Thursday, January 17, 2019

Sen. Sasse: LGBTs should thank Karen Pence for helping kids learn about art at school that bans gay students and parents

     Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) thinks "everybody" (which most people assume includes LGBTs) should thank Karen Pence for going to "help kids learn about art" at a school that bans gay students and parents, according to CNN WIRES. Here's what Sasse indignantly told Martha MacCallum on Fox's the story:
“I can’t understand why these people don’t have more to do. Karen Pence is a lovely woman and she is trying to help and serve kids and she is doing it at a Christian school,” Sasse responded.
     “She doesn’t need a job, she’s doing this to love her neighbor. She’s doing this to help kids learn about art. People have decided to attack her because it’s a Christian school. This is a fundamentally un-American way to think,” he continued. “I think that everybody should be saying Mrs. Pence, thank you for trying to serve people and help kids learn about art.
     Since Christian education can only go so far, Mother Pence probably won't be telling her students about Michelangelo's famous Genius of Victory sculpture, modeled on one of his boyfriends, Tommaso dei Cavelieri, a lover also referenced in Michelangelo’s homoerotic poetry as his cavalry man, according to historian Rictor Norton.
     Michelangelo famously liked to “sign” art in his later years by including his own image in his work, and Victory was an example where Michelangelo depicted himself between the model’s legs.
     Please don't tell any of this to our Sasse source, Gary Sadlemyer of right-wing KFAB, who was foaming at the mouth again this morning at "radical lefties" who dare criticize Mother Pence.
     We wouldn't call Sadlemyer "old," but he is squarely within that Fox demographic that Roger Ailes himself called "60-to-dead."
     After venting, Sadlemyer told his audience to go buy a vehicle at Woodhouse, a huge local car and truck dealership which used to support anti-gay Grace College in Omaha, before a lack of sufficient interest by those students who could afford its tuition forced it to shut down.
     AKSARBENT recommends that you get your art education from Sister Wendy, not Mother Pence.

Friday, January 11, 2019

3 bills from NE legislature's youngest atheist would: outlaw conversion "therapy," define it as abuse if inflicted on children and ban "gay panic" criminal defense

Megan Hunt, the younger of the Nebraska Unicameral's two progressive atheists, has introduced 8 bills this session, two of which relate to so-called LGBT conversion therapy. A third bans the so-called "gay panic" criminal defense. They are LB166, LB167 and LB168. You may read the introduced texts here.
     As recently as last year, a man in Austin, Texas avoided the death penalty by invoking a gay panic defense, legal in about half U.S. states. Jason Miller, who got drunk and stabbed his neighbor to death "for no good reason," according to prosecutors, was sentenced to 10 years of probation after killing his neighbor — a jury recommendation the judge was required to honor after the jurors found the defendant guilty not of murder but of criminally negligent homicide. The judge added six months of jail time (all he could).
     The New York Post:
     Miller’s lawyers argued that he acted in self defense when Spencer made a pass at him while the two were playing music and drinking.
     In a 911 call, Miller told dispatchers, “I think I killed someone,” according to police
     “We were playing back and forth and everything and I just let him know — Hey, I’m not gay,” Miller later told police, according to an affidavit. “We been playing. We’re musicians and all that kind of stuff, but I’m not a gay guy. Then it seemed like everything was alright and everything was fine. When I got ready to go — it seemed like [expletive] just started happening.”
     Prosecutors argued that the blood evidence contradicted Miller’s narrative...
Here's the text of the Hunt's gay panic bill:

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Senator Ben Sasse visits CBS's Late Show
Colbert: So you're counting on the president to do the right thing? Sasse: I get the joke

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) was on Colbert Tuesday, to flog his book, "Them," which we presume refers to the constituents he has repeatedly betrayed with his confirmation votes for Trump's herd of misfits, incompetents, bigots and thieves.
     His makeup was terrific.
     Sasse slickly evaded Colbert's attempts to get him to criticize Ivanka Trump's email abuse as forcefully as Sasse has condemned Hillary's transgressions.
     Sasse pretended not to know the well-deserved nickname of the NE State Capitol, Penis of the Plains, bestowed by Ernest Hemingway during a lecture at UNL. The Art Deco building, which does everything but vibrate, is likely the most phallic governmental edifice in the USA: a 40-story shaft topped by a golden dome, topped by a statue of a sower flinging seed from a pouch slung from his, um, bathing suit area.
     Colbert said he has driven to Lincoln, as he once had a Nebraska girlfriend. Sasse wanted to know her name. Colbert said it was "immaterial." Sasse said: "Why did her parents hate her? That's a weird name."
     The headline of this post refers to the tension between Donald Trump and those senators who think Matthew Whittaker, Trump's acting AG appointee, should have a confirmation hearing.
     Here's the interview, which we don't expect to stay up long, as it is not from CBS.

Monday, November 5, 2018

OPPD Board: who to vote for

In December of 2015 the OPPD Board of Directors voted 6-2 to triple service fees on residential and small business customers. The 2015, $10.25-per-month fee increased to $15 in 2016, $20 in 2017, $25 in 2018 and will rise again, to $30, in 2019. This hits apartment dwellers, energy conservers and the poor hardest, according to the World-Herald:
But the restructuring plan has drawn sharp criticism because it penalizes low-use customers: apartment-dwellers; customers who generate their own power; people who conserve energy; and poor people. Six in 10 low-income customers would pay more under the new rate structure, according to OPPD estimates.
SUBDIVISION 1 (West/NW Omaha): Amanda Bogner vs. Kristine Dungan

Neither is an incumbent, so neither voted for the recent fee increase. Sierra Club Nebraska endorsed Amanda Bogner for her support of renewable energy. That's good enough for us. Vote for Bogner.

SUBDIVISION 6 (NE Omaha): Tom Barrett vs. Eric Williams

Two Democrats here. Barrett voted against the service fee increases and is not a bad choice. But of all the candidates, Eric Williams has the most bona fides in support of renewable energy. An engineer, he is the president of Nebraskans for Solar, past president of Earth Day Omaha, past chair of Dundee Community Garden, and past vice president of Green Omaha Coalition. We recommend Williams.

SUBDIVISION 7 (W. Douglas, Washington Co., and parts of 5 other counties around Omaha): Mick Mines vs. Janece Mollhoff

Mines, the incumbent, didn't bother to answer questions in the League of Women Voters, Voters Guide. He also voted to triple user fees. Here's how Janece Mollhoff answered the Voters Guide question about renewable energy:

Right now OPPD does not have a long-term strategic goal for energy production. The first step is to determine not just a short term goal (2020), but also to set a long term goal (2040 to 2050) and strategy to meet that goal. Increasing use of renewable energy has to be done in tandem with energy efficiency, peak load reduction and other measures that keep our bills low, provide reliable energy and create good-paying jobs in our communities
Vote for Mollhoff, who also is endorsed by the Sierra Club.

SUBDIVISION 8 (SW Omaha): Mike Cavanaugh vs. Linda Duckworth

Two Republicans here. Cavanaugh, the incumbent, voted to triple your service fees. His challenger, Linda Duckworth, impressed the Sierra Club with her approach to renewable energy more than did Cavanaugh and got their endorsement, so she gets ours too. Vote for Duckworth.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

LoessFest Lip Sync Lollapalooza: AKSARBENT saw Frankie Valli in CB!

Leaving Council Bluffs on the Bob Bridge
LoessFest brought Frankie Valli to Council Bluffs, IA along with whatever incarnation of the frequently-reconstituted Four Seasons is currently shaking.
     Nobody with any sense believes that Valli isn't lip synching these days. There's even a clip on YouTube of Valli's digital helper going into a loop and of him finally walking off stage—no one, apparently, could shut the thing off.
     Said Barry Lewis in New York's Hudson Valley Times Herald-Record:
      "A story in the Columbus Dispatch in 2011 also had concertgoers accusing Valli of faking it on stage. In that same story, his manager denies the charge, saying “Frankie Valli sings every note of the show.”
      Sure, but what year did he sing those notes?"
     But we don't care about alleged lip synching at a free concert. (What would we do? Sue for the cost of our tickets?)
      We came to see tweaked arrangements of our Top 40 faves and were not disappointed. Live (the backup Four Seasons replicants were live, anyway) the Four Seasons' evergreens are fresh and just as infectiousness as the first versions.
     Whoever tastefully re-arranged these hits absolutely know what s/he was doing. In fact, the original Sherry recording would be improved by the exquisite accent of the brief a Capella harmony in the opening bars of the live performance. The live version of Stay now includes a wild jazzy instrumental passage that is terrific.
     We love Four Seasons songs. So does America. BMI says Can't Take My Eyes Off You is the fifth most broadcast song of the 20th Century. (Technically it's not a Four Seasons song, but Bob Gaudio (a Season; maybe he was summer) wrote the music and the group's record producer extraordinaire, Bob Crewe, wrote the lyrics.)
The Can't Take My Eyes Off You singalong in The Deer Hunter
     Longstanding rumors say Crewe finished the lyrics while watching his boyfriend sleep. (Please don't tell that to any Joey Six Packs like those in The Deer Hunter, where blue collar etiquette dictates that if you've had too much Bud and plant one on on a bud during the "I love you baby" refrain, he is obligated to respond by calling you "faggot.")

     The New York Times asked Crewe's brother, Dan, about the sleeping boyfriend/muse rumor, in a roundabout way, and got shut down:
     Mr. Crewe was gay, and his brother, his only survivor, said he was discreet about his sexuality in many of his social circles. He noted that in “Jersey Boys” Mr. Crewe was portrayed as overtly gay, but in real life that was not the case, Mr. Newman said, particularly during the period when he was working with the Four Seasons. Promotional material for Dynovoice Records quoted a female singer fawning over Mr. Crewe’s handsomeness.
     “Whenever he met someone, he would go into what I always called his John Wayne mode, this extreme machoism,” Dan Crewe said.
     That fact that Mr. Crewe wrote so many songs about women reflected the complicated culture of his era as well as his shrewd professionalism, his brother said. Asked if some of his songs had been inspired by male romantic interests, Dan Crewe said: “It wasn’t motivated by anything, except he had an intense love affair with words. He told stories.”
Bob Crewe, right
    Crewe, reputedly, was not happy about being stereotyped in Jersey Boys by the authors of the musical's book, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, or having director Clint Eastwood extend the caricature in the movie version, which probably needed something festive since Eastwood's cameras sucked most of the energy out of a very lively theatrical play. The last time Clint had anything to do with a musical was in 1969 when, as an actor, he made Paint Your Wagon.  
     His big number was I Talk to the Trees. Roger Ebert called it whining, not singing, but we like Eastwood's not-terrible-at-all rendition. Octogenarian Eastwood no longer talks to trees of course, just an empty chair at the occasional GOP Convention.
     As for queening up Crewe, we're not sympathetic to false characterizations by cynical writers who sell the prejudices of a patronizing audience back to them for fun and profit.
     Neither do we have a surplus of empathy for Crewe, who died, dementia-riddled, in 2014.
     He was, evidently, a political reactionary. His lyrics to Gaudio's Beggar's Parade, a crude class libel of 60s protesters, are truly revolting, even after all these years:
...Who needs the truth? Feed 'em lies.
They're all hungry for alibis.
Oh They're all the same,
Bowery bum, banker's son

...Your skin is thin, mine is too
What's so special about you?
Make excuses 'cause you just can't make the grade
Look in the mirror, yeah, it's true
Pitiful soul that's you
Oh, they're all the same

...Hungry for bread, plant a seed
Satisfy your evil greed
No, you'd rather collect that unemployment check
Why should you work, like the rest,
When it's easier to protest?
Oh, you're all the same,
      Beggars Parade never became a hit and isn't performed by Valli, so our reverse-karaoke experience was not ruined and we didn't have to throw fruit at the stage to register our political disapproval. Instead, we had a good time and TOOK PICTURES!

From The Bob Bridge
Ken Doll backup singers
More Mattel
Not everyone can do this: Walk like a man  in place while
singing falsetto.
Only the guy on the left looks like he could be from Jersey. You!
Hand claps! No 60's hit recording worth anything lacks them!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Andrew Rannells flips out on woman taking pictures during his Lincoln Center concert

Call it the Patti Lupone Cellphone Annoyance Syndrome. In his Live From Lincoln Center concert, televised last Friday but recorded in December, Rannells waited for a break and then firmly encouraged a shutter-obsessed woman to cease and desist, here, at the 17:00 mark.
I have to say — someone's taking photos over there.
What are you making? A [god]damn flipbook?
It's like you keep takin' em and takin' em.
You can just watch it at home!
You don't need to take photos, girl.
It's ok. It's gonna be on the TEEVEE.
So let's knock it off, shall we?
Rannells's show was quite wonderful, starting with Lonely Boy and including Sondheim's No More, a song Judy Garland sang in Meet Me in St. Louis, The Boy Next Door, and even Born to Run, which substituted an accordion(!) bridge for Clarence Clemons's sax solo in the Springsteen version.
     Born to Run is Rannells's go-to audition song; it got him the lead in Book of Mormon and a role in Hairspray, but not one in South Pacific. To anyone who might think a Boss anthem to be a strange choice for a Broadway audition song, Rannells notes that since Springsteen has a show on Broadway, Born to Run is now, technically, a show tune.
"And then I die..."
     Not to be missed was an intentionally-over-the-top It Must Be Him, a song Rannells's mother liked (Vikki Carr Live at the Greek Theatre) and which little Andrew was shocked to discover was not also a favorite of other little boys in his neighborhood. (Here at 41:10 but it's pirated and probably won't last long on YouTube.)
     Also performed was arranger/accompanist Todd Almond's beautiful Moonlight over Nebraska.Though Almond is busy, Rannells had the best possible "in" in snagging him: his agent is Todd's husband. From Lincoln Center's podcast:
"Todd and I are from opposite ends of Nebraska.
I am from Omaha, where the steaks are from. Todd is from Alliance, and
Todd, would you like to tell everyone what Alliance is famous for?"
"We have an exact replica of Stonehenge, made out of cars."
"And what's it called, Todd?"

Kristie Geslain: So, let's talk about your relationship with Todd.
Andrew Rannells: Yes.
KG: Because you two have been so close throughout this whole process. How do you know each other? How did you select him for this? What was your working relationship like?
AR: I was just a fan of his. I was doing Jersey Boys with this great guy named Matt Bogart, and Matt said, he was like, "Oh my friend has a band, The Todd Almond Band, and he wrote this song called 'Moon Over Nebraska.'" And he sent it to me because I'm from Nebraska, and I completely fell in love with it, and then I got Todd's album, and then I got his second album, his solo album that he did.
     And he's just so talented. And then my friend Laura Benanti did a show at 54 Below with Todd, and it turned out real well. And Todd's just one of those people that I've always admired but never worked with. So when this opportunity came up, it just so happens, his husband is my agent, in a show business stroke of luck. So I asked my agent, I was like, "Do you think your husband would want to do this with me?" and he's like, "Well, ask him."
     So I emailed Todd and he very sweetly said yes right away.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Bob Dylan contributes a track to gay wedding EP commissioned by MGM; a Beatles cover is also included

Benamin Gibbard
MGM Resorts, a company with an exemplary record of LGBT+ inclusion, has commis­sioned a same sex wedding album, from which it will not profit, as a thank you to the 20-30% percent of the ceremonies performed at the company’s 15 hotels in Las Vegas, said the company’s chief executive, Jim Murren to Variety.
     Included is the Beatles hit And I Love Her, which Sony (which bought the rights to most Beatle songs from Michael Jackson) allowed Ben Gibbard of (Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service) to change to And I Love Him.

Below, the Beatles' version with Ringo on bongos, from their 1964 film A Hard Day's Night (the title was something Ringo blurted out during filming after staying up all night.) The film version runs a bit slower than the version on their double-sided hit single (flip side: If I Fell).

Mr. Tambourine Man: Dylan and The Byrds' Roger McGuinn (1990)
     Bob Dylan’s contribution to the six-song EP is the 1929 song “She’s Funny That Way” changed to “He’s Funny That Way.”
      We think Dylan needn't have bothered. Though he didn't have a gay couple in mind when he wrote it, Mr. Tamborine Man would work fine as a piece in a ceremony of two guys getting yoked. Below is a cover by American duo, The Helio Sequence.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Atty in Brandon Teena case dead after lighting self on fire in Brooklyn; won $80,000 negligence against Richardson Co., Neb.

Click photo to enlarge
David Buckel, the lead attorney in a negligence suit against Nebraska's Richardson County in the Death of transgender Brandon Teena (born Teena Brandon), and a principle architect of the successful lawsuit legalizing same sex marriage in Iowa killed himself in Brooklyn's Prospect Park early Saturday morning via self-immolation in an environmental protest.
     In a typed note to New York's Daily News, Buckel wrote: "My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves." He added that he hoped that his demise was "an honorable death that might serve others."
     Buckel won $80,000 in a case before the Nebraska Supreme Court after Brandon Teena's 1993 murder, the subject of the film Boys Don't Cry. From Wikipedia:
     JoAnn Brandon sued Richardson County and Sheriff Laux for failing to prevent Brandon's death, as well as being an indirect cause. She won the case, which was heard in September 1999 in Falls City, and was awarded $80,000. District court judge Orville Coady reduced the amount by 85 percent based on the responsibility of Nissen and Lotter, and by one percent for Brandon's alleged contributory negligence. This led to a remaining judgment of responsibility against Richardson County and Laux of $17,360.97. In 2001, the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the reductions of the earlier award reinstating the full $80,000 award for "mental suffering", plus $6,223.20 for funeral costs. In October 2001, the same judge awarded the plaintiff an additional $12,000: $5,000 for wrongful death, and $7,000 for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
From The Independent:
Lambda Legal applauded Mr Buckel for centring the organisation on the rights of LGBT+ youth. Camilla Taylor, acting legal director, said he had been at the forefront of a case, Nabozny v Podlesny, that was the first time a federal court ruled schools are obliged to stop the bullying of LGBT+ students. Mr Buckel was also a driving force on Lambda Legal’s work on gay marriage. In another case he led, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples and their children were harmed because they were excluded from the rights granted via marriage. When he first proposed filing a lawsuit for gay marriage in Iowa in 2005, it was legal only in Massachusetts.
From the Los Angeles Times:
     Sharon McGowan, director of strategy for Lambda Legal, recalled his influence on her career. "As a young lawyer at the ACLU, I learned so much from David Buckel, one of the giants of Lambda Legal with whom I had the honor of co-counseling a challenge to Nebraska's 'super DOMA.' This is heartbreaking news," she wrote on Twitter.
     By DOMA, McGowan was referring to the Defense of Marriage Act. That was the name of a federal law — and laws in some states — which forbade jurisdictions from recognition of same-sex marriages, including those that were held in states where such marriages were legal.

     Buckel in 2006 had described Nebraska's version of DOMA as "the most extreme of all the anti-gay family laws in the nation."
From the New York Times:
     When Mr. Buckel suggested filing a lawsuit for gay marriage in Iowa in 2005, it was legal only in Massachusetts.
     “It was considered a crazy thing to do because of the notion that Iowa would get to marriage equality before places like New York and New Jersey,” Ms. Taylor [Camilla Taylor, acting legal director at Lambda Legal] said.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Angry adults outnumber kids at Omaha March4OurLives demonstration

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KETV said about 2,500 people showed up at the Bob Kerrey pedestrian bridge to demand meaningful gun control.
     The span is named for the Cornhusker senator who stood up to the NRA decades ago.
     Here are some photos, followed by the campaign video Senator Kerrey ran in 1994, in which he basically told Hollywood actor and then-NRA-President Charleton Heston to go to hell.
     By the way, the accusations in that sign about a Kremlin-NRA connection are not frivolous.

Here's Nebraska's senior senator on gun control. She's running for reelection. Are you registered to vote?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower replaced man found dead in Kenyan hotel. And his predecessor
may also have been murdered

Also: Wylie asks, What does Facebook want? To look through my dick pics?

Click to enlarge
Above, at London's Frontline Club, Wylie gave a fascinating interview uploaded by Bloomberg's tictoc news twitter feed. At the 48:00 minute mark, Wylie matter-of-factly recounted what happened to his predecessor at Cambridge Analytica:
Oh, you mean Dan. Well, he's dead... I didn't know this at the time when I first joined, but my predecessor, he was working in Kenya... for the president of Kenya and he was just, uh, found dead in his hotel room

Click to enlarge

Betty Bowers has some bullet points for you on the gun debate

 And only the "pro" ones are hollow.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Whistleblower Wylie: What does Facebook want?
To look through my dick pics?

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Cambridge Analytica whistleblower briefly lost it in an interview with Don Lemon on CNN,
saying "This is not how whistleblowers should be treated!"

Last weekend, British authorities kicked Facebook "auditors" out of Cambridge Analytica's London offices.
     Evidently, Facebook also wants to look at gay Canadian whistleblower Christopher Wylie's computer and phone, which caused him to retweet Guardian reporter Carole Cadwalladr's quote of him saying, "What do they want? To look through my dick pics?
Click on tweet to enlarge it for legibiility
     Earlier this week, in an interview with CNN's Don Lemon (link in photo caption above), Wylie briefly freaked out when Lemon asked if he would be willing to submit to an audit by investigator Robert Mueller, saying "An audit of what? My phone? It's not like I have a massive server farm!" He added: "This is not how whistleblowers should be treated!"
     Earlier in the Lemon interview Wylie said he was the only gay guy in London with a membership to a [straight] strip club, referring to Cambridge Analytica's methods of ingratiating themselves with clients and potential clients.

Above, at London's Frontline Club, Wylie gave a fascinating interview uploaded by Bloomberg's tictoc news twitter feed. Highlights:
33:00 How the Mercers perfected the art of political donation self dealing:
He [Mercer] didn't really like the Kochs cuz like the Kochs were like too influential so... he came up with this idea... if you put in money into a political consultancy... it's not a donation, it's an investment, and you don't have to report that and you go and donate to a bunch of different candidates and you earmark that funding to your firm, right? So you donate a million dollars and that million dollars comes back to a company you own... and you can recycle that money so you gain the same type of political capital, but you amplify the effect of every dollar that you're spending"

44:35 On racist whites:

They would talk about how frustrating it is that they can't be their real self... They would literally talk about how they felt victimized by feminism or by multiculturalism and it was really interesting to me because they were using narratives of the closet and that they were going into the closet and how frustrating it is to be a closet misogynist, a closet racist... You have to have an element of dispassionate empathy... For me or for a gay person the narrative of the closet is a very familiar thing, and that feeling that they have is bizarrely relatable.

47:45  When things started to get too dark for Wylie:
Sitting in a room with very right-wing evangelical Christians talking about how we can, like, win the war against, you know, the "gay agenda" and, like, little do they know that everyone in that room is of the lavender persuasion.

48:00   Wylie, on what happened to his predecessor at Cambridge Analytica:
Oh, you mean Dan. Well, he's dead... I didn't know this at the time when I first joined, but my predecessor, he was working in Kenya... for the president of Kenya and he was just, uh, found dead in his hotel room

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Don Lemon coolly and expertly freaks out gay Cambridge Analytica whistleblower on CNN

For about 10 minutes, Don Lemon's interview was routine, but it started to pick up when he asked Christopher Wylie if the reports of Cambridge Analytica acting as an entrapment pimp for clients were true.
     Wylie responded with a general characterization of what CA was willing to do to ingratiate itself with clients, but Lemon wanted more:
     I need you to be more specific. You said you're the only gay guy in London with a membership to a [straight] strip club. What do you mean by that? Be more explicit...
     Shortly after that, Wylie began a meltdown when Lemon (who looked at him as if he were dioxin on a stick) asked if he would be willing to submit to an audit by investigator Robert Mueller. That set Wylie off, making him sputter: "An audit of what? My phone? It's not like I have a massive server farm!"
     Wylie's brief freakout crested when he declared: "THIS IS NOT HOW WHISTLEBLOWERS SHOULD BE TREATED!"

Monday, March 19, 2018

Nebraska Public Broadcasting asks transgender woman: "Are you a born farmer?"

NetNebraska interviewed Ashley Swartz about growing transgender on a farm near Malmo. Swartz was part of a speaking tour recently to increase transgender awareness among rural Nebraskans about the challenges their transgender neighbors face. (LGBT challenges might be lessened somewhat with different Nebraska representation in Washington, D.C.)
     From NetNebraska's story:
     Ashley Swartz: I grow corn and soy beans. I work with my brother. My dad is retired. He gets out almost every day. He's the one that started the farm.
     Bill Kelly, NET News: How long has the family farm been here?
     Swartz: My great great-grandfather moved to this country, moved over by Linwood, Nebraska and started farming. His kids, they ended up two miles down the road, which (was) my great-grandfather, my dad's grandpa.
     Kelly: There are people who are born into farming and there are people who are born farmers. Are you a born farmer? Do you really have that connection with the land?
     Swartz: If I'd been honest with myself when I was younger, I probably wouldn't have started farming, but I've come to enjoy it and I like it a lot. It's been good to me. I stayed on the farm for my kids. I didn't know if I could get a job or if I did get a job if I could keep it if they found out about my past.
     Kelly: When did you recognize that there was this division within you with what you were projecting as a boy versus what you felt inside?
     Swartz: Well my first recollection was when I was three. I remember we were playing house and they needed a husband, and the father figure because we were playing getting married. And of course I played that role because that was what I was supposed to do. But, deep inside I related to being the other. I related to being the wife and the mom and other women. Didn't want to admit it. (I didn’t want to be) made fun of so I watched the boys very carefully and I learned to become that. In a lot of ways, I must have been okay because I became part of the group (but) I never really understood it or connected with it. I wanted to badly but it just wasn't to be.
     I remember one time going to a wedding when I was like seven years old. And, everybody coming up to me, "Oh, you're so handsome in your cute little suit." And, I remember feeling like, "Well why aren't I pretty?" And, then I'd beat myself up for thinking that. I'd go, it means the same thing as a compliment but it doesn't mean the same thing. One was more masculine and one was more feminine. One matched me and the other did not.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The gay Canadian whistleblower who plotted the delivery of 50 million Facebook users' profiles to the Trump campaign — without their knowledge

This is the most important story yet published about the 2016 Election.
     It took Manchester, England's Guardian newspaper (and its sister paper, The Observer) a year to research, busting deception and stonewalling by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.
     Below you will hear a Guardian reporter talk about the legal threats to which her newspaper has been subjected, and, in a separate video, the gay Canadian who assembled the data used by Steve Bannon/Cambridge Analytica/Brad Parscale campaign operation for Donald Trump that exploited data from a Facebook personality quiz to extract profiles from the takers of the quiz — as well as many, many more of their facebook friends who didn't use the app.
     Below the videos is a link to the Guardian's exhaustive story.
     If the Pulitzer Prize Committee has a rule against giving awards to foreign newspapers, it should suspend that rule it in the wake of the Guardian's astonishing reportage of this superlatively important and shocking story.
     The entire, exhaustive Guardian story is here, and below the videos are some provocative excerpts to entice you to read it.

How Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to obtain profiles of 270,000 users for the Trump Campaign — and 50 million of their facebook friends

How an American is using British law to sue Cambridge Analytica for obtaining his Facebook profile information for a Ted Cruz campaign

At 24, he came up with an idea that led to the foundation of a company called Cambridge Analytica, ...and later became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trump’s election campaign.
Or, as Wylie describes it, he was the gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating “Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mindfuck tool”.

Wylie ...came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.
“We ‘broke’ Facebook,” he says.

... in autumn 2013, Wylie met Steve Bannon... “Interesting. Really interested in ideas. He’s the only straight man I’ve ever talked to about intersectional feminist theory. He saw its relevance straightaway to the oppressions that conservative, young white men feel.” ...Politics was like fashion, he told Bannon. “[Bannon] got it immediately.

When I ask how Bannon even found SCL, Wylie tells me ... how Mark Block, a veteran Republican strategist, happened to sit next to a cyberwarfare expert for the US air force on a plane. “And the cyberwarfare guy is like, ‘Oh, you should meet SCL. They do cyberwarfare for elections.’”

It was Bannon who took this idea to ...Robert Mercer – the co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, ...and his daughter Rebekah. Nix and Wylie flew to New York to meet the Mercers in Rebekah’s Manhattan apartment.
“She loved me. She was like, ‘Oh we need more of your type on our side!’”
Your type? “The gays. She loved the gays. So did Steve [Bannon]. He saw us as early adopters. He figured, if you can get the gays on board, everyone else will follow. It’s why he was so into the whole Milo [Yiannopoulos] thing.”

“Facebook could see it was happening,” says Wylie. “Their security protocols were triggered because Kogan’s apps were pulling this enormous amount of data, but apparently Kogan told them it was for academic use. So they were like, ‘Fine’.”

...In December 2015, the Guardian’s Harry Davies published the first report about Cambridge Analytica acquiring Facebook data and using it to support Ted Cruz in his campaign ...In August 2016... two years after the breach took place, Facebook’s lawyers wrote to Wylie, who left Cambridge Analytica in 2014, and told him the data had been illicitly obtained and that “GSR was not authorised to share or sell it”. They said it must be deleted immediately.
“I already had. But literally all I had to do was tick a box and sign it and send it back, and that was it,” says Wylie. “Facebook made zero effort to get the data back.” There were multiple copies of it. It had been emailed in unencrypted files.

Dr Kogan – who later changed his name to Dr Spectre, but has subsequently changed it back to Dr Kogan – is still a faculty member at Cambridge University, a senior research associate.... he is also an associate professor at St Petersburg University.... he’s received grants from the Russian government to research “Stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks”. 

There are other dramatic documents in Wylie’s stash, including a pitch made by Cambridge Analytica to Lukoil, Russia’s second biggest oil producer. ...The work, he said, would be “shared with the CEO of the business”, a former Soviet oil minister and associate of Putin, Vagit Alekperov.
“It didn’t make any sense to me,” says Wylie. “I didn’t understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?”

...What [Wylie] cannot tolerate is bullying.
Is what Cambridge Analytica does akin to bullying?
“I think it’s worse than bullying,” Wylie says. “Because people don’t necessarily know it’s being done to them... And fundamentally, information warfare is not conducive to democracy.”

“Facebook has denied and denied and denied this,” Dehaye says when told of the Observer’s new evidence. “It has misled MPs and congressional investigators and it’s failed in its duties to respect the law. It has a legal obligation to inform regulators and individuals about this data breach, and it hasn’t. It’s failed time and time again to be open and transparent.”

Facebook denies that the data transfer was a breach.

Why Omaha is never referred to as the buckle of the Bible Belt

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Don Bacon's no-collusion delusion: Russians are spreading collusion gossip to bamboozle you!
Also, mainstream media. Obama!

The following is condensed. Go to the website of Don Bacon's friends at Tony Perkins's anti-LGBT hate group, The Family Research Council to hear the entire interview in all its fractured glory.

Friday, March 16, 2018

NE Rep. Don Bacon accepts award from anti-LGBT hate group for voting with it 100% of the time in 2017

Also: Angry adults outnumbered kids at March4Ourlives in Omaha at bridge named for Nebraska senator who, decades ago, told Hollywood actor/NRA President Charleton Heston to go to hell. More photos

Rep. Don Bacon (NE-02) last month accepted a "True Blue" award from Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council (FRC) for having voted with the organization 100% of the time in 2017, including his support of an amendment offered by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.)
     The amendment (H.Amdt 183) to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810) would have stopped taxpayer funding from the Department of Defense for sex-reassignment surgery and hormone therapy intended to change a person’s gender. It failed 7/13/2017 in a roll call vote (369) of 214 to 209.
Tony Perkins (right) heads the Family Research Council, an
antiLGBT hate group located in Washington, D.C. Perkins
has a sordid political history; he once purchased Klansman
David Duke’s mailing list for use in a Louisiana political
campaign he was managing. In 2001, Perkins gave a speech
to a Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative
Citizens, a white supremacist group
     The cost of gender reassignment surgery amounts to little more than a rounding error in the Pentagon's budget. The $8.5 million annual expenditure (according to a Rand estimate) is a small fraction of the price of just one F-35, a terrible plane which may end up costing taxpayers 1.1 trillion dollars by the time all of them are retired (a colossal boondoggle Ret. Air Force Gen. Bacon has never publicly acknowledged).
     The Pentagon's annual $8.5 million bill for gender reassignment surgery is about 1/10 what it spent in 2014 on boner pills (slightly more than $84 million.) In 2015, $437 million was spent on military bands.
     The Southern Poverty Law Center (a venerable civil rights organization) isn't the only organization which finds Don Bacon's buddies at the Family Research Center apalling. So does HRC, the big gay D.C. lobby. Even Slate thinks the FRC is full of shit.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Delta Airlines gay couple vs. Prudential gay couple

We'd bet on the Delta couple by a frequent flyer mile, but we think the Prudential couple would make more fun neighbors.

Delta '4AM' from BOLD on Vimeo.

Honorable mentions: all the actors on Dr. Scholl's commercials.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The two women labor activists who lived in their house on the CIA grounds for 53 years

Here's an online survey you, like, totally won't see from the Omaha World-Herald or Lincoln Journal Star

A dozen years ago, Bill O'Reilly discussed Brokeback Mountain on his show with a critic. His take was that while the movie may well have been very nice and artistic and all, it was indicative of a Hollywood agenda, since both Heath Ledger and Phillip Seymour Hoffman were up for Best Actor Oscars for, respectively, their roles as Ennis Del Mar and Truman Capote.
     We thought O'Reilly's take was typically idiotic because the only Hollywood agenda we can think of for nominating two actors in gay roles for an Oscar would be to start fistfights in gay bars.
     Some homosexuals would root for Ledger to win because he was hot and because it's harder for an actor to create a character out of whole cloth than to ape someone famous on TV.
     Some would favor Hoffman because they read books and because... well, you get the picture: a tableau not unlike the mis-en-scene of a 1950s Italian traffic accident where Christian Democrats pick a driver, Communists pick the other driver, and everyone yells at each other.
     Anyway, at one point, O'Reilly's critic/guest asked him if he had actually seen Brokeback Mountain, (like, because he was doing a show about it?)
     O'Reilly, who can be quite funny when he's not busy being a jerk, said no, he hadn't seen Brokeback Mountain because he was too scared.
     This is exactly why AKSARBENT has not read any of the comments in the San Francisco Examiner story surrounding the butt plug survey.

Scientists now know why tatoos outlast your constantly-regenerating skin

Writer Peter Hess explains that biologically, particles of ink pigment are a moving target as they are passed from old skin cells to their replacements. This insight may lead to one-session tattoo removal instead of the 10 or so treatments now required.
In a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, French scientists showed that tattoos stay in the skin because cells in the skin actively ensure the ink pigments stay in one place. The particles of ink pigment, they write, are repeatedly passed on from old cells to the new ones that are coming to replace them, sort of like an immune system relay race baton. The key finding is the identity of those cells: the macrophages, immune system cells that encapsulate foreign bodies like bacteria or tattoo pigments.

Bank of America Vice Chair sponsors tweet ripping Madonna-style materialism

Here's the sponsored tweet from Anne Finucane, Boston Vice Chair of the Bank of America, throwing shade on a Madonna character alongside an adorable picture of a wind turbine symbolizing the companies and investors singing a "different —  more sustainable — tune."
     Unmentioned is the fact that Finacane's employer, BofA, is a big funder of the Dakota Access Pipeline, along with America's best-known bunko bank, Wells Fargo, and Wall Street investment banking titan, Goldman Sachs.
     The biggest shareholder in both BofA and Wells Fargo is Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, which also has a $2,500,000,000.00 piece of Goldman Sachs, also a DAPL investor.
     To blunt protesters' efforts, DAPL engaged a private security firm, Tiger Swan, closely associated with the infamous Blackwater group, to conduct surveillance on opponents of DAPL, using methods many suspect of being dubious at best.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Watch Modern Family cast blast the NRA

"Someday our lawmakers will stop putting the interests of the NRA ahead of what's best for our children... We will be right there by your side as Americans take to the streets on March 24."

Speaking of NRA tools, here's one:

Betsy DeVos visits Parkland school for closed-to-press photo op; says she wants to arm teachers. Her brother, Erik Prince, founded private security firm Blackwater that killed 17 unarmed civilians in Iraq

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was born Prince, daughter of auto parts magnate Edgar Prince, one of Michigan's wealthiest men. She married into one of Michigan's other wealthiest families, the Amway Devoses.
     Yesterday, Devos visited Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In a photo-op closed to the press, she talked to three (or maybe five of the school's 3,000 students, depending on whom you believe), petted a dog and called for arming teachers.
     Devos's little brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater, the organization of modern day mercenaries that got fat no-bid contracts during the Iraq War, during which 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed by Blackwater employees.
     Betsy and Erik's father funded the establishment of the Family Research Council, an ultra right-wing anti-gay, anti-choice political pressure group which flies the Jesus flag
    According to a Grand Rapids Press story cited by Business Insider and Newsweek, Prince said he became disillusioned with Washington while working as a White House intern under President George H.W. Bush because he saw "homosexual groups being invited in."
     Prince, who now lives in Abu Dhabi, is apparently one of the many Americans with ties to Donald Trump's candidacy who met secretly with representatives of Vladmir Putin just before Donald Trump was elected president.j
     Betsy and Erik's father funded the establishment of the Family Research Council, an ultra right-wing anti-gay, anti-choice political pressure group which flies the Jesus flag.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Tappy Christopher Rice

Broadway World interviewed Christopher Rice, an Edmund, OK transplant and a "swing" in the cast of Book of Mormon (until last August.) His videos are awesome. The second of the two below includes his boyfriend, Clay Thomas (glasses) who gets grief on twitter (@ClayThomson) whenever a NBA player of a similar name (@KlayThompson) has a bad day (#NotKlayThompson).
For more videos, check out #tappy on twitter, including their salute to Debbie Reynolds in a re-enactment of the Good Mornin' number from "Singing In The Rain," which proves something we always suspected: it isn't an easy thing for three people to simultaneously walk on and tip over a couch gracefully, unless MGM's prop department had something up its sleeve.

Director of Icarus, Oscar-winning Netflix doc about Russian Olympic doping, calls IOC Prez Thomas Bach a crook and calls for his resignation

Russian curler Aleksandr Krushelnitckii, who tested
positive at the 2018 Olympics for meldonium,
a heart
drug that was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency
in 2016 because it boosts endurance. Meldonium is the
same drug that got Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova
suspended from the International Tennis Federation.
AKSARBENT was rooting for two Oscar-nominated documentaries to win (in a tie): Icarus and Last Men in Aleppo, the story of  "whitehats" trying to save civilians in Syria. We only got half our wish.
     Icarus started out as an exploration of how easy it would be for an amateur cyclist to dope himself and fool officials. It turned into an exposé that got Russia sort of banned from the 2018 Olympics. The Russian physician, Dr. Gregory Rodchenkov, who spilled the beans, is now being hunted in the USA by Russian assassins and is in the Witness Protection Program.
     The Hollywood Reporter posted the post-Oscar press conference on youtube. Our favorite part was when a woman "from Russia" (no news organiza­tion identified) tried to ask loaded questions of Producer Dan Cogan and director Bryan Fogel, and got her head handed to her.

From IndieWire:
     “Plain and simple, Thomas Bach needs to resign,” said Fogel in the Oscar press room following his win. “He is a crook, and what he has shown to planet Earth and any athlete who believes in the Olympic ideal is to not trust it and to not trust those words. If you can corroborate and prove and substantiate a fraud on this caliber, on this level, that spanned for decades, and then essentially give that country that committed that fraud a slap on the wrist, allow 160 of their athletes to compete in those Games — two of them found doping — and then immediately after the Games are over, without that country ever accepting responsibility, apologizing for any of their actions, or accepting that any of this is truth while they continued to hunt Dr. Gregory Rodchenkov, and they lift the ban on that country? What a fraud. What a corrupt organization, and that man should be embarrassed and ashamed of himself. He needs to resign.”

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Trump Administration hires tiny Omaha firm with 1 employee to start construction of his wall

The spacious Omaha digs of SWF Constructors, aka Coastal Environmental Group
SWF Constructors, owned by Coastal Environmental Group of Edgewood New York, lists just one employee in its Omaha office, but the Trump administration gave it an $11,000,000 contract to replace two miles of a California-Mexico border fence with post-style barriers 30 feet high.
     Coastal is apparently a pretty sleazy outfit; we can't, for the life of us, imagine why Trump, who hires only the best people, would have chosen it.
     Omaha, of course, is the headquarters of one of the biggest construction companies in America, Kiewit but apparently Trump's people didn't ask it for a bid on his big, beautiful wall.
     (Maybe someone told them about the 9-ton chunk of the Doubletree hotel, built by Kiewit, which fell off the entrance facade in 1999. Nobody was hurt; the hotel wasn't that popular. Kiewit, the general contractor, blamed either a subcontractor, or the architects, or both.)
     Fun Omaha fact: Warren Buffet goes to work in the Kiewit building, where Berkshire-Hathaway's executive offices are leased. Another fun fact: the Blackstone building is just up the street and it is famous because the Reuben sandwich was invented there, when it was a hotel, despite contrary claims from certain New Yorkers, all of whom are obviously flat-out liars.
     But we digress. The best fun fact in all of this is that the "home" office of SWF or Coastal or whatever they're telling the government their name is, is at 2411 Martha Street in South O.
     If you live in Omaha, you're probably already laughing.
     If you're not, know this: You could stand on that stoop at 2411 Martha with a bucket of tennis balls as the Cinco De Mayo Parade marches north on 24th and easily bean nail anyone you pleased if you happen to be a drunk, bigoted and antisocial person who wears MAGA ballcaps.
     So to recap: Trump has hired a tiny Nebraska company with one employee and a few pieces of construction equipment in the lot next door, located in the state's biggest Hispanic enclave, to build the first part of an anti-immigrant wall in southernmost California.
     We bet the temps will be extra-motivated to do real good work on that project.