John Oliver takes a good look at Third Party candidates.

There’s a handful of folks I’m friends with on FB that have been encouraging people to vote Third Party this year. Mainly they’re promoting either Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party or Jill Stein of the Green party. I have to wonder how much research they’ve put into their choices because even though both candidates have a couple of policy ideas that I could get behind, when you look at what they’re proposing in total you begin to realize that they’re really not a good alternative.

John Oliver on Last Week Tonight decided to do a segment on them to find out what they really stand for:

In all honesty, I would be hard pressed to decide between Trump, Johnson, and Stein for worst possible candidate though just on pure horribleness as a person alone it would probably go to Trump. That said, I don’t think Stein or Johnson would be that much better of a candidate given their lack of knowledge of their own policy proposals and/or how the government actually works.

I’m far from a fan of Hillary Clinton, but she is the single most qualified and probably least dangerous option out of all the available ones this election. Certainly she’s the one I would lose the least amount of sleep over.

John Oliver takes on Televangelists by setting up his own church.

A lot of people assume that, as an atheist, I have a problem with folks believing in God and going to church. The truth is so long as you’re not hurting anyone else or passing laws based solely on what you think your God wants, I generally don’t give a shit if you spend your Sundays dressed in uncomfortable clothes at your local church taking communion or speaking in tongues or whatever other silly rituals your particular belief system engages in. I spend my Sundays doing laundry and playing video games so it’s not like I’m being all that much more productive. Do I think your beliefs are stupid and a waste of time and money? Yes, yes I do, but if it makes you happy and keeps you from climbing a clock tower with a high powered rifle then you go right ahead and keep on believin’.

That said, there’s one part of Christianity that I have a big problem with and that’s the Televangelists. Particularly those who push the concept of Prosperity Theology or, as it’s more commonly known, Prosperity Gospel. To skeptics and many other Christians it’s often referred to as Greed-Based Theology. For those not familiar with this particular variation of Christianity, prepare to have your skin crawl:

If it weren’t for the religious trappings these guys would be referred to as con-artists and would be liable for all manner of legal trouble, both civil and criminal. Yet wrap it all up in the shroud of Jesus and it becomes perfectly legal. The IRS, already hated by most people, won’t even glance in the direction of most of these “churches” for fear of bringing down the wrath of the righteous.

My cynical side tells me that if there are people so stupid that they can’t see this nonsense for the scam it is then they deserve to be fleeced by the wolves in sheep’s clothing, but my better nature gets angry that these, often desperate, people are having their faith taken advantage of. This is also why I have problems with the whole concept of spiritual faith. When you can believe something is true with no actual evidence to support that belief then you’re ripe for plucking by those who would manipulate that faith. It bothers me that those who can least afford it are often the ones who get most sucked into these scams.

Which brings us back to John Oliver who it appears is attempting not so much to shut down these churches as prod the IRS into scrutinizing them more closely. I’m already of the opinion that all churches should be taxed just like the rest of us, but it’d be nice if the IRS at least looked into the ones who are flagrantly abusing their flocks to amass great amounts of wealth. If there aren’t any laws in place to regulate this sort of thing, then perhaps it’s high time we had some.

John Oliver interview with Edward Snowden.

John Oliver has been knocking it out of the park ever since he left The Daily Show to start his own comedy news show on HBO. Last Week Tonight manages to both entertain and inform and, in some ways, is a better show than TDS. Best of all, HBO and Oliver makes full length segments of the show available on YouTube so you don’t have to pay for HBO to see it.

Each week Oliver picks a topic and does a deep dive on it and this week he’s tackling surveillance and Section 215 of the Patriot Act and how we’re not having the debate we should be about the NSA and domestic spying. It’s a great segment, but it’s even better because he managed to score an interview with the man who arguably made it possible to have this debate, Edward Snowden, and he doesn’t pull any punches with his questions:

Once again I have to marvel at how a comedy news program manages to do better journalism than the supposed news channels. It also breaks things down into a context that is not only funny, but which the average person can comprehend.

As Oliver points out, part of the reason we’re not having this debate is because the subject matter is so highly technical and hard to understand for most folks. It’s doesn’t help that too many people barely pay attention to what’s going on around them. Ask them who Taylor Swift is and they can recite lyrics from her latest single, but ask who Edward Snowden is and too many don’t have a clue. These programs need to be seriously revised and given more transparency, but that’s not going to happen so long as we don’t bother to talk about them.

Finally, this gives me a chance to make use of this:

Would've been funnier back when it was still winter, but fuck it.

Would’ve been funnier back when it was still winter, but fuck it.

John Oliver on the ongoing problems in Ferguson, MO and the militarization of police.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news at all over the past week you’re already well aware of the problems in Ferguson where police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown six times resulting in his death. The people of Ferguson rose up in protest and the initial response from police was not handled well and things have gone from bad to worse since then. Events there have brought into focus several issues not the least of which is the long-standing legacy of racism in America, but also a newer problem in regards to the ongoing militarization of America’s police forces.

John Oliver on Last Week Tonight did a segment on both of these issues that is well worth watching:

This whole situation has been poorly handled from the start and it looks only to get worse before it gets better. With any luck, all of this will bring about some much needed changes not just in Ferguson, but across the country.