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Johnsplaining
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

June 24, 2019

"Everest was first summited in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "Before then it had been seen as almost an impossible feat," which probably explains why "Everest" has "become everyone's go-to metaphor for a significant challenge," warranted or not. Now however, "climbing Everest has become dangerously popular," he said. That means high death tolls and long lines to the summit, tons of trash, and a "fecal time bomb" as human waste melts and slides downhill.

"So tonight, let's look at what is causing these issues, how Everest's climbing industry operates, and how we can potentially make things safer," Oliver said. The first problem is that there is a narrow window in which people can summit Everest, sometimes just a few days, and starting in the 1990s, commercial expeditions became available, sometimes with six-figure luxury packages. Oliver explained the difference between Sherpas and sherpas, and the very dangerous and integral role sherpas play. "Huge risks are being taken by sherpas to give their client the bragging rights of conquering 'the ultimate mountain,'" he said, noting that Everest isn't actually the hardest mountain to climb.

Everest is still deadly to unprepared or inexperienced climbers, there is essentially no gate-keeping at the Nepal end — Tibet is stricter in granting permission — and some climbing outfits let anyone try to summit, Oliver said, citing one specific example. "Even Sir Edmund Hillary was depressed at what he had seen Mount Everest become," he said. "Some of the people climbing Everest aren't doing it out of a passion for mountaineering, but just because they want to say they climbed Everest," because "a selfie from the summit of Makalu" won't "get Everest levels of Instagram love." But Oliver had a solution, plus a few interludes from sherpa Rick Astley and some NSFW language. Watch below. Peter Weber

June 17, 2019

Impeachment is "an anagram for 'pinch me meat,' which is, interestingly, the sentence that got the Lucky Charms leprechaun #MeToo'd," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. But impeaching President Trump is also a big topic among Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is pumping the brakes.

Pelosi is actually right "that many people don't fully understand what impeachment involves," Oliver said, "so we thought that tonight might be a good time to discuss what it is, why it may be warranted, and what the risks might be in carrying it out." He ran thought the impeachment process and the grounds for impeachment laid out in the Constitution: treason, bribery, or "high crimes and misdemeanors." That last category, which Trump doesn't appear to understand, covers a wide range of serious misdeeds, and Trump has provided a lot of fodder. Oliver focused on one particular incident of likely obstruction of justice and why it's a "very, very big deal."

"It's impossible to say how a Trump impeachment would play out, although him leaving office is extremely unlikely," Oliver cautioned. "That would require 20 Republican senators to vote against him, and even if they did that, there is still to guarantee that Trump would actually leave — he basically told us as much out loud." But "not opening an inquiry comes with consequences, too," he said, "because it essentially sends the message that the president can act with impunity, which is a dangerous precedent to set — not just for future presidents but for the current one."

Oliver said that after vacillating for a while, he is on Team Impeach. "Every a--hole succeeds until finally they don't," he said, citing Richard Nixon. "I can't guarantee that impeachment will work out the way that you want it to, because it probably won't. But that doesn't mean that it's not worth doing. Because if nothing else, we'd be standing by the basic, fundamental principle that nobody is above the law." There is NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber

June 10, 2019

"Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary of Congress passing the 19th Amendment, which enshrined in the Constitution women's right to vote," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. That's "both a long time and, when you think about it, not nearly long enough. In an ideal world, women would have been guaranteed the right to vote for a lot longer than Kirk Douglas has been breathing."

"Tonight, I want to focus on a milestone for gender equality that we haven't actually achieved yet: the Equal Rights Amendment," Oliver said. "The core of the Equal Rights Amendment is just 24 words long, and the idea behind it is broadly popular." The ERA, under consideration since 1923, sailed through Congress in 1972, and 30 states quickly ratified it, but the amendment requires 38 states, and "we are tantalizingly close — 37 states have ratified it over the years," Oliver said. "Tonight we thought it might be a good time to ask why has it taken so long to pass the ERA, what would it mean if we did, and how can we finally get it done?"

The big momentum killer, Oliver said, was Phyllis Schlafly, an effective anti-ERA activist and "basically a pre-internet internet troll." Despite her efforts, Congress has passed some gender-equality laws, he said, but "a constitutional amendment like the ERA is more stable, because constitutional amendments are safe from Donald Trump — unlike Melania's hopes and dreams and any American flag he gets close to."

"None of this is that complicated," Oliver said. "Equality for women should be a basic principle of our society. And if you think it already is, great, all the more reason to write it down. And if you think it isn't, then we badly need the ERA." He ended by naming the 13 states that could make history by pushing the ERA over the finish line (mostly), and his only preference was that it not be Florida. There's NSFW language. Peter Weber

June 3, 2019

"The medical device industry is huge," with a market worth about $156 billion in the U.S. and at least one device inside 32 million Americans, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "That's right — all these years we've been waiting anxiously for the robot apocalypse, and it turns out, the robot apocalypse was inside us the whole time." But those personal injury lawyers on TV aren't wrong — medical devices do malfunction, Oliver said, pointing to one study that linked medical devices to up to 80,000 deaths and 1.7 million injuries in the last decade alone.

Many doctors don't even know this, but many medical devices aren't tested in humans before being put on the market, Oliver said. "So tonight let's talk about how medical devices get approved." He warned that there would be two "gross" clips and said he would warn people beforehand by flashing the word "Opossum" on the screen (though don't count on it). Oliver explained the big difference between "FDA Approved" and "FDA Cleared" devices, then ran through some examples of medical devices that caused horrible problems and the manufacturers who made them.

"I guess the big question here is, how can you know if a device is potentially harmful?" Oliver said. "And unfortunately, good information is actually very difficult to find." He suggested patients do what research they can and ask questions like whether there is an alternative, if the device can be removed, and how long it has been on the market. Oliver's segment had been relatively clean up to this point, but then 30 Rock's Jane Krakowski came on with a useful but profanity-filled summary of the problems with the medical device industry and what you can do about it. Watch below. Peter Weber

May 20, 2019

John Oliver used his last Game of Thrones lead-in to discuss death. "Specifically, this story is about the people who investigate deaths when they happen," he explained on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "And if you're thinking, 'I don't want to see that on TV,' are you completely sure about that? Because death investigators aren't just supporting characters on some of the most popular shows."

"In real life, every year about 2.8 million Americans die," Oliver said, and while doctors identify cause of death on most death certificates, "if someone dies under suspicious or unnatural circumstances, their body may be sent for further examination and possibly a forensic autopsy. That's what happens to about a half a million bodies each year, and those investigations are incredibly important. A death certificate isn't like a degree from USC — it actually means something." Autopsies are important in murder investigations, but they also highlight trends in drug deaths, help identify defective products, and warn of infectious disease outbreaks.

"So tonight, let's learn about our death investigation system, specifically how it works, why it's such a mess, and what we can do about it," Oliver said. First, medical examiners and coroners aren't synonymous — medical examiners must be doctors, coroners are often elected, with shockingly few qualifications. That's "frankly weird enough," he said, but "in some jurisdictions, the coroner is also the county sheriff, and that has led to some serious problems."

The medical examiner system is better, but there are problems there, too, Oliver said. "The resources crunch is so bad that some offices wind up outsourcing work to private contractors, and this is where this story gets absolutely incredible." He focused on one contractor. "Look, I know this issue is tempting to ignore — it combines two things that people hate thinking about the most: Death and municipal funding," he said. But he tried to make it palatable, roping in Beyoncé, Glenn Close's spleen, and Tracy Morgan. (There's NSFW language.) Peter Weber

May 13, 2019

If we're to save the Earth from a climate-related catastrophe in 21 years, we need to take drastic action, and one proposal getting discussed a lot is the Green New Deal, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "The Green New Deal has been famously polarizing. On one hand, all the senators running for president co-sponsored it; on the other hand, Republicans have been foaming at the mouth to criticize it for all the crazy provisions that they insist it contains," like bans on hamburgers and airplanes.

"The first thing to understand is that the Green New Deal doesn't even mention the word 'cows' or 'airplanes,'" or even "specific programs to fight climate change," Oliver explained. "It is a nonbinding resolution that very briefly sets out some extremely aggressive goals," and the whole thing "is just 14 pages long — that is, seven pages shorter than the menu for The Cheesecake Factory."

The Green New Deal's main proponent, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), rightly "admits the rollout of the Green New Deal was 'the biggest mistake' she's made in Congress," largely because she released a draft Q&A that contained what's "clearly supposed to be a joke" about getting rid of "farting cows and airplanes," Oliver said, thus allowing certain named "idiots to pretend the Green New Deal was all about hamburger-stealing."

"But while the rollout of this conversation has been bumpy, it is great that the Green New Deal has started one," Oliver said. "No one solution is going to be nearly enough" to combat climate change, and there are lots of ideas. Oliver focused on, and explained, carbon pricing. "Look, I know that this can all seem hopeless, especially under the current administration, but there are actually some small signs that the tide may be turning here," he said. Watch to the end to see "gritty reboot" Bill Nye drop F-bombs and set the world on fire. Peter Weber

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