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    Today's Best Deals: Audio-Technica Headphones, Wine Vacuum, Memory Foam, and More

    Your favorite headphones, memory foam mattresses, and a curved 4K Samsung TV lead off today’s best deals.

    Bookmark Kinja Deals and follow us on Twitter to never miss a deal. Commerce Content is independent of Editorial and Advertising, and if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale. Click here to learn more, and don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter.

    Top Deals

    Today's Best Deals: Audio-Technica Headphones, Wine Vacuum, Memory Foam, and More
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    PuraSleep Memory Foam Mattresses, $222-$360

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    Prices range from $222 for a twin (normally $300) to $360 for a California King (normally $490), which is about as cheap as you’ll ever see a foam mattress. The big caveat here is that PuraSleep doesn’t offer a trial period, but reviews are solid, so it might be worth the risk at these prices, at least for a guest room. Just note that like all Gold Box deals, these prices are only available today, or until sold out.

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    BLACK + DECKER Mini 3-Cup Rice Cooker, $14

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    Refurb ASUS ZenWatch, $80

    Want to try out a smart watch without spending a ton of money? The original ASUS ZenWatch was one of the best first generation Android Wear watches, and you can get a refurb today for just $80. If you like it, maybe you’ll upgrade to a newer model in a few months. If you don’t, you aren’t out much money.

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    Homdox Meat Thermometer, $10 with code V3BZZF2V

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    Brita 34 Ounce Filter Bottle, $13

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    Anker PowerLine MicroUSB Cable 5-Pack, $13

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    Suaoki Dual 16W Solar Charger, $30 with code SUAOKI24

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    Oral-B Pro 7000 SmartSeries Toothbrush, $100 after $20 coupon.

    $100 is a very solid price for any top of the line electric toothbrush, and Oral-B’s Pro 7000 SmartSeries add Bluetooth to the mix, just for kicks.

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    Rachio Smart Irrigation Controllers + $50 Amazon Gift Card, $200-$250

    We’ve seen deals on the previous generation of Rachio irrigation controllers in the past, but the new ones include a physical remote and Amazon Echo support, and Amazon will toss in a $50 gift card for free when you buy one today.

    Depending on which model you choose, the controller can manage either eight or 16 different zones in your yard, and automatically adjusts watering schedules based on the weather. If you want to keep tabs on it, its iOS and Android app will show you how much water you’re using (and saving), and allow you to make any adjustments necessary, no matter where you are in the world. All of these smarts mean that the IRO can save you over 50% on your outdoor water use, so it should pay for itself over time. It’s also EPA WaterSense Certified, meaning your local water company might offer you a rebate for purchasing it.

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    Philips Hue Lux Starter Kit, $40

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    The wall-mountable Tap Switch is also on sale for $50 (from $60).

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    KMASHI UV Flashlight, $7 with code 8GKE2HRG

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    Today's Best Deals: Audio-Technica Headphones, Wine Vacuum, Memory Foam, and More
    Overwatch, $49

    You didn’t need to wait long for a discount on Overwatch: It’s down to $49 today on Amazon for all purchasers, or $48 for Prime members.

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    Today's Best Deals: Audio-Technica Headphones, Wine Vacuum, Memory Foam, and More
    SONOS Father’s Day Promotion

    Outside of Black Friday and coupon mistakes, there aren’t a lot of chances to save money on SONOS. Take advantage of this promotion to snag an Amazon gift card with your new speakers. Gift card amounts vary depending on which SONOS products you buy.

    SONOS is easily the best wireless speaker system around, and makes your pick for best sound bar.

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    Corruption Scandal Frees NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton to Make an Ass of Himself in Public
    Image: Getty

    Bill Bratton has a lot on his mind lately.

    After a fatal shooting outside a T.I. concert last night, the NYPD commissioner talked in a radio interview about the “crazy world of these so-called rap artists who are basically thugs that basically celebrate violence they did all their lives.” Yesterday, he described an “epidemic” in the city and across the country of civilians filming arrests in progress, arguing that they “are creating circumstances that are dangerous for the public and dangerous for the police officers,” and could lead to “mob rule.” And on Sunday, he argued that pot legalization is a bad idea because “here in New York City most of the violence we see – violence around drug trafficking – is involving marijuana.”

    Each of these arguments seems designed to encourage fealty to law enforcement at a time when plenty of New Yorkers distrust the cops, and none of them stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. If rappers are thugs because of violence that happened at one concert, what do we call the NYPD cops who got into a bench-clearing brawl with FDNY firefighters at a charity football game just days before, or the chief who is accused in a lawsuit of beating a female officer with whom he was having an affair, or the officers who killed Akai Gurley, Eric Garner, and Ramarley Graham?

    If more New Yorkers are filming the police, it is only in response to the staggering amount of police violence they’ve seen in their city and elsewhere, and the repeated conclusion that officers will not be held accountable for their actions in the justice system, even if the violence is caught clearly on camera, as was the case with Garner. As the commissioner decried these recordings this week, one of his officers was under investigation for punching a seemingly nonviolent civilian in the face and drawing his gun and pointing it at a person filming an arrest. It’s true that these cell phone videos of trigger-happy cops are indicative of an “epidemic,” in the same way that widespread use of penicillin or the MMR vaccination are indicative of epidemics of deadly bacterial infections or the measles. These videos are not the disease, they’re the best medicine we’ve come up with for fighting it.

    http://justice.gawker.com/if-we-want-to-...

    Finally, there is Bratton’s rehashed argument that marijuana leads to violent crime and therefore should remain criminalized. This contention is absurd for the same reason it was absurd the last time he made it: The kind of violence the commissioner is talking about—“violence around drug trafficking,” to use his own words—is a direct consequence of drug prohibition. If we want New Yorkers to stop killing each other over disputes about illicit marijuana sales, we should change the law so that marijuana sales are no longer illicit. There’s no violence around beer trafficking, or cigarette trafficking, or even around the trafficking of an intensely potent hallucinogenic drug like salvia, because beer and cigarettes and salvia are legal. Bratton is making a great argument for legalization and presenting it as an argument for prohibition.

    Even more interesting than these flawed arguments themselves is the fact that Bratton is making them at all. Under Bill de Blasio, the commissioner has walked a fine line between full-throated support for the police and espousal of the mayor’s more reform-minded message, and has risked alienating his own department multiple times by sticking by the mayor’s side. As the city government is dogged by a federal corruption investigation that seems to be widening every day, Bratton is suddenly a gregarious defender of the law enforcement status quo. He no longer seems concerned about offending the mayor’s liberal base, or, for that matter, making completely bogus arguments.

    For de Blasio, Bratton’s newfound voice seems to be an unexpected consequence of the mayor’s own dalliances with shady fundraising and “shadow government” advisors. If Bratton has gone off-script and off the leash, it may be because he knows Bill de Blasio is too unpopular to risk reining him in.


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    How To Survive a Cult (and Release a Documentary About It): Holy Hell

    From 1985 to 2007, Will Allen was part of the Buddhafield—an initially Los Angeles-based “spiritual community” led by one Jaime Gomez aka James Gomez aka Michel Rostand aka Andreas aka Reyji (aka Dirk, the name he used in the porn he shot for Falcon in the ‘70s). Mostly, though, he was referred to as “the Teacher.” The Teacher preached abstinence and transcendence through meditation and other spiritual exercises. His 100+ followers lived together and spent years blissed out on communal joy and engaged by the promise of a state of enlightenment the Teacher referred to as “the knowing.” One former Buddhafield member says that they used to joke that if this was a cult, “at least it was a good cult.”

    It was, of course, until it wasn’t. Allen, who served as the group’s documentarian, has assembled vintage footage of the Buddhafield’s rituals with modern-day interviews in the new documentary Holy Hell. The film explains not just the devastating effects it had on many of its members’ lives, but also what was so attractive about it in the first place. Like any responsible drug movie, Holy Hell illustrates why said drug is worth doing—in this case, the cult members in question were high on meditation and each other.

    Earlier this week, Allen told me that making Holy Hell via the footage he had shot over the course of two decades in the Buddhafield “brought purpose to it and it brought purpose to me.” Additionally, we discussed the concept of brainwashing, his personal relationship with the Teacher (the exact nature of it is not revealed until late in the movie—so spoiler alert), his continued contact with members of the Buddhafield, and what he’s heard from the Teacher (who’s currently leading another group in Hawaii, according to Allen) regarding his movie. Below is an edited and condensed transcript of our conversation.

    Gawker: What do you think about someone who watches this and laughs?

    Will Allen: I love them to laugh. I think we should laugh. Truth is funny, right? We had a great crowd in L.A., at the Cinefamily, and they laughed through the first half hour. They even laughed through some of the nervous parts, the sexual parts. And it’s OK. You need to be able to absorb this without being abused yourself. Some people can laugh at it. That’s OK. I can’t control that.

    What has the process of reliving this (by making it), and then reliving it at Sundance, and now reliving it again upon its official release been like for you?

    The films I made during that time period were just the good stuff—the beauty. When I watched the footage again after all this time, I can remember what I was thinking at the time. Then you go and edit it and you remember what you were thinking when you edit it, and then you remember what you were thinking when you show it. You have all these different triggers to help you recall what you were really feeling even if you weren’t talking about it. Even if you were compartmentalizing it or rationalizing it away, it’s all still there. So that was hard. Hearing my friends go through stuff, I had to listen to it every day, that’s hard.

    Was it therapeutic?

    Yeah... honestly, let’s hope it was. I don’t think I’m out of it yet completely. It’s still happening. There’s stuff happening in Hawaii, there’s stuff happening in Austin. It was 20 years of my life. But then I went back and exposed myself to Teacher again, all of it. That’s re-traumatizing, I think. Hopefully, now I’ll get some distance from it and it won’t be traumatic and I won’t have to relieve it.

    Your story is told mostly through other people. In the section of the movie about sexual abuse, your subjects describe it at length, whereas you only contribute a few sentences in voice over.

    Originally I didn’t want to be in the movie. I always made movies of other people to reflect my experience. I’m not comfortable being on camera. Plus it’s a conflict of interest and [becomes] a “vanity project.” I didn’t want any of that, but as we worked through it, we knew my story was a tying story. I lived with him for 18 years, these other people didn’t. The way I looked at it was like we all have the same kind of arc—the Teacher, the group—and my arc happened earlier in the film. The first five years I considered my arc and then everything changed.

    When it got to the sexual part, we got some feedback, like, “You need to be on camera for that. We need to see you.” I didn’t think I was that important in that realm. I think I captured my feelings through other people better. I’m more comfortable using images and sound to express myself.

    I also interpreted that decision as a reflection of your participation in the group, since you were the official videographer.

    I was a witness.

    Were you actually partaking in the revelry?

    Oh yeah. I would just pick my camera up every once in a while. Interestingly enough, all of the exercises you see us doing, I’d be like, “I don’t want to do this, I’ll get the camera.” I would just get the camera and hide behind it and film everyone. It was like, I’m living it through you, I’m doing it, I’m with you, but I’m also catching it and documenting it. Truth be told, we did not speak to each other about any of these things because they’re all so private between you and the Teacher. He had all of us under that spell and commitment because we all took vows.

    I was reading the IMDb reviews...

    Which are written by people who are [still following the Teacher]. They have like one username. And they know more about the subject matter than anyone who saw the movie.

    ...I did read this one that reflected a mindset that’s maybe indicative of the skepticism you may face when you talk about being an adult in a relationship with another adult against your will. I think you responding to it might be a good way of literalizing this issue: “As far as the guy that claims he was sexually forced, I have a hard time believing that story. For all those years? And don’t give me the ‘brainwashed’ excuse. That’s what people say when they don’t want to be held accountable for their actions.”

    We want to be held accountable. We want to talk about it and tell you what we were thinking and why and try to get the bottom of how. Chris, who uses the word “coerced,” he has people come up all the time like, “How did this happen to you?” We don’t want to throw it all on brainwashing. There’s all these other elements that were involved in our community that made it possible. I almost didn’t want to use the word “brainwashing” [in the movie] because I think that’s a copout, too. One [subject] said it and I liked how she delivered it. It was hard for us to use the word “cult,” too. That seemed like a copout. She was like, “I was in a c-c-cult and I was br-br-brainwashed.” She says it like it’s hard for her even to admit it. I let her say it. But that’s not my easy out. Much more complicated.

    If I were to tell my story, you’d see that I was in love with him. We all were. I was not attracted to him sexually, though. I got so deep into it. He was giving me so much. He was taking care of me. The group was taking care of me. My job was: “Of course.” My persona was yes. He just tricked me in so many different ways, and I hate to say “trick.” They make you feel special: “This is just between you and me.” He’s say, “My teacher did this with us.” You trust this person. It didn’t happen ‘till three and a half years into it and I already trusted him. He hadn’t done anything to hurt me yet, and I didn’t think he would. But I was also of the mentality at the time that he had given me so much and I wanted to give back.

    When he told me, “This is gonna happen,” I remember going, “Why is he asking me to do this?” At least I was gay. Plus, he was having me be abstinent so it was like, “Wow, at least I get to have an orgasm once a week.” He told me not to have sex and then he was like, “Well, now I can help you. We can do it.” I didn’t say no. I couldn’t say no. I didn’t voice my own needs. The paradigm of the group was that you’re surrendering your preferences and going beyond yourself. Those who had stronger personalities and stronger boundaries, maybe these things didn’t happen to them. He knew he couldn’t get in there. I had no boundaries. I didn’t know boundaries until I got out of the group.

    All of this is notable given that you were rejected by your mother for being gay, and then you found yourself in a situation where your sexuality was exploited.

    When I got to the group, because there was such unconditional love energy amongst everybody and they didn’t care if you were gay or straight or anything, it was the first time that I felt like, “I’m not just a gay man. I’m not just defining myself by this confusing sexuality that I’m trying to own.” I was 22. I felt really accepted and loved. That wasn’t the Teacher, though. The Teacher was in charge of us all feeling that, he kind of taught us that, but it was each other. We just loved each other. No one cared. We were talking about bigger things and higher concepts. Sex was just a body function. It wasn’t so big.

    Was there drug use involved at all?

    No.

    The exercises in the documentary are described as having a drug-like effect. Was it actually like taking LSD—I don’t know if you’ve ever done it?

    Yeah, I’ve done LSD. I had done ecstasy because it had just come out [in the mid-‘80s].

    And the feeling was like that?

    Yes! One of the subjects in the film says, “It was addictive.” It was! Love is a drug. When I had done ecstasy before I came into the group, I tapped into this unconditional love. You love everyone—very touchy, very no boundaries, everything’s all warm and loving. When I got into the group, I think the first or second time I came to a meeting, the Teacher said, “Everything we’re looking for in drugs is within you. The drug is just a synthetic thing that’s opening a door that’s already there. That has no value because you become dependent on a drug. What has value is to find that, tap into that organically, and to have that access to it.” I was like, “Yes.”

    So, he was right.

    He was right. We would all start experiencing love—what I call “love,” I’m being general—my connection to it was ecstasy. You become intoxicated from a lot of meditation. There’s also power in groups meditating. The Teacher used to say it was like being near a tuning fork—you know when you put a vibrating tuning fork next to another one that one vibrates too? Because of the energy? We’d get together, we’d have these high experiences. And that was very satisfying.

    Do you have any legal standing to sue the Teacher?

    If I were to go after him legally now, which would be hard because you’d have to have people with him now to tell us this because of the statute of limitations—he’s calling [his services] “healings” now, “spontaneous healings,” which is bullshit. We all know it. I’ve seen him lie about this. He believes that your love for him and your trust in him will suspend your disbelief enough to heal yourself. When I mentioned these spontaneous healings to [Prophet’s Prey author] Sam Brower, he told me they were illegal. Our government takes that very seriously because they try to protect everybody from snake oil-type people promising healing. People go to healers all the time and they don’t get healed. The government likes to think they can step in and protect people from that. That would be something we could get him for if we wanted to. But we’d have to prove it. I’ve been busy making a movie about it. I’m not against it. I’m actually getting angrier as I move forward. This has been a process for me to even get angry [chokes up]. Just because, you know, you don’t want to be a victim.

    What have you heard from him regarding the movie?

    “This is all lies,” of course. I know that he’s stuck on Hawaii because he doesn’t have a passport. He can go anywhere in America but he can’t leave the country without renewing his passport. His passport’s running out, because we got it at the same time and mine is running out in two months. And then I heard from someone that’s with him that he can’t find his passport. That’s a good thing. I know that he’s biding his time, hoping this all goes away. He’s hiding. Everyone’s kind of dispersed. He hasn’t changed any of his routines. He’s still living the life with everyone taking care of him. I thought he would leave right away, but he’s a creature of habit.

    You’re still in touch with the people you were in Buddafield with. You haven’t quite...

    Broken away? We’re still together. It’s like Vietnam. People go to war and they have this bonding experience. You just had to be there. We can’t explain it. I had a partner for two years, and we talked about it for two hours a day. I still couldn’t get it all out. We’re not all connected, though. I might have 60 friends on Facebook from that period. I don’t talk to them. I think they’re all my family. If someone was sick, if something happened to one of them, I would go right away just because I have such a deep connection to them and I want to be there. But I don’t need to spend time with them. There’s maybe three or four or ten that are really close. Not all personalities got along or needed to get along.

    There’s that phrase you guys used to say: “You need to drop your mind.” Do you feel like you’ve picked yours back up?

    Yeah. I still drop it, of course, we all have to. I think making this film has helped me do that. It’s been a process. It wasn’t until the end of it, the last year when I started having support from people, because I was fumbling through the story. I was being honest, but I was editing myself—not wanting to say that or not knowing if I was right. I dropped those opinions so hard I wasn’t sure what I thought anymore. I had to reformulate that. I grew back into owning my thoughts and opinions.

    Holy Hell is in select theaters Friday.


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    Your Gawker Guide to the Glenn Beck-Alex Jones Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Beef
    Illustration: Jim Cooke

    “ALEX JONES: BECK IS A ‘DEMONIC LITTLE GOBLIN’ ‘RUBBING HIS LITTLE POT BELLY ON THE GROUND’ BEFORE ZUCKERBERG,” reads a strange and vivid headline that appeared on Breitbart this week, the latest volley in a war of words between the two most prominent broadcasters of news and opinion for Americans who own a gun and 50 or more bumper stickers.

    Alex Jones, of course, is a syndicated radio host and the proprietor of InfoWars.com, the most visible outpost of the extreme right-wing conspiracy-theorist internet. On any given day, a visit to the InfoWars homepage might turn up posts about mysterious body parts, supposedly sinister military exercises, still-breathing aborted fetuses, the “one world religion” and “one world government,” and increasingly, the apparent greatness of Donald Trump.

    Beck is the exiled Fox News host best known for crying on air and in the pages of GQ magazine. After leaving television in 2011, he too founded TheBlaze, which takes a marginally more mainstream view of the news of the day than Infowars. Beck is the Coldplay to Jones’ Radiohead, taking radical ideas Jones espoused years ago and watering them down for a mass audience. Beck’s moment of mainstream fame has mostly passed, but he’s the only one of the pair ever to host a cable TV show, and TheBlaze commands a much bigger audience than InfoWars, even as it hemorrhages money and staffers.

    The two men have been taking shots at each other for years, but their enmity seems to have intensified during the 2016 presidential election cycle and the rise of Donald Trump, which have thrown even the right-wing’s wackiest elements into chaos. InfoWars published something like a formal endorsement of the candidate, and Trump appeared on the Alex Jones Show in December. The more traditionally conservative Beck endorsed Cruz. Earlier this year, one of Beck’s reporters penned a story about how his boss thinks Jones and his buddy Matt Drudge are total weirdos. Then, on Tuesday of this week, multiple Infowars headlines addressed Beck’s recent meeting with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in near-apocalyptic terms.

    Both men lead cults of personality based on anti-government paranoia, and maybe both fear that the New World Order ain’t big enough for the both of them.

    But wait! How did this all begin? Let’s take a look at a few of the highlights from their years-long rivalry.

    2009: Glenn Beck’s Job

    “It’s Beck’s job to keep us focused on the small stuff while the beast continues its quest to enslave the entire world and turn it into a prison planet based on the very slave plantation Beck criticizes,” reads an InfoWars post from 2009. Two years later, Jones himself spoke about the beef in the 15-minute YouTube rant embedded above. Early on, he lays out the meat of his problem with Beck:

    I have refused to sell out. I’ve been offered big TV deals, and even bigger radio syndication deals, and I’ve said no, because I was openly told I’d have to compromise my information. So I didn’t sell out. So the system just takes an actor, a facsimile of what I am, and puts him forward so that he will compromise the information.

    So here comes Glenn Beck telling you that world government is run by Van Jones and George Soros, when they’re midlevel players at best. It’s disgusting.

    A week after Jones published his video calling Beck out, Rolling Stone got in on the action with a post titled “Glenn Beck’s Shtick? Alex Jones Got There First,” laying out the ways Beck had seemingly appropriated ideas about 9/11 trutherism and the New World Order from Jones.

    Jones has a talent for seeing complex and nefarious machinations behind everyday phenomena, and his views on Beck match this worldview. Perhaps to Alex Jones, Glenn Beck is just one more element in the vast conspiracy against Alex Jones.

    2011: I Don’t Know Her

    As you may recall, it was during an interview with Jones in 2011 that Charlie Sheen’s quickly unspooling mental state was first made visible to the world. A few days after that same Rolling Stone post, Beck made some gay jokes about Jones and Sheen on his radio show. In a masterful “I don’t know her” moment, Beck doesn’t actually mention Jones’ name on-air. He just plays a bunch of clips of him talking to Sheen. But if you listen with your tinfoil hat on, it’s easy to hear this bit as retaliatory.

    2014: Judas Goat

    Let’s skip ahead a few years, to 2014, for no reason other than to feast our eyes upon the glory of the headline on this InfoWars post:

    Your Gawker Guide to the Glenn Beck-Alex Jones Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Beef

    But whatever! Jones is “a guy we don’t talk about very often, because he’s so insignificant, and we don’t really care” Beck says, at the beginning of this 2014 clip from his radio show. For not caring about Jones, Beck sure seems to know a lot about the guy, and he spends the next 10 minutes talking about him in great detail.

    2016: Race to the Bottom

    All this baggage has informed their “coverage” of the 2016 presidential election. Recently, Jones has taken issue with Beck’s meeting with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over alleged anti-conservative bias at the social network, after which Beck said he “believed Facebook is behaving appropriately and is trying to do the right thing.”

    Rather than try to further parse each man’s reasoning for hating the other—beyond Beck’s Cruz endorsement, and Jones’ preference for Trump—let’s tour these InfoWars headlines, all of which were published in the last two months. The below is not an exhaustive list:

    Your Gawker Guide to the Glenn Beck-Alex Jones Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Beef
    Your Gawker Guide to the Glenn Beck-Alex Jones Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Beef
    Your Gawker Guide to the Glenn Beck-Alex Jones Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Beef
    Your Gawker Guide to the Glenn Beck-Alex Jones Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Beef
    Your Gawker Guide to the Glenn Beck-Alex Jones Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Beef
    Your Gawker Guide to the Glenn Beck-Alex Jones Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Beef
    Your Gawker Guide to the Glenn Beck-Alex Jones Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Beef
    Your Gawker Guide to the Glenn Beck-Alex Jones Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Beef
    Your Gawker Guide to the Glenn Beck-Alex Jones Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory Beef

    TheBlaze, in keeping with Beck’s subtler approach to the feud, has run just one spectacularly petty post devoted to Jones this year. In March, a Blaze reporter “reported” the story of how his boss no longer believes The Drudge Report is a credible source of news, because Matt Drudge has been spending too much time with Jones. From TheBlaze:

    According to Beck, who was frustrated by the image, Drudge lost credibility in his mind when he started “hanging out with” conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a supporter of Trump.

    “I don’t know what the hell has happened to Matt Drudge, but it happened a few years ago, when he started hanging out with Alex Jones,” Beck said. “And now he is in this weird conspiratorial Alex Jones kind of place, and now he has taken and started to Photoshop pictures.”

    Beck said that in the past, he used Drudge’s reporting for his radio program, but no longer feels he can trust his popular news aggregation site.

    Your pick for the winner of the great Beck-Jones war will probably depend on which style of battle you prefer: Jones’ all-out blitzkrieg or Beck’s studiously cultivated above-it-all attitude. All I know is I never want them to stop fighting.


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  • 05/26/16--09:02: Yo, Fuck This Commercial
  • Yo, Fuck This Commercial

    Hell naw.


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    This Is Why Billionaire Peter Thiel Wants to End Gawker
    Photo: Getty Images

    Why has Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel spent upwards of $10 million funding third-party lawsuits against Gawker? If you believe his interview with the New York Times, Thiel’s willingness to bankroll litigation brought by Hulk Hogan and other plaintiffs stems from several posts, including a 2007 item about Thiel dating men, that have, in his words, “ruined people’s lives for no reason.” But the record of Thiel’s past comments paints a much more complicated picture of his motivation to end Gawker for good.

    http://gawker.com/right-wing-bil...

    It is true, as Gawker Media CEO Nick Denton wrote in an infamous comment nine years ago, that Thiel was so anxious about Gawker’s coverage of his dating life that he tried everything in his power to have it suppressed: “I got a series of messages relaying the destruction that would rain down on me, and various innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, if a story ever ran.” At the time, the billionaire was a regular reader of Valleywag. “If I’m honest, I check it often, even when it’s somewhat embarrassing to me,” he told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in July 2007.

    Two years later, though, Thiel had apparently come to terms with being in the spotlight. In a May 2009 interview, he called Gawker “purely destructive” and compared its staffers to Islamist terrorists, but acknowledged that the site wasn’t out to get him or treat him harshly. “I don’t feel that I’m being unequally targeted,” he explained. His criticism of Gawker hinged, instead, on the site’s built-in skepticism—bordering on disdain—for the burgeoning technology sector:

    Did you ever imagine that you’d be the subject of conversation on gossip blogs like Valleywag, and how does that effect you, if at all?

    [Laughs.] I’m not sure if I should answer this, but a couple of years ago, there was an article in New York magazine about Gawker Media, and the theme of it was sort of, everybody sucks, and the mindset that was being perpetrated ... it’s disturbing to me that there are people who are so angry out there.

    And, later on: “It’s terrible for the Valley, which is supposed to be about people who are willing to think out loud and be different.” He would repeat this sentiment a few months later, in August 2009, when he met former Gawker editor Ryan Tate at Terroir, a wine bar in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood. “See?” he told Tate. “I’m willing to negotiate with terrorists.” In other words, he viewed Gawker’s coverage not in terms of particular individuals working in the technology sector—he wouldn’t have met with Tate if he did—but as an all-out attack on the idea of Silicon Valley itself.

    http://gawker.com/5231390/facebo...

    Thiel has a very specific sense of how Silicon Valley investors should exert their power. And his vaunted prowess as an investor has not always been borne out by reality. As Gawker has noted over the past decade:

    These stories, which are only a small sample of those Gawker has published about Peter Thiel, largely concern his professional life: Business ventures, political positions, and public statements. But as he noted to the Times, it was concern for his “friends” that Gawker had covered that motivated his secret legal assault: “One of my friends convinced me that if I didn’t do something, nobody would.”

    And it is Thiel’s friends, broadly considered, that Valleywag made a business of holding accountable: The site’s motivating ethos was to report honestly on Silicon Valley’s businesses and personalities, and to trace out the distance between the meritocratic rhetoric and the actual way things work there. As former Valleywag editor Owen Thomas put it to the Times today, “Silicon Valley said it had ideals. All we asked was that it live up to those ideals.”

    It was this persistent, nagging coverage—totally alien to a new billionaire class that had only known access-driven cheerleading from the likes of TechCrunch—that made Gawker and its sites, as Thiel put it, “terrible for the Valley.” Valleywag was creating a counter-narrative to the mythos of the free-market, death-destroying, Randian Übermensch that Thiel and his friends were peddling.

    http://gawker.com/5231390/facebo...

    Silicon Valley’s hostility toward any critical coverage persists to this day. Last night, for example, a developer at Uber complained on Twitter that Gawker was “intentionally disruptive to acquisitions” and seemed designed to provide “fodder for NYC-focused disdain.” The refusal to engage in public relations or access journalism—the refusal to lubricate the flow of venture capital—is usually the mark of an outlet’s credibility. For Thiel and his peers in Silicon Valley, such a refusal amounts to repudiating their way of life.


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    No, That 'Man Enough For Hillary' Ad Featuring a Tattooed Beefcake Is Not Real

    Today, an ad started widely circulating on Twitter, purportedly from the Clinton campaign, featuring a tatted up, gelled, almost harassingly bearded man. “I’m man enough to vote for a woman...” it reads. “Are you?” The Clinton campaign confirms to Jezebel that this is not a real ad. Come on, guys.

    The first person who appears to have tweeted the image is the anime-avatared gentleman above, but the hashtag #ManEnough4Hillary has been circulating for a few weeks, mainly from aggrieved gents who seem to believe that my labia wrap themselves around the voting lever every four years.

    GQ wrote the new fake ad up, pointing out that Tattooed McHairgel Von Looks Like All My Exes is also featured in a Portland bus ad for getting your STD tests. (The author does note his gentle doubts about the ad: “I haven’t seen it connected to an official Clinton social media account, and it does seem like it could be the type of thing put together by another camp to make her look bad.”)

    Yes. It was that. A Clinton spokesperson tells Jezebel, “This is not an ad from the campaign.”

    Great. What fresh teapot tempest shall we turn to next?


    Image via Shutterstock


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    Everything's Working Out Great for the Coal Baron Accused of Coercing His Employees Into Political Donations
    Photo: AP

    Last week, despite what Democratic members of the Federal Election Committee called “compelling” evidence that an investigation should be pursued, the FEC closed its file on allegations that Robert Murray, America’s last and flushest coal baron, had coerced his employees into giving to his super PAC.

    http://gawker.com/americas-last-...

    The commission, which voted on whether to open a full investigation into these allegations, was split 3-3 along party lines. “Despite the compelling available record in this matter, we were unable to garner the necessary four votes to open an investigation,” the three Democrats sitting on the commission, vice-chairman Steven Walther, commissioner Ann Ravel, and commissioner Ellen Weintraub, wrote in a statement released. “As a result, we were left with no other legal alternative but to close the file.” Four FEC attorneys who reviewed the case had recommended that the commission open an investigation.

    Following a 2012 investigative piece in the New Republic that detailed the pressure Murray exerted on his employees to support his political agenda, the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint against Murray, also in 2012. The complaint alleged that employees of Murray Energy Corporation were coerced into volunteering their time for political causes and contributing money to both the Murray Energy Corporation PAC and to candidates of Murray’s choosing. That complaint was supplemented with evidence produced by a 2014 lawsuit on the same issue, brought by a former employee, who alleged that during their training managers were told that they were “expected to voluntarily contribute 1% of their Salary to Mr. Murray’s political action committee.” Murray settled that lawsuit out of court.

    This is the second time in a year Murray has wriggled out of an FEC investigation: Last June, the commission voted 3-3 on whether to open an investigation into accusations that Murray had coerced employees into attending a rally for Mitt Romney in 2012. (Images from that rally were later used in Romney’s campaign propaganda.)

    “The FEC being set up with six members (half from either parties) means that these types of outcomes happen all the time in these types of disputes,” Paul Secunda, a labor and employment law professor at Marquette University, wrote to Gawker in an email. Continued Secunda:

    Dems say it was clearly employer coercion with regard to the election activity, while Republicans says this was just a disgruntled employee who was already fired for independent conduct. Pretty common fare in workplace employment discrimination law.

    This is why it is so important that employees have the ability to involve a neutral federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), to ferret out unlawful forms of employer discrimination in the workplace.

    In an article for the UCLA Law Review published earlier this year, Secunda and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, a PhD candidate in government and social policy at Harvard, proposed that “political affiliation and belief” should be added to the list of protected categories under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    “I did a nationally representative telephone survey last year that found that about 25% of all employees had ever had political contact with their bosses,” Hertel-Fernandez wrote to Gawker. He continued:

    Of those contacted, about 20% had received a political threat of some kind—related to job loss, wage cuts, or plant and office closures. Workers were overwhelmingly likely to report that those political threats were uncomfortable, and that’s the category that the Murray Energy behaviors would fall into (at the extreme end).

    There is a partisanship dimension to this too, as the most common messages that workers heard from their employers were conservative in nature. That’s not surprising given that in a survey of firm managers I did last year, I found that many companies were mobilizing their workers to reduce regulations and taxes.

    Murray, who had been supporting Ted Cruz, said at an industry event on Monday that he met last week with Donald Trump, who has been wooing anti-climate change industrialists of late.

    Everything's Working Out Great for the Coal Baron Accused of Coercing His Employees Into Political Donations
    Edit image caption (optional)

    “Department of Environmental, I mean, the D.E.P. is killing us environmentally,” Trump said in a recent Fox News interview. There is no “Department of Environmental.” Presumably he was referring to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, which Murray also happens to be suing.


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    Big Money Guy: Bad Shit Coming 

    The longer we go without a major financial crisis, the more tempting it becomes for the billionaire investors to jump in with their wager that the next crisis is coming soon. Another master of the universe has officially jumped onto the “doom is at hand” train.

    Bill Gross (net worth: $2 billion) (pictured—without a care in the world! Must be nice!) is the most famous bond investor in history. And now... he’s ready to bet against bonds! Now that’s what I call news, folks! Man bites bond! Here is where we bold the most doomsaying portions of Bloomberg’s report:

    Gross, who manages the $1.3 billion Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund, said he expects corporate-bond prices to fall in part because they’ve risen so fast since mid-February but also because he believes a day of reckoning will come when central banks will no longer be able to prop up assets and investors will withdraw from markets... [!!!-ed]

    I’m an investor that ultimately does believe in the system, but believes that the system itself is at risk.” [<——-wow! -ed]

    The bad news: the man who knows more about the global credit system than anyone now believes that the world economy is headed off a fucking cliff.

    The good news: people suck at predictions. You might die in a freak household accident long before this financial crisis comes to pass.

    [And this guy’s just playing golf as carefree as you please!: Getty]


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    21 YouTube Songs Called "Trump Train," Ranked
    Image: YouTube

    Donald Trump’s army of supporters are lots of things: violent, racist, musical. Who among them is the most violent? The most racist? Impossible to say. Who among them has written and performed the best musical tribute to the presumptive Republican nominee? I’ll tell you.

    Here is every original composition (supercuts don’t count) called “Trump Train” I could find on YouTube, ranked.


    21.

    Artist: GO TRUMP !!

    Best line:

    Protect our land from the crazy man
    Take the fight to another site
    Vote for Trump election day


    20.

    Artist: Christopher Scott

    Best line:

    Cause there’s vict’ry in Trump I say
    Vict’ry in Trump
    Cling to Donald and his business wings
    And hop on board that long Trump train.”


    19.

    Artist:Isee you

    Best line:

    Debt keeps growing bigger, no one seems to care
    Holes in the border, danger everywhere


    18.

    Artist: Joe Staffieri

    Best line:

    So if you’re Cruz-in for a bruisin’
    And you don’t like Rubio
    Just come on board the Trump train
    That’s the only way to go


    17.

    Artist: The TRUMPetts

    Best line:

    USA is in our creed
    Trump for America is what we need


    16.

    Artist: a Canadian Mister D. Trump supporter

    Best line:

    Election year in USA the Game of Thrones begun
    The donkey fights the elephant both going for the crown

    15.

    Artist: Cb Hutcherson

    Best line:

    The libs will be a little tight
    It’s okay, they’ll survive
    Our country will discover many jobs again
    Our borders will not let the illegals in
    When Donald Trump takes the reigns of America in 2017


    14.

    Artist: Wesley Michael Hayes and Outlaw Territory

    Best line:

    Now Donald’s going to bring jobs back from China
    Have Mexico pay for the wall
    Will hang a big ‘ol sign says “Keep out all you terrorists”
    We’ll let ‘em know Ms. Liberty’s still standing tall


    13.

    Artist: Kenny & the Klintons

    Best line:

    They call him an angry American millions want to hire
    We can’t wait to see they’re face when he gets to say “You’re fired”


    12.

    Artist: Hailey Ross

    Best line:

    Let’s make America great again
    Trump train
    Whoo-woo
    Get on board
    Trump train
    Whoo-wooo


    11.

    Artist: Mike Singer

    Best line:

    The criminals must not have their way
    So stand and fight the Donald way
    Family values and true liberty
    That’s all he wants for you and me


    10.

    Artist: theronniebuss

    Best line:

    Let’s all vote for this man to run this nation
    Cause if it’s liberals, I feel sorry—sorry for you


    9.

    Artist: Bobby Mackey

    Best line:

    Our country needs a leader
    And Trump will unify
    He’s gonna close that border
    And build that wall so high


    8.

    Artist: Ronnie Mattox

    Best line:

    The locomotive’s moving down the track
    Come on let’s take America back

    Also:

    Trump Trump Trump
    Trump Trump Trump
    Trump Trump Trump
    Trump Trump Trump


    7.

    Artist: Joe Staffieri

    Best line:

    Some people say he’s cocky
    But that’s alright with me

    Was not a politician as you can plainly see
    He won’t put up with bullcrap, and talkin’ all PC
    Like Hillary and Bernie
    He’s got them on the run


    6.

    Artist:Luis Garnica

    Best line:

    Come and join us feel the power
    It’s a movement renovation


    5.

    Artist: Jay Nickell

    Best line:

    Mitt Romney’s a joke
    Lil’ Marco chokes
    Ted Cruz? Ha-ha! Don’t get me started
    And Democrats? Uh, no.


    4.

    Artist: Truman Vaughn

    Best line:

    That Rubio’s a joke
    Cruz is a liar
    That Mexico wall just got ten feet higher
    Let me hear you say Trump, Trump, Trump train
    He ain’t no chump, chump, chump change

    She can hide Benghazi
    But she can’t hide her mail
    When Trump becomes president
    He’ll throw her in jail


    3.

    Artist: Freddy C

    Best line:

    We’re going forward
    With the American dream
    We have a fighter yes! Donald Trump
    That’s his name.


    2.

    Artist: Nimble Navigator Productions

    Best line:

    Are you, are you, coming to the train
    Wear a hat of hope, side by side with me
    Make America Great Again, break the chains


    1.

    Artist: Freddy C (the remix)

    Best line:

    This is the beginning

    This is not the end

    For an especially hellish treat, try playing them all at once.


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    Everything I Ever Thought I Knew About Street Sharks Was a Goddamned Lie 
    Still: YouTube

    You remember Street Sharks. Sharks on rollerblades, fighting crime, rock ‘n roll saxophone on the soundtrack, Jawsme, the episode where the sharks are called on to save the city from gang warfare, or the one where a long-lost sister shows up and causes problems for everyone. You remember Street Sharks. Or do you?

    Writing on Geek.com, Jordan Minor has the fascinating story of how he sorta accidentally rewrote the history of a beloved second-rate 1990s cartoon for the entire internet. As a teen, Minor was a member of the now-defunct website TVTome, a wiki where users wrote encyclopedia entries of their favorite shows. As a kind of lighthearted troll, he signed himself as the editor of the Street Sharks page and filled it with nonsense, inventing characters and episode arcs out of whole cloth. Then, TVTome was bought by and integrated into TV.com, a much larger site, and things got interesting:

    Thanks to that expanded platform, all of my lies rapidly began infecting the rest of the internet. Most sites since have mostly purged themselves of my misinformation, but for years, IMDB, Amazon, and numerous smaller sites were unintentionally hosting my creative writing. If you’re paranoid and trying to spot a fake, pretty much any episode with a specific 1994 air date and episode description is a fraud. If a shady website claims it has streaming videos of “Feelin’ Lobstery” or “Goin’ Clammando,” and a lot still do since I still found these descriptions, it’s lying to you even more than usual. The only place that’s still entirely accurate is Wikipedia, hilariously enough.

    Minor goes on to describe all the artifacts of his juvenile hoax that are still online, such as listings on Netflix and IMDb that show the likes of Henry Winkler and Adam West in Street Sharks’ cast of voice actors. (They weren’t.) Like the hoaxers who invented a college sports scandal that got plenty of real news coverage, or the guy who used Wikipedia to turn himself into an Aboriginal god, Minor had inserted his bizarre joke into the internet’s frequently updated, rarely fact-checked historical record.

    The web is a strange and bountiful place. Don’t believe everything you read.


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  • 05/26/16--14:18: Baylor Is Full Of Shit
  • Baylor Is Full Of Shit
    Image via Getty

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Baylor acted liked it would come clean and then didn’t actually do so. For about a minute, Baylor made it appear like it was going to open up about how its leaders downplayed or even covered up sexual assault on campus, especially when football players were the ones being accused. They sent out a press release, scheduled a conference call with reporters, and released two “reports.”

    The press release was a press release, and the conference call ended up being nothing more than talking points read aloud, with sporadically thrown-in apologies. President Ken Starr (yes, that Ken Starr) isn’t getting fired, it turns out, but will still be around as a tenured professor at the law school and a chancellor whose job duties include “religious liberty.” Football coach Art Briles is “suspended,” and they’ll get around to firing him eventually. Some people have been fired from the administration and athletics, but Baylor regents refuse to give out any names or even details, like how many were let go. The most specific thing said about changing athletics was some PR bullshit about how they will “review policies and protocols regarding transfers and recruits as well as opportunities for Athletics personnel to integrate across non-athletics programs within the University.”

    Then we come to the “reports.” Just how much more do the two “reports” released today tell us? Only slightly more than nothing.

    You can read the Pepper Hamilton document, the first of the two so-called reports issued today, here. It’s just a long list of things Baylor promises to do better in the future, raising the question of what Baylor has done to earn anyone’s trust on this. At best this document reads like the top-level report before the detailed review that never comes.

    You can read the second so-called report, the Board of Regent’s “finding of fact,” here. It contains almost no facts; it has no names, no timelines, no dates, no specific examples; and it has no quotes from anyone who was interviewed or selections from emails or documents that were cited. Yes, it levies some horrifying allegations—that administrators discouraged people from reporting, that there was a failure to respond to reports that were levied, and that in one case “those actions constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault”—but it doesn’t address them in anything more than the broadest possible language.

    http://deadspin.com/investigation-...

    Who retaliated? Was it a member of the athletics staff? Was it physical or verbal? More broadly, who decided that athletics could handle sexual-assault reports internally, which goes directly against what universities were told in 2011 regarding Title IX—that complaints “must not be addressed solely by athletics department procedures”? You won’t find any of this information in either of these non-reports.

    Having names matters. Who did the cover up? Was it the head coach? His assistants? The waterboy? How often did this happen? Did they know it was wrong or were they genuinely never educated in the law? Did anyone ever intervene? Did they take action to suppress the information from their supervisors? The public? How widespread was all this?

    If the reports’ purpose was to inform the public about what happened here, they failed; if their purpose was, as perhaps it may have been, to get right-thinking sportswriters issuing outraged tweets and columns about how Baylor had diligently investigated itself and found itself wanting, as laid bare in searing reports, they succeeded.

    There is an endless number of questions these reports don’t answer and don’t try to. Over and over again, they offer up bullshit like this:

    This informal system of discipline involves multiple coaches and administrators, relies heavily upon individual judgment in lieu of clear standards for discipline, and has resulted in conduct being ignored or players being dismissed from the team based on an informal and subjective process. The ad hoc internal system of discipline lacks protocols for consistency with University policy and is wholly undocumented. The football program’s separate system of internal discipline reinforces the perception that rules applicable to other students are not applicable to football players, improperly insulates football players from appropriate disciplinary consequences, and puts students, the program, and the institution at risk of future misconduct. It is also inconsistent with institutional reporting obligations.

    And then ... nothing. Just another vague paragraph, and on to the next subhed in the document. The supposed finding of fact—right when it might actually reveal what really went wrong at Baylor—just moves on. And this was intentional, not due to lack of access. The press release practically brags about how much access Pepper Hamilton was given:

    Pepper had unfettered access to Baylor faculty, staff and administration. Pepper also spoke with students who have been impacted by interpersonal violence. Pepper Hamilton examined more than a million pieces of information – from correspondence to interviews to reports.

    Conveniently, the same press release notes all the way at the bottom that no written report was ever actually prepared about what happened. (Emphasis added.)

    Over the course of the investigation, a special committee of the Board of Regents was periodically updated on Pepper’s work. Additionally, in early May, Pepper presented their findings of fact and recommendations to Board leadership in Philadelphia and was onsite to brief the full Board during its May meeting in Waco. While no written report has been prepared, the Findings of Fact reflect the thorough briefings provided by Pepper and fully communicates the need for immediate action to remedy past harms, to provide accountability for University administrators and to make significant changes that can no longer wait.

    Or, wait, maybe there is a report, and it will be issued in the fall?

    Remember nine months ago, when Baylor was issuing statements and bragging about all its investigations without actually saying anything? This was better orchestrated, but I’m not sure it’s any different. As for September, I’m prepared for whatever might come out then to be equally useless. What happened today was nothing more than an immaculate demonstration of how to generate pages and pages of words that don’t actually say anything. And Baylor already has its “we can’t say anything else” excuse ready, per its press release:

    The experiences of students impacted by interpersonal violence played a significant role in the investigation into the University’s response. While those experiences informed the findings, the details of individual cases are protected by Federal law and will not be referenced in any document made public by the University.

    The link goes to the definition of FERPA, the 1970s law routinely abused by universities with scandals on their hands as a way to avoid saying anything. FERPA’s own author has admitted universities are using it in ways he never intended. (It’s worth pointing out that adult staffers, like coaches, are not covered by FERPA, but Baylor still chose to not name them.)

    I listened in on the Baylor press call earlier today. Before the call started, we all had to say our name and our affiliation. Later, in the background I could overhear the people running the call lining up who they would call on. Reporters did try asking tough questions, like why was Starr still there and what role Baylor police played in all this, but the people on the call, including several regents and a person from Pepper Hamilton, refused to answer. They kept saying they were sorry, as if it were a magical word that would absolve them of all wrongdoing. Like everyone else in this mess, they refused to do anything on anything other than their own terms.

    They also made sure to point out that they are a Christian university, including their “Christian mission” among the bullet points in their press release. Because after all this—after the lies, the coverups, the arrests, the convictions, and the silence—Baylor still has the audacity to cite its Christian mission, oblivious to the fact that if it followed that mission no one would be talking about this in the first place. Baylor can change the names, fire a few people, and release all the fraudulent reports it wants, but where improvement really starts is in showing, at minimum, the ability to give a shit. And giving a shit entails more than just saying “Sorry” over and over again.

    Nobody expects universities to eliminate rape on campus overnight, but it’s reasonable to ask for leaders who care. Baylor put on a good show today—or at least one good enough to play a public and press looking for reports whether they existed or not—but admitted to almost nothing. If Baylor cared, it would open up about what it did wrong. It would give names, timelines, dates, and specifics, because you can’t apologize without saying what you did wrong. This isn’t a new concept. The New Testament talks plenty about compassion, forgiveness, and atonement. Perhaps Baylor’s leaders should try reading it some time.


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    An Open Letter to Peter Thiel
    Photos: Getty and AP

    Peter Thiel,

    Nearly a decade ago, after you had opened up to friends and colleagues, a gay writer for Gawker shared an item with the readers of Valleywag, a section for news and gossip about the rich and powerful of Silicon Valley. “Peter Thiel, the smartest VC in the world, is gay,” wrote Owen Thomas. “More power to him.”

    And more power did indeed come to you. Your investments in Facebook and other companies have given you a net worth of more than $2 billion. You have tapped some of that fortune to support gay groups such as HomoCon. It is now clear that gay people are everywhere, not just in industries such as entertainment, but at the pinnacles of Silicon Valley power.

    I thought we had all moved on, not realizing that, for someone who aspires to immortality, nine years may not be such a long time as it seems to most of us. Max Levchin, your fellow founder at Paypal, told me back in 2007 you were concerned about the reaction, not in Silicon Valley, but among investors in your hedge fund from less tolerant places such as Saudi Arabia. He also warned of the retribution you would exact if a story was published about your personal life.

    Your revenge has been served well, cold and (until now) anonymously. You admit you have been planning the punishment of Gawker and its writers for years, and that you have so far spent $10 million to fund litigation against the company. Charles Harder, the Hollywood plaintiff’s lawyer who has marshaled your legal campaign, is representing not just the wrestler Hulk Hogan on your behalf, but two other subjects of stories in suits against Gawker and its editorial staff.

    You told the New York Times that you are motivated by friends who had their lives ruined by Gawker coverage, and that your funding is a “philanthropic” project to help other “victims” of negative stories. Let us run through a few examples so that people can actually read the articles you find so illegitimate, and make their own judgment about their newsworthiness.

    Sean Parker, a partner in your Founders Fund and an early backer of Facebook, is one of the friends who was covered extensively on Gawker’s Valleywag. Those stories, some of them by me, helped define the colorful character played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network, the David Fincher movie about the founding of Facebook. Parker was stung more recently by criticism from his neighbors of the disruption to 10th St. in Manhattan when the street was dug up to get a Fios line to Bacchus House, the famous party venue where Parker had been planning to live. Valleywag covered that story, as well as his lavish and controversial wedding in the redwoods near Big Sur.

    Hulk Hogan was the first client represented by Charles Harder in a suit against Gawker. As we now know, the famous wrestler and entertainer sued over snippets of a sex tape apparently in order to shut down reporting of a racist rant against a black man dating his daughter.

    Ashley Terrill, also represented by Harder, is suing Gawker for $10 million for defamation. She is a reporter who offered information about the conflict between the founders of two dating apps, Tinder and Bumble, who herself became part of the story after claiming she was being harassed and surveilled by agents of Tinder co-founder Whitney Wolfe.

    Shiva Ayyadurai is a Massachusetts entrepreneur who says he invented email—about a decade after email was actually invented. A story on Gizmodo, Gawker’s tech property, said straight out that his claims were false, as did the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Represented also by the lawyer you hired, Ayyadurai is suing Gawker for $35 million for defamation, though not the other news organizations that made the same point.

    Peter Thiel—that is, you. Yes, Gawker has often been critical. Our writers have derided your views on female suffrage, mocked the libertarian separatist vision of offshore seasteads free of government interference, and questioned some of the businesses you have backed. There is much more. They don’t find you very likable.

    http://gawker.com/this-is-why-bi...

    I can see how irritating Gawker would be to you and other figures in the technology industry. For Silicon Valley, the media spotlight is a relatively recent phenomenon. Most executives and venture capitalists are accustomed to dealing with acquiescent trade journalists and a dazzled mainstream media, who will typically play along with embargoes, join in enthusiasm for new products, and hew to the authorized version of a story. They do not have the sophistication, and the thicker skins, of public figures in other older power centers such as New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

    And I can see how tempting it would be to use Silicon Valley’s most abundant resource, a vast fortune, against the harsh words of the writers of a small New York media company. We have our devices; you have yours.

    Among the million posts published by Gawker and other properties since the company was founded, there have undoubtedly been occasions we overstepped the line. In offsetting the fawning coverage of tech luminaries and others, sometimes our stories swing too far for my taste toward snark.

    But this vindictive decade-long campaign is quite out of proportion to the hurt you claim. Your plaintiff’s lawyer, Charles Harder, has sued not just the company, but individual journalists.

    A.J. Daulerio, author of the 2012 story on Hulk Hogan, is out of work and unable to pay the $100,000 in punitive damages awarded by the jury. In the Ayyadurai and Terrill complaints, Harder cynically paints author Sam Biddle as an abuser of narcotics, basing this claim on Biddle’s own writing about his struggle with anxiety and depression, and the physician-prescribed medication he takes to treat his mood disorders. John Cook, our executive editor, is accused of negligent hiring and retention.

    Peter, this is twisted. Even were you to succeed in bankrupting Gawker Media, the writers you dislike, and me, just think what it will mean.

    The world is already uncomfortable with the unaccountable power of the billionaire class, the accumulation of wealth in Silicon Valley, and technology’s influence over the media.

    You are a board member of Facebook, which is under congressional investigation after our site Gizmodo reported on the opaque and potentially biased way it decides what news sources are seen by its billions of users.

    Now you show yourself as a thin-skinned billionaire who, despite all the success and public recognition that a person could dream of, seethes over criticism and plots behind the scenes to tie up his opponents in litigation he can afford better than they.

    You were the basis for the affectless venture capitalist in the HBO show, Silicon Valley; with this diabolical decade-long scheme for revenge, you are redefining yourself as a comic-book villain.

    This story will play out in the press and the courts. Both are adversarial forums, in which each side selects facts and quotes to undermine the reputation and credibility of the other. We are confident of our arguments on the newsworthiness of our Hogan story, once it reaches the appeals court. Your main proxy, Hulk Hogan, has his.

    We, and those you have sent into battle against us, have been stripped naked, our texts, online chats and finances revealed through the press and the courts; in the next phase, you too will be subject to a dose of transparency. However philanthropic your intention, and careful the planning, the details of your involvement will be gruesome.

    I’m going to suggest an alternative approach. The best regulation for speech, in a free society, is more speech. We each claim to respect independent journalism, and liberty. We each have criticisms of the other’s methods and objectives. Now you have revealed yourself, let us have an open and public debate.

    The court cases will proceed as long as you fund them. And I am sure the war of headlines will continue. But, even if we put down weapons just for a brief truce, let us have a more constructive exchange.

    We can hold the discussion in person with a moderator of your choosing, in front of an audience, under the auspices of the Committee to Protect Journalists, or in a written discussion on some neutral platform such as Medium. Just tell me where and when.

    At the very least, it will improve public understanding of the interplay of media and power. Considering the amount spent on lawyers, $20 million between us at this point, there should be some public benefit.

    In the meantime, here are some more pointed and immediate questions.

    • Have you or your representatives paid Hulk Hogan personally in addition to covering his legal expenses?
    • You say that you are operating much like a contingency lawyer, so does that mean you will take a third of any final judgement, or more?
    • You said you were funding several cases. Specifically, can you confirm you are funding Charles Harder’s work for Shiva Ayyadurai and Ashley Terrill?
    • Is your goal to bankrupt, buy, or wound Gawker Media? If you were to own the company after a final judgment in the Hogan case, what would your editorial strategy be?
    • You say that Gawker is not a legitimate news source. Do you take the same view of the other properties—Gizmodo, Deadspin, Jezebel, Kotaku, Jalopnik and Lifehacker?
    • As a Facebook board member, how have your own views on politics and news influenced your contribution to corporate decisions?
    • When you say your aim is deterrence rather than revenge, whom do you aim to deter?
    • You said you wanted to even the legal playing field for people without your resources. If Gawker Media was forced to sell the company to pay a bond or fight these court cases, would you and your agents seek to block that transaction?
    • Is Sean Parker the friend you mentioned that persuaded you to pursue this campaign?
    • And lastly, I understand that you give codenames from Tolkien for all your projects. What’s this one? (Let me guess: Mordor.)

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  • 05/26/16--16:00: Clown Recognize Clown
  • Clown Recognize Clown
    Photo: Instagram/Donald Trump

    For the first time in his life, Donald Trump is a winner. How does he celebrate?

    Like anyone else would: by consuming a large order of McDonald’s® french fries, a Big Mac® sandwich and a Diet Coke®, seemingly separately and in succession.

    It’s hard to say if the photo is an example of pandering, product placement or just an odd man enjoying his favorite treat of fries-then-burger-then-coke. In any case, Donald Trump is clearly lovin’ it.

    http://gawker.com/donald-trump-o...

    h/t Matt Novak


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    Google Dodges $9 Billion Bullet
    Image: AP Images

    Google just won a major court battle with software giant Oracle over Google’s use of elements of Oracle’s Java programming language. If Google had lost, it could have held major ramifications for the ways in which almost all software is developed. Oh, and Google would have had to cough up $9 billion in damages.

    For now, the fundamental principles of how coders create software will stay the same. That is, of course, unless Oracle wins an appeal. Let’s take a look at how we got here, and what exactly was at stake.

    The imbroglio began when Google used Java“APIs” in an early version of its Android operating system. APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are just a set of code standards that facilitate communication between different pieces of software. Let’s say you opened the start menu on your computer, and clicked on the iTunes icon. An API is the element of code that is called to run code to start the iTunes program.

    Oracle originally sued in 2010, arguing that when Google developed Android, it violated copyrights that Oracle held as the owner of the Java programming language. (Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, the creator of Java, earlier that year for $7.4 Billion.) In 2012, the ruling came down. A California judge disagreed with Oracle. “APIs” shouldn’t be subject to copyright. Google won.

    Oracle appealed the 2012 ruling, and a Federal Circuit Court reversed the ruling of the California judge, saying that APIs should be copyrightable. But there was still hope for Google, as the court ruling gave Google a path to argue that its use of Java in Android was protected under Fair Use. Today, a California jury found that the APIs Google used were protected under Fair Use, legally reinforcing a commonly accepted practice among programmers.

    If the verdict had gone the other way, it would have opened Pandora’s Box for software developers. It’s not clear exactly what would have happened, but it could have had dchilling effect on the very principles of how modern code is written with relation to APIs, which are used ubiquitously and as a standard. To put it simply: It would have been a big deal.

    For now, programmers and the people who use their creations can rest easy. But, thanks to the magic of the American court system, Oracle still has room to appeal. This isn’t over just yet, but it’s a pretty good sign.


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    41 Secret Service Workers Punished After Retaliatory Leak of Congressman's Info
    Photo: AP

    On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that 41 Secret Service employees have been disciplined in connection with a leak intended to embarrass the Republican congressman tasked with overseeing the agency.

    http://gawker.com/secret-service...

    Shortly after he began a probe into agency misconduct last year, Representative Jason Chaffetz’s unsuccessful Secret Service application was leaked to the press. A subsequent investigation found that dozens of Secret Service employees improperly accessed the file. From the Associated Press:

    Employees accessed Chaffetz’s 2003 application for a Secret Service job starting 18 minutes after the start of a congressional hearing in March about the latest scandal involving drunken behavior by senior agents. Some forwarded the information to others. At least 45 employees viewed the file.

    Chaffetz applied to join the Secret Service through a field office and was rejected and labeled “Better Qualified Applicant” for unknown reasons. Chaffetz said he never interviewed with the agency and does not know why his application was declined.

    One week later, Assistant Director Ed Lowery suggested leaking embarrassing information about Chaffetz in retaliation for aggressive investigations by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into a series of agency missteps and scandals, the report said. Days later, on April 2, the information about Chaffetz unsuccessfully applying for a job at the Secret Service was published by The Daily Beast, an Internet publication.

    “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,” Assistant Director Lowery wrote in an email dated March 31. “Just to be fair.”

    According to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, punishments for the 41 employees ranged from letters of reprimand to suspension without pay for 45 days. Additionally, an employee found to have leaked the application to The Washington Post resigned.

    “The Secret Service is the finest protection agency in the world,” said Secretary Johnson. “Under the leadership of Director Clancy, I hope and expect the Secret Service has put sad episodes like this behind it.”


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    Trump Wants to Debate Sanders to Raise Millions For 'Maybe Women’s Health Issues or Something'

    Donald Trump, a bewildered, golden-helmeted astronaut who’s just landed on this planet from a distant galaxy, wants to debate Bernie Sanders. He will only do so, however, in a giant arena and only if someone pledges millions of dollars to “women’s health issues or something.” Tragically, nobody asked him which ones.

    Trump proposed this novel idea Thursday during a “press availability” in North Dakota, which in Trump’s case means a bizarre fever dream in which he stands behind a podium for hours, haranguing a group of reporters with a series of lies, insults, half-truths, sentence fragments, and probably spittle flecks for the frontmost rows.

    The Sanders camp has signaled a willingness to debate Trump, which is sort of odd considering that Sanders is, mathematically, not going to be the Democratic nominee.

    “We are ready to debate Donald Trump,” Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver told CNN Chief Beard Wolf Blitzer. “We hope he will not chicken out. I think it will be great for America to see these two candidates and the different visions they have for America going forward.”

    Trump responded, “I’d love to debate Bernie. He’s a dream. If we can raise for maybe women’s health issues or something. If we can raise $10 or $15 million for charity, which would be a very appropriate amount.”

    Sanders, rather than pointing out that a debate doesn’t usually resemble a celebrity boxing match, is into the idea:

    Sanders did not address Trump’s plan to somehow raise money for the nation’s ailing vaginas.

    This is a sideshow and a nonsensical distraction and I deeply want to see it.


    Photo via AP


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    Martin Shkreli Endorses Guess Who
    Photo: AP

    C’mon, guess.

    Okay, have you guessed yet?

    Yep, you called it. It’s Donald fucking Trump.

    “I haven’t been called by the Trump camp,” wrote Martin Shkreli on Twitter Thursday night. “I support him vs. Hillary.”

    Please keep this crucial endorsement in mind come election night.


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    Hour-Long Fox News Special Introduces Imperial House of Trump

    In their latest bid to become the Russia Today to Donald Trump’s Vladimir Putin, Fox News ran an hour-long special on Thursday commanding viewers to “Meet the Trumps.” It, uh, was something else.

    Over the course of the program, host Greta Van Susteren managed to cover much of the future Supreme Leader’s home life, from the Drumpfertower where he’ll hide out his final days to the heirs who will one day command separate armies over control of their father’s ruined kingdom.

    Also, Van Susteren talked to Melania Trump who, it turns out, doesn’t like the media so much.

    All and all, the special served as a decent preview of America’s dark totalitarian future. Fun!

    h/t Mediaite


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