Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 2, Episode 3 - Judicial Elections - full transcript

John discusses United Kingdom general elections, judicial elections, and the Chinese New Year.

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight !
I'm John Oliver.

Thank you for joining us.
Time for a quick recap of the week.

And we begin in Greece,
a country of, and in, ruins.

Greece nearly went bankrupt,
after years of financial mismanagement.

And the rest of Europe
has had to angrily bail it out.

The terms of those loans
were pretty harsh,

and the new Greek government has
been attempting to renegotiate them.

Greece finally
has the financial lifeline

it desperately needed
to avoid a disaster.

Eurozone negotiators have agreed
to a 4-month extension plan

of the country's $273 billion
bailout program.

Now that sounds pretty good
but in exchange,

Greece did have to admit that mousakka
is just disgusting potato lasagna.

Nobody wants it.

If you're wondering why Europe agreed
to that deal, it's 'cause they had to.

If Greece collapses,

it may take the whole European
single currency down with it.

A lot depends on Greece
at the moment,

so on Friday, their new finance
minister tried to reassure people,

in the greekest possible way.

Sometimes like Ulysses
you need to tie yourself on a mast

in order to get where
you're going and avoid the sirens.

We intend to do this.

That's not that reassuring
for two reasons:

first, everybody in Ulysses' crew
dies in that story,

and Ithaca falls
to absolute shit in his absence.

But secondly:
is that a popped collar ?

Because if you are trying to get
an entire continent to trust you,

it's not a great idea to show up
looking like Pitbull's uncle.

For a guy overseeing an economy
on the edge of Armageddon,

he's pretty laid-back.

He was even cracking jokes
in the press conference.

Enough of this self-congratulation.
This is time for work.

I haven't finished.

Be patient. It's a virtue.

Your country is on the verge
of bankruptcy and you're acting

like a strip-club manager giving
a speech at his retirement party.

Enough of this self-congratulation.

The poles are getting cold ladies,
so get back out there, Bambi.

Look, clearly he's a bit slimy.
Here's the problem though:

the whole world's economy
depends on this guy.

And the more you find out about him,
the scarier that seems.

Not his plan nor his left-wing rhetoric
that's got tongues wagging in Europe.

It's his informal style.

In London he unveiled an edgy look,
more biker than finance minister.

What are you wearing ?

Dress for the economy you want,
not the economy you have !

Because if I can just give you
a quick bit of criticism here,

you look like a 50-year-old
molly dealer at a Greek discotheque.

How are we giving this man billions ?
I wouldn't give him 50 dollars,

because deep down, you know
I would never see that money again.

Because that is the face of a man who
would spend it all on scented lube.

That's a fact.
Let's move on to Ukraine,

where tensions with Russia
remain terrifyingly high.

Although there was a cease-fire
last weekend declared,

it was basically violated
almost as soon as it began.

If you are looking for someone to blame
for that, you don't have to look far.

Ukraine claims 20 Russian tanks,
10 rocket launchers

along with troops and supplies
crossed the border into Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
remarked today,

no one should have the illusion they can
gain military superiority over Russia.

Yes, Putin says Russia
is unconquerable,

like a doorknob after you've
just put on hand lotion.

Just sit down; you're not going
anywhere for at least 2 minutes.

He's not entirely wrong. It's beginning
to seem the international community

is pretty powerless
to do anything regarding Putin.

Which is why what Egypt
did recently was so delightful.

You may've missed that,
Putin was in Cairo on a state visit,

even presenting the Egyptian
president with an AK-47.

Which is a bit condescending. You don't
give a gun as a gift to a world leader.

You give one to a child in Texas
on his 13th birthday.

We all know how it works.
This is where it gets good:

Egypt decided to honor Putin with
a rendition of his national anthem.

Before I show you what happened:

this is Russia's national anthem
as played at his inauguration.

That's a great anthem.
Stirring, bold, powerful.

This is his anthem,
as played for him in Egypt.

Look how angry he is ! And yet he's
just got to stand there and take it !

Watch and learn,
international community.

Because, to most countries like Egypt,
Putin is unconquerable.

But that does not mean

you can't kick the shit out of his
national anthem in front of him.

And finally: the United Kingdom.
It's having an election in May.

Both parties are campaigning hard,
especially for women voters.

The Conservative Party
has been accused of ignoring women,

so the Labour Party
may have a chance to capitalize,

as long as they don't make
any ridiculous mistakes.

Labour Party has been defending
the color it's chosen for a minibus

which is being used in a campaign
to try to attract female voters.

Deputy Labour Leader Harriet Harman
has defended the decision

to use the color on the vehicle,
nicknamed the Barbie bus.

It is a little insulting that you're
trying to appeal to adult women voters

the same way that Mattel
attempts to appeal to 8-year-olds.

And at least Barbie's pink bus
had the good sense to unfold

into a sweet hot tub
and party den combo.

That thing was sick.

Understandably, this bus has been
more than a little controversial,

with many women in Britain
reacting like this.

We're politically minded, we can
read and we can access information.

I think the pink bus
is a bit patronizing.

A bit patronizing ? The only way
it could be more patronizing

is if its wheels were giant Nuvarings
and they refused to let women drive it.

Now for some reason,
instead of apologizing,

the Labour Party has tried
to deny what color the van is,

insisting it was cerise,
or magenta,

or trying to avoid
the question altogether.

And just so we've got it on the record,
what color is this ?


I'll tell you what we've got.
It's like pink, cerise, I don't know.

People will call this color,
it's a version of pink I would say.

I think she may
have just hit rock bottom.

You can see her thinking,
I want to make a difference.

Now I am on television trying to act
like I don't know the color pink.

What happened to my life ?

The Labour Party claimed
this is all part of an effort

to reach out to women
and have a conversation

about the kitchen table,
and around the kitchen table,

rather than having an economy
that reaches the boardroom table.

Women, they want to talk
to you where you are.

Not in a boardroom,
but in a kitchen, or in a Baby Gap

or underneath a giant pile of yarn
and romance novels.

The places you go.

Incredibly, the pink bus
has still not been discontinued.

I'm almost glad that Labour
is not doing damage control.

I'm afraid that, if they did,
it would look like this.

Women of the United Kingdom,
the Labour Party

would like to apologize to you for
our wrong-headed pink van campaign.

We want you to know
that Labour respects you,

which is why this general election
we will focus on the issues

that we know matter to you
and that means - ponies.

Look at the pretty pony. It's a
very pretty pony, isn't it women ?

Like you, Labour
cares about this pony.

We'll brush its pretty pony hair

and before you get offended,
you're right, a pony is not enough.

That's why we dressed the pony up
in a pretty princess outfit.

Princess Pony.

Vote for Labour in May
and if you're very good

we will come to your kitchen and
you can pet the pretty princess pony.

Don't be scared,
she's a nice pony, not a mean pony.

Go on, pet the pony. Do it now !
Pet the pretty princess pony.

Labour cares about women's
issues - all of them.

So when it's time to vote,
remember, you love ponies.

Labour has a pony.

Pony, pony, pony, ponies !
Vote Labour.

Our top story tonight is judges:

wearers of America's
only formal muumuus.

Judges occupy an exalted position
in American life.

As important as they are, we tend
not to think about them very much.

Unless one of them makes news.

A federal court last month lifted
Alabama's ban on same sex marriage

but Roy Moore, the State Supreme
Court's Chief Justice

ordered state judges
to ignore the federal ruling.

Alabama Judge Roy Moore, refused
an order to let gay people marry.

Living up to his state's slogan,

boldly refusing to accept diversity
and the inevitable-since 1819.

But what was his judicial reasoning
for such a decision ?

Gay marriage is an alteration
of the definition of marriage.

The United States Supreme Court
does not have the authority

or the federal courts
do not have the authority

to interpret a word
that disputes Constitution.

Hold on, not only can
the Supreme Court override a state,

that's basically its job.

It's like telling dill it can't ruin
any foodstuff it comes in contact with.

That's what dill does.
Get out of everyone's food dill !

You're filthy weed
you wrecking ball !

You might be thinking,

how did that man get to become the
highest judicial officer in the state ?

Like 85 percent of state judges
in America, he was elected.

39 states hold elections for judges.
US is virtually alone in doing this.

There's only one other country
on earth that does it on this scale.

Guess which ? You're wrong.

It's Bolivia,
a country you think about so little,

you haven't even realize
that's not Bolivia.

This is Bolivia.
Actually that's still not Bolivia.

This is Bolivia. Or is it ?

This game
is never not gonna be fun.

America has been electing judges
since the early 1800s.

And the thing is,
it all began from a good impulse.

Judicial elections
originated as a reform measure

so people were concerned

that you know judges were being
selected behind closed doors.

There wasn't
public accountability.

Okay and public accountability
sounds great !

The problem is, for many judges
nowadays, there's almost none of that.

Most run unopposed.
Last year in L.A. county,

150 out of 151 incumbent
judges ran unopposed.

They could at least
go through the motions

of pretending
there was another candidate.

Just throw a robe on a pelican
and tape a gavel to his wing.

Or I'll tell you what,
you're in L.A. !

Just pretend you're considering
Blake Lively for the job.

Movie studios
do that all the time.

And the problem is, whenever
a judge does face a challenger,

they have to run like a politician.

That's why many states are subjected
to the bizarre spectacle of ads.

Hi, I'm Allen Loughry and I'm
running for our Supreme Court.

It's Loughry as in law and free.
This is my house, come on in.

There's the kitchen,
something smells good.

And my family room,
my wife Kelly Loughry

and our son Justus Loughry.
That's right, Justus Loughry.

Yes sir.

I call my son Justice,
I call my dog, Preamble.

And I call my penis the Gavel.
Vote for me !

And sometimes, campaigns opt
to sell a judge with sheer catchiness.

There's a judge they call Paul Newby.
He's got criminals on the run.

Paul's stares got them running scared
and he'll take them down one by one.

Paul Newby, he's a tough old judge,
respected everywhere.

Paul Newby,
just as tough but fair.

Paul Newby,
criminals best beware.

What just happened ?

Am I supposed to vote for that man, or
root for him to catch them duke boys ?

I know what you're thinking.
Could any commercial be less relevant

to a judge's qualifications
for the job ?

I give you Greg Beard.

Search and rescue in Rapides Parish.
Here's volunteer diver Greg Beard.

We have to know what we're doing,
study, train, trust our team.

We do this
because it helps people.

Greg Beard for Rapides Parish
District Court Judge.

When times are tough,
this dive team stands ready.

Of course, it make sense.
Because when I'm choosing a judge,

the only thing I really care about is
who can hold their breath the longest.

Here's the thing, all three of the men
in those ads won their elections.

They're judges now,
judging people.

And the stupid ads
are actually the least problematic.

What's far more worrisome
is when judges run ads like these.

Without blinking an eye, Judge Kenneth
Ingram sentenced a killer to die.

Michael Oster
is the only candidate for judge

who has put our worst criminals
on death row.

My privilege to sentence you
to life in prison without parole.

Wait, it's your privilege ?
At best, it's your duty.

There are some jobs where that kind of
occupational relish is inappropriate.

At a colonoscopy,
you don't want to hear,

it is my privilege to insert
this camera deep inside your anus.

The problem
with an elected judiciary

is sometimes the right decision
is neither easy nor popular.

Campaigns force judges to look
over their shoulder on every ruling.

While political attack ads
can be aggressive,

judicial attack ads
can be downright horrifying.

I was convicted of stabbing
my victims with a kitchen knife.

Shooting my ex-girlfriend and murdering
her sister in front of our child.

Sexual assault on a mom
and her ten year old daughter,

then I slashed their throats.

Justice Thomas Kilbride sided with
us over law enforcement or victims.

God ! Good luck getting back
into whatever you were watching.

Sheldon and his friends are gonna have
to get into some pretty wacky mishaps

to wipe the memory of that away.

What those evil shadows
are saying sounds awful.

But none of those three men were
actually set free by Judge Kilbride.

But, in each case,
he merely questioned

the legality
of procedural points in their trials.

Which is a judge's job.

But there's no room
in campaigns for nuance.

That's why you don't see
bumper stickers reading:

Justice is complicated, requiring
the sublimation of our baser instincts,

which is the only thing that separates
us from the anarchy of beasts.

The danger though is if ads
like those get inside judges' heads

and make them rule more harshly
to protect themselves in the future.

And the problem is,
that does happen.

Some studies that have suggested
that judges do change their behavior.

In election years, if you look
at judges sentencing decisions,

judges tend to be harder on crime.

That is terrifying. 'Cause you
shouldn't be sitting in a prison going,

"how did you get 15 months
for public urination ?

It was in an election year. Should've
known what I was getting into."

And it's not like appointing judges
is the perfect system.

We can name one that we don't like,
and it's usually Antonin Scalia.

Or... No !

Or in his more palatable form,
a bulldog dressed as Antonin Scalia.

Here's the thing, elections
are inherently compromising.

Because campaigns cost money
that has to come from somewhere.

Which leads
to the horrifying spectacle

of judges hitting up
lawyers for donations.

For attorneys like Jules Olsman, this
is the most expensive time of the year.

Election season is when lawyers
have to dig deepest into their wallets.

That's because every hour or so,

he'll get a call from a judge's
campaign looking for a contribution.

- It's very hard to say no.
- It's impossible !

Judges asking lawyers
to give them campaign money

is the definition
of a conflict of interest.

Giving money to judges
wouldn't be acceptable

in a state fair
squash-growing competition.

Gladys gets first place ?
How much money did she give you ?

I know that knobbly pile of shit is not
the nicest squash you've seen today.

It looks like the jolly
Green Giant's dick fell off,

and everyone here knows
it Gladys !

Sometimes, judges will shake lawyers
down after the election is over.

Democratic appeals court Judge
Jim Sharp

sent a passive-aggressive email
to a Texas attorney

who had donated to his unsuccessful
opponent which said,

"I trust that you will see your way
clear to contribute to my campaign

in an amount reflective
of the $2,000 contribution

you made towards my defeat.
wink emoticon."

The fact
that he's shaking him down

isn't even the part of that email
I find most offensive.

It's the wink emoticon.

We should be glad he stopped
short of going full wink emoji.

Incredibly, judges can even target
potential future defendants,

as a Philadelphia Traffic Court judge
candidate named Willie Singletary did,

at a biker rally.

I'm running for traffic court judge.
And I need some money.

I'm gonna tell you all just like this.
I need some money,

So if you all could give $20. 'Cause
you all gonna need me in traffic court.

Do all judges do this ?

Are there divorce judges
going to Ikeas right now saying:

"I know some of you won't last.
Who's got 50 bucks ? Cough up."

You'll be glad to hear that
that judge is no longer on the bench.

It wasn't for those contributions,
but rather because he allegedly

once showed cell phone pictures
of his genitals to a colleague.

An accusation that yielded
a disciplinary hearing

whose magnificent opinion featured
the phrase "the judicial penis"

and determined he had intentionally
groomed his penis for photography.

Now that's not really relevant
to the story that I'm telling,

but I think you'll agree:
you had to know that.

You deserve to know that.

And look,
it gets one step worse,

judges also frequently benefit
from campaign money

given by businesses
and special interests.

They may claim
that that doesn't affect them,

but studies
have suggested otherwise.

We looked at the Ohio Supreme Court
and asked the question

of how often they vote for contributors
who appear before them.

And the answer was overall,
about 70% of the time

and in the case of one justice,
Terrence O'Donnell 91% of the time.

Justice O'Donnell
says there is no connection there.

But the point is,
he still said, "sure, why not ?"

in response to people who gave him
money 91% of the time.

And the only other person
who does that is Nicholas Cage.

That's the only...
It's been a disaster, Nicholas.

It's been a romp,
but it's been a disaster.

And to be fair,
many judges don't like this system.

Even Ohio Supreme Court Justice
Paul Pfeifer has said,

"I never felt so much like
a hooker down by the bus station

in any race I've ever been in
as I did in a judicial race."

Which explains Pfeifer's
campaign slogan,

"Justice for all.
No kissing on the mouth though.

I have to save something
for the man I fall in love with."

And increasingly,
since citizens united,

PACS and super PACS
are getting involved.

Remember the banjo ad ? The one
you're still humming in your head ?

That was sponsored by a PAC called
the North Carolina Judicial Coalition,

whose funders included businesses
like R.J. Reynolds.

And remember this one ?

I was convicted of stabbing
my victims with a kitchen knife.

Shooting my ex-girlfriend and murdering
her sister in front of our child.

That was sponsored
by something called "Justpac",

whose donors include Koch industries,
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,

and John Deere PAC.

The people who make tractors

also apparently help make judicial
decisions for the people of Illinois.

When you have a system where
judges are serenaded with banjos,

shake down lawyers for money,
compare themselves to prostitutes,

and live in constant fear of tractors,
you have a problem.

Faith in a strong independent judiciary
is essential for a civilized society.

Without it, we're settling disputes
either in thunderdomes,

or via The Purge.

And I still can't work out how
that thing works. Are any rules ?

A time zone to factor
in The Purge ?

Is the east coast purge an hour
before the purge central time ?

In which case, nobody tweet it.
It spoils it for everyone.

If we're going
to keep electing judges,

we may have to alter
our idea of what justice is.

In fact, at the very least,
to be a bit more representative,

we should tweak the blindfolded
lady holding scales

to put a tip jar in her hand, and give
her a winking emoji for a face.

And now, this !

And now CNN weatherman
Chad Myers hates his job,

his life and everyone around him.

- You look cold Chad.
- I am freezing Carol.

They wouldn't let me
go get my storm gear

so I'm standing here
in a suit and this coat.

Had a little strep throat,
a little cold, maybe some influenza...

Chad Myers we've even called him
in here, this is so big, hi Chad.

You never call me in when
there's actually good weather.

Punxsutawney Phil
may have been right for once.

Hey Chad, Happy Thanksgiving.

I grabbed the short drumstick
and here I am.

Good to see both of you.

They send me to New York
and then they work me to death.

At 6,
I did get coal in my stocking.

Smithsonian says it looks like a cross
between a house cat and a teddy bear.

- My wife already wants one.
- No.

- Would you go with your wife ?
- With a marriage counselor.

They go to Florida and they like it,
my parents were down there.

I was in Detroit and they would
laugh at me all the time.

Let's bring in Chad Myers now.

- You're crying !
- No I'm not crying.

- This is a strong storm. Anderson ?
- Alright, Chad Myers, thanks.

Could you wait until I'm done ?

- Over land it's a tornado ?
- You've been paying attention.

And finally, this week
was the Chinese New Year.

Objectively the best new year,

not only because it doesn't
involve Ryan Seacrest,

but because China goes all out.

Across the country people
welcome the year of the sheep

with elabourate light displays,

and even a fireworks-like
performance using molten iron.

Okay that seems immensely unsafe.
Unless they are killing a terminator.

In which case, by all means,
you do what you have to do.

Yes, this week marked the beginning
of the year of the sheep.

Unless it didn't.

The year of the sheep
and the year of the goat ?

The year of the sheep, goat,
depends on where you're from.

The year of the ram, goat, sheep
whatever you want to call it.

Year of the goat or year of the sheep
depending on which translator you ask.

That's actually true.

The problem here is,
in the Chinese language,

the same word "yang"
is used for both sheep and goat.

It can mean any hoofed animal
that eats grass and bleats.

Technically, if she was wearing
high heels and eating a salad,

this could be
the year of Stevie Nicks.

So the centerpiece
of the Chinese festivities

is their annual New Year's gala,
and it is incredible.

The new year's gala
is an old school variety show,

a 5-hour marathon,

heavy on song, dance
and Communist party style patriotism.

It's a cultural phenomenon in China
drawing more viewers

than the Oscars,
Emmys and VMAs combined.

It doesn't stop there.
'Cause you can throw in

the Super Bowl and the Latin Grammys,
and you're still not close.

700 million people tune
in to the gala.

That's one in every ten people
on earth.

And when you see it,
it starts to make sense.

Opening number alone was quite
possibly the happiest song of all time.

Holy shit that kid is amazing.
See, by the way, see Caillou ?

That's what a bald child
is supposed to behave like.

He's outside, he's living his life.
He's having adventures, Caillou.

Grow up !

That was just the beginning.
The gala also featured

contortionists pouring water
with their feet,

a man chugging rice wine and someone
else spinning around on roller skates

with a child on his head
while a giant robot looks on.

And that alone is China
in microcosm right there:

a gigantic machine
looming over its subjects,

forcing them to be more coordinated
than anyone thought was possible.

The Chinese take their New Year
celebrations very seriously.

When the American consulate
in Hong Kong

put together
a video to celebrate it,

I can only assume
it was equally spectacular.

Consul General Hart,
this year you will learn

the Chinese art of "paper-tearing"
from master artist Lee Sing-Man

in Kowloon Walled City Park.

Awesome ! Let's do it !

Where to CG Hart ?

All right, stop right there !
What the fuck was that ?

Let's pray that no one
in mainland China saw that.

Slapping a pair of sunglasses on
a stuffed sheep seems like an insult.

Even I can do better than that.
Watch I'll do it right now.

Happy New Year !

Please enjoy my articulated mouth
and full range of motion !

The least I can do for a nation which
owns over a trillion dollars of debt,

to welcome in the year of me.

Wait, excuse me gentlemen.
The year of whom ?

- This is the year of the goat.
- This is not gonna be good.

- This is the year of the sheep.
- No honey it's the year of the goat.

Guys ! This is just
a cultural misunderstanding.

The Chinese language doesn't make
a distinction between the two of you.

We're completely different !
Okay well goats have beards, see ?

See sheepies, they can't grow beards,
they're like Topher Grace.

Okay, fair enough.

- My cheese has vitamin C !
- So what ?

Who eats the cheese
for the vitamin C ?

Fun fact Johnny, I eat tin cans !

- No, that is an urban legend.
- I've done it !

- You calling me a liar ?
- Yes, bring it ! Eat a can !

I know one way you're different.

Only one of you goes well
with mint jelly.

- Fuck you.
- Let's ram this guy.

No guys, guys stop that !
That's our show.

Join us again next week !
Happy year of the goat sheep !

Good night. Stop it !
Don't bite. No biting !