Johnsplaining
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

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

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