How do you use ‘taraddidle’ in a sentence? Is it possible to make a Gin Ricky that’s also a metaphor for the American Dream? How can you tell your Faulkner from your Franzen if you haven’t actually read either? Allow me, the @GuyInYourMFA, to expound on the most important (aka white male) writers of western literature. You’ve probably seen me around, observing the masses, or defying the wind by hand-rolling a cigarette outside a local, fair-trade coffeeshop. I’ve actually read Infinite Jest 9 1/2 times. Care to discuss?
"Slate’s voice never loses its capacity for strangeness, for finding it in the littlest, weirdest corners of its own psyche. It’s this mix of sweet and sadness, real stakes and dreamy prose, that gives this book its soft, sharp, and altogether overwhelming power. Like René Magritte crossed with Lana Del Rey, with strong notes of Patricia Lockwood. Like a carnival ride caught in a tornado, candy-colored shards of metal sparkling in the sky." - Teen Vogue
"I wanted to leave something for you girls [her daughters] for when I die, besides a collection of oversized glasses for you to sell on eBay. These letters explore a lot of the topics I wish my father I had discussed (and some I'm glad we didn't tbh). Then I figured, well, I should probably make some money off them if I'm going to spend all this time writing them. I didn't want to leave you with just my stand-up specials that feature me, pregnant with you, shouting all of my opinions and grodie stories at strangers."
A collection of essays on Trump, misogyny, segregated public schools, Joan Rivers, South Park, and how to moderate an audio-gear-swap Facebook page, among many other topics.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy meets the joy and glamour of Eurovision in Catherynne M. Valente's science fiction spectacle, where sentient races compete for glory in a galactic musical contest…and the stakes are as high as the fate of planet Earth.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Psychics Season 6, Ep 2
You might not think much about psychics these days, but they're still all over the place, on daytime talk and "reality" shows especially. LWT takes a look at how they continue to bilk people. The main story is on YouTube.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Family Separation Season 5, Ep 28
- 2018 Midterms, which has been exceptional in negativity. California Congressman Duncan Hunter accused opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar of being a terrorist trying to infiltrate Congress; Iowa Congressman Steve King, who has been notorious for associating with white nationalists and got pissy when confronted about it before cameras, and lost the support of a number of corporate PACs; and in Nebraska's 1st district a sign promoting Jeff Fortenberry was defaced with googly eyes and changed to read Jeff Fartenberry, causing his Chief-of-Staff to accuse a local professor, who was unlucky enough to have "liked" a Facebook photo of the sign within his random notice, of supporting vandalism.
- And Now: Out Annual Check-In With The Consequences Of Combining Local News Shows And Halloween
- Main story: Immigration, "The system that brought you me, but it's still good, and I promise that won't happen again." Specifically, the Trump administration's family separation policy. It's faded from the news, but its consequences have not ended yet. Content warning: horrifying consequences of the enforced separation of children from their parents. YouTube
- And Now: Halloween Part II: Just The Traffic And Weather
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: State Attorneys General Season 5, Ep 27
- Violence marred the prior week, and Fox News went out of their way to position the attacks as "false flag" operations, supposedly stages by Democrats to make Republicans look bad. Geraldo Riviera "outsmarts himself" in making such allegations.
- Saudi Arabia continues to try to explain the disappearance, likely murder, of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, while President Trump and right-wing figures try to downplay the killing of an American resident.
- Main story: the role of state Attorneys General on our nation, their role in investigating wrongdoing, and the increasing degree to which the offices have become politicized. YouTube
- Special productions: A WWE commercial that properly notes the fact that it takes place in Saudi Arabia, and the problems that causes; a concert for bagpipes, accordion, theremin and recorder (multiple, played by young children) to annoy people to stepping away from their TV sets and actually researching their states' candidates for Attorney General. A good place to do that, they note, is at Vote411.org.
This week (after a gap of some episodes, sorry about that), after an introduction acknowledging Trump's embarrassing UN conference and the Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty, the whole show was devoted to the main story, Brett Kavanaugh's looming confirmation, and the terrible implications if he is confirmed. [more inside]
This episode aired on July 29:
- More Stupid Watergate, "Something with the potential gravity of Watergate, if the entire White House was on bath salts and Nixon was a raccoon with his head stuck in a jar of peanut butter." Revealed is that Cohen secretly taped interactions between him and Trump, and some of one of the tapes was leaked, relating them planning to keep a story about Trump's affair with Playboy Bunny Karen McDougal secret. Also, Cohen claims Trump knew in advance of the meeting with Russian representatives in Trump Tower. And, Mueller is looking into whether Trump's tweets constitute obstruction of justice.
- Facebook loses $119 billion dollars of value, 19% of its total valuation, overnight. That's more than the value of the entire global cheese market: Facebook's stock dropped by the concept of cheese. It's because of piracy issues, which they've apologized for via an ubiquitous ad. LWT provides one of their trademark more honest versions.
- Main story: Workplace sexual harassment. In the wake of a number of prominent male executives being brought down, it's looking like something may finally be done about it... except that the current situation shares a lot of things in common with the 90s, at which time everything was supposed to change, and then, didn't. The issue became national news with the testimony of Anita Hill before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- The last act was a great interview with Anita Hill herself.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Gene Editing and CRISPR Season 5, Ep 17
Let's catch up a bit, shall we? This was the episode that aired July 8, 2018:
- Trump's "We got more money, we got better brains, we got more houses," etc. speech.
- The week's prerequisite bombshell was the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. As of this writing his position has still not been filled. Oliver reminds us that this has the potential to be really really bad for reproductive and LGBT rights. Democrat hopes to block mean once again playing America's most depressing game show, HOPE SUSAN COLLINS FLIPS AND BE DISAPPOINTED WHEN SHE DOESN'T!!! Jeffery Toobin made a tour of talk shows to make sure everyone's hopes were appropriately dead.
- And Now: For Canada Day, The Most Canadian Thing Imaginable: Polite Interactions Between Professional Curlers At The 2018 Tim Hortons National Championship
- Main story: Gene editing, and how a revolution in technology, "CRISPR," puts it into the hands of people literally working in their garage. Contents: jacked, sexy beagles; work on reviving wooly mammoths; irresponsible biohackers; the hope to wipe out malaria; an Australian man who hates invasive cane toads; a Lyme disease experiment on Nantucket Island; the question of whether deafness and dwarfism are diseases that should be eliminated; and China's pushing the boundaries of gene editing. It's on YouTube (20m).
- And Now: Hey Guys--What The Fuck's Going On With Animals In Florida?
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mexican Elections Season 5, Ep 16
Last week (at one remove)....
- Trump reacts to outrage over his policy to separate the children of illegal migrants to the US from their parents, first by insisting he couldn't change it, then when the outcry became too great, changing it. Because he LIES.
- 7-11 courts controversy in Norway by advertising condoms on television and in train stations there a defense against chlamydia, which has especially high incidence rates there. The spots called Norway the "Land of Chlamydia."
- And Now: Local News Is Concerned About Teens
- Main story: Mexico, and their upcoming (well, yesteray's) elections, the largest in that nation's history. The approval ratings of their current President, Enrique Peña Nieto, went down to 12% from public anger over corruption. The show looks at a number of competitors for the top job, and their issues, sometimes considerable ones. The main story can be watched on YouTube (20m).
- And Now: Kathie Lee and Hoda Are Slowly Becoming One.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: China President Xi Jinping Season 5, Ep 15
- Trump's summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un happened. The result was what Oliver reminds us is a Trump speciality, something akin to an "Ice Cream Blow Job." Something that sounds great, but when you think about it, doesn't actually mean anything.
- Thousands of children were forcibly taken from parents due to the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy over illegal imigration, an act that has infuriated millions.
- And Now: Senator Chuck Schumer Is Caught In An Endless Graduation-Speech Time Loop
- Main story: China President Xi Jinping has overcome term limits, had his ideas enshrined in China's constitution, and cultivated a cult of personality around himself. Under him, China's released catchy viral videos to advance their economic interests. LWT made their own to remind everyone of their human rights issues. The main story (20m) is available on YouTube.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Stupid Watergate II: Fox News' Cries Of "Witch Hunt" Season 5, Ep 14
- Trump prepares for the (then) upcoming North Korea summit, of course, by not preparing.
- Philippine President and strongman Rodrigo Duterte very uncomfortably kisses a young woman before a crowd.
- And Now: Julie Chen Has A Few Questions For The Audience of "The Talk."
- Main Story: More on Stupid Watergate, this time about Fox News' efforts to normalize the idea that the Mueller investigation is a "witch hunt" by calling that through every channel available to them, in an desperate (yet somewhat effective) effort to get ordinary Americans thinking it must be one, despite the fact that they've already charged 20 people and three companies, and gotten five guilty pleas. Watch it on YouTube (18m).
- And Now: The Entire Seventeen-Minute Piece You Just Saw, Boiled Down To Eight Seconds.
- Finally, a bit about the UK. Last week's episode had a segment about the putdowns of House of Commons speaker John Bercow that could not air in the UK, because of a stupid law saying footage of the chamber could not be used in "light entertainment" or "political satire." Because they used such footage this week and thus UK viewers again cannot be shown the whole program, LWT offers five minutes of replacement content: Gilbert Gottfried reading Yelp reviews.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Guardianship for the Elderly Season 5, Ep 13
- The summit with North Korea is called off. North Korea sends Trump a message in an oversized envelope. Trump calls the summit back on. Trump admits he hadn't read the contents of the envelope. Leader of the greatest nation in the world, folks.
- Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko is declared to be dead on worldwide news, but then discovered to be alive, his faked death an element in a sting to catch a group of Russian assassins.
- In the UK, the chairman of the British Monarchists Society, one "Thomas J. Mace-Archer-Mills, Esq.," a fixture on TV during the royal wedding, is revealed to actually to have been born and lived to his teens in the US, and even got an unrelated elderly British couple to call themselves his grandparents.
- And Now: The Very British Put-Downs of Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow.
- Main story: Legal guardianship, a state under which senior citizens can be put where they have limited rights, and can find it difficult to get out of.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Rehab Season 5, Ep 12
- Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get married. Next!
- North Korea may call off the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un over demands that the country denuclearize. John Bolton says on air they were using "The Libyan model," which turns out to be the worst thing he could have said; autocrats the world over have obsessed over Gadaffi's horrible death since it happened in 2011.
- And Now: Local News Gets A Little Too British For The Royal Wedding ("Hello gov'ner." "Cheerio!" "Hallo hallo!" "Tally-ho." "A spot of tea?" etc.)
- Main Story: Rehab, a 35 billion dollar industry. Federal law requires health insurance to pay for some of it, but there are no federal standards for what "Rehab" means, leading to a situation ripe for abuse by unscrupulous people.
- And Now: Just Look At This Bunch of Royal Wedding Shit.
After surviving a near fatal bovine attack, a disfigured cafeteria chef (Wade Wilson) struggles to fulfill his dream of becoming Mayberry's hottest bartender while also learning to cope with his lost sense of taste. Searching to regain his spice for life, as well as a flux capacitor, Wade must battle ninjas, the Yakuza, and a pack of sexually aggressive canines, as he journeys around the world to discover the importance of family, friendship, and flavor - finding a new taste for adventure and earning the coveted coffee mug title of World's Best Lover. [more inside]
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Venezuela Season 5, Ep 11
- A Trump aide was heard to say something unkind about John McCain, regarding his dying of brain cancer, thus fulfilling everyone's dreaded expectations for the kind of people Donald Trump would employ in his office.
- Scandals swirl around the Trump administration yet yet again again, as Michael Cohen comes under allegations for selling access to Trump.
- And Now: Local News Gets Real About Mother's Day
- Main Story: Venezuela. A piece reminiscent of the pre-Trump era, about the serious problems faced by a country that isn't the United States, about the trials currently suffered by Venezuela, which are less about socialism and more about epic levels of mismanagement. Its next elections are on May 20. Its former President was Hugo Chávez, an extremely popular leader who nationalized the oil industry and allowed his citizens to reap the rewards, although his government was notoriously corrupt. His successor, Nicolás Maduro, has not fared nearly as well. It's a long and very interesting piece, ending with Lin-Manuel Miranda in a bird suit pleading with Maduro to get his act together.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The Iran Deal Season 5, Ep 9
- The FBI raided Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen's offices. Everyone's asking, "Will he 'flip?'"
- Ryan Zinke, Trump's Secretary of the Interior, oversees the largest reduction in America's public lands in our nation's history, and calls himself a geologist under oath despite having never worked as one. He's also a deeply strange man.
- And Now: Somebody Please Tell Ryan Zinke He's Not a Geologist
- Main story: The Iran Deal, which Trump has been loud about disliking, asserting the people who wrote it were "babies." LWT takes a deep look at what it is and what it's for. The deal is important for limiting Iran's nuclear hopes, but Trump, his national security advisors and Sean Hannity are all against it. In a last ditch effort to get it through to him, LWT has paid for ad time during Hannity's show in the DC area featuring everyone's favorite, the Catheter Cowboy.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Corporate Taxes Season 5, Ep 8
- The Comey interview, which happened after LWT taped.
- The FBI raids Michael Cohen's office, home and hotel room. And a bunch of other stuff happened as well.
- And Now: Ari Melber, Rap Genius
- Main story: Corporate Taxes, the lengths that companies go to in order to avoid them, and how they stand to profit under Trump's budget.
- And Now: Ari Melber, Rap Genius, Volume Two: Just Jay-Z Quotes
- There are two remaining Blockbuster Video locations remaining in the United States, last remnants of a vast empire, and one of them is in Alaska. Last Week Tonight bought Russell Crowe's leather jockstrap from the movie Cinderella Man at auction, among a lot of other stuff. How do these two facts concide? Well, let's just say the store should get in touch with LWT within the 48 hours after airing.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Crisis Pregnancy Centers Season 5, Ep 7
This week (see inside for expanded contents)....
- Trump Administration news: EPA head Scott Pruitt comes under fire for wasteful spending.
- Hungary right-wing PM Viktor Orban is expected to win his fourth term.
- And Now: Coming Up On "The Doctors."
- Main story: Crisis Pregnancy Centers, facilities that exist to talk women out of getting abortions, are cagey about admitting their purpose, and now greatly outnumber actual abortion providers in the U.S. LWT founds "Our Lady of Choosing Choice" to show how easy it is to start such a non-profit, which is eligable for federal funding.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Immigration Courts Season 5, Ep 6
- President Trump appoints to the head of the VA his White House doctor.
- Egypt has a Presidential election, the winner of which will almost certainly be strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, since one of his opponents was arrested and three more intimidated into withdrawing. His only opponent, Mousa Mostafa Mousa, was a supporter of his!
- Sinclair Media Group's continued efforts to turn local news into Fox News 2, including must runs trying to push the idea of a "deep state" working against Trump, and trying to push an idea that national media outlets push fake stories. (Links below fold.)
- And Now: Baseball's Back, And Local News Knows Exactly What That Means. (It means weird concession food.)
- Main Story: Immigration Courts, which are a complete mess. One judge said of them, "In essence we're doing death penalty cases in a traffic court setting." Furthermore, they're not criminal courts but civil courts, meaning many guarantees, such as for legal council, are not available, and they're not part of the Judicial Branch, but instead, of the Executive Branch, and Jeff Sessions can in fact review cases himself. In some, children as young as three are actually asked to represent themselves before a judge. Just to drive home how stupid that is, LWT produced a bit of a court show in which everyone but the defendant (H. Jon Benjamin!) is three or four: Tot Bench.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mike Pence Season 5, Ep 5
- Trump fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
- Putin wins reelection as President of Russia to no one's surprise, ensuring horrible threats, poisoned opponents and meddling in foreign elections for foreseeable future.
- And Now: Local News Cannot Be Trusted With St. Patrick's Day
- Main Story: Mike Pence, the hyper-fundamentalist, hyper-intolerant Vice President in the Trump Administration, and the one person in it Trump cannot fire. His opposition to gay rights is well known, but, as Oliver admits, he has a cute rabbit named "Marlon Bundo." Pence has a book out, A Day in the Life of the Vice President, about his rabbit. LWT is putting out another book, about a different rabbit named Marlon Bundo, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, where a boy rabbit falls in love with another boy rabbit. (See inside for more.)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Cyptocurrencies Season 5, Ep 4
- President Trump suddenly agrees to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, reversing decades of precedent on a whim.
- International Women's Day, "that one special day for half the population of Earth. Knock yourselves out, three-and-a-half billion people!" A roundup of disturbing and disgusting responses from across the media, finishing with Vladimir Putin.
- And Now: An MSNBC Guest, Brought On To Discuss Gary Cohn's Departure, Can't Get Over The "Bachelor" Finale.
- Main Story: Cryptocurrencies, "Everything you don't understand about money combined with everything you don't understand about computers." In a field fulled with ridiculous terms like HODL and LAMBO, LWT invited an inspirational speaker (Keegan Michael Key) to promote their new way of dealing with cryptocurrencies, responsibility: "Instead of being HODL, you have to be CRAEFUL!"
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: NRA TV Season 5, Ep 3
- The Trump Administration, "which is truly like a circus in that nothing about it is funny, and I badly want it to end." It continues to hemmorage staffers, most recently Hope Hicks.
- Jared Kushner loses his Top Secret clearance.
- And Now: Would You Like To Be On The Maury Show?
- Main story: NRA TV (YouTube), the little-known streaming service. LWT answers the question you now no doubt have: What the fuck is that? Oh, you are not prepared for this....
- And Now: Proof That NRATV's Tone Can Make Anything Seem Scary. A LWT-produced bit: "She IS the oven's contemptible whore, and her name is MUFFINS."
- The Parkland shooting.
- Scandals around the world: South Africa, Australia, Israel
- And Now: For Valentine's Day, Local News Presents Some Heart-Shaped Shit
- Main Story: Trump Vs. The World, on Trump's terrible foreign policy, which has eroded US soft power around the world.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Forensic Science Season 4, Ep 25
- Puerto Rico, where three million American citizens continue to deal with the destruction from Hurricane Maria, while President Trump and his administration both aggrandizes their efforts to help while demeaning them for needing help. The debacle comes at the end of a weak of failures by Trump and team. Trump also claims the Republicans' most recent attempt to ruin health care failed because a senator "was in the hospital." (No one was in the hospital.)
- Trump's efforts to pass tax reform, or as he himself calls it a massive tax cut, which the Tax Policy Center has determined would actually raise middle class taxes and accrue most of the benefits to the top 1% of taxpayers. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dismisses those concerns, predictably.
- And Now: Guy Fieri Gives A Surprisingly Detailed Tour of His Favorite Place on Earth ("Flavortown.")
- Main story: the use of forensic evidence in the solving of crimes. While jurors are conditioned by shows like CSI to expect conclusive proof to come from forensic evidence, the National Research Council has stated that many "forensic sciences" don't meet the basic requirements to be called "science." Last Week Tonight produced a short promo for the show "CSI: Crime Scene Idiot." YouTube (19m)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Corporate Consolidation Season 4, Ep 24
- Donald Trump criticizes NFL players for taking the knee during the National Anthem to protest the treatment of black people by police in the US, because there is no issue of which he won't take the wrong side.
- A couple of Trump administration officials came under fire for their use of costly private jet flights. Tom Price reportedly made 24 such flights at a combined cost to US taxpayers of $400,000. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, worth $300 million, made a request (later withdrawn) to use a government jet, along the way being snide to the entire state of Kentucky.
- And Now: A Preview of Megyn Kelly's New Morning Show. (Quote from Megyn Kelly saying she hopes her show can be a "unifying force.")
- And Now: A Look At The "Unifying Force" That Is Megyn Kelly. (A quick selection of clips of her time at Fox News being anything but.)
- Main Story: Corporate consolidation. As we're reminded by clips from 34 politicians, "small businesses are the backbone of our economy." Despite rhetoric, the rate at which small businesses have been created has been falling since the 1970s, perhaps because large businesses have been getting larger and larger. YouTube (15m)
- And Now: All of Jim Cramer's Sound Buttons, Replaced With Fart Noises
- Finally, part two of the tale of the unreasonably large train set Last Week Tonight made for Scranton, PA channel WNEP's backyard train set. The station refused LWT's gift because it was just too dang big. (They had suspected it might be, but figured it'd just be more fun to build the thing anyway.) The train didn't go to waste however; it now lives in the Lackawanna County Electric City Trolley Station & Museum.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Joe Arpiao Season 4, Ep 23
Whew, what with hurricanes and stuff it's been a while! This episode is now a month old! Let's take a step back in time, to an age when we were, due to the aging effects of the Trump presidency, all several years younger:
- Trump's busy week. First he met with Congressional leaders to hammer out a deal to raise the "debt ceiling." (Suprisingly, Trump sided with the Democrats, giving them additional leverage in December when the time comes to make the deal again, and infuriating Republicans.) Then Trump gave the floor to his daughter Ivanka, annoying the further hell out of the Republicans (fortunately, they have an ample supply of hell to spare). No one seems to know why Trump did either of those things.
- Trump announces that he's ending Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), putting the fate of 800,000 undocumented immigrants in immediate jeopardy, then immediately spins and says Congress should really get off their butts and do something about this tragic circumstance he created. Trump on why he did it: "Either we have a country, or we don't have a country."
- And Now: A Look At What the NFL Will, And Will Not, Tolerate (This relates to players taking the knee during the National Anthem. This was before Trump directly attacked players who did so, provoking a considerable backlash, with many more players joining the protest.)
- Main story: the (then) recently pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, his many horrible acts, his downfall, and why Trumps pardoning of him was an awful thing to do. YouTube (14m) Warning: segment includes footage of Arpaio painfully droning "My Way.")
- And Now: Joe Arpaio Singing Another Song With No Sense of Irony Whatsoever (the theme from Fame, aka "I'm Gonna Live Forever")
- Finally, Scranton, PA station WNEP mentioned Last Week Tonight's mentioning of them on the air for the strangely controversial backyard train set they run on-camera during the weather report. Prompted by this, LWT went and build a ridiculously large train set for them, to have. More on that in the next episode....
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: North Korea Season 4, Ep 21
- Violence in Charlottesville, where a Neo-Nazi drove a car into a group of counter protesters, killing one and injuring several others, after which Donald Trump refuses to admit that Nazis are bad. Oliver: "David Duke and the Nazis really seem to like Donald Trump, which is weird because Nazis are a lot like cats. If they like you, it's probably because you're feeding them."
- AND NOW: HIGHLIGHTS FROM ROBOCUP 2017, first without, and then vastly improved by Univision Deportes Commentator Luis Omar Tapia.
- Main Story: North Korea, the most dangerous rogue nation in the world, and its leader Kim Jong Un, whom Donald Trump seems to be personally insulted by, resulting in a dangerous exchange a couple of weeks ago between the two thin-skinned madmen. Last Week Tonight put together a helpful package of information on the country, revealing such facts that the accordion is the country's national instrument, and that video of US television programming, most notably NCIS, is smuggled into North Korea on USB drives. At the end LWT presents a special number by "Weird Al" Yankovich asking North Korea not to nuke us. YouTube (27m) - Metafilter
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The US Border Patrol Season 4, Ep 20
So, that week that just happened. What about it?
- Another Trump dump. Now he's complained about the White House, insulted the state of New Hampshire, and his new Communications Director is an incredible asshole.
- And Now: You Wish You Loved Anything As Much As Seattle Gardning Expert Ciscoe Morris Loves Everything.
- Main story: The Border Patrol. They aren't from Immigration, and they're not customs officers. In fact, their function isn't to keep everyone out; one of their roles is to welcome migrants seeking asylum from Central America. An executive order from Trump directs the hiring of 5,000 more border agents, but it turns out it's not the first such hiring surge we've done, and the last one didn't go well. YouTube (20m). It's a tough and incredibly boring job, while their commercials make it seem exciting; LWT produced a new commercial for them to give viewers a more accurate impression of the position.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Alex Jones Season 4, Ep 19
Okay, so there were these seven days, and during them, this happened:
- President Trump announces--via Twitter--a blanket ban on transgender individuals serving in the US military. Oliver: "We may already be entering the Mad Libs portion of Trump's presidency, where he just persecutes groups at random."
- The Republicans' efforts to repeal the ACA, aka Obamacare, failed on every level, as Senator John McCain, the deciding vote, voted NO in dramatic fashion.
- Scaramucci's ascent to White House Press Secretary, an auspicious reign that will certainly last forever.
- And Now: More Newscasters Desperately Trying Not To Say The Words "Suck My Own Cock"
- Main story: Alex Jones, favorite talk host of Donald Trump and the "Walter Cronkite of shrieking batshit gorilla clowns," his show, and the vast array of merchandise, sold on his web storefront, that keeps it afloat, much of it medical supplements and other supplies ("nutri-ceuticals") of dubious benefit. Warning: contains images of the "perineal area." (shudder) YouTube (22m)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Sinclair Broadcast Group Season 4, Ep 18
- Trump's travel ban is partially-reinstated by the Supreme Court in anticipation of its upcoming full review to not affect refugees with a "credible claim of a bona-fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States," which Trump's State Department took the opportunity to define narrowly to immediate and a select few extended family members, not including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or brothers or sisters-in-law. YouTube (5m partial)
- And Now: CBS 2 Meteorologist John Elliott Engages in a Bit Too Much Self-Deprecation
- Main Story: The dangers posed by Sinclair ownership of television stations filling local news reports with Fox News-style propaganda, including "must run" conservative pieces. LWT produced a short piece that Tribune stations that might be acquired by Sinclair could air to warn viewers about upcoming biased content that may appear there. YouTube (19m)
- News that Rachel Maddow bought a wax figure of President Eisenhower from the closed Hall of Presidents and First Ladies in Gettysburg, Steven Colbert bought Zachary Taylor, Jon Steward bought Martin Van Buren, and LWT bought five President statues: Nixon, Clinton, Carter, Harrison and Warren G. Harding, that last one of which became the main character of a movie trailer LWT made, with Campbell Scott, Anna Kendrick, Michael McKean, James Cromwell and Laura Linney. YouTube (9m)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Vaccines Season 4, Ep 17
- Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray, as promised, decided to sue Last Week Tonight for their coverage of them. DJWheezy managed to find a PDF of the actual complaint on The Daily Beast's website! (So you don't have to mess around with their annoying web interface.) Give that a read, if only for the mental image of Bob Murray claiming he's clinging to life and needs an oxygen tank to breathe.
- In explaining that he actually has no tapes of his conversation with James Comey, President Trump embarks on a nonsensical digression about Obama and surveillance, leaving Oliver to ask "What the fuck was that?" And it wasn't even the end of the clip....
- The Senate moves forward, but not yet to a vote, on their own version of ACA replacement, the "Better Care Reconciliation Act," which would drastically cut Medicaid.
- And Now: The Ongoing Controversy Over WNEP 16 Scranton's Backyard Train, and later, Seriously: The People of Scranton Are Very Invested in WNEP 16's Backyard Train.
- Main story: Vaccines, an amazing discovery that has reshaped the modern world for the better, and vaccine skeptcism, which seeks to destroy it. YouTube (27m)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The US Coal Industry Season 4, Ep 16
So recently you may have heard these things happening....
- The mistrial in Bill Cosby's sexual assault case, the result of which prompted Cosby to exclaim Fat Albert's catchphrase "Hey hey hey!" while exiting the courtroom, further soiling all of our memories.
- The incredibly unpopular AHCA Take Two, accompanied by a fitting graphic of the GOP logo with a blue skull superimposed with stars for eyes. Of the version passed by the House, Trump (who held a presentation where he celebrated its passing) was quoted as saying it was "mean," the irony entirely lost on him. Its very existence is causing problems in insurance markets, as companies decide if they want to pull out of the current markets or not.
- And Now: Things People's Fathers Used To Say
- Main Story: Coal, coal mining jobs, coal executives, coal mining companies, executives of coal companies, and Donald Trump's fixation on the mineral, discussed divorced of its (tremendous) ecological toll. Eventually the story comes around to involving a giant squirrel.... YouTube (24m)
- A new installment of Stupid Watergate. James Comey tells Congress under oath that he had no doubt he was fired because of the Russia investigation, which everyone knew anyway but still sent shockwaves, and that wasn't the end of it.
- And Now: There Is No Group Of People More Easily Amazed Than The Audience Of "America's Got Talent."
- Main story: The continuing negotiations of the UK over Brexit, and the harm done to them by Prime Minister Theresa May's ill-considered snap election which lost her a lot of seats. YouTube (19m)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The Paris Climate Agreement Season 4, Ep 14
- Terrorist attacks in London killed 7 and injured more. The American news media is full of stories of London "reeling" and "under siege." Londoners take issue with that description, continue drinking beer and carrying on.
- Vladimir Putin is in many places, from clips to an Oliver Stone series of interview on him to interviewing former Fox host Megyn Kelly, where he admited Russian citizens may have interfered with the US election, while Trump's administraion looks into returning Russian compounds on US soil known to have been used for spying.
- And Now: 60 Minutes Anchors Are Still Prompting People To Give Them The Exact Soundbites They Need.
- Main story: Trump announces that he is pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement, a decision with possibly disasterous consequences. YouTube (21m)
- And Now: Still More 60 Minutes Anchors Prompting People To Give Them The Exact Soundbites They Need.
So, what's up in the world?
- "We begin with A Narcissistic, Unstable Man Who Just Might Kill Us All." In this case, that means Trump and Kim Jong-un, between whom tensions have been racheting up lately. Trump "sends" and "armada" to deter North Korea, although it turns out the weren't heading right there, but instead going to Austrailia.
- Turkey President Recep Erdoğan consolidates power with a referrendum that takes him closer to being a dictator.
- And Now: Cable News. (It's a lot of arguing and people talking over each over, sometimes up to 10 at once.)
- Main story: Trump's advisors and relatives Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, popularly regarded as moderating influences. LWT takes a closer look and notes that we we really know little about them, and what we do know suggests Ivanka is more about preserving the Trump brand, and Jared is an underachiever, extremely inexperienced, and is ludicrously in over his head. YouTube (22m)
- And Finally: Bill O'Reilly: A Life In Television.
Meanwhile, back on Earth....
- Trump's Press Secretary Sean Spicer digs an incredible hole for himself, first appearing to claim that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was worse than Hitler because Hitler never used chemical weapons (he did), then that Hitler never used them against innocent people (he did), then making up the term "Holocaust centers" as the place where Jews were gassed.
- Trump meets with China president Xi Jinping, who apparently in 10 minutes convinced him to do what over half the United States desperately wanted him to do for months: learn a damn thing about North Korea. Alas they did so at Trump's Mar-a-Lago, having recently been cited for 13 health code violations. Trump continues to flip-flop on practically everything related to foreign policy, underscoring how desperately stupid his campaign was.
- Trump drops a "MOAB" (Mother Of All Bombs) on Afghanistan, causing euphoric celebration at Fox News from Geraldo Rivera. When directly asked if he had authorized the strike, Trump danced around the question.
- And Now: You Put Easter And Local News Together, And What Do You Fucking Expect?
- Main Story: The upcoming French Presidental elections, between 11 different candidates, at least three of which have been assaulted in public by citizens throwing baking ingredients. YouTube (18m)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Gerrymandering Season 4, Ep 8
- Gorsuch appointed to Supreme Court via the "nuclear option," Devin Nunez recuses himself from investigating Trump as he himself is comes under an ethics investigation, and Thursday: Trump launches missiles at a Syrian airfield on very short notice and without apparent strategy while Brian Williams sings rhaposodies about their beauty. It's an act that, like so many of Trump's other acts, he tweeted against when Obama did it.
- Bill O'Reilly hit by revelations that he settled multiple sexual harrasment suits totalling 15 million dollars over the years, leading to around 60 advertisers pulling ads from his show, but somehow a defense from Donald Trump. Sensing an opportunity, LWT pushed to fill some of the vacated time with their Catheter Cowboy, who will hopefully soon be telling Trump: "You're blowing this. You're sacrificing the chance to make society a better place on the altar of your towering ignorance and your fragile ego. YOU ARE BLOWING THIS."
- Main story: The gigantic problem of gerrymandering, mostly from Republicans, but from some Democrats too, as well as the difficulties with redrawing districts fairly and intelligently. YouTube (20m)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Marijuana Legalization Season 4, Ep 7
So what happened last week?
- The Trump/Putin scandal continues, which the show has dubbed Stupid Watergate, because "it has all the potential consequences of Watergate, but everyone involved is really stupid." This week time it was Devin Nunez, whose claims of wiretapping Trump officials unraveled. Nunez himself was one of those alleged to have been wiretapped, a conflict of interest for an investigator.
- British PM Theresa May invokes Article 50, beginning the process of leaving the European Union.
- And Now: Yet Another Look at the Awkward Sex Talk on CBS This Morning.
- Main Story: Marijuana legalization, or rather, how its differing legality at state and national levels causes grave problems for businesses and users alike. YouTube (17m)
- And Now: Twenty-Seven Seconds of the Breakfast Foreplay That Is CBS This Morning.
- Finally, more of the Bolivian Traffic Zebras, who responded graciously to John Oliver's gushing about them in the previous episode.
Over the past 10,080 minutes....
- "President Trump, two words that continue to sound bad together, like 'Horse Pope,' or 'Dr. Oz.'" Trump meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the first time, whom he denigrated often on the campaign trail. He refused to shake her hand, which was almost as weird as that hand-pull thing he does when he shakes hands.
- Trump also doubled-down on claims that Obama tapped his phones, claiming as a source a "talented legal mind" on Fox who turned out to be noted conspiracy theorist Judge Andrew Napolitano. Even Fox News backed away from the claim. Fareed Zakaria described Trump's behavior on CNN by using the word "bullshit" and variants of it several times.
- And Now: Morning News Shows Celebrating St. Patrick's Day Literally The Only Way They Know How.
- Main story: The Federal Budget and Trump's plans for it, which are predictably terrible.
- And Now: A Special St. Patrick's Day Moment From Fox & Friends.
- Finally... Bolivian Traffic Zebras. Bolivian Traffic Zebras. People in Zebra costumes helping traffic in Bolivia. Oliver asks, what situations wouldn't be made better by a helpful person in a zebra costume, and answers: nothing. To this end, LWT has posted green screen footage of a dancing zebra to their YouTube channel, for the use and wonder of all.
During the past 168 hours....
- International Women's Day and reactions it it from around the globe, from Russian President Vladimir Putin, from Brazil President Michel Temer, and a particularly clueless San Antonio TV morning show host.
- Wikileaks leaked documents concerning the CIA, although this batch is rather less alarming than Snowden's. It is filled with ridiculous program names though. Program Weeping Angel investigated the possibility of hacking into Samsung TVs to use them as listening devices, which, after two notorious recalls, is everything that company needed. LWT presents a message on behalf of Samsung to try to salvage their reputation, but it doesn't go too well.
- Main story: The Republican response to the Affordable Healthcare Act, the American Health Care Act (YouTube 19m), and the many ways in which it's terrible. The piece concludes with another visit from LWT commercial proxy, the Catheter Cowboy.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The Dalai Lama Season 4, Ep 4
Over the last seven day period....
- The good will President Trump earned addressing Congress in a manner unlike a madman is burnt away by continuing revelations that his pick for Attorney General perjured himself in his confirmation hearing by claiming never to have met with the Russians.
- Trump also claims Obama tapped his phone, an allegation apparently gotten from the Breitbart website, then asks Congress to investigate whether it is true, reversing the usual order of investigations.
- And Now: Does Anyone Know If CNN's Brooke Baldwin Would Consider Herself A Nerd?
- Main Story: The Dalai Lama (YouTube 19m), and China's attempts to surpress his influence over Tibet. The bit concludes with an interview between Oliver and the Dalai Lama himself.
So, last week....
- "Unfortunately, we must begin, again, with President Trump, two words that continue to sound unnatural together, like 'Walrus Porn,' or 'Tilda Swinton.'" Trump promises a crackdown on illegal immigrants, despite problems hiring ICE agents, and withdraws Obama-era guidelines for transgender students in school bathrooms.
- And Now: Some Random Thoughts From WCBS2 Meteorologist John Elliott
- Main Story: The Affordable Care Act (YouTube 19m), and Republicans trying to repeal it despite unexpected (to them) popular opposition. LWT examines what it is, problems with it, and Republican plans to fix it.
- And Now: WCBS2 Meteorologist John Elliott Drops Some Famous Names
- Finally, the Supreme Court. Republicans refused to hold a hearing for Obama's Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland for 11 months, so that they'd have the opportunity to have their guy Neil Gorsuch confirmed, a historic abberation. To reflect this, LWT's Dog Supreme Court is filling the seat, not with a dog, but by a choice of three lobsters, that they're asking viewers to vote for on their Twitter feed.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Vladimir Putin Season 4, Ep 2
So, what happened last week?
- President Trump continues to amplify unquestioningly whatever whimsical story was presented on Fox News, this time that Sweden is having problems with immigrants, which Sweden denies.
- The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong-nam (Wikipedia), was poisoned in an airport, by a woman who claims she was told to do it as part of a reality show.
- A Florida man plotted to have bombs placed in 10 Target stores in order to drive stock prices down.
- AND NOW: Fox & Friends is Painfully Aware of Who is Watching Them
- MAIN STORY: Russia, specifically Vladimir Putin (YouTube, 20m). Him, his regime, how he's profited, what happens to those who oppose him, and Trump's fascination for him. LWT produced a short dance number about him, refering to the Russian pop song praising Putin.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Trump vs. Truth Season 4, Ep 1
The first episode of season four! And so let's get right on to THIS WEEK....
- The inauguration of Donald Trump, and his whirlwind of activity, which Oliver describes as "the tip of the shitberg."
- AND NOW: Donald Trump Can't Shake Hands Right.
- MAIN STORY: Trump vs. Truth (24m, NSFW). While just over a quarter of Obama's statements rated Mostly False or worse by Politifact.com, nearly 70% of Trumps rate so. In the process of covering this rich topic, we visit a Fox News commercial with a "cowboy," Breitbart, Alex Jones (apparently a primary source of information for him). They cover the history of the "three million voted illegally" lie from Twitter rando to President-Elect Trump to clueless person parroting it, creating a hideously self-reinforcing echo chamber that is currently driving policy in the United States.
So the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu got together and talked about joy for a week. This resulting book is an accessible and actionable journey into the essential practice of experiencing and sharing joy. [more inside]
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: 2016 Election Result Season 3, Ep 30
This week (11/13):
- The only story is the outcome of the 2016 Election and the selecting of Donald Trump as the next US President. The full consequences of this are detailed, and his staff picks are discussed, and also offered is a look into how this happened: the prevailing use of social media to isolate people into echo chambers and feed them disinformation. A list of many organizations you can donate to and volunteer for is offered. It ends with a hearty FUCK YOU to the year 2016.