Before cutting taxes, Republicans have to pass a budget. Then comes the even harder part.
President Donald Trump says he will sign “maybe the biggest tax cut we've ever had,” and top Republicans keep pledging he will do it by Christmas.
Trump has promised his tax reform will help the middle class, make the United States more competitive internationally, and lead to almost unprecedented economic growth in the years to come. And he’s promised to eliminate the federal debt in eight years while he’s at it.
Getting through that list of promises is politically impossible, but even coming anywhere close to it in the next two months will be extremely difficult. Though congressional Republicans are saying tax reform will be “easier” than health care, the party is already embroiled in an intraparty struggle over how deeply to cut rates — and how to pay for them. And despite months of negotiations between top House and Senate Congress members and members of Trump’s administration — a working group dubbed the “Big Six” — Republicans haven’t actually agreed on many important points. And what they have agreed on has already raised some eyebrows within the Republicans conference.
“When you have a very slim majority — three of four senators ... control the destiny of tax reform and just unacceptable for the American people,” Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH), who sits on the tax-focused House Ways and Means and Budget committees, said.
Overcoming these hurdles will be difficult, and the margin of error for Republicans is slim. But more to the point, Congress has many procedural steps to take before they can get tax reform to the president’s desk. Here’s a clear guide to what Republicans need to do.
Phase 1: before cutting taxes, Republicans need to pass a budget
The most important number for congressional Republicans is 51.
Like their strategy with Obamacare repeal, congressional Republicans are planning to pass their tax plan through a congressional loophole — “budget reconciliation” — which allows Congress to pass bills with a simple majority (51 votes) and bypass the threat of a Democratic filibuster.
But to pass anything through budget reconciliation, Republicans first need to pass a budget resolution — a nonbinding agreement that establishes “instructions” for reconciliation bills. These instructions give Republicans a green light to move a tax bill and, depending on how strictly they are written, can also dictate how deeply Republicans can cut tax rates.
Right now, Republicans in the Senate are planning to vote on their budget resolution later this week — but they only have a one-vote margin of error. On partisan votes like the budget, Republicans can only afford to lose two votes total, and this week, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) will be out with health issues.
There are some rumored holdouts: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), whom Trump reportedly tried to convince to sign on over a round of golf this weekend, has previously voted against budgets for not doing enough to address the deficit. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who supports the tax framework, has signaled that the framework doesn’t do enough for military spending, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) has been a loose cannon with Trump these days. If two of these senators voted against the budget, tax reform would effectively be at a standstill.
Meanwhile, the House has already passed its own version of a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions that would allow a tax bill to increase the deficit by $2.5 billion in 10 years and mandates a total of $203 billion in spending cuts across 11 committees — which would likely come from programs like Medicaid and food stamps.
It’s important to note that the Senate’s budget proposal looks very different from what the House voted on.
The Senate’s reconciliation instructions only mandated cuts for one committee: $1 billion from the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee. It’s rumored this will likely come from a bill to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But instead of focusing on making cuts to reduce the deficit, like the House did, the Senate’s budget allows for a $1.5 trillion increase to the deficit over the next 10 years. In other words, it gives Republicans the freedom to make deep tax cuts without having to pay for them.
The House and the Senate have to agree on a budget before they can start on tax reform. Once the Senate passes its version, Congress will go into a “conference committee,” where members of both chambers hash out a deal.
This could cause some friction in the weeks ahead as Republicans scramble to establish a path toward a partisan tax reform bill and attempt to thread the needle between members’ competing spending priorities and the larger contingents of tax cutters, deficit hawks, and defense hawks.
Voting for a possible $1.5 trillion deficit increase won’t be easy — but the promise of tax reform might be enough to encourage Republicans to get on board.
Phase 2: overcome key policy disagreements
In late September, Republicans in the House and Senate released a vague framework — which calls for a substantial cut to the corporate tax rate, a huge expansion of the standard deduction, and a collapse of individual tax rates into three tax brackets instead of the current seven. (They have also proposed a possible fourth top tax bracket.) But within that framework, there is a lot Republicans don’t agree on.
The GOP has a general idea to cut tax rates and somehow pay for them by getting rid of deductions, loopholes and benefits. But as Vox’s Andrew Prokop explained, Republicans are having a hard time deciding which loopholes, deductions, and benefits they are willing to do away with.
Already there are signs of Republican defections from the framework alone. Retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said he wont vote for anything that will add a "penny" to the deficit (though he left the door open to some rosy economic projections called “dynamic scoring”) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has signaled he won’t vote for a plan that he thinks hurts the middle class.
But proposed plans to pay for the tax cut aren’t seeing much traction. For example, the state and local tax deduction (SALT), which allows Americans to write off their property and state income taxes, already has Republican members from mostly Democratic states like New York, California, and New Jersey grumbling. According to the Tax Policy Center, a full repeal of SALT would raise $1.3 trillion in revenue over the next decade — which would go a long way for Republicans who are limited in how much they can blow a hole in the deficit. Now there are rumors of a rolled-back SALT, which might be easier for moderate Republicans to swallow.
And Trump isn’t making any of this easier. He has been relatively incoherent on the specific policy goals of tax reform and instead has set lofty expectations that Congress will likely fail to achieve.
Most recently, reports indicated that Trump grew angry when he learned the tax framework would negatively impact the middle class — a complaint similar to that of his newfound golfing buddy Rand Paul — and allegedly called for some adjustments to the framework.
Phase 3: actually go through regular order — or so they say
Once Republicans manage to agree on and pass a budget, and find some consensus, they have to actually write and pass their tax bill. Though technically Republicans have until the end of the next fiscal year — September 30, 2018 — to pass this tax reform with the set of reconciliation instructions set up by the House and Senate budgets, they have said they’re going to get this done by the end of this year.
Already Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who chairs the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said the full Republican tax plan won’t be unveiled until after the House and Senate agree on a budget, putting more of a squeeze on the calendar.
House and Senate leadership has promised that tax reform will go through the full committee treatment, especially after the closed-door process for Obamacare repeal ultimately led some Republicans to vote against the health bill altogether earlier this year.
In the House, this will be the charge of Brady’s Ways and Means Committee, and in the Senate, Orrin Hatch (R-UT) will be the chief tax reform negotiator in the Finance Committee. An open process means long committee meetings to debate and “mark up” any tax reform bill. Expect a lot of amendments. Eventually committees will have to vote on the bills, and then they will go to the full chamber floors.
If the House and Senate end up disagreeing and passing different bills, then they will have to form yet another “conference committee” to negotiate and create a new bill that both the House and the Senate will have to pass again. Or one chamber could simply take the other chamber’s bill and pass it.
Phase 4: get this bill through the Senate’s obscure budget rules — which is the really hard part
At some point after Republicans reconcile their differences and fend off enough outside interests to actually write a bill, the Congressional Budget Office and the Senate parliamentarian are going to have to weigh in on this whole process — a step that could completely derail Republicans’ efforts.
Because Republicans are adamant about driving a partisan-led tax reform effort through budget reconciliation, they are not allowed to increase the deficit outside the first 10-year window, according to Senate rules.
This rule basically leaves Republicans with four options:
They could pass sweeping tax cuts that will sunset after 10 years. This is what former President George W. Bush did with his tax cuts under budget reconciliation in 2001, essentially getting around the deficit restriction by making the tax cuts temporary. Republicans, given all the pressures on this bill, might be forced to do the same.
They could pass much smaller tax cuts that are permanent. If Republicans decided that making tax cuts permanent is more of priority than deeply slashing the rates, they could theoretically find enough revenue raisers and offsets to pass permanent — bust substantially smaller — tax cuts. It’s unlikely conservatives will sign up for this. Already House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) has drawn a red line at the 20 percent corporate tax rate. Anything above that means it’s likely a lot of conservative members won’t vote for the bill.
Technically, Republicans could also split up their tax bill into three separate titles: One would be a temporary Republican-led effort that would pursue aggressive tax cuts and have to sunset in 10 years; a second would be permanent and comply with Senate rules; and the third would be a permanent bipartisan proposal needing 60 votes and likely find consensus around issues like the child tax credit. By going this route, Republicans would be able to split the impact of the deficit between budget reconciliation bills and regular order.
Some analysts have also floated the nuclear option, in which McConnell just overrules the Senate parliamentarian. McConnell did not do this in the health care debate, but some have theorized there is more pressure for him to go to extreme lengths this time. Along these lines, the Senate Budget Committee could also use a different, more ideologically conservative score of their tax plan instead of the CBO’s evaluation.
There is also the fifth option: Republicans could just abandon the whole effort. Because they failed so spectacularly on Obamacare repeal, this option is looking unlikely.
In any scenario, they will be relying on projections of increased economic growth from tax cuts to offset the revenue losses from those cuts, known as “dynamic scoring.” But even under the rosiest of projections, growth alone won’t be enough to offset the full losses from the deepest cuts Republicans have proposed. A large contingent of economists — and even some Republicans themselves — have already called these growth projections unrealistic. Many are skeptical whether the Senate Parliamentarian will accept those growth numbers.
The CBO’s score of the bill will play a big role in estimating the effects of this tax package, and how the Senate Parliamentarian, whose role it is to advise whether or not bills adhere to budgetary procedure, will rule.
Already the deficit question is looking like it will be a massive challenge. As I explained above, some of the proposals in the tax reform framework are already showing that they will increase the deficit by trillions of dollars. Changes to the corporate tax rate, for example, would cost more than $4.1 trillion from 2028 to 2037, according to the Tax Policy Center.
It’s all a question of which tricks Republicans will be allowed to sneak through the Senate and how ambitious they plan to be with reforming the tax code. Whichever path they chose, however, there will be roadblocks ahead.
Officials say it’s the deadliest single attack ever to hit the country.
Somalia is reeling from what officials say is the deadliest single attack ever to hit the impoverished and war-battered African country.
The carnage came Saturday, when a massive truck bomb killed over 320 people and wounded 300 more at a busy intersection in the capital, Mogadishu. The blast destroyed nearby hotels, restaurants, and government offices. Just a few hours later, a second explosion rocked the suburb of Medina, setting dozens of vehicles on fire.
The government has accused al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group that has been waging a bloody insurgency in the country for more than a decade, of carrying out the attacks. Al-Shabaab militants have carried out dozens of high-profile attacks in Somalia and neighboring Kenya in recent years, including the April 2015 massacre at Kenya’s Garissa University in which militants targeted mainly Christian students, killing 148, and the siege of a popular pizza restaurant in Mogadishu just four months ago that left 31 people dead.
The attacks come amid a renewed US fight against al-Shabaab militants in Somalia. In March, President Donald Trump designated Somalia a “zone of active hostilities,” giving US military commanders more freedom to carry out offensive airstrikes and ground raids against militants and relaxing some of the restrictions designed to protect civilians.
And in April, the Trump administration announced the deployment of regular US troops to Somalia for the first time since 1994. Although a small number of US military and counterterrorism advisers have been operating in the country for several years, US forces have largely stayed out of Somalia since President Bill Clinton pulled them out in the wake of the disastrous 1993 Battle of Mogadishu and the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident in which militants killed 18 US special forces operators and dragged their bodies through the streets of Mogadishu.
Following Saturday’s attacks, the US Embassy in Somalia released a statement saying, “Such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism to promote stability and prosperity for the Somali people and their regional neighbors.”
The sheer scale of the devastation of Saturday’s attacks is hard to comprehend. Witnesses speaking to the UK’s Guardian newspaper described an area of destruction the size of “two or three football fields” in downtown Mogadishu.
Dozens of people are still missing as emergency workers continue to dig through the rubble looking for bodies. Because of the intensity of the truck bomb blast, rescuers fear many of the dead may never be identified. The government already buried more than 160 bodies on Sunday that were too badly burned to be identified, according to one local doctor who spoke to the Guardian.
The director of the Medina Hospital, Mohamed Yusuf Hassan, told the BBC he was shocked by the scale of the attack. "What happened yesterday was incredible, I have never seen such a thing before, and countless people lost their lives,” he said. “Corpses were burned beyond recognition."
These photos are from the day of the attack and the days following. All pictures were takenby Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images, unless otherwise stated.
The scene of the explosion of a truck bomb in the center of Mogadishu
Local men and Somali soldiers arrive on the site to rescue victims of the explosion
A woman sits by the body of a victim at the site of the explosion
Injured are gathered for medical attention
Injured patients from the explosion sit in an ambulance as they wait to be evacuated on Turkish military planes for medical attention. Turkey has established a large diplomatic and humanitarian presence in Somalia in recent years.
A Somali man, severely wounded, is transported on a stretcher to board a Turkish military plane
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara was sending planes "with medical supplies,” adding that the wounded would be flown to Turkey and treated there
People chant slogans as they protest against the deadly bomb attacks
Ibrahim Mohamed, a survivor of the truck bomb, speaks to local media from Medina Hospital in Mogadishu, on October 16, 2017
Turkish Air Force ambulance aircraft airlifted victims with serious injuries from Mogadishu to Ankara on October 16, 2017
Up to 40 Somalis, who were critically injured in Saturday’s truck bombing, were airlifted to Turkey for medical treatment
The Congress member’s office called police because reporters tried to talk to him about this story.
Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), President Donald Trump’s pick for drug czar, hasn’t gotten a single hearing from the Senate yet. But Trump has already hinted that he will consider taking Marino out of the running if he thinks Marino’s role in a previous law’s passage is “1 percent negative to doing what we want to do.”
The comment came on Monday, after a new bombshell report from the Washington Post and 60 Minutes that looked at Marino’s involvement in a law passed in 2016: the so-called Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act. Trump said he will “look into” the report.
The law made it very difficult, if not impossible, for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to stop suspicious shipments of opioid painkillers by drug distributors, according to an upcoming law review article by DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge John Mulrooney.
Under federal law, distributors must report and stop suspicious orders of some drugs, including opioids. In the past, the DEA has fined companies for not doing so and, in some cases, frozen shipments, leveraging a section of the Controlled Substances Act that let the agency stop orders that it believed posed an “imminent danger.”
But Marino’s law changed this. It raised the bar to require that shipments pose “a substantial likelihood of an immediate threat” to be stopped. Joe Rannazzisi, former head of the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, argued that this has essentially created an impossible standard — a claim backed by Mulrooney’s upcoming law review article.
“There’s no way that we could meet that burden, the determination that those drugs are going to be an immediate threat, because immediate, by definition, means right now,” Rannazzisi told the Post.
The law also requires the DEA to give drug companies a chance to submit “corrective action” plans and take those plans into account before the agency can sanction them. Mulrooney wrote that this is akin to a law that requires police to “allow bank robbers to round up and return inkstained money and agree not to rob any more banks — all before any of those wrongdoers actually admit fault and without any consequence that might deter such behavior in the future.”
This hindered the DEA’s ability to go after irresponsible opioid distributors — even as the drugs they helped spread across the US caused a drug overdose epidemic that kills tens of thousands of Americans every year.
Marino’s law stifled DEA attempts to go after opioid distributors
The House backed Marino’s bill in 2015, but it didn’t become law until 2016. The final version came after Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) worked with the Department of Justice and DEA, which opposed the original bill, to get to language that they could sign on to. After some language tweaks and leadership changes at both the Justice Department and the DEA, the revised bill passed both houses of Congress through “unanimous consent” — not even a formal vote tally — and President Barack Obama signed it into law.
Marino took credit after the final measure’s passage. In a press release, he said the law will ensure “our drug enforcement agencies will have the necessary tools to address the issue of prescription drug abuse across the country.” (Marino’s office did not return my request for comment. His office also did not return requests for comment by the Post or 60 Minutes, and called Capitol Police when reporters from the outlets showed up at his office to ask about the law.)
As Marino and other supporters of the law put it, the measure was necessary to stop the DEA from taking overly punitive actions that made it difficult for patients to get drugs, such as opioids, that they needed.
“We had a situation where it was just out of control because of [Rannazzisi],” Marino told the Post last year, referencing the head of the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control at the time. “His only mission was to get big fines. He didn’t want to [do] anything but put another notch in his belt.”
Supporters of the law say the DEA had been so aggressive that it had scared drug companies away from cooperating with the agency. Instead of letting the DEA take immediate action against companies, the new law — through the higher burden of proof and requirement for “corrective action” plans — forces a slower process that gives companies a greater chance to respond. And that might make companies more proactive in reporting and stopping bad shipments, since they’ll know that it won’t necessarily get them into trouble.
Supporters also argue that the law helped settle legal uncertainty that could have blown up the DEA’s efforts. The Controlled Substances Act didn’t define “imminent danger.” D. Linden Barber, a former DEA lawyer who now works for the drug distributor Cardinal Health, argued to Congress that drug companies could take advantage of the previous law’s vagueness to halt the DEA’s mission.
“Indeed, many of my colleagues believe that the [Walgreens] case would have resulted in a narrowing of DEA’s authority if the agency had not settled its dispute,” Barber said, referring to a case in which Walgreens argued in federal appeals court that the law was too vague (but later settled with the federal government, agreeing to an $80 million fine). “As a supporter of DEA’s mission, I urge this committee to take legislative action that clarifies the meaning of ‘imminent danger.’”
Critics, meanwhile, argue that Marino’s law makes it impossible for the DEA to stop irresponsible distributors’ shipments. Mulrooney wrote, “If it had been the intent of Congress to completely eliminate the DEA’s ability to ever impose an immediate suspension on distributors or manufacturers, it would be difficult to conceive of a more effective vehicle for achieving that goal.” (Even before the law, however, the Post reported that outside pressure from drug companies on the Justice Department had already led such orders to drop: from 65 in fiscal year 2011 to eight in fiscal year 2016.)
This could not only stop the DEA from blocking dangerous shipments but also remove a deterrent that may have stopped drug companies from acting irresponsibly before.
There’s also the question of Marino’s motives. According to the Post, Marino has received nearly $100,000 in donations from political action committees tied to the drug industry. And last December, Marino’s chief of staff and “point man” on the law, Bill Tighe, became a lobbyist for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
Tighe’s career move represents the kind of revolving door from Congress and the DEA to opioid distributors that helped shepherd Marino’s bill into law. In emails obtained by the Post, Barber was credited with writing the measure. He was the former associate chief counsel for the DEA before he became a lawyer at law firm Quarles & Brady, where he represented drug companies, and then an executive at Cardinal Health.
There’s a reason the DEA targeted drug companies in the first place: These companies really were doing some suspicious things. For example, a previous investigation by the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia found that from 2007 to 2012, drug firms poured a total of 780 million painkillers into the state — which had a total population of about 1.8 million. The small town of Kermit, West Virginia, had a population of 392, but a single pharmacy there received nearly 9 million hydrocodone pills over two years from out-of-state drug companies.
Critics of opioid companies argue that these kinds of shipments were obviously suspicious and should have been stopped. They’re a key explanation for why West Virginia now leads the country in drug overdose deaths: The proliferation of opioid painkillers got people addicted to the drugs, in some cases putting them on a path to other opioids like heroin and fentanyl. And critics like Rannazzisi argue that drug companies let this all continue as they pursued higher profits.
“This is an industry that’s out of control,” Rannazzisi told 60 Minutes. “What they wanna do is do what they wanna do, and not worry about what the law is. And if they don’t follow the law in drug supply, people die. That’s just it: People die.”
As drug czar, Marino could play a major role in addressing the epidemic
As drug czar, Marino would not oversee the DEA. He would be in charge of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which tries to coordinate and guide the many federal agencies and programs that are involved in the war on drugs. In this role, he’d mostly serve as an adviser to Trump on drug policy and related issues.
In the past, the office has been highly focused on illegal drugs, like cocaine and heroin; the position of drug czar was created by President Richard Nixon during a past heroin epidemic in the 1970s, and it was made permanent and official through the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 during the crack cocaine epidemic. The focus has changed in recent years as the country deals with an opioid epidemic that began with the proliferation of legal painkillers.
Typically, the office sets the tone of the federal drug war. In ONDCP’s first national drug control strategy, President George H.W. Bush and drug czar Bill Bennett drew a clear set of priorities: In the table of contents, the first item for “National Priorities” is “The Criminal Justice System,” not treatment or prevention.
“It was a culture war document,” David Courtwright, a drug policy historian at the University of North Florida, previously told me. “It’s very much a statement about personal responsibility, zero tolerance, directed law enforcement to crack. It was very much a drug war document.” He added, “In terms of actual impact on policy [and] media coverage, it’s a very big deal in the late ’80s.”
The office also advises the White House and Congress on drug policy, particularly in setting priorities for the many federal programs addressing drugs and addiction.
Whether that leads to actual policy changes, though, depends wholly on whether the president and Congress actually accept the drug czar’s advice — since the office itself does not have much direct power in terms of changing policy.
ONDCP “is in an advisory capacity,” Courtwright said. “If you go back and look at the national drug control strategy documents, they make suggestions. They prioritize programs. … But do they actually set policy? I guess they do if the president and Congress say it’s a good plan and do it.”
The history suggests that Congress and the president do tend to follow what the drug czar says on drug policy. Based on Marino’s record, that could lead to a federal government that takes a softer touch against opioid companies.
The federal government has a big role to play in tackling the opioid crisis. Congress could dedicate a lot more money to drug addiction treatment and harm reduction strategies, such as making the overdose antidote naloxone more accessible. The Food and Drug Administration could impose stricter regulations and oversight on opioid painkillers. Public health agencies could help train doctors to adopt better practices in prescribing opioids. (Read much more on these potential moves in Vox’s in-depth explainer.)
Marino could advise the president on all of this and more.
Trump likes Rand Paul. Paul likes to stick it to Mitch McConnell. This ends badly for Trump.
President Donald Trump spent the weekend with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) playing golf, in another chapter of a reportedly growing friendship between the two.
“Sen. Rand Paul considers President Trump a personal friend; they had a great time playing today,” Paul’s spokesperson Sergio Gor told reporters after the senator’s golf outing with the president.
The two have become something of an odd couple in Washington — a far cry from the time Trump tweeted that Paul was “truly weird” and a “spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain,” and when Paul called Trump an “orange-faced windbag.”
Paul, a Tea Party firebrand from Kentucky, is known among congressional Republicans for his affinity for giving Republican leadership a hard time — which might be why Trump has taken a liking to him. And Paul reportedly listens to Trump’s rambling phone calls.
"The president never loses, didn't you know?” Paul told reporters over the weekend, schmoozing about Trump’s golfing talents. “The president and his partner beat myself and my partner by three holes. He's a little better golfer than I am, admittedly, but we had a good time."
If Paul is right about his game, Trump seems to be a better golfer than he is a legislator. He hasn’t notched a single Republican-led legislative win this year. The Obamacare repeal-and-replace effort flopped. Tax reform, the GOP’s next major agenda item, already looks mired in difficult negotiations.
Paul is far from a helping hand on Capitol Hill. Rather, he’s repeatedly exacerbated many of the divides within the Republicans Party — and is signaling he will do the same on tax reform.
Rand Paul isn’t the team player Trump needs
As Trump traveled around the country selling the Republican tax reform framework, Paul was tweeting about its faults.
Trump billed the Republican tax reform framework as the beginnings of a “middle class miracle” at a late-September tax-focused speech in Indiana. One week later, Paul tweeted out a report from the Tax Policy Center claiming the Republican plan would negatively impact the middle class.
“I hope the final details are better than this,” Paul said, hinting some early opposition to the Republican-led tax reform effort.
This is a GOP tax plan? Possibly 30% of middle class gets a tax hike? I hope the final details are better than this. https://t.co/lcjkI4YRz8
Paul’s warning appears to have gotten back to Trump, who reportedly became angered when he learned the Republican tax plan, which proposes collapsing the individual tax rates into three tax brackets instead of the current seven, would hurt some middle-class Americans. “We’ll be adjusting,” Trump said in response, according to Bloomberg.
But Paul is already positioning himself at the extreme of any possible adjustments. He came out of his golf outing signaling that the Republicans’ proposed 20 percent federal corporate tax rate (already a substantial cut from the current 35 percent) is too high.
“Everybody's lowering their corporate tax,” Paul told reporters after golfing with Trump. “Some are worried, 'Oh, if we do a 20 percent corporate tax' — my goodness, Ireland is at 12 [percent], thinking about going to 8. You've got Canada at 15. We really, you know, need to do it. And I think [Trump] wants it to be as big and bold as possible."
Any lower than 20 percent looks politically unrealistic for Republicans, who are already struggling to find ways to pay for their massive cuts to tax rates.
These are early signs that Trump’s newfound buddy in the Senate might not be a team player on tax reform.
It’s not surprising from Paul. Only last month, he stood firmly against the Republicans’ last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare — a move that ultimately tanked the whole effort.
Paul likes to make noise in the Senate and has a habit of being a thorn in his fellow Kentuckian Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s side. That might curry favor with Trump — who has grown disenchanted with GOP leadership for now — but certainly won’t help with the wins Trump really needs.
Ending a TV show is equal parts philosophy, craft, and luck.
It’s a muggy Atlanta afternoon, and Lee Pace is filming what will become the final shot of the final episode of the AMC drama Halt and Catch Fire.
He has to deliver just one line: “Let me start by asking a question.” It calls back to the series’ very first episode, when Pace’s character, Joe, first met Cameron, the woman whose connection to him would help propel the series across four seasons and more than a decade of time. (Halt and Catch Fire, ostensibly about the tech boom of the ’80s and ’90s, long ago shifted its focus to its characters and their clashing ambitions.)
The young extras surrounding Pace are dressed in vintage mid-’90s student fashions. (He is meant to be their high school teacher now, instead of the would-be tech mogul he was throughout the series.) Most of the extras look to be in their late teens; having been a little younger than them in the actual mid-’90s — though just a little — watching them file through the lunch line at catering earlier in the day was like being visited by a long succession of half-remembered dreams.
Director Karyn Kusama, who’s helmed at least one episode in every season of Halt and Catch Fire, takes her time with the shot. Series co-creator and co-showrunner Christopher C. Rogers arrived just a few minutes ago from Los Angeles, to be present when the final scene of his TV series is put to bed. When it lands on viewers’ television screens months later, it will ache with a sense of warmth, nostalgia, and loss, coming as it does at the end of Halt and Catch Fire’s best season, a beautiful summation of everything the show stood for. It will be scored to Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” and edited so it cuts away at just the right moment.
But right now, it’s just Pace, Kusama, Rogers, and the crew. They try a bunch of variations. What if the camera moved like this? What if Pace paused for a beat before saying the line? What if he put the emphasis on different words? The extras watch attentively, as if he were really their instructor. And then, finally, Kusama and Rogers decide they have it. The crew moves on to other shots that will comprise the series’ final montage, depicting Joe’s new career evolution.
“Ten of Swords,” Halt and Catch Fire’s final episode, lands at an interesting time for the TV series finale. Because the advent of streaming has made serialized dramas more valuable to their studios as complete sets, with beginnings, middles, and ends, more and more low-rated shows are running three, four, or even five seasons and getting the chance to thoughtfullywrap up their stories. (The perpetually little-watched Halt is a prime example, with only one episode, the pilot, having topped 1 million viewers for an initial broadcast.)
So not only has the meticulously planned TV series finale become more common, with fewer and fewer shows each year just ending in mid-thought, but it’s become more important. A critic like me can say the journey is more important than the destination until he’s blue in the face, but to many fans, that journey will be forever marred if the destination ends up being a disappointment. The specter of disappointing finales (from universally derided endings like Dexter’s to more divisive ones like Breaking Bad’s or Lost’s — both of which I really like) looms, and nobody wants to fall prey to it. But the more ambitiousswings TV takes, the more likely bad finales become.
Nobody is actively fretting about such an outcome on the Halt and Catch Fire set this July afternoon. But the concern can’t be far from their minds all the same. Filming ends in less than a week. Post-production will end in a matter of months. And then Halt and Catch Fire will either be a show that stuck the landing or one that was pretty good until it wasn’t.
So, y’know, don’t screw it up.
The Sopranos versus Six Feet Under scale: a proposed binary for characterizing TV show endings
If you’ve watched the Halt and Catch Fire finale, you’ll hopefully agree with me that the show ended beautifully. The final two hours — aired as one big episode by AMC — left allthe characters in a place where they had attained closure, but where the audience could still imagine what might come next. In particular, the series hinted at potential fates for several characters without spelling out precisely what happened to them.
In other words, Halt and Catch Fire landed on the Sopranos side of the Sopranos versus Six Feet Under series finale scale.
I talked to a number of different showrunners and writers for this article — some on the record and some on background — and the number of people who suggested The Sopranos and Six Feet Under as twin poles on a massive sliding scale of series finales got me thinking about the two as opposite endpoints on the same spectrum.
The Sopranos famously ended with a moment of supreme irresolution. Tony, seated in a diner, waiting for his daughter to arrive, looked up toward the camera before the scene cut to black. Did he live? Die? Something else entirely? You couldn’t know for sure, and the ending led some fans to worry their cable had glitched. The moment has since become a TV legend — a “where were you when?” sort of thing — and your theory about what happens to Tony after The Sopranos ends (or your lack of one) says as much about you as it does the show itself.
Six Feet Under, in contrast, ended with a beautiful montage that revealed exactly how every one of its main characters died, long after the concluding action of the finale, which involved the Fisher family’sbaby sister Claire riding off into the sunset to pursue her dreams. (She would live until the age of 102, in 2085 — the world makes it at least that far in the Six Feet Under universe.) The show’s final scenes sketched in quick hints of what each character’s life had been like between Claire’s drive and their eventual deaths. The finale was all resolution, all the time.
Neither of these approaches is better than the other; which one you choose depends on the kind of story you’re trying to tell. What matters is closure — and what qualifies as closure differs for every single show.
Here’s a good rule of thumb, then: You’ll want to have a sense that the events of the series have either changed the characters or better revealed who they really are, if only to the audience. “You want to know that things won’t continue as business as usual for these people from here on out,” says Halt and Catch Fire co-creator and co-showrunner Christopher Cantwell. “In the full spectrum of their lives, here is the cross section of their lives that we told because it was the interesting one.”
The finales of The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, different though they may be, both hit that criteria. The action of the Sopranos finale indicates that Tony will always be who Tony is, and the ending doesn’t violate that basic conclusion. If we were tokeep watching, we’d just see him continue to repeat his old mistakes.
Six Feet Under, meanwhile, reaches a place where the characters are mostly okay, and the flash-forwards to their deaths in its finale indicate that, for the most part, they stayed in that place of okayness. They might have struggled here and there — but they were basically fine.
“Even if you don’t fully, literally complete the story of the character, you can put the emotional story of that character to bed in your own consciousness,” Cantwell says. “We had to do that as writers. I can’t be wandering around, wondering what’s going to happen to Joe MacMillan anymore, to function in society, because I’m not being paid to do it.”
Damon Lindelof, the Lost co-creator who just wrapped his tremendous HBO series The Leftoversin June, believes a good finale provides the closure Cantwell is describing but also leaves viewers feeling like they just finished watching the most important part of a character’s life.
“When Sam switches off the lights [at the end of Cheers], you’re basically like, he’s going to be a bartender. He’s going to have more girlfriends. He’s going to have further adventures, but they’re not as interesting as everything else that you just showed me. You showed me the most important part,” Lindelof says. “Closure can sometimes look like the opposite of closure. What you really need to chase is something that’s authentic.”
This question of “closure” often leads writers to believe that what viewers most want is the certainty that things will be just fine for the characters. And that can be true. But still, the ending of Dexter, which ended with the titular serial killer becoming a lumberjack in the Pacific Northwest, never atoning for his crimes, remains a cautionary tale. Facile “closure” superseded what would have been a more satisfying story.
“Great endings fulfill the unspoken promise of the show, which is to say they leave you in a place where you feel finally satisfied, even if the satisfaction is about wanting more, or about feeling sadness for the characters, or feeling disquiet,” says Joel Fields, co-showrunner of the FX drama The Americans. “It’s about feeling dramatically satisfied and feeling some level of cathartic relief.”
The opposite is true for long-running sitcoms, where viewers almost always want to know the characters are going to be functionally okay. Only the rare series finale reveals each and every thing that happens to the characters after the credits roll, but most sitcoms do try to suggest that everything will be all right for all involved. (Three sitcom finales that tried to delve into the darker sides of their characters’ post-show lives — Roseanne, Will & Grace, and How I Met Your Mother — faced significant backlash for that decision.)
One sitcom that did offer a more open-ended but hopeful take on its characters was Parks and Recreation, which ended after seven seasons in 2015. And Michael Schur, its co-creator, told me on the eve of the finale, “In the final scene, the idea was that every character gets one last little joke or comment. I was like, ‘In this last scene, everybody should say one thing, and that one thing should be kind of a representative sample of what that actor or that character meant to the show.’”
Still, Schur said, it was difficult to finish: “That scene took me about three days to write. It's like three-quarters of a page long. I wasn't anticipating the real sense of like, ‘Oh God, I'm killing these characters as I write these final words.’ And that was very hard to overcome.”
So the first step of making a series finale involves deciding just how far you want to push toward answering each and every question the audience might have — and what will best fit the series you’ve constructed. But once the script is written, well, you still have to produce it, and every little choice made on set and in post-production might throw everything off course.
How to make a series finale — from script to set to screen
“It’s like when a 95-year-old woman dies. I’m sad because I loved her, and she was a great grandmother, but she had a good life,” says Halt and Catch Fire star Mackenzie Davis, who plays Cameron. “So I don’t feel devastated, but I’m very weepy and nostalgic and keep trying to needle people into being, like, ‘Let’s talk about the first season! What was it like? Do you remember that?’”
Davis and I are sitting in an over-warm room within the official Waffle House Museum, the original restaurant in the popular Southern chain that will double as “The Diner,” where Davis’s final scene (a conversation with Cameron’s friend-turned-enemy-turned-friend Donna, played by Kerry Bishé) is being filmed.
But her overall sentiment is familiar to those who are present on the set, even Kusama, who has only directed this one episode all season. To some degree, the actual action of Halt and Catch Fire wraps up in the season’s seventh, eighth, and ninth episodes, reserving episode 10 (the finale) asa space for rumination and final thoughts.
That’s made this final go-round a chance for the cast and crew to reflect and reconnect. It has a very “last week of high school” vibe. And yet the actual production of the episode is about what you’d expect — Kusama calls, “Action,” and then the actors go through their paces. If you didn’t know this was the final episode being filmed, you might be surprised to learn it. But everything happening here is the culmination of four years of television, as well as 10 episodes that weren’t as set in stone as you might expect.
Somewhat remarkably, Rogers and Cantwell entered Halt and Catch Fire’s final season with only a slight sense of how the show might conclude. Indeed, they were still kicking around ideas for where the characters might end up as the show’s writers hashed out the season’s sixth episode.
Much of the hemming and hawing was thanks to the season’s single biggest plot turn. (Spoilers follow, though Halt and Catch Fire is a show where knowing what’s coming — as I did all season long, because I watched the filming of the finale before I’d seen a single episode — can enrich the experience.)
Rogers and Cantwell knew they were going to kill off the character of Gordon (Scoot McNairy), Joe and Cameron’s friend and Donna’s ex-husband, and they had a sense that his death would come somewhere in the season’s last batch of episodes. But the more they and their writers thought about it, the less the finale seemed like the right place for it to happen. Ultimately, Gordon died in episode seven, which left episode eight to deal with the characters’ grief and episodes nine and 10 to focus on how they moved forward from that tragedy.
The two especially liked that the final season allowed them to incorporate a full storyline about Joe and Gordon as genuine friends, something they had struggled to pull off in the first season, when Joe was a more straightforwardly antagonistic character. (In seasons two and three, there was too much bad blood between Joe and Gordon to credibly sell the two as friends.) And their ability to earn that connection — and Gordon’s gradual sense of inner peace at things going well for him — meant that having his death kick off what amounts to a four-episode coda gave almost the entire back half of the final season a greater sense of closure than it might have had if his death had come later.
“We do like that feeling that, in [episodes] seven, eight, nine, 10, there’s so much happening and so many weighty conclusions happening in them,” they could all be the finale, Cantwell said. “The characters’ human lives are really starting to overtake their technological ambitions.”
Killing Gordon in episode seven left Halt and Catch Fire with plenty of room to deal with the question of whether Cameron and Donna could ever rekindle their friendship in its final handful of episodes. Almost the entire series finale was about the two of them trying to save a seemingly lost school project for Donna and Gordon’s daughter, Haley, and dancing around the question of whether they’ll work together again.
To some degree, the show’s ultimate sense of “closure” relied upon finding a professional reason for the characters to keep up their personal relationships. As Davis put it to me when explaining the scene she was about to film with Bishé, “I don’t buy that these people stay in each other’s lives forever without a company or something they’re building.”
And as Cantwell pointed out, Halt and Catch Fire’s finale is structured somewhat similarly to the series itself — beginning with Joe (who eventually skips town), then delving for a lengthy period of time into Donna and Cameron’s relationship, before returning to Joe again.
All of these questions converge in the actual production of the episode, which is built from a quiet, understated script credited to Rogers and Cantwell. Kusama’s direction follows suit, rarely going in for flash; instead, she uses a roving camera to trail behind characters, almost as if they’re leaving us behind too.
“I’m not thinking about wowing the audience with a shot,” she says of Halt and Catch Fire’s final image. “I’m thinking more about how do I leave them with a feeling. For me, the approach needs to be somewhat deceptively simple to let the audience be lulled into feeling that they’re continuing with this story, so that when it all ends, we can imagine what it is that all of these characters are leaving us with.”
She continues: “It’s a different approach when you’re ending a show [than when you’re making any other episode]. You have to be thinking about a different tonal priority, in that you’re trying to leave enough questions that the audience feels like their imagination is still engaged in the life of the show, but that you’ve answered some questions to the degree that it feels like an ending.”
Rogers echoes this concept, explaining that the ideal version of the finale will leave the audience filling in some of the blanks themselves — with different viewers having different answers.
“The viewer can bring their own skepticism to those places too. Is this it for Joe? Is this real, or is it just another chapter? Is this going to last for Donna and Cameron?” he says. “I like that we don’t say definitively one way or the other.”
Okay, but what about when your finale is (mostly, probably) planned out already?
In researching this story, my discussions with Halt and Catch Fire’s Cantwell and Rogers revealed a series that was still feeling out its ending very late in the process, while Lindelof has spoken eloquently in the past about how The Leftovers’ final scene was more or less decided before the show’s writers started working on its third and final season.
But I also talked to two writers who have a finale in mind that they’ve mostly remained committed to since before their show’s second season: Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, the co-showrunners of FX’s brilliant spy drama The Americans. Their show will wrap in early 2018, and their approach is incredibly different from that of others I spoke with.
Fields revealed to me that The Americans’ writers have been working from a fairly extensive series blueprintsince before season two, and it includes an idea for the finale that the writers have continued to adhere to as the show’s sixth and final season begins production. They still have time to change their minds — but less so with every single day.
“We always kind of simultaneously write very much toward the story that we’ve had in our head, with this open-ended idea that it could change,” Fields says. “So far, the ending continues to stick.”
It’s tempting tobe wary of this approach, given all of the shows that had long-planned endings that didn’t work. Perhaps the most classic example is How I Met Your Mother, which committed itself to an ending before season two — by shooting footage for a series finale that ultimately wouldn’t air until the end of season nine — and then found itself boxed in as that ending approached, in a way many fans disliked. As an example of the opposite, consider Breaking Bad, which essentially stopped trying to preplan much of anything after its second season and saw both its quality and popularity increase.
But for as much as this level of planning might worry me on another show, I think it’s fitting for The Americans (if only because it seems to have served the writers well so far). A show like The Americans, which is character-driven but has several bigger “plot” questions — like “Will the central KGB spies be found out by the FBI?” or “Will their family stay together as the show ends?” — is in a position where it essentially needs to at least hint at the answers to those questions. It’s a situation that The Leftovers (which was self-consciously about a mystery with no answer) and Halt and Catch Fire (which was about its characters’ journeys) just didn’t have to navigate. The Americans is also in a different position from How I Met Your Mother, even if their situations are superficially similar, because its commitment to plot is much deeper.
“If you’ve been telling a large, plot-driven story from the very beginning, I don’t think you want to pull the rug out from under the audience at the very end,” Weisberg says.
For an example, consider Lost. Several fans had hoped that show’s finale would spell out answers to many of the show’s biggest questions. Instead, it solved many of those questions by implication, choosing to focus on the end of the characters’ journeys. It was a choice that I — and many other critics — loved, but it also left some viewers feeling as if the show hadn’t delivered on a core promise.
The resulting backlash has thankfully subsided a bit in recent years, as the show becomes a streaming staple. But the irony is that Lost largely knew the answersthat so many viewers were seeking. You can see where a sudden exposition dump so near the end of the series would have been confounding, turning off viewers like myself who were always more into the characters’ journeys. So it became a kind of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.
“Knowing that you’re headed in a direction with the freedom to change course — to us, that’s just a lot better than feeling rudderless,” Fields adds. “As you head more toward your ending, things get more inevitable. Your choices narrow as your story progresses.”
And the pair is still in the space Cantwell and Rogers were in when they were trying to figure out how to best deploy their own final season’s biggest plot turn. For now, The Americans’ final season remains mostly a pencil sketch — even if every single day, more of it gets inked into place as the final season’s air date approaches.
In the interim, the two can still revel in one possibility opened up by the final season of a TV show — anything can happen, for the most part. Bets are off, and viewers generally give writers more space to take big swings, because they just might pay off in a massive way. Simultaneously, they’re faced with both an exciting opportunity and a potential land mine that could severely damage their show’s legacy.
“It’s so tricky to thread this needle, because if you have a fresh and unexpected ending that’s contrived, that doesn’t work either,” Weisberg says.
Of course, on television in 2017, nothing ends any more, does it?
The hardest question of all to answer about a series finale is whether a bad one ruins a TV show. I don’t think so — and neither do the writers I talked to for this article. The fact that I didn’t like the finale of How I Met Your Mother doesn’t erase the enjoyment I got from the show’s best episodes, just as the near-perfect finale of Six Feet Under doesn’t erase the weird storytelling missteps the show made along the way to that finale. And yet, increasingly, a satisfying finale tends to create the sense that maybe there should be more to the story.
Toward the end of my chat with Cantwell and Rogers, I jokingly brought up the notion of Netflix wanting to do a Halt and Catch Fire revival in 15 years, and they laughed at the idea of revisiting the characters as they would exist in the late 2000s (roughly 15 years after the series’ timeline ends).
Neither one really wants to think about this. They’ve met with me on a long day of talking to people about what their next project might be, with new characters and stories and ideas to pursue. It’s only now, about a month after they locked the Halt finale, when I meet up with them for lunch, that they feel like they might start getting perspective on it.
“You really feel like you’re chasing the show down the street for four years,” Cantwell says.
So it’s natural to wonder why would anyone ever willingly return to the world of a show that ended years ago. But there’s a creeping realization, in 2017,that any past TV show — no matter how good its ending — can be revived in the hopes of chasing a fan base that wants more content and will subscribe to some streaming service or another to get it. In the past few years, we’ve seen revivals great (Twin Peaks) and okay (Gilmore Girls) and just plain rotten (Fuller House), but it’s hard to say any of them were strictly creatively necessary. (Except maybe Twin Peaks.)
Lindelof puts it this way: After he ends a series, “I think about those characters, but with nostalgia. I think about them the same way we think about relatives and loved ones and friends who are now dead.” And he feels the same way about characters on other TV shows he’s watched and loved. “They may have gone on to live after their finales, but not in my mind. Their lives ended the last time I saw them on my television set.”
This is the trick of the finale, isn’t it? Like Fields alluded to above, it’s the idea that you can leave the audience wistful andwanting more, but still feeling satisfied. I don’t know what happens to the characters on The Leftovers or Halt and Catch Fire after their finales, and I don’t need to know, but I also want to know.
Many, many shows have come closeto achieving this balance— maybe even close enough to satisfy almost all of their viewers — but the ones that have hit the mark with 100 percent precision are few and far between.
This feeling of satisfied longing makes it fairly easy to find room, even in a series finale you like but maybe don’t love, to say, “Hmm ... I wonder what happens when...” And that’s the space where revival rumors and endless, “Maybe we’ll make a movie someday!” interviews cause fans’hope to spring eternal. Stories have to end, but TV paradoxically suggests that they might go on forever. (Some, like The Simpsons, really do.)
An ending offers its own kind of meaning as written, but it’s ultimately a meaning the audience brings to it. The idea of Joe MacMillan addressing a room full of students existed only on a script page, and then in some raw footage, and then in an editing bay. But now it exists for anybody who wants to watch it, who wants to inscribe whatever meaning that resonates with them. And it’s impossible to say what that meaning will be.
You have an idea for an ending. You share it with your writers. You share it with the network. You share it with your actors. You share it with your crew. And then you share it with the world. And then, who knows?
“Each time, it feels like your whole life is on the line,” The Americans’ Weisberg says. “It’s very sort of exaggerated, but it feels like the whole show is on the line.”
What Google searches for porn tell us about ourselves.
A few months ago, I interviewed Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Everybody Lies, a new book that uses data on America’s Google habits as an insight into our national consciousness.
Two findings from the book dominated the conversation: America is riddled with racist and selfish people, and there may be a self-induced abortion crisis in this country.
But there was plenty more revelatory data in the book that we didn’t cover. So I wanted to follow up with Stephens-Davidowitz to talk about some of the other provocative claims he is making.
I was particularly interested in sexuality and online porn. If, as Stephens-Davidowitz puts it, “Google is a digital truth serum,” then what else does it tell us about our private thoughts and desires? What else are we hiding from our friends, neighbors, and colleagues?
A lot, apparently.
Among other things, Stephens-Davidowitz’s data suggests that there are more gay men in the closet than we think; that many men prefer overweight women to skinny women but are afraid to act on it; that married women are disproportionately worried their husband is gay; that a lot of straight women watch lesbian porn; and that porn featuring violence against women is more popular among women than men.
I asked Stephens-Davidowitz to explain the data behind all of this. Here’s what he told me.
Last time we spoke, I asked you about the most surprising or shocking finding in your research. We talked about racism and the possibility of a self-induced abortion crisis in America. Here I want to dive into something a little lighter: sexuality and online porn.
What did you learn about this?
Porn is the biggest development in sexuality research ever. I don't understand how social scientists weren't begging Pornhub for their data. I was one of the only ones. I sent some of my results to some of the most famous sociologists and sex researchers in the world. Many of them had no interest.
Why does porn data offer such unique insight?
Well, to learn about sex, the main approach was to ask people. But people lie on sensitive topics such as sex.
You combed through the data — what did it say about us?
There’s a lot of variation in what people like. Probably 30 percent of people exclusively watch stuff that you would find disgusting.
Why focus on sex? Were you initially interested in this, or did the data lead you to it?
It’s a book about human nature. Sex is a big part of human nature. Some reviews of Everybody Lies have criticized me for being obsessed with sex. Everybody is obsessed with sex. If they say they're not, they're lying.
You point to some interesting data in the book about sexual orientation.
It’s clear that a lot of gay men remain in the closet. In places where it's hard to be gay, such as Mississippi, far fewer men say that they are gay than in places where it's easy to be gay, such as New York. But gay porn searches are about the same everywhere.
This doesn’t necessarily tell us how many people are gay in these areas, but it’s a revealing data point.
I look at the data a whole bunch of ways and conclude about 5 percent of men are predominantly attracted to men.
Can you really draw concrete conclusions from this sort of data? People search for things for all kinds of reasons, right?
I think porn is a pretty good measure of people’s sexual fantasies, even if they never act on them.
What’s your response to people who are skeptical of inferring anything from this stuff?
I think watching a porn video is a lot more telling than answering a survey question. I agree you should be cautious in how you interpret it, though.
Let’s talk about what married people are up to online.
The number one question that women have about their husbands is whether he is gay. And these questions are much higher in the Deep South, where my research suggests there are indeed more gay men married to women.
Do you think women are justified in their curiosity here? Is this a question they should be asking more often?
I think women are too obsessed with their husbands' sexuality. Women are eight times more likely to ask Google if their husband is gay than if he is an alcoholic and 10 times more likely to ask Google if their husband is gay than if he is depressed. It is far more likely that a woman is married to a man who is secretly an alcoholic or secretly depressed than secretly gay. About 98 percent of women’s husbands are really straight. Trust me.
What are husbands secretly worrying about?
Whether their wives are crazy.
What should husbands be asking Google? What would they ask if they knew what their wives were Googling?
Whether their wives are more physically attracted to women than men.
Tell me about America’s suppressed sexual desires.
There are still sexual preferences that people hide today, even in socially liberal places. About one in 100 porn searches are for the elderly. Hundreds of thousands of young men are predominantly attracted to elderly women. But very few young men are in relationships with elderly women.
I’m not sure what I think about that. Any theories?
It’s interesting. Some sexual preferences I first learned about on The Jerry Springer Show, which featured really poor, uneducated people. People attracted to animals or family members or the elderly. But, now from seeing porn data, I realize those preferences also exist among wealthy, educated people. Wealthy, educated people are more cognizant of contemporary social norms, which means if you have such an attraction, you hide it.
I recall something in the book about the sexual preferences we hide largely for cultural reasons or for fear of being judged. Can you talk about that?
If you define being in the closet as picking partners based on what society wants rather than what you want, many people are in the closet. For example, I am certain a large number of men are more attracted to overweight women than skinny women but try to date skinny women to impress their friends and family members.
Porn featuring overweight women is surprisingly common among men. But the data from dating sites tells us that just about all men try to date skinny women. Many people don’t try to date the people they’re most attracted to. They try to date the people they think would impress their friends.
That says something truly awful about our cultural pathologies. People should be free to like whatever they want, but the pressures to conform are overwhelming — and ultimately unhealthy.
It’s also inefficient. There are a lot of single men and single overweight women who would be sexually compatible. But they don’t date, while the man tries and fails to date a skinny woman even though he’s less attracted to her. And then there are women who practically starve themselves to remain skinny so their husbands won’t leave, even though their husbands would be more attracted to them if they weighed more. The desire to impress people causes all kinds of inefficiency.
All right, give me a couple of unusual desires you noticed — one from men and one from women.
It is really amazing how much tastes can vary. There are women who just watch porn featuring short, fat men with small penises. There are men who just watch porn featuring women with enormous nipples.
How about other countries?
The number one Google search in India that starts "my husband wants ..." is "my husband wants me to breastfeed him." Porn featuring adult breastfeeding is higher in India than anywhere else. In just about every country, just about every Google search looking for advice on breastfeeding is looking how to breastfeed a baby. In India, Google searches looking for breastfeeding advice are about equally split between how to breastfeed a baby and how to breastfeed a husband.
After I published this finding, some journalists interviewed people in India. Everyone denied this. But I am sure, based on the data, that there are a reasonable number of adult Indian men desiring to be breastfed. It is really amazing that this desire can develop in one country without ever being openly talked about.
Any other findings from countries not named America?
Japanese men have recently become obsessed with tickling porn. More than 10 percent of Pornhub searches by young Japanese men are for “tickling.”
So basically all of humanity is united in its weirdness?
Yeah, basically. Some people respond to Indian men wanting to be breastfed and are like, “Indian men are so weird." That's not the right response. The data from porn tells us that everybody is weird. Thus, nobody is weird.
And yet we all feel weird because we assume (wrongly) that no one else is as weird as we are.
Sometimes I think it would be a good thing if everyone’s porn habits were released at once. It would be embarrassing for 30 seconds. And then we’d all get over it and be more open about sex.
Any other surprising findings about women in America?
About 20 percent of the porn women watch is lesbian porn. A lot of straight women watch lesbian porn.
That’s not very surprising.
Porn featuring violence against women is also extremely popular among women. It is far more popular among women than men. I hate saying that because misogynists seem to love this fact. Fantasy life isn't always politically correct.
The rate at which women watch violent porn is roughly the same in every part of the world. It isn’t correlated with how women are treated.
Let me ask you this: Has all of this research changed how you think about sexuality in general?
I have always wondered how homosexuality made it through evolution. Like, isn't evolution supposed to make people desire heterosexual sex with fertile people? But after studying porn, I realized homosexuality is hardly the only desire that doesn't make sense from an evolutionary perspective.
Less than 20 percent of porn watched these days features vaginal sex to completion among two people who can conceivably have a healthy baby. Cartoons, anal sex to completion, oral sex to completion, foot sex to completion, incest, elderly porn, tickling, animal porn, sex with objects, etc.
Sex is clearly about a lot more than procreation, and I’d say a lot of needless suffering has resulted from our confusion about this.
I think the reason is we are growing up under very different conditions than we evolved under. Hunter-gatherer kids didn't watch The Simpsons. And hunter-gatherer adults didn't watch Simpsons porn. I think we are evolved so that if we grew up in hunter-gatherer conditions, just about all people would have an overwhelming desire for vaginal sex. But modern conditions take sexuality in all kinds of directions. I'm becoming more convinced of that the more data I look at.
So what’s the future of online porn? Where is it going?
I think anal sex will pass vaginal sex in porn within three years. That's what my data models suggest.
Somehow that feels like a perfect point on which to end.
The Exception - сладкая сказочка про жившего в эмиграции в Голландии кайзера Вильгельма и про то, как его приехал охранять опальный армейский капитан, моментально заваливший в кровать голландскую прислужницу с прекраснейшим телом (правда, голышом ее показали всего раз, сволочи!), оказавшуюся еврейкой, засланной англичанами, чтобы уговорить кайзера смыться в Англию с обещанием водрузить его обратно на трон после войны. Узнав, что она - еврейка, молодой ариец воспылал к ней еще бОльшей любовью и позвал жениться. А шейнэ майсэ, как говорила моя покойная бабушка. Вообще, фильм смотрится как кинокомедия, особенно смехотворна роль Гиммлера, сыгранная ирландцем.
Fragments of Love - этакая колумбийская Эммануэль, кто из взрослого поколения еще помнит что это такое. Блядища, меняющая мужиков, как перчатки, прицепляется к откровенному лузеру - неудавшемуся композитору в постоянной депрессии, работающему настройщиком пианин. Он, думая, что это и есть любовь, выслушивает ее честные постельные рассказы про некоторых ее бывших, страдая от этого неугомонной астмой. В конце концов она, сделав с него "посмертную маску", выгоняет и его.
Gerald's Game - муж готовит spicy weekend для жены, чтобы хоть как-то вернуть друг другу прежние чувства. Но виагра играет с ним злую шутку, и жена остается в довольно неудобном положении, из которого выбирается посредством разговоров с потусторонними силами. Смотрибельный триллер с уклоном в инцест.
A Ghost Story - что-то не везет мне в последнее время на кино. Очередной фильм, очередные 91% от критиков, очередная мура. Причем мура настолько медленно развивающаяся, что даже удивляешься как всего в полтора часа влезло тьма такой муры, как 5 минут жевания пирога, сидя на полу, 5 минут лежания трупа на каталке в морге, 5 минут лежания пары с целованием и т.д. и т.п. Натуральный недоделаный Тарковский, честное слово.
The Hero - фильм понравился, особенно на фоне кучи пустышек, просмотренных мной в последнее время. Понравился жизненностью. Тем, как показана связь предыдущего поколения с нынешним, включая связь посредством новыми методами коммуникаций, которых 15 лет назад и впомине не было. Понравился сценарием, актерами на своих местах, спокойствием и достоинством.
My Life as a Zucchini - средненькая и обычненькая история детдома, перенесенная в мультипликацию.
Our Souls at Night - уходящий пласт бывших звезд начинает сниматься в своих лебединых песнях. Играют хорошо, ничего не скажешь, но уж больно грустно смотреть на Роберта Рэдфорда и Джейн Фонду под килограммами грима, так и не скрывающего возраст. Хотя и играют они уже вполне достойных senior citizens, вроде, и грима столько не надо. А тема все та же - жизнь, ошибки, любовь, подрастающее поколение со своими проблемами и companionship для стариков. Должен сказать, что уровень фильмов, произведенных Нетфликсом, впечатляет. Молодцы, хоть и вновь собираются повышать деньги за членство, сучьи дети.
Ракета с кораблём стартовала с площадки № 31 космодрома Байконур в 11:47 по московскому времени. По данным телеметрической информации, отделение корабля от третьей ступени ракеты прошло штатно в расчётное время.
Текст Романа Рогова, члена Федерации и администратора «Музея будущего». Главный редактор и издатель стенгазеты Георгий Попов. Я немного поучаствовал в редактировании.
4 октября 2017 года исполняется 60 лет со дня запуска первого искусственного спутника Земли. Простейший Спутник-1, или ПС-1, стал первым рукотворным объектом, выведенным на орбиту вокруг нашей планеты. За ним последовали и другие космические аппараты. Здесь представлены 60 межпланетных зондов, посадочных станций и роверов, которые внесли самый значительный вклад в исследования Солнечной системы и дальнего космоса. Каждый из этих беспилотных аппаратов открыл новую страницу в науке и может по праву считаться наследником Спутника.
Стенгазета будет бесплатно распространяться в Петербурге (смотрите на сайте). В другом городе её можно распечатать с файла.
Традиционные благодарности: "Археологии" - за помещение. Скади - за концерт и одобрение записи, Графу - за запись, Хоси - за обработку, Куковлеву - за место для файлов, Толченову - за рекомендацию Графа, Йолафу - за знакомство с Толченовым, Джеффри и Кариссиме - за доступ в ФИДО, бабушке, дедушке и Ка-Мыши - за компьютер... Вселенной - за Большой Взрыв.
Нетрадиционные неблагодарности: сидевшим у стойки - за громкие разговоры и ржание (местами на записи это заметно), официантам - за стук собираемой посуды (это тоже местами слышно).
В понедельник истребители ВВС Израиля уничтожили батарею ПВО вооруженных сил Сирии всего в 50 км от Дамаска, заявив, что таким образом ответили на обстрел своих самолетов, выполнявших задание на территории Ливана. Сирийское командование в ответ обвинило израильтян в агрессии. Инцидент произошел за несколько часов до визита министра обороны Сергея Шойгу в Тель-Авив.
Инцидент с обстрелом самолетами ВВС Израиля батареи зенитных ракетных систем С-200, дислоцировавшейся примерно в 50 км от Дамаска, произошел рано утром 16 октября. По утверждению сирийских военных, израильская авиация около 08:51 по местному времени нарушила воздушное пространство страны в районе Баальбека на границе с Ливаном. Зафиксировав это, сирийские расчеты открыли огонь, якобы повредив один из пролетавших самолетов. А уже в 11:38 истребитель F-16, по версии Минобороны Сирии, «выпустил несколько ракет с оккупированных территорий», которые «упали на одну из военных позиций в провинции Дамаск». В Минобороны Израиля уточнили, что авианалет, уничтоживший батарею, стал ответом на обстрел израильских самолетов.
Согласно классификации МОТ, около половины всех трудящихся в мире работает вне стандартных трудовых отношений с работодателем. Только 25% работников трудятся на постоянных контрактах, остальные являются самозанятыми (их 35%), 13% работают по временным контрактам или контрактам с фиксированным сроком, а 12,3% заняты в неформальном секторе.
В РФ, по оценке МОТ, наиболее распространенными являются неформальная (20%) и временная занятость (10%), причем последняя растет высокими темпами (подробнее см. “Ъ” от 11 апреля).
Ъ - https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3441040 Когда пишут о временной занятости, то видимо имеют ввиду найм по срочному контракту на срок до двух месяцев? А то, что у нас в стране средняя продолжительность работы у одного работодателя составляет 3 года по "бессрочному" контракту - это типа нормально?
В результате ни работодатель не хочет вкладывать серьезные деньги в работника, который все равно скоро сбежит, ни работник не может чувствовать себя надежным и защищенным и брать кредит на 10 лет. Ведь никто не знает, будут заказы или нет. Грохнется банк или чиновники придумают новые правила и налоги... Нет стабильности.
Оценка Росстата динамики промпроизводства с устранением сезонных и календарных эффектов фиксирует снижение выпуска за сентябрь на 0,4% против роста на 0,5% за август.
Быстрее всего, по данным статистиков, увеличивался выпуск в пищевой промышленности и производстве потребительских товаров и стройматериалов.
Ъ - https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/3440884 Болтанка вокруг нуля. Путин поторопился сообщить об "устойчивом росте экономики". Хотя это спад только в производстве, нарисуют красивый рост в сфере услуг и особенно в "государственном управлении" и будет ништяк надутый. Как в Китае.