Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 6, Episode 26 - National Weather Service - full transcript

Predicting the weather correctly is very important as it saves lives and protects resources. Despite their enormous efforts, the National Weather Service (NWS) gets very little credit for ...

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LAST WEEK TONIGHT
WITH JOHN OLIVER

SEASON VI
EPISODE 26

Welcome to Last Week Tonight.

I'm John Oliver.
Thank you for joining us.

Let us dive straight in with the latest
developments in Stupid Watergate II.

A sequel no one wanted,
to a sequel no one wanted.

If Stupid Watergate
was "Blues Brothers 2000,"

this is "Blues Brothers
September the 11th 2001."

It was a very dramatic week,
culminating in this news on Friday.

According to "The New York Times",
Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani

is under federal criminal investigation
over his work in Ukraine.



It's true. Giuliani may be
under federal investigation.

Events have caught up with his face,
which perpetually looks like someone

who just found out
they're under investigation.

This news shouldn't be surprising.

On a list of things that Giuliani
is likely to be under,

"federal investigation" might
even beat out "his own cousin."

The specifics are incredible.
Because the investigation is tied

to two of Giuliani's associates,
arrested on Wednesday.

U.S. nationals Lev Parnas
and Igor Fruman were charged

with illegally funneling foreign
donations to political campaigns,

including $325 000 to
a pro-Trump super PAC.

These two men are just
cartoonishly suspicious.

They look
like they're about to sell you

a rocket launcher
in a Grand Theft Auto game.



If that wasn't suspicious enough,
they were arrested at the airport,

trying to fly out of the country
with one-way tickets.

The indictment against them
has more amazing details.

It alleges that they funneled foreign
money to U.S. political campaigns

and Fruman apparently tried
to evade detection

by misspelling his own name,

making contributions in the name
of Igor "Furman", not "Fruman".

If all you're gonna do
is move your letters around,

how about "Mr. Go Fun Air" ?

It's not only harder to detect, maybe
they won't arrest you at the airport.

"We can't stop him from flying,
he's Mr. Go Fun Air !"

Thanks largely
to their political contributions,

these two gained entry
to Republican inner circles.

Here's a photo one of them posted,

captioned "Power breakfast !"
with Don Jr.,

whose presence alone disqualifies
this meal from being a power breakfast.

At best, it's a "neglected-by-power
since childhood brunch". At best.

Here they are with Trump and
Pence at the White House.

It's gonna be difficult for Giuliani
to distance himself here,

because he had lunch with them
hours before they were arrested

and it is not hard to find evidence
of their relationship online.

This video, from 2018,
shows them laughing it up

with Giuliani
at the Trump Hotel.

See you in Ukraine soon.

Just look at those guys:
laughin', drinkin', ties undone.

They're like the Rat Pack if
the Rat Pack was deeply uncool

and had even more suspected ties
to organized crime.

While there is much more
we need to know here,

it's incredible how much
you can piece together,

just from information
in the public domain.

We know Giuliani wanted
career diplomat Marie Yovanovitch

removed as ambassador
to Ukraine,

he felt she was blocking
his anti-Biden campaign.

Igor and Lev also wanted her gone.
Enter Congressman Pete Sessions.

Igor and Lev donated a bunch
of money to him, and at a meeting,

Parnas told him the ambassador
was disloyal to Trump

and she'd been
bad-mouthing our president.

We know this meeting happened,
not from a whistleblower,

but because Parnas posted these
pictures with Sessions,

captioned, "Hard at work !"

That same day, Sessions wrote
to Mike Pompeo, telling him he had

"evidence from close companions
that Yovanovitch had spoken"

"about her disdain
for the current administration."

Trump removed her,
even bragging about it after the fact.

In the July phone call
with the Ukrainian president

that sparked
this impeachment inquiry,

Trump called Yovanovitch
"bad news",

later saying, she was going
to "go through some things".

That sounds pretty ominous,
although by "go through some things",

he meant: "continue to live
in this Kafka-esque nightmare"

"where Trump
is president of the US",

in which case, all of us are going
through some things now, buddy.

Same.

So these two goons allegedly
used money from foreign sources

to start a whisper campaign to get
a U.S. ambassador removed.

It's amazing they were taken
seriously by anyone,

given the obvious red flags.

The company one of them
paid Giuliani through

was called
"Fraud Guarantee".

The equivalent of owning an
exterminating company

called "Mouse Promise".

Our promise is, there will
not be mice. Mouse Promise.

It's hard to say what will happen
going forward here.

But it's not looking
great for Giuliani,

after the lukewarm endorsement
he got on Friday.

Is Rudy Giuliani
still your personal attorney ?

I haven't spoken to Rudy.
I spoke to him yesterday briefly.

He's a very good attorney
and he has been my attorney.

That is not good, Rudy.

History suggests that sooner or
later, Trump will abandon him.

At which point,
to paraphrase his maybe-client,

Giuliani is probably going to be
"going through some things".

Let's move on to Hong Kong.
The semi-autonomous region of China

that's ostensibly free
but kind of not.

Like Candy Crush, or this plate
of spaghetti unguarded in a field.

It's tempting, but something
doesn't line up here. It's too easy.

For five months, Hong Kong
has experienced

the largest pro-democracy
demonstrations in its history

and China has been clamping down
hard on businesses expressing support.

This week saw another flare-up.

NBA tries to minimize damage
after an international incident.

It all started with this tweet from
Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey:

"Fight for freedom,
stand with Hong Kong."

Fresh backlash from
the regime in Beijing.

China state TV won't broadcast
or stream NBA pre-season games

and two major Chinese retailers

have pulled Houston Rockets
merchandise from their websites.

The Chinese government upended
the NBA's business in that country

over a single
tweet from this guy.

It's absurd to get that angry at Morey
for supporting pro-democracy protests.

How about the fact he traded away

power forward Marquese Chriss
as part of a three-team deal

with the Kings and the Cavaliers ?

Chriss is 6-10
with a 7-foot wingspan,

plays way above the rim
and can mix it up in the post.

He's had his issues on the Suns,
I'm not denying that,

but he's the type that could've
balanced out Westbrook and Harden,

especially when he's coming
off the bench for PJ Tucker.

Your tweet about
Hong Kong was fine.

When it comes to Marquese Chriss,
you fucked up, Daryl.

I'm not even a Rockets fan.

I'm just a fan of competent
mid-season roster moves.

The NBA has put itself
in a tight spot here.

It's been expanding into China,
with a $1.5 billion digital partnership

with a Chinese tech company,
to say nothing of NBA China,

the league's business arm
managing events there,

which is worth
more than $4 billion alone.

They've worked hard to appeal
to the Chinese market,

as you can tell
by this ad produced last year.

Happy New Year.

Happy New Year.

Wishing you luck
in the year of the dog.

Happy Chinese New Year.

My name is Lance Stephenson, I want
to say Happy Chinese New Year.

There's nothing more
cringeworthy than watching someone

forced to engage in promotional
bullshit to appease the whims

of their parent company.

Speaking of parent companies,
that reminds me:

Have you heard
about HBO Max ?

Looking to add another app and monthly
charge to watch things ?

HBO Max has you covered !
It's gonna have all your favorites:

reruns of "The Big Bang Theory",
reruns of "Friends",

reruns
of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air".

You can pay for all of those
through HBO Max !

HBO Max: it's not HBO,
it's just TV !

While Adam Silver, the NBA
commissioner, has stood by Morey,

it has been disappointing to see
others like, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith,

criticizing his tweet for jeopardizing
the league's bottom line.

If you've never heard
Stephen A. Smith talk before,

he tends to be loud, wrong and
take pointlessly dramatic pauses.

You don't just think
about yourself when you act.

That's what boys and girls do.
That's what children do.

Grown ups ! Adults !

People who understand !
What it's like to build something !

To have something !

And to be responsible for people
other than themselves !

They get that you don't
just speak willy-nilly.

Run your mouth.

Without a thought to the consequences
coming down the pike.

If you're not a sports fan and you're
just now seeing Stephen A. Smith,

let me address a few things
quickly: one, I'm sorry.

Two, yes, he's always like that.
And three, no one knows why.

Smith is arguing that casually
turning a blind eye

to human rights violations is okay
if is in your company's interest.

That feels fundamentally wrong.

Especially given that some teams
now seem to be enforcing

Chinese restrictions on speech
here in the U.S.

Sam Wachs and his wife held
"Free Hong Kong" signs

at last night's Sixers game
against a team from China.

When Wachs started yelling:
"Free Hong Kong",

he was escorted away by security.

Those fans were deemed
too outspoken and obnoxious

for professional sports
in Philly.

In Philly ! A city where
fans have booed Santa Claus,

punched police horses and
vomited on an 11-year-old girl.

That is troubling.
Because the NBA,

to its credit
and unlike other leagues,

has accepted that its employees are
people and people have opinions.

What makes this situation
different is money.

The NBA can either
have a commitment to free speech

or they can have guaranteed
access to the Chinese market,

but they cannot have both.

This will not be the last time
they'll be forced to choose.

My fear is they'll be
willing to trade one for the other.

Which would be the worst trade

since Daryl Morey shipped out
Marquese Chriss.

I'm with you on Hong Kong, Daryl,
but that was fucked up.

And now this.

Farewell, Shep Smith. You Were Always
Too Weird For Where You Worked.

Would you look at that ?
It's a total eclipse of the sun !

If I put this here
and my phone here,

I have a total eclipse of the phone.

Are you gonna
watch "True Blood" this weekend ?

- I'm not a "True Blood" fan.
- You are crazy.

Pop-Tarts now has a store
in Times Square. Pop-Tarts.

I say we bring back the porn stores.

Do you think he's aware
he's wearing mom jeans ?

He's wearing mom jeans, Carl.
It's 2012.

- You have a Chapstick fetish !
- Fetish ?

Google the word and then realize
that is not what I have.

Do you watch "True Blood" ?

That was a scene from the HBO
show "True Blood", the best show ever.

- You have DVR ?
- Yeah.

Record the "True Blood."

And now you know the news.

For this Monday, May the 9th,
2011, I'm a silly little catfish.

Moving on. For our main story,
I'd like to talk about the weather.

I mean all of it: The hots.
The wets. The whooshes. The brrrs.

And, of course,
the flashy-flashy boom-booms.

Predicting the weather is
a multibillion-dollar industry

that can affect businesses
and save lives.

There is pressure
on weather forecasters.

Might explain
why they sometimes snap.

I want you guys to say: "Great news.
It's gonna be 60 on Friday."

I thought you said
it was going to snow again.

What do you want me to do ? Lie ?
I'll put 70 everyday next time.

Here's some wind,
here's some temperature,

20s, feels like 19,
or it feels like 70, I don't know.

47, partly cloudy,
southwest breeze 10 to 15.

Here's a 60, I don't know if that's
good enough for you guys.

Get excited. Maybe I'll disappoint you
with the 7 Day here in a few minutes.

I honestly wish all local
news was delivered like that.

A gas station got robbed,
that's not my fucking fault.

Traffic, no delays in getting you home
to your sad lives and your ugly kids.

And in sports: any athlete could fuck
your spouse if they wanted to.

That's the news, suck on this one,
sit on that one.

Maybe you don't get your weather
from local news, maybe you use an app,

like the one that came with your
phone or Dark Sky,

or Weather Underground, or from
The Weather Channel or AccuWeather.

In New York, you might get your
weather from NY 1's Twitter account.

And if you don't,
you absolutely should,

their forecast for the first
of this month was:

"October got off to a warm start
today. Enjoy the month."

"It's the last good one for NYC until
May. The rest are trash".

Which is excellent.

Wherever you get your weather from,
if you live in the U.S.,

your forecast would not exist
without the National Weather Service.

It's a subset of its parent
agency, NOAA,

it's an incredible government service
generating essential information.

But unfortunately,
it may be under serious threat.

Tonight, much like two colleagues
in an elevator:

let's talk about the weather.

Let's start with the fact
the National Weather Service

harvests a huge amount
of data every day.

All the other private weather
services you can possibly think of

are dependent on that data
to make their own predictions.

Here's one meteorologist
pointing exactly that out.

All the forecast warnings
and data available

from the National Weather Service
is there free of charge.

Even though you don't know
our names or see our faces,

those products and services
that you see almost every day

originated from
the National Weather Service.

Yeah
and he's absolutely right.

National Weather Service data
is to a weather forecast

what fresh wolverine meat
is to Hormel Chili.

You can't make one
without the other,

it's the dominant ingredient there.

National Weather Service works
in tandem with organizations

all over the world through
the World Meteorological Organization,

where countries share essential
data on a free and unrestricted basis.

This actually works out
very well for the U.S.,

we receive three times more data
back from our partners than we give.

We've benefited from that
in the past.

In 2012, the U.S. model initially
had Hurricane Sandy

heading out to the ocean,
while the European model showed it

making a sharp left
turn and hitting the East Coast,

which it did.

Because we had that early warning,
countless lives were saved.

Virtually the entire world participates
in a weather observation system

that most people have never heard of

and that private companies
benefit greatly from.

Which is not to say that
companies don't add value here.

When a local news station subscribes
to, say, AccuWeather,

it gets their state-of-the-art
graphics packages.

That's been a big part of their
brand since at least the eighties.

Whatever you need,
AccuWeather has it.

Select from thousands of award-winning
graphics, satellite and radar images,

graphics that are at the cutting edge
of design and accuracy.

Know about the worst weather,

like this nasty Christmas Eve
in Bradford, Pennsylvania,

or this blizzard in Lone Tree,
Wyoming.

Trivia questions can help hold
your audience with tantalizing facts.

When the weather is in the
news, you can be on top of it

with graphics
like this one of Chernobyl.

Fun Chernobyl graphic,
AccuWeather.

Looks like a screenshot from
the world's saddest Nintendo game

where the levels you progress through
are Stages I, II, III, and IV cancer.

And to this day, the private sector

is on the cutting edge
of dressing up weather data.

One of AccuWeather's main
competitors, The Weather Channel,

produces spectacular and pointless
graphics to dramatize severe weather.

The semi might break through the ice.
We start to run into trouble.

You need it to support
the weight of a man.

There can be extensive
power outages. Air-like missile.

Holy shit !
Let's all just be thankful

that those graphics that advanced were
not around during Chernobyl.

Companies don't just
provide graphics.

Some have their own
data-collection systems

and can use them to augment
the Weather Service data

and tailor forecasts
for specific clients.

They could tell a trucking company
what roads will be safest to drive on

ahead of winter storms.

Listen to Joel Myers, founder
and CEO of AccuWeather,

as he provides another
vivid example.

Eddie Vedder was doing
a concert in Chicago.

Live Nation uses our service.
We gave them a warning.

He said: "We heard from AccuWeather,
we need to clear the field."

They did. 20 minutes later
with everybody out of harm's way,

a lightning storm hit
and struck the stage,

where he had been standing.

He is claiming AccuWeather
saved Eddie Vedder's life !

I guess that's what Eddie was talking
about when he famously said:

I'm still alive.

I'm still alive.

Myers makes a good case for the value
of private weather companies.

Making sure Eddie Vedder doesn't
get struck by lightning

is not something the National Weather
Service has the bandwidth to do.

The relationship between
the public and the private sector

is mutually beneficial,
in fact, sometimes,

the Weather Service
buys data from private companies.

But there can be tensions.
The private sector is, by its nature,

inclined to try and grab attention.

AccuWeather rolled out
its "groundbreaking 45-day forecast".

Most experts agree any forecast
beyond seven to 10 days is unreliable

and one even called it "a joke".

It gets worse. The National Weather
Service names tropical storms.

They name them to signal
that they are important.

If a storm gets a name,
like Sandy or Irene,

then you know
you've got to pay attention.

They don't name winter storms,

because winter storms
ebb and flow much more.

Naming them could inflate
their importance or, eventually,

cheapen naming storms altogether.

It bugged the shit
out of the Weather Service

when The Weather Channel
started doing this.

This season The Weather Channel
is naming major winter storms.

The list includes names like:
Athena, Draco and Magnus.

Right, and yes, those names
fucking rule. Obviously.

I'm not disputing that.
Naming them was a bad idea.

Especially if you call one "Janus",
without considering

what would happen if a forecaster
stood in front of one of those letters.

You've got a problem on
your hands, don't you ?

Honey ! The news is saying
anus is getting bigger

and it's gonna be dumping all over
us for the next three days.

A bigger source of friction has been
the private sector's sense

they might be better off if
the National Weather Service did less.

One notable skirmish
came 15 years ago,

after National Weather Service
made its website user-friendly

and Joel Myers' brother Barry Myers,
who was then the company's EVP,

expressed his frustration.

The National Weather Service
decided

to more aggressively share
its data directly with taxpayers.

Not everyone is in favor
of its more accessible website.

We work very hard everyday
competing with other companies.

We also have to compete
with the government.

Hold on. Do you, though ?
Do you have to compete ?

Or is the government what makes
your industry possible ?

Without their data, every AccuWeather
forecast would be: "Fuck if I know."

AccuWeather supported
a bill in Congress

that could've prevented
the Weather Service

from doing anything
a private company does.

Like providing daily forecasts
or putting content on its Web site.

The bill failed, which is good.
Because what you do not want

is a paywalled system of weather,
where only paying customers

can find out if they're about
to drive into a tornado.

I'm not even making up
that worst-case scenario.

It's AccuWeather's sales pitch.
During that interview

where Joel Myers claimed
he'd saved Eddie Vedder's life,

he shared an anecdote,
about a client, a railroad company,

that pays AccuWeather to give reports
about anything affecting its trains.

This is subtle, but see if you can
pick up on a problem here.

Union Pacific, we told them that
a tornado was heading to a spot.

Two trains
stopped two miles apart.

They watched the tornado go between
them. Unfortunately it went into a town

that didn't have our service and
people were killed.

But the railroads
did not lose anything.

The fuck did you just say ?

That is a weird focus on the safety
of a railroad over human life.

That's a man who read
"Anna Karenina" and came away

thinking it's a story about a woman
who mildly inconvenienced a train.

While people did die
in that tornado,

it was an example of
the warning system working well.

Because while, yes, AccuWeather
did inform their client, Union Pacific,

the National Weather Service
also warned the town,

giving residents there
time to seek shelter.

Myers is marketing AccuWeather
as indispensable for public safety,

which, thanks to the current strength
of the National Weather Service, isn't.

Freely shared information has
potentially life-saving value.

At times, his brother
Barry has argued otherwise.

Remember how our partners in Europe
helped us prepare for Sandy ?

Listen to how he described that.

Of special focus during
Superstorm Sandy

was the ECMWF so called
European model which did a better job,

at some points, in the storm track
than U.S. models did.

Relying on other countries
for better weather models

places America in a weak
and subservient position.

Wait. Cooperation makes
America weak and subservient ?

A viewpoint that would
make for a tantalizing bit

of AccuWeather trivia.

"Who lost World War II ?
Britain, for accepting help."

It is crucial that whoever runs
the National Weather Service

is someone who sees the benefits
of international cooperation

and can stand up to the potential
pressures of the private sector

and particularly
Joel and Barry Myers.

At this point, you can
probably guess what's coming.

President Trump nominating
AccuWeather CEO, he's Barry Myers,

to be the undersecretary
of the National Weather Service.

An interesting nomination.

Yes it is !

In fact, you could even say
it's "incredibly predictable".

Everything Trump does is designed
to destroy government from the inside !

The National Weather Service
is a terrible government agency

to put in the hands
of a businessman.

While Myers has stepped down
from AccuWeather,

it is still
very much a family business,

with his son-in-law and wife
being employed there

and his two brothers still serving
as CEO and COO of the company.

During his confirmation hearing,

Myers insisted
that wouldn't be a problem.

I have made it clear to my brothers,
in fact jokingly I explained to them

that we may see each other
at Thanksgiving dinner

and we can talk about football
and family things,

but we cannot talk about NOAA.

Really ? You won't talk
about the thing

that could vastly enrich
the family business at Thanksgiving ?

Conveniently, Thanksgiving is
now exactly 45 days away,

so allow me to make
a 45 Day forecast: bullshit.

It is worth asking here:
why, aside from the obvious,

would Barry Myers
want this job ?

If you think:
"Maybe he's just a weather nerd"

"who wanted to be
at the source of information.",

he is not that.

He told
"The Wall Street Journal":

"I'm not a meteorologist",
and that, as a young man,

"I knew meteorology was
not what I wanted to do."

Not like he's hoping to parlay this job
into a future lobbying gig on K Street.

He's a 76-year old
multi-millionaire.

So, he has no passion
for the subject matter

and his family company is
a direct competitor

to the agency he's been
tapped to run.

There is one more concern
hanging over his nomination.

The Labor Department
investigation into AccuWeather

found multiple
sexual harassment claims

were ignored by executives.

It says women who
complained feared retaliation.

The investigation said
the company had

a "severe and pervasive"
harassment problem.

The company denies the allegations,
they also chose not to fight them.

Myers has been Trump's nominee
for two years now.

He hasn't been in the job,

because the Senate has been
sitting on his confirmation.

Trump's had to re-submit
his nomination twice

and if Myers isn't confirmed
by the end of this year,

he'll have to do it again.

Which, why ?
Why not find another guy ?

Any other guy !
Other than, of course,

the fact that for that to happen,
Trump would have to do stuff,

know stuff, and think workplace
harassment is a bad thing.

None of us should be
holding our breath on that.

Beside, it has been easy
for Trump to stick by Myers,

hardly anyone has been
paying attention to this issue.

But we really should be.
I might know a way to help here.

What better way to illustrate
an abstract threat

than by learning from the company
that since the eighties has perfected

turning dry information into
state-of-the-art entertainment ?

Come with me !
Hi, there.

I would like to issue an important
warning for the DC area:

according to our patented
thousand-day forecast model,

Superstorm Barry is going to harm
the National Weather Service.

It originated over here
at AccuWeather headquarters

and has been gravitating towards
NOAA for nearly two years, now.

If it makes landfall,
there could be significant damage.

I'm talking mass reindeer suicide,
sliding Santa off a roof damage.

Because we do not want
the whole country

to be like Eddie Vedder,
in a position where,

unless we pay AccuWeather,
the next thing you know...

We're not alive !

We're not alive.

Superstorm Barry hitting
National Weather Service could cause

a massive data freeze,
while unfortunately,

over at AccuWeather there's gonna be
around a 95 per cent chance

of him making it rain.

That is our show. We're off next week,
we'll be back the week after that.

Goodnight ! I'm outta here !

LAST WEEK TONIGHT
WITH JOHN OLIVER

END OF EPISODE 26,
SEASON VI