February 17, 2013 archive


On This Day In History February 17

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 17 is the 48th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 317 days remaining until the end of the year (318 in leap years).

On this day in 1904,  Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly premieres at the La Scala theatre in Milan, Italy.

The young Puccini decided to dedicate his life to opera after seeing a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida in 1876. In his later life, he would write some of the best-loved operas of all time: La Boheme (1896), Tosca (1900), Madame Butterfly (1904) and Turandot (left unfinished when he died in 1906). Not one of these, however, was an immediate success when it opened. La Boheme, the now-classic story of a group of poor artists living in a Paris garret, earned mixed reviews, while Tosca was downright panned by critics.

Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly) is an opera in three acts (originally two acts) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Puccini based his opera in part on the short story “Madame Butterfly” (1898) by John Luther Long, which was dramatized by David Belasco. Puccini also based it on the novel Madame Chrysantheme (1887) by Pierre Loti. According to one scholar, the opera was based on events that actually occurred in Nagasaki in the early 1890s.

The original version of the opera, in two acts, had its premiere on February 17, 1904, at La Scala in Milan. It was very poorly received despite the presence of such notable singers as soprano Rosina Storchio, tenor Giovanni Zenatello and baritone Giuseppe De Luca in the lead roles. This was due in large part to the late completion and inadequate time for rehearsals. Puccini revised the opera, splitting the second act into two acts and making other changes. On May 28, 1904, this version was performed in Brescia and was a huge success.

The opera is set in the city of Nagasaki. Japan’s best-known opera singer Tamaki Miura won international fame for her performances as Cio-Cio San; her statue, along with that of Puccini, can be found in Nagasaki’s Glover Garden.

Butterfly is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire for companies around the world and it is the most-performed opera in the United States, where it ranks as Number 1 in Opera America’s list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Karzai says he intends to ban Afghan troops from requesting foreign airstrikes

By Richard Leiby, Sunday, February 17, 7:04 AM

KABUL – President Hamid Karzai announced Saturday he intends to ban Afghan ground forces from calling in NATO airstrikes on residential areas – even though his country’s fighters have had to rely in the past on such air power in operations against Taliban militants.

“Our forces ask for air support from foreigners, and children get killed in an airstrike,” Karzai said in a speech at a military academy here, reinforcing his often truculent posture toward the U.S.-backed international coalition that has long supported his government.

Ten civilians, including five women and four children, died in a NATO airstrike Tuesday night in a remote village in eastern Kunar province that also killed three militant commanders, one of them linked to al-Qaeda, Afghan officials said.

Sunday’s Headlines:

Why Burma is going back to school

Sober, folksy and not a fan of bunga bunga: Italy’s ‘quiet man’ Bersani holds key to country’s future

Israeli soldiers come to aid of several wounded Syrians

Cameroon gay rights lawyer seeks US refuge

Slow rebirth for post-revolution Libya

Late Night Karaoke

Not Ready to Make Nice

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Sen Elizabeth Warren 1st Banking Hearing photo 17519_10151432756445842_988710335_n_zps66996ea7.jpgHeads up folks, there’s a new sheriff in town and she’s not ready to make nice. Freshman Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) made her debut on the Senate Banking Committee making it very clear to the bank regulators from the alphabet soup of agencies sitting before her, that she was not pleased:

The Democratic senator from Massachusetts had a straightforward question for them: When was the last time you took a Wall Street bank to trial? It was a harder question than it seemed.

“We do not have to bring people to trial,” Thomas Curry, head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, assured Warren, declaring that his agency had secured a large number of “consent orders,” or settlements.

“I appreciate that you say you don’t have to bring them to trial. My question is, when did you bring them to trial?” she responded.

“We have not had to do it as a practical matter to achieve our supervisory goals,” Curry offered. [..]

The financial regulators can blame, at least in part, Wall Street lobbyists (along with outgoing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Senate Republicans) for their embarrassing turn at the hearing. Warren would have been on the panel herself representing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, instead of a sitting senator, if her nomination to head the agency hadn’t been thwarted in 2011.

After getting the essentially the same answer from the others at the table, Sen. Warren, who was a friend and admirer of the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz who all too briefly was her constituent, alluded to his suicide chastised the lack of any criminal prosecutions:

There are district attorneys and United States attorneys out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I’m really concerned that ‘too big to fail’ has become ‘too big for trial.

Sen. Warren is part of the “new breed” of Senate Democrats who are not going to sit quietly in the background, as digby said, “for at least four years before they were allowed to assert themselves in even the tiniest ways.” But is she rally that “awesome?”

At naked capitalism, Yves Smith is more reserved in her assessment and believes that Sen. Warren is hamstrung by the time constraints for questions and answers that “produce “sound-bites, grand-standing, and run-out-the-clock obfuscation rather than meaningful interaction:”

So while Warren fans are happy with her debut, these star turns are useful for signaling, but they are not how she will make a difference, if she can make a difference. The Senate gives her ready media access, but the convention in the Senate is for newbies keep a low profile for the first six months. Warren might be allowed some liberties on banking issues, given her expertise in this arena. Notice how she breezily overstepped her time limits in the video clip. But expect her to hew to convention elsewhere, otherwise she could undermine her ability to get things done. Remember, Hillary Clinton had to bring fellow Senators coffee as a freshman to prove she didn’t have airs.

That also means we are likely to remain in the dark about where Warren stands on other issues that affect middle class families, like social insurance programs and the progressivity of taxes, until after the deficit pact is done (Warren will be expected to fall in with the party position), unless we have another kick-the-can deal in March and real fights take place when she is in a position to operate a bit more freely.

So the early signs of how tough-minded Warren intends to be will come through the letters, speeches, and positions she takes on banking matters outside the formal Committee sessions. Her early talk is promising, but we need to see how she follows up with action.**

Meanwhile, the lack of clear, simple regulation that was the hallmark of the Glass – Steagall Act has Wall Steet manipulating Dodd – Frank to “bypass new regulations aimed at limiting reckless speculation, enhancing the prospect of another derivatives crisis, warn some market participants.”

Under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law adopted by Congress in 2010, investors are required to set aside significant sums of cash to cover losses on their derivatives trades — money they could otherwise plow into additional investments. That policy came in response to the financial crisis that began in 2007, when major financial institutions found themselves unable to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in shortfalls on derivatives trades.

But traders have recently forged a path around these so-called margin requirements in order to allow them to harvest larger profits via larger bets: They are repackaging some derivatives known as swaps into another financial product known as futures. Futures are less stringently regulated, meaning investors can stake out larger positions while reserving smaller amounts of cash.

I don’t expect that President Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, will be any better the Tim Geithner since he has been a steady defender of deregulation and repeatedly said that he didn’t “believe that deregulation was the proximate cause” of the banking crisis. As President Bill Clinton’s head of OMB, Mr. Lew organized the gutting of Glass-Steagall protections against banker adventurism.

It seems that Sen. Warren has struck a nerve when she said:

At one point, Warren asked why big banks’ book value was lower, when most corporations trade above book value, saying there could be only two reasons for it.

“One would be because nobody believes that the banks’ books are honest. Second, would be that nobody believes that the banks are really manageable. That is, if they are too complex either for their own institutions to manage them or for the regulators to manage them” {..}

That set off angry responses to Politico’s Morning Money. “While Senator Warren had every right to ask pointed questions at today’s Senate Banking Committee hearing, her claim that ‘nobody believes’ that bank books are honest is just plain wrong,” emailed a “top executive” to the financial newsletter. ” Perhaps someone ought to remind the Senator that the campaign is over and she should act accordingly if she wants to be taken seriously.” [..]

In an email, a GOP bank lobbyist said, “Republicans also would like to know why the Democratic donor base has avoided trial. Maybe she should subpoena the DSCC and Obama’s super PAC to answer her question.”

Consumer Bankers Association CEO Richard Hunt was slightly more diplomatic. “We have been through more tests and thorough exams than any college student over the past four years, including many conducted by the CFPB. The results of the Hamilton Partners Financial Index and the testimony of OCC Comptroller [Thomas] Curry were very clear: the United States banking system is safe and sound, supported by historic and permanent capital ratios. We are working every day to fulfill the financial needs of the American consumer and small business and will continue to work with any and all lawmakers who seek to assist in this extremely important process.”

Awww, she hurt their feelings.

Sen. Warren has a Mt. Everest size hill to climb. We wish her luck.

Drones: Now You See Them; Now You Don’t

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I think the Obama administration has lost its collective mind and thinks that we are all too stupid to notice, but this is beyond absurd.

Obama DOJ again refuses to tell a court whether CIA drone program even exists

by Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

As the nation spent the week debating the CIA assassination program, Obama lawyers exploit secrecy to shield it from all review

It is not news that the US government systematically abuses its secrecy powers to shield its actions from public scrutiny, democratic accountability, and judicial review. But sometimes that abuse is so extreme, so glaring, that it is worth taking note of, as it reveals its purported concern over national security to be a complete sham.

Such is the case with the Obama DOJ’s behavior in the lawsuit brought by the ACLU (pdf) against the CIA to compel a response to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about Obama’s CIA assassination program. That FOIA request seeks nothing sensitive, but rather only the most basic and benign information about the “targeted killing” program: such as “the putative legal basis for carrying out targeted killings; any restrictions on those who may be targeted; any civilian casualties; any geographic limits on the program; the number of targeted killings that the agency has carried out.”

Everyone in the world knows that the CIA has a targeted killing program whereby it uses drones to bomb and shoot missiles at those it wants dead, including US citizens. This is all openly discussed in every media outlet.

Key Obama officials, including the president himself, not only make selective disclosures about this program but openly boast about its alleged successes. Leon Panetta, then the CIA Director, publicly said all the way back in 2009 when asked about the CIA drone program: “I think it does suffice to say that these operations have been very effective because they have been very precise.” In 2010, Panetta, speaking to the Washington Post, hailed the CIA drone program in Pakistan as “the most aggressive operation that CIA has been involved in in our history”. This is just a partial sample of Obama official boasts about this very program (for more, see pages 15 to 28 here).

Despite all that, the Obama DOJ from the start has refused not only to provide the requested documents about the CIA drone program, but they refuse to say whether such documents even exist. They do so by insisting that whether there even exists such a thing as a “CIA drone program” is itself classified, and therefore, they can neither admit nor deny whether they possess any of the documents sought by the FOIA request: “the very fact of the existence or nonexistence of such documents is itself classified,” repeats the Obama DOJ over and over like some hypnotic Kafkaesque mantra.

Obama’s Reverse Imaginary Friend, the Assassination Robot

bt Marcy Wheeler, emptywheel

The Obama Administration is getting more and more like that crazy old man in the park talking to an imaginary friend. Only it works in reverse. It sends out real people to engage in hours of conversations with other real people about a real topic and then pretends both were pretend.

It sends John Brennan to the Senate for 3.5 hours where he has conversations about drones over and over with people, never once claiming not to understand what they mean when they discuss drones and/or targeted killing. [..]

And yet in spite of the fact that Brennan talks about lethal strikes over and over, the government maintains (pdf) that none of these conversations – none of these mentions of lethal strikes – amounts to an admission that the government is, in fact, conducting lethal strikes.

   Plaintiffs also cite the transcript of the confirmation hearing of John Brennan, the nominee for Director of Central Intelligence. They assert that “the nominee . . . and members of the committee extensively discussed various aspects of the CIA’s targeted killing program . . . .” However, plaintiffs identify no statement in which Mr. Brennan allegedly confirms purported CIA involvement in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for “targeted killing.” Rather, plaintiffs cite instances in which members of Congress mentioned “targeted killing,” and general discussions of “targeted killing” that do not address the involvement of any particular agency.

Well, fine. If John Brennan believes these to be imaginary conversations with an imaginary oversight committee, then it’s clear he is mentally ill-equipped to deal with the stress of running the CIA. [..]

What’s most interesting, however, is that this apparently batshit crazy man talking to ghosts, John Brennan, is going to have to deal with a woman, Dianne Feinstein, who said this, as one of his primary overseers.

   FEINSTEIN: I have been calling and others have been calling the rank – the vice chairman and I on the use of target – for increased transparency on the use of targeted force for over a year, including the circumstances in which such force is directed against U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike.

   I’ve also been attempting to speak publicly about the very low number of civilian casualties that result from such strikes. I have been limited in my ability to do so. But for the past several years, this committee has done significant oversight of the government’s conduct of targeted strikes and the figures we have obtained from the executive branch which we have done our utmost to verify, confirm that the number of civilian casualties that have resulted from such strikes each year has typically been in the single digits. When I asked to give out the actual numbers, I’m told, “you can’t”, and I say, “why not?” “Because it’s classified. It’s a covert program. For the public, it doesn’t exist.” Well, I think rationale, Mr. Brennan, is long gone and I’m going to talk to you and my questions a little bit about that because I think it’s very important that we share this data with people.

This apparently batshit crazy person (according to the Administration, not me) is telling the Chair of the Committee that oversees the CIA that she’s delusional, the programs she’s talking about don’t exist.

There’s a lot of crazy old people talking on benches in DC, I guess.

And what abou those seven memos that the Senate Intelligence Committee requested before they vote on Brennan’s confirmation are imaginary, too?

What is even more incongruous is that Tea Party crazy Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul asked some very serious questions in two letters that no one else asked

  • Do you believe that the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil? What about the use of lethal force against a non-U.S. person on U.S. soil?
  • Do you believe that the prohibition on CIA participation in domestic law enforcement, first established by the National Security Act of 1947, would apply to the use of lethal force, especially lethal force directed at an individual on a targeting list, if a U.S. citizen on a targeting list was found to be operating on U.S. soil? What if the individual on the targeting list was a non-U.S. person but found to be operating on U.S. soil? Do you consider such an operation to be domestic law enforcement, or would it only be subject to the president’s wartime powers?
  • Do you believe that the Posse Comitatus Act, or any other prohibition on the use of the military in domestic law enforcement, would prohibit the use of military hardware and/or personnel in pursuing terrorism suspects-especially those on a targeting list-found to be operating on U.S. soil? If not, would you support the use of such assets in pursuit of either U.S. citizen or non-U.S. persons on U.S. soil suspected of terrorist activity?
  • What role did you play in approving the drone strike that led to the death of the underage, U.S. citizen son of Anwar al-Awlaki? Unlike his father, he had not renounced his U.S. citizenship. Was the younger al-Awlaki the intended target of the U.S. drone strike which took his life? Further, do you reject the subsequent claim, apparently originating from anonymous U.S. government sources, that the young man had actually been a “military age male” of 20 years or more of age, something that was later proven false by the release of his birth certificate?
  • Is the U.S. drone strike strategy exclusively focused on targeting al Qaeda, or is it also conducting counterinsurgency operations against militants seeking to further undermine their government, such as in Yemen?
  • Do you support the Attorney General’s 2012 guidance to the NCTC that it may deliberately collect, store, and “continually assess” massive amounts of data on all U.S. citizens for potential correlations to terrorism, even if the U.S. citizens targeted have no known ties to terrorism?
  • And you thought Bush was stupid? This is too surreal.  

    What We Now Know

    MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes host, Chris Hayes discusses what we have learned this week with panel guests Dedrick Muhammad, senior economic director for the NAACP; Goldie Taylor, MSNBC contributor; Diane Schansenbach, Northwest University; and Derrell Bradford, executive director of Better Education for Kids.

    Marco Rubio’s ‘Working Class’ Home Is For Sale For $675,000

    Rubio failed to mention his “working class” pool home in West Miami is on the market for a whopping $675,000 — and he’s moving his family to Washington, D.C.

    West Miami is indeed less posh than its southeastern neighbor, Coral Gables. But public records show Rubio and his wife paid more than half a million dollars — $550,000 in fact — in 2005 for their two-story, four-bedroom, 2,649-square foot pad, which features a double-height living area, stainless steel appliances, manicured lawn, and outdoor entertaining space. As Ameriblog points out, the surrounding streets contain more quintessentially blue collar homes, but Rubio’s cul-de-sac of 5 pool homes is a “luxury enclave,” a “little white-collar heaven” in blue collar Miami.

    Stop using the “wives, mothers, & daughters” rhetorical frame that defines women by their relationships to other people.

    In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama said: “We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace and free from the fear of domestic violence.”

    This “our wives, mothers, and daughters” phrase is one he routinely employs, but it is counterproductive to the women’s equality the President is ostensibly supporting.

    Defining women by their relationships to other people is reductive, misogynist, and alienating to women who do not define ourselves exclusively by our relationships to others. Further, by referring to “our” wives et al, the President appears to be talking to The Men of America about Their Women, rather than talking to men AND women.

    Please embrace inclusive language, Mr. President.

    Italy ex-spy chief sentenced to 10 years over CIA ‘extraordinary rendition’

    Milan –  Italy’s former military intelligence chief was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday for his role in the kidnapping of an Egyptian Muslim cleric in an operation organized by the United States.

    An American former CIA station chief was this month sentenced in absentia to seven years in jail after imam Abu Omar was snatched from a Milan street in 2003 and flown to Egypt for interrogation during the United States’ “war on terror.”

    The Milan appeals court sentenced Niccolo Pollari, former head of the Sismi military intelligence agency, to 10 years in prison and his former deputy Marco Mancini to nine years.

    My Las Vegas Convention- A Happy Story

    (originally in orange Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 07:01 PM PDT)

    Can you handle the truth?  How about a good story?

    If you are a regular reader you may know that I was State Co-ordinator of my meatspace club.  You may not know I was engaged.

    Yes I know, hard to believe anyone can stand ek for 5 minutes in a row, let alone want to spend the rest of their life with me.  But it was true.  She loved me.  A lot.

    When we met I told her I was a practicing politician on the make, and what I wanted more than anything was to be King.  And then I was.

    The National club was having a little get together in Vegas and as Incoming King I had to get there a day early for my special super secret training.  There was training for spouses too, not that we would have traveled separately anyway.

    Part of being ek is procrastinating to the very last second, and then packing everything- kitchen sink included.  By the time we reached the airport for our evening red eye I had already been up for 24 hours.  It was a great disappointment to me that all the restaurants, bars, and gift shops were closed.  And our flight was delayed so I was really looking forward to my bag of peanuts on the plane.

    Three cramped hours later in Vegas it is still midnight, my love was dragging and so was I, but-

    When you’re on the make, you make things happen.  My political handlers were there to greet me in the lobby.  They had super, super secret training which I found out basically consisted of adjourning early and heading for the bar to trade lies.  They wanted me to circulate and make contacts.

    Well, you have to make your marks.

    I checked in, took my sweetie to our room and said goodnight.  Not the best goodnight I’ve ever given, but I was still a little cranky.  When I got all respectable again, I went back down to meet and greet.

    Just as I was calling the whole thing a stupid waste of time, the delegation from my largest local rolls in.  I had to be nice to them, and they had to be nice to me.  Even so I was genuinely flattered that they invited me out to $1.99 breakfast with them.  It was Vegas, it was a good breakfast.

    The sun comes up early on my birthday and I had all that super secret training to get through (mostly meeting the club’s corporate sponsors) so I went back to my room and got respectable yet again, woke up my honey and we went off to get trained.

    I’ve already told you the valuable information I got.  My fiance got 4 hours of “you will never see him again” and totally embarrassed me (or so people say) by not sucking it up stoically but wailing “I love him so much”.  And she did, even when we broke up.

    We had an awkward lunch together that consisted mostly of salad.  Two more hours of propaganda and we were free.

    Well kind of.  In one of those coincidences that happens only in real life, her brother from California was also in Vegas, finishing up a business meeting.  We had about an hour of overlap before he had to jet out.

    Wait, it gets better.  When we got back to the room there was a cake from room service.  Emily, my mom, didn’t forget my birthday (even though I was born in the age of epidurals) and had sent me the most expensive cake she never got to eat.  It was good, chocolate with chocolate icing and raspberry filling and some fresh raspberries on top.

    Did I say I was wicked?  No rest for.  The one thing my sweetheart wanted to see in Vegas was the Hard Rock Hotel.  Now.  My problem was the incoming chief of the whole shebang was holding a party at 6 pm.  Attendance mandatory.

    Incoming chief?  It was a contested race, the other guy could have won.  Who says this isn’t about politics?

    Sure honey, we have an hour.  Let’s go.

    Got my Hard Rock pin to go in my collection, got my complimentary shot glass.  Put a whole buck of slots on my Hard Rock card which still sits in my wallet to remind me of my misspent youth.  Let’s go.

    She was not happy, being hustled around.  I was not happy to do it, but you make your marks.   The chosen one had rented the Grand Ballroom at the top of the Hotel and we arrived breathless and cranky at 5:59.  The line was not long and at 6:05 the other couple left.

    At 6:06 the doors opened on this ballroom that occupied the entire floor.  The view was spectacular, all up and down the Strip.  There were 2 Champagne Fountains and 2 Chocolate Dippers.  There were buffet tables and carving stations.  THERE WAS AN OPEN BAR!  Four of them, it’s a fun club.

    So basically there were 20 people there.  And me.  And my sweetheart.  All sweaty and flushed and tired, our credentials flopping around our necks.

    Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and company go down the hall?  It was kind of like that, only bigger and longer.  At the end of (no kidding) about a quarter of a mile was the DJ.  We wandered up and said hi and he said- “So is there anything you want to hear?”  I let her pick the song.  It was slow and sappy and we grabbed each other and spun around, alone on acres of dance floor, on top of the world.

    After a while some other people showed up so we could ditch, can’t leave a party before it’s started- that would be rude.  We went back to our room and said goodnight again.  I was much better this time, and after an hour or 2 I got respectable, this time in my tux (I own one, cheaper than real clothes) so I could go back to the party and kiss the ring.

    It’s all about kissing the ring.

    This was a totally different scene.  Though the opposition candidate would come as close as anyone in the previous 10 years to defeating the chosen one, he had totally moved his lame ass party to one corner of the ballroom at the invitation of the magnanimous eventual victor and everyone was doing group shots to ease the sting of their inevitable defeat.  The rest of the place was crowded with people looking for free booze and food (did I mention it’s a fun club?).

    I kissed both rings.  It was easy, they were both standing together, the one who would be King and the one who would get a paid staff position as his consolation prize.  No more phoney they than my wishing them both good luck even though I had my marching orders.  And when the time came to convince my delegation to vote for the chosen one, my eloquence changed 60/40 challenger to 80/20 chosen, invoking our block vote rule and sparing us any loss of face as a state.

    I was grabbed by a fellow classmate, a state King on the make for the top and dragooned into a conga line of Incoming Kings that he led from bar to bar in the ballroom, bullying his way to the front of the line and buying us all free drinks.

    But enough of that is certainly enough and besides I had work to do.  One of the things they teach you in super secret training is to cultivate your base.  In this case that meant post cards to every local officer who was not able to attend.  I stopped at the gift shop in the lobby and picked up the post cards (an assortment, can’t have people comparing notes) and a bottle of Champagne (how do you avoid a hangover for 7 days?  Stay drunk for 6).  You can’t wait to do this because they have to arrive before you return.

    When I went in the room my sweetheart woke up, saw the Champagne and said, “Oh, is that for us?”  Sure darling.  I opened it, poured us both a glass.  She took one sip, we kissed, and then she mumbled, “G’night” and rolled away.

    So my plan worked perfectly.  About 4 am I was out of cards and out of Champagne so I headed to the lobby again, mostly hoping I could hook up with my breakfast buddies from the day before.  And I did.

    Nothing like a good breakfast to energize you.  All the basic food groups, grease and salt and sugar and caffeine, and a mutual game of ring kissing with new friends was a great way to pass the time.  Soon I had to let them pick up my tab and move on.  I went back to my room, showered, changed, wrote my honey a note (because I was in training all day and she was done and had no agenda), and gently shook her awake.  We had a nice chat and then it was time for me to go.

    Gotta make your marks.

    Now I know what you’re saying- ek you’ve been up for 72 hours.  You should be dead.  Not true, I had a whole 2 hours of sleep on the plane.  And I had meetings, close your eyes, pretend to pay attention, and you can snooze 15 minutes out of every 20.  In great need of chemical stimulation, at the break I bummed my very last cigarette so far- a Merit Light King.

    At 3 pm the torture was over and I didn’t have a mark to make until 6.  I went back to my room, hooked up with my sweetie (she had rolled out around 10 and spent a few hours shopping and having lunch with friends), and loosened my tie and napped.  She got many, many ‘candid’ snapshots.

    And at 6 we loaded up on the bus for ‘Old Las Vegas’ where there was a big street party.  Thank goodness for busses, I was able to get a half hour head start on my nap on the way home.

    When I woke up at 4 am I was hungry.  My fiance was immovable.  I wrote her a note and snuck off to have breakfast.

    So that was Las Vegas for a micro-politician on the make.

    It went on for a week like that, we actually spent a fair amount of time together after the initial 3 days, shows, restaurants, endless meetings at the Convention Center.

    I pause here to pass along a great lesson she gave me.  The most important I took away from Las Vegas.

    The food at the Convention Center was terrible.  The first day we got 2 Plastic Pizzas for lunch.  They were about the size of hockey pucks and tasted about the same too.  The second day the Outgoing King gave me a wink and a nod and we joined the Kool Kidz across the street for a lunch that was at least edible.

    Afterwards at the light she held my arm and while everyone else went ahead we missed it.  When she turned to me she was as angry as I’ve ever seen her and she said- “Don’t you ever do that again!”


    “How do you think those people feel?”, and she pointed at the Convention Center.

    She was absolutely right.

    You can be King or you can lead.

    Lead- be the first and have people follow you.

    If you want to be a leader, you have to lead.  You have to be the first.  The first person to pick up a sack and clean up the garbage.  The first person to volunteer to make the phone calls.  The first person to have a hot dog and quip- “What, no Rat?  Only Glue?”

    We never crossed the street again, making polite excuses and throwing away styrofoam boxes filled with styrofoam at the same table as everyone else.  As time progressed there were more and more ‘Puffs’ and less Paris Gellers, but we stayed to the bitter end.

    Thank you darling, I will never forget.

    Some of you may be curious about our break up at this point, but it’s really very simple.  I was a Captain, but she was not the Enterprise and that was what she desperately wanted.  She loved me with a single minded focus I did not share. She was unhappy when I spoke with another woman, or another man, or spent any time away from her.  For my part I couldn’t live up to her expectations- I am after all shallow and one dimensional, I’ve never pushed a noun against a verb except to blow something up.

    Since then I’ve never been with anyone else, not that I’ve worried about it- my ego is self sustaining.  I understand she is marrying her 2nd grade crush this summer.  Good for her.  I hope he makes her happy, she deserves it.

    I will always remember dancing alone with her in a ballroom in the sky over Vegas.