Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pro basketball players showing more leg as they inch away from baggy shorts

Laker Jerry West (right), the unacknowledged model for the NBA's logo, wore high, tight shorts which gave way in the 90s to 20 years of ultra-baggy, loose-fitting replacements.
     Now the worm has turned; the Washington Post reports that younger players are rolling up waistbands or putting on newer, briefer styles.
     Interestingly, there are on-court disadvantages to wearing shorts which seemingly allow more freedom of movement but often don't:
“Those uniforms were never built for the athlete’s body,” said Nguyen, who added he believes basketball shorts will never grow as baggy as they once were. “It was almost contrary. If you see that from an aerodynamic perspective, those uniforms aren’t really conducive. It’s not aerodynamic at all. And now the fashion, for the last few years, really, has been going to the slim[-fitted]. It’s suiting. It’s jeans. Even for hip-hop guys.”
     Some players attest to making the switch for practical reasons. In 2011, Will Cummings, then a freshman guard at Temple, began rolling up his extra-large shorts simply because they were too big on him. They settled above his knee, and he quickly grew accustomed to them. The following year, he downsized to a large but still rolled up his shorts.
     “I really was just thinking, ‘Man, if I’m able to do a crossover through my legs without the ball hitting my shorts, I’m going to keep it like this,’ “ said Cummings, who now plays for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League, the NBA’s minor league. “It didn’t even matter. I was just trying to get my shorts shorter so I can play.”

On Today: Omaha lawyer Clete Blakeman talks about newfound social media status as Superbowl 50's "#hotref"

Storycorps interview revealed a gay secret separating father from son

Andy Goodling didn't tell his father, Scott, that Andy's friend, Bryan, was really his boyfriend until after Bryan died. Storycorps interviewed both Goodlings in a piece broadcast nationally by PBS.
      The founder of Storycorps, a traveling project that records personal reminiscences for posterity, is Dave Isay, who won 2015's TED Prize of $1,000,000.
     During his prizewinning talk (which you may view here), Isay talked about his gay father's coming out and about the 1969 Stonewall incident in which gay bar patrons revolted against being pawns in payoff negotiations between the NYPD and the mafia owners of gay bars in the big Apple.
     (In San Francisco, because of the formation of the Tavern Guild, which provided a united front against police harassment of gay bars, such a flash point never occurred.)
     Storycorps has a subproject, OutLoad, to specifically document LGBTQI stories of those who lived before Stonewall. It is here:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

WGN scores again! 2nd shirtless jogger video goes viral for Chicago station

Back in 2013 a sportscaster for Chicago's WGN, Pat Tomasulo, did a snarky video about male joggers running gratuitously shirtless ("Gratuitous"is an adjective AKSARBENT simply cannot reconcile with the phrase "shirtless male jogger.")
     Anyway, here's that report, complete with Tomasulo's mock sexual harassment of various dudes with his impressive repertoire of repurposed construction worker come-ons:

     The other day another WGN did it again.
     Sunday, reporter Tahman Bradley caught up with shirtless Coloradoan Ethan Renoe jogging along Lake Michigan in a global-warming adjusted December night in Illinois. The report went viral, so WGN coaxed a unseemly cooperative Renoe into its studios where Pat Tomasulo and Paul Konrad both got a crack at him. Renoe, a self-described Christian evangelical virgin who lives with his parents, is still looking for the right girl but is willing in the mean time to tease horny babes and cougars by shucking his shirt to protect it from a light rain.
      AKSARBENT thinks he should get out of his 'rents house! Maybe Tim Tebow could use a stone fox fishing buddy to help him reel in the girls and then help throw them back in the water!

     If you've read this far, your reward is the below video of Pat Tomasulo in drag. This kind of thing never happens on Omaha TV where sportscasters are such squaresville wusses.

60 Minutes: Gay U.S. Drug Czar Botticelli, who used to be a drunk, isn't crazy about marijuana legalization

Michael Botticelli, President Obama's new Director of National Drug Control Policy  used to be a drunk, but has been sober 27 years.
     He hates the sobriquet "drug czar."
     Neither is he a fan of marijuana legalization and thinks that industry, with its "Buddy" mascot, is copying Big Tobacco's Joe Camel playbook.
     Botticelli also is disenchanted with what the U.S. has to show for its 40-year, trillion dollar war on drugs.
     "We can't arrest and incarcerate addiction out of people. Not only do I think it's really inhumane, but it's ineffective and it cost us billions upon billions of dollars to keep doing this," he told 60 Minutes.
     In Massachusetts as Director of Substance Abuse Services, he started a high school for teens in recovery and expanded drug courts, where offenders can choose treatment over jail and get their charges dropped.
     Botticelli told CBS's Scott Pelley that he became comfortable talking about being a gay man before he was comfortable talking about being an alcoholic.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Exclusive: 13 NE counties use ripoff jail telco busted by hacker for illegally recorded atty-client calls

Here's Securus's game: It and other price-gouging phone companies collude with jail and prison authorities throughout the U.S. to overcharge inmates and their families for phone calls and "in-person" video conferencing even when visitors travel to the jail.
     Since mid-2014, three separate lawsuits have been filed against Securus, directly pertaining to its practice of requiring jails to eliminate in-person visits in favor of video visits. The video visits cost as much as $20 for a 20-minute video call -- and the jails typically receive a commission on each call.
     In a statement on Monday, Securus chief executive Richard Smith said the company has amended its contract language so that it will no longer obligate jails to remove “person-to-person contact” in favor of its video technology.
     Securus shares the revenue with generous kickbacks to keep greedy county sheriffs happy and under contract. The legalized swindle has gotten so bad that in October the Obama Administration convinced the FCC to cap the cost of phone calls between prisoners and their families, which can cost as much as $14 per minute.
     But as one outrageous action by Securus was nullified by the government, another huge one has come to light. On November 11, an enormous cache of phone records was leaked by a hacker to The Intercept, revealing a major breach of security:
     The materials — leaked via SecureDrop by an anonymous hacker who believes that Securus is violating the constitutional rights of inmates — comprise over 70 million records of phone calls, placed by prisoners to at least 37 states, in addition to links to downloadable recordings of the calls. The calls span a nearly two-and-a-half year period, beginning in December 2011 and ending in the spring of 2014.
     Particularly notable within the vast trove of phone records are what appear to be at least 14,000 recorded conversations between inmates and attorneys, a strong indication that at least some of the recordings are likely confidential and privileged legal communications — calls that never should have been recorded in the first place. The recording of legally protected attorney-client communications — and the storage of those recordings — potentially offends constitutional protections, including the right to effective assistance of counsel and of access to the courts.
     “This may be the most massive breach of the attorney-client privilege in modern U.S. history, and that’s certainly something to be concerned about,” said David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “A lot of prisoner rights are limited because of their conviction and incarceration, but their protection by the attorney-client privilege is not.”
     To make matters worse, the 14,000 calls in Securus's database between lawyers and prisoners may not be the complete extent of Securus's likely illegal behavior. Those calls were identified by the hacker by cross referencing lists of call records kept by Securus and lists of law firms and do not include calls made to lawyers on their personal cell phones.
    AKSARBENT has discovered, via Securus's own web site, that 13 county jails in Nebraska have phone services contracts with the dubious firm. (Securus is apparently so sloppy that the Dakota County Jail is listed twice on its website.)
     Any of the recorded (or monitored) conversations which took place between an inmate at those 13 Nebraska facilities and is documented in the hacked records could be the basis of a suit by the ACLU or anyone else on behalf of a prisoner or attorney with standing.
      All of which could prove to be very expensive to taxpayers in the jurisdictions of quick-buck Nebraska county sheriffs who play ball with a predatory corporation at the expense of a captive audience of impoverished inmates and their families.

SNL rips Houston haters for slurring transgenders to torpedo LGBT rights bill

Days after Houston voters overwhelmingly repealed that city's LGBT protections, 77% of Dallas voters approved such protection. Convention planners should take note.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Three GOP Presidential Candidates attended Hy-Vee Hall 'Kill the gays' Religious Liberty confab in Iowa

The headline is not click bait exaggeration. Three pastors in attendance have a history of endorsing capital punishment of LGBTs and the event's host, Pastor Kevin Swanson, doubled down on his threats last weekend in the video below, obtained by Right Wing Watch and telecast on the Rachel Maddow Show (Skip to the six minute time mark.)

Screencap of Pastor Phillip Kayser's web site, promoting
his disturbing rhetoric at Omaha's "beautiful Legacy Hall"
     One of the other religious hustlers who spoke was Pastor Phillip Kayser, another kill-the-gays supporter who used to hold forth at the University of Nebraska at Omaha Alumni Center and now shares his lethal vitriol at Bill and Jan Janzen's Legacy Hall at 6104 Irvington Road in Omaha (402-573-8864.)
     Legacy Hall also solicits wedding receptions, so if you and your spouse-to-be really, really despise homos, consider yourself informed of a primo, local, hater-friendly venue at which to celebrate your forthcoming nuptials.
     Below, at last weekend's Des Moines conference, Kayser engaged in some more class slander, comparing homosexuality to murder and issuing a sinister warning that this "cannot be ignored."
     Three GOP candidates, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, attended the conference. When asked by ABCs Jake Tapper about Kevin Swanson's violent rhetoric, Cruz claimed (or feigned) ignorance about what Swanson "did or didn't" say.

     Below: Omahans protesting UNO's hosting of Pastor Kayser in 2012.
     When pressed, UNO disassociated itself with the actions of the UNO Alumni Center, despite the fact that UNO's logo appears on signage designating the alumni center and despite the fact that AKSARBENT's video clearly showed a UNO campus security truck guarding Kayser and his violent religious rhetoric from half a dozen protesters who were a block away, across Omaha's busiest street.

      In 2012, the Heritage Coalition, an organization of right-wing churches lobbying against the addition of LGBTs to Omaha's equal protection classes, published a roster of supporting clergy and dishonestly included Phillip Kayser among those who "condemn violence or hatred perpetrated against anyone based on their sexual preference."

Monday, November 2, 2015

Plagiarism goes transgender

Male/Male romance novelist Laura Harner, who has had published 75 books in five years spanning 7-8 genres, probably didn't think there was much overlap between "her" romantic fiction and more mainstream titles, but...
     Becky McGraw, a New York Times bestselling writer, was alerted by one of her readers about the similarities between her own novel My Kind of Trouble, in which Cassie Bellamy falls for bad boy Luke Matthews when she returns to her hometown of Bowie, Texas, and Laura Harner’s Coming Home Texas, in which Brandon Masters falls for bad boy Joe Martinez when he returns to his hometown of Goldview, Texas.
     “She emailed to ask if I’d started writing gay romance under a pen name,” said McGraw, whose editor subsequently reviewed both books, and highlighted the similarities.
Harner told The Guardian that she...
     had “made mistakes”. “I own them, and I will deal with the consequences. In transforming two M/F romance stories into an M/M genre, it appears that I may have crossed the line and violated my own code of ethics.”
I write about certain concerns related to military service for a reason; however, I am not offering that as an excuse. I just think whenever someone acts so out of character, it’s helpful to ask why.”
Harner is also accused of ripping off a hetero biker romance and changing the gender of one of the principals:

Did antigay Mets player cost NYC a World Series title?

Mets' second baseman Daniel Murphy's bat propelled his post season team into the 2015 World Series with a record seven home runs, but once there, his eighth-inning game four error let KC tie the game it went on to win — the 6th costliest fielding screw-up in Series history, wrote August Fagerstrom.
Murphy’s error, in terms of single-game win expectancy, was the most costly fielding mistake by any player in World Series history, save for Boston’s Bill Buckner... In the blink of an eye, Murphy’s error reduced the Mets’ odds of winning the World Series by 13%.

Here's what Murphy told N.J. Advance Media after gay former MLB player(and current MLB "inclusion ambassador") Billy Bean visited Mets Spring Training earlier this year:
"I disagree with his lifestyle," Murphy said. "I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn't mean I can't still invest in him and get to know him. I don't think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent."

Monday, October 26, 2015

Heineman administration made African despot who vowed to slit throats of LGBTs a NE Navy Admiral

Above: post by Joe Jervis of
In October of 2010, the Omaha World-Herald reported that then-governor Dave Heineman (an intractable foe of LGBT civil rights) bestowed a title on ruthless Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh. The Herald story claimed that Heineman
     ...never intended to honor [Gambian Dictator Yahya] Jammeh. Instead, a San Francisco man requested the admiralship, and Heineman's staff processed it with little scrutiny...
     Heineman has said it wouldn't be a good use of time or money to investigate each nomination, especially since the vast majority are legitimate.
Former Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman
pictured with a weasel, at left
    An Admiralship in the mythical navy of Nebraska, a landlocked state, confers authority over "seamen, tadpoles and goldfish."

Friday, October 16, 2015

NE judge slaps down antigay GOP AG, says Doug Peterson's request "defies common sense"

     Lancaster County District Judge John Colborn clarified an earlier ruling striking down the state's 1995 ban on gays and lesbian foster parents and in so doing has sharply rebuked Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, who has repeatedly squandered tax dollars by pursuing various legal maneuvers to forestall gay marriage.
     Peterson unconvincingly argued that Colborn had erred in overruling the state's LGBT ban, since the state discreetly stopped enforcing the prohibition in 2012.
     Colborn's amended order said it “defies common sense” for a government agency to adopt a new policy without rescinding or replacing a previous policy that was at odds with the new one.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Lipstick and a pig: AD Shawn Eichorst talks about Nebraska football's win/loss record so far this season

KETV actually got the Husker''s athletic director to sit down in front of its camera where he said stuff like this:
The results, sometimes, aren't always in wins and losses... I like what's going on behind the scenes... I think we've really played well, at times, throughout this season... You can't always get caught up just watching the scoreboard....

Matt Damon and JImmy Kimmel go to couples therapy

This is exquisitely funny.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Alex Lewis, Husker offensive lineman, smiles, blows kisses, says "Sorry we suck" to crowd after defeat by Illinois

This is different. No, not Big Red's downward spiral in college football, but the attitude of Alex Lewis, one of six Husker co-captains this year, who takes the game in stride (Former powerhouse Nebraska is 2-3 this season.) Coach Riley is scheduled to talk to Lewis about his behavior.
     Maybe he should talk to his assistant coaches about their behavior. At least Lewis is now only blowing kisses, which was not what he was doing two years ago:
On May 11, 2013, the former transfer from Colorado and a fellow CU teammate were involved in an altercation in Boulder, Colo., that left one man unconscious. Lewis was convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to 45 days in jail, though it was delayed until last summer so he could complete his spring classes.
     The Lincoln Journal-Star is worried that Lewis's sarcastic gesture was disrespectful to Nebraska fans. (Regarding that, one can almost hear the laughter from the office of former Nebraska Coach Bo Pellini in Youngstown, Ohio.)
     The account we read, at CollegeSpun, was written by Andrew Holleran. No, not that Andrew Holleran, who wrote this novel which is being made into a movie.

Linoma Mashers, together 30 years, will appear Wednesday at the Barley St. Tavern in Omaha's fabulous Benson district

Here they are in 2010, performing "Oh, Betty!"

And here's their reggae cover of A Summer Place:

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings supports LGBTs on twitter, trashes them on TV

GLAAD will probably give him an award for the nice tweet!

Below, some samples of the gratuitously nasty treatment relentlessly heaped on LGBTs in this season's Netflix-underwritten Narcos, easily the most homophobic miniseries we've seen this year:

'Stonewall' docudrama gets raked by gay reviewers

     Queerty said the film unfairly portrayed the Mattachine Society and Frank Kameny, "standing history on its head,"calling it "no credit to the history it purports to represent" and went on, in a caption, to call it "the year's most insulting film" and a "future camp classic."
     Towleroad's movie critic ended his review with, "Stonewall may have birthed Gay Pride but this Stonewall is a shame."

Bill Maher weighs in on Kim Davis, other GOP folk heroes

A few weeks ago, America met Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who was sent to jail for her principled belief that marriage is a sacred union between one woman and one scarecrow.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Nebraska: GOP Gov. Ricketts' administration is listing gay spouses as 'friend' on birth certificates, prompting another expensive lawsuit against state

ALSO: Homophobic NE AG Don Peterson is denied an en banc hearing he requested in order to deprive a dying woman legal fees after she was forced to sue the state to recognize her legal same sex marriage.

Last summer, Nebraska Gov. and death penalty aficionado Pete Ricketts, who attended his sister's gay wedding in Chicago but opposed gay marriage in Nebraska, told two apparent lies in a press release following the landmark Supreme Court ruling declaring gay marriage bans unconstitutional:
“The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken and ruled state same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. While 70 percent of Nebraskans approved our amendment to our state constitution that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, the highest court in the land has ruled states cannot place limits on marriage between same-sex couples. We will follow the law and respect the ruling outlined by the court.”
     The first lie was the assertion that 70% of Nebraskans disapproved of gay marriage. The actual figure, of course, was 70% of the people who went to the polls in 2000 to vote on the issue. Ricketts' second lie was his pledge to follow the law and respect the ruling.
     From today's Omaha World-Herald:
     The Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union asked a Nebraska federal judge on Thursday to issue an injunction ordering the state to list both same-sex spouses as parents on birth certificates of children born to same-sex couples.
     The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has refused to “provide married same-sex couples birth certificates for their children on the same terms and conditions as married different-sex couples,” the ACLU wrote in court records.
     Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late June that same-sex couples could marry, at least two same-sex couples in Nebraska — including the Wagners — have been unable to list both of their names on the birth certificates of their newborns.
     In the high court’s ruling, the ACLU said, birth certificates were listed as one of the many marital protections that must be provided equally to married same-sex couples.
     On Thursday, the Nebraska Office of Vital Records and Statistics confirmed the birth certificate form is still the same as it was before the same-sex marriage opinion.
     “We continue to evaluate the impact of the Supreme Court decision on programs within our agency,” Leah Bucco-White, a spokeswoman for DHHS, wrote in an email.
The request is being reviewed by the Nebraska Attorney General's office.

Researching an affliction on the Internet? 'WebMD is basically calling up everybody in town and telling them...'

Links to ABC's story about WebMD and the Mayo Clinic's web site
no longer seem to work.
And it's not just WebMD. The Mayo Clinic, the CDC, Planned Parenthood, and others all "share" your searches with 3rd parties. ABC did a segment on this, focusing on WebMD and the Mayo Clinic but links to the video seem to have stopped working.
     Here's more from Motherboard:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

GOP capitulation to Big Pharma has enabled ruinous drug price spikes

The former hedge fund manager and cofounder of the Turing Pharmaceutical company has received the lion's share of publicity for recent, outrageous drug price increases, but the problem is much larger.
     Consider these recent increases in important life-saving drugs:

Cycloserine (used to treat multidrug-resistant TB)
Price increased from $500 $10,800
Heart drugs:
Isuprel : 5x price increase by Marathon; subsequent 525% increase by Valeant
Nitropress: 5x price increase by Marathon; subsequent 212% increase by Valeant
Doxycycline: $20 per bottle in October 2013 to $1849 in April 2014

A subsequent Times story explained that drug consolidation even affects generic formulations:
For many generic drugs, industry consolidation has left only one or two companies making a particular medicine. That's led to lengthy shortages for an increasing number of crucial medicines, driving up prices, particularly for drugs for infections, blood pressure and seizures. Even without shortages, prices have jumped tenfold or more for generics only made by one or two companies.
The blame for the status of the U.S. status as the most expensive place on earth to get medicinal drugs lies squarely at the threshold of the GOP and the pharmaceutical lobby. Said the Times in an editorial on Tuesday:
     At Republican insistence, that law barred the federal government from negotiating with drug manufacturers. It relied on bargaining by private insurers that manage drug benefits for Medicare patients, like UnitedHealth, Aetna and CVS Caremark, to wring discounts from the drug makers.
     That wasn’t enough.
     The Congressional Budget Office has long concluded that curbing Medicare drug spending requires that federal officials have stronger tools, like the power to offer preferential treatment to drug makers that offer big discounts... Congressional Republicans would no doubt balk at having the federal government negotiate Medicare drug prices, but the public is clamoring for action, and it’s the right thing to do.

How VW software cheat figured out when EPA test was being run — and how VW got busted

It was a group of West Virginia academics and students working for the Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines, and Emissions (CAFEE), contacted by the International Council on Clean Transportation to conduct real-world tests on light-duty diesel vehicles who first smelled a rat when they took several cars on a road trip to evaluate the tailpipe emissions of diesel cars manufactured for the U.S. market by European auto makers, something on which no published academic research existed. They then alerted the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), who then did what government agencies should: due diligence. From Pete Bigelow at Autoblog:
     The road trip was Volkswagen's undoing. When the West Virginia team returned to Los Angeles, they were befuddled by the test results. In theory, the Passat should have spewed the lowest levels of pollutants among the three cars. Equipped with the more modern selective catalytic reduction technology, the team expected to find minimal levels of nitrogen oxide. But the car, which had been certified at a California Air Resources Board facility prior to the start of the road trip, had elevated levels of NOx that were 20 times the baseline levels established beforehand.
      The researchers, comprised of professors Gregory Thompson and Dan Carder and students Marc Besch and Thiruvengadam, knew their on-board equipment functioned properly because, early in their research, they had double-checked its accuracy after recording sky-high NOx readings from the Jetta that showed 30 times the level of its baseline testing at the CARB facility. It was particularly noteworthy because the Jetta contained the first-generation Lean NOx Trap technology, not the more efficient SCR, yet both produced large discrepancies. The BMW, on the other hand, performed as expected.
And how did the software know the vehicle was subjected to an EPA test so it could turn on the vehicle's emissions control equipment just for the test? ComputerWorld described how easy that would be:
     ...modern cars can sense when a hood is open for dynamometer testing, "so a smart hood switch could double as a defeat device."
     Or, another sensor could detect when a vehicle's traction control unit was disabled, which is required during emissions testing, and place the emission system into a different mode.
     "The possibilities are almost endless," [Arvind Thiruvengadam] told Autoblog. "I'm pretty sure that if you're one of the largest car manufacturers, you could do a lot more."
     According to the EPA's violation letter to Volkswagen, dated Sept. 18, "the position of the steering wheel, vehicle speed, the duration of the engine’s operation, and barometric pressure" -- all very specific indicators of an emissions test -- acted as the activation switch for the "defeat device".  
Below, a 1997 VW ad for its Golf, aired during the coming out episode of Ellen. VW denied that the actors in the ad were depicting a gay couple and that settled any such suspicions because HEY! — would Volkswagen lie to you?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mutual of Omaha won't comment on latest suit alleging antigay discrimination

Truvada is a form of PrEP, a pre-exposure prophylaxis designed to prevent HIV infection.
     A 61-year-old gay Boston attorney who is on Truvada and is HIV negative, has been denied long term care insurance by Mutual of Omaha. He's planning to sue Mutual and as a preliminary step, filed a complaint Wednesday with the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination.
     From the Associated Press:
      He [the attorney] said he received a letter in April from a chief underwriter for Mutual of Omaha denying his appeal. "We do not offer coverage to anyone who takes the medication Truvada, regardless of whether it is prescribed to treat HIV infection, or is used for pre-exposure prophylaxis. This in accordance with our underwriting guidelines," the letter said, according to the complaint.
     Doe alleges that Mutual of Omaha discriminated against him based on sexual orientation and disability, in this case, an assumption that Doe will in the future contract HIV, a health condition covered by the state's antidiscrimination law.
      Dr. Kenneth Mayer, a professor at Harvard Medical School and director of HIV Prevention Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said he doesn't understand why Mutual of Omaha would reject an applicant for long-term care insurance because he is taking Truvada.
     "The last thing we want to do is discourage people from using this preventive mediation," Mayer said. "The goal is to eradicate the number of new HIV infections."
     From Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD):
     “Mutual of Omaha’s denial is nonsensical,” said Bennett Klein, Senior Attorney and AIDS Law Project Director at GLAD. “If our client were not taking Truvada, not protecting his health and the health of others, he would have received the insurance.  We should be well beyond the days when insurers make decisions based on fear and stereotypes about HIV. The assumption is that gay male sexuality is inherently risky and unhealthy, and that’s just wrong.”
     In 1998 Lambda Legal and the AIDS Legal  Council of Chicago sued Mutual for capping HIV-related care at a fraction of the amount allowed for other illnesses or conditions.    
     In March of 2010, Mutual "amicably" settled a trademark lawsuit against the production company of Oprah Winfrey over the use of the phrase "Aha Moment."
     For decades, Mutual of Omaha sponsored a nationally-televised animal program entitled "Wild Kingdom," in which hosts Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler relentlessly plugged the security of Mutual's Life Insurance products via awkward seques.
     However a Mutual occupational underwriting guide in use well into the 1990s revealed that it was against company policy to underwrite life insurance for "wild animal handlers."

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Matt Baume looks at all the Kim Davis pandering at the GOP debate

Huckabee, who dropped out of preacher school to break into radio, gets schooled by a GOP candidate with a law degree and Rick Santorum gets schooled by a GOP candidate about his personal bogeyman, "judicial supremacy."

Busted: Millionaire GOP NE Gov.'s sponsorship of death penalty restoration not disclosed in initiative

TD Ameritrade scion Pete Ricketts, now Nebraska's GOP governor, didn't like the fact that the Nebraska Unicameral overrode his veto of its removal of the state's death penalty, so he spent $200,000 (and his father kicked in another $100,000) to a paid petition drive to put the law on hold and reinstate Nebraska's death penalty on the next election's ballot as a constitutional amendment.
     Now his organization, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, faces a lawsuit seeking to negate the signature drive because the organization played fast and loose with requirements of Nebraska's initiative statute, which requires that there be a sworn list of every sponsor.
     Nebraskans for the Death Penalty calls the just-filed lawsuit by Nebraskans for Public Safety (a opposing group) over the violation "frivolous" and a "technicality," despite the fact that in 2003 the Nebraska Supreme Court quashed an initiative which would have legalized video keno games for exactly such "frivolous" reasons.
     The World-Herald  notes that Ricketts is also alleged in the lawsuit to have violated his oath of office by seeking to overturn a state law, rather than working to uphold it.
     “The governor’s sponsorship of the referendum would show formally that rather than prepare to support, enforce and execute this duly passed law, he has instead aligned himself, his political allies and persons directly controlled and organized by him and sponsored this referendum,” stated the lawsuit, filed in Lancaster County District Court.
     “He has with his personal and family fortune largely financed the attempt to do away with a law he disfavors.”
    The lawsuit said the governor told state lawmakers that if they didn’t uphold his veto of the death penalty repeal, a referendum would be launched.
     Ricketts was unavailable for comment as he is absent from the state again on a "trade mission" to China and Japan, shortly after returning from a similar jaunt through Europe.
     Here's the press release from Nebraskans For Public Safety:

Nebraskans for Public Safety files lawsuit challenging death penalty referendum

September 17, 2015 - For Immediate Release   
Contact: Alan Peterson, General Counsel, Nebraskans for Public Safety, 402-416-3633 NEBRASKANS FOR PUBLIC SAFETY FILES LAWSUIT CHALLENGING DEATH PENALTY REFERENDUM
LINCOLN, Neb – Nebraskans for Public Safety filed suit in Lancaster County District Court today challenging the legal sufficiency of the death penalty referendum petition. The suit was filed on behalf of Lincoln residents and longtime death penalty opponents Christy and Richard Hargesheimer who are taxpayers concerned about the petition process. The named defendants are Secretary of State John Gale in his official capacity, Aimee Melton, Bob Evnen, Judy Glasburner, and Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, Inc. Click here to view a copy of the initial filing:
     The legal team representing the Hargesheimers include some of Nebraska’s leading and experienced attorneys: Alan Peterson, Jerry Soucie, Amy Miller, and Christopher Eickholt.
     “All Nebraskans support our robust tradition of direct democracy-including referendum campaigns. However, all Nebraskans also want a fair process where everyone plays by the rules. In the case of the death penalty referendum it is clear that Governor Ricketts and his supporters failed to do their due diligence and appeared to have cut corners. That undermines the integrity of the referendum process and that has legal consequences,” said Alan Peterson, lead counsel.
     “We look forward to having our day in court and defending a fair process for everyone. Nebraskans know the death penalty is broken beyond repair and belongs in our past. Powerful interests like the Governor are not entitled to their own set of rules to pursue their own political objectives. We are looking forward to having these issues decided outside of the political arena and before an impartial judiciary,” said Christy Hargesheimer.
     Nebraskans for Public Safety is a campaign committee organized to oppose the death penalty referendum. It is a statewide coalition conducting public education on smart alternatives to the death penalty -- such as life in prison without parole -- that put public safety first. Members include fiscal conservatives, faith leaders, victims’ families, and traditional death penalty opponents. Visit our website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Stothert administration can't keep its stories straight about jacking up parking meter fees

Mayor Jean Stothert insisted before God* and KETV that doubling some meter rates, extending hours to 9 from 5 pm and charging people to park on Saturday was NOT a "money grab." (Unlike, perhaps, her administration's recent annexation binge.)
     She claimed it was because parking administration costs the city more than it brings in.
     Begging the Republican question: "Well, then, why don't you rip up the meters, sell Omaha's parking garages to private enterprise, and get the city out of the parking business?"
     But we digress. While Stothert said one thing in her press conference, Ken Smith, the city's Parking Division manager, said something else to the World-Herald: "Our goal is to increase turnover outside businesses and free up spaces so that customers and visitors to the downtown area can more easily find parking spaces."
     And what about people who work downtown?
     Many downtown employees, such as wait staff at restaurants, are likely to be less than thrilled about the changes. Asked about that Wednesday, Smith predicted that the changes will benefit restaurant workers, because easier parking would generate more customers.
     Hi! We're Republicans from the government Stothert administration and we're here to help you get more customers!
     Readers will note Stothert's exquisite sympathy for the flawed cognition of drivers circling the Old Market who might disagree with her assessment: “We have enough parking spaces downtown,” Stothert said. “It’s just that people perceive we don’t.”
*We don't know if Stothert actually goes to church regularly on Sundays, but she was so conspicuously pious while on Omaha's City Council in reciting prayers before meetings that you might have thought she mistook the governmental chamber for a chapel.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Walt Disney hanging with the boys on a South American beach

This photo will do nothing to throw cold water on persistent rumors about Uncle Walt's supposed bi- or homosexuality. The picture was taken during a cartoonist's strike in 1941 during which Disney took out a full page ad in Variety attributing the malcontentedness on the Disney plantation to "communistic" influences and not the fact that some Disney artists made $12 a week with no overtime while others made hundreds. In his absence, Walt left union negotiations to his brother Roy, who gave the union commies nearly everything they asked for. When Walt returned, he had his secretary separate the strikers' files from those who didn't picket, for future retribution. The screencap is from this week's American Experience two-part bio on Disney.
    One priceless moment from the documentary is film of Walt doing the voice-over for Mickey Mouse. Trust us, the clip is hilarious. We bet Walt was a riot in the sack with whomever he may or may not have slept with besides his wife.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sens. Sasse and Fischer target LGBTs with fraudulent law New York Times calls attack on 1st amendment

In the Senate, the so-called First Amendment Defense Act is called S. 1598. The House version, H.R. 2802, is sponsored by Jeff Fortenberry. Like much of what Sasse and Fischer and Fortenberry do and say, the bill is completely bogus. Here's what the New York Times wrote:
     It would do many things, but one thing it would not do is defend the First Amendment. To the contrary, it would deliberately warp the bedrock principle of religious freedom under the Constitution.
     The bill, versions of which have been circulating since 2013, gained a sudden wave of support after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. It is being hawked with the specter of clergy members being forced to officiate such marriages. This is a ploy, as the bill’s backers surely know: There has never been any doubt that the First Amendment protects members of the clergy from performing weddings against their will.
Attacking LGBTs in House:
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry
     In reality, the act would bar the federal government from taking “any discriminatory action” — including the denial of tax benefits, grants, contracts or licenses — against those who oppose same-sex marriage for religious or moral reasons. In other words, it would use taxpayers’ money to negate federal anti-discrimination measures protecting gays and lesbians, using the idea of religious freedom as cover.
     For example, a religiously affiliated college that receives federal grants could fire a professor simply for being gay and still receive those grants. Or federal workers could refuse to process the tax returns of same-sex couples simply because of bigotry against their marriages...

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The 44-year-old Swede responsible for more hits than Phil Spector, Michael Jackson or the Beatles

If you thought the Wrecking Crew and the Funk Bros. dominated pop music in an unprecedented way in the 1960s, you haven't been paying attention to pop music today. From The Atlantic:

     The biggest pop star in America today is a man named Karl Martin Sandberg. ...Sandberg grew up in a remote suburb of Stockholm and is now 44... He is responsible for more hits than Phil Spector, Michael Jackson, or the Beatles.
     Ater Sandberg come the bald Norwegians, Mikkel Eriksen and Tor Hermansen, 43 and 44; Lukasz Gottwald, 42, a Sandberg protégé and collaborator ...and another Sandberg collaborator named Esther Dean, 33, a former nurse’s aide from Oklahoma who was discovered in the audience of a Gap Band concert, singing along to “Oops Upside Your Head.” They use pseudonyms professionally, but most Americans wouldn’t recognize those, either: Max Martin, Stargate, Dr. Luke, and Ester Dean.
     ...Millions of Swifties and KatyCats—as well as Beliebers, Barbz, and Selenators, and the Rihanna Navy—would be stunned by the revelation that a handful of people, a crazily high percentage of them middle-aged Scandinavian men, write most of America’s pop hits. 
     ...A short-attention-span culture demands short-attention-span songs. The writers of Tin Pan Alley and Motown had to write only one killer hook to get a hit. Now you need a new high every seven seconds—the average length of time a listener will give a radio station before changing the channel. “It’s not enough to have one hook anymore,” Jay Brown, a co-founder of Jay Z’s Roc Nation label, tells Seabrook. “You’ve got to have a hook in the intro, a hook in the pre, a hook in the chorus, and a hook in the bridge, too.”