On Last Week Tonight last night, John Oliver not only blasted the debt buying industry but ended up starting a company, bought $15 million worth of medical debt from Texas, and forgave it.
Update: I forgot to add, Occupy Wall Street did a similar thing back in 2012.
OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it - traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)
Update: It’s disappointing that Last Week Tonight did not acknowledge the work and assistance of the Debt Collective and their Rolling Jubilee.
At the last minute Wilson told us LWT did not want to associate themselves with the work of the Rolling Jubilee due to its roots in Occupy Wall Street. Instead John Oliver framed the debt buy as his idea: a giveaway to compete with Oprah. The lead researcher who worked on this segment invoked the cover of journalism to justify distancing themselves from our project.
On Last Week Tonight last night, John Oliver took the media’s often shoddy coverage of science to task. Like cherry picking the results of single studies that “prove” that chocolate prevents cancer and that sort of thing.
As a somewhat reluctant member of “the media”, I’ve been guilty of this sort of behavior to varying degrees in the past. In the last few years, I’ve been working to improve on this count — by reading studies, declining to post stuff that doesn’t make the grade, reading what other trusted media sources are saying, using softer language like “could” or “may” instead of “does”, distinguishing between correlation and causation — but I still make mistakes.
At a certain point though, you have to rely on the scientific literacy of your readers. I can’t explain the scientific process to everyone every single time. At some point, I need to assume we’re all taking the results of studies with a similarly sized grain of salt.
In the end, I love science and I want you to love it too. That’s why I often write about it, about the history of how we came to know what we know, about the limits of our knowledge, and, especially, about efforts to push beyond the boundaries of the known. There’s always the temptation to gussy science up, to fit the facts to my world view. But deep down, I know that’s unnecessary — science is awesome all by itself! — and harms the goal of increasing scientific literacy and interest. I’m gonna trying reminding myself of that more in the future.
On Last Week Tonight last night, John Oliver took on the #brand running for President known as Donald Trump. Or, as he would have been known had one of his ancestors not changed his last name, Donald Drumpf. If you’d like to play along at home, you can install the Drumpfinator Chrome extension, which will replace any mentions of “Trump” on the web with “Drumpf”.
On the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver argues against many US states’ anti-abortion laws. This was super funny and also made me really angry.
This week on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver rails against the penny. This seems like such an obvious thing, that we should stop using pennies, but I bet if the government ever moved to ban pennies, it would set off a firestorm of protest.
Last night on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took on the topic of government surveillance and traveled to Moscow to interview Edward Snowden. After some softball questions — “Do you miss Hot Pockets?” — Oliver presses Snowden on his personal responsibility with regard to the information he revealed.
John Oliver says April Fools’ Day is terrible and we shouldn’t take part in it.
Pranks are terrible. Anyone who claims to be excited for April Fools’ Day is probably a sociopath. Because what they are really saying is, “I cannot wait to hurt the people close to me”.
On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver takes down the lottery.
$68 billion. That’s more than Americans spent last year on movie tickets, music, porn, the NFL, major league baseball, and video games combined.
The lottery is a defacto tax on poor people. Despicable. Horrible. But fun!
Update: More from The Atlantic, Lotteries: America’s $70 Billion Shame.
The researchers made another damning discovery: Local lottery ticket sales rise with poverty, but movie ticket sales do not. In other words, lotto games are not merely another form of cheap entertainment. They are also a prayer against poverty. This fits what the researchers call the “desperation hypothesis”: States are making their most hopeless citizens addicted to gambling to pay for government services.