about those shiny objects…

We have reflexes for essentially the same reasons that bacteria have them. They can’t help but use them and neither can we.

We also can think, and sometimes we even do, but nobody thinks while their reflexes have taken control. Nobody thinks while their reflexes are in charge because thinking requires attention, and paying attention is the polar opposite of reacting reflexively.

This business of an outrage every twenty minutes keeps our reflexes on the playing field and our attention on the sidelines and out of the game. I’m not saying that’s why they do it, only that it’s one effect of doing it.

“Promise and then deliver something for the reflexes to get excited about every few seconds, and everyone’s attention span is effectively reduced to zero.”

Still, I do believe that that is why they do it – I just don’t have access to Steve’s notes (assuming that he makes notes). I suspect it because he can’t have helped but notice how well this trick worked for Trump in the campaign, just as Trump must have previously noticed how well it works in the reality TV trade.

Promise and then deliver something for the reflexes to get excited about every few seconds, and everyone’s attention span is effectively reduced to zero.
Theologians and philosophers can and do argue endlessly about whether free will actually exists, but I have never heard anyone claim that there can be free will without choice, or that there can be choice without some kind of awareness that is more than purely reflexive. We are without even the illusion of free will when we are in the grip of one reflexive command after another.

Being under the constant control of our reflexes is tiring, not to mention unpleasant for people who have gotten used to thinking even a little. One consequence of this was well expressed by the famous psychologist Terry Pratchett:

“…people don’t like change. But make the change happen fast enough and you go from one type of normal to another.”

On December 7 of 1941 we were at peace, on December 8 we were at war, and well before new year’s the new normal of war had thoroughly sunk in. Sunk into a population that had collectively refused to go to war for two years of nearly constant thought about it, then embraced doing exactly that one Sunday morning without the barest trace of thought.
Steve knows that. Our Steve’s a thinker, yes he is.

He’s hardly the first politician to notice this. I used to be a poll watcher, and in ’72 I was supposed to watch the last paper-ballot precinct in Chicago. Paper-ballot precincts were designed for stealing votes (there are simply so many good ways to do it!), and I was supposed to keep them from being stolen (ha!). I showed up at 6 AM and met the precinct captain — the guy who would do the stealing — and we kicked the rules around over coffee. He was a hell of a nice guy, and he seemed to take a real paternal interest in me. He said:

* “You seem like a bright kid, so I need to do what I do in the first half hour. I need to be done before you even begin to figure out what you’re seeing. After that, we’ve both got a long, boring day coming up.”

And we did. Fourteen hours later we got down to the votes at the bottom of the ballot box and I finally figured out what he’d done, but by then it well and truly was done.

I never felt so helpless before, and I think I’m seeing the same thing happening now — get it done before they figure it out, which they will do eventually.

Being of that opinion, I become very frustrated at the notion that the important stuff can still happen, is still happening at congress-speed, at court-speed, at government-speed.

All that was the old normal.

* Some but not all of this paraphrasing is from ancient memory, but the part in bold is word for word.


(Ed note; the method of voting fraud referred to is the chain ballot technique, as Nat explains in a comment thread elsewhere. —9K’)

and from across the pond …

Haven’t had chance to go through that debate yet (it lasted three hours) but if you would like to skim through it, the Hansard transcript is here, and the video is here.

I presume the opener (Labour MP Paul Flynn) got some coverage with:

This is what happens when you try to smile, but are too arrogant and stupid to actually understand humor.

This is what happens when you try to smile, but are too arrogant and stupid to actually understand humor.

The President’s power is enormous, but unfortunately his intellectual capacity is protozoan. We are greatly concerned about the extraordinary actions he has taken. He has blundered into frozen conflicts around the planet that needed delicate handling; they needed the microsurgery of decisions such as those that have been taken in the past by statesmen. He has gone in and caused problems in every area in which he has become involved:

It is of great concern that the President behaves like a petulant child. How would he behave in a future conflict that might arise?

It is extraordinary that Trump, from the cavernous depths of his scientific ignorance, is prepared to challenge the conclusions of 97% of the world experts on this matter. He makes a bad science conspiracy theory conclusion when, apart from the nuclear issue, climate change is the most important issue of our time.

Our main concern is that we are in this position of surrealism, of an Orwellian world that is unfolding before us, where the theme that has been put forward by Trump is that lies are the truth, good is bad, war is peace and fantasy is fact. We see that with the figure of the Trump Big Brother, who is there, ever-present seven days a week and 24 hours a day, preaching from his one source of news—the only voice of truth.


I assume that none of his acolytes/press spokespersons have yet quite grasped that “protozoan intellectual capacity” was not a compliment.

more please, oliver

Trump, Putin, technobeat fan music, poisonings and shootings, sex tapes, and hooligans taking a shit on the hood of your car.

Oh yeah, and Gary Kasparov with radio-controlled flying dildos.

What’s not to like?


If you are not in the US the video link above may be blocked.  I don’t have a solution to this problem. Links which work in other countries, like the UK, come and go on YouTube as new uploads by people seeking to navigate around HBO’s copyright restrictions are detected and taken down.  The real, human, solution would be for HBO to realize this kind of work, especially now, is too important to be fucking around with geographical restrictions and just turn it all loose, but of course that’s not going to happen because both lawyers and bean-counters have smaller than average brains, which I know to be a scientific fact because I saw it on the internet.


In the meantime, try searching YouTube and with a bit of luck you’ll find a version that will play in your location before it’s taken down. People upload them all the time and HBO’s legal department is constantly playing whack-a-mole with them.

speaking of tone … (updated)

… change it just a little bit and you’re in a whole new world.

This is cleverly done, sassy is a useful word with great euphony, and we could use a laugh anyway, right?


Turns out this is the work of one Peter Serafinowicz, and he’s been doing this for a while now.  Follow this link to YouTube and you’ll find dozens of these going back all the way to last year.

The only changes he makes are to the soundtrack, the words themselves are exactly those spoken by Hair Führer in the original.

There’s now a shorter example from back in August embedded in the comment thread.

This is good work, and  exactly the kind of thing which will irritate the crap out of Hair Führer, so do help spread it around, if you please.

creeping closer …

Here’s Fox News’ standard-bearer Chris Wallace rather agreeably rotating Ridge Polebarn on the BBQ spit over Hair Führer’s “the media is the enemy of the people” ploy.

Wallace doesn’t go nearly far enough, and he has one hell of  long way to go before his integrity as a reporter even remotely approaches that of his late father Mike Wallace, but hey, this is Fox News after all, which is where most of Der Führer’s supporters get the, um, data which underly their understanding of the world.

We’re one month in, and Trump’s already gone a bridge too far for two of Fox’s heavy-hitters.

Trump is still on a roll, and still firmly in the driver’s seat, but this kind of thing, if it continues, will start to add up. And clearly Wallace is not ready to drop the Russian connection ball either, an outcome obviously high on Polebarn’s agenda here.

Watching Polebarn’s nervous swallowing, verbal floundering, plaintive whining, desperate attempts at obfuscation and misdirection and obvious lying (reference any introductory course on interrogation techniques to see the text book examples of  dishonesty “tells” on display here if you’re skeptical) is deeply enjoyable.

creeping toward the l-word

I think I’m right in saying this is the first Fox News video ever to appear here, but either way what we’re looking at here is what I believe the diplomats call “movement”.

They’re not quite there yet, but they’re creeping up on it, deploying damn near every term you can dream up for a lie without actually saying the word “lie”, including “this president keeps telling untrue things, and he does it every time he’s in front of a microphone.”

I have no idea who Shep Smith is—some kind of Fox regular talking head I suppose—but here he is on Fox News offering a comprehensive defense of the media generally, and rather enjoyably tearing Hair Führer a brand new asshole.

“He keeps repeating ridiculous throwaway lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we’re some kind of fools for asking the question … Really? We’re fools for asking the questions? No sir, we are not fools for asking the questions. And we demand to know the answer to this question.”

So is this the beginnings of a crack in the dam? Long way to go yet, and let’s see if this guy still has a job by the end of the week, but it can’t hurt.


you go, johnboy!

John Oliver is back in the saddle—and not a moment too soon—and once again demonstrates his extraordinary talents. He insists, vehemently, that he’s a comedian and not, absolutely not, a journalist.

OK, fair enough. His history of stand-up routines (which he still does from time to time) and other work certainly validates that claim, and I’m willing to extend the courtesy of taking him at his own evaluation of himself.

But that said, nobody currently on TeeVee presents politics, policies and current affairs with more clarity and accuracy (based on diligent and reliable research—he has a big staff and takes accuracy very seriously indeed) than does this guy. You’re not going to find hardly anything in the media much better, in terms of commentary on this current clusterfuck, than stuff like this;

“Since taking office around 412 years ago, Trump has made it clear that reality is not important to him … [he’s] a pathological liar with a well-documented 40-year history of bullshit…

…but it was worth taking him seriously. Trump was telling the truth about the solutions to the problems he was lying about, and he is now making real policy based on fake facts.”

This is 23 minutes of sheer, much-needed brilliance, and we need all the help we can get.

The video may be blocked for copyright/distribution reasons in your location, which has been a problem we’ve seen in the past. I wish I knew a solution to that problem, because this guy’s work needs to be seen as widely as possible, especially now.

true colors

hair fuhrer

As if we didn’t already know that Hair Führer, our so-called president, is  a vindictive bully;

Sheriff tells Trump that state senator is doing something he doesn’t like.

Trump: “Do you want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career.”

Just imagine if Barack Obama had said something like this. Just imagine if he had owned hotels and pressured diplomatic visitors to stay in them. Just imagine how many GOP heads would be exploding.

Or if he’d said that Putin being  “a killer” who orders the murder of people who publicly criticize him was, you know, just kinda meh because hey, we’re not so innocent and we’ve got plenty of killers too. Just imagine what people like Sessions would have to say about that, assuming they’d be able to actually speak at all such would be their fury.

Just imagine if Michelle Obama was claiming damages in a law suit because an unverified accusation had scuppered her chances—in the “window of opportunity” which being the wife of a US president affords—of making a crapton of money selling shoes and fragrances and jewels.

We’d be in the middle of impeachment proceedings already, sure as eggs.

But it won’t happen, not for a long time yet if ever. Not so long as Trump is an effective bulldozer, clearing a path for the installation of policies the right, religious and otherwise, has been wet-dreaming about for more than a generation now.  Including, and let’s not pretend this is not an issue, gaining enough control of enough Statehouses to make the prospect of some choice Constitutional Amendments entirely plausible.

Right now I see only one path to minimizing the damage these fucking clowns, and their enablers in an utterly morally bankrupt GOP, will inflict upon us, and that’s;

a) A massive outburst of civil dissent on an unprecedented scale, both in terms of numbers and duration, between now and the mid-terms, and

b) A re-vitalized and re-tooled Democratic Party (which will need to be freed from the odious clutches of the DLC, and driven by grass-roots pressure) capable of mounting a campaign which could at least reacquire control of the Senate.

My instinct right now is without that, we’re fucked.

And with it, while we’d certainly have a fighting chance of leaving a recognizable republic to our progeny, it would be ugly as hell, ‘cos I firmly believe it’s expected, and meetings such as the one between Trump and his favorite Cops and Sheriffs  which was the venue for the opening quote, are preparatory to a full commitment to a merciless crushing any such attempts at resistance.

They’re playing for keeps.

inquiring minds want to know…

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 8.22.30 PM


Are you worried that your broker might decide that his own interests are more important than whether you die penniless under a freeway overpass, even though you’re, you know, paying him?

Would you like to earn a little bit of extra cash just in case?

You could always make a bit of pocket change by helping to beg the Senate to confirm Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, since it looks like they’re worried the nomination might come up short.