Thursday, January 31, 2013

Video: Deb Fischer tears into Chuck Hagel at confirmation hearing like he was her next-door neighbor or something

To see all AKSARBENT's posts about who is behind the unprecedented (and often downright sneaky) PAC campaign against Chuck Hagel, click here.


Transcription from C-SPAN is software-generated. Take it with a grain of salt and cross-reference it to video. (In one section AKSARBENT changed USED CAR to VIEWS FAR because that's what Fischer said.)
     Fischer, who doesn't believe that global warming is real, articulates her worries about Chuck Hagel's "extremist" views. 
     The Global Zero Report, from which Deb Fischer cherry picked out-of-context quotes designed as "gotcha" questions to torpedo Hagel's nomination, may be read in its entirety and in context here.
     For a reality check on Sen. Fischer's emerging knee-jerk, rubber stamp right-wing agenda, below is a second opinion on Hagel's commendable efforts to rid the world of its nuclear Sword of Damocles.
     By the way, if the "next-door neighbor" allusion in this post's headline doesn't make any sense to you, go here.





>> SENATOR FISHER?

>> >> THANK YOU, MR.

CHAIRMAN. GOOD AFTERNOON, SENATOR, GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

I WANT TO BEGIN BY THANKING YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY AND TO THE STATE OF NEBRASKA.

I APPRECIATE YOUR CONTINUED WILLINGNESS TO SERVE THE UNITED STATES.

I NEED TO BE HONEST WITH YOU.

AFTER OUR MEETING LAST WEEK, I HAVE SOME CONCERNS ABOUT YOUR NOMINATION.

MANY OF MY COLLEAGUES ARE CONCERNED THAT YOU HAVE CHANGED YOUR OF USE, AND I SHARE THAT CONCERN, BUT I MUST ADMIT THAT I AM MORE WORRIED THAT YOUR VIEWS HAVE NOT CHANGED.

FROM YOUR MEETING WITH ME LAST WEEK, IT WAS CLEAR THAT YOU MAINTAIN THE VIEWS THAT LED TO SUCH SCRUTINY OF YOUR NOMINATION.

DESPITE THESE RECENT CLAIMS TO THE CONTRARY, YOU CONTINUE TO HOLD I BELIEVE VIEWS FAR TO THE LEFT OF EVEN THIS ADMINISTRATION.

IN PARTICULAR, YOUR CLEAR STATEMENT TO ME DURING OUR MEETING THAT IF GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO RECAST YOUR VOTE ON THE IRANIAN SANCTIONS, YOU WOULD STILL OPPOSE THOSE SANCTIONS.

I BELIEVE THAT INDICATES THAT YOU HOLD THESE CONCERNING THE VIEWS.

OUR NATION FACES MANY CHALLENGES.

PERHAPS NONE GREATER OR MORE IMMEDIATE THAN AROUND'S CONTINUED PROGRESS TOWARD OBTAINING NUCLEAR WEAPONS.

AT THE SAME TIME, THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE IS ENTERING A TIME OF TRANSFORMATION THAT WILL LIKELY TO FIND ITS ROLE FOR MANY DECADES TO COME.

THE FUTURE OF OUR NUCLEAR DETERRENCE COULD DEPEND ON OUR CHOICES MADE BY THE NEXT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE.

I AM " TO BRING UP THE REPORT THAT WE HAVE HEARD ABOUT -- I AM GOING TO BRING UP THE REPORT THAT WE HAVE HEARD ABOUT QUITE A BIT.

YOU ARE LISTED AS THE CO-AUTHOR OF A REPORT ON OUR NUCLEAR POSTURE.

I BELIEVE THERE IS A RECOMMENDATION IN THERE, AND I BELIEVE THE RECOMMENDATION IS TO DRASTICALLY REDUCE THE UNITED STATES NUCLEAR FORCES.

WHEN WE SPOKE LAST WEEK, YOU DESCRIBE THIS REPORT AS BEING OFFERED BY GENERAL CARTWRIGHT, AND I HAD THE IMPRESSION, AND I AM BELIEVE HE'LL APPLY TO ME, THAT YOU WERE NOT CLOSELY AFFILIATED WITH THAT.

YOU ARE LISTED AS A CO-AUTHOR OF THAT REPORT, AS ONE OF THE FIVE.

MOREOVER, YOU TOLD ME AT THAT TIME THAT THIS REPORT DISCUSSED OPTIONS.

YOU HAVE REITERATED THAT STANCE TODAY.

AFTER I HAVE TO REEXAMINE THAT IT, THE ONLY OPTIONS I HAVE FOUND IN THE REPORT ARE RELATED TO HOW BEST -- HOW TO BEST ACHIEVE THOSE REDUCTIONS I BELIEVE IT ADVISES.

THERE ARE NO ALTERNATIVE TO USE OR DISSENTING OPINIONS THAT ARE DISCUSSED IN THE REPORT.

IT STATES MANY CONTROVERSIAL OPINIONS.

IT STATE THEM AS FACTS IN SUPPORT OF ITS CONCLUSION, AND I BELIEVE IS IMPORTANT TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT YOU AGREE WITH THOSE POSITIONS.

AS IT HAS BEEN SAID BEFORE, MY TIME HERE IS LIMITED, AND SO I WOULD LIKE TO QUICKLY GO THROUGH AND REVIEW SOME OF THOSE MORE CONCERNING PROCLAMATIONS THAT AND MAKES WITH YOU.

I WOULD APPRECIATE IF WE COULD GO THROUGH THIS QUICKLY.

FOR EXAMPLE, THE UNITED STATES ICBM FORCE HAS LOST ITS CENTRAL UTILITY.

THAT IS STATED IN THE REPORT.

DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT?

>> WELL, SENATOR, THAT REPORT WAS NOT A RECOMMENDATION.

THAT REPORT AS WE HAVE SAID IS A SERIES OF SCENARIOS, AND AGAIN I USE THE TERM ILLUSTRATIVE, BECAUSE THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE REPORT, AS POSSIBLE WAYS WE COULD CONTINUE TO REDUCE OUR WARHEADS, NOT UNILATERALLY, BUT BY LATTERLY TREAT EVERY TREATY WE HAVE EVER SIGNED TO REDUCE WARHEADS AND THE THRUST CAPABILITY WITH THE RUSSIANS HAS BEEN ABOUT REDUCTIONS.

THAT IS NOT NEW. THAT IS WHERE IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN PICKED ICBM'S, A SPECIFIC QUESTIONS.

IT IS A 25-PAGE REPORT.

I ASSUME YOU HAVE READ IT.

IT TALKED ABOUT ONE OF THE REASONS ICBM'S MAY EVENTUALLY BE INSIGNIFICANT BECAUSE OF THE OVER-FLIGHT OVER RUSSIA AND SO ON.

THOSE ARE NOT FICTIONAL ANALYSES.

THOSE ARE FACTS.

NO ONE IS RECOMMENDING IN THAT REPORT -- AND YOU PROBABLY NOTED GENERAL CARTWRIGHT AND OMAHA -- THESE ARE SERIOUS PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND THIS BUSINESS, AND NO ONE RECOMMENDS THAT WE UNILATERALLY DO AWAY WITH OUR ICBM'S.

WHAT THAT REPORT WAS ABOUT WAS LOOKING AT WHERE THIS IS GOING.

THE TITLE OF THE REPORT WAS MODERNIZING OUR NUCLEAR STRATEGY, NOT ELIMINATING IT.

>> CORRECT, BUT THE YOU AGREE WITH THE STATEMENT THAT THE ICBM'S, THAT FORCE HAS LOST ITS CENTRAL UTILITY?

>> THAT IS NOT WHAT THE REPORT SAID.

>> I HAVE IT CITED, AND WITH RESPECT I CAN ENTER THAT INTO THE RECORD, BUT IT IS CITED IN THE REPORT.

>> THE REPORT IN THE OVERALL CONTEXT, ICBM'S, AND ALL THE PARTS OF THE REPORT WERE ABOUT THE UTILITIES OF OUR TRIAD, WHERE IS THIS GOING, AND MONEY THAT WE ARE INVESTING IN THAT, AND WE HAVE TO LOOK AT IT.

I THINK THOSE KINDS OF REPORTS ARE VALUABLE TO ASSESS OUR NEEDS, TO ASSESS OUR NUCLEAR CAPABILITY, TO ASSESS OUR NUCLEAR DETERRENT.

WEEK TWO STUDIES ALL THE TIME.

THIS WAS NOT AN OFFICIAL REPORT.

THINK TANKS DO THIS ALL THE TIME.

I THINK THAT IS VALUABLE.

>> EXCUSE ME.

I DO THINK THAT REPORTS FROM VARIOUS ORGANIZATIONS, THINK TANKS, INDIVIDUALS, GROUPS, I THINK THOSE ARE ALL VERY IMPORTANT IN GETTING INFORMATION AND OPINIONS OUT THERE.

BUT WHEN YOU CO-AUTHORED A REPORT, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO ANSWER A FEW -- IF YOU AGREE WITH STATEMENTS MADE IN THE REPORT.

>> I DO NOT AGREE ANY RECOMMENDATION THAT WOULD UNILATERALLY TAKE ANY ACTION TO FURTHER REDUCE OUR NUCLEAR WARHEADS AND OUR CAPABILITY.

AGAIN, THAT IS NOT WHAT THE REPORT SAID.

I DO NOT AGREE WITH THAT.

EVERY OPTION THAT WE MUST LOOK AT, EVERY ACTION WE MUST TAKE TO REDUCE WARHEADS OR ANYTHING SHOULD BE BILATERAL.

IT TO BE VERIFIABLE.

IT SHOULD BE NEGOTIATED.

>> EVERY ACTION THAT THIS COUNTRY TAKES SHOULD BE BILATERAL?

>> WHEN WE ARE REDUCING WARHEADS -- EVERY TREATY WE HAVE SIGNED WITH RUSSIANS AS THE BILATERAL, HAS BEEN VERIFIABLE.

RONALD REAGAN SAID AT BEST -- TRUST, BUT VERIFY ITS.

THAT IS THE KEY WORD.

HE ALSO SAID WE SHOULD WIPE NUCLEAR WEAPONS FROM THE FACE OF THE ARTS.

I THINK ALMOST EVERY PRESIDENT HAS AGREED WITH THAT.

INCLUDING, THIS PRESIDENT,.

WORLD LEADERS AGREED WITH THE CONTINUED REDUCTION, AND THIS IS NOT A REPORT OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM.

PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS SAID IN HIS PRAGUE SPEECH IN 2009 THAT THAT WAS HIS GOAL, AS WAR BREAKING DEBT, AS MANY PRESIDENTS DID.

>> THANK YOU.

ALSO, AS I READ THE REPORT, IT CALLS FOR ALL U.

S. TACTICAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS TO BE ELIMINATED OVER THE NEXT 10 YEARS AND ASSERTS THE MILITARY UTILITY IS PRACTICALLY NIL.

DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT STATEMENT?

>> SENATOR, I DO NOT DELETE IT CALLS FOR IT.

THESE ARE SCENARIOS AND SCHEDULES AND POSSIBILITIES AND OPTIONS.

BUT NONE OF THIS COULD EVER, EVER HAPPEN UNLESS IT WOULD BE NEGOTIATED, BILATERAL, AND VERIFIABLE, AND THAT WAS PART OF A LETTER THE GLOBAL THE ZERO- CREDIT GROUP SAID TO THE PRESIDENT IN 2009, SPECIFICALLY, STATING THAT.

IF I MIGHT, I MIGHT GIVE YOU A MORE RECENT EXAMPLE.

SENATOR FEINSTEIN'S SUBCOMMITTEE -- SHE HAD A HEARING LAST YEAR.

GENERAL CARTWRIGHT AND ADMIRAL PICKERING -- OR AMBASSADOR PICKERING TESTIFY, AND THEY WENT INTO THIS.

WITH ANY ACTION WE WOULD TAKE WOULD HAVE TO BE NEGOTIATED, IT WOULD HAVE TO BE BILATERAL, NO UNILATERAL ACTION, AND THEY MADE THAT POINT AGAIN ON THE RECORD IN FRONT OF SENATOR FEINSTEIN'S SUBCOMMITTEE.

AND I SUPPORT THAT.

I AGREE WITH THAT.

>> I HAVE ANOTHER STATEMENT FROM THE REPORT.

THE UNITED STATES ICBM RAPID REACTION POSTURE REMAINS IN OPERATIONS AND RUNS A REAL RISK OF ACCIDENTAL OR MISTAKEN LAUNCH.

I THINK THAT STATEMENT IS PRETTY CLEAR.

DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT?

>> YES.

I MEAN, I THE ACCIDENTAL LAUNCH AND THOSE KINDS OF THINGS ARE ALWAYS TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT AND WE NEED TO ASSURE AS WE HAVE OVER THE YEARS THAT THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN, BUT ON THE RUSSIAN -- >> THAT WE WILL RUN A REAL RISK OF ACCIDENT OR MISTAKE AND LAUNCH?

>> IF YOU PUT JUST RISK, BUT THERE'S ALWAYS A RISK.

WHEN WE ARE TALKING ABOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS, AND THE CONSEQUENCES, AS YOU KNOW, YOU DO NOT GET A LOT OF SECOND CHANCES.

WE NEED TO BE VERY SURE ABOUT THESE THINGS, AND THAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT.

>> YOU NEED TO SAY ANY ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS FOR THE SECOND ROUND.

>> I AM SORRY -- I DO NOT -- >> THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

>> THANK

Hagel confirmation hearing: Sens. Udall and Wicker ask about "conscience clause" and antigay discrimination in military

(Clips via Americablog, which found Hagel's answers to be rambling, despite the high profile gay opposition that Hagel must have prepped for.)




Patty Andrews dead at 94; last survivor of '40s supergroup that sold 75-100 million records; still the top female vocal group in history of popular music

Patty Andrews (right) and her sisters Laverne and Maxine sing for GIs
disembarking in New York City in 1945
Patty Andrews, the mezzo-soprano youngest member of the wildly popular wartime threesome, the Andrews Sisters, died Wednesday in Los Angeles at 94.
     The Andrews Sisters were a  close harmony singing trio who spanned the swing and boogie-woogie eras.
     Their 1941 smash "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" is considered an early example of rhythm and blues or jump blues.
     Bette Midler's 70s cover of that song became her first #1 hit.
     The Andrews Sisters' harmonies and songs are still influential today and, apart from Midler, have been covered by entertainers such as The Puppini Sisters, Christina Aguilera and The Three Belles. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.

The Andrews Sisters set female vocal group popular music records that remain unsurpassed:
In the 1950s, the sisters rerecorded in stereo with new arrangements many of their biggest hits, to stunning effect. Below is a smoking-hot redo of In The Mood, which destroys the Glen Miller version, kicks Bette Midler's version around the block, and even obliterates their own 1952 rendition.


Below, the Andrews Sisters trade songs with the Supremes, who do a fine job.

The Jesse Helms of the Tennessee statehouse, GOP Sen. Stacey Campfield, is now trying to force teachers to out gay kids to homophobic parents

Some background: Campfield tried to pass a “Don’t Say Gay” for two years that prohibited schools from discussing homosexuality, specifically during sex ed classes up to the eighth grade. After passing in the house, his bill died in the Senate when lawmakers finally realized that Tennessee public schools don’t have sex education classes until after eighth grade.

Now Campfield, whose political ambitions are evidently hitched to homophobic political pandering, has introduced SB 0234, the “Classroom Protection Act,” with reworked "Don't Say Gay" language:  “certain subjects are particularly sensitive and are, therefore, best explained and discussed within the home.” There is also a sneaky provision requiring teachers to out gay students, even if their parents are violently homophobic and inclined to kick them to the curb upon receipt of such disclosure.

David Badash, of The New Civil Rights Movement, explains how the stealthy provisions of SB 0234 will work, in practice:
LEA (local education agency) policies and procedures adopted pursuant to this section shall not prohibit:
(1) Any instructor from answering in good faith any question or series of questions, germane and material to the course, asked of the instructor and initiated by a student or students enrolled in the course;
So, this “good faith” scenario is enshrined into law:
Student: Is homosexuality natural?
Teacher: No.
Then, two long sections that easily are interpreted to include a scenario where a student approaches a trusted teacher, says they think they might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender:
Parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred.
Here are ten other offensive things about Stacey Campfield you may not know.

Stacey has also introduced a bill to penalize households on public assistance with kids who get bad grades (see video below) and has, in the past tried to pass legislation mandating drug testing for welfare recipients, even though a similar Florida program cost more than it saved.


Jon Stewart's new Gaywatch edition: Boy Scouts and gay domestic violence in the ex-NFL community

(Via ThinkProgress)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

That Gawker/Reddit viral photo of Omaha manhole "pillars of fire" wasn't what Gawker said it was

Gawker claimed the "photo showed "pillars of fire bursting from downtown Omaha" and 50,000 of its readers clicked on the picture.
     One-and-a-half million people saw the photo on Reddit.
     But no one was claiming ownership, so Matthew Hansen at the World-Herald decided to find out who actually took the picture:
     I have a bachelor's degree in journalism from a slightly above-average public university.
     I'm clearly qualified for most everything.
     Why don't I figure this out? Why don't I solve the lingering mystery of the Great Omaha Manhole Fire Photo of 2013?
     The ensuing city-wide manhunt took me an entire morning and involved several maneuvers that can best be described as quasi-stalkerish.
     It included a man named Kenneth who wore no pants, a lawyer named Gwen who works in my own office building and a lot of purposeful staring at a fuzzy, blown-up iPhone image as if it were a modern-day Zapruder film.
     Turns out that the photographer (who took more than one cell phone photo of the Howard Street scene) was a 23-year-old graduate student at Creighton and that the appearance of multiple fires was an optical illusion, albeit a naturally-occurring one unabetted by Photoshop, but encouraged by the way iPhones evidently see the world.
     Alas, AKSARBENT was fooled too.
     There's a lesson in all this and the lesson is: if you're lounging around in what you thought was your rented castle in only your shorts and a redhead-on-a-mission from the World-Herald bangs on your door, don't open it even a little, unless you want to be defined for the world as "Pantsless Kenneth."
Go here to see Stephanie Sands talk to KMTV about her viral photo.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Brazilian Nightclub inferno started by outdoor flares purchased by band to save money; missing security camera images explained

The Associated Press reports that Brazilian Inspector Marcelo Arigony said, at a news conference Tuesday, that members of the band Gurizada Fandangueira deliberately purchased outdoor flares for use in their Kiss Club indoor stage show because they cost only $1.25 a piece, compared to $35 a piece for indoor flares.
     Arigony, whose cousin died in the fire, added: "The pyrotechnics were part of their show - the guys even wore gloves onstage so they wouldn't burn their hands."
     ...The Rio Grande do Sul state forensics department raised the death toll Tuesday from 231 to 234 to account for three victims who did not appear on the original list of the dead. Authorities say more than 120 people remain hospitalized for smoke inhalation and burns, with dozens of them in critical condition.
     Arigony pledged to investigate everyone involved in the tragedy - including the authorities charged with making sure such establishments are up to code, such as firefighters and city officials.
Other problems:
  • Security cameras hadn't worked in months and the PCs that stored footage from them were dropped off a week ago at a computer repair shop
  • 1200-1300 people in a club with a capacity of under 700
  • Toxic-when-burned insulation foam was not proper soundproofing equipment
  • No alarm or sprinkler system at club and only one working exit
  • Malfunctioning and illegal fire extinguisher at club
  • Club's operating license expired about 5 months before fire
  • 50 people died in bathrooms because the only lights in the dark club were coming from there, and clubbers mistook them for exits 


TMZ ambushes Warren Buffet, but not before calling his wife Astrid Menks a drag queen

In the second teaser to the sorry spectacle below, one member of the TMZ staff name-checked Buffet's wife, Astrid Menks and immediately got a "Drag Queen!" response by one of the resident punks who has obviously been on the streets of Hollywood too long, or perhaps confused Astrid with "Mink Stole," who, although she played Divine's daughter in a John Waters film, isn't a drag queen either.
     If you want to hear the teaser's snarky slur, you'll have to watch today's episode on your DVR or online tomorrow at TMZ's website.
     Trust AKSARBENT, Menks didn't look like a drag queen back in the day when she worked at the French Cafe and she doesn't look like one now.



Colorado: Catholic Church again using kids as adoption hostages in civil union fight; repeats falsehood about being forced to end adoptions in MA



On television and in the Catholic "News" Agency, the church is repeating the lie that, somehow, gay rights laws in Massachusetts forced them to shut down their child placement services, even though Mormon adoption agencies still operate in the state (unlike the Catholics, the Latter Day Saints don't insist that the state subsidize their discriminatory practices with tax dollars.) Here's the CNA disinformation:
Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination law forced Catholic Charities of Boston to end its adoption program, one of the oldest in the country.
Equality matters has conclusively debunked this threadbare falsehood constantly recycled by the Roman Catholic Church and right-wing anti-gay-for-pay organizations:

REALITY: Catholic Adoption Agencies Voluntarily Ended Their Services
Massachusetts’ Catholic Charities Chose To Stop Providing Adoption Services Instead Of Serving Same-Sex Couples.
According to the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) blog:
So here’s a little reality check. Catholic Charities of Boston was not forced out of the adoption business because of marriage equality in Massachusetts. The organization voluntarily ceased doing adoptions after the state’s four Catholic Bishops got wind that gay parents had been adopting kids through Catholic Charities from an October 2005 Boston Globe story. Not surprisingly, all of this happened as the Massachusetts Legislature was wrestling with whether to put an anti-gay marriage amendment on the statewide ballot, which the local Catholic hierarchy supported wholeheartedly.
[…]
 Catholic Charities was accepting state funds to provide adoption services and was thus bound by the state’s gay-inclusive anti-discrimination law not to reject qualified adoptive parents based on sexual orientation. Oh, and by the way, the non-discrimination law has been on the books since 1989—long before marriage equality was but a doodle on [civil rights advocate] Mary Bonauto’s legal pad. [GLAD.org, 3/10/11, emphasis original]
Catholic Charities Of Boston Was Never Denied An Adoption License.
According to a GLAD fact sheet on Catholic Charities and adoption services in Massachusetts:
Did the state “deny” Catholic Charities of Boston “its adoption agency license”?
No. For 17 years Catholic Charities of Boston complied with non-discrimination laws and put the best interests of children first, in some cases placing a child with gay or lesbian parents. Catholic Charities chose to close down its adoption services. At no point was it denied an adoption license. [GLAD.org, 12/22/11]
Family Equality Council: The Choice To Stop Public Adoption Services “Was Made By Catholic Charities Alone.”
Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, wrote in an email to Equality Matters:
The decision to end public adoption services in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia was made by Catholic Charities alone. They wanted to continue to receive public funding without adhering to the law and when the state refused to make an exception for them they balked at providing critical social services to youth.
This has nothing to do with the government trying to impose values on religion. On the contrary, this had to do with the Catholic Charities trying to impose its values on children and families who needed social services. [Jennifer Chrisler email, 1/10/12, emphasis added]
Catholic Adoption Agencies Can Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples In Private Adoption Services. Steve Majors, director of communications for the Family Equality Council, wrote in an email to Equality Matters:
Catholic Charities facilitates relatively few public adoptions nationwide. In areas where they’ve declined to comply with existing non-discrimination rules and stopped doing public placements (Massachusetts, D.C., parts of California – and will be the likely result in IL where the issue is still working its way through the state courts) there has been little to no impact on the state’s ability to place children. Other adoption agencies have agreed to step in and continue the work of finding children their forever families.
Catholic Charities and other religiously affiliated organizations who receive public funding should be obligated to follow the same non-discrimination laws that other agencies adhere to.  If they place their own religious objections ahead of the law and the best interests of kids, they should withdraw from conducting public adoptions. They are free to continue facilitating private adoptions. [Steve Majors email, 9/9/11, emphasis added]

Chuck Hagel's mysterious confirmation opponents: Rachel Maddow smells a rat




In other Defense Department news, there is this unsettling development:
As the US government depicts the Defense Department as shrinking due to budgetary constraints, the Washington Post this morning announces "a major expansion of [the Pentagon's] cybersecurity force over the next several years, increasing its size more than fivefold." Specifically, says the New York Times this morning, "the expansion would increase the Defense Department's Cyber Command by more than 4,000 people, up from the current 900." The Post describes this expansion as "part of an effort to turn an organization that has focused largely on defensive measures into the equivalent of an Internet-era fighting force." This Cyber Command Unit operates under the command of Gen. Keith Alexander, who also happens to be the head of the National Security Agency, the highly secretive government network that spies on the communications of foreign nationals - and American citizens.

Former RNC chair Ken Mehlman's Des Moines speech to Iowa Republicans supporting marriage equality

More here.


Hockey: Ohio State over Notre Dame just because

Zack Ford of ThinkProgress reports that the Ohio State University hockey team is hosting a first-ever Pride Night in conjunction with Gay Hockey Ohio and the Ohio Mayhem (the state’s only gay hockey team).

From the website:
The NHL might still be in a lockout, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out of some great hockey here in Columbus.  On February 1st, 2013, Gay Hockey Ohio will be hosting a Pride Night at the Schottenstein Center when the OSU Buckeyes takes on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  The puck drops at 7:05 PM.
Meanwhile, sports fans, page 48 of the current issue of Sports Illustrated features a singular 49ers celebration inside HiTops, a gay San Francisco sports bar in the Castro:


Garrett McNamara tops himself, surfs 10-story wave

Tó Mané, via Surfer Today
In November 2011, American surfer Garrett McNamara rode a record-setting 90-foot wave off the coast of Portugal, demoted to 78 feet by Guinness World Records.
     Yesterday, with waves at Praia do Norte, Nazaré even higher by some estimates, McNamara claims to have bested his own record — by riding a one hundred foot wave.





And below is the video:

Wyoming, state with gayest seal in US, advances domestic partnership bill, but rejects marriage equality


Trevor Brown of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reports that Yesterday, the Wyoming House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee voted 7-2 to recommend approval of a domestic partnership law, House Bill 168, and sent it to the full House.
     Voting for: Reps. Gregg Blikre, R-Gillette; James Byrd, D-Cheyenne; Matthias Greene, R-Laramie; Jerry Paxton, R-Encampment; Ruth Petroff, R-Jackson; Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, and Berger; against: Reps. Gerald Gay, R-Casper, and Dan Kirkbride, R-Chugwater.
     Approval came moments after the same committee voted 5-4 to reject a bill to legalize gay marriage in the state.
     Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, Wyoming's only openly gay state lawmaker, was the lead sponsor of both bills.
     HB 168 would allow gay couples to obtain the rights, responsibilities, protections and legal benefits of immediate family members. It also states that a domestic partnership is a “civil contract between two natural persons” who are at least 18 years old.
     ...Jeran Artery, chairman of Wyoming Equality, joked that he and his partner never dreamed of looking into each other’s eyes and saying, “I love you so much honey, and I want to domestic partnership you.” But he said the domestic partnership bill would still be a historic move by the state.
     ...Rep. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, who is black, testified she is offended when gay-rights activists make comparisons between their struggles and the civil rights movement. She said that unlike race, people’s sexual orientation can be changed through the help of others.
     “Being black is the result of genetics; it is inborn,” she said. “Science does not (have) evidence of a genetic involvement to sexuality … it is a choice.”
     And she added that homosexuality can be dangerous. She cited AIDS, which she referred to as “gay-related immune deficiency or GRID” n a term more commonly used to describe the disease in the 1980s n as an example of those dangers.
     “Being black is innocuous, very harmless,” she said. “Homosexual behavior has been shown to be harmful to body, mind and spirit.”
     The bill must pass three readings before advancing to Wyoming's senate. Debate could start as early as today.
     John Celock of the Huffington Post noted that Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne), a vocal supporter of gay rights who aired the hearing live on UStream, praised Connolly for being able to stomach some of the opponents' hearing testimony.
"I wanted to publicly thank Rep. Connolly," he said. "I can't believe how unimaginably horrible it would be to sit next to someone being that downright insulting. For you to sit through that, I can't believe how hard that would be."

Two Gurizada Fandangueuira band members arrested after Brazilian Nightclub fire; club video footage missing; co-owners of Kiss Club also arrested

Update: Outdoor flares used; missing video mystery solved

Left: the Gurizada Fandangueira band's "Sputnik" pyrotechnics machine generating floor-to-ceiling sparks from the stage on the night that foam ceiling insulation at the Kiss Club in Santa Maria, Brazil caught fire. 234 are dead and 80 120 are hospitalized. Three quarters 50 of the dead were found in bathrooms, the doors of which they may have mistaken for exits in the smoke and confusion.
Arrested club co-owners Mauro Hoffman (left)
and Elissandro Spohr
     Police said a computer which would have held surveillance footage and/or images of the  inside and outside of the club has disappeared.
     Police chief Sandro Meinerz said the club's co-owner Elissandro Sphor, who was in the club at the time of the tragedy, denies taking the equipment.
Dead or arrested Gurizada Fandangueira band members (l-r):
Danilo Jacques, 28, who perished attemping to retreive his
accordion; arrested lead singer, Marcelo Santos;
arrested band member, Luciano Bonilha

     Both of the club's co-owners, Sphor and Mauro Hoffman, have now been arrested. Hoffman, lawyer in tow, turned himself in at a police station after a warrant was issued for his arrest. Sphor, in a hospital being treated for smoke inhalation, is under police guard in a hospital.


6'-7" ex-Raider offensive lineman, Kwame Harris, charged after fracturing former boyfriend's eye socket

A former 49ers and Raiders offensive lineman, Kwame Harris, faces felony domestic violence charges after his beating of an ex-boyfriend at a Menlo Park restaurant after an argument.
     Harris, 30, became angry with Dimitri Geier, 36, in August at Su Hong restaurant on Menlo Avenue, according to court documents.
     The ex-football player got incensed when Geier tried to put soy sauce on Harris' rice, said Al Serrato, a San Mateo County prosecutor.
     "Basically, they're having dinner together and they get into a verbal dispute and it gets violent from there," Serrato said...
     Serrato said the men were romantically involved and previously had lived together.
     During the restaurant argument, Harris accused Geier of stealing his underwear, Serrato said. Harris then tried to pull down Geier's pants, the prosecutor said.
     Harris, 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, then pinned Geier (6-1, 220 pounds) against a plate-glass window and hit him several times in the face and head, Serrato said.
     Doctors at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose determined that Geier had sustained complex compound facial fractures that required surgery and the insertion of a metal plate, Serrato said.
Harris has rejected a plea bargain. His attorney, Alin Clintean says the physical fight was a case of self defense, maintaining that Geier punched first.
Albert Serrato, assistant district attorney in San Mateo County, said: "The issue is not who hit first. We look to who the primary aggressor is and that is who used more force."

Monday, January 28, 2013

'30th Anniversary' Diet Coke commercial

Were there not a museum and dogged collectors of its memorabilia, we would assert that only the Coca-Cola company would care about anniversaries of specific ad campaigns.
     That said, this "Director's cut" commercial really is terrific. Good natured, funny, perfectly-cast and impeccably edited. This is how corporate America should fight DVR ad-skipping.
     Oh yeah? Well you try photographing a plucky little soft drink can bounding through the grass on a indefatigable mission and see how persuasive your efforts are, Mr. Smart Guy.



Photo: Exploded manholes licked by flames;
2800 lose power in Omaha sewer fire

Power was out from 12th to 20th and Harney to Leavenworth. The overcast sky really sets off the flames.
Fire source: cables in a power vault.
Photo source.

Boy Scouts of America finally reconsider antigay policies after yet another PR disaster and 50+ financial aid cutoffs

Last week the BSA (Boy Scouts of America) bullied Maryland Troop 442 into removing a nondiscrimination notice on its web site by threatening to yank the troop's charter. It prevailed, only to be hammered by another round of national disgust, distilled smartly by GLAAD President Herndon Graddick in Mother Jones magazine:
     To think that the Boy Scouts would rather cast out elementary school children than accept a parent-approved policy allowing gay children and parents to participate is just unconscionable. How many young Scouts is the BSA willing to sacrifice in order to preserve its harmful and discriminatory policies? This despicable act of bullying and intimidation is yet another reminder that the BSA is out of touch with its members and the American public at large.
Below: earlier this month Bay Area BSA officials issued a gag order to stiff-arm media inquiries about denial of Eagle Scout award to gay scout Ryan Andreson:



Now, Pete Williams of NBC reports that the organization "is actively considering an end to its decades-long policy of banning gay scouts or scout leaders."
     Two corporate CEOs on BSA’s national board, Randall Stephenson of AT&T and James Turley of Ernst & Young, have also said they would work to end the ban. Stephenson is next in line to be the BSA’s national chairman. During the 2012 presidential campaign, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney said the BSA should admit gay scouts and scout leaders.
     About 50 local United Way groups and several corporations and charities have concluded that the ban violates their non-discrimination requirements and have ceased providing financial aid to the Boy Scouts.

Pandering to gay voters in Paris, France versus doing so in Des Moines, Iowa; compare and contrast

In Des Moines today, Iowa Republicans for Freedom have organized an event with Ken Mehlman, a gay former Republican National Committee Chairman and a key adviser to former President George Bush, who signed on to the strategy of promoting anti-marriage equality state constitution amendments during the 2004 election cycle to bring the evangelicals Bush had betrayed back to the polls to reelect him president.
     Former Romney campaign senior advisor Dave Kochel, who has now has endorsed marriage equality, will be there too; the event is intended to draw young people to the Republican Party. Said JMG: We have to wonder if Kochel took part in the decision for Romney to sign NOM's hate pledge and whether today's move is just opportunism.
     Meanwhile, in France, two members of parliament, socialists Yann Galut and Nicolas Bays joined the "Marriage for All" protests Sunday by, well, "frenching" each other. Neither is gay; both are married with children.
    Maybe this this will catch on in Nebraska. Maybe Beau McCoy, after his LB912 debacle, will have a change of heart and make out with Tony Fulton in the State Capitol Cafeteria — for solidarity purposes only, of course. We at AKSARBENT would pay to have someone else watch that.
(Source: JMG)

Only one band member of Gurizada Fandangueira died in Kiss Brazilian nightclub fire: Danilo Jacques, 28, who perished trying to retrieve accordion

Dead: 28-year-old Gurizada Fandangueira accordionist, Danilo Jacques
Update: Two bandmembers arrested, as well as both Kiss Club co-owners. Outdoor flares used; missing video mystery solved

ABC reported that police inspector Sandro Meinerz said one Gurizada Fandangueira member (Danilo Jacques, 28) died because he returned inside the burning building to save his accordion. Most of the band survived because it was among the first to notice the fire.
     Another survivor, Michele Pereira, told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that she was near the stage when members of the band lit some sort of flare that started the conflagration.
     "The band that was onstage began to use flares and, suddenly, they stopped the show and pointed them upward," she said. "At that point, the ceiling caught fire. It was really weak, but in a matter of seconds it spread."
     Guitarist Rodrigo Martins told Radio Gaucha that the band, Gurizada Fandangueira, started playing at 2:15 a.m. "and we had played around five songs when I looked up and noticed the roof was burning."
     "It might have happened because of the Sputnik, the machine we use to create a luminous effect with sparks. It's harmless, we never had any trouble with it," he said. "When the fire started, a guard passed us a fire extinguisher, the singer tried to use it but it wasn't working."
     He confirmed that accordion player Danilo Jacques, 28, died, while the five other members made it out safely.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tina Turner turning Swiss


The singer, born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush Tenn., has divided her time between her principal home on Lake Zurich (above), where she has lived since 1995, and a French home above the Riviera near Nice (left).
     According to a Swiss newspaper Zuerichsee-Zeitung, she has passed the necessary civics test and had the required interview.

Well-adjusted David Arquette's star has fallen, but does he care? Nah, he's too busy partying, having a ball





Here he is about to give Adam Lambert a lap dance the other day at Lambert's 31st birthday party

Below, talking to and giggling at Chelsea Handler in 2011.

Catholic Church distributes 1,000,000 anti-marriage equality postcards at weekend masses in UK

Catholics are supposed to complete and then mail them to their Members of Parliament, asking them to vote against the Government’s plan to legalize same sex marriage, according to The Telegraph.
     In a letter on behalf of bishops, Archbishop Smith, the second most senior active Catholic cleric in England and Wales, told priests: “The time to act is now.”
     Welcoming the planned free vote, he wrote: “It is therefore particularly important at this time for all MPs to be made aware of the strength of feeling on this issue among their own constituents, and the Bishops have received requests from a number of laity about mobilising further action.
     “The first key vote is likely to take place in early February so the time to act is now.
     “We need to encourage as many people as possible to get involved. Please do all you can.”

Today's Paris rally supporting gay marriage was twice the size of a similar rally in mid-December

About 125,000 people (cop estimate) showed up in Paris to support the Marriage For All law to be deliberated by French lawmakers in two days, more than double the size of a similar rally less than 45 days ago.



Below: Ugly American Brian Brown jetted to France earlier this month to make a NOM video which claimed 1,000,000 people at an antigay marriage rally he held organize, estimated by police at 340,000. Video of intimidating right-wing, antigay hordes may have backfired, creeping out a lot of Duvals and LeBlancs throughout France; between early and late January, support for marriage equality in France increased on the street and grew in polls:
 A poll carried out by Ifop for news website Atlantico.fr last week.html showed that the proportion of French people who support gay marriage rose from 60 percent to 63 percent between early and late January.
     Approval for adoption rights also rose three points, from 46 percent to 49 percent. “Following the demonstration on January 13 we expected less people to back [the reform],” Jerome Fourquet of the polling agency said. “But our findings show the opposite. Support for the plan is increasing – particularly on the left.”


To know them is not to love them: after huge rally by gay marriage opponents homophobia in France intensified and so did disdain for Marriage Equality foes.
Note: The Al Jazeera video below mentions organized opposition to gay marriage by the Catholic Church, but not by Muslim religious leaders.


As the Washington Post goes after Chuck Hagel, he gets a defender from way out of town

Michael Cohen of the UK's Manchester Guardian has come to the aid of embattled Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel in a piece called In Defense of Chuck Hagel as the Washington Post Declares War, in which Cohen deconstructs the Post's Wednesday editorial, Chuck Hagel is not the Right Choice for Defense Secretary.
     Now, it's important to remember that when it comes to US foreign policy and national security, the Washington Post editorial board is pretty much always wrong – and the bigger the issue, the more wrong they are. They were badly wrong about the Iraq war (even going so far as to savage the wars critics); wrong about the surge in Afghanistan (is still badly wrong about current policy there); and is decidedly wrong on Chuck Hagel...
     ...According to the Post, Hagel believes that the defense department's budget is "bloated" and "needs to be pared down". Moreover, the Post dings Hagel for supposedly supporting the so-called sequestration cuts...
     The sequestration cuts are significant, but it's important to understand that if they were to go into effect, they would return the Pentagon to fiscal year 2007 levels. The idea that cuts of this nature are the height of irresponsibility is the height of insanity. In 2007, the Pentagon was fighting a war with more than 100,00 troops in Iraq


     ...One of their [the joint chiefs] key job requirements is to scare Congress and journalists into believing that cuts to their damage would be catastrophic. Indeed, this is the job requirement of any government agency head. That the Post accepts such arguments at face value is stupefying.
     ...On Iran, Hagel's positions are not only well-founded; they are informed by the sort of firm grasp of international and military affairs that has perennially eluded the Post's editorial board.
     In the end, the Post's concern with Hagel is not that he is out of step with the president, but rather that he is out of step with the bipartisan foreign policy consensus in Washington for which the Washington Post has been one of the loudest and most obnoxious cheerleaders. This is a consensus that views American interests in a limitless manner, that sees no reason to place constraints on the utilization of American power, that fetishizes military solutions to difficult national security challenges, and that looks disapprovingly on any politician who advocates a foreign policy of modesty and restraint.
     The fact that Chuck Hagel has so openly questioned this consensus is perhaps his most attractive attribute... It's small wonder so many long knives have come out against Hagel – but it's even more reason for Obama to pick him as the country's next secretary of defense.

New York Times busts dubious 'gay rights' group, Use Your Mandate working to defeat Hagel nomination

Screencap from TV ad by Bradley Tusk's popup
"gay rights" group, Use Your Mandate
As if it were needed, here is further evidence of outside, or even antigay interests, playing the gay community:
The most mysterious of the new groups is Use Your Mandate. Portraying itself as a gay rights group, it has sent mailers to voters in seven states — including New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Montana — and run television ads against Mr. Hagel in New York and Washington. It has sent out posts on Twitter questioning his gay rights record and asking, “Is this what we worked so hard for?” Established gay rights activists have expressed skepticism about the group’s authenticity.
Bradley Tusk, former Deputy Governor of
Illinois. From the Village Voice:
Tusk left Bloomberg's City Hall staff in 2003
just a few months after Blagojevich became
governor to take what Blagojevich said in a
Voice interview Monday was his "number one
post" in the government. Tusk remained deputy
governor through Blagojevich's 2006 re-election,
leaving to join Lehman Brothers in 2007. Asked
if Tusk ever expressed any "concerns" about the
pay-to-play and other allegations that engulfed
the Blagojevich administration during those years,
the former governor said: "No, he never said that.
He did not think that things were being done
in a wrong way."

     It has no Web site and it only lists as its address a post office box in New York. But paperwork filed with the Federal Communications Commission link it back to Tusk Strategies, a bipartisan political group founded by Bradley Tusk, a former strategist for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York.
     In an interview, Mr. Tusk would only identify its financiers as Democratic “gay and L.G.B.T. people who have been active in campaigns around the country.”
     Yet federal records show that Use Your Mandate uses Del Cielo Media, an arm of one of the most prominent Republican ad-buying firms in the country,
Smart Media, with clients that have included the presidential campaigns of former Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. of Utah and Senator John McCain of Arizona; the 2010 Senate campaign of Christine O’Donnell, who was known for positions against homosexuality, in Delaware; and, as it happens, the Emergency Committee for Israel.

Nick Ryan, Des Moines, Iowa maker of antigay attack ads is now making anti-antigay-Chuck-Hagel attack ads



Nick Ryan is at it again, this time wearing his American Future Fund hat:
     The American Future Fund and its political action sister group spent millions against President Barack Obama and on races for the U.S. House and Senate last year. They spent over $25 million in independent expenditures on the 2012 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money spent in politics.
     Sources close to the group said Tuesday they would spend about $500,000 to air the new ad on CNN and Fox News Channel.



ALDI caught selling horsemeat by Irish government; says it demands 'highest standards' from vendors; product from Oakhurst burgers supplier up to 29% horsemeat

Newark, Ohio Aldi store. Photo: Brandon King, Flickr
The Republic of Ireland's food safety authority (FSAI) inspected meat from two processing plants in Ireland, Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods, and the Dalepak Hambleton plant in Yorkshire and found that some of the burger products had up to 29% horsemeat (found in a product packaged for sale at Tesco.) Aldi stores used the same supplier/s. The company's response:
Aldi said only one of its products - which is only on sale in the Republic of Ireland - was affected.
     In a statement, Aldi Stores (Ireland) said: "Following notification this afternoon from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) of an issue in relation to our Oakhurst Beef Burgers (8 pack) we have immediately removed the product from sale and have launched an investigation into the matter."
     The company said it "takes the quality of all its products extremely seriously and demands the highest standards from its suppliers".

Stephen King rips NRA, Pepé Le Pew, Wayne LaPierre

In a 99-cent Kindle "Single" ebook, Guns, horror novelist Stephen King argues for a ban on assault rifle sales to civilians by telling the NRA to do what he did with an incendiary book:
I didn’t pull Rage from publication because the law demanded it; I was protected under the First Amendment and the law couldn’t demand it. I pulled it because in my judgement it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do. Assault weapons will remain readily available to crazy people until the powerful pro-gun forces in this country decide to do a similar turnaround. They must accept responsibility, recognizing that responsilibity is not the same as culpability. They need to say, “we support these measures not because the law demands we support them, but because it’s the sensible thing."
Earlier in the tract, King let the NRA prez and board have it:
...One only wishes Wayne LaPierre and his NRA board of directors could be drafted to some of these [violent] scenes, where they would be required to put on booties and rubber gloves and help clean up the blood, the brains, and the chunks of intestine still containing the poor wads of half-digested food that were some innocent bystander’s last meal.

Santa Maria, Brazil: 245 dead, 48 in hospital after fire started by pyrotechnics at Kiss, college town nightclub

"There are 245 dead and 48 in the hospital," Major Cleberson Bastianello, a military police commander in the southern Brazilian city of Santa Maria, told the AFP news agency.
Most appeared to be dead of smoke inhalation, said Col. Adilomar Silva, the regional coordinator of civil defense, although a security guard told CNN affiliate Band News that many people were trampled.
     The acoustic insulation caught fire during a pyrotechnics show -- virtually the same thing that happened in Rhode Island nightclub fire in which more than 90 people died in 2003 during a heavy metal performance by Great White.
      Between 2,000 and 3,000 people routinely fill Kiss on weekends.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

LGBT legislative news short takes:
Poland, Wyoming, Virginia and Maryland

Poland’s lower house of parliament has voted to reject three separate draft laws which would have given legal rights to unmarried couples, effectively preventing same-sex couples from receiving any such rights.

Russia's Duma passed a first reading by 390-1 (with one abstention and 52 not voting) of a draconian law attacking LGBT free speech. A second reading incorporating possible amendments, including one to determine the term "homosexualism," will take place after May 25.

Wyoming lawmakers will consider two bills on Monday, one granting same-sex marriage and the other providing domestic partnership benefits. A nondiscrimination bill also is under consideration.
     Testimony on the marriage equality and domestic partnership bills will be heard Monday by the House Corporations Committee, followed on Wednesday by a hearing in Judiciary for the nondiscrimination bill.
     Equality Wyoming will rally Monday in support of all three bills at 9 AM on the front steps of the Capitol Building in Cheyenne.

In Virginia, SB701, to protect LGBT state employees from workplace discrimination, has passed 24-16 in the Senate.

The Maryland Rhode Island House passed marriage equality 51-19 on Thursday but rougher sledding is expected in the state's senate.

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