Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 1, Episode 19 - Episode #1.19 - full transcript

John discusses U.S. military drones and the Kansas state budget shortfall.

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---
Welcome, welcome, welcome to "Last Week Tonight."

I'm John Oliver.

Just time for a quick recap of the week.

If you've been here in New York, it has been dominated

by the UN General Assembly, the annual event

where delegates come from all over the world

to fuck up this city's traffic.

Almost every world leader has been here,

but no one has had a bigger impact

than Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

Just this morning, he gave a sold-out speech



at Madison Square Garden that featured everything

from dance numbers
to a live-on-stage painter

creating a speed portrait
of him.

I've got to say, Modi,
classic out-of-towner move--

comes to New York,
stays a few days,

and leaves with
a slapdash caricature

done in the Times Square area.

You're a cliche, Modi.
You're a cliche.

But perhaps Modi's
crowning glory during the trip

was his appearance
at last night's

Global Citizen concert
in Central Park.

It wasn't that he gave
a great speech.

It's that he had
one hell of a finish.

What?



That--wow.

That is a power move right there--

standing next to Wolverine and
throwing out "Star Wars" quotes.

Bear in mind,
this guy was banned

from entering the United States
up until just 4 months ago

for his role
in the Gujarat riots.

That's quite a turnaround
for him,

and let me say this
to all other world leaders.

This is the new bar.

Do not turn up
to this city again

unless you are with
an A-list movie star

and throwing out quotes
from films

that they were
definitely not in.

For instance, Robert Mugabe
is not welcome here

unless he's standing
next to Billy Crystal

shouting, "To infinity
and beyond!"

for no reason whatsoever,

and I do not want to see
Angela Merkel

set foot on American soil
unless she is with Vin Diesel

and screaming,
"I will have what she's having.

I will have what she's having."

Moving on, moving on.
In much less fun news,

it was another difficult week
in Ferguson, Missouri,

where the protests
over a tragic police shooting

are now in their seventh week.

Much of the anger
is currently being focused

on police chief Tom Jackson
while this week,

he went on a PR offensive with
the emphasis on "offensive."

First, he issued
a business-casual apology video,

and then he did
an interview about it

that went wrong
within just two questions.

You issued an apology
video today.

I did.

Why did it take so long
for that to happen?

Well, there's been
so much going on.

Ooh, that is not a good answer.

"Look. It has been busy.
Football season is back.

"There was
the "Ninja Turtles" reboot,

crazy line for the new iPhone,
just a lot going on."

In an inexplicable move,
he then decided to do this.

CHARLIE ROSE: Chief Tom Jackson
spoke to demonstrators.

They want criminal charges
after last month's shooting

of Michael Brown.

When Jackson started to march
with them, scuffles broke out.

Yeah. Of course they did.

What was he thinking,
trying to march with them?

"Oh, wow, big turnout, everyone.
What are we protesting?"

"Well, for one, you, asshole."

Now at this point,
you might be thinking,

"Why on earth didn't
the Ferguson Police Department

just get a PR expert
to help them through all this?"

Well, they did.
There's just one problem.

And we're learning more tonight
about the man

overseeing public relations
for Ferguson

after the Michael Brown
shooting.

According to our partners
at the "Post-Dispatch,"

32-year-old Devon Sean James

once shot and killed
an unarmed man.

What the fuck, Ferguson?

How hard can it be to find
a PR expert

who has not done the exact thing

that you are hiring a PR expert
to deal with?

I mean, let's just say you have
two applicants in front of you.

One of them shot someone,
and the other one is a potato.

I don't care how qualified
the other guy is.

You have to hire the potato.

Plus, if things don't work out,
you have a potato.

And finally this week,
the world said good-bye

to Afghanistan president
Hamid Karzai,

the man that America
was trusting with overseeing

the roughly $100 billion in aid
that we have poured

into that country
over the past 12 years.

Karzai used his farewell speech
to thank everyone.

Almost everyone.

Karzai thanked
8 other countries by name

for helping Afghanistan rebuild.

He failed to mention
the United States.

Whoa! Whoa there, Karzai.

Was this an Academy Awards
situation

where you just ran out of time?

Because I didn't hear
any music playing you off there.

"Oh, I'd like to thank, uh,
China, Germany, India, Iran.

"You guys are the greatest.

Couldn't have done it
without you."

"I'd like to thank
my whole team at ICM,

"my publicist Leslee Dart.

"I'm king of the world!
That's it. Thank you very much.

"Oh, shit! And America.
And America.

"Did we go to commercial?
Fuck! Fuck.

"I'll write them a note.

I'll write them a note.
It's fine."

To be fair, Karzai did
mention us during his speech,

just not in a particularly
flattering way.

In his farewell speech,
the Afghan leader

warned hundreds of staff
and cabinet members

not to trust
the U.S. government.

He called the American
mission there a betrayal,

saying the United States,
quote, "Did not want peace."

Oh, excuse me, Karzai?

I thought we were gonna go
our separate ways like adults,

specifically, polite
but with an inner hate

that will eventually
devour us alive,

but if you want to go out
with backstabbing and low blows,

that is no problem.

For instance,
your brother Quayum

apparently owns
a restaurant in Baltimore.

You insult us--guess what--
we're gonna read

some of his bad Yelp reviews
on national television.

For example--
For example, Amanda E.--

Amanda E. noted that
her "Shornakhod included

"a number of other beans,
not that it mattered

since it was way over soaked
in the cilantro dressing."

Boom, Karzai!
Oh, you want a little more?

You want more? Fine.

Ashu M. found the food there
"Overrated, bland,

"and like it was
out of a college student's

"first effort in the kitchen
with spices.

Ugh."

Right?

If you ever show your face
back in America, Karzai,

it better be with
a peace offering and a good one.

I'm talking you standing
next to Ryan Gosling

shouting, "Show me the money!"

And now this.

MALE ANNOUNCER: And now...

George was popping
the tequilas.

Next thing you know,
the A-word is flying.

The A-word.

The B-word
is out there.

The B-word.

He called her
the C-word.

The C-word.

The D-word.

The E-word--
"excommunicated."

The F-word.
The G-word.

I want to see a president
doesn't just say the H-word.

The I-word.
The J-word.

The K-word.
The L-word.

The N-word.
The N-word.

The N-word.

The N-word,
as in N-word Mountain.

The O-word.

The P-word.
The Q-word.

Now we're talking about the R-word.

The R-word.

The S-word.
The T-word.

It's the old U-word.

What's the V-word?
"Visibility."

The "W-word."

All words that
start with "X."

The Y-word.

The so-called "Z-word."

Moving on, our main story--

Our main story tonight--drones.

They're the third most annoying
thing in the sky

after mosquitoes and plastic
bags caught in the breeze.

They are not gorgeous, weird kid
from "American Beauty."

They're trash,
and they kill sea turtles.

You got turtle blood
on your hands.

But all of a sudden,
drones are everywhere.

We even use them to shoot
romantic wedding videos,

and what could possibly
go wrong with that?

He's fine. He's fine.

He's probably fine.
I don't know if he's fine.

It's funny whether
he's fine or not, but look.

Overseas, drones are a slightly
more serious matter.

For instance, this week,
we reportedly launched

deadly drone strikes in both
Waziristan and Yemen.

You probably didn't hear
about them on the news

unless you were watching this.

The U.S. has carried out
another drone attack

in Pakistan's wrested
tribal areas,

killing at least 8 people.

That's the only footage
reporting either strike

that we could find, and it's
from the Iranian government's

English-language TV station.

That channel is buried
deep in your cable package.

I think it's actually somewhere
between C-SPAN Junior!

and KAN,
the Kirstie Alley Network,

but there is something strange
about the fact that we launched

deadly drone strikes
in two sovereign nations

that almost no one here
heard about,

but then again,
why would it make the news?

We use drones all the time.

Hard numbers are very difficult
to come by

for reasons that we'll get into,
but by one estimate,

during the Obama administration,
we've launched 8 times

the number of drone strikes than
we did under his predecessor,

and while they've declined a bit recently,

drone strikes will be
as much a characteristic

of the Obama presidency
as Obamacare

or receiving racist e-mail
forwards from distant relatives,

and it's easy to see
why drones are so popular.

They cost less
than manned planes,

and they kill
a lot of terrorists.

Their slogan should really be

"Appealingly cheap
and incredibly deadly,"

but, unfortunately, that's
already been taken by Hardee's.

And they're not just popular
with the White House.

Surveys consistently show,
a majority of Americans

approve of our use
of drone strikes

to fight extremists abroad.

In fact, we're
so comfortable with them,

nobody blinked an eye when
the president said this.

The Jonas Brothers are here.

They're out there somewhere.

Sasha and Malia are huge fans,

but, boys, don't get any ideas.

I have two words for you--

predator drones.

You will never see it coming.

"Ha ha ha!

"You'll lie there, your aortas
riddled with shrapnel

"fired from the sky, gurgling
your last blood-soaked breath.

"It's funny
'cause it's possible.

I could do that.
That's something I could do."

But while our drone program
is widely accepted,

we really know
relatively little about it.

We spent a lot of time
this week trying to find

some concrete answers
to basic questions,

and it's surprisingly difficult.

For instance, how do we decide
when to use a drone strike?

Now, on the surface,

the Obama administration's
answer seems straightforward.

We only take these kinds
of actions

when there's an imminent threat,
when capture is not feasible,

and when we are confident
that we're doing so in a way

that's consistent with federal
and international law.

OK. That sounds reassuring
until you look closer at it

because our rules
for drone strikes

are a little like
Harvey Keitel's balls.

We've all seen them
in "The Piano,"

"Bad Lieutenant,"
or on Snapchat,

and from a distance, you think,

"Well, I understand
the contours of those,"

but if you were
to really examine them,

you'd discover that they're
actually lost

in a haze of fuzziness
and gray areas,

much like the rules
for our drone strikes.

As Eric Holder just said,
drone strikes are justified

if you can show
an "imminent threat."

Now, that sounds clear.

There's not much
of a linguistic loophole there

unless you make one.

MALE REPORTER: NBC News
has obtained this confidential,

16-page Justice Department memo.

It says, an "imminent threat...
does not require

"the United States
to have clear evidence

"that a specific attack
on U.S. persons and interests

will take place
in the immediate future."

But an imminent threat
does have to take place

in the immediate future
because that's what

the fucking word
"imminent" means.

When someone says, "I'm going
to have a baby imminently,"

It doesn't mean,
"I may or may not have a baby

at some point in the future."

It means,
"Get your fucking car keys.

My water just broke."

And it turns out, "imminent"
isn't the only word

with a surprisingly
fluid definition

when it comes to drone strikes.

What defines a civilian when
it comes to civilian casualties

has also, allegedly,
been open to interpretation.

There's also been some dispute

over the way
civilian casualties are counted.

The CIA often counts
able-bodied males,

military-age males
who are killed in strikes

as militants unless they have
concrete evidence

to sort of prove them innocent.

Hold on.

If it's assumed
you're with the terrorists

if you're in the same vicinity
and around the same age as them,

then by that standard,
as a British man in my 30s,

whenever I go home to London,
I'm a member of Coldplay,

and that's offensive to me.

That's offensive.

I've not been in that band
for years.

We consciously uncoupled
a long time ago.

But perhaps the most incredible thing about our drone program--

which, again, a majority
of us support--

is not how little we know about
who the government is killing,

but how little they themselves
seem to know.

MALE REPORTER: NBC News has
examined classified documents

detailing 114 drone strikes.

They also reveal what
U.S. officials don't know,

like how many killed--
between 7 and 10 in one strike,

20 to 22 in another.

It suggests U.S. officials
don't always know

exactly how many
or who they're killing.

That is a little disturbing
because the question

how many people have you
killed in drone strikes

is not one of those questions
where it's OK to say,

"I don't know."

It's not like asking someone,

"Who was the voice
of Disney's Aladdin?"

or, "What are Skittles
made from?"

It's different.

It's different than that,
and the crazy thing is,

it has literally always
been like this.

The very first CIA drone strike
back in 2002 killed 3 men,

reportedly because they thought
one of them

"might have been Bin Laden in part"--and this is true--

"due to his height,"
and under that rationale,

it's kind of remarkable that
we didn't take out Jeff Goldblum

at some point over the years.

Now, reports later indicated
the victim was actually

an innocent man who was
collecting scrap metal,

and look how the Pentagon
immediately set the template

for every discussion we've had
about drone strikes since.

MALE REPORTER: You said
you don't know who

was killed
in this attack,

whether it's civilians,
Taliban, or--

I'm sorry.

We don't know
exactly who it was.

We don't know
the identities

of the individuals
involved.

But you're convinced
they're Taliban?

We're convinced
that--

We're convinced it was
an appropriate target

based on the observation,
based on the information

that it was
an appropriate target.

We do not know yet
exactly who it was.

It's never a good idea
to make a major decision

about someone when you can't
even say exactly who they are.

"Hey, guys,
I got married last night."

"Oh, really? Who is he?"

"I don't know exactly
at this time,

"but I'm convinced
he's an appropriate husband

based on his height."

And yet we have consistently
let the government

get away with answers like that
because drone strikes

are one of those things
that it's really convenient

not to think about that much,

like the daily life
of a circus elephant

or the fact that Beck
is a Scientologist.

You really don't want people
reminding you

about those kind of things,

but if you happen to live
underneath drones,

not thinking about them
is not an option.

Having drones hovering above you
is bound to mess with your head,

especially because you might not
even be able to see them.

FEMALE REPORTER: Even though
I know there's a predator

directly overhead,
I still can't hear a thing,

and if you look up
to the exact spot

where we're being told the
predator is flying right now,

there's nothing but clouds
and blue sky.

Congratulations, everyone.
We did it.

We managed to make
one of the last remaining

universal symbols
of pleasantness, blue sky,

completely fucking terrifying.

We did it. Whoo!

And look.

While we may not spend much time

thinking about
our drone strikes here,

in countries like Pakistan,
where they actually happen,

they have to deal with them
so much,

there are even weird,
satirical cartoons

featuring an American drone
and his friend

a dengue-fever-carrying
mosquito.

To be fair, that would be
a lot funnier

if you spoke Urdu
and lived in constant fear

of being murdered by a drone.

If you did, that's basically
"Who's On First?"

In fact, drone strikes
are such a routine feature

of life in Pakistan,

this is how news networks
present statistics about them.

Drones have their own
graphics package.

You do not invest in top-quality
graphics like those

unless you know you're gonna get
a lot of use out of them.

It's like Las Vegas local news

having white tiger
mauling graphics.

They're going to get
their money's worth.

But to really understand
the psychological impact

of living underneath drones,
listen to this Yemeni man,

a man who loves America,
addressing Congress last year

only a week after his village
was struck by a drone.

I spent a year living
with an American family

and attended
an American high school.

That was one of the best years
of my life.

The friendships and values
I experienced

and described to the villagers
helped them understand

the America that I know
and that I love.

Now, however,
when they think of America,

they think of the terror
they feel from the drones

that hover over their heads

ready to fire missiles
at any time.

The drone strikes are the face
of America to many Yemenis.

And that kind of makes sense
because think about it this way.

If there were Italian
armed drones

hanging over your head
right now,

it would probably affect the way
you think about Italy.

In word association,
your first answer for "Italy"

would not be "lasagna."

It would be
"specter of imminent death"

or, more likely, "specter
of-a imminent-a death-a"

followed by "lasagna,"

but if you grow up
underneath drones,

it's going to affect
the way you see the world.

Listen to this 13-year-old
Pakistani boy

whose grandmother was killed
in a drone strike.

FEMALE INTERPRETER:
I no longer love blue skies.

In fact, I now prefer
gray skies.

The drones do not fly
when the skies are gray,

and for a short period of time,

the mental tension
and fear eases.

Look. It is completely natural
for us not to want to think

about the consequences
of our drone program,

but when children from
other countries are telling us

that we've made them
fear the sky,

it might be time to ask
some hard questions.

The problem is, after a week
of looking at this,

it seems there are shockingly
few available answers.

In fact, the best summation
we could find of the framework

we use to authorize
and justify drone strikes

is from this former
Defense Department advisor.

Right now, we have
the executive branch

making a claim that it has
the right to kill anyone

anywhere on Earth at any time
for secret reasons

based on secret evidence
in a secret process

undertaken by
unidentified officials.

That frightens me.

Yeah.

It probably does frighten you
because what you just described

sounds fucking terrifying,
and look.

Any counterterrorism effort
will always require

an element of secrecy,
but with our drone program,

not only do we not know
who we've killed.

The legal guidelines
have loopholes large enough

to drive a flying
death robot through,

and after a week spent
trying to comprehend

the rationales, legality,

and broader consequences
of our drone policy,

I'm starting to understand
how this guy feels.

Exactly. And now this.

MALE ANNOUNCER: And now
"Last Week Tonight" asks...

This week--Ayn Rand,
how is she still a thing?

3 decades after her death,
the writer Ayn Rand

is still the subject
of serious debate,

and not just over
how to pronounce her name.

Ann Rand or Ahn Rond

or however the moderns
pronounce it...

Ayn Rand, not Ann Rand...

Ain Rand, Ayn Rand--

JOHN STOSSEL:
I'm told it's Ayn Rand.

MALE ANNOUNCER: Ayn Rand
became famous

for her philosophy
of objectivism,

which is a nice way of saying
being a selfish asshole.

Rand illustrated her beliefs
in novels like "Atlas Shrugged"

and "The Fountainhead,"

stories of rapey heroes complaining

about how no one appreciates
their true genius.

My work done my way.

Nothing else
matters to me.

MALE ANNOUNCER: And if that
reminds you of anyone,

it's probably someone like this.

Until I'm done with
my Lamborghini entrance,

no one is allowed in.

Make sure they know that
because if they

start running it,
I'm gonna start pissing.

What about my entry?

MALE ANNOUNCER: Ayn Rand
has always been popular

with teenagers,
but she's something

you're supposed to grow out of,
like ska music or handjobs.

Curiously, though,
Rand's popularity persists

among a certain type of adult.

BRIAN LAMB: Mark Cuban,

how many times have you
read "Fountainhead"?

3 complete times.

You know, it's funny
because I'll pick it up

when I need motivation,

but then if I read too far,
I get too much motivation,

and I get too jittery,
so I have to put it down.

MALE ANNOUNCER: Yes.

Unbelievably, Mark Cuban's
favorite book

is about
a misunderstood visionary

who blows things up
when he doesn't get his way.

Cuban even named
his 287-foot yacht Fountainhead

because sometimes having a 287-foot yacht

just isn't enough to warn people
you're a douchebag.

And Rand's influence
extends even further.

Ayn Rand, more than anyone else,
did a fantastic job

of explaining
the morality of capitalism.

I am a big fan of Ayn Rand.
I've read all of her novels.

Let me encourage any of you who
have not read "Atlas Shrugged"

to go tomorrow, buy
"Atlas Shrugged," and read it.

MALE ANNOUNCER: However,
Ayn Rand is an unlikely hero

for conservatives because
she was also pro-choice...

and anti-God.

No, no that one, the real God...

and in case that's making you
start to fall for her,

take a listen to her views
on Native Americans.

Why would conservatives hold up
as their idol

someone who says things
like that,

especially when there are
so many other advocates

for selfishness
they could choose,

like Donald Trump...

TRUMP: Part of the beauty of me
is that I'm very rich.

MALE ANNOUNCER: or Drake...

I'm'a worry 'bout me,
give a fuck about you

MALE ANNOUNCER: to basically
anyone on Bravo...

I want to

MALE ANNOUNCER: all of which
is enough to make you wonder,

"Ayn Rand, how is she
still a thing?"

And finally--

Finally tonight, Kansas.

It's a land synonymous with me
Googling "Kansas" 20 minutes ago

to see if it's synonymous with anything.

Turns out, mainly wheat

and tornados
that blow away their wheat.

Anyway, Kansas is in a bit of
trouble these days budgetwise.

The State of Kansas is broke,
extremely broke.

Job growth in Kansas lags
behind the rest of the country.

Moody's has downgraded
the state's credit rating,

and the state supreme court
recently ruled that Kansas

had been unconstitutionally
underfunding its schools.

OK. That's horrible.

Children in Kansas
should not be deprived

of a quality education
because of budget shortfalls.

They should be deprived because
of the strict, unyielding

religious beliefs
of their school boards.

That's the Kansas way.

But luckily--

Luckily, the State of Kansas
may actually have

a little cash coming its way
from an unexpected source.

The State of Kansas
soon going

to start profiting
from porn.

Yes, Kansas porn. Finally.

I've got so many ideas
for the titles--

"Little Fuckhouse
on the Prairie,"

"Cornfields Cornholing,"

"Cream of Wheat,"
or maybe you go

the whole "Wizard of Oz" thing

and "Swallow
the Yellow Dick's Load."

Yes. I'm good at this.
I'm good at this.

Now, just out of interest,

how, exactly, is Kansas
in the porn business?

MALE REPORTER:
Hundreds of adult toys

are sitting in this
Kansas City warehouse.

They are up for auction online.

The owner of a string
of adult stores

in that state
didn't pay his taxes.

He owes the state
about $160,000.

The state said he could still
sell his merchandise

to pay off his debt.

OK. So Kansas is only
in the porn business

because the owner of this chain
of sex toy stores,

the Bang chain,
didn't pay his taxes,

and I've got to say,
even by sex toy store standards,

that is one seedy-looking
establishment,

and also, there are some
incredible bargains

for sale at this auction,

like this Icicles brand
transparent penis,

described as not just "elegant,
upscale, and hand-crafted,"

but also "hand-blown,"
which is, incidentally,

the single classiest euphemism
I can possibly think of

for masturbation.

Or you could also get this pair
of "Fifty Shades of Grey"

"You are mine"
metal handcuffs,

which you are, frankly,
going to need

to resuscitate your love life

after the "Fifty Shades" movie
kills your sex drive.

Jamie Dornan
is not my Christian,

#notmychristian.

Now, in fact--

In fact, if I may address
our viewers in Kansas right now,

there is only one problem
with this auction,

and that is that
the current bids

only total $38,000,
and yet you are owed

over 160,000 in taxes.

So you need to start
thinking about this

like a charity auction
and overpay for things that

you clearly do not really need,
and do not give me the whole,

"But, John, I don't need
a Dr. Laura Berman brand

"remote control panty pleaser.

I already have 3."

That's not the point, Kansas.

You're not
buying it for yourself.

You're buying it
to cover your state's

gigantic projected
budget shortfall.

Bidding is open
until Tuesday night

at this website, Kansas,
and you need to raise

around $160,000, and, crucially,
absolutely no more than that

because any excess will,
unfortunately, go straight back

to the tax-delinquent owner
of the sketchiest

sex toy business on the planet.

So let's do this, Kansas.

I want you to go
and comically overspend

on this Raging Hard-On
18-inch double dong,

and I want you to put this
on your shelf,

and I want you to look at it
every day,

and I want you to feel good
about yourself when you do it

because you inadvertently
just helped fund

K-through-12 education
all across the state,

all across
the state.

In fact, every time someone
comes over to your house,

I want you to take this
off the shelf

and frantically wave it around
and tell them what you did.

Do it, Kansas, because
while your state legislature

has fucked you into this mess,
this is your chance

to go online
and fuck yourselves out of it.

That's our show.
Have a great week.

Join us again next Sunday.
Good night.