audit,'" Oliver said. "That's where we take a small percentage of the paper ballots at random and make sure that they match what the machines recorded. It's pretty simple." Unfortunately, most places don't do that and some can't because their machines leave no paper trail. President Trump and the Democratic House get the need to fix this, he said, but the Senate does not. Watch him tie it all to Sean Spicer's dancing in the occasionally NSFW video below. Peter Weber

October 7, 2019

"I know there is a lot going on with China right now, from the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong to the trade war that's been 'good and easy to win' for the last year and a half now," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "But this week, China took a moment to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Communist Party coming to power," and "we thought we'd help tonight by highlighting one of the most massively consequential policies they undertook in that time: the one-child policy."

The population-control policy was in effect from 1980 to 2015, but "the effects of it are far from over," Oliver said. For example, there are about 34 million more men than women in China. The policy was designed, problematically, by China's military, he added. "Family planning isn't rocket science, and that's exactly why rocket scientists should not do it."

There are entire industries built around the millions of men who will never be able to marry, from pickup artistry workshops to sex dolls. "And while buying a sex doll to replace the wife you'll never have may seem like rock bottom, it turns out it's actually somewhere around rock middle," certainly above the boom in human trafficking of women and girls, Oliver said.

And with its new two-child policy, "the Chinese government still hasn't learned the fundamental lesson here: People are not machines whose reproductive systems can be turned on or off at will," Oliver said. "And pretending otherwise leads to all the consequences that you've seen tonight, from the entirely foreseeable like trauma and heartbreak to the less anticipated ones like delicious little meatballs, desperate magic tricks, and a factory that can't pump out sex dolls fast enough. And actually, that image is pretty on-the-nose if you think about it: A factory churning out headless silicone women because rocket scientists nearly 40 years ago didn't care enough about what their policies might do to real ones." Watch below (though be aware there's NSFW images and language). Peter Weber

September 30, 2019

"When you picture a pharmacy in your mind, you probably imagine a place that your doctor calls in a prescription and someone counts out pills that were manufactured somewhere else, but that is actually a fairly new phenomenon," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "A lot of pharmacies used to make medications on-site," and "there are still places that still make their drugs from scratch." America's roughly 7,500 compounding pharmacies "exist for a very good reason," he explained: To make "bespoke medications" for people (and animals) with special needs.

"But as you've probably guessed by the very fact we're talking about this story in the first place, there are some huge problems" with compounding pharmacies, Oliver said. "As you will see, oversight is so lax that compounding pharmacies have become the Wild West of the drug industry, resulting in fraud and, in the worst cases, many, many people dying. And you may not even know that you're taking a compounded drug."

Oliver started with fraud, then moved on to deaths, and some of the stories are pretty harrowing, including a still-operational compounding pharmacy in Texas that made its eye injection formula with formaldehyde and acetone, blinding about 70 people. "It's frankly not unreasonable to want a world where you can feel confident that something that's about to be injected into your eyeball is at least as safe as lettuce," he said. There is NSFW language throughout, but the delightfully eccentric ending, featuring a bunch of random celebrities mentioned earlier in the segment, is definitely something you shouldn't watch at work without headphones on. Peter Weber

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

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