Reactions | Gradient - Part 3

Taxes, sex tapes and 3am tweets: Donald Trump’s week from hell


Have you ever had a week where nothing seemed to go your way? Health problems, car breakdowns and job stresses all piled on at the same time, making you want to shake your fists to the sky and demand answers from whatever cruel deity awaits us there?

Of course, given the benefit of time, you might come to realize that fate was not entirely to blame your all your bad luck. A little more foresight, responsibility and positive action could have staved off the worst of what befell you. You stop blaming others and start using your misfortune as an instructive moment for your own betterment. That’s the best possible outcome to bad weeks.

And then there’s Donald Trump, who objectively just had one of the all-time worst weeks in political campaign history, and if he is using it as any sort of means towards self improvement, he has yet to tell us about it. There was Saturday night’s bombshell about Trump’s tax returns, of course, but that’s really just the last swirl of the toilet bowl flush. We’ll get to it but, first, let’s go over it all, play-by-play.

Things kicked off with the first presidential debate, a debate Trump lost by every measure exempt Trump’s own gut feeling. Legitimate polls said the public felt Trump lost by as many as 30, 40 or even 50 points. Trump was able to dig up a poll from the Drudge Report that had him in the lead, prompting eye rolls from all involved.

But that wasn’t the worst fallout from the debate. The worst fallout was Hillary Clinton’s story about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado or, as Trump liked to call her, “Miss Piggy” or “Miss Housekeeping.” Instead of disavowing or apologizing, Trump dug his heels in, defending his right to mock her for gaining weight.

That was the sole purpose of his campaign for a few days and, more notably, a few nights: on 3am Friday morning, Trump told his millions of Twitter followers to “check out” her (non-existent) sex tape. This would be the first time a presidential nominee recommended that America look up a sex tape, fictional or otherwise.

A slightly more real sex tape exists in the guise of a 2000 softcore Playboy movie called Video Centerfold; a movie featuring Donald Trump in a supporting role (no, not that kind of supporting role). Buzzfeed must have just been sitting on this scoop for a rainy day. Around this time, former employees of Trump’s golf courses said Trump wanted to fire women who weren’t pretty enough for his tastes.

Another unfortunate fallout from the debate itself? Trump’s bighearted claim that he was too nice to attack Clinton for her husband’s affairs, something he and his team have spent the rest of the week doing, when they’re not reminding people about how magnanimous Trump was for not doing so. That culminated in a Friday chat with the New York Times, in which Trump attempted to smear Clinton for her husband’s affairs while denying that he has ever had any. He has had at least two. He attempted to coerce his second (confirmed) mistress to pose nude for Playboy.

We could spend a lot of time on everything that went wrong at the debate. He blamed a faulty microphone for his performance. He was caught in his longstanding lie about opposing the Iraq War. His impish interrupting “Wrong!” bleats were rife for SNL’s parody, and Alec Baldwin took to it with glee.

(We’re getting to the taxes, promise.)

All this prompted lengthy editorial takedowns from Wall Street Journal and USA Today, two papers not known for weighing in on presidential elections. They published damning editorials on Trump, with USA Today calling him “unfit for the presidency” and the WSJ’s right-leaning Dorothy Rabinowitz calling Trump the potential “most unstable, unfit president in American history.” The Arizona Republic weighed in as well, endorsing a Democrat for the first time since 1890.

Newsweek reported that Trump illegally violated the embargo on Cuba, something Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway didn’t even bother trying to deny on The View. The Washington Post found that the Trump Foundation is not certified to solicit money. If New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman decides to push the issue, the Trump Foundation could be forced to return donations (one bright spot for Trump this week: he hasn’t given any money to his Foundation, so this wouldn’t affect his bottom line).

Trump’s response to this was to suggest that Google is involved in a plot to suppress negative news about Clinton. “A new post-debate poll, the Google poll, has us leading Hillary Clinton by two points nationwide,” Trump said (according to the Washington Post), “and that’s despite the fact that Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton. How about that.” He also called on President Barack Obama to not to pardon “Hillary Clinton and her co-conspirators for their many crimes against our country and against society itself.” Clinton has, of course, not been charged with any crime against society itself or otherwise.

None of this mattered to former Ku Klux Klan Dragon David Duke, who called Trump “our candidate.”

And that takes us to Saturday night, when Susanna Craig at The New York Times landed one of the great political scoops of this election and most others: Trump’s 1995 tax records. This represents something of a holy grail for journalists, who’ve been dying to know what exactly has Trump so squeamish about his taxes that he’s willing to break with the decades-old tradition of releasing his taxes before the election. As it turns out, Trump was right to be nervous.

The tax records show Trump took a $916 million dollar loss in 1995 that could have allowed him to dodge paying taxes for 18 years. Trump has neither confirmed nor denied the records. His campaign released a statement saying that “Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for President and he is the only one that knows how to fix it,” which sort of like a bank robber wanting to be CEO of the bank because he’s proved he knows how to break into one.

At last Monday’s debate, Trump responded to accusations that he may not have paid taxes by saying “that makes me smart.” Setting aside the fact that this makes the rest of us who do pay taxes chumps, it takes a serious logistical leap to get from “I lost nearly a billion dollars” to “that makes me smart.” Trump is not a politician. His only claim to being qualified for the presidency is his business acumen, which now inspires as much confidence as “From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan.”

That was the week’s climax, but it’s long, slow denouement actually took place in Pennsylvania, where Trump went on a lengthy, sad, bizarre tear during a rally, “ignoring his teleprompters and accusing Clinton of not being ‘loyal’ to her husband, imitating her buckling at a memorial service last month, suggesting that she is ‘crazy’ and saying she should be in prison. He urged his mostly white crowd of supporters to go to polling places in ‘certain areas’ on Election Day to ‘watch’ the voters there. He also repeatedly complained about having a ‘bum mic’ at the first presidential debate and wondered if he should have done another season of The Apprentice.”

And so we come to the end of the week, which has honestly been as tough on us as it has been on Trump. It’s been the week from hell, but it’s been a hell of his own making. There is a world in which Trump could have released his own taxes and gotten ahead of the narrative, pitching himself as a sly manipulator of the rules. That’s tougher to do when your taxes are dragged into the daylight kicking and screaming. There’s also a world in which Trump simply apologized for his criticisms of Machado’s weight, deflating the entire story and allowing him to focus on his real message, whatever it is.

So what can we learn from this? That Trump shouldn’t be president, yes, but that’s not new information. Really, let’s take a moment to reflect on our own bad weeks, and our own role in them. Because no matter how bad your week actually is, it can always be made just a little bit better by simple virtue of the fact that you’ll handle it better than Donald Trump.

New Pod Flow: In Case You Missed It, Episode 036


This week sees the return of fall television, along with a new season of SNL. Also, Snapchat is changing things up and Elon Musk is thinking dreamily of getting humanity to Mars.

Subscribe on iTunes and Stitcher.

We’ve done nothing to deserve new music from Bon Iver, Solange and Tycho.


The United States has not had one of its better years, and we don’t deserve to be rewarded for the work we’ve done this year. But sometimes fate intervenes not just with justice, but mercy. This week, we received wonderful new albums from mewling melody enthusiast Bon Iver, Beyoncé’s edgier kid sister Solange, and electro wizards Tycho. We’ve done nothing to deserve any of these, but grace is unmerited.

Here’s the first track from Bon Iver’s twisty, winding third album: 22, a Million. 

Here’s the full album from Solange: A Seat at the Table.

And here’s Epoch from Tycho.

See? We don’t deserve any of it, but we have it anyway. Proof that sometimes, in life, things aren’t as bad as they seem.

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New Pod Flow: Animalators, “John Schlemmer”


On this week’s episode of Animalators, we talked with John Schlemmer. He is a motion lead at Google in Mountain View, California. During the conversation, we talked about team dynamics between animators and developers, how to create the best possible user experiences through animation and the importance of finding the best solution not just the fastest.

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Chicago Tribune endorses…Gary Johnson?


Remember Gary Johnson? Of course you do, man! Gary Johnson! Down with dope? Doesn’t think the government should be involved in climate change? Opposes any form of gun control? Gary Johnson! You may not know who he is, but the Chicago Tribune does! They like him so much they’re endorsing him for President.

With that demand for a principled president paramount, we turn to the candidate we can recommend. One party has two moderate Republicans — veteran governors who successfully led Democratic states — atop its ticket. Libertarians Gary Johnson of New Mexico and running mate William Weld of Massachusetts are agile, practical and, unlike the major-party candidates, experienced at managing governments. They offer an agenda that appeals not only to the Tribune’s principles but to those of the many Americans who say they are socially tolerant but fiscally responsible. “Most people are Libertarian,” Johnson told the Tribune Editorial Board when he and Weld met with us in July. “It’s just that they don’t know it.”

This comes after a very long denouncement of both Donald Trump (“a man not fit to be president of the United States”) and Hillary Clinton (” …by contrast, is undeniably capable of leading the United States …[b]ut for reasons we’ll explain — her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust — we cannot endorse her”).

On the one hand, the Tribune has long leaned conservative, so a refusal to endorse Trump could be seen as sort of commendable if it wasn’t so blazingly obvious that Trump shouldn’t be president. The refusal to endorse Clinton is even less surprising from the Tribune, but the endorsement of Johnson is a little surprising — especially just a day after this.

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Now Newt Gingrich is praising Trump for not attacking Hillary for her husband’s infidelity.


It’s difficult to see what some of these Republicans mean when they say Trump resisted the urge to attack Hillary Clinton for her husband’s infidelity. What’s the line there? That Hillary Clinton is irresponsible for letting her husband cheat on her with Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers and others? That would be a strange line coming from a man on his third wife, but it’s the line Newt Gingrich (also on his third wife) applauds Trump for resisting.

“I’m very proud that at the very end when she attacked and went off on this whole rant about women — and you could see his face…he thought about it, and I’m sure he said to himself, ‘a president of the United States shouldn’t attack somebody personally when their daughter is sitting in the audience,’” Gingrich said on (where else?) the Sean Hannity Radio Show. “And he bit his tongue, and he was a gentleman, and I thought in many ways that was the most important moment of the whole evening. He proved that he had the discipline to remain as a decent guy even when she was disgusting.”

Of course, the probable conservative line of attack here is that Clinton enabled her husband’s infidelity by conspiring to intimidate his mistresses into silence. There are different versions of the story, but there can be little doubt that Hillary Clinton spent the ’90s defending her husband from allegations of sexual misconduct — many of which were later revealed to be true and the most disturbing of which were never proven false. Journalist Michael Isikoff would report that the Clintons spent $100,000 in private investigator fees to find ways to pay accusers off and keep them quiet. These are serious accusations, and it’s true that they damage Clinton’s feminist bonafides.

What’s not true is that neglecting to bring these issues up during a political debate is a mark of moral character and discipline. For one thing, the discussion was about whether or not Clinton has “the look” to be President, a question Clinton used to launch into a discussion of Trump’s garbage pile of sexist remarks and behavior. Accusations about Clinton’s role in her husband’s behavior in the ’90s is only related to this conversation in the sense that many men group anything involving “women” under the same huge umbrella.

For another thing, any attempt by Trump to criticize Hillary Clinton for her husband’s infidelity would be a laughably poor move, as Trump himself is a serial cheater who has bragged about his own infidelity and has his own stack of accusations about how he attempted to keep women quiet. Trump’s decision to not bring this up may have been his smartest move of the debate, since it would be so wildly indefensible (it’s difficult to imagine that the Clinton team hadn’t prepped for this possibility). In any case, it’s certainly not a mark of what a “decent guy” he is.

And finally, let’s be clear about what’s happening here. Everyone from Trump’s son Eric to his frenemy Gingrich to his toy doll Rudy Giuliani are attempting to talk about Bill Clinton’s former scandals by not talking about them. It’s a fairly transparent move by the Trump Camp to put this difficult line of attack into the hands of people who are more capable of talking about it than Trump himself is, and it’s saying something that the best they can come up with are Gingrich and Giuliani, both serial cheaters themselves. When Eric Trump is the most qualified spokesman you’ve got, it’s time to ask some long, hard questions.

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This gorgeous safari video shows just what the iPhone 7’s new camera can do.


Whenever Apple releases a new iPhone (and, by proxy, a new iPhone camera), you can be sure photographer Austin Mann will come up with some crazy way to test it out. Dude loves to take new iPhones for a spin in scenic locales, highlighting what sets the new tech apart from the old ones and shooting some pretty phenomenal video while he’s at it. Just look at the gorillas he captured on film in Rwanda.

Admittedly, taking an iPhone 7 on your next gorilla tracking expedition in Rwanda may not necessarily be in the cards for any of us (although it should be!), but if the new iPhone can handle closeups of a silverback gorilla, it can handle your nail art and pumpkin spice lattes. Check out more of Mann’s work here.

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Some FIFA 17 gamers really don’t enjoy having to use a black player.


It really sucks when a game creator assumes you want to play a character of a specific race right?


No, that’s different. Super Mario Bros. is dependent on the plot’s stirring depiction of working class Italian American identity. How else should a chronic addiction to mushrooms be understood outside of the unyielding mundanity of a blue collar lifestyle? Mario needs to be white, dammit. And so does any player I use in a FIFA soccer game! From Vice News:

This year’s installment of EA Sports’ blockbuster series contains a brand new interactive story mode called “The Journey,” where you play as a young man from London named Alex Hunter as he begins his career in the English Premier League.

When you start the story, you’re given a limited set of choices: you can choose your team, and you can choose your position, but you can’t choose your race. Your character is black.

Some people aren’t happy about that last bit. Even before the game’s release, comments sections of articles about “The Journey” invariably had a few comments complaining about the character’s race. It seems that a lot of people are having trouble identifying with a black protagonist.

The article, which you can and should read, compares the use of black video game avatars in sports games (including last year’s Spike Lee-driven NBA 2K16), and the response, usually from white people. FIFA 17 is in stores now.

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Donald Trump loved hiring women at his golf course — but only the pretty ones.


Real swell of Donald Trump to scout out the finest (pronounced foine) women for his golf club. Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times has the scoop on Trump’s latest discriminatory business practice:

When Trump did visit, the club’s managers went on alert. They scheduled the young, thin, pretty women on staff to work the clubhouse restaurant  — because when Trump saw less-attractive women working at his club, according to court records, he wanted them fired.

“I had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were ‘not pretty enough’ and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women,” Hayley Strozier, who was director of catering at the club until 2008, said in a sworn declaration.

Initially, Trump gave this command “almost every time” he visited, Strozier said. Managers eventually changed employee schedules “so that the most attractive women were scheduled to work when Mr. Trump was scheduled to be at the club,” she said.

No problem with women here!

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Update: A woman won the Punch-a-Shkreli contest!


Pharma-bro exemplar Martin Shkreli understands supply and demand. That’s why when he became CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he jacked up the price of a life-saving drug beyond what many of its users could afford. This time, however, Shkreli is using his place as a societal pariah for the common good, offering his supremely punchable face in an auction. All proceeds go to help the child of a friend that passed away. Did we mention you get to punch him in the face?

Like we said, Shkreli gets supply and demand: There’s only one Shkreli-face and almost fourteen billion fists. Prices are rising:

Can we get Captain America to participate? Maybe a GoFundMe?

UPDATE: Someone won!

We’re rooting for you, Katie!

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