Wednesday, May 4, 2016

This ad for bottled water from Michigan isn't a parody

The first ad, made by McCann Erickson, predated the Flint crisis, and wasn't a satire, even if it is now. It was, however, kinda cheesy. It's still online, amazingly. As for the product, we clicked around on and couldn't find any trace (har, har) of bottled water from Michigan. Must not be selling...

Neither is this one, the mother of all those Pure Michigan ads, which ends with the words:
Come realize water's true potential. Dive in — to the waters of Pure Michigan.
 (Perhaps it's time to take this one discreetly off YouTube...)

These two ads, from the Not So Pure Michigan series, are, of course, satires. Flint's is rather lame; we're partial to the one about Saugatuck. Too bad the creator isn't as good at scriptwriting as he is as videography and editing.

Nebraska Tourism bon vivants in hot water after audit

The State Auditor has released a 79-page indictment of very free spending by the director and staff of the Nebraska Tourism Commission, which included these interesting items:
  • Questionable expenses for a photo shoot across Nebraska in June, 2015 that included alcohol, cigarettes, and mileage reimbursements for trips where gasoline was also billed to the state. The photo shoot also paid $550 to the daughter of Tourism Commission director Kathy McKillip to be one of the models.
  • $44,00 paid to one speaker at the 2015 State tourism conference.  The state also paid for extra meals, and chair massages.
  • No procedures to review purchase orders against contracts, which resulted in expenses $4.4 million over the contracted amount with the advertising firm Bailey Lauerman over the course of three years.
  • Gifts including thousands of dollars meals and alcohol often provided by Bailey Lauerman, which were given to Commission director McKillip, Commission employees, commissioners, and their spouses.
But what brands of cigarettes and hooch, you might ask:
"several bottles of wine, three bottles of Tanqueray Gin, a bottle of Crown Royal Canadian whisky, multiple packs of Coors beer cans, a box of Marlboro Gold Pack 100’s(Cigarettes), and a significant amount of other alcohol purchased during meals while on the shoot.
 AdWeek's Agency Spy column sarcastically noted:
     ...And in a completely unrelated development, Bailey Lauerman EVP and general manager Rich Claussen announced that he will be stepping down from his position to join “a pro-entrepreneurship group” after spending a whopping 30 years with the agency.
     In other news, McKillip said she had “nothing to do” with the agency’s decision to cast her own daughter as the campaign’s star.
     We just hope for the sake of all involved that the work inspires a lot of people to vacation in Nebraska.
 The State Auditor engaged in a bit of snark too:
There was also a nice discussion of possible nepotism in the agency:
The Tourism Commissioners met Tuesday in Omaha — at the Henry Doorley Zoo.

The Nebraska Family Alliance calls this law 'common sense'

160 companies have called for HB2's repeal. 20 conventions have already been cancelled in North Carolina because of it. Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Cirque de Soleil, The Blue Man Group and others will no longer perform in North Carolina. The biggest furniture trade show in the state called out the law. The owners of "West Side Story" will no longer allow that musical to be performed in North Carolina. And that's just the beginning.
     Yet the Nebraska Family Alliance thinks the law is "common sense" because it will keep men out of women's restrooms. Or so they say. Watch this video and see if you agree. Is such an extremist organization one that you want influencing public policy? (The Nebraska Family Association has shown that it is even willing to try to peddle junk science like the Regnerus Study to the Unicameral via Dave Bydalek, a former employee of the Nebraska Family Alliance hand-picked by Attorney General Don Peterson for a position in his office.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Fact checker examines claim that Target's stock "imploded" after right wing boycott

Historical index of Target's stock price since last Spring
In a piece headlined "Stock, Drop and Troll" reminded its readers that correlation is not causation in respect of sensational articles "published by conservative outlets such as Breitbart, Freedom Outpostand MRCTV, all reporting that Target's stock was "imploding" [and "plummeting"] due to a boycott over the store's policy to allow transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponded with their gender identity."
     Snopes pointedly noted that,
A) Target's stock price drop at the end of April was not unusually large, and
B) Walmart (which the AFA encouraged its members to patronize instead of Target) did not see an increase in stock price during the same period; in fact it took a "similar hit on April 19th."
     Lately the American Family Associated has been speaking with a rather forked tongue about its militant behavior. One has to wonder which AFA pronouncement is the lie: the Assertion in the interview by AFA Governmental Affairs Director Sandy Rios, or AFA's tweet the very next day saying the exact opposite.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Disgraced Rep. Aaron Schock was slyly dissed in Obama WHCD joke video

It was subtle and it was fleeting but it was there. At 1:16 in the excerpt below, Former Speaker John Boehner, after advising Obama on what to do in retirement (and before tempting him with a cigarette) said, at the 1:16 mark: "You know what? I finally got the grand bargain — on a sweet Chevy Tahoe."
     One wonders if Boehner even knew he was being set up by the White House script.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Reporter: 'Martin, how's the nipple today?'; realtor hounded after plane incident with drunk Olympic Swimmer

Three-time Olympic gold medalist, Australian swimming great Grant Hackett, who won the 1,500m freestyle at both the 2000 and 2004 Olympic games, was removed from a Virgin Airlines plane earlier this month after he allegedly squeeze the nipple of a male passenger, Martin Slobodnik, in a disagreement over Martin's seat reclining. Hackett was questioned by Australian federal police but hasn't been charged.
     “I can still feel his hands groping. I still feel violated,” said Sydney-based real estate agent Martin Slobodnik to the The Herald Sun. after being identified by The Australian.
     Hackett's version of the incident:
     “I got on the flight, a gentleman put his seat back, I said, ‘Would you mind putting it up?’
     “I offended him, I had no intent to offend him inappropriately and from there the rest is history,” Hackett said today.
     “I don’t want to get into a he said, she said situation...
     “Did I mean to touch him inappropriately? If I did, I am very sorry, I didn’t mean to, I didn’t mean to offend him.
     “It was not my intent at the end of the day and for me I have spoken to the gentleman and his partner who were sitting in front of me, apologised to them profusely if in any way I did offend them and had a good chat with them.
     Hackett later said he plans to quit drinking and intended to get professional help to stop drinking in order to set a positive example for his children.
     Fellow passenger says Hackett was pretty much passed out during the flight and not aggressive.
     Days after the flight altercation Hackett admitted himself to Pindara Private Hospital with a serious mouth infection: uvulitis, a severe swelling of the uvula tissue that hangs from the back of the throat.

These NE schools applied for—and got—permission to discriminate against LGBTs while receiving fed funding

Update: Here are the corresponding schools in Iowa:

NOTE: After looking at several requests which do not specifically ask for waivers to discriminate against gay students (although at least one such college — Grace — does have such a history of discrimination) we can only conclude that BuzzFeed's overarching headline refers to the "T" in LGBT, as the Obama administration considers sex discrimination transgender discrimination.

The U. S. Department of Education has made available online thousands of pages of documents on 232 religious schools applying for, and receiving, permission to discriminate against LGBT people and women — while continuing to receive federal education funds. From BuzzFeed's Dominic Holden:
     ...Dorie Nolt, a spokesperson for the department, told BuzzFeed News, “Due to exceptional public demand for more information on this topic, we are posting documents related to this on our website to provide transparency around this issue.”
     The records are available on a department webpage that includes... applications to be exempt from civil rights laws banning sex-based discrimination in school, and letters from federal officials granting those requests. It also includes records from another 31 schools with pending requests.
     It appears no request has ever been denied...
Here are the schools in Nebraska (double listings indicate requests / responses):

[PDF] Grace College of the Bible
Page 1. Page 2. Page 3.
[PDF] Union College
Page 1. Page 2.
[PDF] York College
Page 1. Page 2. Page 3. Page 4. Page 5. Page 6. Page 7. Page 8.
[PDF] Concordia College
Page 1. Page 2. Page 3.
[PDF] York College
Page 1. Page 2. Page 3.
[PDF] Grace College of the Bible
Page 1.
[PDF] Concordia College
Page 1. 

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Two gay men who beat Donald Trump in business and in court

In 1988, entertainer and hotelier Merv Griffin used the courts and a well-timed tender offer to break up a Trump Resorts International deal, despite the fact that Trump was then worth ten times what Griffin had.
     Nina J. Easton, of the Los Angeles Times, described in hilarious and informative detail the financial details of how Griffin backed Trump so far into a corner that he had to negotiate.
     Griffin ended up with five hotels and two casinos, including the Bahamas properties he really wanted, and a beautiful house and yacht that Griffin (not a detail man, like Trump is) was flabbergasted to discover were part of the deal. Trump got the infamous Taj Mahal.
     What AKSARBENT found fascinating is how the cheerfully lethal Griffin unflappably handled Trump's bluster:
     ...Trump shakes Griffin's hand and guides him to the window to show off his latest acquisition--the [800-room] Plaza Hotel... "Gee, Donald," Griffin says, interrupting Trump's description, "that's how many rooms you're going to need to house all the lawyers it will take to fight me."
     ...After what Griffin describes as some "saber rattling" by Trump, Griffin finally asks, "Are you finished?" Griffin's own net worth is $300 million, he's got plenty of cash on hand and his own battery of lawyers. And unlike Trump, he has the luxury of time on his side. All of which Griffin points out to Trump.
     ..."I had no impression of him," Griffin recalls. "He's far better known on the East Coast than the West Coast. This was just about the time his book came out. I read it and thought, 'Now I know how to go after him. Thanks for the book!' "
     ...Michael Nigris, president of Griffin Co., returns to Griffin's suite at the Helmsley to tell him everything is settled; he can purchase Resorts International for $295 million. "Shhh!" Griffin says as he sits in front of the TV, his eyes glued to "Wheel of Fortune." "That woman just won $36,000--now that's real cash!"
     The insult-wielding Trump had nothing on Griffin in PR. Griffin could trash-talk too, if needed, but with a fun spin that then escaped The Donald.
     "His first words when he heard I was bidding against him were: 'You mean that band singer?' Now I had left Freddy Martin's band in 1952, and this was in 1988!"
     He added with a twinkle in his eyes: "The press came to me and asked, 'Are you going to answer him back?' I said, 'No, just tell him to behave himself or I'll go around Atlantic City and take the T off his name.' That infuriated him."

     In 1990, Marvin Roffman, then an analyst for Janney Montgomery Scott, told the Wall Street Journal he thought the Taj Mahal, Trump's signature Atlantic City casino, would fail. (Eventually, the casino filed for bankruptcy).
     Furious, Donald Trump faxed a threat to Roffman's bosses demanding an apology or his firing (all spelling verbatim, including that of the invented word "definity"): 
     “For Mr. Roffman to make these statements with such definity is an outrage. I am now planning to institue a major lawsuit against your firm unless Mr. Roffman makes a major public apology or is dismissed. For a long while I have thought of Mr. Roffman as an unguided missle.
     Days later, Roffman was fired. He sued his employer over his dismissal and won. He also sued Donald Trump for "libel and slander" — and won.
     During proceedings, Trump's lawyers asked Roffman about going to a gay bar. Said Roffman to Politico's Michael Kruse:
“I’m not promiscuous at all,” he told me. “I have a 30-year relationship. They just tried to make me feel uncomfortable. But I wasn’t going to back down.”
     Though terms of Roffman's settlement are sealed via a confidentiality agreement, he now lives in a lovely home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with forty rooms, eleven fireplaces, four pianos, a wine cellar, a movie theater, an elevator, a closet with 500 very nice shirts and lots of expensive antiques.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016

Not just Flint: USA Today identifies 13 Nebraska water systems which have had excessive lead contamination

On March 11, 2016, USA Today published a database reporting story which revealed that in the last four years, 2000 water systems in all 50 states have had excessive levels of lead contamination. The EPA's limit is 15 parts per billion, but the agency says there is no safe level for lead exposure. Below are 13 examples of excessive lead contamination in Nebraska. USA Today's complete report is here.
Public Water SupplyCountySample Measure#Exceedances
DAKOTA CITY, CITY OFDakota17ppb-19ppb2
LAKE ALLURE SUBDIVISION - ASHLANDSaunders65.18ppb-79.32ppb2
GIBBON, CITY OFBuffalo19ppb1
TEKAMAH, CITY OFBurt15.9ppb1
DWIGHT, VILLAGE OFButler45.43ppb1
HICKMAN, CITY OFLancaster54.5ppb1
JEFFERSON CO DIST 300 - TRI-COUNTYJefferson15.9ppb1

UPDATE: M.U.D.'s bizarre, confusing twitter responses to AKSARBENT's post:

First, there was this:

Obviously, water systems near Lincoln and other parts of Nebraska distant from Omaha are not part of M.U.D. But contrary to M.U.D.'s false insinuation that they are private, several are, in fact, public.

Then there was this:

Well, M.U.D. does serve Douglas County, even if Mt. Michael's has its own, private well.

We think what M.U.D. was trying to say was:

"We would like to clarify that although M.U.D. provides water throughout Douglas County, Mt. Michael uses a private water supply which does not come from M.U.D. We think your "Public Water Supply" column title might lead to some confusion."

That would have been a valid criticism of USA Today's labeling (which AKSARBENT used) and would have avoided further confusing the issue.
     If M.U.D. doesn't know how to get around twitter's 140-characters tweet limit by making a screencap of a paragraph in Microsoft Word, AKSARBENT would be happy to demonstrate, provided whoever runs their twitter account is be willing to take a remedial course in business English taught by someone who could foster some attention to clarity in the utility's social media statements.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

You'd be nuts not to see 2016's biggest Oscar winner, Mad Max, Fury Road

So we rented Mad Max Fury Road to find how how it possibly could have managed to score 6 2016 Oscars, more than any other flick. Now we know, and may I say a) the Academy wasn't wrong and b) it's plainly evident that a lot of voters actually SAW Mad Max, a total audience smack-down.
     Not to insinuate it wasn't completely ridiculous, but then George Miller has never much cared about your petty rationality; he has Spielberg-burying chase flicks to make and his actors wear tortured logic on their tattered sleeves while they sneer at you.
     How lucky humanity is that Australia's craziest man (which is saying a lot, considering) only makes films.
     If your girlfriend or boyfriend doesn't like this installment, then you have every right to question his or her masculinity and/or appreciation of witty, giddy nihilistic fun.
     The CinemaSins verdict: "This movie blew our minds. We loved it. It still has sins, dammit. And we're still duty-bound to list them for you."
     As for your snobby, snotty little cinemaphile friends, dear readers, just tell them you saw a foreign film and smile wordlessly if they press you for deets.

NC Governor Pat McRory tries to justify state's new anti-LGBT law on Meet The Press

The disingenuous McRory is now selling the narrative that salt-of-the-earth, small town North Carolina citizens are thanking him for "protecting" them against transgenders who need to use the bathroom.
     The extremist Nebraska Family Alliance says North Carolina's law, which forces transgender males to use the ladies room and bans municipal gay rights ordinances (and other progressive ordinances as well) throughout North Carolina, is "common sense."
     160 companies, and counting, vigorously disagree.

Win one for Willa!

Let the ridicule continue!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Now Microsoft, like Apple, is suing the government for abusing privacy guaranteed by Fourth Amendment

Via Reuters:

     The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in federal court in Seattle, argues that the government is violating the U.S. Constitution by preventing Microsoft from notifying thousands of customers about government requests for their emails and other documents.
     The government’s actions contravene the Fourth Amendment, which establishes the right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property, the suit argues, and Microsoft's First Amendment right to free speech...

Straight-on-straight assault upheld as LGBT hate crime by NE Supreme Court

Above: drag-queen led protest in Omaha's Old Market after Halloween, 2013 assault of Ryan Langenegger outside the Old Market Pepperjax

Duncan, (right) sucker-punched Langenegger during a night
out with his buddies, self-admitted blackout drunk Joey
Adriano and Omaha attorney Paul Larson.
AKSARBENT believes this case has not received the attention it deserves. Why? Omaha prosecutors used a LGBT hate crime provision to go after a heterosexual (construction worker Gregory Duncan) who assaulted another heterosexual (Marine Ryan Langenegger) and won the case before a jury; then their argument prevailed in a state supreme court challenge. Remember that the next time your local DA says hate crime prosecutions are just too hard to win.

According to NET:
At the hearing, questions were raised about what factors contribute to defining an assault based on discrimination and the potential need for a definition of “sexual orientation,” which recognizes transgender and increased understanding of more fluid expressions of sexuality.
Muddying the waters of definitions is a favorite tactic of right-wingers when they attack gay rights policies and laws. When the ploy was tried in Duncan's defense, the Nebraska Supreme Court was quick to slap the tactic down. In the end, it decided that common, ordinary understanding of the meaning of "sexual orientation" was sufficient and that the jurors were not confused.
Jurors are accepted because they are men and women of common sense and have a common understanding of words ordinarily used in our language. In instructing a jury, the trial court is not required to define language commonly used and generally understood. Under the facts of the instant case, the term “sexual orientation” was a word commonly used and generally understood. The term was used throughout the jury selection process and the trial, and there is no indication in the record that it produced confusion.
Duncan's appeal also raised the issue of ineffective assistance on the part of James Martin Davis, his first attorney. Duncan contended that Davis's closing argument was “demeaning and disparaging to the victim and the State’s witnesses” and that both Davis's suggestion that the widely circulated photo of a bloodied Langenegger was digitally manipulated and his "sex on the widewalk" diversion were damaging to his defense. The court ruled that they weren't.

More from the ruling:

     Duncan also testified that he did not notice Foo’s group or stare at them and that he had no idea that any homosexual people were in Foo’s group. He did not hear Adriano make any slurs against homosexual people, and he does not remember seeing a man dressed as a woman in the restaurant.
After Duncan testified, he renewed his motion for a directed verdict of acquittal. He argued again that the evidence did not establish that he targeted Langenegger because of his association with people of a certain sexual orientation. The court overruled the motion...
Nebraska Supreme Court
     We have often discussed causation in criminal cases. We have said that criminal conduct is a cause of an event if the event in question would not have occurred but for that conduct; conversely, conduct is not a cause of an event if that event would have occurred without such conduct. But this is the first time that we must apply the concept to a defendant’s motive rather than his conduct. This concept of causation is ordinarily used to determine whether a defendant’s conduct is the cause of another’s injury or loss. Under the language of the statute at issue here, we must adapt it to the context of a defendant’s motive as a cause of his behavior. Applying our causation principles by analogy, the phrase “because of” in the enhancement statute required the State to prove that Duncan would not have assaulted Langenegger but for his association with a person of certain sexual orientation. Under our highly deferential standard of review, the State did so.
 although Duncan claimed that he did not know that Foo and Fendi Blu were homosexual, the State introduced evidence sufficient for a jury to infer that he did. The State presented testimony that Duncan, Adriano, and Larson were sitting together at the restaurant when Foo heard members of Duncan’s group call out derogatory names for homosexuals as he, Langenegger, and Fendi Blu exited the restaurant. A rational jury could infer that even if Duncan did not say the derogatory names himself, he heard them. Additionally, while Duncan stood close enough to lunge and punch Langenegger outside the restaurant, Langenegger heard Adriano say, “‘Faggot,’” and Foo heard someone say the word “‘queer.’” A rational jury could find that Duncan did in fact hear those words and that he therefore believed that Langenegger was with people who were homosexual.
    The evidence was sufficient to prevent a directed verdict on the enhancement charge. First,
     Second, the State presented evidence to show that Langenegger’s association with homosexual people was the reason for the assault. The State’s witnesses testified that there was no other apparent motivation. Langenegger testified that he had not spoken to Duncan before the assault, and Foo, Langenegger, and Larson all testified that Langenegger did not touch Adriano or anyone else in Duncan’s group. A rational jury could infer from this evidence that Duncan’s motivation was his belief that Langenegger was associated with homosexual people. Therefore, the district court properly overruled Duncan’s renewed motion for a directed verdict.

Friday, April 15, 2016

New video busts lies about NC's new anti-LGBT law told by apologists like Gov. McRory and Nebraska Family Alliance

The Nebraska Family Alliance has been supporting North Carolina's two-faced governor, who signed HB2 into law, then defended it with lies and half truths, and now want to modify it slightly because a businesses and entertainer boycott is starting to make North Carolina a national and international pariah.

Retaliation to North Carolina's new antiLGBT law expands; NBA considers moving all-star game and a Beatle cancels a concert

Former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr has announced that he will join Bruce Springsteen in boycotting the state over HB2, which forces transgender men to use ladies rooms and transgender women to use men's rooms unless their birth certificates have been changed. The law also repeals municipal ordinances throughout North Carolina which grant employment, public accommodations and housing protection to LGBTs. Starr's statement:
Ringo Starr cancels his North Carolina performance in opposition to the passing of HB2. Like Bruce Springsteen and other fellow artists, Ringo stands with those fighting against the bigotry of HB2.
      Ringo states, "I'm sorry to disappoint my fans in the area, but we need to take a stand against this hatred. Spread peace and love.” This law opens the door to discrimination everywhere by limiting anti-discrimination laws against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
      Ringo adds, “How sad that they feel that this group of people cannot be defended." He asks that we all support organizations that are fighting to overturn this law in whatever way we can.
      As Canned Heat sang, "let’s work together," and The Beatles said, "all you need is love."

Friday, April 8, 2016

Lincoln, NE's LGBT fairness ordinance is nearly four years old — and unenforceable

It was passed in May of 2012 by the Lincoln City Council. Shortly thereafter, the Nebraska Family Council and Family First of Nebraska (now merged into the Nebraska Family Alliance) enlisted the held of the Roman Catholic Church and various protestant denominations to gather 10,000 signatures to either repeal the law or put it on the ballot as a referendum. However, there is no deadline within the law for the Lincoln City Council to repeal the law and it hasn't, so the ordinance, though on the books, is toothless.
     Below: a few of the several thousand Lincolnites who helped kill legal guarantees of equal treatment in employment and housing for the city's LGBT citizens. Some have suggested that a searchable database be created of everyone who signed Lincoln's petition. (The information is public; signatures can be cross referenced to a database of registered Lincoln voters at the time of the referendum.) This was done in Massachusetts when an unsuccessful petition was circulated to reverse the state's marriage equality law and the signers were put on an Internet-accessible database by
Click to enlarge for legibility

Springsteen cancels Sunday's NC concert over new antiLGBT law

Here's Bruce Springsteen's message to his fans, from
Click graphic below to enlarge for readability.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A phallic PlateGate: Nebraska halts production of new license plates

The Omaha World-Herald reports that the "vendor" producing the ugly Ricketts administration sesquicentennial Nebraska license plates will halt production until a new image of the Sower sculpture can be produced. The current image is a composite of the sculpture atop the state capitol in Lincoln and a bas relief sower image at Michigan State. Both were created by Lee Lawrie, who also made the bronze Atlas installed in 1937 in Rockefeller Center in New York City.
This rendering of the Nebraska State
Capitol, one of the world's most
phallic government buildings, used to
grace the wall at P.O. Pears, a Lincoln bar.

     The real reason for the reversal, we'd bet, is that Nebraskans largely hate it and that it has been ridiculed as outrageously phallic on Comedy Central, although to be fair, having a sculpture of a sower flinging seed atop a dome atop a 400-foot shaft is pretty phallic to begin with and was probably the reason that Ernest Hemingway once referred to the Nebraska State Capitol as the "penis of the plains" in a visit to UNL.
Mosaic on floor inside NE capitol
     @Midnight host Chris Hardwick snarked: “They chose Myriad Pro Black for the font!? Real original.” He also didn't like that it drew attention from "the muscular Quaker jerking off on the cupcake."
(Obviously, Hardwick has never seen the inside of the state's Art Deco capitol.)
     In respect of fonts, few people know that Bertram Goodhue, who designed the capitol building, also designed an enduringly popular typeface, Cheltenham, which for years served as the headline font of the Omaha World-Herald.
     This marks the latest embarrassment for Nebraska's rookie GOP Governor Pete Rickets, scion of the TD Ameritrade fortune. It follows publication of him posing for a smiling selfie with the right-wing radical who called SCOTUS Justice David Souter a goat fucking child molester, of him flying to Chicago to attend his sister's gay wedding after opposing same-sex marriage in Nebraska, of his administration trying to list gay spouses as "friend" on birth certificates, of him blowing in excess of $50,000 of tax dollars attempting to import illegal drugs into the state,  of him pronouncing it "fitting and proper" for "all" Nebraskans, (presumably including Atheists and Agnostics) to acknowledge their gratitude for god's blessings and of him and his staff employing private emails to do public work.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Philip Bloom just put a Sony April Fools Day easter egg in his blog

We wrote a blog post about this, which we regrettably had to reword, once it dawned on us what was going on. Brits are better at deadpan than Yanks are, especially when they grasp that ordinary people want to believe engineers are as confused by digital camera menus as they are.
“We at Sony realise the importance of autofocus in video and we are proud of what the A6300 can achieve. We have understood the frustration from some that our flagships Alpha cameras do not perform as well as the A6300, that is why we are very pleased to announced the new tracking autofocus in video modes for the A7RII and A7SII using phase detection which is available immediately for use on your cameras.”
Phillip Bloom explains why the feature is available now:
So how can it be available immediately? Firmware? Nope! It seems it was in the cameras’ menus all along. The camera designers just couldn’t find where they put it so the easiest thing for them to do was simply not list it as a feature. After months of research they have figured out where it is in the menu to enable the proper video auto focus. It is understandable as Sony menus can be somewhat confusing!
Below is all you need do according to Philip's blog.
  1. Go to menu, settings, custom settings, custom key settings, assign function 1 to auto/ manual focus,
  2. then go to the setup (the last one in the menu)
  3. go to number 6 and highlight the number
  4. then press up which brings up the system menu,
  5. in the system menu select option 5 which is video focus settings and 
  6. assign that to function 2, 
  7. come out of the menu and reboot the camera. 
  8. Once it has restarted go to camera (first setting) 
  9. and page 9 select memory and save to memory 1. 
  10. Restart the camera and set it to movie mode. 
  11. Press the function buttons you just programmed as follows; 
  12. 1 then 2 then 1 twice followed by 2 three times, then pause for 5 seconds and press both 1 and 2 together and hold for 7 seconds, no more no less and that is it!
You now have phase detection tracking in video!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Seth Meyers rips NC, GA antiLGBT 'religious freedom' laws: Will we have 'bathroom bouncers' checking ID?

San Francisco's 'hot cop of the Castro', arrested for felony hit and run last November, has pled not guilty

The SFPD faces more texting investigations after five cops were discovered by the District attorney of San Francisco, George Gascon, to have send racist/homophobic texts on their personal cell phones in 2014/15.
     Gascon said the texts ‘used the N-word repeatedly and insulted LGBTs, according to the Los Angeles Times.
     About a year ago, 2012 cop texts involving 14 officers included calling Blacks "monkeys", encouraging the killing of 'half-breeds'  and various antigay remarks.
    As if that weren't enough, in November, Officer Christopher Kohrs, better known virally on the Internet as the "hot cop of San Francisco" or, the "hot cop of the Castro", was arrested.
     In December he was charged with two felony hit and run counts after abandoning his orange-and-black 2009 Dodge Charger in North Beach in the wee hours of the morning after hitting two pedestrians. He got out on $100,000 bail and on March 14th, pleaded not guilty.
     He didn't turn himself in for hours, so it was impossible for authorities to know his blood alcohol level at the time of his accident.

     Kohrs, now on medical leave, was paid just over $195,000 in salary and benefits last year. He is, at least as farm as SFist knows, "heterosexual and single." After his social media fame became intense, the SFPD moved him from his Castro beat to the Haight.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

NE: Pro-LGBT amendment stripped from workplace privacy bill, 20-6

Yesterday, after five hours of debate over two days, the Unicameral advanced LB821, ll Sen. Tyson Larson's bill to establish workplace electronic privacy protections in Nebraska. From Unicameral Update:
     ...The bill and would prohibit an employer from requesting or requiring that an employee or applicant:
  • disclose his or her user names or passwords to personal Internet accounts;
  • log into a personal Internet account in the presence of an employer;
  • add anyone to his or her personal Internet account; or
  •  change his or her personal Internet account settings.
     The amendment also would prevent an employer from taking adverse action against, failing to hire, or otherwise penalizing an employee or applicant for failure to disclose his or her personal Internet account setting information.
     ...Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers offered an amendment March 29 that would add the words “including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity” to the bill’s prohibition on employer retaliation. He said the change would make LB821 inclusive of all employees.      “All this amendment does is to grant the same protection to my friends—your friends, some of our relatives—who are members of the LGBT community, the protections that every employee is seeking,” Chambers said.
Larson opposed the amendment, calling it unnecessary.
     “There is no discrimination [in the bill],” he said. “It is as broad and sweeping as possible. It protects every employee and every prospective employee.”
Chambers countered that LB821 creates a right to workplace privacy that currently does not exist in Nebraska law. As a result, he said, the definition of employee in the bill is only as broad as the understanding articulated in state policy generally.
     “The policy of this state is clear that members of the LGBT community have no rights when it comes to employment, period,” Chambers said.
     Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks supported the amendment, saying employers could discriminate against LGBT workers without the additional language.
     “Everyone that has equal rights in the workforce would have protections under this bill,” she said, “but without a way to protect [LGBT individuals] in the workforce, then they can be treated differently.”
     The amendment failed on a vote of 10-26.
Here are the votes on Chambers' floor amendment FL109 and the subsequent motion to reconsider:

Senator Chambers offered the following amendment to the committee amendment: FA109 Amend AM2210 Page 1, line 7 after "discrimination" insert ", including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity". Senator Larson requested a ruling of the Chair on whether the Chambers amendment is germane to the committee amendment. The Chair ruled the Chambers amendment is germane to the commit tee amendment. Senator Chambers moved for a call of the house. The motion prevailed with 24 ayes, 0 nays, and 25 not voting. Senator Chambers requested a record vote on his amendment. 
Voting in the affirmative, 10: 
Baker Cook Hansen Howard Pansing Brooks Campbell Haar, K. Harr, B. Mello Schumacher 
Voting in the negative, 26: 
Bloomfield Friesen Hughes McCoy Watermeier Brasch Garrett Johnson Riepe Williams Coash Gloor Kintner Scheer Davis Groene Kuehn Schilz Ebke Hadley Larson Schnoor Fox Hilkemann Lindstrom Stinner
Present and not voting, 8:
Bolz Crawford Kolterman Seiler Chambers Kolowski McCollister Smith
Excused and not voting, 5:
Craighead Krist Morfeld Murante Sullivan
The Chamber amendment lost with 10 ayes, 26 nays, 8 present and not voting, and 5 excused and not voting. The Chair declared the call raised. Senator Chambers offered the following motion: MO240 Reconsider the vote taken on FA109. Senator Chambers moved for a call of the house. The motion prevailed with 22 ayes, 0 nays, and 27 not voting. Senator Chambers requested a roll call vote on the motion to reconsider.
Voting in the affirmative, 7: Bolz Cook Howard Pansing Brooks Chambers Haar, K. Kolowski
Voting in the negative, 29: Baker Friesen Hughes McCoy Smith Bloomfield Garrett Johnson Riepe Stinner Brasch Gloor Kintner Scheer Sullivan Coash Groene Kuehn Schilz Watermeier Ebke Hadley Larson Schnoor Williams Fox Hilkemann Lindstrom Seiler
Present and not voting, 7: Cambell Harr, B. Mello Schumacher Hansen McCollister Morfeld
Excused and not voting, 6: Craighead Davis Krist Crawford Kolterman Murante
The Chambers motion to reconsider failed with 7 ayes, 29 nays, 7 present and not voting, and 6 excused and not voting. The Chair declared the call raised

Huge NC furniture trade show worred about boycott of state in wake of new antiLGBT law

Go here to read the entire press release. (Via JoeMyGod.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Guess which takes better video, a $649 iPhone 6s or a $2300 Nikon D750?

Strictly speaking, this wasn't a fair fight.
     Nikon D750s don't take 4K video (You can ask Nikon and Canon why even their most expensive DSLRs can't do this, but don't expect them to get back to you right away.)
     The test was conducted by downsampling iPhone 4k video to 1920x1080 in a video editor and comparing the results to native D750 1080 video.
     (And therein lies the bias: downsampling from a higher resolution usually does wonders for 1080 video.)
     Yeah, we know that a 24-megapixel Nikon FX-class camera with a fast lens makes an iPhone look pretty sorry in low light, considering the Nikon's much-larger sensor.
     And yeah, we know you can't put a nice zoom lens on a camera phone. (Unless you're a crazy Sony engineer.)
     We're not saying that cell phone cameras are as good as DSLRs. They ain't.
     But if you're covering a news event in decent light and can get a tripod near the talking head, you may as well leave the heavy stuff at home.
     Your 4K iPhone (or Samsung Galaxy S7 or Moto X Pure Edition or LG G5) will do the job just fine. And they all have apps to edit video and can, of course, send that video to YouTube or Vimeo.
     Watch the video below and be humbled D750, owners.
     (Note: prices quoted in headline are current list.)

Monday, March 28, 2016

NBC: widespread corporate and legal pushback to new antiLGBT 'religious freedom' laws in GA, NC

So many feature films and TV shows are shot in Georgia, which aggressively courts Hollywood with generous tax incentives, that a shutdown of entertainment productions there could cost the state six billion dollars.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Federal Judge in Omaha rules Westboro Baptist must stay 500, not 300, feet from dead people

Shirley Phelps-Roper, of the Westboro Baptist Church, sued Nebraska's governor, attorney general, and Omaha's police chief, saying that a Nebraska law unfairly targets her group and that the cops often allow counter protesters, like the so-called Patriot Guard, closer to the deceased than she can now get, on account of Nebraska's new law expanding the buffer zone around funerals to 500 from 300 feet.
     In her order, Chief U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp said the 500-foot buffer doesn't deprive protestors of the opportunity to reach their target audience and also permits law enforcement to manage the logistical concerns of large crowds...
     In a news release, a spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said the state defended the law because Nebraska has a substantial interest in protecting the peace and privacy of people paying their respects to the dead.
     "Nebraska’s Funeral Picketing Law does not restrict Westboro Baptist Church from expressing its protest message by ample, alternative methods, which methods should not include disrupting funerals," the release said.

The judge's decision comes just more than a year after both sides made their cases during a week-long trial.
In a news release, a spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said the state defended the law because Nebraska has a substantial interest in protecting the peace and privacy of people paying their respects to the dead.

A federal judge on Wednesday upheld the constitutionality of Nebraska's law that creates a 500-foot buffer zone around funerals from pickets and rejected claims by Westboro Baptist Church members that the law violated their free speech rights.
In a 34-page ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp said the law is narrowly tailored and provides ample alternative channels for the controversial church to share its message.
Plaintiff Shirley Phelps-Roper and her fellow church members argued the law unfairly targets the group and said police often allow counter protesters including the Patriot Guard to get closer.
Members of the Wichita, Kansas, church routinely protest at funerals nationwide, including those of servicemen and women who die in combat, saying the Lord is punishing America for allowing homosexuality. In Nebraska, the group has picketed 46 funerals since 2005.
Phelps-Roper's attorney, Margie Phelps, said they'll appeal.
Smith Camp's ruling is necessary, Phelps said, so they can take their case to the appellate level, where they believe laws like Nebraska's will be struck down to "put some restraint on some out-of-control legislators across the country."
Phelps-Roper sued Nebraska's governor and attorney general, as well as Omaha's police chief, in 2011 after the Legislature expanded the picketing buffer zone from 300 feet to 500 feet.
In her order, Smith Camp said the 500-foot buffer doesn't deprive protestors of the opportunity to reach their target audience and also permits law enforcement to manage the logistical concerns of large crowds.
The judge's decision comes just more than a year after both sides made their cases during a week-long trial.
In a news release, a spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said the state defended the law because Nebraska has a substantial interest in protecting the peace and privacy of people paying their respects to the dead.
"Nebraska’s Funeral Picketing Law does not restrict Westboro Baptist Church from expressing its protest message by ample, alternative methods, which methods should not include disrupting funerals," the release said.