02/17/2013 archive

Rant of the Week: Bill Maher

Hey, Catholics, if the Pope can quit so can you.

On This Day In History February 17

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.

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Chris Hayes: Joining Chris will be: Ben Jealous (@BenJealous), President and CEO of NAACP; James Poulos (@jamespoulos), producer for HuffPost Live, contributor to “Forbes” and “Vice'” Jamie Manson, columnist for the “National Catholic Reporter;” Gadeir Abbas, staff attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); Saadiq Long, U.S. Air Force veteran who was barred from boarding a flight from Oklahoma to Qatar; Tyson Slocum (@TysonSlocum), producer for HuffPo Live, contributor to “Forbes” and “Vice;” Jen Daskal (@jendaskal), fellow at Georgetown University’s Center on National Security and the Law; Bill McKibben (@billmckibben), founder of 350.org, author of “EAARTH: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet;” Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd), national correspondent for “The American Conservative;” Father Bill Dailey, Roman Catholic priest, lecturer in law at the University of Notre Dame Law School and Thomas More fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture; and Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation, member of the Yinka Dene Alliance

This Week with George Stephanopolis: Guests on “This Week” are House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI); newly-appointed White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; and Dr. Ben Carson, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins.

The roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with ABC News’ George Will; Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas; Former House Speaker and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich; Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus; and Romney 2012 campaign senior adviser Stuart Stevens.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schieffers’s guests this Sunday are White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; his Eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington; former Governor Haley Barbour, R-Miss., and Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

The foreign policy panel guests are CBS News State Department Correspondent Margaret Brennan, the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius, and Foreign Policy Magazine‘s Tom Ricks.

Panel guests discussing politics are the Cook Political Report‘s Amy Walter, the Washington Post‘s Michael Gerson and CBS News Political Director John Dickerson.

The Chris Matthews Show: Joiing Mr. Matthews this Sunday are Michael Beschloss, Author; Nia-Malika Henderson, The Washington Post National Political Reporter; David Leonhardt, The New York Times Washington Bureau Chief; and Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report National Editor

Meet the Press with David Gregory: This Sunady on MTP the guests are new White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Senator John McCain (R-AZ); and retired Space Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly.

The roundtable guests are Lt. Governor of California Gavin Newsom; Founder and Chair of Good 360, Carly Fiorina; Republican strategist Alex Castellanos; and host of MSNBC’s Hardball, Chris Matthews.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Ms. Crowley’s guests are New York Senator Chuck Schumer; Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Intelligence Committee Chairman, Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers.

Joining her for a rountable discussion are former Republican Congressman Steven LaTourette; former Biden chief of staff Ron Klain; Jeff Zeleny from the New York Times, and CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.

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

Seattle Teachers NO Mayor Burgess NO Mayor Murray

I’m going to put the diary below the fold.  I want it to fit on 1 page of paper for those of us who are paying for our own leaflets.

I will be distributing it to fellow citizens when the sell out 0-crat$ darling Michelle Rhee comes to Seattle on Tues., 19 Feb.


I will be distributing it at local Democratic party legislative district meetings in the next few months: the 36th (Hey Tim!), the 43rd (Hey Ed!), the 46th and the 32nd.  

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’s ex-intelligence chief given 10-year sentence for role in CIA kidnapping

by Glenn Greenwald. The Guardian

Such accountability for high-level government officials is inconceivable in the US, highlighting its culture of impunity

A US State Department official on Monday “expressed concern” about what he called “a ‘climate of impunity’ over abuses by police and security forces” – in Egypt. The official, Michael Posner, warned that failure to investigate Egyptian state agents responsible for “cruel treatment of those in their custody” – including torture – creates “a lack of meaningful accountability for these actions”. Last week, I wrote that “I’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur of US government statements that are so drowning in obvious, glaring irony that the officials uttering them simply must have been mischievously cackling to themselves when they created them,” and this American denunciation of Egypt’s “climate of impunity” almost certainly goes to the top of the list.

After all, Michael Posner works for the very same administration that not only refused to prosecute or even investigate US officials who tortured, kidnapped and illegally eavesdropped, but actively shielded them all from all forms of accountability: criminal, civil or investigative. Indeed, Posner works for the very same State Department that actively impeded efforts by countries whose citizens were subjected to those abuses – such as Spain and Germany – to investigate them. Being lectured by the US State Department about a “culture of impunity” is like being lectured by David Cameron about supporting Arab dictators.

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.