Reactions | Gradient - Part 2

Can you watch all of The O’Reilly Factor’s horrifyingly racist trip to Chinatown?


As I am not a frequent watcher of The O’Reilly Factor, I cannot claim any knowledge of who Jesse Watters is or why he does what he does. As near as I can figure, “Watters’ World” is a regular segment of Bill O’Reilly’s in which a guy who puts me rather in mind of a cross between Ross Gellar and the villain in a Well Ferrell movie just sort of ventures out Anthony Boudain-style for man-on-the-street interviews. I do not know if disgusting and blatant racism is a regular part of Watters’ World, but I can tell you that it is a CENTRAL THEME of this one. Watch it if you must, but I could not finish it.

GOOD GRIEF, WHAT A NIGHTMARE. It is straight up insane that while many American conversations are genuinely evolving towards more nuance around micro-aggressions and racial identity, we are stilling putting up this this sickening, baldfaced, naked racist bullshit in 2016. Not five seconds into the segment, it is clear that Watters (whoever he is) intends to double down on deeply unfunny racist humor. It is also insane that Watters (again, whoever he is) continued to shove his dumb microphone into people’s mouths long after their faces and body language communicated a crystal clear “frick off.”

Unsurprisingly, Fox News is declining to comment.

Mike Pence won the vice-presidential debate battle, but he lost the war.


There were a lot of emotions going into Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate. Donald Trump got killed in the presidential debate and spent the rest of the week pounding nails into his own coffin. Hillary Clinton maintained a slight lead, but battleground states remain well within the realm of contention. Their first matchup focused more on style than substance, with Clinton struggling to explain her shifty tax policies and Trump struggling to not burst into a white hot sphere of pure rage.

There was an unspoken consensus that with Trump out of the picture, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence could sit down and talk about substantive issues in a boring but meaningful way that may actually clarify the ideas of their respective bosses. Their aims were pretty clear. Pence needed to prove that Trump is actually a way more chill dude than he appears. Kaine just needed to hammer home the same point Democrats have been hammering all along: Trump is unfit for the Oval Office.

In a sense, both succeeded, but neither did a very pretty job of it. On style points, it was Pence’s night. With the measured calm he honed during his years as a radio talk show host he blocked most of Kaine’s shots with stern, simple language (when he bothered to speak at all; keep an eye out for his now famous headshake on this week’s SNL). He took a terrific volley of attacks and never until the very end seemed in the least bit rattled. You could have put an ice cube on his head, and it wouldn’t have melted.

By contrast, Kaine broke from his congenial dad mold for a testier, feistier spirit that didn’t play well on camera. He interrupted throughout the evening, talked over the moderator and resorted to too many canned lines. He was irritated by Pence’s refusal to engage on any of his attacks, and it showed.

But that last point may also end up being in Kaine’s favor in the longterm. Vice-presidential debates are not really a debate about who would be the better vice-president, they’re a debate about which vice-president can make the better case for their respective boss. On that front, Pence hardly even tried. His response to Kaine’s play-by-play of Trump’s most miserable moments was to mournfully shake his head, when he wasn’t outright denying things that are well-known facts. Trump has praised Vladimir Putin. Pence did say Putin was a “stronger leader” than President Obama. Trump did propose a “deportation force.” Trump did say women who get abortions should be punished. Trump did say more countries should have nuclear weapons. Trump did call for a shutdown in accepting immigrants from “Muslim” countries. These are all public statements, and the Clinton campaign took to fact checking Pence’s words with glee.

That’s a pretty damning ad, and there’s a safe bet that more people will watch it than will watch a vice-presidential debate.

And a few times, Pence didn’t even try to defend Trump. On the subject of foreign policy, Pence out-and-out broke with Trump’s words, outlining an excellent plan for dealing with Russia and Syria. The problem is, as former Jeb Bush communications director Tim Miller pointed out, his plan was closer to Clinton’s than Trump’s.

All told, it was an incredible performance. The Republican Party has tried everything they can think of to deal with Donald Trump. They tried to sabotage him, so that Marco Rubio could claim the nomination. They tried to force him into a friendlier mold, a strategy that backfired in the days leading up to the RNC. His circle of confidantes now seem content to just let Trump be Trump, while Republican leadership still insists that he is improving day by day.

Pence’s tactic was simply to disassociate from reality altogether, talking and acting as if Scott Walker was at the top of the ticket. It’s admittedly a better strategy than attempting to defend Trump — that is something a man like Pence who regularly claims to be “A Christian, an American and a Republican, in that order” simply cannot do.

But it’s not ultimately a winning strategy, as the morning chatter demonstrates. Pence sacrificed the facts to win the battle and win the battle he did. Kaine was flummoxed and incredulous when he stammered, “six times tonight I have said to Governor Pence, I cannot defend how you would defend your running mate’s position. And in all six cases, he has refused to defend. And yet, he is asking everybody to vote for somebody he cannot defend.” His exasperation was clear, and it lost him style points, but he was correct. And that may well win the war.

As an interesting aside, there are reports that Trump is furious at Pence for refusing to defend him. One anonymous Trump advisor said that Pence “won the debate overall, but lost with Trump.” Another source said, “I’ve never seen him so pissed off,” and reported that Trump fumed, “Melania was right” (Melania Trump reportedly urged her husband to go with Newt Gingrich or Chris Christie over Pence). If there is any truth to this, Pence’s win may even be more short-lived than it already looks.

Maria Sharapova’s doping suspension reduced from two years to 15 months.


Tennis star Maria Sharapova successfully appealed her two-year suspension from the International Tennis Federation. Under the original ruling, Sharapova would be banned from tennis play until January of 2018, but the appeal lessens the penalty by nine months.

She received the suspension after testing positive for meldonium, a banned substance used to treat heart medications. Sharapova argued that the suspension was far too punitive for what she claims was an unintentional violation of ITF rules. The ITF initially rejected that reasoning, arguing that she went out of her way to conceal her meldonium usage:

The tribunal finds it hard to credit that no medical practitioner whom she consulted over a period of 3 years, with the exception of Dr. Yasnitsky, would, in accordance with standard medical practice, have asked her what medications she was taking. In any event Ms Sharapova should have disclosed that she was regularly using Mildronate in case there was a possibility of adversely affecting another treatment prescribed.

That leaves the issue as to why Ms Sharapova was systematically using Mildronate before matches, and in particular at the Australian Open in 2016. In the tribunal’s view the answer is clear. Whatever the position may have been in 2006, there was in 2016 no diagnosis and no therapeutic advice supporting the continuing use of Mildronate. If she had believed that there was a continuing medical need to use Mildronate then she would have consulted a medical practitioner. The manner of its use, on match days and when undertaking intensive training, is only consistent with an intention to boost her energy levels.

Whether the decision made by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was right or wrong — assuming we even have the capacity to judge the murky ethics of performance-enhancing drug usage — Sharapova can get her butt kicked by Serena Williams much earlier than we all realized.

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Joe Biden excoriates Donald Trump for his PTSD comments: “Where in the hell is he from?”


Yesterday, Donald Trump said something terrible about veterans. This is not surprising. Donald Trump says terrible things every day, and this is far from the first horrible things he’s said about veterans. You can’t ask Donald Trump to not say terrible things. Would you ask the sun to stop shining? Trump implied that people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder aren’t “strong” and “can’t handle it.”

That doesn’t mean you can’t be furious at Donald Trump for saying such things and my goodness, Vice President Joe Biden is mad. You can hardly blame him. Biden understands the incredible toll of war on the human psyche better than most, and his deeply felt words in Florida demonstrate the passion he feels for people who went through what his son Beau Biden, who passed away last year, went through.

“We only have one sacred obligation: to care for those we send to war and to care for them and their families when they get home.”

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J. Cole’s Twitter got super duper hacked.


Either J. Cole really had something to say, or he needs to change his Twitter password. (Suggestion: 2xPlat!numN0Featur3z). Whoever figured out his account credentials went on a nonsensical rant, covering everything from Kim Kardashian’s gunpoint robbery to inviting tween YouTube sensations Mattyb and Jacob Sartorius to collab. This is Matty and Jake, respectively:



Cole requesting a collaboration with two kids known for their culturally appropriative styles probably wouldn’t gel with the Fire Squad rapper’s musical values. Besides, double platinum NO FEATURES.

Here are some of the now-deleted tweets.


[Hip Hop DX]

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Ben Affleck has announced the very boring title of his new Batman movie.


One thing almost everyone agreed on in the aftermath of Batman V Superman was that it was bad. Another thing was that for all the unpleasantness of the actual movie, Ben Affleck’s Batman was actually pretty serviceable when he wasn’t spouting brainless dialog. It was no surprise that DC would want to fast track a Batman movie and capitalize on one of the few bright (sort of) spots on their blockbuster bomb, and it was even less a surprise that they’d want Affleck to direct it. The only real question was what they would call it.

It seems we have an answer, or at least an initial one. In an interview with the AP, Affleck said that they’re going to call it The Batman, while noting that he “might change it.”

It should be noted that adding “the” to a title isn’t the worst idea in the world. Fox named their Wolverine sequel The Wolverine, and that turned out pretty well.

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What does Wikileaks have on Hillary Clinton?


Conventional wisdom has it that October is the month of political surprises, and that wisdom has rarely been proven true but, well, in this election, anything is possible. The New York Times already dropped their bombshell on Trump’s taxes (and there may be more to come), but not all is well within Camp Clinton either. Former Trump advisor and lover of political mayhem Roger Stone sent an early morning tweet on Sunday that promised a busy week for the DNC.

Wikileaks head wikileaker Julian Assange has had it out for Hillary Clinton for this entire election, and he’s proven a significant thorn in her side, including his notorious email hack that ended up costing the DNC its head, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. He also floated a ludicrous conspiracy that Clinton’s team had the staffer who “leaked” Clinton’s emails murdered, so there’s definitely a lot of grains of salt to be taken around here. Assange has hinted that he’s not finished with Clinton yet, and if Stone is to be believed, he’s coming in hot with something this week.

Or will he? Assange had a planned announcement from the balcony of London’s Ecuadorian Embassy on Tuesday, and that would presumably be the announcement that brought the Clintons down. Assange has now canceled that announcement citing “security concerns” (uh-huh. Suuure). He’ll be delivering his announcement from the relative safety of Berlin(?) instead.

So, what’s in the announcement? A bizarre clue may come from Wikileaks’ own Twitter account, where it dropped an unsourced screencap alleging Hillary Clinton once asked, “Can’t we just drone this guy?”

If true, this comes across like an irresponsible and tasteless joke, but it wouldn’t be much of an October surprise. Donald Trump says garbage like this on any day ending in “y.” But even so, there’s not much reason to think this is true. The tweet links to True Pundit, a website Snopes has debunked many times in the past, and only cites vague “sources at the State Department.” We all know how seriously the GOP takes “sources.”

So in all likelihood, if Assange and Wikileaks have anything at all, it’ll be bigger than an ugly joke that cannot be proved to have ever even happened. But what is it? That’s what’s probably keeping the DNC awake at night.

And since we’re already deep into conspiracy theory territory, here’s one more little nugget from Politico correspondent Glenn Thrush: Assange has some damning information on the GOP too.

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This music video for Solange’s ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ is just fantastic.


At this point, Solange has more than proven herself as a real artist, one who’d be important to the national cultural conversation even if it wasn’t for her more famous big sister. While Bey has gone for huge, iconic statements, Solange has been content to muse on quieter, more introspective issues. And she’s done it with a slew of very impressive music videos like her new one for “Don’t Touch My Hair,” from her new album A Seat at the Table. It’s an incredible piece of work

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New Pod Flow: Sounds Good With Branden Harvey “The Art of Authenticity”


In 2004, Frank Warren started an art project called PostSecret. He asked strangers to mail their secrets they’d never shared with anyone to his house. The game plan was to put the few postcards he received into an art exhibit… but he just kept receiving more and more. Frank started a lo-fi blog where he shared a handful of secrets once a week. Now, PostSecret is the largest advertisement-free blog in the world and he’s received more than a million postcards from strangers.

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Kim Kardashian’s week has been truly horrifying.


On Saturday, we examined a week in the life of Donald Trump, which was a hell of his own personal making, and explored how sometimes bad luck is really just the culmination of a series of bad decisions and generally being an asshole. For an interesting contrast, let’s look at someone else who endured a truly horrifying week: Kim Kardashian. Unlike Trump, Kim’s week has been awful simply because the world can sometimes be a vampire, particularly to women.

The ground zero for this nightmare is Paris, where Kim’s been spending the week with her mom, Kris Jenner, and her sisters Kourtney Kardashian and Kendall Jenner. It’s Paris Fashion Week, which doesn’t sound like the chillest week to begin with, but it was made significantly worse by the appearance of disgraced celebrity reporter, current celebrity “prankster” and truly awful human being Vitalii Sediuk. Sediuk has failed at every single thing he has ever attempted, so he now gets his jollies off by physically accosting the young and beautiful during red carpet appearances. That this spoonful of scum isn’t in prison is a testament to the grace the global justice system has for privileged white men. On Wednesday, he sneaked onto the red carpet and literally kissed Kim’s famous ass, only to be violently speed tackled by her security — the one good thing to come out of the whole disgusting incident.

Speaking of disgusting, an unpleasant aside to her week was a clip unearthed by Vanity Fair that showed Donald Trump criticizing Kim for (what else?) gaining weight. Vanity Fair incorrectly reported the 2013 quote as if it was breaking news, but it certainly resurrected an old but undoubtedly painful line of celebrity tabloid gossip which was, for many years, obsessed with the Kardashian weight.

That was pretty bad, but it wasn’t as bad as what happened on Sunday. According to the BBC, at least two men dressed as police officers forced their way into the house where Kim was staying, tied her up, gagged her, locked her in the bathroom and made off with anywhere between six and ten million dollars in jewelry.

Fortunately, Kim was not physically harmed and her husband Kanye stopped a show mid-song in New York City, telling the crowd he had a “family emergency.” So, all things considered, this could have been much worse.

It’s easy to hate on Kim. One of the prices of reality television fame is widespread hatred from the same people who made you a star. Another price is notoriety, meaning masked jewel thieves and slimy “pranksters” have you on their radar. All this culminates in an increased likelihood that something bad will happen to you and your family. There’s no word right now on where Kim’s children North and Saint were at the time of the robbery, but the awfulness of the Paris incident is compounded by the two young lives on the periphery.

Look. There are a lot of jokes to be made here, and Twitter wasted no time in getting right to them. Nobody wants to shed tears for the perils of being unimaginably wealthy, and social media is a place for easy and immediate snark. That’s Twitter for you and, of course, there was the almost immediate pushback of people shaming the jokesters because Kim is a wife, a mother, etc.

But even moreso than most wives and mothers, Kim Kardashian is Kim Kardashian — a wholly unique celebrity, one of the half dozen or so most famous people in the world. That comes with a lot of collateral, and Kim does not get the credit she deserves for maintaining such a relatively drama-free life. The slew of reality stars who succumbed to the pressure and either burned out or faded away is a long one, and should prove that what the Kardashians have pulled off is not nearly as easy as it looks. They’ve been richly rewarded for that feat, of course. But as this week shows, it come at a significant cost.

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