Sunday, February 27, 2011

Obama abandons DOMA: Why he had no choice; Video Update: Gingrich, Beck blatantly lie about new policy

In an unusually clairvoyant piece published in the New York Times in January, Charlie Savage explained exactly why, despite right-wing assertions to the contrary, it has become legally untenable for the Obama administration to continue to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton in 1996.
Unlike previous challenges, the new lawsuits were filed in districts covered by the appeals court in New York — one of the only circuits with no modern precedent saying how to evaluate claims that a law discriminates against gay people.
     That means that the administration, for the first time, may be required to take a clear stand on politically explosive questions like whether gay men and lesbians have been unfairly stigmatized, are politically powerful, and can choose to change their sexual orientation.
     “Now they are being asked what they think the law should be, and not merely how to apply the law as it exists,” said Michael Dorf, a Cornell University law professor. “There is much less room to hide for that decision.”
Compare Savage's stunningly accurate prediction to Attorney General Eric Holden's just-issued statement on the administration's new policy on defending DOMA:
In the two years since this Administration took office, the Department of Justice has defended Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act on several occasions in federal court. Each of those cases evaluating Section 3 was considered in jurisdictions in which binding circuit court precedents hold that laws singling out people based on sexual orientation, as DOMA does, are constitutional if there is a rational basis for their enactment. While the President opposes DOMA and believes it should be repealed, the Department has defended it in court because we were able to advance reasonable arguments under that rational basis standard.
     Section 3 of DOMA has now been challenged in the Second Circuit, however, which has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated. In these cases, the Administration faces for the first time the question of whether laws regarding sexual orientation are subject to the more permissive standard of review or whether a more rigorous standard, under which laws targeting minority groups with a history of discrimination are viewed with suspicion by the courts, should apply.
     After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President’s determination.
UPDATE: Gingrich, Beck lie about new policy

Oscar Night Surprise: Lee Terry helps cable industry kill net neutrality, destroy Netflix, and raise cost of watching movies online; Smith, Fortenberry also vote to crap on movie-lovers

The cable industry has a big problem: Netflix. The 800-lb. gorilla of streaming movies on demand is causing a lot of cable customers to cancel cable movie channels. But Comcast, the Darth Vader of the cable industry and the bete noir of consumers everywhere has figured out a three-pronged approach to sticking it to Netflix.
  • First, Comcast places bandwidth caps on Internet service so customers have to pay more if they watch a lot of movies.
  • Second, it ransoms its Internet customers by charging Netflix's digital delivery partners (like Level3) extra fees to "access" them — even though they have subscribed to Netflix. This is like the Post Office forcing both senders and recipients to buy postage. Such anticompetitive double-billing for content raises Netflix costs (and eventually its prices to customers) and is a gross violation of net neutrality, which the Obama administration has commendably tried to enforce via the FCC.
  • Third, sue the FCC, alleging that it doesn't have the authority to enforce net neutrality! Comcast did this (in a carefully selected jurisdiction) and won. Now the coast is clear for Cox, Time-Warner and other cable companies to act like Comcast.
     Lee Terry enthusiastically enables this corporate rip-off. An apparent tool of the cable industry, he has sided against net neutrality and consumers.
     Watch the video, featuring an outraged Terry waving a fax from the respected anti-virus company, Trend Micro, fuming about its support of net neutrality, and remember that Adrian Smith and Jeff Fortenberry voted with Terry to screw their constituents too.
     (First read the following statement from Trend Micro which pissed Terry off. It will help you tabulate the double-talk made by Terry in his speech. And remember this, because it exposes Terry's biggest lie: Net neutrality doesn't prevent tiered pricing; it keeps ISPs from "throttling" or blocking content from certain websites.)
The FCC's new rules appear to favor net neutrality proponents. They require ISPs to be more transparent about network performance and management; they prevent fixed (as opposed to wireless) service providers from blocking content (for example, sites owned by their competition), and they don't allow ISPs to discriminate against specific applications (such as Netflix, BitTorrent, or Hulu). In other words, you can expect things to pretty much remain as they have been—for now, anyway.
Trend Micro

If you want to ask Lee Terry why he lied about Net Neutrality eliminating tiered pricing and why he is helping the cable industry destroy Netflix, you can do so here. You can write Jeff Fortenberry here and Adrian Smith here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Mike Huckabee version of unnatural law:
guinea pigs raising puppies

Jeremy Hooper at GoodAsYou remembered, after Mike Huckabee's recent statement deploring gay parents ("It will be years before we know whether or not our little guinea pigs turn out to be good at marriage and parenthood.") that Huckabee also affirmed (some time ago) support for an Arkansas law prohibiting same-sex couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents, saying "Children are not puppies."

And what a break they're not! Otherwise Huckabee's kid would be in the gas chamber, barring any behind-the-scenes string-pulling by his Machiavellian old man.

Keep your dog-killing kid away from me, Huckabee
Keep your son away from me, mofo.
Lemme see your middle finger, Mike
Mike! Lemme see your middle finger!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Kyle Michaelis: More right-wing extremism by Terry, Fortenberry & Smith

Gay readers of this blog already know why Nebraska's Congressional troika isn't deserving of their support, given its uniformly miserable record on LBGT issues. Over at NewNebraskaNetwork, Kyle Michaelis reminds Nebraskans that the Terry-Fortenberry-Smith bloc isn't much better on non-LGBT matters either.
Last week's open rule debate on the House of Representatives' plan to fund the federal budget for the remainder of the fiscal year was a fascinating exercise. With hundreds of amendments offered and more than 100 recorded votes held, party leaders and Congressional Reps. had plenty of opportunities to define themselves and their priorities. For those who were paying attention, that's precisely what they did.
    On all those marquee issues that are central to the Republican Party's agenda, Nebraska Congressmen Lee Terry, Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith proved happy to vote the party line. This included many (redundant) votes to defund the health care reform bill and block its implementation.  They also marched in-line to block regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency, to cut federal funds for family planning, and to prevent implementation of the FCC's net neutrality order.
     No surprises there. However, there were votes of consequence on which our Congressmen did distinguish themselves - rarely in a very flattering light. In fact, under scrutiny, it becomes clear just how often Terry, Fortenberry, and Smith align with their party's far-right fringe.
     Undermining any claims they might make to fiscal responsibility right off the bat, Terry, Fortenberry, and Smith all voted AGAINST a successful amendment that would eliminate $450 million in funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's alternative engine program. This is an engine that Congressmen like our own have insisted upon shoving down the military's throat even though no one in the Pentagon wants it.
     Terry, Fortenberry, and Smith were also on the losing side SUPPORTING an extremist effort to eliminate the Davis-Bacon Act's requirement that the federal government pay prevailing wages on public works projects. This anti-worker amendment was introduced by Iowa Congressman Steve King and was designated a high priority by right-wing groups such as the Club For Growth and the National Taxpayers Union. Although this effort failed, it was sad to see that our own Congressmen would place winning these groups' support before defending fair wages for Nebraska workers.
    ...This is not responsible leadership. Following in their party's footsteps, our Republican Congressmen have each put fulfilling a right-wing agenda before good public policy and doing what's right for the U.S. economy. It's shameful that they've allowed debate over the federal budget to deteriorate into nothing more than a special interest smorgasbord with no chance of being signed into law - nor even the intent that it would...

Jon Stewart: There's something about marry

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
There's Something About Marry

This Daily Show piece reminds Aksarbent of the transparently stupid statement made by John Boehner on the change of course in defending DOMA by the White House.
While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the president will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation. — House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) statement on Obama's DOJ decision to stop defending DOMA.
Aksarbent has a better idea: Perhaps John Boehner should have to explain why he thinks that the presidential decision not to squander government resources defending DOMA in new jurisdictional venues without legal precedent to make those defenses tenable demonstrates a lack of focus on other issues.

The only explanation for the Speaker's self-contradicting idiocy is that the press release was issued after Boehner's cocktail hour/s had begun.

Rachel Maddow defends herself
against Politifact and antigay critics

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Hundreds protest outside Koch Bros. new Madison, WI lobbying office; new documentary exposes Koch's corrosive influence

Ben Pierson/The Cardinal/University of Wisconsin, Madison
Samy Moskol of The Cardinal, the University of Wisconsin-Madison newspaper, reports that demonstra­tors rallied Thursday outside the new office on Doty Street for the Koch brothers, two Kansas billionaires who support Walker.
      The standoff between the Walker administration and thousands of protesters continued Thursday as legislators curbed TAA (Teacher's Assistants Association) influence within the capitol building and demonstrators   protested the Walker administration's resistance to negotiation in front of Koch Industries' new lobbying office on Doty St.
     David and Charles Koch are co-owners of Koch Industries, and energy company that contributed $43,000 to Walker's campaign, and are key supporters of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative lobbying group that organized the presence of Tea Party protesters last Saturday.

Vander Plaats 99-county Iowa jihaad
against gay marriage half over

Two and a Half Men season canceled after Charlie Sheen rants on Alex Jones radio show and TMZ; Sheen's strange open letter

Charlie Sheen began with an Alex Jones radio show on-air rant, which he continued on TMZ, after which CBS and Warner Bros. canceled his show for the remainder of this season, which will cost him close to $5,000,000 according to some estimates. Charlie Sheen responded to the news with the following open letter disclosed by TMZ:
What does this say about Haim Levine [Chuck Lorre] after he tried to use his words to judge and attempt to degrade me. I gracefully ignored this folly for 177 shows ... I fire back once and this contaminated little maggot can't handle my power and can't handle the truth. I wish him nothing but pain in his silly travels especially if they wind up in my octagon. Clearly I have defeated this earthworm with my words -- imagine what I would have done with my fire breathing fists. I urge all my beautiful and loyal fans who embraced this show for almost a decade to walk with me side-by-side as we march up the steps of justice to right this unconscionable wrong.
     Remember these are my people ... not yours...we will continue on together...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The sons of Tennessee Williams: New Orleans documentary about gay Mardi Gras krewes

From Band of Thebes (see blogroll) comes this attention to the documentary "The Sons of Tennessee Williams," about the first gay krewes in mardi gras.
Seven or ten years before Stonewall, these men created a safe space for gay social clubs during a period of intense vice squad crackdowns on their bars. Over time their organizations would become powerful political forces for recognition and equality in New Orleans. Wolfe spent 18 years on the project.

Ex-senator Rick Santorum on Iowa Press: Gay marriage means 'lower standard of living and less free and prosperous country'

In an interview by Iowa Press to be broadcast tomorrow at 7:30 pm former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was interviewed at length about same sex marriage and the standoff between Gov. Walker of Wisconsin and state employees. Here are some excerpts from the transcript.

...this was a way for the federal government to preserve the sovereignty of the states.  And it was a way of being sort of neutral on the issue of marriage instead of favoring one side over the other, let the people decide.  And what President Obama has done is in a two year period of time he went from finding this law to be perfectly fine and constitutional to finding it to be somehow unconstitutional even though, to my knowledge, the language of the Constitution hasn't changed any in the last two years, yet his interpretation of it has.  And I think it is driven by politics, not by any real change in the Constitution and its meaning.

Glover: And you issued a statement harshly critical of the President at the time that he acted.  But there has been sort of a strange silence from a lot of potential republican presidential candidates.  I haven't heard much from a lot of them.  Why not?  Why haven't I heard more?

Santorum: Look, I mean, all I can say is that if we do not, as a party and as a people, stand behind the institution of marriage and understand its essential role as the glue that holds the family together, the family, the building block of society, the first economy, the first school, the first place where children's character is formed we are going to destine our children and destine the future of this country for a lower standard of living and less free and prosperous country.

Glover: Should we hear more from the other potential candidates?  Would you ask them to address the issue?

Santorum: ...In the Iowa elections, as you know, there were three justices up for, um, retention, I'm sorry, couldn't find the word, thank you, Dean, up for retention in the last election and of the potential republican candidates I was the only one that came into the state, jumped on the judge bus, talked about the issue of having people decide what marriage laws should be, not courts and no other republican potential nominee or candidate came in to do the same.  So, I think it shows that there are some people who are willing to stand up and fight for the family and others who would rather, to use the comment of one potential candidate, call a truce on these things.  Well, a truce, in this case, means ceding ground to the other side.

Henderson: How do you think this issue will play out in the Iowa caucus campaign in the contest among you and other candidates?

Santorum: Obviously the issue of marriage is an important one.  Never before in the history of Iowa, I've been told, were judges up for retention thrown out, in this case all three of them thrown out.  It is clear why they were thrown out is because they abused their position and imposed a novel meaning of marriage on the Constitution.

Glover: Is there a political risk to you in taking this position on same-sex marriage and maybe a reason some of the other candidates have been less vocal?  I have seen some polling suggesting that for people under 40 this is a loser of an issue and it doesn't motivate people in the overall universe.

Santorum: ...Can children be raised in a different environment?  Yes.  But we want to do what is best for children and what is best for children, by any measure, and even the left now admits this, scientifically, social science work, children raised in two-parent homes with moms and dads do better.  And so as a society it is in our interest to encourage that and I think be re-defining marriage we don't encourage it, we discourage it.


Borg: So, you support what the governor and the republican dominated legislature want to do?

Santorum: Well, they have to, yes, the answer short and sweet, yes... the state wants to give the municipalities, through these reforms of the collective bargaining process, the ability to do the same when it comes to municipal employees.

Borg: This could become contagious, however, to other states and to the federal government.

Santorum: I hope so  ...Remember, public sector unions didn't exist until John F. Kennedy in 1962 through an executive order created the ability for these public sector unions to exist on the federal level.  This is a relatively new thing.  And folks as to the left as Franklin Roosevelt said that these public sector unions can not exist, that it is improper for them to exist.

Glover:  Have you given organized labor a shot of energy?

...I don't think that gives a big jolt in support of labor unions when it looks like teachers care about one thing, they care about their money and their benefits, they don't care about quality education and serving students and are having doctors give fake excuses for them to miss work.  I don't think that is to the benefit of the labor unions.

...So, I mean, you have taxpayers paying money to the state governments and the federal government, that money goes back to labor unions to go back and lobby for the taxpayers to pay even more money to the very people.  This is classic how the democrats have gained and accessed power and I think it is exposing this deep underbelly of, the soft underbelly of the democrats and how they have maintained and grown power in America.


Glover: This issue has dogged you in the past.  When you first started coming to Iowa commercials were run against you accusing you of being a pro-life fraud because you had supported Arlen Specter and Christie Todd Whitman.  How do you defend that?

Santorum: Well, I supported Christie Todd Whitman over a guy by the name of Jim McGreevey who some now know who got thrown out of office, he actually became Governor of New Jersey later on...In the case of Arlen Specter, look, I made a prudential judgment.  We were at a 51-49 majority in the United States Senate at the time that Specter was up for re-election, President Bush was up for re-election in 2004 and we knew that there would be two to three Supreme Court nominees that would be coming forward in the next four to six years, four years, under President Bush...


When a revolution occurred in Iran the President decided to do nothing.  In fact, he decided to support the ruling regime, the theocracy in Iran that has been at war and has been killing American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, he supported that regime against a pro-democracy revolution in the country of Iran.  Eighteen months later in Egypt the same situation occurred with riots in the street.  In this case, though, we had a friend of the United States, not a sworn enemy as in Iran, but a friend of the United States and so what did the President do?  Did he side with our friend just like he sided with the enemy leadership in Iran?  No.  He took the side of the demonstrators and said Mubarak has to go.

Iowa Supreme Court appointees:
Whom Branstad passed over

University of Iowa law professor Angela Onwuachi-Willig
Now that Iowa's Republican governor has returned the state supreme court to an assemblage of white males by appointing Iowa District Court Judge Bruce Zager, Iowa Court of Appeals Judge Edward Mansfield, and Pleasant Valley attorney Thomas Waterman to the bench, the Daily Iowan has taken a look at the sole female of nine nominees, University of Iowa law Professor Angela Onwuachi-Willig, whom Branstad passed over.
“I was sorry to see [Professor Onwuachi] not appointed because she would have been a good justice — she’s intelligent, sensitive, and thoughtful,” said UI clinical law Professor Lois Cox.
     UI law Professor Sheldon Kurtz agreed.
     “I think she would have made a great justice,” Kurtz said. “But I’m glad she’s still my colleague.”
     Cox congratulated the new justices, but called out the bench’s lack of diversity.
     “I am absolutely not against the three people appointed — I believe they will make fine justices,” she said. “But I think it’s a shame that we have a state Supreme Court in which there is no gender and ethnic diversity. I think women and people of color bring useful perspectives to the court.”
     ...“My goal was to choose Supreme Court justices, from the available slate of candidates, who are most likely to faithfully interpret the laws and Constitution, and respect the separation of powers,” Branstad said.

Facebook's corporate values inferior to those of Google, Twitter

In Slate, Jacob Weisberg contrasts the behavior of Facebook to that of Twitter and Google during upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia.
...You can contrast this response [Google's, Twitter's] with that of Facebook. Facebook's platform played the bigger role in Hosni Mubarak's downfall. It was the "We Are All Khaled Said" page Ghonim set up in June to memorialize a businessman who died in police custody that became the cradle of the revolution. But Facebook the company, unlike Google, has hardly embraced the honor. Last fall, it removed the crucial page rather than allowing the administrator to protect his identity. Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois sent Facebook a letter requesting that it amend to its no-anonymity policy to protect democratic activists in the Middle East. Facebook said no. When the Tunisian government used a virus to obtain passwords of activists, Facebook couched its response in terms of protecting user privacy, not challenging a vile regime.
    Facebook is such a powerful organizing tool that the question of its attitude toward those who use its product is in some ways irrelevant. But it is worth pointing that the company has never shown any sign of having the kind of core commitment to liberty that Google does.

New suit filed against Boy Scouts of America

Perhaps the BSA is spending too much effort going after gay Scoutmasters and not enough time busting pedophile Scoutmasters.

Mr. Sulu discovers that on twitter, 'FF' means 'Follow Friday' and nothing else

We at Aksarbent are absolutely scandalized about this mixup and will have absolutely nothing more to say about it.

Paypal freezes account of Bradley Manning defense group, Courage to Resist

PayPal's huge Omaha Operations Center
12312 Port Grace Blvd.,
La Vista,  NE  68128-8236
Gawker's John Cook reports that PayPal continues its war on WikiLeaks by attacking a group defending Bradley Manning. PayPal was cofounded by billionaire Peter Thiel, who in 2010 hosted at his New York home an infamous GOProud event at which Ann Coulter accused liberals of attempting to teach kindergartners about "fisting."
"Literally a few days after PayPal shut down Wikileaks, they started calling me and asking about Bradley Manning," said Courage to Resist project director Jeff Paterson, who also sits on the Bradley Manning Support Network's steering committee. "They wanted to know how much money we intended to raise, and what we planned on doing with it."
     Courage to Resist had opened the account in 2006, and used it without incident until it became affiliated with Manning. PayPal's concerns, Paterson says, were vague but involved unspecified claims that "we were somehow tricking people into donating." But PayPal executives told him the company had received no complaints about the group. After some back and forth, Paterson says, PayPal asked him to link Courage to Resist's checking account to its PayPal account, potentially giving PayPal access to the group's funds (up until then, the group simply had a credit account). When Paterson said no, PayPal froze the account, which contained $400 at the time.
UPDATE: Paypal restores Courage to Resist's account without explanation following widespread bad publicity on Gawker, FiredogLake, Towleroad, (and the paltry, but feisty readership of Aksarbent!) Below is the explanation on Courage to Resist's website, which has been experiencing bandwidth problems, which is why we copied their account here.)

In wake of protest, PayPal reinstates service PDF Print E-mail
By Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network
SAN FRANCISCO, 25 February 2011 (5pm PST) -- Reacting to an enormous backlash following our statement "PayPal Cuts Service to Courage to Resist, Bradley Manning Effort", PayPal has reinstated the account of Courage to Resist, an organization which has partnered with the Bradley Manning Support Network to raise funds for the defense of accused WikLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning. The change in account status comes with no explanation from the online payment provider, and only hours after the nonprofit organization published a press release drawing attention to the matter.
Jeff Paterson, Project Director of Courage to Resist, and member of the Bradley Manning Support Network steering committee, released the following statement this evening:
We have spent nearly a month trying to resolve this matter with senior PayPal staff. Only after a conference call in which their chief compliance officer bluntly stated at our account would be permanently restricted, and our funds returned in 180 days, did we issue this morning’s statement on the matter. During our conversations with PayPal, we covered possible solutions such as opening a separate checking account to link with, opening a new PayPal account, or changing our PayPal account type from non-profit to a standard business account, in order to resolve our impasse. We were told that all such efforts would be considered "fraudulent" and not acceptable.
I few moments ago I received an email from PayPal, “Hello Courage to Resist. Our review is complete and we have restored your account.” Upon logging into the PayPal account, we’re now greeted with, "Your Account Access is Back in Regular Standing. Thank you for taking the steps to return your account to regular standing..."(screen capture below) [Note: Aksarbent did not reproduce the capture.]
Thank you to all of our supporters – many of whom contacted PayPal individually or signed the petition hosted by Firedoglake – who helped us restore our account. We are extremely grateful to everyone who raised their voice today. While PayPal was never a primary channel for our online donors, it is especially valuable to our international supporters who do not use US-based credit cards or checks. I hope you will now help us get back to our real work in support of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning.
  • Stop the extreme, inhumane and illegal pre-trial punishment of Bradley Manning
  • Ensure that Bradley Manning receives top-notch legal representation from the lawyer of his choice
  • Stop any effort by the United States government to hold a secret court martial trial, unchecked by public and media oversight
  • Free Bradley Manning!

PayPal is a subsidiary of Ebay. Here, via towleroad, is a description of how Ebay passively abets Chinese counterfeiters.

Other Aksarbent news: Click here or on
HOME tab at upper left at top of page.

  • Jon Stewart's recent take on gay marriage: There's something about Marry
  •  Rachel Maddow defends her show against bogus PolitiFact "correction"
  • Hundreds protest outside Koch Bros. lobbying HQ; trailer of new anti-Koch documentary
  • Rick Santorum's newest idiotic remarks on Iowa Press
  • Mr. Sulu discovers that on twitter 'FF' doesn't mean what he thinks
  • New York Times' eerily accurate prediction on why Obama would have to abandon DOMA

Westboro Baptist Church invites hacking group to 'Bring it,' so they do...

JoeMyGod (see blogroll) reports that the Westboro Baptist Church's "GodHatesFags" website is down again, but not before the hacker group "Anonymous" hijacked the website to post the following message:

Following South Dakota and Iowa, 'Justifiable Homicide' abortion bill, LB232, introduced in Nebraska's unicameral by Mark Christensen

Following similar legislation introduced in South Dakota and Iowa, a 'justifiable homicide' anti-abortion law has been introduced in Nebraska. Mother Jones reports:
The legislation, LB 232, was introduced by state Sen. Mark Christensen, a devout Christian and die-hard abortion foe who is opposed to the prodedure even in the case of rape. Unlike its South Dakota counterpart, which would have allowed only a pregnant woman, her husband, her parents, or her children to commit “justifiable homicide” in defense of her fetus, the Nebraska bill would apply to any third party.
     ..."In short, this bill authorizes and protects vigilantes, and that's something that's unprecedented in our society," Melissa Grant of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland told the Nebraska legislature's judiciary committee on Wednesday. Specifically, she warned, it could be used to target Planned Parenthood's patients and personnel. Also testifying in oppostion to the bill was David Baker, the deputy chief executive officer of the Omaha police department, who said, "We share the same fears...that this could be used to incite violence against abortion providers."
     ...Not everyone is sure that the law's potential use in a case of abortion-related murder was unintentional. "If they wanted it narrow, they should have drafted it that way, and they did not," Alan Peterson, a lobbyist with the ACLU of Nebraska who testified at the hearing, told Mother Jones. "So I have reasonable suspicion that the intent was at least to create a possible broad defense for attacks on abortion providers."
     "I don't know how anyone knows my intent," Christensen fired back in an interview with Mother Jones.

Nebraska State Senate District 44
Assumed office: 2007
Current term ends: 2010

Sen. Mark Christensen
District 44
Room 1000
P.O. Box 94604
State Capitol
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2805

Mesmerizing beard growth time lapse: Cory Fauver with Yeasayer - 2080 soundtrack

Via Towleroad (see blogroll)

Wisconsin: Rachel Maddow and dueling ads

Americans for prosperity, the Koch Brothers astroturf organization, is running Wisconsin ads attempting to prop up Gov. Walker.

But unions are running their own ads:

And Rachel Maddow notes that what Walker (and, no doubt, the Koch Brothers) thought would spread to other states — public employee union busting — has turned into a regional fiasco for the Republican party.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Would stop Iowa gay marriage immediately: GOP's House File 330 uses loophole in Iowa constitution

The Des Moines Register reports that six Iowa GOP representatives have sponsored a bill by Republicans Dwayne Alons of Hull, Glen Massie of Des Moines, Tom Shaw of Laurens, Kim Pearson of Pleasant Hill, Royd Chambers of Sheldon and Betty De Boef of What Cheer that would prohibit county recorders from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until a public vote on an Iowa constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships takes place, and the Iowa Supreme Court would be unable to throw the law out.
House File 330 specifically says that the Supreme Court shall not be able to prohibit or restrict the law if the bill were passed.
     ...There is a provision in the Iowa Constitution (Article 5, Section 4) that allows lawmakers the ability to make laws that skip Supreme Court review, noted Drake Law Professor Ian Bartrum.
     ...Outcome: Iowa families could appeal a recorder’s decision in trial courts but those decisions would not be able to be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. It would make the lower courts ruling final and it would also set up the likelihood that Iowa would have pockets of the state were the law was recognized and others were it was thrown out.
     “I think the result is that you would have a hodgepodge of rulings across the state,” Bartrum said. “It would depend on whatever the local district judge thought because were would be no uniform appeal.”
     Massie said his ambition behind the bill is to advocate Judeo Christian ethics as law.
     “The Iowa House is leading us toward a constitutional crisis,” said Carolyn Jenison, executive director of One Iowa. “Not only does this bill attempt to bypass the rules guiding the amendment process but also attempts to strip authority from Iowa’s top court.”
     ...Prohibiting Supreme Court review is extremely rare although the proposal was also introduced this year in House File 153, a bill that would declare all life protected at conception.

Windows 7 phone upgrade turning some cellphones into bricks

Arstechnica reports that some Samsung owners upgrading their Windows 7 phones have ended up corrupting the firmware, resulting in a useless cellphone. Some carriers are blocking Microsoft's upgrade.

The two Samsung handsets on the market—the Omnia 7 and possibly the Focus (which are, or were, my pick of the Windows Phone 7 crop, thanks to the way their AMOLED screens make the operating system look so delightful)—are both experiencing "difficulties" with installing the update. The updates are failing to install in two ways. For lucky individuals, the process merely hangs on step seven (out of ten); rebooting the phone resurrects it, albeit without the upgrade. For a minority of unlucky users, the process fails at step six, and corrupts the phone's firmware. What's worse is that for some of them it appears to be bricking the phone completely, rendering it useless.

McDonalds turns oatmeal into expensive junk food

In his New York Times blog, Mark Bittman illustrates how McDonald's is up to its old tricks again: "Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin. (Even without the brown sugar it has more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger.)"

Fox's go-to gal for reaction to Fed's DOMA defense change? Homophobe Maggie Gallagher

Media Matters reports that today, when the Department of Justice announced that it would cease defending Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act (after the DOJ and the White House found that its definition of marriage as a "legal union between one man and one woman" was unconstitutional), Fox News' America Live, anchor Megyn Kelly reported the announcement, then turned first for reaction to National Organization for Marriage chairman Maggie Gallagher, who attacked President Obama for "an extraordinary unconstitutional measure." [DOMA announcement: hate groups react.]
Gallagher is an anti-gay activist who has claimed that the legalization of same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy and represents the downfall of "American civilization." She has described same-sex marriage as a "lie about human nature" and claimed that "[p]olygamy is not worse than gay marriage, it is better," because "[a]t least polygamy, for all its ugly defects, is an attempt to secure stable mother-father families for children.

Topgear: the show that sent Grindr popularity
into the stratosphere (really)

Recently, Pinknews interviewed Grindr CEO and founder Joel Simkhai on the occasion of the second anniversary of the gay smartphone "dating" application that has been downloaded 1.65 million times and is growing by 100,000 downloads per month.
“After that we started going to all the Pride marches and using guerrilla marketing. Come June we were in San Francisco when someone came and told me Stephen Fry had just mentioned Grindr on a TV show called Top Gear.”
     Britain’s most famous technophile did more than just mention Grindr on Top Gear: he hijacked the BBC motoring programme, with an estimated global audience of 350 million viewers, for a minute and a half as he explained Grindr’s intricacies to host Jeremy Clarkson and tried to find another Grindr user in the studio audience.
     “The impact was instant,” says Joel. “We had about 10,000 downloads overnight, increasing our base by 50 per cent. Within a week we were up to 40,000. Someone once asked me if we paid Stephen Fry to mention us, but we didn’t. Apparently one of the guys he works with is gay and showed it to him the week of his appearance.”
Here's a great Topgear pastiche with a Julie Brown soundtrack:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Part of 'The King's Speech' filmed on a gay porn set?

Gawker (which really gets around) has noticed that the gay porn website QueerClick has some very convincing photographic evidence (Gawker warning: NSFW unless you work in a dildo factory) that one of the sets that played a big part in best-picture nominee  The King's Speech was previously used in a skin flick. To show that the set used for the shabby office of Lionel Logue (the speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush) was previously used to film men getting off, QueerClick rounded up some pictures of the film's scene and compared it to pictures from the gay site UK Naked Men.

Who's behind the union-busting chaos in Wisconsin? Survey says...

Koch Industries products: Boycott, anyone?
MSNBC: The Koch Brothers
New York Times: The Koch Brothers, together with The Koch Brothers
New York Daily News: The Koch Brothers
Scientific American: The Koch Brothers (Scientific American hates the Koch Brothers because they finance junk science "studies" by hacks who deny global warming.)
Mother Jones: The Koch Brothers
Forbes Magazine: The Koch Brothers
Daily Kos: The Koch Brothers
AMERICAblog: The Koch Brothers
Crooks and Liars: The Koch Brothers
Slate: The Koch Brothers
The Raw Story: The Koch Brothers

Films, short and long: Y2GAY and Ausente

(Via Towleroad, via GoodAsYou; see blogroll)

Juries announced the winners of the 25th annual Teddy Awards for queer films at the Berlin Film Festival, with the top prize for Argentine writer-director Marco Berger's Ausente. (Via Band of Thebes; see blog roll.)

US subsidiary of $50,000,000 international porn business apparently headquartered above Connie Hickle's flower shop in Northwood, Iowa

Kyle Munson/Des Moines Register
Aksarbent knows what you're think­ing; that we got drunk again and stole some­thing from the Onion. Oh, no we didn't! It's from the Des Moines Register. Clark Kauffman wrote it and he's an actual, professional, walk-around-in-the-snow journalist, so there, and he said this started in 2004 when the former Worth county prose­cutor, Chad Belville, sold Connie Hickle his building, then rented back the upstairs office.
Belville was elected county attorney in 1998, beating by 34 votes a longtime incumbent. But shortly after he took office, he was arrested for second-offense drunken driving. He resigned and was treated for alcoholism, and a special election was scheduled to fill his position.
     Although he had no driver's license, Belville decided to take another shot at the county attorney's office. He won the special election in a landslide, 1,309 to 581. He then spent a week in jail on his drunken driving conviction and reclaimed the job of Worth County's top law enforcement official.
     "The people of Worth County decided they'd rather elect an inexperienced drunk than the other guy," he said.
     He served two years as prosecutor and was twice subjected to a public reprimand from the Iowa Supreme Court Board of Professional Ethics and Conduct — once for the drunken driving convictions and once for comments made to the media about a criminal case he was prosecuting. He resigned in 2002, before his term was up. The reason, he said, was that he was coming out of the closet as a gay man. He moved to Arizona, where he was licensed to practice law, figuring Phoenix would be more tolerant of his status.
Chad Belville in Bangkok, from his
Myspace page; totally not from
the Des Moines Register
One of Bellville's current clients is Fraserside LLC, which owns the copyrights of a large adult film library and which is suing the owners of two adult websites for infringement. Fraserside is a US subsidiary of Private Media Group, a $50 million Nasdaq-listed corporation based in Cyprus and Spain and which is considered a global leader in adult entertainment.  The case is being heard in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa because Fraserside supposedly is based there.
"Oh, Lordy," Hickle said. "I had no idea. I am not OK with this. I don't believe in pornography, and, oh, my, I just don't see Northwood as the sex capital of the world. We have all these Norwegians here. Can you imagine that?"
     "I think I'll be calling him," she said. "I have a sense of humor, but not this kind of a sense of humor. But I don't know. The more I think about this, the funnier it gets."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gay coal miner becomes poster boy
for West Virginia anti-discrimination initiatives

(Video from a different source, WCHS-TV, is here.)

Sam Hall is a gay West Virginia coal miner suing Spartan Mining Co., a subsidiary of Massey Energy Co, and its management for maintaining an oppressive and hostile work environment, and making no effort to resolve physical threats based on his sexual preference.

Today he became the emblem of efforts by two Democratic gubernatorial West Virginia rivals for the passage of two bills (SB226 and HB2045) which would protect gay West Virginians from workplace and public accommodation discrimination.
Sam Hall told chanting supporters outside the Senate chamber he was victimized by verbal abuse, physical threats, vandalism and harassing messages spray-painted on his belongings at two Massey Energy mines in Kanawha County.
     Acting Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, blasted discrimination against homosexuals in an emotion-charged speech before chanting members of West Virginia Fairness.
     ...Kessler held up a copy of the Constitution and said it applies to all.
     “It is high time in this state that no one can be denied the right to work or where they live based upon their gender, their age, the color of their skin, the god they love or the person they love,” he said.
     ...Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, took a shot at Christian groups opposed to expanding the Human Rights Act to embrace homosexuality.
     She said the Bible has been used to justify slavery, control over women by their husbands, even to the point of beating them, and discrimination.

Wisconsin union-busting politicos:
Brought to you by the Koch brothers

Andy Kroll, of Mother Jones documents the Koch brothers' boost to Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, whose bill to kill collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions has caused an uproar in Wisconsin.
...According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Walker's gubernatorial campaign received $43,000 from the Koch Industries PAC during the 2010 election. That donation was his campaign's second-highest, behind $43,125 in contributions from housing and realtor groups in Wisconsin. The Koch's PAC also helped Walker via a familiar and much-used politicial maneuver designed to allow donors to skirt campaign finance limits. The PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn spent $65,000 on independent expenditures to support Walker. The RGA also spent a whopping $3.4 million on TV ads and mailers attacking Walker's opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker ended up beating Barrett by 5 points. The Koch money, no doubt, helped greatly.
     The Kochs also assisted Walker's current GOP allies in the fight against the public-sector unions. Last year, Republicans took control of the both houses of the Wisconsin state legislature, which has made Walker's assault on these unions possible. And according to data from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the Koch Industries PAC spent $6,500 in support of 16 Wisconsin Republican state legislative candidates, who each won his or her election.
     Walker's plan to eviscerate collective bargaining rights for public employees is right out of the Koch brothers' playbook...
Here's a list of products, the sale of which enriches and enables the Koch Brothers' right wing aspirations.

UDPATE: The New York Times reports that even before Walker was elected, the Koch brothers' $40 million AstroTurf nonprofit, Americans for Prosperity, "had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown."

Via Buzzfeed: Best use of a stock photo (Australia)

Hans Rosling's animated chart of health and wealth from the 1800s to now

This, via Joe.My.God (See blogroll), is the best animated chart we've ever seen...

Anti-union-busting signs seen in Wisconsin

Buzzfeed has published 100 photos of interesting signage at the Wisconsin Capitol during demonstrations against the union-busting initiative by Governor Walker and Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature. The pictures are from TheArcadeFlame, MarkonF1re, MarkTasman, pinku_pinku, and Lost Albatros, more of whose photos are on Flickr.

Westboro Baptist Church performance artist Shirley Phelps-Roper interviewed by David Pakman

Ok, first the hacking group "Anonymous," which targeted Visa and PayPal for cutting off payments to Wikileaks, is alleged to have threatened the web site of the Westboro Baptist Church. Then the church invited them to "Bring it." Then Anonymous said the threat from them was a hoax. (At 3:45 pm, CST, Aksarbent, pointed its Omaha-based browser at the site and was able to get through, after waiting several minutes.)

Today, David Pakman interviewed Shirley Phelps-Roper, who, depending on how much you've had to drink, can really be a LOT of fun to watch, although Aksarbent was a little confused when she first called David a "little girl" and then, seconds later, referred to him as "dude." We think calling David a little girl was kind of rude, seeing as how he dressed up for the interview with a tie and all.

SD State Rep. Roger Hunt introduces bill forcing abortion-seeking women to get approval from anti-abortion counseling centers

South Dakota State Rep. Roger Hunt
605-224-6877 or email here
Right Wing Watch reports that a South Dakota state representative has introduced a bill forcing women seeking an abortion to first obtain approval from an anti-abortion* "counseling" center. Such centers are not typically staffed by medical professionals.
A 2006 Congressional report found that such pregnancy centers frequently employ misleading and fallacious information to link abortion to breast cancer, infertility and other fertility problems, and severe psychological problems such as an increased chance of suicide. “The vast majority of the federally funded pregnancy resource centers contacted during the investigation provided information about the risks of abortion that was false or misleading,” according to the investigation, “In many cases, this information was grossly inaccurate or distorted.”
The National Abortion Federation also notes that such centers are mostly staffed by volunteers whose “main qualifications are a commitment to Christianity and anti-choice beliefs,” rather than medical professionals, and “many CPCs are connected with religious organizations, but few disclose that fact in their advertising.” And a report by The Daily Beast looked into the propaganda tools and medically-unsound practices commonplace at such pregnancy centers.
*The bill only approves a center that does not “perform abortions and is not affiliated with any physician or entity that performs abortions, and does not now refer pregnant mothers for abortions, and has not referred any pregnant mother for abortions for the three-year period.”

Navy Explosive Detection Handler slams AP for 'misleading' story on antigay hazing: 'Navy admits wrong call on accusing dog handler'

Joseph Christopher Bocha
Joseph Rocha, a US Navy vet has called the Associated Press to task for implying, in a story by Kimberly Dozier, that Rocha's  unit commander, Michael Toussaint was railroaded when accused of systematic abuse.

...There were indeed flaws in the first investigation. But that is not the same as concluding that Toussaint is innocent or that the Navy believes that it was wrong in accusing him.

     To the contrary, the Navy has concluded that the evidence, including testimony from multiple members of my unit, shows that Toussaint is guilty of creating a highly intimidating climate of fear that involved systematic abuse. This is why, of course, it is forcing him to retire, and why The Honorable Juan Garcia, assistant Navy secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, issued a statement last week that Toussaint "did not meet the standards expected of senior enlisted leadership in our Navy."
     Toussaint's new letter of censure from the Navy reads: "As the leading chief petty officer, you set a poor example by engaging in conduct that clearly violates the Navy's prohibitions against hazing and fraternization... As a result of your poor example, your subordinates emulated this behavior by taking part in their own hazing activities..."

     AP's story included five factual errors:
  • AP reports that I claimed that my dog and I were soaked by a fire hose but that my base only had garden hoses. But I never claimed I was soaked by a fire hose, and did not have a dog at the time of this incident;
  • AP reports that it was tradition for all new dog handlers to be hosed down with a garden hose when they certified with their first dog. But this was not a tradition at my base, and I was not a dog handler when I was hosed down;
  • AP reports that it is not clear what prompted the investigation of Toussaint. But the record is clear that the investigation was prompted when one of Toussaint's subordinates (not me) complained to authorities about the climate of abuse;
  • AP reports that I confessed that Toussaint was not actually present during the videotaping of a forced act of sexual conduct. But I testified that Toussaint was there and that he coached the scenario;
  • AP reports that I requested to be hazed so that I could "feel like one of the guys." But I never asked to be hazed or in any way volunteered for any abuse.
The notion that I asked to be hazed is particularly egregious and painful. The unit's deputy commander, Jennifer Valdivia, wrote a note in which she said that I had requested to be hazed, and AP reported this as if it were fact. What AP failed to mention, however, is the context. When the Navy first investigated Toussaint for abuse, it investigated Valdivia as well because of her leadership position in the unit. Valdivia was my best friend, and she was just as intimidated by Toussaint as I was. But when she learned that the Navy was going to hold her responsible, she wrote the note accusing me of requesting to be hazed to save her own skin. Tragically, she committed suicide several days later.

Robert Reich: The Republican strategy
to split the working and middle class

On his blog, former secretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote about the Republican strategy "to split the vast middle and working class – pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don’t believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class."
...The Republican strategy is being played out on the state level where public employees are being blamed for state budget crises. Unions didn’t cause these budget crises — state revenues dropped because of the Great Recession — but Republicans view them as opportunities to gut public employee unions, starting with teachers.
     Wisconsin’s Republican governor Scott Walker and his GOP legislature are seeking to end almost all union rights for teachers. Ohio’s Republican governor John Kasich is pushing a similar plan in Ohio through a Republican-dominated legislature. New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie is attempting the same, telling a conservative conference Wednesday, “I’m attacking the leadership of the union because they’re greedy, and they’re selfish and they’re self-interested.”
     The demonizing of public employees is not only based on the lie that they’ve caused these budget crises, but it’s also premised on a second lie: that public employees earn more than private-sector workers. They don’t, when you take account of their education. In fact over the last fifteen years the pay of public-sector workers, including teachers, has dropped relative to private-sector employees with the same level of education – even including health and retirement benefits. Moreover, most public employees don’t have generous pensions. After a career with annual pay averaging less than $45,000, the typical newly-retired public employee receives a pension of $19,000 a year.
     ...Republicans would rather go after teachers and other public employees than have us look at the pay of Wall Street traders, private-equity managers, and heads of hedge funds – many of whom wouldn’t have their jobs today were it not for the giant taxpayer-supported bailout, and most of whose lending and investing practices were the proximate cause of the Great Depression to begin with.
Here, Reich noted that last year, America’s top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each and added that if the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary income, rather than mostly capital gains at 15%, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of 300,000 teachers.
...Last year a majority of the justices determined that corporations have a right under the First Amendment to provide unlimited amounts of money to political candidates. Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission is among the most patently political and legally grotesque decisions of our highest court – ranking right up there with Bush vs. Gore and Dred Scott.
     Among those who voted in the affirmative were Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Both have become active strategists in the Republican party.
     A month ago, for example, Antonin Scalia met in a closed-door session with Michele Bachman’s Tea Party caucus – something no justice concerned about maintaining the appearance of impartiality would ever have done.
     Both Thomas and Scalia have participated in political retreats organized and hosted by multi-billionaire financier Charles Koch, a major contributor to the Tea Party and other conservative organizations, and a crusader for ending all limits on money in politics. (Not incidentally, Thomas’s wife is the founder of Liberty Central, a Tea Party organization that has been receiving unlimited corporate contributions due to the Citizens United decision. On his obligatory financial disclosure filings, Thomas has repeatedly failed to list her sources of income over the last twenty years, nor even to include his own four-day retreats courtesy of Charles Koch.)
     Some time this year or next, the Supreme Court will be asked to consider whether the nation’s new healthcare law is constitutional. Watch your wallets.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pure Michigan, Not-So-Pure Michigan,
and a Saugatuck bonus

The death of young Jon Bruning, a Nebraska tragedy...

Honor Indians Institute
In 2007, Kyle Michaelis, of brought the two-faced careerism of political opportunist and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning into sharp relief when he published "The Death of Young Jon Bruning, a Nebraska Tragedy," wherein he called attention to the columns Bruning wrote as a student at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln for the Daily Nebraskan.

Subsequently, Bold Nebraska published all of Bruning's DN articles, even referring to one of them in dubbing him "Wrong Way Jon," which was apparently a testament to his collegiate basketball prowess.

Now, even National Journal and Politico have gotten into the act.

So, since what the local blogs have published have now been laundered through the national websites, isn't it time for the Nebraska dead tree opinion-makers to weigh in? The Lincoln Journal-Star did, today.

At Aksarbent we suspect that the Omaha World-Herald will either ignore the story or spin it for Jon, unless Don Stenberg runs for the Senate, in which case we suspect the Herald will giddily dump Jon Bruning's lifetime achievements in cynical pandering to opposite political ideologies over his head like a colander of spaghetti.