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How Kathy Griffin Helped Trump, Based on Brain Science

Reading Time: 2 minutes


It’s difficult to see in the fog of war, but comedienne Kathy Griffin did Donald Trump a huge favor. Before I explain, look at all the benefits Trump got from Griffin’s decapitation humor:

Kathy Griffin’s career disaster is a classic example of overplaying one’s hand. For a while, Trump jokes were the easiest laugh you could get. But with so much material created by so many comedians, our brains developed tolerance. I’ll explain.

Laughter is a chemical response. Endorphins and dopamine are the chemicals associated with laughter. They’re also the chemicals that nicotine stimulates.

When you smoke your first cigarette, you get a mighty rush. You feel so good that the smell and taste of burning leaves doesn’t bother you.

Your second cigarette feels just as good. But if you measured the endorphins and dopamine levels, you’d see that the second cigarette was slightly less effective than the first. If you keep smoking, you’ll eventually need stronger cigarettes and more of them to approximate the same happiness you got from your first.

The bad news gets worse. Because you’ve artificially stimulated your happy circuits for so long, your brain forgets how to make itself happy.

That’s how dependency works. Exposure to a chemical builds tolerance which leads to dependency.

And it works with jokes, too.

How funny is the funniest joke you ever heard the third time you hear it?

Because of tolerance, it’s getting harder and harder to make people laugh with Trump jokes. Everybody’s heard them all. So comedians have to ramp up the shock factor. And they have been. And it was working.

Until Kathy Griffin went too far.

Now, Trump jokes feel stale and cynical. Because Kathy Griffin jumped the shark. Griffin went too far by cutting off Donald Trump’s head in a simulation.

As her punishment, she:

That’s a lot of punishment for going too far. And it indicates that people have said “enough is enough” when it comes to Trump jokes.

What’s great for Trump is that the opposite of laughter, in this case, is empathy. People who were laughing at Trump jokes last week empathize with him and his family today. They won’t admit it, but a chemical analysis of their brains would confirm it. When people see Trump now, they’ll release more oxytocin and less cortisol. Oxytocin makes us feel connection to other people, even affection. Cortisol is the stress hormone that makes us feel anxious.

Public affection for Trump will increase for a few weeks. You won’t see a major change in the polls for some time, but you will see the lying, rotten media treat him a little bit more fairly.

And you’ll probably see the media turn their rottenness against Hillary Clinton instead. So will the DNC. And our brains will get the message: you elected the right candidate last year.

That will give people a whole new bias to confirm.


Study Links Journalism, Stupidity

Reading Time: 1 minutes

From the “we could have told you that” department:

Journalists’ brains show a lower-than-average level of executive functioning, according to a new study, which means they have a below-average ability to regulate their emotions, suppress biases, solve complex problems, switch between tasks, and show creative and flexible thinking. [emphasis added]

It’s okay to laugh. You suspected that reporters are kind of dumb. Now you know. They can’t keep up with Trump, but they probably can’t keep up with a young adult novella, either.

The Business Insider story gets even better:

The results showed that journalists’ brains were operating at a lower level than the average population, particularly because of dehydration and the tendency of journalists to self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine, and high-sugar foods. [emphasis original]

The next time you’re tempted to get mad a journalist, don’t. Instead, feel the kind of pity one feels for the ignorance of animals.

Fox News’ Ratings Collapse Is Almost Complete. Here’s Why.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Guest post by Lee A. Presser

For those of you who do not follow things as mundane as television rating scores, you may be surprised to learn that Fox News Channel (FNC) is losing its lead as the powerhouse in primetime cable TV ratings to MSNBC.  There are a couple of reasons why.

First, control of FNC has been transferred to two brothers, Lachlan and James Murdoch, who do not believe in the political message espoused by Fox for the last twenty years.  ( 1-30-17 – “21st Century Fox chiefs James and Lachlan Murdoch—CEO and chairman, respectively—are the latest corporate leaders to come out against Donald Trump’s executive order banning citizens of seven predominately Muslim nations from coming into the United States for 90 days and halting the Syrian refugee program for 120 days.”)

Their insouciant attitude toward FNC’s longtime viewers is causing those viewers to turn off the channel, precipitating an extraordinary ratings plunge.  If that trend continues, advertising revenues will diminish.  Perhaps then the board of Fox Entertainment Group, or its owner, 21st Century Fox, will act to restore FNC to its former political thought process thus restoring its cable rating dominance and revenues.  (Don’t hold your breath)

Second, MSNBC, the new cable news leader, has positioned itself as the cable news voice of the opposition to the Trump Administration.  The energy of opposition infuses MSNBC with vigor and indulges progressive beliefs.  Those who fear President Trump and what he hopes to accomplish are finding MSNBC as their new messaging home.

MSNBC is doing to the Trump Administration the same thing Fox did to the Obama Administration.  It is a megaphone for those who want to stop the President from accomplishing his economic and political agenda.

Today, progressive agitators are focused on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and the claim that Donald Trump is connected to it.  The firing of FBI Director James Comey has become the latest in a long line of stories about a Trump connection to Russia.  Stories continue to appear in the mainstream press, including MSNBC, despite statements from Senator Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Maxine Waters, former DNI General James Clapper, Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, and many others that there is NO evidence to support the claim.

Conservatives who, in 2009, did not want a “fundamental transformation of America” rallied around Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Charles Krauthammer, and the rest of the FNC team as conservatives successfully organized themselves politically in 2010 to overthrow Democrat control of Congress.  FNC focused on the successes of the Tea Party as well as the conservative portion of the Republican Party.

In 2009, conservative agitators focused on President Obama’s place of birth and his personal and political connections to anti-American persons such as Reverend Jeremiah Wright and domestic terrorist Bill Ayers.

Today’s Progressives message is “We need to remove President Trump. He is bad for the country and bad for the world.”

They offer no message which resonates with the middle class.  What they do offer is to make available more tax money to support healthcare, nearly cost-free college, and support services for all undocumented immigrates.

Both the conservative and progressive agitators use secondary issues (President Obama’s place of birth, his personal and political connections to anti-American persons, free college and free healthcare for all) at election times to generate emotions rather than clear thinking.  It is a rehearsed tactic used to divert the American voter’s focus away from those primary issues which are truly important; jobs, a significant increase in their family’s purchasing power, an optimistic future for their children, and the ability to control their own senior years. 

If Fox News Channel continues on its new course, its ratings and revenues will diminish.  If MSNBC’s message does not lead to a significant increase in elected Congressional Democrats following the 2018 elections, their ratings and revenues will diminish.

That vacuum will provide an opportunity for a new political message and a new cable news messenger.  This new entity will speak to those who are not adherents to the message of the crazy left or the crazy right.  It will focus on how to achieve the goals listed above; jobs, a significant increase in family purchasing power, an optimistic future for children, and the ability for individuals to control their own senior years.

Why I’m Not Freaking Out About the Budget

Reading Time: 2 minutes


Congress is about to pass a budget. I call it a “Paul Ryan Special.” This budget lets the government spend money for four months. It expires in September.

The budget is horrible. Republicans are spinning a few “wins” in the budget, but that’s a terrible argument. It’s like telling a terminal cancer patient, “but your blood pressure’s pretty good.”

Here’s the thing: you cannot control Congress. You can only control what you focus on and what you do next. That’s it. That’s all anyone can control.

Sure, you can influence people. If you capture their attention, bypass their critical thinking, and trigger their subconscious mind. That’s how you influence. But you cannot control. What they do next is up to them. What you do next is up to you.

I’ve learned that making fun of Paul Ryan on Twitter does no good. He’s not reading my tweets.

I’m, instead, focusing on improving my work. If I improve my work, the economy might grow. If the economy grows, people will give Trump credit. If Trump gets credit for the economy, he’ll get more positive attention by September. If Trump has positive attention in Congress, he’ll have more influence over Paul Ryan and Democrats.

People want a vibrant economy. People want to choose between several good job offers. No one wants to feel trapped in a low-paying job they don’t like. People want options. You want options.

I can’t fix the economy myself, but I can do my job better. And that will make my company and its clients better. If enough other people do the same, the economy will grow.

The other thing people want is safety. People want to be safe. What good is a great job if you get shot walking into work?

If President Trump makes America safe again, he will earn more positive attention. With more positive attention, his influence in Congress will increase.

I can’t do much about safety, but my kids can. I have two sons in the Navy and one who will soon be a firefighter. They keep us safe. I can choose to support them and their careers. That’s how I can make America safer. It’s not much, but it’s in my control.

You, like me, hate this 4-month budget. But I’m not freaking out. It’ll be over in four months. That’s about the same amount of time that Trump’s been in office. See how time flies?

It will be okay.


The Day Reagan Was Shot

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Think about the sun, Pippin
Think about her golden glance
How she lights the world up
Well, now it’s your chance
With the guardian of splendor
Inviting you to dance
Think about the sun
Finale, Pippin by Stephen Schwarz

We were standing near the glass doors at the back of the theatre waiting for the bell.

Bishop DuBourg High School’s theatre doubled as its theatre classroom. The last class of the day was almost over. We were waiting for the bell to ring. The last bell of the day.

At the other end of the room, the stage held the set for Pippin which opened two weeks later. I would play Pippin’s half-brother Lewis in that production. My first musical.

The bell didn’t ring on time. We could see through the glass doors that some teachers had released students early. But not Mr. Leibrecht. Jim Leibrecht, the best high school theatre teacher and director you could ask for, stood and chatted with us.

Leibrecht and I didn’t agree on politics. He was not a Reaganite. Nor a Republican. I was. I appreciated and respected Jim Leibrecht too much to talk politics with him. Not worth it. Why risk a friendship or mentorship. I don’t remember what we talked about, me and the class’s dozen students and Leibrecht, but it wasn’t politics. It was probably Pippin.

Five minutes after the bell should have rung, our principal Floyd Hacker come on the PA. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I’ll pretend I do:

“The news is reporting that President Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt in Washington DC this afternoon. This is a sad moment in our lives and in the life of the United States. We’ve been through this too many times in my life. I do not know the President’s condition, but he alive and has been taken to a hospital. The shooter is in custody. Now, let’s offer a prayer for the President’s recovery and for our country before dismissal.”

Close enough.

Then, nearly 2,000 Catholic teenagers and the faculty prayed a Hail Mary and an Our Father in unison. We were not alone. From Time magazine’s issue immediately after Reagan was shot:

When the President was shot, Americans prayed very hard, not for the life of an abstraction, but for a man, one who as leader of the democracy carries some thing of everyone in that mortal chest.

The bell rang. No one moved.

Girls were crying. Maybe I was, too. The halls were silent except for muffled yelps and sniffles. Teachers and students who had never been shy about voicing their dislike of Ronald Reagan looked shocked and sad. An attack on one was an attack on all. At 3:05 p.m. CST on March 30, 1981, we were all Reagan’s children (or grandchildren).

I don’t remember if we had Pippin rehearsal after school. I watched Nightline that night, as I did most nights. Stories were already emerging about Reagan’s remarkable humor and humility. “Does anybody know what that’ guy’s beef was?” “I hope you’re all Republicans,” the Gipper told the doctors. “I forgot to duck.”

There were stories of people cheering the news. I didn’t see anyone celebrate firsthand. I did hear people joke about it. I probably did, too. Generation X never held back except around elders we wanted to impress. Among that generation at that time, pulling punches on irreverent jokes was a crime. And, besides, Reagan sort of gave us permission to crack wise about it. He went first.

How does this memory of the day Reagan got shot make you feel now? Deep inside where the dark and light fight for attention and dominance, how does the idea of a President’s mortality fall out?

And what if Trump got shot? How would you handle the reaction from the left? From the NeverTrump establishment types?

What would happen to society if some selfish leftists or some rogue Secret Service agent attacked President Trump? Would Time magazine write about a nation praying together for his recovery?

I usually discount the notion that people have fundamentally changed. But culture does change. In the culture of 1981, we all still followed the lead of our WWII-era guides. That generation still dominated boardrooms, school administrations, and politics at every level. In 1981, Baby Boomers like the Clintons were busy climbing the culture’s social ladders. The Silent Generation had arrived and relaxed in its middle management haven. And Gen X was busy sarcastically critiquing the phoniness and pointlessness of everything like real-life Holden Caulfields.

Whatever the generational undercurrents each cohort stirred beneath, in 1981 the surface of American cultures remained firmly in the hands of the Greatest Generation

But times have changed now. The World War II generation, typified by George H. W. Bush don’t get around much anymore. The Silents are in the back half of their retirement years. Baby Boomers, desperate to hang on to the youth they misspent, cling to the last vestiges of power in politics and business and entertainment. Sober and skeptical, Generation X wields its growing power quietly as our Millennial siblings and children climb out from their parents’ basements. And the decorum imposed on our culture by the Greatest Generation has been replaced by angry hatred fomented by the clinging Boomers who encourage the worst behavior on the part of their Millennial grandchildren. David Horowitz, Boomer radical turned conservative Trump supporter, warned us in 1989 that his generation was the most destructive in US history. And they weren’t done.

David Horowitz, Boomer radical turned conservative Trump supporter, warned us in 1989 that his generation was the most destructive in US history. And they weren’t done.

Pippin, in the play by that name, wants to do something great with his life. He tries academia, sex, war, religion, and politics. All leave him empty.

In the end, Pippin is torn between two extremes of greatness: the greatness of self-immolation and the greatness of being a good husband and stepfather to a young boy.

I wanted magic shows and miracles
Mirages to touch
I wanted such a little thing from life
I wanted so much
I never came close, my love
We never came near
It never was there
I think it was here
—Finale, Pippin by Stephen Schwarz

When I reflect on that day in March 1981, before my generation even had a name, I feel like America has walked millions of miles in Pippin’s shoes. The Boomers beckon us to go out in one perfect flame that will absolve humanity, at least American humanity, of its many sins. Behind those Boomers stand these Gen Xers. We’re too chastened by life to tell the Boomers their wrong. They wouldn’t listen, anyway. But we’re also too wise to think that they’re right.

The Boomers wanted something perfect. Something shiny and pure. But, as Pippin tells us, there’s no color you can have on earth that won’t finally fade.

Maybe America isn’t perfect. But anyone who takes a look around the world will see that no one’s ever done better. No one’s even come close. But we nearly came near during that magic moment called the Eighties. Thank God that bullet missed its mark.

Maybe we can come a little closer this time. If Donald Trump, like Reagan, can survive the hatred and selfishness of that most destructive generation.

7 Questions for the Freedom Caucus

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Yesterday, I placed blame for the healthcare debacle at Speaker Ryan’s feet. I also wrote that I expected the Republican establishment to blame the tea party. To blame us for aborting the Trump presidency in his first 100 days.

Today, I’m going to beat the establishment to that punch a little. Because the Freedom Caucus and some of my favorite action organizations looked a little juvenile in this debate. Juvenile and stupid. In fact, if this were an auto accident (instead of a trainwreck) I’d allocate responsibility at about 60% to Ryan and 40% to the Freedom Caucus.

But that’s my initial assessment. I could change my mind if I get some answers to these questions.

  1. Did you honestly believe that the bill you defeated was worse than Obamacare?
  2. Did you honestly believe that defeating Paul Ryan’s bill would inspire the Republican establishment to write a better bill?
  3. Did you honestly try to improve the bill, or did you decide early on to just kill it?
  4. What is your end state on health care?
  5. What is your plan to achieve that end state?
  6. Do you accept the assessment by many that you retroactively vote “aye” on Obamacare, seven years after the fact?
  7. Do you accept accountability for the consequences of defeating the new president in his first major legislative initiative?

I’d love to hear from the House Freedom Caucus members themselves. I know some of those members committed to voting “aye” on the bill yesterday. And others bargained in good faith, indicated they really wanted to vote for the bill.

Others, however, wanted to kill the bill because of the hamfisted way Ryan brought it from the dark to the light. These obstructionists intended to inflict their damage no matter how good the bill became. I direct my questionnaire to those saboteurs. I wonder if they realize how much damage they might have just done to their own cause. I wonder if they realize that people prefer incremental improvement to shock treatment.

I wrote, if this bill fails, Obamacare is here to stay. The bill failed.

Everyone who helped kill the bill helped keep Obamacare around. You said in effect, “I hate Obamacare, but it’s better than what the Republicans offered.” In other words, the 30 or so holdouts in the House own Obamacare now. As do those activist organizations who cheered on the obstructionists.

I’ve written before of my affinity for Patton’s quote:

A leader is a man who can adapt principles to circumstances.

— George Patton

When Donald Trump won in November, circumstances changed dramatically. Leaders would have adapted their principles to these new circumstances. Both Ryan and his opponents seemed determined to adapt circumstances to their principles. They both failed.

[Read how strategy beats hyperventilation]

Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, but I have a feeling that the Freedom Caucus did what 16 Republicans, Hillary Clinton, and the entire mainstream media establishment could not. I have a feeling the Freedom Caucus destroyed Donald Trump’s chances of winning. And I’m not alone.

From Daniel Flynn at Breitbart:

Presidents never get second chances to make first impressions. So, Donald Trump’s opportunities to repeal and replace ObamaCare after this week’s failures diminish as time passes.

The late Milton Friedman in his book The Tyranny of the Status Quo noted that “a new administration has some six to nine months in which to achieve major changes; if it does not seize the opportunity to act decisively during that period, it will not have another such opportunity. Further changes come slowly or not at all, and counterattacks develop against the initial changes. The temporarily routed political forces regroup, and they tend to mobilize everyone who was adversely affected by the changes, while the proponents of the changes tend to relax after their initial victories.”

. . .

Prospects for Republicans fulfilling their seven-year-old promise to the American people now look bleak. And conservatives, once again, find themselves conserving liberal laws.

From “Freedom Caucus drives dagger into heart of young Trump presidency” by Elizabeth Peek on

It is hard to overestimate the damage the Freedom Caucus has done to the fledgling presidency of Donald Trump, and to the country. By blocking the American Health Care Act of 2017, the conservative group has guaranteed that Americans will struggle forward under the burden of Obamacare. In the next few months insurers will announce their premium hikes for the coming year; chances are, given the continuing withdrawal of major companies from the marketplaces and the ongoing failure of the bill to attract enough young and healthy participants, the new rates will not be pretty. Last year premiums went up 25%; it’s likely the increases will be higher this year.

. . .

This is the truth: the Freedom Caucus has breathed new life into the demolished Democratic Party.

We shall see if Ms. Peek’s and Mr. Flynn’s grim conclusions are correct. But their assessments of the immediate damage seems obvious. And the lack of mature leadership from the Freedom Caucus is indisputable.

When I think of leadership, I think of Patton. Paul Ryan gave us General Fredendall. The Freedom Caucus gave us even less.

UPDATE: From Peggy Noonan who sees things so clearly:

Politically it’s all obvious. For the new administration it is a loss and a significant one. It has damaged the new president’s prestige. Every president until he fails has the aura of unused power. Boy, when I use it, you’re gonna see muscle. He used it. No muscle. Fatal? No. Damaging and diminishing? Yes. It is an embarrassment too for Speaker Paul Ryan.Together they could not get a win on the board after they threw everything they have into it. This does not speak well for everything they have.

. . .

The central dynamic behind the bill’s difficulties is that the Republican conference in the House is divided between institutionalists, who support the leadership; conservatives, who found the bill too soft; and moderates, who found it too hard. By putting forward the bill, they allowed this division—which was wholly predictable and may be irreconcilable—to play out as a public breakdown rather than an impasse.

From Philip Klein in Washington Examiner:

In this case, the hardliners were playing a productive role by pointing out the real policy consequences of the piecemeal approach being pursued by the House leadership. Though we’ll never know for sure how the numbers might have looked if a vote had taken place, it’s clear that many centrist members of the Republican caucus were also prepared to vote this bill down. House conservatives, if they could be blamed for anything, it’s for having the audacity to urge leadership to actually honor seven years of pledges to voters to repeal Obamacare. If anybody was moving the goal posts, it wasn’t Freedom Caucusers, it was those who were trying to sell a bill that kept much of Obamacare’s regulatory architecture in place as a free market repeal and replace plan.

Finally, from Robert Costa, whom President Trump called immediately upon pulling the bill:

What happened with the House Freedom Caucus, the hard-line conservatives he had wooed over and over again?

“Ah, that’s the big question,” Trump said with a slight chuckle. “Don’t know. I have a good relationship with them, but I couldn’t get them. They just wouldn’t do it.”

Trump alluded to long-running, simmering dramas on Capitol Hill, which he said had little to do with him, as a reason the Freedom Caucus could not back the bill.

“Years of hatred and distrust,” he said. “Long before me.”

Was Trump saying, perhaps, that the inability of Ryan and his team to work well with that caucus was part of why talks stalled?

“Well, look, you can say what you want,” Trump said. “But there are years of problems, great hatred and distrust, and, you know, I came into the middle of it.”

“I think they made a mistake, but that’s okay,” Trump said of the Freedom Caucus.