Thursday, February 28, 2013

Iowa Democrat wants to imprison you for having a secret compartment in your car to stash valuables

Don't keep this story to yourself. Tell your friends via the Facebook, Google+, Reddit, Twitter, or email buttons at the bottom of this post.

If you like hidey holes to keep your property away from prying eyes, nosy friends and relatives, or parking lot thieves, you won't like what Iowa State Senator Steve Sodders has in mind for you in a bill he has introduced.
     Sodders, a deputy sheriff, would obviously like everyone to think his bill is all about stopping drugs, but look at the language he has included (the felony provision applies if you constructed the secret compartment):

Senate File 228 - Introduced SENATE FILE 228 BY SODDERS 
An Act relating to the use of a false or secret compartment in a motor vehicle, and providing penalties...

...20 In addition, it shall be no defense in a prosecution for
21 a violation of the bill if the false or secret compartment
22 is inoperable or is not in use, or that the existence of the
23 compartment was known to a peace officer.
24 An aggravated misdemeanor is punishable by confinement for
25 no more than two years and a fine of at least $625 but not more
26 than $6,250. A class “D” felony is punishable by confinement
27 for no more than five years and a fine of at least $750 but not
28 more than $7,500.

Sodders represents district 36 in the Iowa State Senate (click map below to enlarge.) Legislative email:

These 18 GOP Iowa state senators just cosponsored another constitutional amendment to kill marriage equality, civil unions and domestic partnerships

To read county names, click map to enlarge.

They know that Mike Gronstal and Senate Democrats will again block their effort to make gay couples strangers to the law.
     They know they're just wasting more of the Iowa legislature's time and your money.
     No matter.
     Even if it means tilting at windmills, they want those of you who are gay or who have gay friends or relatives, to know that they still want to strip all Iowa gay couples of every right that could possibly be extended via marriage equality or civil unions or domestic partnerships.
     This year, the ringleader is Dennis Guth, a official of the Iowa Family Leader (yeah, Bob Vander Plaats' gang).
     If any of these individuals purports to represent you (see district map above), why not send him or her or it an email at the address below with the subject line Marriage Equality? You can call them at the statehouse at (515)281-3371, too.
     Here is what to say, suggests OneIowa: (Remember, OneIowa's url is — was purchased by an anti-gay rights group.)

Call your Senators

The Senate switchboard phone number is 515-281-3371. Call today or tomorrow between 9 am and 3 pm, and remember, Senators are out on Fridays! Click here to find your Senator. Or, if you prefer to email your legislator, click here.
When you call, ask if your Senator was one of the 18 who signed onto the marriage ban. Here's a few talking points to get you started:

  • The introduction of SJR5 is political grandstanding and is shameful. Our families deserve better than to be used by a few Senators as political pawns.
  • We don't support the passage of any marriage ban. Our legislators should be focusing on creating jobs, strengthening our economy, and making our schools better, not spending time passing legislation that hurts families.
  • If your Senator didn't support SJR5: Thank you for representing ALL Iowa families. {SHARE YOUR STORY}
  • If your Senator did support SJR5: Ask them to remember that a majority of Iowans do not support the legislature taking action on this. Remind them that LGBT people are our coworkers, our friends, our family members, our spouses. Share your story and ask them to focus on the issues that matter to Iowans: jobs, the economy, and education.

Row 1:
Dennis Guth (Dist. 4)
Mark Segebart (Dist. 6)
Jake Chapman (Dist. 10)
Amy Sinclair (Dist. 14)
Row 2:

Bill Anderson (Dist. 3)
Mark Chelgren (Dist. 41)
Jack Whitver (Dist. 19)
Nancy Boettger (Dist. 9)

Row 3:
David Johnson (Dist. 1)
Jerry Behn (Dist. 24)
Ken Rozenboom (Dist. 40)
Randy Feenstra (Dist. 2)
Row 4:

Kent Sorenson (Dist. 13)
Roby Smith (Dist. 47)
Rick Bertrand (Dist. 7)
Joni Ernst (Dist. 12)
Row 5:

Sandra Greiner (Dist. 39)
Hubert Houser (Dist. 11)

Twitter, Louis C.K. is just not that into you

Thanks, ABC! — network broadcast fake audience reaction shots during 'live' Oscar telecast

ABC didn't tell its viewers that realistic-looking
audience reaction shots to Seth MacFarlane's
We Saw Your Boobs Oscar number were
prerecorded and inserted into the broadcast.
Oscars-related: Argo pushback

Evidently ABC's standards and practices don't prohibit taking viewer deception into brave new worlds.
     By now, audiences are used to CGI images of yardage markers and superimposed sideline billboards in football games as well as altered news footage in late night comedy sketches. Fine.
     But are audiences really ready for ABC's new practice of transmitting phony prerecorded audience reactions inserted into a "live" broadcast, as it did last Sunday night during its Oscar telecast from Los Angeles' Dolby Theater?
     In order to juice up the sexual harassment offensiveness of the Seth McFarlane / L.A. Gay Men's Chorus number, We Saw Your Boobs, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences inserted prerecorded footage of two supposedly appalled actresses, Charlize Theron and Naomi Watts, as reaction shots. ABC then sent the fakery around the world to a billion people.
Naomi Watts (l) and Charlize Theron
as they actually looked at Sunday's
Oscar awards show.
     When, earlier this month, Maureen Dowd focused her New York Times column, The Oscar for Best Fabrication, on deliberately-doctored Hollywood history in Argo, Zero Dark 30, and Lincoln, we wonder if even she guessed how far out on that limb the film community — and the ABC television network, owned by Disney — is willing to go.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Here are the 278 businesses who filed a friend-of-the-court brief against DOMA today

This is different from the dozens of companies which have signed a brief in support of the lawsuit to invalidate California's Prop 8, which outlawed marriage equality in the Golden State.
     DOMA, signed by President Clinton in 1996, dictates that the federal government not recognize as married those same sex couples who are, in the increasing number of states that permit it.

     The brief says:

"DOMA forces [the businesses] to administer dual systems of benefits and payroll, and imposes on them the cost of the workarounds necessary to protect married colleagues," the Los Angeles Times reported.
      The report said in those states that allow gay marriage, companies must treat employees with same-sex spouses as single for federal tax withholding and benefits, and many employers keep two sets of books — one for state and one for federal purposes.
      In the DOMA case, only section 3 of the act is challenged. Section 3 says, "In determining the meaning of any act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

     If you just want to see the companies which signed, visit GLAD, here.
     Casino goers: AmeriStar joined the signatories on the brief, but Caeser's, (which owns Harrah's) evidently isn't bothered enough by the federal government's refusal to recognize marriage equality to sign the brief.

Video of Lindsey Graham's failed attempt to badger Ed Flynn, Milwaukee police chief, over background checks

At a Senate gun control hearing today, South Carolina Senator and NRA stooge Lindsey Graham again tried to use the NRA's hollow bullet point strategy of opposing expanded gun sale background checks.
      Graham again advanced the ridiculous rationale that since most people who fail background checks because they provide incorrect information are not prosecuted, we should not expand background checks to include now-exempt gun show sales, a huge loophole. (More about this at ThinkProgress.)
     Milwaukee's police chief, Edward Flynn was having none of Graham's flimflammery:

It doesn’t matter, it’s a paper thing. I want to stop 76,000 people from getting guns illegally. That’s what a background check does.

     Graham rhetorically asked that if people who fail background checks are not prosecuted, "What kind of deterrent is that?"
     The answer, which any 10-year-old could figure out: the deterrent is that they don't get guns.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sean Hannity on his Fox show: 'Go ahead. Light it up!'

Sean Hannity is an incredibly overpaid troglodyte, but this one time, AKSARBENT has to give him an "A+" for Bloomberg/decorum-baiting even while awarding him his customary "F" for content. We don't like being this conflicted. Make it stop, Fox.

Live: Illinois House debate on Marriage Equality

UPDATE: Live stream is done. Illinois House executive committee voted 6-5 to advance gay marriage bill (SB10 Marriage Fairness Act) to full House. More here.

The executive committee hearing is scheduled to start after a concealed carry debate. One twitter hashtag is #il4m.
Click Watch on Livestream.

Filibuster busted; Hegal confirmed 58-41 as Defense Sec'y; vote: 54 Dems plus Cochran (MS), Johanns (NE), Shelby (AL) and Rand (KY); Fischer votes against fellow Nebraskan

Today, 53 Democrats were joined by 18 Republicans to overwhelming end the filibuster against Hagel, clearing the way for an up/down vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blasted GOP obstructionists, who included Nebraska's junior senator, Deb Fischer, who is already proving herself to be a doctrinaire, hardball ideologue who has turned her back on campaign promises to embrace bipartisanship:

“His record of service to this country is untarnished; 12 days later, President Obama’s support for his qualified nominee is still strong; 12 days later, the majority of senators still support his confirmation. Senate Republicans have delayed for the better part of two weeks for one reason: partisanship,”

Hagel had a dismal Senate record on gay rights, opposed in 1998 the confirmation of Jim Hormel as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg because he was “openly, aggressively gay,” and later supported Amendment 416 in Nebraska, which constitutionally outlawed marriage equality, civil unions and domestic partnerships.
     Despite all that, the Washington Blade reported that he got the vote of  lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who said she had a “very good conversation” with him and would support his nomination. Last month, Baldwin said she had “tough questions” about his view of the post-”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military.

ThinkProgress Health:
Americans might be better off eating horsemeat

ThinkProgress' Aviva Shen ruminates on the European horsemeat scandal and reminds her readers through links, about the sinister consequences of ag gag laws which have been passed in five states, including Iowa. AKSARBENT wrote about Iowa's ag gag law here and here.

     According to Center for Disease Control estimates, 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses every year. In comparison, the entire European Union had roughly 45,000 illnesses and 32 deaths from contaminated food in 2008. That means foodborne illness strikes 15 percent of Americans each year, but only .00009 percent of Europeans.
     American meat also often exceeds levels of contamination considered unacceptable in most of the developed world. Mexico refused a shipment of American beef in 2008 because it exceeded Mexico’s upper regulatory limit for copper contamination. Because the US has no such restrictions, the beef returned to the US to be sold to Americans instead.
      The most common culprits behind foodborne illness are salmonella, norovirus, Campylobacter, toxoplasma gondii, and E. coli 0157, which are carried through feces. These pathogens have also been discovered in some fruit and vegetables that have soaked up infected waste runoff from nearby factory farms. But food safety regulators continue to avert their eyes...

Transgendered news: Katie devotes today's show to topic; Boston fraternity raises money for brother's transgender surgery

First Clip (via JoeMyGod): Out Magazine reports that the Alpha Chapter at Boston's Emerson University of Phi Alpha Tau,  the nation’s oldest professional communicative arts fraternity, is raising money for a new brother’s FTM top surgery.

Second Clip: promo for today's Katie show.

Oh please. MSN runs story which almost completely contradicts its own headline, 'Ex-Canada ambassador is pleased with Ben Affleck's gratitude'

And the lying link was: "Affleck's latest fan: Canada". Below is part of what ran under the bait-and-switch headline. There is more here.

"Finally, he mentioned Canada," Taylor said. "Under the circumstances, I think that was fine. It certainly acknowledged Canada. I think certainly the movie was about CIA agent Tony Mendez. I think that President Carter's remarks put everything in proportion."
     Carter appeared on television last week and said, "90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian," but the film "gives almost full credit to the American CIA."

Comedian Brick Stone scores free publicity by using Westboro Baptist Church members, who score free publicity by... oh never mind

Audio NSFW (not suitable for work). Video is ok, unless you have one of those killjoy bosses who frowns on images of a microphone with a dildo for a windscreen displayed on your work monitor.

(Via Towleroad)

Buzzfeed publicizes plight of gay KY animal rescuer harassed, then fired from job despite 'spotless record'

Image by Genevieve Adams for BuzzFeed
One of Buzzfeed's community contributors has started a fund to help Kevin, now eating with the help of food stamps, to also feed his 300 animals.

Kevin worked as a public school teacher for fifteen years before retiring to run his farm full-time. A few years ago, he went back to work as the director of a day care center in Ashland, Kentucky. After being mocked and teased by co-workers and superiors at work, some of whom constantly referred to him as "twinkle toes", the center forced him to resign in spite of his spotless record.

Facebook subsidiary Instagram threatens to shut down Madonna's account for unspecified violations

AKSARBENT infographic

The Guardian reports that Madonna has received a warning from Instagram threatening to shut down her account. Said one wag: See? Stars are just like you and me! The pop music icon's response was to post the warning:

Said The Guardian:

     It is not clear which of Madonna's photos provoked the ire of Instagram's monitors. Since launching her account in November, the singer has only posted 19 photos. Most of them are hardly controversial: self-shots of Madonna's lips, the image of a horse, a valentine from her daughter. But Madonna hasn't always been so demure. In one photo,there is a glimpse of the singer's cleavage. In another, shot during one of the Material Girl's recent concerts, her bottom features prominently...
     More likely, Facebook-owned Instagram is leery of the photos Madonna has shared of painter Frida Kahlo. One of these was taken by Antonio Kahlo, the other by Lucienne Bloch.

CPAC featured speaker: NE state sen. Beau McCoy, who tried to ban LGBT antibias laws statewide

CPAC has picked Nebraska State Senator Beau McCoy, of Elkhorn, Omaha's western-most suburb, as one of nine "rising elected leaders" who represent the "bright future of the conservative movement."
     AKSARBENT video above: McCoy is such a shameless charlatan that he cherry-picked a quote from an Omaha World-Herald editorial condemning his [subsequently] failed effort, in an attempt to persuade the Judiciary Committee that the paper was on his side. Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray busted him.

75 prominent Republicans (so far) sign SCOTUS brief supporting marriage equality to be submitted this week

Update: The number of names on the list has now risen to 80.

The document will urge the court to strike down Proposition 8, the California initiative which banned gay marriage in the state. The brief argues that family values are buttressed by marriage equality, that it brings the benefit of two parent homes to children of gay couples and that it promotes conservative values of “limited government and maximizing individual freedom.” Ted Olson, a lead lawyer of the suit against Prop 8 approved of the amicus, or friend-of-the-court brief.

     Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices as much for the prominent names attached to it as for its legal arguments. The list of signers includes a string of Republican officials and influential thinkers — 75 as of Monday evening — who are not ordinarily associated with gay rights advocacy, including some who are speaking out for the first time and others who have changed their previous positions.
     Among them are Meg Whitman, who supported Proposition 8 when she ran for California governor; Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of New York; Stephen J. Hadley, a Bush national security adviser; Carlos Gutierrez, a commerce secretary to Mr. Bush; James B. Comey, a top Bush Justice Department official; David A. Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s first budget director; and Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio who is retired from Congress.
     Ms. Pryce said Monday: “Like a lot of the country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress. I think it’s just the right thing, and I think it’s on solid legal footing, too.”
     Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor, who favored civil unions but opposed same-sex marriage during his 2012 presidential bid, also signed. Last week, Mr. Huntsman announced his new position in an article titled “Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause,” a sign that the 2016 Republican presidential candidates could be divided on the issue for the first time.
     “The ground on this is obviously changing, but it is changing more rapidly than people think,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist and former House leadership aide who did not sign the brief. “I think that Republicans in the future are going to be a little bit more careful about focusing on these issues that tend to divide the party.”
     Some high-profile Republicans who support same-sex marriage — including Laura Bush, the former first lady; Dick Cheney, the former vice president; and Colin L. Powell, a former secretary of state — were not on the list as of Monday.
     But the presence of so many well-known former officials — including Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey, and William Weld and Jane Swift, both former governors of Massachusetts — suggests that once Republicans are out of public life they feel freer to speak out against the party’s official platform, which calls for amending the Constitution to define marriage as “the union of one man and one woman.”

Amicus briefs do not generally change the Supreme Court's mind. Read why this one might, at the New York Times, here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Former NU wrestler Jordan Burroughs cheered in World Cup meet in Iran

Former University of Nebraska wrestler Jordan Burroughs, who defeated Sadegh Saeed Goudarzi of Iran on August 10, 2012 to become the Olympic champion at 74 kilos, was cheered in Iran at the World Cup freestyle competition in which he went 5-0 to lead the US to a third-place finish Feb. 21-22 in Tehran. Burroughs, a 2011 World champion, is now a perfect 43-0 on the Senior level.

The above CNN video comes via JoeMyGod, where we found the following comment from "Arthur" interesting:

The US government has screwed Iran big time - from overthrowing its government in the 50s, to supporting Saddam, including with chemical weapons, in his war against Iran; to classing their country, at a time it was governed by a moderate, as part of the axis of evil; to imposing sanctions that have bad effects on civilians, etc. Iranians have every right to dislike the US government. But, very likely, Iranians just don't see the need to extend to US civilians whatever feelings they have for the US government.

Memo to Charlie Janssen: even pro wrestlers think Glenn Beck is an idiot, so why are you sponsoring a law based on his paranoia?

Below, via Americablog, is a video in which wrestlers break character to patiently explain to Glenn Beck that wrestlers are playing roles. Meanwhile state senator, and goobernatorial candidate Charlie Janssen is cosponsoring a laughable law based on Beck's Agenda 21 conspiracy fantasies.

After NASCAR's YouTube takedown of Daytona 500 wreck, questions about whether it really owns copyright to fan videos of unscripted events

Jeffrey P. Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said this to NBC News Monday.

     "NASCAR also cannot claim that the fan has granted NASCAR ownership of that recording based merely on the fine print on the back of a ticket."
     Besides, he [Hermes] thinks there's "a serious question as to whether NASCAR has a valid copyright claim in an unscripted sporting event," such as Saturday's race. It's the kind of event, he said, that is "different from a scripted 'performance'" such as a rock concert "in which copyright might arise under U.S. law."

Corynne McSherry, intellectual property director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told NBC News Monday that "...NASCAR does not hold the copyright in a fan video."

     The EFF has seen this sort of thing before. When Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, an animal-rights activist group, filmed rodeos in order to demonstrate alleged abuse, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association fired back, requesting takedown of 13 videos. At the time, YouTube responded by eliminating the activists' account.
     When the EFF took the case to court, it was settled in 2009. The agreement protects the group's "right to publicize their critiques."
     "The (rodeo association) has no copyright claim in live rodeo events, just as NASCAR has no copyright claim in fan videos," says McSherry.

Medicaid in Nebraska

We're all for this, but something has to be done about the skyrocketing cost of health care in the U.S. and the fact that deaths from preventable medical errors are getting worse, not better, actually doubling from 1999 to 2009.

Medicaid Works in Nebraska from Nebraska Appleseed on Vimeo.

CO state senator tells Christers who want exemptions from gay equality laws to get themselves to a nunnery

Eric W. Dolan reports that the National Organization for Marriage is going after Colorado state senator Pat Steadman after he told Christers that religion isn't a sufficient pass for antigay discrimination and that those who claim religion requires them to discriminate should get themselves to a nunnery.

“And live there then. Go live a monastic life away from modern society, away from people you can’t see as equals to yourself. Away from the stream of commerce where you may have to serve them or employ them or rent banquet halls to them.”

“Go some place and be as judgmental as you like. Go inside your church, establish separate water fountains in there if you want, but don’t claim that free exercise of religion requires the state of Colorado to establish separate water fountains for her citizens. That’s not what we’re doing here.”
Steadman introduced the Colorado Civil Unions Act on February 8th.

Gloria Allred: Seth MacFarlane is a boob; actresses name-checked plainly not amused by MacFarlane/Gay Men's Chorus number, We saw your boobs

Oscars-related: Argo pushback

Update: Apparently at least one of the cuts purported to be a live view of the audience at the Dolby Theater was prerecorded insert.

Yesterday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences decided that staging a number dedicated to sexually harassing some of its best actresses wasn't enough; flashing their appalled and cringing discomfort to hundreds of millions of people around the world was apparently also necessary. 

Said Allred to Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove:
“I’m sure that Seth MacFarlane was trying to be edgy,” Allred told me at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where the Night of 100 Stars Oscars watch party was under way. “It’s one thing to be topless and to have that in the context of the film, for a purpose in a particular scene for a particular reason. It’s another to take it out of context and just focus on women’s breasts.”

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Video: 2013 Oscar for best animated short film goes to Disney's Paperman

And the evidence that The Longest Daycare was robbed is below:

Charlie Janssen, Manchurian Candidate from Planet Koch, concerned about icky oil pollution — in Kuwait

Neb. State Sen. Charlie Janssen announces
bid for governor in YouTube video
The ocean around us had oil on the water and it was burning ... and the air was filled with a choking and poisonous soot...

Gosh Charlie, instead of denying to KMTV (even though Liz Dorland already had the goods on you) that you carried water for ALEC, the organization that the billionaire Koch Brothers founded to issue marching orders to state legislators, and instead of cosponsoring tinfoil hat legislation based on Glenn Beck's pandering paranoia peddling, why don't you support a real effort to protect landowners in Nebraska from the TransCanada eminent domain threat from a pipeline with welds so slipshod you can see daylight through it?

President Carter, former Canadian ambassador, weigh in on CIA-orchestrated Argo fabrications; Affleck's initial postscript was insulting to Canada

Although President Carter told CNN,"Let me say first of all, it’s a great drama, and I hope it gets the Academy Award for best film because I think it deserves it," he then added, "I would say that 90% of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. The movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA."

     Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran says Argo made Canada look like a benchwarming bystander to CIA heroics when, in fact, that country's embassy officials took great risks to conceal Americans and the Canadian Parliament went into a special, secret session to legalize the issuance of fake passports to six Americans.
     Last November, when accepting an honorary degree at Queen's University in Canada, Carter called "Argo" a shocking defacement of the truth.
     "I saw the movie Argo recently and I was taken aback by its distortion of what happened because almost everything that was heroic, or courageous or innovative was done by Canada and not the United States," Carter said.
     Writes Rob Gillies:

     Taylor said there would be no movie without the Canadians.
     "We took the six in without being asked so it starts there," Taylor said. "And the fact that we got them out with some help from the CIA then that's where the story loses itself. I think Jimmy Carter has it about right, it was 90 percent Canada, 10 percent the CIA."
     He said CIA agent Tony Mendez, played by Affleck in the film, was only in Iran for a day and a half.
     The movie also makes no mention of John Sheardown, a deputy at the Canadian embassy who sheltered some of the Americans. Taylor said it was Sheardown who took the first call and agreed right away to take the Americans in. Sheardown recently died and his wife, Zena, called the movie disappointing.
     Friends of Taylor were outraged last September when "Argo" debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The original postscript of the movie said that Taylor received 112 citations and awards for his work in freeing the hostages and suggested Taylor didn't deserve them because the movie ends with the CIA deciding to let Canada have the credit for helping the Americans escape.
     Taylor called the postscript lines "disgraceful and insulting" and said it would have caused outrage in Canada if the lines were not changed. Affleck flew Taylor to Los Angeles after the Toronto debut and allowed him to insert a postscript that gave Canada some credit.

Former Missouri prosecutor Kevin Crane, now a judge, still won't admit to railroading — with no physical evidence — college student Ryan Ferguson in murder conviction

UPDATE: Ferguson was released from prison November 13th, 2013. Watch his interview with CBS, whose reporter, Erin Moriarity, gave his predicament national attention and resulted in Kathleen Zellner, who Ferguson's father compared to the Marines, taking on the case — and Missouri's justice system — and winning.

Current circuit judge and former
Boone County MO Prosecuting
Attorney Kevin Crane
Photo source
Despite the fact that both witnesses in the conviction of Ryan Ferguson for the murder of sportswriter Kent Heitholt have now recanted their accusation and despite the fact that there was never any physical evidence in the case implicating anyone accused by Missouri authorities, Judge Daniel Greene has denied the latest of 13 appeals in the case.
     From the website started by Ryan's father:
Since his original conviction, Ryan Ferguson has been back in court on several occasions including a 2008 evidentiary hearing and a 2012 habeas corpus. On all these occasions the local Missouri judges ruled against him, unwilling to challenge the authority and judgments of their colleagues. Even though the only two witness against him committed perjury and the ‘sole witness’ says Ryan was not the individual she saw in the parking lot.

     Ferguson is being represented, pro bono, by attorney Kathleen Zellner.
     A summary of facts from the website seeking Ferguson's release from prison:
  • A single strand of bloody hair was found in the hand of the victim Kent Heitholt. It did not match Ryan Ferguson, Chuck Erickson or Heitholt.
  • None of the fingerprints or blood found at the scene matched Ryan or Chuck.
  • Ryan’s car and Chuck’s home were thoroughly tested for any blood or physical evidence linking them to the crime. None was found.
  • There were two sets of bloody shoeprints leading away from Kent Heitholt’s car – neither of the shoe sizes matched Ryan or Chuck. For this reason these shoeprints were not introduced as evidence at Ryan’s trial.
  • After police coercion, Chuck Erickson claimed he struck Kent Heitholt with a tire iron taken from Ryan’s car trunk and Ryan strangled him.
  • Heitholt was hit 11 times but none of these blows resulted in a skull fracture. Medical experts state this would be physically impossible with a sturdy tire iron.
  • The tire tool found in Ryan’s car was cleared by the FBI and found to have no connection to the crime.
  • At his first police interrogation Chuck Erickson had no idea how Heitholt was murdered – until fed information that had not been made public by the investigating officers.
  • A Missouri appeals court stated quite simply that 'there is no physical evidence that ties Ferguson to this murder. Prosecutor Kevin Crane also stated this to the jury at the beginning of the trial.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Iowa gay marriage: Shane Vander Hart leaps to defend Iowa GOP Party Chair Spiker, attacks 'robed tyrants' of Iowa Supreme Court

Uh oh. Esteemed marriage equality analyst, Christian blogger, heterosexual supremacist and fan of right-wing talk radio station WHO, Shane Vander Hart, is pouting again.
     This time he's disturbed about the flap resulting from GOP Iowa Party Chair A.J. Spiker saying, on Iowa Press, that the Iowa Democratic Party is the gay marriage party.
     Vander Hart is annoyed that such an assertion by an Iowa Republican Party official is treated as news. (Pssst: AKSARBENT totally agrees with Vander Hart, but keep it under your hat.)
     We always enjoy splashing through the shallow wading pool of Vander Hart's musings about gay marriage because no matter how jejune his observations may be at the beginning — or even in the middle — there is usually a happy ending somewhere before Shane reaches his last period.
    In a recent installment of the Shane Vander Hart show, we laughed through this (emphasis added):
The third and last point I’d like to bring it [sic] is an objection to him [Tyler Olson, 36, recently named Iowa Democratic Party state chairman] saying that this is a battle “Iowans have long settled.”  How’s that?  I don’t remember their [sic] being a vote or even a bill passed by our legislature.  He said the Iowa Supreme Court “settled” it.  In an audio clip of his statement that I heard on WHO Radio this morning he actually called it “settled law.”  Which it is not.  It is a court opinion.  If Olson truly wants to see Iowans “settle” the issue he’d be in favor of Iowans voting on it.  I fully admit that I’m not confident that an marriage amendment would pass like I was a few years ago, but at least “we the people” would have had a say, not a group of robed tyrants.
     So basically what is the goal of all this?  Same-sex marriage licenses are already being given out? Status quo reigns and it isn’t an issue this year.  Mainly because achieving “rights” isn’t the goal. Same sex marriage advocates seek legitimacy and for their position to be “normalized” which can only be gained by quelling any opposition.
     Atta boy Shane! Way to take down those robed tyrants, those Supreme Court justices who have tyrannically grabbed from the Vander Harts and the Vander Plaatses of the world the right to interpret Iowa's constitution (what nerve!) and then tyrannically applied the equal protection clause of Iowa's constitution in deciding a lawsuit that they somehow (but tyrannically!) caused to be brought to them for deliberation. Christian witless witness!
     And good call busting those punks who regard decisions like Varnam vs. Brien, Iowa's marriage equality decision [or Loving vs. Virginia or Brown vs. Board of Education] as "settled law" when they're really just opinions! Legally, that's like a suggestion, right Shane? 
     Kidding aside, Vander Hart's pushy Christer sense of exclusive entitlement really rears its ugly head in the last paragraph.
     There he demonstrates that if gay couples want the piece of paper which entitles them to the thousands of benefits that heterosexual married couples have, then it's the job of Vander Hart to turn that aspiration into a sinister scheme of "normalization" and uppity "legitimacy" and "quelling opposition" (the part where Vander Hart et al. get to nail themselves to the cross.)
     To the Christian right, it's not about taking things at face value; it's about inventing ominous danger that has to be contained, usually at the expense of you know who.

#LGBTmedia13: gay media confab in Philadelphia

Photo: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
Conventioneers, see smile tips video below.
Sponsored by the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists association, the Haas convening is now underway in Philadelphia, where about 70 LGBT journalists and bloggers are being educated about LGBT issues relating to elder abuse, asylum rights, aging, labor issues, trans issues, etc. You can follow the tweets by using twitter hashtag #LGBTmedia13.
     Several attendees commented on the dearth of people of color in attendance.
     Local angle: One time-filler during breaks (or occasional monotony, we suppose) appears to be the YouTube video of shirtless Husker gymnasts in their stupid* Harlem Shake video, which has added over 100,000 views in the last 24 hours.
     AKSARBENT immediately recognized this video as the significant cultural milestone that it is and blogged it for the edification of our readers after reading about it in the New York City blog, Towleroad, aka, the gay C.I.A.

*The real Harlem Shake:

Gregory Bros. Auto-Tune the first 100 episodes of Katie

Friday, February 22, 2013

Nebraska agnostic who sued god says Catholic Church has lower standards than mafia because if mafiosi were 'raping children, they'd off them'

Ernie Chambers, 75, Nebraska's longest serving state senator, self-described agnostic and self-described most hated man in Nebraska, is back in the saddle after a term limit timeout, filibustering a bill to expand prison work programs to provide labor to any "charitable, fraternal or nonprofit corporation that provides a public benefit."
     Chambers gained national notoriety in 2007 when he sued god to ridicule lawsuits he considered frivolous, asking for a permanent injunction enjoining God from making terrorist threats against his constituents in Douglas County, an appropriate venue, he claimed, because of god's alleged omnipresence.
     Deena Winter of Nebraska Watchdog described Chambers' current filibuster, against Sen. Mark Christensen’s bill allowing a McCook prison work camp to provide labor to charitable, fraternal and nonprofit groups.
...While burning up time trying to talk Christensen’s bill to death, Chambers talked about attending a fundamentalist church where, as a child, he claimed children were terrorized and made to feel they were headed for Hell. He called Bible stories “fairy tales” that he outgrew...
     He said preachers who enter the legislative chambers are entering “my territory” to “do their damage.” He accused senators of not heeding those preachers’ calls to “do the right thing,” which he said “brings condemnation on you.”

     While on the subject of Christianity, Chambers noted that Jesus “looked more like me than you all.” Despite his claims he doesn’t believe in God (though he sued God once), Chambers demonstrated that he knows the Bible (which he derisively calls the “Holly Bibel”) well, telling his fellow senators that you can judge a society by how it treats its children, elderly and enemies...
Finally, Chambers said the Mafia has higher standards than the Catholic Church hierarchy because if their members were “raping children, they’d off them."

Obama administration urges Supreme Court to overturn Defense of Marriage Act; here's the brief

Chris Geidner of Buzzfeed Politics reports that the Obama administration urged the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act's prohibition on recognition of same-sex couples' marriages in a Friday filing, arguing that laws that target gay people should face heightened scrutiny by courts reviewing them.
     If SCOTUS can't bring itself to do that, the administration has two other arguments...

Why is an obscene pillow on Ann Lander's desk?

Answer: Because it was sent by a reader to sex columnist Dan Savage who, several years ago, purchased Ann Landers' Chicago Sun-Times office desk for $200 at an auction. (He said he wanted to keep it in the advice business, and he also snagged her IBM electric typewriter for another $175.) The twitter feedback is from Landers' daughter, Margo.
     Although we have to take Margo's word that her mother was not vulgar, she could, nevertheless, be cheerfully crude in private, as revealed by a letter that Howard herself published in a book about her mother in which Landers said she was "busier than a one-armed paper hanger with crabs."

David Pakman: 200 million Americans who live in border zones have lost fourth Amendment Protections from Homeland Security searches

Should pipeline companies have eminent domain?

Dustin Hurst of (@BigSkyK9) has written an incisive article, published in Nebraska Watchdog about the legitimacy of eminent domain, TransCanada's ace-in-the-hole in its "negotiations" with Nebraska landowners.
     In 2005, the US Supreme Court issued a unanimous, but very controversial decision in Kelo vs. New London, deciding that government entities could employ eminent domain not just for their own use, but to transfer land from one private owner to another in order to increase the tax base and spur other economic benefits.
     Some states reacted swiftly by enacting new eminent domain laws. In Nebraska, LB2006, passed the following year, essentially banned eminent domain takings for economic development purposes, but carved an exemption for oil and gas pipelines.
Brian Jorde of Domina Law in Omaha:
     “TransCanada gets a forever easement for a one-time payment.” ...Instead, he said, easement terms should come on a temporary basis, forcing TransCanada to pay landowners in regular intervals.

Maurice Thompson, a constitutional lawyer and executive director for 1851:
     ...the pipeline companies shouldn’t have power to condemn land for their own use. The reason? The public doesn’t use the pipeline, a classical argument of eminent domain.
     “The use of property has to be by the government,” he explained. “The Constitution requires public use, not public benefit.
      Scholars on the subject generally agree that justification for eminent domain use has broadened widely in the past century, sliding from public use to public purpose to public benefit. Public use, for example, means taking land for roads and bridges. Public benefit, in the vastly expanded understanding, might mean condemning a less valuable property in favor a development that will create jobs or greater tax revenue.
     Thompson wonders if the Keystone, which makes no stops in the Nebraska, even directly benefits the state under the widened scope of eminent domain powers. “Does it service anybody in the state, much less everybody?” Thompson asked... giving a private company eminent domain authority leaves landowners at a distinct disadvantage and harms their economic interests... “It’s the ultimate in corporate welfare.”

     Thompson strongly believes that pipelines shouldn’t have eminent domain authority because it hurts landowners in negotiations, thereby helping corporate bottom lines. “The threat of eminent domain … gives corporations tremendous leverage to lower the amount they pay,” he said.
     His evidence? Thompson said that once [his adversary] Enterprise realized it couldn’t simply take land, it increased the easement payment offer to one of his clients by nearly $100,000.
Read Hurst's entire article here.

Who profits from your sky-high hospital bills?

Related: Time, CNN decode an inscrutable hospital charge list

Time reports that 2.8 trillion will be spent on in health care in the United States this year — 27% more, per capita, than other nations spend. Since 1998 the healthcare and drug industry, including doctors and hospitals, have spent $5.36 billion lobbying Washington — nearly double what the defense and oil & gas industries spent, combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

U of Nebraska gymnasts get away with Harlem Shake video, but Susquehanna University football players get suspended for theirs

AKSARBENT can scarcely recall the last time former Athletic Director Tom Osbourne must have been this proud.

Susquehanna University official statement on the video:
Earlier this week, a video involving 11 student-athletes simulating sex acts in the university’s weight room was produced and publicly posted. We met with the student-athletes involved and removed them from their intercollegiate athletics teams. At the same time, the students were given a plan of action outlining the pathway to reinstatement to their teams.Susquehanna University promotes a culture of respect and personal responsibility. Participation in intercollegiate athletics is a great privilege. The student-athlete handbook calls upon student-athletes to be exemplary role models by demonstrating respect for others and acting in a first-class manner. We are disappointed by this behavior and the way in which these student-athletes represented our teams and the university. We hope that they learn from this experience, and that they will earn their way back to representing Susquehanna as members of their teams.
 The real Harlem Shake:

Favorite tool ever in the history of Barstool Sports lives in Lincoln and bothers weathercasters

"That was AWESOME. Maybe my favorite dude ever in the history of Barstool Sports. Like I legit spit out my coffee and I wasn’t even drinking any when he just waltzed onto the scene uninvited yet undaunted. And in Lincoln Nebraska too. Who would have thunk it? Stoolies doing work per usual."

Candy maker Mars mum on wrongful termination suit by gay mom

From a 1982 expose of Mars, the 3rd largest
privately held US company. 2010 sales:
$30,000,0000,000. Headquartered in McLean,
Virginia, the company is entirely owned
by the Mars family.
From the Warren County Express-Times:
Kwiecinski's treatment at work began to deteriorate in March 2011 after her co-workers met her partner at a week-long work conference in Florida and first learned of her sexual orientation, according to the complaint. She introduced her partner, Dana, and their son, and noticed that the group immediately treated her and her family differently, according to the complaint.
     When she returned to work from the conference, Kwiecinski claims she was given an unreasonable work load and when she asked for help, she was either ignored or told '"well that's the business now, we all have to work bigger jobs,"' according to court papers...
     Following her pregnancy complications and revelation of her sexual orientation, Kwiecinski alleges she was placed on a performance improvement plan that proved impossible. She alleges that this culminated in her wrongful termination in September 2011.
Mars owns Uncle Ben's, Wrigley and various chocolate brands, including M&M's and 3 Musketeers.

American Family Association's own readers don't much like its attack on Tim Tebow

Tebow, endorsing $200-300 headphones
Alvin McEwen at Pam's House Blend noticed that the American Family Association's attack on Tim Tebow is receiving a lot of pushback from its own readers. Tebow "bowed out" of an appearance at Dallas' First Baptist Church, home of screechingly antiGay, antiJew, antiMormon, antiCatholic pastor Robert Jeffres.

Rick Warren, of course, is defending Jeffres:

A CHURCH! Meaning the church of the man below. Nice work, Rick Warren.

But it was a dry snow

Sunny Arizona
20 states were hammered by a Midwest snowstorm which was not as bad as expected.
     ABC reported that 270 Chicago flights were cancelled and that snowfall reached 17 inches in Hays Kan., 13 inches in northern Oklahoma, 13.5 inches in south central Nebraska and 10 inches near Kansas City. The northern Midwest had accumulations more resembling a regular winter system.
     At the University of Missouri, classes were canceled two days in a row, a rarity in the history of the 174-year-old institution.
     On Thursday, students made their way to a local Wal-Mart, specifically the aisles containing sleds and alcohol.
     The snow will do little to alleviate the ongoing Midwest drought, as six inches of snow equals only about an inch of rain.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

AFER explains Supreme Court brief to overturn Prop 8

Perry Respondents' Merits Brief by Chris Geidner

Time, CNN decode a hospital charge list

Related: Who profits from your exorbitant hospital charges?

A hospital's charge list is the outrageous collection of full price charges paid only by the "uneducated, unrepresented or uninsured." Insurance companies negotiate steep "discounts" for their members. Medicare has its own fee schedule. Examples of the inscrutable nomenclature on hospital bills:
Mucous recovery system — tissues
Cough supression device  — Teddy Bear
Oral administration fee — pill cup, identical to a ketchup cup at McDonalds
A hospital Teddy bear can run $120-$190. As for the pill cups, one patient racked up $5,000 in charges for them during her hospital stay.

CNBC probably lied about policy banning guests from appearing on competing networks amid breaking news

Politico exposed CNBC's policy and NPR has apparently busted CNBC's denial:
     Andrew Morse, president of Bloomberg Television's U.S. operations said that, unlike CNBC, Bloomberg doesn't try to dictate who can appear elsewhere
     Politico was first to report the policy last week. CNBC's top spokesman initially denied to Politico that any such explicit policy existed. But a guest interviewed on CNBC earlier this month shared with NPR a copy of an email from a CNBC producer.
     It carried this warning in red:
     "CNBC POLICY REMINDER: Per CNBC policy, we cannot use guests who have a same-day appearance on Fox Business or Bloomberg...By accepting a booking with CNBC, you acknowledge and accept the terms of this policy."