August 2, 2017 in 2.686 words

Mitch McConnell Tricked Into Admitting He Just Wants to Cut Taxes for the Rich

Sen. Mitch McConnell will only support tax reform if the richest one percent get a tax cut out of it.

Senate Democrats — or 45 of them, anyway — have published a letter outlining their criteria to support tax reform. One of the criteria is inconsequential: They want to pass the bill through regular legislation rather than budget reconciliation. (That’s kind of meaningless, since the only point of reconciliation right now is to avoid having to get Democratic votes.) The other two demands are substantive: The bill must be revenue neutral, and it must not deliver a net tax cut to the highest-earning one percent.

It would definitely be possible to write a tax reform that meets these requirements. The 1986 Tax Reform Act, which enjoyed bipartisan support and which Ronald Reagan signed, did increase the deficit and it actually increased the tax burden on the rich. (The bill lowered rates but eliminated deductions enjoyed by the wealthy.) Tax scholars at the conservative American Enterprise Institute have ideas for tax reform that would meet these criteria, too, explains James Pethokoukis.

But Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell announced tonight that, because of the letter, he has no intention of working with Democrats, and will instead try to assemble 51 Republican votes for a reconciliation bill.

John Oliver Is Selling “Tactical Assault Wipes” for 1 Million Dollars Apiece

THANKS to HBO and Last Week Tonight for making this program available on YouTube.

John Oliver returned to HBO on Sunday night with a blistering segment about radio host and Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. It wasn’t the first time Oliver talked about Jones, who featured prominently in a segment about Donald Trump’s troubled relationship with the truth back in February. But Jones was a bit player that time around; this time he got the entire show to himself. And from the looks of things, he has no one but himself to blame: After Oliver mentioned him in February, Jones complained on his show that he’d been taken out of context. It wasn’t really clear what context he thought would turn Alex Jones–isms like “What do you think tap water is? It’s a gay bomb, baby!” into anything but deranged conspiracy theories, but Oliver is not one to pass up a challenge, so he went looking for that missing context.

Surprisingly enough, he found it. Although Jones’ main site is, the real action happens over at, where, according to Oliver, you can find an overpriced product for every fear Jones is stoking. Worried tap water will change your sexual orientation? Jones offers water filtration solutions ranging from $14.95 for a replacement filter to $499.95 for a “3-stage under-the-sink water filter system” that offers, according to the website, “99.9% fluoride removal.” Take that, gay tap water!

Here Are the Sickest Burns in the West Virginia ACLU’s Amicus Brief About Bob Murray’s Dumb John Oliver Lawsuit

Coal baron Bob Murray, who Dave Weigel once called “history’s greatest monster” in a Slate headline for laying off 156 people the day after Barack Obama was re-elected and blaming it on the election, was apparently very, very unhappy with how he was treated in a John Oliver segment a few weeks ago. And it’s no wonder: after Murray Energy sent a cease and desist order to Last Week Tonight sputtering about pursuing legal remedies “to the fullest extent of the law, including to the level of the Supreme Court of the United States,” Oliver devoted a large part of the segment to him, going so far as to have a giant squirrel named “Mr. Nutterbutter” tell Murray to “Eat shit, Bob!” As Oliver put it on the show, he didn’t have much choice:

ob Murray, I didn’t really plan for so much of this piece to be about you, but you kind of forced my hand on that one. And I know that you are probably going to sue me, but you know what? I stand by everything I said.

Murray wasn’t bluffing: he filed a defamation suit in West Virginia circuit court against Oliver, HBO, and Time Warner a few days after the show aired, one of many such lawsuits he’s filed against media organizations who criticized him in the past. On Tuesday, Jamie Lynn Crofts of the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia filed an amicus brief in the case that is a truly remarkable piece of legal writing. The fun starts with the section headings, which, in addition to addressing “The Ridiculous Case in Hand,” pick up on a theme and run with it:

  • Anyone Can Legally Say, “Eat Shit, Bob!”
  • Plaintiff’s Motion for a Restraining Order is Ridiculous. Courts Can’t Tell Media Companies How to Report, Bob.
  • All of John Oliver’s Speech Was Protected by the First Amendment. You Can’t Sue People for Being Mean to You, Bob.
  • Plaintiff’s Requested Injunction Is Clearly Unconstitutional. You Can’t Get a Court Order Telling the Press How to Cover Stories, Bob.

The entire document is worth reading—Crofts’ masterful blend of scorn and disbelief should be the default response to silly lawsuits like this one—but here are a few highlights.

A dozen inmates used peanut butter to escape from jail. The last of them has finally been caught.

The last of a dozen inmates who used peanut butter to escape from an Alabama jail has been caught.

Brady Kilpatrick was captured Tuesday in Florida, where he was tracked down by Florida law enforcement and the FBI, according to the Palm Beach Post.

The 24-year-old was the only one of the escapees to make it out of Alabama, according to the Walker County Sheriff’s Office.

On Sunday a dozen inmates escaped from a Walker County jail not by cutting through steel bars, drilling through walls or ripping a toilet from a wall.

Instead, Walker County Sheriff Jim Underwood told reporters, the inmates used peanut butter to make the number on one of the cell doors look like the number on a door leading to the outside of the jail. An inmate then asked an unsuspecting jail guard in the control room to open his cell, saying he needed to get back in.

But unknown to the guard, he had inadvertently unlocked the door that opened to the outside.


6 Perks Of Being Ultra-Rich (That Are Absolutely Insane)

The rich tend to have the best possible lifestyles available. They get the best food, the best houses, even the best helicopters, leaving us with only the second-best helicopters. But it’s still our lives, just a bit fancier, right? They still have to put on their golden pants one leg at a time, don’t they? Wrong. From buying a car to watching movies, how the truly wealthy lead their everyday, boring-ass lives can be so different from ours they might as well be on a different planet.

NSFW Warning: This article features Babylonian levels of decadence. Also, golden boobs.

#6. They Buy Cars Out Of A Giant Vending Machine

If you’re ever standing in front of either a vending machine or a car dealership, you’re probably not having a great day. One of them is a shiny glass cage filled with empty promises and regret, and the other gets your Snickers bar stuck against the window. But if you’re wealthy enough (and also you live in Singapore), combining these two things makes for a fun experience. Behold:

We promise those aren’t Hot Wheels surrounded by really tiny buildings.

That’s the home of Autobahn Motors in Singapore, where you can stand in a building across the street and pick a luxury car from a hollowed-out complex. The process of buying a two-ton automobile from a skyscraper-sized vending machine is fairly simple: You take a closer look at the cars on a tablet computer and punch in which ones you want to order, because let’s face it, nobody gets just one thing out of a vending machine. The car then pops out of its slot and gets delivered down to you through an automated “fishbone” delivery system. Couldn’t be easier, if you’re the type of person that puts as much thought into buying a car as the rest of us do in getting an afternoon snack.

The guy behind this idea, Gary Hong, needed a way to both stand out from other luxury car dealers (because those are all the same, apparently) and make use of limited land offerings in Singapore. So rather than spend a lot of money on a flashy showroom, Autobahn Motors instead went with buying an apartment block and punched out its sides. All this so that when one rich guy asks another rich guy where he got his fancy car, he can casually say, “Oh, you know, a vending machine in Singapore.”

Sorry, Mesopotamians didn’t invent the fidget spinner

For the last month, an interesting photo has been floating around Twitter. It captures a museum piece identified as a “spinning toy with animal heads” from Mesopotamia’s Isin-Larsa Period, produced sometime between 2000 and 1800 BCE. And with its tripartite shape and hole in the center, it looks a whole lot like a modern fidget spinner.

The comparison has been irresistible. Yesterday, Wired senior associate editor Arielle Pardes jokingly declared it “proof that there are no original ideas anymore” in a massively popular tweet. Back in June, the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute (home of the “spinning toy”) retweeted someone else making the comparison, and the university quipped that the institute is “always ahead of the curve.” If you were thinking this seemed a little too good to be true, though, you’d be right. In fact, this ancient “fidget spinner” probably isn’t a toy at all.

Oriental Institute Museum chief curator Jean Evans confirmed to The Verge that this item is located in the institute’s Mesopotamian gallery, where it’s described as a baked clay spinning toy. “It does look like a fidget spinner!” agrees Evans. “However, I don’t think either identification is correct.” Today, the museum thinks it’s actually the head of a mace — similar to the weapon piece shown below, which Evans attached for reference.

Facebook didn’t kill its language-building AI because it was too smart—it was actually too dumb

Don’t Say Skynet

I get it.

Humans are weak and fleshy, while machines are big and metal and good at math—it’s easy to think that they’d want to kill us.

Recent headlines and news articles have depicted research from Facebook’s artificial intelligence lab as the sci-fi beginnings of killer AI: one bot is learning to talk to another bot in a secret language so complex that it had to shut down. A BGR headline reads “Facebook engineers panic, pull plug on AI after bots develop their own language,” and Digital Journal claims in its article that “There’s not yet enough evidence to determine whether they present a threat that could enable machines to overrule their operators.” Dozens of similarly misleading articles have been written.

Secret languages sound nefarious—what could they be talking about? What do the computers have to hide? The research causing such concern, which Quartz covered in June, was a study to see whether Facebook could get bots to negotiate. If there were 2 pears, an orange, and an apple, and each bot wanted a specific piece of fruit, could they divvy them up so everyone got what they wanted?

World of leather: how Tom of Finland created a legendary gay aesthetic

His subversive drawings ridiculed authority figures and inspired the look of Freddie Mercury and the Village People. A new film tells the story of Touko Laaksonen’s rise to become Europe’s kinkiest art export.

While sex between men was partially decriminalised 50 years ago in the UK, in Finland it took until 1971. And it wasn’t until very recently that the Finns were relaxed enough about homosexuality to openly acknowledge one of their country’s most famous exports. In 2014, they put his unmistakably erotic artwork on a set of stamps; this year, a biopic became a mainstream hit at the nation’s multiplexes. Almost 100 years after his birth in the town of Kaarina, Tom of Finland had come home.

Tom’s real name was Touko Laaksonen. By day, he was a senior art director at advertising agency McCann Erickson. In his spare time, however, Laaksonen drew his sexual fantasies – bikers and lumberjacks, mounties and policemen going at it hammer and tongs in forests, prisons and parks, the smiles on their faces almost as big as their enormously tumescent penises. Initially published in American gay proto-porn magazines such as Physique Pictorial, they were disseminated worldwide in dime stores, sex shops or leather bars through an international underground of fans, despite laws against the distribution of such explicit material.

Laaksonen’s pictures fuelled both the sexual fantasies and the aesthetic of many gay men. The fetish for police and military uniforms and the leather-clad look – often including a cap, chaps and biker jacket – worn by Freddie Mercury, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and, of course, Glenn Hughes, the leatherman from the Village People, was directly inspired by his work. Initially drawing men in riding breeches and army officers in brown leather bomber jackets, he got into the biker look after seeing Marlon Brando in The Wild One. Thereafter, says Durk Dehner, a Canadian friend of Laaksonen’s and now the custodian of his work, Laaksonen and the nascent gay leather scene would inspire one another. Laaksonen would draw his fantasies and send them to friends. They would get a tailor to replicate the sexiest garments in the pictures, photograph themselves in them, and send the pictures back to the artist. “Then he’d get more ideas – it was evolving,” says Dehner.

Yet, while they were avowedly pornographic, there was a subversion to the images, too. The scenarios, in which macho authority figures abandon themselves without shame to kinky group sex, provided not just arousal but also humour, affirmation and pride for a then frequently despised minority. “In his drawings he’s basically ridiculing the authorities,” says Dome Karukoski, director of the Tom of Finland film. “The cops are beating [gays] in the park and then he’s inviting them for sex.”

My Advice To Anyone Starting A Business Is To Remember That Someday I Will Crush You

Jeff Bezos Founder and CEO

As you might imagine, I often get asked by young entrepreneurs for advice on how to start a business. What many seem to want is some sort of trick, some magic set of tools that will allow them to launch a thriving startup from scratch. Well, there’s no magic involved, but the keys to success are quite simple: Value your customers, hire well, find a market that isn’t being served, and realize that someday I will utterly crush you.

That’s really all there is to it. Execute the basics correctly and you’ll be in great shape when I come along and rip away your dreams with one emotionless pen stroke.

In the early days of your startup, you may have to do a little bit of everything: design, accounting, marketing, legal, even cleaning up the office. That takes hard work, perseverance, and—I can’t emphasize this enough—the understanding that once you’ve succeeded, I will begin systematically choking off your revenue streams. It’s all part of the process, as integral as drafting your business plan, scaling up your company, and coming to terms with the fact that I will ultimately force you to take out a second mortgage just to make payroll.

Beyond that, you need to be willing to pivot. Too many times I’ve seen startups get mired in ideas that were clearly unfeasible from the get-go. And even if your core business is sound, you may need to reboot your product several times before you create something so truly innovative that I move into the market myself and proceed to undercut you at every turn, putting such enormous strain on you and your partners that your organization descends into bitter infighting.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: This is from The Onion, America’s Finest News Source.

Ed. More tomorrow? Possibly. Maybe. Not?