Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Stupid Watergate
May 24, 2017 12:22 AM - Season 4, Episode 13 - Subscribe

It's a very special episode of Last Week Tonight that, for once, actually focuses on the previous week's events, as the Trump Administration continues to be mired in scandal. John Oliver takes a stab at answering these questions:
  • What The Fuck Is Going On?
  • How Big A Deal Is This?
  • Where Do We Go From Here? and
  • Is This Real Life?
YouTube (24m) In addition to answering those questions, there is And Now: Yet Another Look At Whatever The Fuck Is Happening On WCBS 2 News At 11, and a severely abbreviated Main Story concerning the TSA. (More on that last part....)

Jeffrey Lord, CNN contributor and Trump supporter. Andersen Cooper said to him: "If (Trump) took a dump on your desk you'd defend him." Cooper apologized for the statement, because of course he did.

WCBS 2 news stories: Bye-Bye Bunions, Grooming the Groom, The Better Bread, Filthy Fare, Face Cupping, Drunkorexia, Decision Fatigue, Inside a Big Rig, Hauling Danger, The Road Reader, Revenge For Hire, High Tech Chores, High Tech Looking Glasses, The Body Hack, Living Dead, Shocking Habit, Exploding Sunroofs, Pets: The Dental Dilemma, Smell Dating, and, for Children on the Night: "While you're sleeping, these kids are playing. Why? Tonight at 11."

The "main story" was only three minutes long because of the need to focus on the Trump scandals. It was to have been about the TSA. The show presented some of the graphics they had worked up for it, but they couldn't offer the story in a coherent way, so the main thing that survived was a visit from four Muppet penguins at the end. Through the use of freeze-framing, I here present what the graphics said, and other things I was able to reconstruct:
  • "This graph goes up...": Total checkpoint volume. In 2006, 708 million. It dips around 2006 with a volume of about 625M, but then goes up to 740M in 2016.
  • "...this graph goes down." Total TSA inspectors (full-time equivalent in thousands). 2006: 46,041. 2016: 42,525. "In combination that's clearly a real problem."
  • "Then I was going to show you this woman who believes TSA techniques are an invasion of her privacy." Oliver disagrees with her pronunciation of privacy.
  • "Then I was going to show you a couple of victims of inappropriate TSA conduct then, to lighten the mood, I was going to hit you with a clip involving Muppet penguins." The clip is from Sesame Street. "Believe me, that actually made sense in the context of our piece."
  • "You can imagine the kind of fan graphics we had planned. Here's one of Trump with a penguin."
  • "I was also going to try to break down TSA procedures using this clip." It contains a rotating CGI naked person with the words "TSA rolls out new pat-downs at airports," "Conducted by an officer of the same gender," and "SENSITIVE AREAS: BREASTS, GROIN AND BUTTOCKS." "All three of those things are objectively funny, but we would be placing them next to a story where it would actually be sad."
  • Three clips skipped. The first, identified by an image bearing the words "Transportation Security Administration" and "ERROR FEMALE." The second, of a crowded waiting line in an airport before a security checkpoint. The third, of acting TSA chief Huban Gowadia, who said something important that we won't get to hear.
  • A graphic of Vladimir Putin and Boris Yeltsin giving each other handjobs.
  • "We also had this TSA cartoon for you." A young anthropomorphic dog waiting in an airport line with his anthropomorphic dog family, saying "It looks kind of scary!" "No time for a joke there."
  • The TSA's official Instagram account, a post on which had an oddly-edited picture and answered the question "Are knife-nanas allowed on carry-on?"
  • "We also don't have time for this graph..." A TSA-sourced bar chart showing a rising number of firearm discoveries over the years, from 660 in 2005 to 2,653 in 2015. The chart probably comes from this page on the TSA's website. I strongly recommend you load this page and scroll down the list of images of things found in carry-on bags, which includes among other things "A monster with a grenade," a live Chihuahua, "Link's master sword (Legend of Zelda)," "a weapon resembling a Klingon bat'leth," and an assortment of Batarangs.
  • "...this graph..." Loose change left at TSA checkpoints, rising from $383K in 2008 to $675K in 2014.
  • "...and this graph is actually a bigger problem than you might think..." Items Reported Missing, a chart from this CNN article (second image in slideshow, warning: autoplaying video). *
  • "48%," I don't know the context, but it's from the book Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy by Susan Herman, President of the ACLU.
  • "41 out of 50 states," the excluded states seem to include Mississippi, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, and maybe Delaware and New Jersey?
  • "4.8 billion dollars," in 2003, as opposed to 1.3 billion in 2002. No context.
  • "and 9,000 dollars, which I know doesn't sound like a lot, but it actually is, and to show you how much, we were going to use the GDP of Moldova." The graphic has a headline from a publication called "min" , reading "A New Elite Traveler Advertiser Bypasses the TSA." The article references a spread in the magazine Elite Traveler, about an app called JetSmarter, which is apparently a way to book passage on private planes. In exchange for a $9,000 annual fee, app users can basically hitch rides on private planes going in the direction they were headed. One draw of the method is skipping TSA security checkpoints.
  • "Here's three pull-quotes, all of which are important." 1. TSA, 1/12/2017: "In 2016, TSA officers screened 738,318,264 passengers... more than 43,255,172 more passengers than for the same time frame in 2015." 2. NBC News, 4/14/2015: "Two Transportation Security Administration employees have been fired and two others reassigned after they allegedly set up a system to allow a male screener to pat down attractive men going through security at Denver International Airport, authorities said." 3. The Washington Post, 2/13/2017: "Between 1998 and 2016 they are alleged to have smuggled 20 tons of cocaine through the airport." Detail of that last one: TSA and airport workers were the ones doing the smuggling!
  • "Here's an elephant snorting cocaine!"
  • Finally, the Muppet penguins.
* It was surprisingly difficult to source this image. I eventually took a screenshot of that frame of the piece, cropped out the graph, found some articles that reported the graph from its original through Google (Reverse) Image Search, found out they cited CNN, then managed to find the source on their website.

F.37: Debtus Maximus, GRADUATION.
posted by JHarris (9 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
JHarris, this is above and beyond. Thank you.
posted by zinon at 5:39 AM on May 24, 2017 [6 favorites]

Children on the Night: "While you're sleeping, these kids are playing. Why? Tonight at 11."

Man, these vampire movies are getting more low-budget by the year.
posted by lmfsilva at 7:53 AM on May 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Ah! Here's the TSA cartoon with the dogs, on YouTube. (My motto: let OCD work for you!)
posted by JHarris at 8:53 AM on May 24, 2017

I would guess that those children have skin conditions that cause them to be injured by sunlight (a friend of mine has polymorphic light eruptions and is occasionally mistaken for religiously modest) and are being given time to play outside when it is safe for them to do so.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:59 AM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

JHarris, you do a fantastic job of writing the Last Week Tonight posts for FanFare. As a fan of both the show and FanFare, thank you!
posted by orange swan at 1:01 PM on May 24, 2017 [6 favorites]

Thanks, orange swan. I'd like to have dug in a bit more, and definitely I'd have liked to have organized the information better, but I've been feeling a lot of time pressure lately. Really, my only complaint with Last Week Tonight is, I think the show's staffers themselves should be providing this kind of extra reading, they're in a much better position to do it, and sometimes I just don't have the time or energy.
posted by JHarris at 3:49 PM on May 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would guess that those children have skin conditions that cause them to be injured by sunlight (a friend of mine has polymorphic light eruptions and is occasionally mistaken for religiously modest) and are being given time to play outside when it is safe for them to do so.

So why is that a sinister thing to tease for a news report?
posted by Servo5678 at 3:52 PM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I actually really liked the way they did this episode; I wish they would do it again/every week. We really need a source like this who is actually pulling apart this insane time period and helping us make sense of it. The striking thing about this show is that often the talking points are things I saw on Twitter but didn't actually comprehend.
posted by bleep at 3:57 PM on May 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

It’s always important to double check your bags before traveling, especially to make sure your Chihuahua hasn’t stowed away inside one of them
posted by asperity at 2:33 PM on May 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

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