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Johnsplaining
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

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

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