Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Obama's Tour, Income Inequality, CIA Image Problems
July 14, 2014 10:59 AM - Season 1, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Japan ends its pacifist military stance. Warren G. Harding wrote naughty letters to his mistress. (YouTube) Obama goes on a tour of the nation. Main story: Income inequality and the estate tax. (YouTube) FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke is a hypocritical bastard. The CIA tries, and fails, to improve its public image.
posted by JHarris (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wow, Jerome Valcke is a real dick.
posted by Pendragon at 11:04 AM on July 14, 2014

And I really missed the show last week, so glad it's back.
posted by Pendragon at 11:06 AM on July 14, 2014

News Recap
Japan shifts its pacifist stance and declares it will now use military force to defend other nations. Maybe this explains the repressed anger in their cartoons? "So, we still can't fight in any wars? Fine (scribbles on paper) here's another cartoon of a schoolgirl covered in blood." Japanese protesters hold up signs depicting their Prime Minister as Hitler, ignoring, as Oliver points out, native son Tojo as their go-to mustachioed shorthand for evil. A military commercial has been made starring Haruka Shimazaki, a member of the freakishly large (100+ member) Japanese girl group AKB48 (Wikipedia).

Warren G. Harding's love letters (clip). We've covered it recently (MeFi). From Morning Joe, a smirking face proclaims: "We're getting a first look at some of the love letters Warren G. Harding wrote to his mistress a century ago." Oliver: "Believe me, these are not 'eager, jealous and wistful' love letters, these are smutty fucknotes, so raunchy, a 40-year-old mother-of-two should be reading them on her Kindle! This is an actual passage from his actual letters (ahem): I feel that there will never be any relief until I take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips and then bury my face on your pillowing breasts." "Wouldn't you like to get sopping wet out on Superior -- not the lake -- for the joy of fevered fondling and melting kisses?" We also learn from CNN, that trusted source of Presidential history, "Just like Anthony Weiner went by the nickname 'Carlos Danger,' Warren also had a nickname for a certain part of his anatomy. He called it... Jerry." Oliver: "Warren G. Harding, America's 29th President, called his dick 'Jerry.' Which is actually funny, because Gerald Ford called his dick 'Warren G. Harding.'" An artist's rendering of Jerry is provided; thanks John.

Obama's "Day In The Life Tour." First stop, Denver, where he encounters a man "who, for some unknown reason, is wearing a horse head mask." (Know Your Meme) The horse apocalypse has begun! Oliver: "I think my favorite thing about that photo is the Secret Service guy. That is the face of a man who knows he's going to have a tough conversation with the President in five minutes." Oliver points out how artificial these situations are, that the security and media pressures involved mean the last thing Obama will see on his tour is a representative sample of everyday life. In order to provide Obama with an accurate picture, Last Week Tonight provides a short video demonstration. LWT's narrator: "You're never going to see an average day because you're the President. And when you turn up (shows horse head picture), things get weird." A few clips are presented of Americans... not wearing their best faces. "We're at work staring at a bug crawling across the window. Where's he going? What's his name? Do bugs have names?" "And we're masturbating...." (Remainder of bit not transcribed to preserve everyone's lunch.) "AMERICA: YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT WE'RE ACTUALLY DOING."

Main Story: Income Inequality(clip)
After Obama promised to tackle the wealth gap, using the words "income inequality" 26 times in a speech, he quickly backed down when Democrats were split on the issue. "So basically, income inequality has become just another topic of conversation we prefer to avoid in America, like Japanese internment camps, or that time we gave Roberto Begnini an Academy Award." Oliver explains, "There is a key reason no one wants to talk about it. That is because, every time someone tries to, this happens...." Following are a half-dozen talking heads saying the words CLASS WARFARE. Back to Oliver, "That all sounds silly, but the phrase class warfare has become so toxic that the President actually had to stop talking about the thing he describes as 'a fundamental threat to the American Dream.'"

Brian Williams is shown in a clip stating that the top 1% of earners are earning almost 20% of available income, a wealth gap unseen since the Roaring 20s. The wealth inequality problem has been getting worse around the world, but it's getting worse faster here. "At this point, the rich are just running up the score. If our economy were a Little League game, someone would have called it by now." Yet America continues to pass policies that disproportionately benefit the wealthy, like "that weird tax rebate for orgies with fancy Eyes Wide Shut masks."

How is this possible in a democracy? Oliver notes it's because of American optimism, and our susceptibility to rhetoric like that in a clip from Marco Rubio from the Sentate floor, saying: "We have never been a nation of haves and have-nots. We are a nation of haves and soon-to-haves. Of people who have made it, and of people who will make it!" Oliver: "Yes! I mean, no! No! That sounds great, the problem is, it makes no sense, economically, mathematically, or even grammatically." LWT found polls saying that while 60% of people believes the wealth are aided disproportionately, 60% also believe "most people who want to get ahead can make it if they are willing to work hard." "In other words, 'Yeah, I can clearly see this game is rigged, (makes dice-rolling hand motion) which is going to make it so sweet when I win this thing, woo!"

Oliver points out the differences between the British outlook (where "we have had all hope beaten out of us") and American optimism, which "is so overwhelming positive, except when it leads you to act against your own best interests." Like the periodic attempts to abolish the Estate Tax. A clip of Mitt Romney calling it the "death tax" and getting cheered for it is shown, cheered by people the tax doesn't even apply to. Oliver: "If you're not comfortable calling your accumulation of shit an estate, the Estate Tax probably doesn't fucking apply to you! According to Federal law, heirs don't have to pay taxes on the first 5.3 million that you leave them."

Of the 400 richest Americans, Forbes Magazine discovered "71 inherited their wealth, and 56 inherited at least a portion but are still growing it." The persistence of hereditary wealth is also likely why only 0.25% of the list are African-American (yes, it's Oprah). It's a lottery, but we all think we're going to win the lottery; news segments are shown where talking heads explain the best way to handle your winnings should you win: "If you win that kind of money and you have young children, make sure you put it in a trust!" Oliver: "Oh absolutely, because it is never too early to start protecting your imaginary lottery winnings from crippling estate taxes."

"The whole point is, if American wealth is a lottery, we're increasingly playing two different games. In fact, I'll show you. Who wants to play America Ball??" Oliver runs over to a lottery machine they have set up beside a smiling lady in an evening dress. "As always we have two drawings, first up, the draw for people with inherited wealth, you should all have a ticket at home with a number between 1 and 3 on it, so let's pick two balls! Fire it up. 3! and 1! Congratulations to almost everyone at home! And now, the lottery for those who were born poor." This lottery machine is guarded not by a lady in evening wear, but by Tank. Tank looks like a bouncer, and he isn't smiling. "Hello to all of you watching at home or through a Best Buy window. You should all have a card with a number between 1 and three-and-a-half million on it. You might notice that a disproportionate number of the balls are black and brown, ignore that, it's illustrative of nothing, I can't stress that enough. Isn't that right, Tank?" (no response)

Last Week Tonight presents: Fuck That Guy
This week: Jerome Valcke, Secretary General of FIFA, who says he was "amazed by the number of people who were drunken, and the level of alcohol," and "When you drink too much, the level of violence may increase." People who remember the piece LWT did a few weeks ago will know why this is particularly infuriating, but let's go over it again. Brazil knew that and had laws forbidding the sale of alcohol at stadiums, laws it was pressured to suspend by Jerome Valcke, presumably in deference to FIFA's sponsor Budweiser.

The CIA's Image Problems
Germany expels a CIA Section Chief. It's the latest in a long series of problems for the agency. Their public image has been tainted by decades of at best questionable, at at worst outright evil projects and programs. So to try to lighten that image, the CIA has officially joined Twitter. Right out the gate: "We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet." That was from a verified account. Oliver: "I get it, you're a dangerously secretive operation who works in the shadows with no accountability or oversight, ha ha ha. I'm not going to say that this is a completely unfunny tweet, but the context is wrong. It's like if a doctor interrupted Wolf Blitzer's colonoscopy by shouting 'Oh my god Wolf, I think I just found the missing plane!'"

Exploring the CIA's website brings up other bits of strangeness, like a video from their canine unit. After, Oliver: "What the hell did we just watch there?? CIA, you got a secret budget with no oversight and you can't even make their fucking mouths move!" He's right about the CIA website. Here's their kids page. Oliver again: "Look CIA, I get that you want to be 'the fun one,' but A. you shouldn't be, and B. you're not even very good at it. We can help you with that. Here:" Example tweet #1: "Hey, Two and a Half Men got renewed for a twelfth season! That show is harder to kill than Fidel Castro. #MurderFail" #2: "Three Arab guys walk into a bar. Two of them are never heard from again. #wheredidtheygo #secretprison #Uzbekistan" If you're on Twitter you can play along too, use the hashtag #BETTERCIATWEETS. "Because you can't spell 'colossal privacy violation' without LOL."
posted by JHarris at 11:10 AM on July 14, 2014 [7 favorites]

I'm totally in favor of the CIA producing adorable, ridiculous dog videos. Also, making the dogs' mouths move is creepy and I don't see why the default explanation for failing to do so isn't that we're privy to the dogs' thoughts, as we can read Snoopy's thoughts in Peanuts.

Alternately, the CIA may have bred telepathic Labrador Retrievers, which is also entirely OK by me (I, for one, welcome our new canine overlords).
posted by asperity at 10:53 AM on July 16, 2014

It's an organization that produces cute dog videos with one hand while assassinating foreign leaders, running secret torture camps in nations with lax human rights laws, and producing threatening, possibly murderous assholes like Blackwater honcho Eric Prince with the other.

If they did more of the former to the exclusion of all the latter though, yeah, the world would be a better place.
posted by JHarris at 1:54 PM on July 16, 2014

Well, yes. I figured all the latter just sort of went without saying, and decided I should use positive reinforcement to try to get them to keep doing the thing I approve of. Like that one article we all read about training Shamu.
posted by asperity at 2:50 PM on July 16, 2014

Sorry, didn't mean to sound accusatory. I actually changed the comment just before posting it because I thought it sounded too accusing. Evidently didn't change it enough.
posted by JHarris at 3:26 PM on July 16, 2014

Oh, I didn't take it that way! Didn't mean to sound terribly defensive about it -- after all, I'm not a dingo.
posted by asperity at 3:34 PM on July 16, 2014

That income inequality lecture should be shown in elementary schools.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:40 PM on July 18, 2014

« Older Movie: The Big Lebowski...   |  Defiance: Beasts of Burden... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments