Wednesday Morning Quick Reads

192810427766537540_wArSGRAR_cGood Morning

I am not up for much lately, so here goes a quick news round-up. Surprises out of swamp, as Obama picks a girl to head the Secret Service…Secret Service Gets First Female Director

President Obama on Tuesday appointed Julia A. Pierson, a longtime Secret Service agent, as the first woman to head the agency best known for protecting the president, vice president and their families.

Ms. Pierson, the chief of staff to Mark J. Sullivan, who retired as director last month, will take over at a time when the Secret Service is still recovering from a prostitution scandal last year that held it up to public ridicule, generated Congressional hearings and cost a number of agents their jobs.

The appointment represented a milestone for law enforcement, putting a woman at the top of an agency with a storied past and a Hollywood-fueled image of Clint Eastwood-style men with sunglasses and earpieces stoically guarding the commander in chief at home and abroad. Mr. Obama has also installed women as directors of the Marshals Service and Drug Enforcement Administration, but the Secret Service has a unique visibility.

Of course Pierson is highly qualified.

With 30 years of experience in the Secret Service, Ms. Pierson, 53, boasts a résumé much like those of her predecessors, including a stint on the first President George Bush’s protective detail. But the timing of her selection inevitably means that Washington will be watching closely to see how or if she changes a male-driven culture that came under harsh scrutiny when agents were caught employing prostitutes in Colombia before Mr. Obama arrived for a visit.

“During the Colombia prostitution scandal, the Secret Service lost the trust of many Americans and failed to live up to the high expectations placed on it,” Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. “Ms. Pierson has a lot of work ahead of her to create a culture that respects the important job the agency is tasked with. I hope she succeeds in restoring lost credibility in the Secret Service.”

In a statement, Mr. Obama said Ms. Pierson “exemplified the spirit and dedication” of the agency but made no mention of the scandal.

Now we wait for the Senate to confirm…

This next article is on sleep, or should I say little bit of sleep.  Can you train yourself to get by on less sleep?

Margaret Thatcher did it. So did Salvador Dali. They survived the day with only a few hours of sleep. The question is whether you can force yourself to do the same.

We waste a third of our lives sleeping – or that’s how some people see it. When there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, you yearn to be like the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was said to get by on just four hours sleep a night, or the artist Salvador Dali who wasted as little time as possible slumbering.

There is a quite a range in the number of hours we like to sleep. As Jim Horne writes in Sleepfaring, 80% of us manage between six and nine hours a night; the other 20% sleep more or less than this. But how easy is it to change your regular schedule? If you force yourself to get out of bed a couple of hours early every day will your body eventually become accustomed to it? Sadly not.

There is plenty of evidence that a lack of sleep has an adverse effect. We do not simply adjust to it – in the short-term it reduces our concentration, and if it’s extreme it makes us confused and distressed, and turns us into such poor drivers that it’s the equivalent of being drunk. The long-term effects are even more worrying. Repeatedly getting less sleep than you need over the course of decades is associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

But what about those people who do happily appear to manage on fewer hours than the rest of us?  Why does it not seem to make them ill?

All that article makes me think of that episode of Seinfeld, where Kramer only sleeps 20 minutes every 3 hours…

“My brain is mossy Jerry, mossy…”

I’ve got two more links for you, hellish ideas and torturous settlements.

The Worst Idea In The History Of Cable News: An Anderson Cooper-Kathy Griffin Series on CNN | Mediaite- Oh yeah, this is a bad combination…I think I would rather do my nails in a Cuisinart than watch those too together again…ugh. Their partnership while covering the New York New Years Eve celebration was horrifying. I am not the only one who thinks this is a bad idea…from Joe Concha:

So it’s safe to say that I remember where I was ten minutes ago at 8:10 PM EST when I heard the apocalyptic (unconfirmed) report that CNN, C-N-N, actually filmed a pilot today starring Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin at Time Warner Studios in New York, according to Deadline.com.

My reaction caused paint chips to fall off my ceiling:

“NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

It’s one thing to put the Cooper and Griffin together on New Year’s Eve: Most folks watching that night are already overserved, likely older (See: Not out, but struggling to stay awake until midnight and watching a cable news network’s coverage of the ball dropping in Times Square in the process). Some tune to CNN because somewhere in the back of their brain, they recall reading about Griffin doing something provocative, something wild in the past, like dropping a completely-planned F-bomb or performing an oral rendition on her openly gay co-host (not that there’s anything wrong with that). So they tune in to witness the now-contrived bit, perhaps for no other reason but lack of a better idea.

Older? I don’t know about that, viewers were either drunk or strung out tired, probably from too little sleep due to following the whacked out theory Kramer had in that video up top.

I don’t know if a show with Cooper and Griffin falls under the definition of torture…but the ride this guy took at Disneyland sure as hell sounds like torture to me…It’s A Small World ride breaks down, forces disabled man to listen to that song for 30 minutes

For one man at Disneyland, it was less a world of laughter than world of tears.

Disneyland has paid disabled man Jose Martinez $8,000. Their crime? Not evacuating him from It’s A Small World after the ride broke down in 2009, leaving him listening to that song for half an hour.

The song couldn’t be shut off. Most adults are ready to strangle someone after going through the ride at regular speed. Like the song says, “It’s a world of hopes, it’s a world of fears,” and this sounds like it belongs on most of our top fear lists.

Martinez’s lawyer, David Geffen (no relation?), says that Martinez was the only passenger not evacuated when the ride broke down in 2009, according to the Associated Press. Geffen also says that Disneyland staff failed to call the fire department to help free Martinez.

Martinez uses a wheelchair, as well as suffering from panic attacks and high blood pressure, Geffen says, according to the AP. He also had to use the restroom for much of the time — all while being surrounded by water. Those oceans must have started to seem pretty wide.

Martinez wasn’t medically stabilized for three hours, Geffen said, according to the AP. Geffen said that half of the award was for pain and suffering, while the other half is for violating disability laws.

Ooof, that makes me think of a couple of other funny video clips…

This version of It’s a Duff World from the Simpsons:

Duff_Gardens

In the episode entitled “Selma’s Choice“, Bart and Lisa Simpson travel with their aunt Selma to Duff Gardens, a parody of the Busch Gardens amusement park, but also containing elements of Disneyland. In the gift shop, Bart spots “beer goggles“, spectacles that mimic what drunks see: they make Aunt Selma appear young, feminine, and beautiful to Bart – and also, somehow, alter her voice. Later, they see the mascots of Duff Beer, the Seven Duffs.

In the same episode, there is also a direct parody of the “It’s a Small World” attraction at Disney parks. In the cartoon, the boats float on a brown liquid as animatronic children sing “Duff beer for me, Duff beer for you, I’ll have a Duff, You have one, too,” over and over again. Lisa drinks the liquid in the ride on a dare from Bart, and she freaks out from its hallucinogenic properties.

Here is a bit clip of the ride…Duff beer world:

And then this episode from Family Guy: The Courtship of Stewie’s Father, where Peter takes Stewie…

…to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Excited at the prospect of visiting Disney World, Stewie forgives Peter, although pretending to be annoyed. When the pair arrive, Peter inadvertently loses Stewie, who is captured by Disney World employees and forced to sing at the Tiny World ride, complying to do so after learning that the alternative is to be in a Christmas movie with Tim Allen.

And lastly, this episode of South Park, Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride.

File:Biggayalsbiggayboatride.png

You can see the full episode here, Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride (Season 1, Episode 4) – Full Episode Player – South Park Studios, or you can watch the song clip here: Big Gay Boat Ride – Video Clips – South Park Studios

Y’all enjoy your day, and please have a Duff Beer for me…will ya?


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?