Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Let’s get right to the news. I’m going to start with a couple of items that should particularly interest Dakinikat. First, Charlie Pierce wrote a post yesterday about Bobby Jindal’s campaign for VP.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wants to be your vice-president. (He may also want to be your president, too, but being your vice-president first is an easy way to do that.) His first audition for the second slot was to become the prime surrogate for the relentless juggernaut that was the Rick Perry campaign.

(This was a juggernaut only in the sense that people watched Perry speak in the debates and asked each other, “Is he hitting the jug or not?” Thank you. I’ll be back for the late show.)

Once he rode that baby straight into the ground, Jindal decided to campaign for the job on his own, all the while hoping that nobody in the country remembers his memorable “reply” to the president’s State of the Union address back in 2009, during which Jindal looked like a 12-year old wearing his grandfather’s suit, the one in which Jindal scoffed at federal spending on “volcano monitoring” a little more than a year before a big hunk of Iceland blew up and nearly destroyed the airline industry in Europe.

Pierce is reacting to Jindal’s op-ed at the WSJ: Obama’s Politicized Energy Policy

With rising energy costs making it more expensive to drive our cars, heat our homes, and fuel our sputtering economy, many Republicans are criticizing the Obama administration for a failure to adopt a comprehensive energy policy. I believe that critique lets the president off too easily. His administration does have a national energy policy—it’s just a subservient by-product of his radical environmental policy.

This administration willfully ignores rational choices that would lower energy prices and reduce U.S. reliance on foreign energy sources.

Bla, bla, bla…”rational” advice from a guy who believes in exorcism.

We all lost an hour of our lives a couple of days ago when the government made us “spring forward” into daylight savings time (DST). I love it, because it means it stays light a little longer at the end of the day here in New England, but Dak hates what it does to her down in New Orleans. Of course up here in the north, I don’t have the problem of darkness in the early morning.

The Christian Science Monitor had an interesting article on DST yesterday. CSM reports on a psychological study that found that workers are sleepy the next day after the time change (duh!) and are more likely to waste time on the internet at work. “Global productivity losses from a spike in employee cyberloafing are potentially staggering,” the researchers conclude.

CSM says that the origins of DST go way back. It was “originally proposed by a 19th century butterfly collector who wanted more time at the end of the workday to scour fields for insects,” and was first implemented “during World War I (peacetime standardization came in 1966).”

The most recent real adjustment in the US came in 2007, when the change was moved up to the second Sunday in March from the first Sunday in April to lengthen “summertime” and gauge potential energy savings. Polls showed farmers, perennial DST opponents, grumbled, and sports retailers (who benefit from the extra hour of daylight for play time after work) rejoiced.

If you’re worried about lost sleep, you might want to read this article at Alternet: The 8-Hour Sleep Myth: How I Learned That Everything I Knew About Sleep Was Wrong. Apparently it’s not really natural for humans to sleep through the night. The author read about this in a BBC article. Here’s the gist from the Alternet piece:

Turns out that psychiatrist Thomas Wehr ran an experiment back in the ‘90s in which people were thrust into darkness for 14 hours every day for a month. When their sleep regulated, a strange pattern emerged. They slept first for four hours, then woke for one or two hours before drifting off again into a second four-hour sleep.

Historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech would not have been surprised by this pattern. In 2001, he published a groundbreaking paper based on 16 years of research, which revealed something quite amazing: humans did not evolve to sleep through the night in one solid chunk. Until very recently, they slept in two stages. Shazam.

In his book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, Ekrich presents over 500 references to these two distinct sleep periods, known as the “first sleep” and the “second sleep,” culled from diaries, court records, medical manuals, anthropological studies, and literature, including The Odyssey. Like an astrolabe pointing to some forgotten star, these accounts referenced a first sleep that began two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.

This waking period, known in some cultures as the “watch,” was filled with everything from bringing in the animals to prayer. Some folks visited neighbors. Others smoked a pipe or analyzed their dreams. Often they lounged in bed to read, chat with bedfellows, or have much more refreshing sex than we modern humans have at bedtime. A 16th-century doctor’s manual prescribed sex after the first sleep as the most enjoyable variety.

That makes me feel a lot better, since I’ve rarely ever been able to sleep through the night, and in my later years, I have a terrible time falling asleep in the first place.

In political news, President Obama’s approval rating has suddenly tanked, supposedly because of gas prices.

Despite improving job growth and an extended Republican primary fight dividing his would-be opponents, President Obama is heading into the general election season on treacherous political ground, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

At a time of rising gas prices, heightened talk of war with Iran and setbacks in Afghanistan, Mr. Obama’s approval rating dropped substantially in recent weeks, the poll found, with 41 percent of respondents expressing approval of the job he is doing and 47 percent saying they disapprove — a dangerous position for any incumbent seeking re-election.

Which is kind of scary because of the horrifying Republican presidential candidates. It’s still early, so I’m not panicking just yet. Speaking of the clown car crew, there are four primaries today–in Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii, and American Samoa. I’m not sure if we’ll have a live blog, because the last one was a bit of dud. If you’d like to have one, please say so in the comments to this post. We’ll definitely post the results tonight though.

As of last night, Romney was in the running in both Alabama and Mississippi, where the polls show Romney Gingrich, and Santorum all running neck and neck. The worst news is that Romney is now leading Obama by 5 points nationally.

The next item drew a {heavy sigh} from me. A new PPP poll found that a whole lot of voters in Alabama and Mississippi think President Obama is a Muslim. {{Heavy sigh….}}

The poll of Mississippi Republicans found that 52% said they believed Obama is a Muslim, 36% weren’t sure and only 12% said they believed he is a Christian. He fared slightly better in Alabama, where 45% said he is a Muslim, 41% weren’t sure, and 14% said he is a Christian.

Some folks in these two deep South state don’t care for interracial marriages like the one that produced Barack Obama.

67% of Alabama Republicans saying they believe interracial marriage should be legal, though 21% said it still should be against the law. In Mississippi, 54% said it should be allowed, while 29% said it should remain illegal.

The preferred Republican candidate of those opposed to interracial marriage? Newt Gingrich. In Mississippi, Gingrich led Romney among that group 40% to 27%, and held a 38%-27% advantage in Alabama.

I am soooooo glad I don’t live in Alabama or Mississippi! Alexandra Petri of the WaPo calls it “the time traveler vote.” She says that voters must have just arrived from the 1920s.

I don’t know why it didn’t strike me sooner. So many of the issues at stake this year are Issues I Thought We Resolved Several Decades Ago. This is 2012, with lots of economic distress and voter unrest to go around. Why are we suddenly prioritizing Taking Back Control Of Women’s Bodies For The State?

But if you consider the Time Traveling Vote, it all makes sense.

I am not sure how big the vote is. But if the recent actions of many state legislatures are to be taken into account, it is surely substantial.

To visitors from the past, these issues are still pressing and vital. They don’t care about jobs! Once the election’s over, they’re headed back to 1926, where the economy is still roaring and everyone is flapping and doing the Charleston.

It certainly makes more sense than the assumption that they’ve simply been ignoring all the headlines, most of the textbooks, the entire women’s rights movement and the scientific consensus for decades.

Some love letters between the young Richard Nixon and his future wife Pat will be displayed at the Nixon Library. They are said to show Nixon’s “sensitive side.” A sample:

“Every day and every night I want to see you and be with you. Yet I have no feeling of selfish ownership or jealousy. In fact I should always want you to live just as you wanted – because if you didn’t then you would change and wouldn’t be you,” Nixon wrote in one of the letters, part of a rotating display at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

“Let’s go for a long ride Sundays; let’s go to the mountains weekends; let’s read books in front of fires; most of all let’s really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours,” he continued.

Whatever happened to that guy?

Finally, have you heard that Arlen Specter has a memoir coming out? Naturally, it’s full of complaints. Harry Reid stabbed him in the back after promising to give Specter seniority as a Democrat if he switched parties. Obama and Biden didn’t help him in his primary campaign against Joe Sestak. The most interesting revelation in the article in The Hill is that Bob Dole told Specter he (Dole) would have switched parties too.

“Dole told me I had done the right thing, that I had done a terrific job as a senator, been involved in a lot of projects, been very active, and hadn’t gotten credit for a lot of the stuff I had done,” he wrote.

“I said, ‘Bob, I think that it’s very meaningful when you say that I did the right thing, in the party change.’

“He said, ‘Well,’ and then paused and thought for a few seconds. Then he said, ‘I probably would have done the same thing.’ ”

Never mind all that. I want to read about Specter’s role in the Warren Commission and how he dreamed up the “single bullet theory.”

That’s all I’ve got for now. What are you reading and blogging about today?

Nevada Caucuses Open Thread

Mr. 1% addresses a campaign rally in Colorado Springs

I thought I’d put up a thread about the Nevada Caucuses. Official results will be coming in soon, but as of now it looks like another big win for Romney. Reuters:

Early vote results reported by CNN showed Romney grabbing a big lead. With 3 percent of precincts counted, Romney had 52 percent, well ahead of U.S. Representative Ron Paul’s 20 percent. Former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich was in third with 19 percent and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum was last with 9 percent.

As for Mitt, he’s already in Colorado.

Flanked by four young grandchildren, a buoyant-looking Mitt Romney strode across the tarmac here [Colorado Springs] early Saturday afternoon, creating a perfectly posed American family tableau on the day that Nevadans voted for their choices to be the Republican presidential nominee.

He had reason to look upbeat; early returns from Nevada caucuses indicate a decisive win — which would make it the second state he has won in a row, and the third total — boosting the narrative of his inevitability, which briefly seemed in doubt after he was routed in South Carolina by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Colorado’s caucuses take place Tuesday.

Rick Santorum is also in Colorado and Ron Paul has moved on to Minnesota.

According to TPM, Newt Gingrich, who spent very little money or effort on Nevada, announced his upcoming campaign schedule just a short time ago, seemingly indicating that he plans to fight on.

Earlier, TPM reported that Gingrich had sent out an e-mail to supporters saying “we still have 45 states to go.” Gingrich held a meeting with about 60 donors earlier this afternoon. Sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson was at the meeting, so I assume he plans to keep supporting Gingrich for now. The NYT reported today that Adelson is open to supporting Romney in the general.

Ron Paul is saying he believes he’ll come in second in Nevada. According to Chris Matthews on MSNBC Paul says he’ll get 25%. That wouldn’t be good for Newt, who really needs to come in second.

I’ll post updates in the comments, but please do treat this as an open thread.

Doublespeak, the Devil’s Advocate and Diogenes’ Endless Quest

Just when you think current events and various public utterances cannot get any more ridiculous, they do.  Often, much of what we hear and are expected to take seriously is wrapped in doublespeak, deliberately vague, obscure language to hide the speaker/writer’s true intent.

We’ve had examples galore as the 2012 election looms over DC, political candidates twisting themselves into pretzels to find the right combination of words to seduce voters.  Newt Gingrich, for instance, referred to his lobbying involvement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac [for which he was paid handsomely] as providing advice as an ‘historian.’  John Boehner has taken a page out of Frank Luntz’s cannon, repeating the phrase ‘job creators’ as if it were a magical incantation.  Democrats are certainly not immune to this form of prevarication.  Every time I recall Nancy Pelosi’s infamous statement about the Healthcare Reform Bill, I wince: We have to pass the bill before we know what’s in it.

That being said, there’s a special spot in Doublespeak Heaven or Hell for John Yoo, who often writes for the American Enterprise Institute.

John Yoo.  Name sound familiar?  Mr. Yoo, the infamous legal advisor to the Bush Administration’s inner circle, recently jumped up, expressing considerable distaste for and worry over President Obama’s overreaching his authority, abusing and doing considerable damage to the US Constitution.  A reasonable person might conclude this is in reference to the recent indefinite detention clause in the National Defense Authorization Act, the one POTUS claimed he would not sign.  But then did.

But we’re not talking reasonable.  We’re talking John Yoo, deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel [OLC], Department of Justice from 2001-2003.

John Yoo helped strangle the English language, managing to transform the word torture into ‘enhanced interrogation,’ a smoke screen phrase that former Vice President Cheney is still defending, so he and his buddies can sleep at night.

Let’s recall the past.

John Yoo spun out legal arguments for wiretapping, warrantless surveillance on all communication coming in or out of the country as well as warrentless surveillance against American citizens; defended the use of torture [excuse me, enhanced interrogation], authoring the infamous ‘torture memo,’ in which he cited permissible techniques, including assault, maiming and drugging on orders of the President as long as they do not result in death, organ failure or impairment of bodily functions.  He also advised the suspension of the Geneva Convention, War Crimes Act, indicating that the US is no longer restrained by International Law in our endless War on Terror; declared that the President is empowered to make war without Congressional permission and, in fact, has the power to order military strikes inside the US.  He defended the President’s right to order rendition without Congressional approval, etc., etc., etc.

That John Yoo.  He was a very busy man while he held tenure as the Devil’s Advocate.

Mr. Yoo now says President Obama has exceeded his powers by his recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  As you may recall this is the nefarious agency, the wicked brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, to protect American consumers from the labyrinth of confusing language offered in loan and credit agreements.  For example, credit card agreements and home loans.

According to Mr. Yoo, who wrote a piece for the National Review Online, President Obama is making a sweeping claim in the very definition of ‘recess.’

But President Obama is making a far more sweeping claim. Here, as I understand it, the Senate is not officially in adjournment (they have held “pro forma” meetings, where little to no business occurs, to prevent Obama from making exactly such appointments). So there is no question whether the adjournment has become a constitutional “recess.”


This, in my view, is not up to the president, but the Senate. It is up to the Senate to decide when it is in session or not, and whether it feels like conducting any real business or just having senators sitting around on the floor reading the papers. The president cannot decide the legitimacy of the activities of the Senate any more than he could for the other branches, and vice versa.

I find this argument particularly startling coming from Yoo, considering his defense of all things related to the expansion of presidential authority.

But there’s more,

Even with my broad view of executive power, I’ve always thought that each branch has control over its own functions and has the right — if not the duty — to exclude the others as best it can from its own decisions.

Broad view is an understatement because John Yoo is on record, as early as March 1996, declaring that the President has the right to declare war, not Congress.  During his tenure with OLC, he asserted that a President can suspend First Amendment Freedoms in wartime and that the power of the Executive is virtually unlimited in times of war.

You can’t have it both ways.  We’re still engaged in Afghanistan, involved in a seemingly perpetual state of war.

Yoo further states that in view of President Obama’s gross overreach:

Most importantly, private parties outside government can refuse to obey any regulation issued by the new agency. They will be able to defend themselves in court by claiming that the head of the agency is an unconstitutional officer . . .

Now to be clear, I am not a lawyer. I cannot comment on the legalistic merits of the argument.  Others have done that.  But I do think I have a fairly good eye for hypocrisy.  And then there’s this, in reviewing Mr. Yoo’s past declarations, summaries of his memos and advice on matters of war, torture and the suspension of civil rights, this recent charge against President Obama seems out of proportion.

And duplicitous.

It’s okay when neo-cons play with the boundaries and definitions of the Constitution but not when our presumably Democratic President does the same thing.  That’s not to say I agree with either political class redefining, remaking and declaring right and true what is and what is not permissible under the Constitution for very distinct political purposes, merely extending a particular agenda.  But once this questionable threshold is crossed?  The results are what they are.

What neither side refuses to speak to is the considerable danger there is in not accounting for what the next elected Executive is likely to do with ‘expanded’ powers, the establishment of a unitary president. This falls under the heading: Short-Term Goals. It should be noted that redefining the scope of the Executive Office was all the rage during the Bush years, something that Obama vowed to change.

But he did not.

Recalling Mr. Yoo’s penchant for reinterpreting the US Constitution during 2001-2003 [not a pleasant journey], I felt as if I’d literally entered a parallel Universe, one in which language is weaponized.  In this strange, ever-evolving cosmos, white is black, up is down, evil is good and ultimate power [with no accountability] is the Law.

George Orwell is screaming from the Heavens to be named a true prophet.

As for the US Constitution?  It can mean anything you want it to mean. It depends on which side of the political divide you’re standing on.

John Yoo is not a person I would ever turn to for legal advice.  Not for the world I wish to inhabit or wish available to my children and future grandbabies.  In fact, I would think after all the damage Mr. Yoo  [admittedly, he was not alone] did during the early years of the Bush Administration, he’d be reluctant to level charges against anyone ever again.

And yet, a quick check through the archives found that Yoo had weighed in on President Obama’s proposed Executive Order on Federal contractor disclosure.  This proposal would require contractors to provide their political-giving history, any gift over $5000.   The proposal, it is argued, will make the Federal contract system more transparent and accountable to the public.

How radical!

Yet Mr. Yoo suggests the proposal makes some of Richard Nixon’s ‘dirty tricks’ look quaint by comparison.  As an example, he conjures up the humiliating fate of anyone tempted by Presidential overreach, undoing the time-honored, Constitutional right of anonymous political speech [conveniently avoiding the issue of money-giving, as in, swamping our elections in massive amounts of payola].  Namely, the consequence of these sins leads to impeachment.

I’m falling down a rabbit hole.  A really dark rabbit hole.

A case in point, Mr. Yoo ties his concern for poor, vulnerable corporations to MoveOn’s boycott of the retail operation, Target, in Minnesota.  The boycott and subsequent bad press disclosed that Target had made a contribution to a conservative group supporting a gubernatorial candidate opposed to gay marriage.  Yet Target had repeatedly proclaimed itself a gay-friendly corporation.

Ian Millhiser at Think Progress summarizes Yoo’s analysis this way:

In other words, Target misled the public by calling itself a gay-friendly corporation, when it actually was secretly funding an anti-gay effort. Yet, because of disclosure, it was no longer able to maintain this charade and forced to end its two-faced practices. In Yoo’s twisted understanding of the world, this is a great tragedy and not a compelling argument for why disclosure laws are necessary.

I would like to think there’s a place in the Universe where bad actors are rehabilitated, where they reconsider bad decisions, damaging policies that serve only to injure the weak and/or take advantage of human vulnerabilities. Yet reviewing the twisted logic of John Yoo has given me real pause.  If fact, all these political players give me great pause.

This is particularly true with a primary season trudging along, Republican candidates making whacko statements and mean-spirited declarations. We’ve witnessed:

Michelle Bachmann’s delusions, the Eye of the Newt’s vindictive nature, Romney’s spinning positions, Santorum’s woman and gay problem, Perry’s aphasia, Jon Huntsman’s [sadly] invisible campaign and the cuddly libertarian Ron Paul, who yearns to return to the good ole days of 1900. We have not had the benefit of listening to the likes of Buddy Roemer, a voice that should be heard. But now add John Yoo to the brigade of howling voices, then mix a large measure of contradiction, deception and slick language games.

President Obama [who certainly has employed doublespeak with flair, spun numerous fantastic tales of his own] begins to look grounded, normal.

Which means, of course, I’ve definitely entered an alternate Universe.  Maybe this one:

The crazy season just goes on and on and on.  Which makes me think of Diogenes, wandering ancient Greece with lantern in hand, searching for that one honest man.

That was nearly 2500 years ago.  We haven’t learned much.

Live Blog: Iowa Caucuses

Political signs in Des Moines, Iowa

The caucuses are just wrapping up, and it looks like I may get my wish.  Ron Paul seems to be leading at the moment with Romney second, and Santorum third. I can’t wait to see the elite Republicans freak out if Paul wins. From CBS News:

Doors have closed at caucus precincts across Iowa, and early results from CBS News entrance polls show a three-way race for the Republican presidential nomination among Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

Entrance polling reveals that Paul’s voters are male, younger, and many are first-time caucus goers. Romney’s voters are looking for someone who can beat President Obama, while Santorum’s voters looking for a true conservative.

Much data has yet to be collected, and those arriving earliest may not reflect the total caucus voters. The precincts closed their doors at 7 p.m. CT, leaving Republican voters in the Hawkeye State to be the first to weigh in on this year’s presidential contest. Mitt Romney took the lead among the early entrance polls four years ago, but finished second in the caucuses to Mike Huckabee, who was then the choice of evangelical conservatives.

USA Today has a Live Blog of events in Iowa, and so does CNN. CNN also has live video from several caucus sites.

I’m listening to MSNBC on satellite radio. What are you watching or listening to? What are you hearing? Who do you think is going to win this thing? Let us know in the comments. If you have found a good place to watch on-line, let me know and I’ll post it up here.