Monday, June 30, 2014

Hobby Lobby decision: Majority shifted focus from religious vs. for-profit, to closely-held vs. publicly-held to rationalize today's terrible decision

Below: excerpts from Ginsburg's dissent, set to music today. The full 35-page dissent is here.



In her dissection of today's 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court allowing some huge corporations to deny medical benefits based on religious grounds, NPR's Nina Totenberg noted several points raised by Justice Ginsburg (in a rare spoken dissenting opinion from the bench): the majority opinion compromises our entire notion of who we are as a county, the decision was based on a statute, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, not the first amendment (because of previous decisions) and that Congress never intended such a broad result when it passed the bill. Ginsberg wondered about me-too ripple effects , which opens up a huge can of worms, such as corporate owners imposing their religious beliefs regarding blood transfusions, immunizations or using medical products that have pork in them, on their employees.
     Alito's majority opinion shifted the focus from whether for-profit (not religious) corporations should enjoy such exemptions to whether or not the companies in question were "closely held," which was not persuasive to Ginsberg at all.
    In her report, Totenberg reminded her listeners that, besides Hobby Lobby, with its 16,000 employees, some of the biggest corporations in America are closely held: Cargill, Dell, Heinz, Dole, Whole Foods, Koch Industries, Ernst & Young, Amway, Toys R Us, Hilton and Bloomberg.
      The decision was also lambasted by a number of gay rights organizations, among them Lambda Legal, whose Senior Counsel and Director, Law and Policy Project, Jennifer C. Pizer, issued the following statement:
     Today’s majority ruling disregards decades of case law that drew a protective line between free religious expression and religious dominance of others. It is a radically dangerous decision that invites more misguided actions contrary to essential protections for employees, customers and the public. It is imperative that the U.S. Congress amend the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to withdraw the blessing the Court mistakenly has given these companies to impose their beliefs on working women.
     Today’s ruling is about the ACA and women’s reproductive health and rights. But, some may mistake this narrow ruling as a wide open door for religious liberty exemptions from other statutes that protect employees and the public. Today’s opinion says doing so would be incorrect. However, recent mistreatment of LGBT people in employment and other commercial settings still makes this extremely troubling. A business owner’s religious objection to a worker’s same-sex spouse or a customer’s LGBT identity is not acceptable grounds for discrimination. It is more important than ever that states and Congress enact strong, clear nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.

John Oliver's sobering piece on how American Christers shaped official, lethal Ugandan homophobia



Pepe Julian Onziema: I look over my shoulder every day.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

The GoPro 3+'s focus problem: how one user fixed it

GoPro's very suspicious website claim. Click to enlarge
GoPro claims that its new 3+ line yields sharper images.
     Users worldwide are crying foul, saying that the lenses are no longer prefocused at infinity and are only sharper up to about five feet from the camera.
     How deceptive GoPro's advertising really is or isn't are would be up to the courts to decide in a class-action lawsuit, of course.
     We just hope that if a suit is filed, it isn't heard by a blind justice.



Chad Johnson did a comparison on Vimeo, which you can see here.
Click to enlarge

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June's strangest Omaha Police Dept. tweet, so far

Stefon, who lives in Manhattan, who takes cabs, and who frequents the kinds of clubs that OPD and Omaha's blue-nosed city administration would shut down in a New York Minute, is hardly the type to waste even one of those minutes attending the kind of event described in this cop tweet. 
     Though we doubt SNL's fictional character has anything against Vets, motorcycle and car exhibitions are Club Kid repellents, unless said funseekers have suddenly become devotees of the politically reactionary American Legion magazines available for your edification in barber shops everywhere.
     AKSARBENT supposes it should be happy that someone in the OPD is a fan of Stefon, but frankly it creeps us out a little.
     Below: "How long you been carrying around that button?"

Friday, June 27, 2014

Yesterday's amazing after-storm light in Omaha

Great lighting helps older actresses and cheap cellphone cameras equally. Click to enlarge. Google Blogger seems to do a more faithful job than twitter at reproducing photos uploaded to it.

Jon Stewart: culture of defendency makes GOP warfare queens; 'We need to cut them off for their own good.'


Gay marriage lawsuit in St. Louis, MO could make homophobic Nebraska AG Jon Bruning even more miserable than he already is

We think photographer David Carson took the photo of the year of
people defying dubious laws prohibiting marriage equality. Pictured:
St. Louis Recorder of Deeds Sharon Quigley Carpenter, left, and
Mayor Francis Slay


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/editorials/article637118.html#storylink=cpy
Last Wednesday, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay had a St. Louis municipal judge marry four gay couples in his office, after which he notified Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who, on Thursday, asked for an order to prevent further disobedience of state law by the Mayor and his friends.
     Slay promised not to be naughty again until the question percolates through the courts, which Koster said would take up to 18 months.
     This is not good news for homophobic NE AG Jon Bruning. Missouri is under the jurisdiction of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Nebraska. Last Wednesday, the 10th Circuit Court upheld a federal judge’s ruling declaring Utah’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.
     Spoketh the Kansas City Star:
     [MO AG] Koster said he supports marriage equality, but his duty is to defend the laws of Missouri. Though the politically safe position for an ambitious politician in Missouri, it puts Koster on the wrong side of history. Attorneys general in at least five other states have said they will not defend gay marriage bans.
     Ultimately, the constitutionality of the state marriage bans will end up back with the U.S. Supreme Court. That day can’t come soon enough. And if the actions of the mayor of St. Louis and eight newlyweds help it arrive sooner, good for them.
     The ACLU of Missouri was already on this. It filed suit Tuesday on behalf of two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses last week by the Jackson County recorder of deeds, but didn't publicize its action because it didn't want to distract from St. Louis efforts.
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis says gay
weddings "disregard the laws of nature"
     On cue, the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis weighed in, citing Pope Benedict XVI, but, interestingly, not the church's current CEO, what's-his-face from Argentina.
     It is disheartening to see our wonderful city, named after the great Catholic civil leader St. King Louis IX, so eagerly cast aside the laws of our state and disregard the laws of nature.
     We will say this about the St. Louis Archdiocese: at least its predictably condescending anti-gay-civil-rights press releases are organized, up-to-date, comprehensive and easy to find on the church's web site. Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha, please take note.

CNBC's Squawk on the Street cohost Simon Hobbs claims he thought gay Apple CEO Tim Cook was "fairly open about it"; gets silent stares from panelists

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Anderson Cooper teaches AKSARBENT a new word

Well, wheelhouse is new to us, anyway.





Video: first Indianapolis same sex couple marries

AKSARBENT doesn't usually publish gay wedding vow exchanges or (most especially) contrived flash mob proposals, but Craig Bowen and Jake Miller have been together for eight years and decided to get hitched as soon as Indiana let them, which was today.
     The two sons of Indiana seem genuine, unpretentious and level-headed: although U.S. District Judge Richard Young, who struck down Indiana's ban on gay banns, did not stay his ruling, the office of AG Greg Zoeller, representing the state, filed an emergency motion for stay pending appeal with the U.S. District Court this afternoon, so the couple took no chances.
     IndyStar reports:
     Marion County Clerk Beth White said she will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples today in her office at the City-County Building in Downtown Indianapolis until 8 p.m.
     "I will also conduct short, civil ceremonies on a first-come, first-served basis for a voluntary $50 contribution to the Indiana Youth Group," White said in a news release.

Chattanooga fires a park ranger after unlettered busybody complains about his dancing

Said Melissa Parsons:
     AS A PARENT(!) and seeing ALL the parents that were covering their kids' eyes and turning their heads away, it wasn't something that you would expect to see in Coolidge Park or anywhere from a grown man, specially from a man in uniform... He went all the way down to the ground, he came back up from the ground, he was grabbing areas that you would see on a rated-R movie.
     Thanks to Parson's alert, indefatigable efforts, Deryl Nelson has now been fired for conduct unbecoming a city employee.

Sportsball collisions in Brazil and Omaha: Uruguayan serial biter Luis Suarez chomps a shoulder and VA's Mike Papi shoulders some teeth

     In a Brazil World Cup match yesterday, Uruguyan striker and serial biter Luis Suarez appeared to have run into Italy's Giorgio Chiellini with his teeth.
     Snickers, Trident Gum and McDonald's Uruguay all offered Suarez their products to bite the next time he gets hungry.
     Alexander Holyfield, bitten by Mike Tyson in the ear, added his two cents in a fatalistic tweet.
     The Huffington Post UK offered: "Chewy Luis and the Blues"
Above: CWS ump gives an extravagant
impersonation of a sighted person.
     Meanwhile, here in Omaha, Virginia's Mike Papi appeared to have run into Vanderbilt third baseman Tyler Campbell's mouth with his shoulder as he was tagged out in the ninth.
     Campbell sustained a cut.

     After Papi jogged back to his dugout, Vanderbilt fans chanted "Throw him out!" but he stayed in the game.
     As for Suarez, a FIFA decision on suspension is pending.
     Virginia's 7-2 victory Tuesday, after Vanderbilt's 9-8 win Monday will force a third game in the CWS finals Wednesday. Neither team has ever won a CWS championship.
     Below: CWS venue after Tuesday's penultimate 2014 finals game between Virginia and Vanderbilt. Top photo is of a Vanderbilt player.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Heterosexual supremacist Don Lobsinger gives the Sterling, MI city council what for!

Sadly, the council was unpersuaded by Mr. Lobsinger's meticulous logic and had him escorted out of the chamber.


Via Holy Bullies and Headless Monters. Video uploaded by Sterling City Councilman Doug Skrzyniarz

Menards founder is a $1,000,000 donor to Koch Bros.

Explanation (from 2011):
     Twice a year, the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch host secretive retreats for an exclusive list of corporate America's rich and powerful to strategize and raise money for their right-wing political agenda. Mother Jones has obtained exclusive audio recordings that shed some light on the brothers' latest retreat, held at a resort near Vail, Colorado, in late June.
     In a speech that is part of these recordings, Charles Koch thanks donors who gave more than $1 million to the cause. We checked the audio against a list of participants at the Kochs' 2010 seminar in Aspen that was obtained by ThinkProgress.org and did additional research on these individuals. Below are the names Koch read that appeared on the previous guest list.
...John Menard of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is the founder of Menards, the country's third-largest hardware company. He's worth a reported $5.2 billion and has donated about $80,000 to his state's Republican Party and federal candidates, mostly Republicans, according to FEC records. His company backed a recent anti-union program that was linked to the Kochs' Americans for Prosperity and supported by Gov. Scott Walker.

Eight months after Barilla promised gay-inclusive ads, one appears in Italy — from competitor Findus, not Barilla

Time, via The Advocate, had a translation (son tells mom that roomate is really boyfriend, but she was one step ahead of them) but that video rudely autoplays so AKSARBENT got the one from Italian Youtube. The ad trivializes the son's relationship and his coming out as a side to the main dish of microwave pasta, but Italian gay activists are delighted because at least it's something.

Washington Post fact-checks Lee Terry's Obama care ad — and gives it 3 Pinocchios



From the Washington Post, which busted Andrea Kodad's "financial struggle" claim in a Lee Terry campaign ad:
     The Obama administration has since urged states to allow the extension of noncompliant plans until 2016, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, Kodad’s insurance company, prominently displays the notice on its Web site, saying plans can be extended for another two years. “BCBSNE extends ‘keep your plan’ until 2016,” the headline declares.
     In other words, Kodad — who declares “Obamacare is not good for my family” —  extended her plan and thus is not paying the higher rate. There is no “financial struggle.” She did not respond to a query left at her employer.
     Update, 11 am: Kodad called The Fact Checker but declined to go into details about her health plan unless The Fact Checker met her in person at her home in Omaha. “I am really not interested in being a one-time soundbite,” she said. “I am doing this as a PSA [public service announcement].” She acknowledged that her old plan had been rolled over but said that “the spirit of the ad” was to highlight “what the true Obamacare costs are.”
No, Ms. Kodad. You didn't do a PSA. You did a dishonest campaign ad. And the "spirit" of the ad is that you helped Lee Terry tell yet another lie, or, at best, a misleading, deceptive half-truth.

Workarounds for the Lumix DMC-GH4 external mic problem

A Panasonic rep acknowledged the problem during a B&H Photo web seminar. By the way, at this writing, Amazon's lowest price for the GH4 was about $200 HIGHER than B&H's advertised price. You can no longer assume that Amazon.com is the best bargain.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

George Will dissed women in offensive rape column, then insulted St. Louis Post-Dispatch for dropping him: 'They know how to propitiate the rabble'

Here's what Tony Messenger, the Editorial Page Editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch told his readers about replacing George Will with Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson:
     We believe that Mr. Gerson’s commitment to “compassionate conservatism” and his roots in St. Louis will better connect with our readers, regardless of their political bent.
     The change has been under consideration for several months, but a column published June 5, in which Mr. Will suggested that sexual assault victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, made the decision easier. The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it.
     We have heard from both conservative and liberal readers asking for new conservative voices. We believe Mr. Gerson’s addition to our op-ed page will be a refreshing and revitalizing change.
As senators Dianne Feinstein, Tammy Baldwin, Richard Blumenthal and Bob Casey issued a joint statement about Will's column:
Your column reiterates ancient beliefs about sexual assault that are inconsistent with the reality of victims' experiences, based on what we have heard directly from survivors. Your words contribute to the exact culture that discourages reporting and forces victims into hiding and away from much-needed services. For starters, your notion about a perceived privileged status of survivors of sexual assault on campuses runs completely counter to the experiences described to us.
     On C-SPAN, Will retaliated against the Post-Dispatch, saying “They know how to propitiate the rabble.”
     The Chicago Tribune refused to run Will's piece, calling it “misguided and insensitive.”

Greece's second-biggest city, Thessaloniki, has its third gay day parade

Thessaloniki, in Greek Macedonia, was founded eight years after Alexander the Great (the most famous Macedonian) died. Thessaloniki now has about 322,240 people; with 790,824 living in the greater metropolitan area.
     The Omaha-sized city turned out 10,000 people for yesterday's event (if you believe the organizers) or 6,000 people if you believe the cops. Below are videos of the event from 2013 and (uploaded to YouTube just today) 2014.
     Taking part was Mayor Yiannis Boutaris and the consuls of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland and Portugal.
     U.S. Consul Robert P. Sanders carried a banner that read "Diplomats for Thessaloniki Pride."
     The march again was condemned by the local Orthodox church, whose leader, Bishop Anthimos, described it as a "promotion of perversion."
     Police maintained a heavy police presence to deter anti-gay attacks. None occurred.



Your Sunday happy news: welders at Marine Group Boat Works smoke $24,000,000 yacht



The Polar Bear, a 110-foot yacht owned by Larry Jodsass, a retired electrical engineer and entrepreneur, who spent five years finishing the boat, which has wood-finished floors and walls and marble bathroom counters, burned to a crisp after welders accidentally set it on fire about 9:20 a.m. Thursday. The vessel was still smoking 10 hours later because the shipyard uses union labor, which doesn't quit until the job is done right. (Just kidding!)
     Local ship captain Kurt Roll was photographing a friend's boat when he raced to the scene and then launched his DJI Phantom quadcopter, equipped with a GoPro camera for a flyover.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cheese recall affects Nebraska

Three Walmart distribution centers got the 260 cases of Velveeta original pasteurized recipe cheese product (apparently Kraft isn't legally allowed to call its chemical concoction straight-up cheese, even under ideal circumstances) which lacked enough sorbic acid to retard spoilage until after the expiration date
     As many as 12 states — Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin — may have received the voluntarily recalled product.
     Package code: 021000611614;
     Date stamp: '17 DEC 2014';
     Time frame between 09:34 and 13:15
     Note: an earlier version of this post had different date stamp and time frame information, from a wire service story, and the current information in the post, which is taken from Kraft's press release.

John Oliver on net neutrality: turn on caps lock and fly, my pretties! Fly! Fly! Fly1



     Today, John Oliver told Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air that he and his writers spent a solid week trying to figure out how to entertainingly engage an audience on the importance of net neutrality.
     The hilariously informative 13-minute distillation of that work is in the video above.
     Excerpts:
     Just to be clear, the ranking of who buys government influence is, #1, Military Industrial Complex and #2, the provider of  Lizard Lick Towing... Yes, the guy [Tom Wheeler] who used to run the cable industry's lobbying arm, is now running the agency tasked with regulating it. That is the equivalent of needing a baby sitter and hiring a dingo...
     The cable companies have discovered the Great Truth about America. If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring. Apple could put the entire text of Mein Kampf inside the itunes user agreement and you'd just go "Agree, Agree, Agree..."
     At this point — and I can't believe I'm about to do this — I would like to address the internet commenters directly:
     Good evening monsters,
     This may be the moment you've spent your whole lives training for. You've been out there ferociously commenting on  dance videos of adorable three-year-olds, saying things like "Every child could dance like this little loser after 1 week of practice." Or you've been polluting Frozen's "Let it go" with comments like "ice castle would give her hypothermia and she dead in an hour" or — and I know you've done this one — commenting on video on THIS show, saying: "Fuck this asshold anchor... go such ur presidents dick... ur just friends with the terrorists xD"
     Now, I don't know what any of that means, but I don't think it's a compliment. But this is the moment you were made for, commenters! Like Ralph Macchio, you've been honing your skills, waxing cars and painting fences. Well guess what? Now it's time to do some fucking karate!
     [As Inspirational music began] For once in your life, we need you to channel that anger, that badly spelled bile that you normally reserve for unforgivable attacks on actresses you seem to think have put on weight. Or politicians that you disagree with. Or photos of your ex-girlfriend getting on with her life. Or non-white actors being cast as fictional characters. And I'm talking to you, Ron_Paul_fan_2016, and YOU, one_direction_forever and I'm talking to YOU, one_direction_sucks_balls. We need you to get out there and for once in your lives, focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction. SEIZE YOUR MOMENT MY LOVELY TROLLS! TURN ON CAPS LOCK AND FLY MY PRETTIES!! FLY! FLY! FLY!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Microsoft's new Terms of Service: what changed

The company has an executive summary for users; most of the changes are consolidation and more explicit statements about not using, for example, email content for ad targeting (something the company has ripped Google apart for doing).
One change was prompted by a recent wave of bad publicity over Microsoft's actions, according to the Seattle Times:
     In addition, the company’s updated Windows Services Privacy Statement, which covers Microsoft account, Outlook.com and OneDrive, now states that in cases where the company suspects that someone is using its services to traffic in stolen Microsoft intellectual or physical property, it will not inspect the customer’s private content, but may instead refer the matter to law enforcement.
     That was in response to an incident earlier this year in which a former Microsoft employee was charged by federal prosecutors with stealing Microsoft trade secrets and giving that information to a tech blogger. (That former employee, Alex Kibkalo, plead guilty and was sentenced to three months in prison.)
     Microsoft received a lot of criticism for finding out about Kibkalo by looking at the Hotmail.com account of the blogger. The company had said, in response to the criticism, that its own terms of service allowed it to carry out such an examination under “exceptional circumstances.” But later, Microsoft said that, in such circumstances in the future, it would call in law enforcement to inspect a customer’s content, rather than doing so itself.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Betty Bowers, America's best Christian, draws a bead on Dick Cheney

Or maybe the expression should be "reads his beads." Whatever.

Jon Stewart: the state that can't even go a week without a pipeline spewing thinks it's the gays that need repairing?


Washington Redskins' trademark revoked by Patent Office

Five Native Americans have won, with the help of Drinker Biddle & Reath, their case before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Federal trademark law doesn't permit registration of trademarks that "may disparage" individuals or groups or "bring them into contempt or disrepute."
     This was a clever ploy. Since the Redskins organization evidently cares only about money, Native Americans hit it where it hurts — the team's ability to make money from merchandising, since it cannot now take effective legal action against people who pirate the logo on apparel, glasses, license plate holders, etc.
     (Update: that's not strictly true; the team can still sue under common law, even though the government no longer has to help them investigate counterfeit merchandise.)
     Several weeks ago, Nebraska Senators Fischer and Johanns refused to sign a letter circulated, signed and sent by 50 of their colleagues deploring the insulting trademark and encouraging the Redskins to find another. Now the team will have to.
     We knew that Fischer's and Johann's callous disregard of obvious racism was on the wrong side of history, but we had no idea it would find itself in the dustbin this quickly.

Update: Now trending on twitter: #NewRedskinsName. The most sensible suggestion was Washington Warriors, which would have allowed the team to keep the Native American logo and dump the racism, but that horse has left the barn. Lots of snark, like "Washington Hypocrites" (which might be confused with the NFL itself) and "DC Redskins."

'One of the most impressive video cameras I've ever seen' isn't from Nikon or Canon and is a screaming bargain

Above, a picture of a squirrel taken with an (old) GH2. This is NOT a still photo. It is a
frame of video — and at 720, not even the highest resolution that the camera can muster,
which would be 1080. Go ahead—click the photo to enlarge it. Then ask yourself if you want to
spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy a Nikon or Canon DSLR with inferior video quality.
That's the verdict on the new Panasonic GH4 by Jordan from The Camera Store in Calgary. And he's putting his money where his mouth is by buying one for himself.
     The GH2 became a cult camera among video enthusiasts who hacked it for even better performance. Panasonic carefully listened to its fans, and addressed many of their concerns on the followup GH3 (including the non-standard 2.5 cm mic input).
     With the GH4, Panasonic has an ultra-high (4k) resolution camera for well under $2,000 that neither Nikon nor Canon DSLRs can touch at any price. Well, actually they could, but they play the price point / features game. Panasonic wants respect and market share and it is rapidly getting both with the GH4, which is so smoking hot that months after its release it sells for MORE on Amazon.com than its list price.
     AKSARBENT was as impressed as everyone else with the GH2's video but disgusted by the flat, lifeless images the camera yielded in still mode, which weren't much, if at all, improved with the GH3.
     Things have changed with the GH4's new sensor (or, more likely, improved internal software for processing still images.) Now greens aren't embarrassing embalmed, blues are deeper and richer and images finally have some snap. Still not quite as good as a Nikon or Canon at stills, but Panny is getting better, at long last.
     All that aside, this is primarily a fire-breathing video camera that seriously outperforms ANY DSLR that your Canon and Nikon friends are using, and costs hundreds to thousands of dollars less.
     By the way, you can use old Nikon (and Canon!) lenses with GH cameras, with an adapter. Just make sure they have an aperture ring because you'll have to adjust aperture and focus yourself—the camera obviously won't auto-couple to alien lenses.
     The GH camera will automatically select the correct shutter speed in shutter priority mode with someone else's lens. Shockingly, the cheaper (DX) Nikons WILL NOT METER AT ALL with the company's own, older, manual-focus lenses like the Panasonics do because apparently Nikon has amped up its greed in order to sell more lenses.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

NE State Patrol releases low-quality flyover video of Pilger, NE devastation from one of the twin tornadoes which struck Sunday

The security-camera-quality video is from FLIR Systems! We know that because the company watermarks the upper right corner of the screen, partially obscuring what is being recorded there with a convenient reminder of whom to blame for the crummy footage.
     The YouTube "About" tab notes that the "Nebraska State Patrol has a Bell 407 helicopter. The helicopter and video equipment was purchased with the use of US Department of Homeland Security grant funds."
     We can only imagine what they were charged.



     Sunday's death toll rose to two with the inclusion of a deceased five-year-old whose picture (on a stretcher) may have been the one published by Mashable. (Update: it wasn't.) If you're interested, go there as AKSARBENT doesn't publish pictures of dead or unconscious kids on stretchers.
     Surprisingly, the fatalities are the first in Nebraska from a tornado in ten years.
     Pilger is 50-75% heavily damaged or destroyed, according to Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger.
     Compare and contrast: below, a still from KETV's flyover showing the collapsed grain elevators.
     Casual observance: Now we know where ALDI gets its canned corn. Just kidding! What you see below is probably animal feed and not fit for human consumption. Oh, wait.


Day Drunk Gays get wasted on weed for a change


Latest screwup by administration of NE GOP Gov. Dave Heineman "one of the most shocking mismanagements that people have ever seen in state government"

Nebraska Governor
Dave Heineman
That assessment, by Omaha State Senator Heath Mello, is not hyperbole. The Heineman administration's latest blunder really is by far the worst example of his administrative incompetence and richly deserved Mello's scathing assessment, to which the state senator pointedly added, "This literally put the public at risk."
     What Mello referenced was miscalculation by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services of the release dates of hundreds of the state’s worst criminal offenders, discovered by reporters for the Omaha World-Herald, which revealed last Sunday that the slipshod formula resulted in a reduction of 750 years from sentences of hundreds of "habitual criminals, gun thugs and child rapists," 101 of whom have already been released early.
     Gov. Heineman's repeated administrative failures have damaged child welfare in the state, will cost Nebraska DOJ funds because he failed to implement prison rape reduction legislation passed 11 years ago and have necessitated the resignation of a top appointee who called women who were not his wife thousands of times on a state-issued cell phone. 
     Heinemen is currently lobbying (while in office) for a job as president of the University of Nebraska, a position that pays four times his current governor's salary. Though he lacks an advanced degree, he has unashamedly touted his administrative experience to regents, who, it is hoped, have a robust sense of humor.

Iowa Democrats reveal that Joni Ernst, the state's GOP U.S. Senate nominee, is an Agenda 21 fruitcake

Agenda 21 is a nutbag, Glenn Beck, right-wing conspiracy theory that is also taken seriously by several of Nebraska's worst state senators.

The Omaha World-Herald comes dangerously close to admitting that God is a pissed-off drag queen

HRC: ExxonMobil is blatantly lying about its LGBT antibias policy because Obama just extended LGBT workplace protection to federal contractor workers

The nation's largest gay rights organization ripped ExxonMobil apart this week in its blog:

...How ExxonMobil will come to comply with this executive order was one of the big unanswered questions of this morning’s news. 
      This afternoon we got ExxonMobil’s answer: they’ve decided to lie about their own record.
      In a brazen statement obtained by the Human Rights Campaign, ExxonMobil is now claiming it has “a longstanding policy that strictly prohibits any form of discrimination by or toward employees, contractors, suppliers and customers in any ExxonMobil workplace. Our global, zero-tolerance policy applies to all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
      To explain why this is baloney, HRC Vice President for Communications Fred Sainz issued the following statement:
      “Put bluntly, this statement is a lie,” Sainz said. “ExxonMobil’s Equal Employment and Opportunity Policy has clearly and consistently omitted enumerated LGBT non-discrimination protections for its personnel. Though their statement sounds like it’s taking a very progressive stand, it is in fact a master class in doublespeak—crafted, no doubt, by a team of well-paid lawyers. Until a nondiscrimination policy is enumerated, it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.” 
     ExxonMobil’s shareholders have voted 17 times to kill enumerated non-discrimination protections for ExxonMobil’s LGBT personnel...
Read the entire post at HRC's blog...

Full-length, unedited video of gay teen assaulted by Pittsburgh cop after arguing with Christers heckling Pridefest gay day crowd



The cop (Souroth Chatterji) claimed in a complaint that Ariel Lawther, 19, assaulted a bystander and himself. Onlookers dispute this and the video (by Jenna Renee Kenny) doesn't support it. He has been relieved of street duty pending an investigation.
Bullhorn Christer Eric Moure
baiting a gay day crowd
     Lawther has been charged with aggravated assault (a felony), simple assault (though the person she allegedly assaulted has declined to "press charges"), disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
     As Lawther had her hair pulled, was grabbed by the neck and was punched repeatedly, Rev. Bullhorn (Eric Moure, 36, of McKeesport) audibly gloated. Later, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “She continued to scream real loud to the point where she just snapped and shoved me real hard.”
     The video shows Moure standing on the second step of a step-stool during his bullhorn rant. If Lawther shoved him "real hard," then he must have remarkable balance.
     AKSARBENT hopes that Lawther sets aside part of the money she will get from the city of Pittsburgh, and uses it to sue Mr. Moure, a cunning Christian provocateur, as we don't believe the invocation of "religious liberty" now covers libeling a young woman in the newspaper.
Pittsburgh Police Union Pres. Howard McQuillan
     After viewing the video above, Officer Howard McQuillan, the president of Pittsburgh's police union, said that Officer Chatterji “was obviously assaulted.”
     We watched it too, and we think McQuillan is running interference for a bad cop by lying through his teeth about a video that is now available for viewing on the Internet by anyone in the world. How brazenly stupid is that?
     From the Daily Grind:
According to eyewitness Autumn Huntera, the incident occurred around 5 o’clock Sunday afternoon. Huntera explains that the teen engaged in a heated debate with a group of anti-gay protesters attending the Pride festival: “She was saying that being gay is not a sin and that she was a lesbian and proud of it, and that she wasn’t going to hell for it.”
Huntera detailed her account of the incident for us:
The girl was debating with one of the protesters, and she stepped closer without even realizing it and the officer ran over to her. He grabbed her by the back of her neck, pulled her over, dropped her on the ground, pulled her up by her hair, and said “Do you want me to hit you.” When she didn’t respond, he hit her in stomach area about 4 or 5 times repeatedly. After everyone yelled at him, he hand cuffed her, put her against a wall. She was crying against a wall next to her ‘attacker’ while her fiancee was panicking trying to find someone who recorded it.
Huntera adds that the protester and teen were about a foot apart when the officer grabbed her without prior warning.

Keeping it classy: at IA GOP convention, Rick Santorum says it's fun to "bang the president"

Then, after proceeding to do just that, Santorum went on to lecture the audience about how the GOP needs to have a positive agenda, which is rather like a polio virus criticizing people who can barely walk.



(Via JMG)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Unprecedented: twin, independent tornados touch down next to each other in Nebraska

Lots of supercells produce satellite funnels but twin, independent, simultaneous twisters are unheard of. One of these two wrecked Pilger NE, Sunday evening while nearby Stanton wasn't hit by either.
     Gawker reports that the Faith Regional Medical Center in Norfolk, NE said one person died and 15 were critically injured in the twisters Sunday.  
     The notorious Grand Island, NE 1980 supercell spawned seven tornadoes in one night but nothing as dramatic in time/distance proximity as this.


Disclaimer: the following evil interlude of dark humor and playful homoerotic subtext is in very poor taste, given the above circumstances. AKSARBENT finds it cynical, callous and disgusting and denounces itself for adding it to this post.

Part II: if gay guys said the same shit straight ones do


(Via Towleroad)

Obamas spent 3-day father's day weekend with gay couple in Rancho Mirage, but don't tell World Net Daily, OK?

White House decorator Michael Smith (left) and his partner, U.S. Ambassador to Spain James Costos (formerly a vice-president of HBO), hosted Barack and Michelle Obama at their vacation home in Rancho Mirage.

Nebraska Supreme Court dismisses appeal for same sex divorce without ruling on state constitution's gay marriage ban

Nebraska's Supreme Court dismissed Bonnie Nichols' appeal Friday to divorce the female spouse she married in Iowa by saying it didn't have jurisdiction and therefore could not address the constitutional arguments raised about same-sex marriage and divorce in Nebraska because Nichols had appealed from a conditional order and not a final judgment.

     The Lancaster County judge had issued an order giving Bonnie Nichols 15 days to file an amended complaint to pursue a different legal theory to try to dissolve her union to Margie Nichols. The order said that if she did not, the case would be dismissed with prejudice, meaning it can't be refiled. Bonnie Nichols did not file an amended complaint and instead appealed.
     The trial judge has already contacted lawyers in the case to possibly discuss entering a final order that Bonnie Nichols can appeal, Mikolajczyk said.
     "We plan to keep moving forward," she said. "I don't think this is the end by any means."

Chelsea Manning breaks her silence in a NYT editorial



The op-ed was published in the Time's Sunday Review, entitled The Fog Machine of War: Chelsea Manning on the U.S. Military and Media Freedom
If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat anecdotes and photographs of Iraqi women proudly displaying their ink-stained fingers. The subtext was that United States military operations had succeeded in creating a stable and democratic Iraq. Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality. Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed. Early that year, I received orders to investigate 15 individuals whom the federal police had arrested on suspicion of printing “anti-Iraqi literature.” I learned that these individuals had absolutely no ties to terrorism; they were publishing a scholarly critique of Mr. Maliki’s administration. I forwarded this finding to the officer in command in eastern Baghdad. He responded that he didn’t need this information; instead, I should assist the federal police in locating more “anti-Iraqi” print shops. I was shocked by our military’s complicity in the corruption of that election. Yet these deeply troubling details flew under the American media’s radar.
Manning goes went on to dissect the farcical practice of embedding journalists — explaining how the Pentagon uses the practice to create propaganda for domestic consumption that obscures the truth and how the military punishes journalists who are too critical in their reportage.

What it's like to be chased by a bear for almost four minutes

This happened near Ft. McMurray, Alberta near an area that has been turned into a moonscape by the excavation of tar sands to be exported to the world oil market through the controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the route of which is now stalled by legal action in Nebraska. We wonder if this bear's habitat has been leveled or his drinking water poisoned by effluents from the huge scale mining operations nearby.

College World Series: Ole Miss Baseball's bed check enforcer knocks on door tagged "Do Not Disturb"

"Do not disturb! We don't care."
"Sorry, must have the wrong room. Totally apologize."
"That's never happened before."
"All the Rebs are accounted for."
Above frame grabs were from the video below, starting at 16:45. Although Ben Fleming "totally apologized" to the non-Ole-Miss ballplayer in the room listed as occupied by part of his team, he apparently wasn't sorry enough to stop the video recording or to insist on deleting the sequence, which eventually was included in a University of Mississippi athletic promotion video.
     AKSARBENT wonders how, if the roster of Fleming's cohort, Andrew Case, really listed a wrong room, they were able to account for all the members of their team. Just saying.

Croatian World Cup team mad at press: photogs hid, snapped pics of team's nude swim in hotel pool

Buzzfeed, one of the online outlets which published some of the pictures, then added a bunch of pictures of the team, sarcastically reminding readers in each caption that the subjects were wearing clothes. Said coach Niko Kovac Sunday:

     Two photographers hid in the nearby bushes and took the pictures which were published by online media.
     "I can't force them to be at your disposal after what you have done to them and their families," an angry Kovac told reporters in the team's Praia do Forte training base.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Reddit historical dad joke

Huffpost has more if you really want to see them.


Chagrined dad has already figured his 9-year-old son's "type:" slim, dark-haired and very pretty boys

@Dave_Blogger just wrote a cute piece for the Huffington Post about his 9-year-old son, already a smooth operator who knows his own mind at an early age:
     One boy stood out from the others, and not just because he was taller than all the rest. His black hair was slicked back with some sort of hair product -- Dapper Dan pomade, perhaps? (Sorry, I didn't even use hair products when I had hair.) He wore fashionable summer clothes and was very pretty, looking a lot like Darren Criss on the show Glee, someone my wife might have mentioned my son liking in the past. So what happened next should not have been a surprise: My normally pathologically shy eldest child came up to this young man and handed him a string of plastic Mardi Gras beads that we had all been playing with the night before.
     "These are for you," my eldest said, a shy smile on his lips and a goofy/happy look in his eye. The older boy took them as you would any trinket given to you by a child, with a smile and a "thank you." The pretty boy and the other kids then ran off, with my son tagging along with them to another part of the house to do whatever it is that clean-cut teenagers do today — something involving social media, I'm sure. Harold waited until they'd all left to speak.
     "Well, that was the cutest thing I've ever seen," he said while doing something with the meaty meat.
     And it was. Here was my boy acting on his feelings, giving a gift to another boy he thought was attractive...
     Cue the Christer haters like professional foam generator Jana Brock, who are now out for blood with their ideological meat axes, filling in what doesn't fit their agenda with boilerplate right-wing slander about the HuffPost's "gaying" of America's children and the dad's "child abuse," consisting of "encouraging him [said son] to go after what he wants. No matter the consequences, be it a virulent sexually transmitted diseases, rape, likely drug abuse, and ultimately Hell.
     AKSARBENT's two cents on this? Well, Brock is a cynical crank beyond redemption, Dave is already a cool dad, so we'll merely address the unjust accusation that Darren Criss is a pretty boy. He may be cute, he may be handsome, but he ain't a pretty boy.

Intel's conflict-free microprocessor initiative

Pro wrestler Pierre Clermont, aka Pat Patterson comes out at 73

He retired in 1984, later becoming an exec in Vince McMahon's organization. From the Canadian Pro Wrestling Page of Fame:
Patterson, early in his career
     From Montreal. Star wrestler, particularly in San Francisco, who later became one of the chief architects of the WWF.
      Wrestled as "Pretty Boy" Patterson in the early 60s, and was described as "the pink trunk, lipstick wearing" wrestler by THE RING WRESTLING magazine.
      5-time U.S. champion in San Francisco, where he also won the 1975 Cow Palace Battle Royal -- a major event through the 70s. Patterson came back in 1981 to win the final Cow Palace Battle Royal when promoter Roy Shire was closing down the promotion.
     Patterson was a 3-time San Francisco NWA world tag champion with Rocky Johnson (1972-74) and half of one of the all-time great tag teams with partner Ray Stevens. Together they held the NWA world tag title (1965-67) and the AWA world tag title (1978-79) and reunited for a match in Montreal in 1983.
Apparently, Patterson liked working at World Wrestling Entertainment for McMahon.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Vanderbilt pitcher Steven Rice straps on a GoPro before walking out on field with team in 2014 CWS

Perennial baseball powers like LSU and Cal State Fullerton didn't make it to Omaha for the College World Series championship this year, but three Lone Star State teams did — TCU, Texas and Texas Tech. Play began today after Friday's opening ceremonies.




Below: how to get on the Jumbotron at the College World Series


Allstate pitches expensive animated ad at gay prospects; Warren Buffett's company, GEICO, continues to ignore them


(Via Towleroad)

Below: GEICO's video advertising outreach to LGBTs. GEICO spends more on advertising than any other company in the U.S. Property and Casualty industry — almost $1,000,000,000 in 2011 — yet continues to ignore LGBTs.
     GEICO's owner, Warren Buffett, is said to be less than fond of LGBTs; his company, Berkshire-Hathaway, has a 0% rating from the largest gay rights organization in the USA, and it seems he will joke about almost anything except being gay.

The Road to Council Bluffs: welcome, College World Series gay fans, to Omaha, the city whose gay day parade is now held in another state

This is to remind the residents of Omaha, a city whose gay pride parade will be held in another state for the second year in a row, what a commercial for a gay mayoral candidate looks like.
     Some cities have mayors who embrace diversity in their community. Omaha has Jean Stothert.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

The testy exchange between Terry Gross and Hillary Clinton when the Fresh Air host pressed Clinton on her change of heart about gay marriage

Related: We like Terry Gross, but were disappointed about her failure to ask Hillary Clinton about State Department emails showing the extent of  shameful collusion with TransCanada against U.S. landowners in the foreign oil company's push to extend its leaky Keystone pipeline project across across America's biggest and purest underground acquifer. Not once, but twice the EPA criticized State Dept. environmental whitewashes assessments of the risks of the Keystone XL project while Clinton led the State Dept.



The ultra-right wing website NewsMax listened carefully to the marriage exchange:


     But things got testy when, despite Clinton's explanation that her views have evolved in recent years, Gross shot back that many people supported gay marriage in the '90s and then said:
     
"I'm pretty sure you didn't answer my question about whether you evolved or it was the American public that changed."
     
"Because I said I'm an American so of course we all evolved and I think that's a fair conclusion," Clinton shot back.
     
Gross continued to push her on the issue until Clinton appeared to be done with the conversation.
     
"You know I really, I have to say, I think you are being very persistent, but you are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue," Clinton said.
     
"I'm just trying to clarify so I can understand," Gross said in return.
     
"No, I don't think you are trying to clarify," Hillary then snapped. "I think you are trying to say that I used to be opposed and now I am in favor and I did it for political reasons. And that's just flat wrong.
     
"I did not grow up even imagining gay marriage and I don't think you probably did either. This was an incredibly new and important idea that people on the front lines of the gay rights movement began to talk about and slowly, but surely, convinced others of the rightness of that position. When I was ready to say what I said, I said it."

Gay cult film director John Waters talks to Terry Gross about hitchhiking across the U.S.; he was picked up by a GOP politician and a rock band

On being driven hundreds of miles by a 20-year-old Republican town councilman who picked him up in a 'vette in Maryland:
We were just an odd couple. I mean, his friends were texting him, saying "Way to go! You're in Reno with a gay man in a hotel! That's great for your campaign! We just laughed about it because it was so ridiculous. The whole thing was completely inoocent. On the way we met some swingers that kept trying to hook up with us by texting him... In another hotel, the Maitre D' knocked on HIS door in the middle of the night. I thought, "Hey, what about me?
On rest areas:
The problem though, is to be caught there at the end of the day. At night they're scary; I mean, they are pervert hangouts or people that are robbing the perverts. I'm not a afraid of a pervert hangout. I'm afraid of the robbers that come to prey on the perverts.



On being picked up by indy band, Here We Go Magic:
It was just so nice to be with somebody in show business again. We compared stories about touring. They had been on tour for TWO YEARS in this band.

Oily TX State Rep. Bryan Hughes, says GOP's embrace of anti-gay conversion "therapy" (banned in CA & NJ) is about "rights," "free speech" and "choice"

Anderson Cooper really did his homework on this one, leaving Hughes to repeatedly backpedal on his half-truths, deceptions and outright lies. (Via Towleroad)


King Corn, the SUV of water usage and the $65b baby of ethanol, animal feed, plastics, and sweeteners faces hard fall of climate change-induced heat and drought

Dried-up corn field (Photo: Jolynne Martinez, Flickr)
From The Guardian:
...In the case of corn, however, there are poten­tial­­­ly trillions at stake because the industry now touches on almost every aspect of the American economy.
     Corn production has doubled over the past 20 years and on its own was worth $65bn last year. But corn supplies a vast spread of industries. The 45 largest companies in the corn production chain together account for about $1.7tn in earnings, the report said.
     Some 40% of the crop now goes for production of ethanol. Another 35% of the crop is grown for animal feed, but corn is used across the economy.
     "It is fed to the cattle that become Big Mac. It is in the ethanol that goes into the gasoline we buy," Barton said. "It's in the snack foods that we buy, even in some of the plastics in the products we buy. It is in laundry detergents. It's everywhere."
     But the crop carries a heavy environmental toll. Corn uses the most water for irrigation of any crop, and accounts for half of all fertilizer use.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Of two Iowans on The Bachelorette, Craig Muhlbauer's odds seemed bleaker, but AKSARBENT respects a boy who was a stripper at his uncle's 50th birthday party


What is your most embarrassing moment?
Dressing as a stripper and stripping for my uncle's 50th birthday! OUCH!

The Wet Paint website wasn't talking up Muhlbauer's prospects either, but again, AKSARBENT found a lot in Craig's behavior that is commendable:
Between talking about how beautiful Josh Murray is, contemplating (aloud) how hot the other guys were, and forcing shots on everyone else, it's a wonder he made it to the Rose Ceremony. Just ask Victoria Lima, who also had a little Episode 2 alcohol-fueled breakdown, and was then politely asked to vacate the premises. But at least they both did it with aplomb...

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's $5.5 million from Goldman Sachs, Blackstone Group, NRA, Realtors and chemical industry couldn't save him from 11-point upset by Tea Party, David Brat and $200,000

Cantor, who has repeatedly and arrogantly voted against middle class economic interests in favor of big business, was widely unpopular in Virginia, a fact which didn't bode well for him in a primary with extremely low turnout and a motivated Tea Party.
     Although right-wing talk radio hammered Cantor for his support of immigration reform before Brat's stunning 11-point victory (despite behind outspent 26-1), Politico says immigration wasn't the issue that sank Cantor in Virginia's primary, Tuesday.

Evil, selfish, abusive cats stealing dog beds


Remembering John Wayne, who died 35 years ago

On the populist, working-man sensibilities of Frank Capra, the director of It's A Wonderful Life:

I'd like to take that little Dago son of a bitch and tear him into a million pieces and throw him into the ocean and watch him float back to Sicily where he belongs.
— IMDB quotes

On the affection of Ratso Rizzo for Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy:

"Wouldn't you say that the wonderful love of these two men in 'Midnight Cowboy', a story about two fags, qualifies as a perverse movie?"
—Playboy, 1971

     AKSARBENT reminds you that although film is not forever, glazed ceramic has proven to last thousands of years, so the Duke's image should last for many genera­tions on heirloom Franklin Mint plates.
     
Oddly, AKSARBENT has not been able to find the image at the right, published in Gary Wills' book, John Wayne's America, on any Wayne memorabilia.

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