Friday, May 31, 2013

LB385, bill allowing gay foster parents, is weakened but advanced in NE Unicameral

Antigay refusenik, NE State Senator Mark Christensen, who
once introduced a "justifiable homicide" antiabortion statute.
Despite his conservative stance, Christensen has twice tried to
pass legislation limiting the rights of Nebraska landowners.
To keep his bill alive, sponsor Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha had to significantly narrow its scope, which originally would have ended Nebraska's prohibition of openly gay couples or unmarried couples as foster parents.
     The revised bill will only allow gay couples to serve as foster parents if they are relatives or have had a previous "significant" relationship with the minor.
     Nordquist characterized his bill as a “common-sense” policy change recognizing that foster children are better off living with relatives or other people they know.
     On a 5-1 vote, with two senators absent the bill was advanced by the Judiciary Committee and will be taken up in the 2014 legislative session. The sole "nay" vote, predictably, came from Senator Mark Christensen, of Imperial, who has a history of antagonism toward legislation benefiting LGBTs. 
     Christensen said he was concerned that opening this door to gays and lesbians will lead to other changes.
     Nordquist said he will not attempt to broaden LB 385 beyond its current scope.

     But Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he would like to see the Legislature consider doing more to end all discrimination against gays and lesbians.
     “It's coming. It's coming faster in other states,” Ashford said. “We need to have a healthy debate.”
     He called LB 385 “a very, very small step.”

Holy crap! You'd never guess what is hiding behind the facade of this 4-bedroom L.A. home

Matthew Perry bought it in 2011 for $8.5 million and it wasn't overpriced, considering.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

CA Senate votes 27-9 to strip Boy Scouts of tax exemption over antigay bias: 'Not on our watch, not on California's dime'

The bill, introduced by openly gay state senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is called the Youth Equality Act and has become the first LGBT rights bill in the history of the state to pass with a two-thirds majority.
     Towleroad quotes Karen Ocamb at Frontiers: Lara opened his roughly six and a half minute speech on the Senate floor with the Boy Scout pledge and then noted that neither the Girl Scouts, nor the 4-H clubs, nor the Boys & Girls of America nor the YMCA discriminate against gay kids, making them eligible for tax exemption.
     Apart from various tax exemptions, the BSA also holds a Congressional Charter entitling it to privileges other youth organizations do not enjoy; privileges which should probably be reexamined. From Wikipedia:
     The BSA holds a Congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code, which means that it is one of the comparatively rare "Title 36" corporations in the United States.  The 1916 statute of incorporation established this institution amongst a small number of other patriotic and national organizations which are similarly chartered, such as the Girl Scouts of the USA, the American Legion, the Red Cross, Little League Baseball, and the National Academy of Sciences. The federal incorporation was originally construed primarily as an honor, however it does grant the chartered organization some special privileges and rights, including freedom from antitrust and monopoly regulation, and complete control over the organization's symbols and insignia. As example, outside of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, no other youth organizations may use the term "scouts" or "scouting" in their name. The special recognition neither implies nor accords Congress any special control over the BSA, which remains free to function independently.
     Paul Sleman, Colin H. Livingstone, Ernest S. Martin and James E. West successfully lobbied Congress for a federal charter for the BSA–partly as a way to deal with competition from the Lone Scouts of America, which President Woodrow Wilson signed on June 15, 1916. It reads:
That the purpose of this corporation shall be to promote, through organization and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others, to train them in Scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues, using the methods which are now in common use by Boy Scouts.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

No more samesies: the birth of family values

From the Daily What, Philly-based sketch comedy group Iron Potato brings this ancient tale of how "traditional family values" really began.

(Via JoeMyGod)

What state has most liquor stores per capita? Nebraska. And we're #5 in bars

In 2011, the Daily Beast named Omaha the seventh drunkest
city in America. Photo: Delgoff, Flickr
But hey, you can't smoke in any of them because the state is concerned about your health.*
     North Dakota has the most bars per capita, which we attributed to the number of oil industry man camps, but apparently the state's reputation for boozing was earned long before the recent exploitation of shale oil near Williston.
     AKSARBENT was surprised that Wisconsin wasn't atop any lists — until we saw the one naming the metro areas in the U.S. with the most bars per capita (the last column in the chart should have been labeled "people per bar"): every one of the top six was within, or included, parts of Wisconsin (the Duluth MSA includes Superior, WI). In fact, of 29 metro areas listed, Wisconsin single-handedly accounted for 13, almost half.
     It would appear that metro areas in the upper Midwest are MAJOR drunk zones. All of the top 29 cities were in five contiguous states: Nebraska, Iowa, South and North Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
     New York, New Orleans, LA, San Francisco and Boston didn't make the cut. Neither did any city in supposedly hard-drinking Texas. Remarkable.
     Lincoln and Omaha were, respectively, #27 and #21 on the list.
*Loaded CDC studies notwithstanding, the supposition that smokers cost society more in their sprint to the grave than nonsmokers, who take much longer to die and collect far more benefits on the way, is no longer unchallenged, but politicians in Omaha and Lincoln evidently didn't get the memo or their dogs ate it.
     In Omaha, smokers, but not drinkers, are being billed for another round of UNMC empire-building even though as far back as 1989 (before confiscatory increases in tobacco taxes) the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded, in a published study on sin taxes, that smokers more or less covered their "cost" to society, but drinkers did not.

Why has the profile of U of Cincinnati's baseball team risen lately?

Although USA Today acknowledges that the Cincinnati Bearcats college baseball team only finished the season 24-32 (6-18 Big East) it has nevertheless pronounced them the best baseball team on the Sports Internet. The team's strong suit is photobombing postgame interviews like no other. A sampler:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Last Saturday, as many as two million people in 436 cities in 52 countries marched against Monsanto

AntiMonsanto march in San Diego
Also: Is the University of Nebraska whitewashing Bayer culpability in collapse of bee populations?

St. Louis­based Monsanto is certainly one of the most despised corporations on earth.
     Its lobbyists ensured the rejection in the U.S. Senate this week of a bill that would allow states to require labeling of genetically modified foods.
     Earlier this year, French researchers announced results of a study showing that not only did rats doped with Monsanto Roundup weedkiller die prematurely, but even rats who just ate "Roundup Ready" corn (genetically-engineered to be resistant to Monsanto's herbicide) suffered premature deaths.

French rats fed Monsanto's genetically engineered 'Roundup-
Ready' NK603 — a seed variety made tolerant to Monsanto's
Roundup weedkiller — died early: 50% of male and 70% of
female rats died prematurely, compared with only 30% and
20% in the control group, said the researchers.
 From Salon:
     The “March Against Monsanto” movement began just a few months ago, when Canal created a Facebook page on 28 February calling for a rally against the company’s practices. “If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” she said Saturday. Instead, she said, two million responded to her message.
     Together with Seattle blogger and activist Emilie Rensink and Nick Bernabe of, Canal worked with A digital anarchy to promote international awareness of the event. She called the turnout “incredible” and credited social media for being a vehicle for furthering opportunities for activism.

Farmer Jake Conner stands in a field choked by weeds resistant to Roundup.
Forty-nine percent of U.S. farms now report glyphosate-resistant "superweeds."
From 2011 to 2012 the acres with resistance almost doubled in Nebraska,
Iowa, and Indiana.

Marriage News Watch with Matt Baume, 5/27/2013

Catty Catholicism

Here's wannabe petty triumphalism from a church which teaches its adherents that snakes and burning bushes talk, and whose bible advises slaves on correct behavior  rather than condemning the practice.
(Via JoeMyGod)

Sullivan vs. Greenwald: gay heavyweights of the chattering class go after each other over London meat cleaver attack; AKSARBENT is in Greenwald's corner

The he-said-I-said-but-I-didn't started with Andrew Sullivan's unrighteous indignation over Greenwald's Guardian article here. Now Greenwald defends himself in a new piece, Andrew Sullivan, terrorism, and the art of distortion:
     So now we come to what Andrew Sullivan and others told their readers that I argued. Announcing at the start that "I really have to try restrain my anger here", Sullivan quickly accused me of spreading "Islamist propaganda". Arguing that US intervention in the Muslim world both before and after the 9/11 attack was noble and often beneficent - yes, he actually argued that with a straight face - he demands to know of me: "How can that legitimize a British citizen's brutal beheading of a fellow British citizen on the streets of London?" He then added: "The idea that this foul, religious bigotry . . . is some kind of legitimate protest against a fast-ending war is just perverse." He concludes with a real flourish: my "blindness to the savagery at the heart of Salafism", he decrees, "is very hard to understand, let alone forgive".
     That I "legitimated" the London attack or argued it was a "legitimate protest" is as obvious a fabrication as it gets. Not only did I argue no such thing, and not only did I say the exact opposite of what Sullivan and others falsely attribute to me, but I expressly repudiated - in advance - the very claims they try to impose on me. Even vociferous critics of what I wrote, writing in neocon venues, understood this point ("I do find myself wanting to agree with Greenwald in arguing that this is an atrocious murder rather than an act of terror"). Does Sullivan actually think that people who argued that the London attack should not be called "terrorism" (like Chris Hayes), or who pointed out the role played by western aggression in motivating them (like former British soldier Joe Glenton), or who have long warned of "blowback" in the form of such attacks (like the CIA and Pentagon), are remotely arguing that the attack was justified? Sullivan's behavior evinces a blatant inability or refusal to critique what I wrote without distorting it beyond all recognition. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Omaha's surprising wealth

Downtown Omaha from the north. Photo: Patrick Hawks, via Wikipedia.
Anyone who lives here can tell you that Omaha has an unusual amount of money for a city of its size — although the largesse may not be particularly well distributed.
     The revelation of how much money elicits anything from raised eyebrows to gaping disbelief.
     Unlike Texans, Midwesterners aren't notorious for flaunting their loot (Willy Theisen notwithstanding) and flyover money isn't visible from planes.
     But the dough is here, and in 2005, Del Jones of USA Today confirmed the perception.
Omaha has tremendous wealth, industry and influence for being in the middle of nowhere. It ranks eighth among the nation's 50 largest cities in both per-capita billionaires and Fortune 500 companies.
     The article was accompanied by two charts which reveal that Nebraska's largest city had 9.9 Fortune 500 companies per million people, vs. 5.3 for New York City. It had 7.4 billionaires per million people vs. 4.5 for Los Angeles (!), 3.8 for Chicago, 3 for New York and 2.7 for Miami.
     Omaha is said to have at least 100 families worth in excess of $100,000,000 each, many of them early Berkshire-Hathaway investors who rode the Warren Buffett train to Fat City.
     (In 2009, Berkshire-Hathaway actually bought the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad outright for $34 billion. The only U.S. railroad bigger than BNSF, the Union Pacific, is headquartered in... Omaha.)
     Below: Ralph Nader promoting a book at Borsheim's Fine Jewelry, in Omaha's Regency neighborhood. At 62,000+ sq. ft. with 100,000 items in inventory, Borsheims is said to be the largest single-location jewelry store in the world and is where Bill Gates bought Melinda her engagement ring. During his shopping expedition at Borsheim's (by then a Berkshire property), Gates was squired by pal Buffett who, ever the salesman, gave him the following advice about buying a ring:
"Look, Bill, this is none of your business, but when I got married, I spent 6 percent of my net worth on the ring. I don't know how much you love Melinda."
The 300-year-old Indian "Princie" pink diamond, sold
April 16, 2013 by Christie's in New York City.
     In 1994, when Gates bought his engagement ring from Borsheim's, he had just edged out Buffett as the wealthiest American, reckoned by Forbes to be worth $9.35 billion. A ring worth 6% of that would have cost $561 million, a sum more than ten times the cost of any diamond ever sold, before or since.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Your facebook photo is now in a facial recognition database

Apple and Google are doing it too. In Europe, laws restrict this, but in the U.S., corporations can run wild tagging you.

NE GOP Rep. Lee Terry jumps the shark; a brazen new attack on U.S. law — to benefit foreign oil interests

Anthony Swift, in his latest post for the Natural Resources Defense Council staff blog, says that even though Terry's appalling new bill is so politically theatrical that it has almost no chance of becoming law, it still sets a dangerous precedent — the suspension of laws domestic firms must obey, for the exclusive benefit of a non-US corporation.
     AKSARBENT wonders whether this is why Rep. Terry wears an U.S. flag pin on his lapel. Is it his idea of an ironic, in-your-face joke to his constituents, given his reckless and gross betrayal of their — and the U.S.'s —interests?
Proponents of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in the House are pushing forward a measure that would exempt the Canadian pipeline company TransCanada from legal requirements placed on domestic pipeline operators. H.R. 3, or the Northern Route Approval Act, proposed by Representative Terry, is far more extreme than any previous pro-Keystone XL measure considered in the Congress to date. Terry’s bill would thwart a decades old bipartisan process for considering international pipeline applications - a process which the American public is heavily invested after submitting over a million comments detailing the tar sands project's significant environmental impacts. Moreover, in a series of unprecedented provisions, Terry’s bill would exempt the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), permitting requirements for federal rights of way, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. H.R. 3 isn’t a bill to approve Keystone XL. It’s a bill for giving a foreign company special treatment by exempting it from the nation’s most cherished laws protecting public health, welfare and the environment.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bob Dylan to Iowa: Drop dead

There's now a map of every place Bob Dylan ever sang about in one of his songs! But neither Iowa nor any city, town or village in the Hawkeye state made the cut. Are we to infer that the great folk-rock poet couldn't think of rhymes for Correctionville, Grundy Center or Ottumwa?

AT&T just added a new Mobility Administration Fee to its customers' bills

Parody of AT&T's "Deathstar" emblem
You know what they say: Nothing is certain in life but death, taxes — and hidden fees. Consumerist has taken a suspicious look at this:
     AT&T claims it’s necessary to help “defray certain expenses AT&T incurs, including but not limited to: (a) charges AT&T or its agents pay to interconnect with other carriers to deliver calls from AT&T customers to their customers; and (b) charges associated with cell site rents and maintenance.”
     An AT&T spokesperson defends the new charge by telling CNET it’s ”consistent with similar fees charged by other carriers.” To that end, Sprint and Verizon charge $1.50 and 90-cent administrative fees, respectively.
     Some readers are wondering, and appropriately so, whether this surcharge will allow them to get out of their AT&T contracts without an ETF. It doesn’t seem so, as Consumerist reader Eli writes that the common response to that question has been that because it’s a fee and not a rate change, it doesn’t count.
     He says he was told by the Death Star itself: “The rate for the service is the same, i.e., if it was $69 a month before, it’s still $69 now. There’s just a new fee, which isn’t the same thing as a higher rate.”

Who says you can't make money in casinos?

On March 6th, 2009, a share of Sands stock was $1.77; barely three years later, on April 13, 2012, that share was worth $60.76, over 34 times as much.

Ray Manzarek, Doors keyboardist, dead at 74 earlier this week in Germany of bile duct cancer; here he explains how the group painstakingly constructed Light My Fire

In 1998 Manzarek visited NPR's Fresh Aire and explained to Terry Gross how the Doors carefully, methodically and collaboratively built the music and lyrics for their rock classic Light My Fire, brick by musical brick. Below: a live version of the chestnut.
      30s film siren Mae West, born in 1893, liked Light My Fire so much she recorded it at age 79.

Madison Avenue decides ripped male underwear models are so yesterday

Video here.

The New York Times eavesdrops on a conference hashing over the latest ad campaign for 2(x)ist, a fashion-forward underwear brand:
  • “We are going for something a little more statuesque, and a little less steroid-y.”
  • “We are giving the models an identity, so they are not just a piece of meat.”
  • “We are taking the focus off the crotch shots.”
  • It should be emphasized, right up front, that 2(x)ist is a company that has long held a strict “no stuffing” policy when it comes to advertisements.

Atlantic: what straights can learn from gay marriage

From Liz Mundy's feature, The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss.

     ...But what if the critics are correct, just not in the way they suppose? What if same-sex marriage does change marriage, but primarily for the better?
     ...Same-sex spouses, who cannot divide their labor based on preexisting gender norms, must approach marriage differently than their heterosexual peers. From sex to fighting, from child-rearing to chores, they must hammer out every last detail of domestic life without falling back on assumptions about who will do what. In this regard, they provide an example that can be enlightening to all couples. Critics warn of an institution rendered “genderless.” But if a genderless marriage is a marriage in which the wife is not automatically expected to be responsible for school forms and child care and dinner preparation and birthday parties and midnight feedings and holiday shopping, I think it’s fair to say that many heterosexual women would cry “Bring it on!”

Friday, May 24, 2013

No, you won't be able to beam yourself up,
like they do on Star Trek, anytime soon

Physicist Frank Heile, explains to Quora why teleportation ain't happenin'
...the data for the scan of one human would require at least 10,000 times the total storage of all the data stored on Earth right now.
     The total traffic on the entire World Wide Web/Internet was about 27,000 petabytes per month in 2011 (see Internet traffic). At that rate, it would take more than 3 million years to transmit the bits needed to specify the positions of all the atoms in the body (see 10^28 bits/(27,000 petabytes/month)).
      Even if you can store and transmit this data and then store it again at the destination, you still have the problem of scanning the original body and constructing the final body. The scanning of the body will probably have to be destructive since you need to essentially take the body apart to get to the inner atoms of the body. So you had better be able to do the scanning in a very short period of time or the person will die during the scanning operation and you will end up reconstructing a dead person at the destination. Finally, you cannot take a long time to construct the body at the destination since the early parts you construct will die while you are finishing the construction of the later parts. It is safe to say that this method of teleportation is for all practical purposes impossible.

Band of Thebes rounds up four books on gay cinema

Go here.

Kaiser Permanente broke Oregon law, tested 6,500 for HIV without their knowledge or consent and won't delete the records

Nick Budnick of The Oregonian reports that Kaiser Permanente Northwest is apologizing to nearly 6,500 members whose blood was tested for the virus without their knowledge or consent in an apparent violation of state law, but says that in spite of patient complaints, the test records won't be deleted.

     Kaiser Permanente's policy follows a federal recommendation last month to test virtually all adults for HIV, as long as they're given the chance to decline it. Kaiser started with patients ages 50-65, but neglected to inform many of them, according to the health system.  
     Last year, in an effort to increase screening rates, the Oregon Legislature lessened the consent requirements for HIV tests, saying patients could be informed in writing, rather than verbally as previously required. The law requires a chance to opt out, and allows for people to sue if not given that chance.
     David Fidanque  of the ACLU of Oregon says the Kaiser misstep would never have happened if not for the new law. Now the notification and option to decline can be buried in screenings' fine print.

(Via Rod 2.0)

Another NE GOP child care fiasco: HHS spokesman blames Johanns, Heineman appointees for improperly claimed federal funds; cost to state: about $3,000,000

Mike Johanns (l.) and Dave Heineman
From Nebraska Watchdog:
...The feds have recommended HHS refund them all $3 million and develop policies to properly monitor the program.
     HHS spokesman Russ Reno said “this situation” developed between 2004 and 2008 and the staff responsible during that time are no longer with the department...
Nancy Montanez was appointed head of HHS by then-Gov. Mike Johanns in 2004; in December of 2006, Gov. Heineman appointed Christine Z. Peterson of Grand Island to serve as the first Chief Executive Officer of the Nebraska Health and Human Services System (HHSS). She lasted until 1/2/2009, at which point Heineman left the position vacant for six months before appointing Kerry Winterer to the post on July 13, 2009.

Why HRC gave Berkshire-Hathaway a zero for the way it treats LGBT employees and job applicants

Related: How other well-known Omaha-based corporations fared in HRC's report

Below is a partial list compiled by Human Rights Campaign of Berkshire-Hathaway brands and products. Missing are subsidiaries like See's Candy, Clayton Manufactured Homes and HomeServices of America, a real estate firm.

Brands & Products

Acme Boot
Fruit of the Loom
H.H. Brown Shoe Company
Justin Brands
Russell Athletics
Benjamin Moore
Jordan's Furniture
Nebraska Furniture Mart
R.C. Willey Home Furnishings
Shaw Industries
Star Furniture Company
The Pampered Chef
Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group
Burlington Northern
General Re
McLane Company
Mid American
Dairy Queen
Orange Julius

Policies and Benefits

Policy Description

Non-discrimination policy includes sexual orientation

Non-discrimination policy includes gender identity and/or expression

Company-provided domestic partner health insurance (including parity in spousal and partner COBRA, dental, vision and domestic partners legal dependent coverage)

Parity in spousal/partner soft benefits (bereavement leave; supplemental life insurance; relocation assistance; adoption assistance; joint/survivor annuity; pre-retirement survivor annuity; retiree healthcare benefits; employee discounts)

Offers equal health coverage for transgender individuals without exclusion for medically necessary care

Organizational LGBT cultural competency (diversity trainings, resources or accountability measures)

Company-supported LGBT employee resource group or firm-wide diversity council that includes LGBT issues, OR would support a LGBT employee resource group with company resources if employees expressed an interest

Engages in appropriate and respectful advertising and marketing or sponsors LGBT community events, organizations, or legislative efforts

Engages in action that would undermine the goal of LGBT equality

Final Rating

Iowa man who has taught more Boy Scouts than just about anyone alive supports gay scout inclusion

Related: Nebraska/Iowa reaction to partial lifting of Boy Scouts gay ban.

Over 400 million Boy Scout Handbooks have been published; the last three editions (10, 11 & 12) were written by Robert Birkby, a native of Sidney, Iowa, who also authored the BSA Fieldbook (4th edition) and the Eagle Scouts Centennial History.
Boy Scout books written by Robert Birkby: (Left to right) Editions 10, 11 and 12 of the
Boy Scout Handbook, Edition 4 of the Fieldbook, Centennial history of Eagle Scouts.
     In 2010 Birkby was given one of the BSA's rarest awards, the William T. Hornaday Gold Award, for conservation.
     The Omaha World-Herald today reports that he supports the BSA decision to include gay boys.
Birkby said the organization will eventually be entirely inclusive. And that's a good thing, he said. “My main focus has always been that Scouts is an organization for all boys,” he said.

NE, IA reaction to partial lifting of Boy Scouts gay ban

In the Omaha World-Herald:
     "I ran two Cub Scout groups for over 19 years back in the 1960s and never, I say never, turned away anyone. Scouting is a good thing for all. There are a lot of boys today who go to school with other kids who are gay and they get along fine playing baseball or softball or whatever. As long as people obey the rules, things are fine. So, why should this hurt the Boy Scouts of America?"
— Dennis Bullaro, former Omaha Cub Scout leader
In the Des Moines Register:
     “Today’s vote ending discrimination of gay Scouts is truly a historic moment and demonstrates the Boy Scouts of America’s commitment to creating a more inclusive organization,” Zach Wahls, an Iowa Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality, said in a statement.
     ...Scott Russell, a former Scout and a leader in Ankeny for more than a decade, said in April that he would leave the organization if the policy changed, “with a tear in my eye.”
     On Thursday, Russell said he will join a coalition of parents who are planning to organize a new youth program in line with their beliefs.
In the Lincoln Journal-Star:
     Foster Collins, a local assistant scoutmaster in Lincoln who has pushed for an end to the ban on gay scouts and scout leaders, said he now would like to see the Boy Scouts take the next step.
     “It’s a good start,” he said. “This won't do anything to lessen the pressure to end the ban on gay scout leaders because everyone has to see the irony that it's OK to be a gay Boy Scout, but as soon as you reach the age of 18, you're kicked out.”
In the Sioux City Journal:
     A policy about sexual orientation doesn’t belong in Boy Scouts, according to Jeff Neary. The organization’s decision Thursday to lift the ban on openly gay members brought bittersweet resolve to the assistant Scout master and district court judge in Le Mars, Iowa.
     Gay adults will remain barred from serving as Scout leaders, and Neary said that policy continues to single people out.
     “We’re sending mixed messages this way,” Neary said. “I’m glad they’ve lifted the restriction for the boys … it’s a step in the right direction. I don’t think it goes far enough.”
JoeMyGod has reaction from LGBT organizations here followed by  this trenchant, but pertinent comment by "Mike," a reader:
     Gee, awfully nice of NGLTF to issue a press release considering they did absolutely nothing to make this happen. This happened largely because one extremely smart and self-motivated young man — Zach Wahls — took the bull by the horns and started going after BSA's corporate sponsors. Zach confronted them with their own anti-discrimination policies and demanded to know why they were violating their own corporate principles. One by one they dropped the BSA - Intel, Verizon, UPS and on and on. And then suddenly there was a newfound interest on the part of the BSA to rethink its policies.
     I wonder why the so-called "Task Force" didn't think to do any of this. Maybe a quarter of a million dollars in salary for their Executive Director isn't enough to prod creative thinking.

Behind the Candelabra gets sent up by Funny or Die

(Via Towleroad)

Divided Kiss Cam loyalties

(Via Buzzfeed)

AKSARBENT's DIY Pizza tips

If the instructions say to coat the crust with olive oil, do not fail to do this.

If the instructions say 5-7 minutes, do not leave it in the oven for 10, because you needed to finish reading something on the Internet. Not only will the Internet still be there when you return from the stove, it will have grown by several million web pages. Your pizza, on the other hand, may have shrunk.

Do not attempt, by adding some spaghetti sauce, to resuscitate a pizza you rendered dessicated by ignoring the above instructions.

Culinary integrity will not be mocked by your half-assed do-overs.

P.S. Neglecting to add "fresh basil leaves" doesn't matter in the slightest.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kmart follows it's "Ship My Pants" ad with another juvenile play on words

Here's the best YouTube comment, and don't think the new Kmart wouldn't stoop that low:

(Via JMG reader Ray)

New Alexander Payne film, Nebraska debuts at Cannes film festival

Here's an outrageous scene with SNL's Will Forte and veteran character actor Bruce Dern (looking excruciatingly hot sporting a BandAid and Nick Nolte hair — but Nolte is from Omaha, so it all makes sense.)
     Nebraska tourism hucksters are going to LOVE this film! Who wouldn't want to visit the friendly inhabitants of the Cornhusker State after seeing this?

Here are nine other hotly anticipated films:

Warren Buffett's Berkshire-Hathaway ranked worst large Omaha firm for gay employees, job applicants; rating: 0% — most other top Omaha firms also flunked

Related: Why did HRC score Berkshire-Hathaway so low?
Left to right: Peter Kiewit Sons and Berkshire-Hathaway (both headquarters are in the same building),
Union Pacific and Mutual of Omaha (decked out for an over-the-top promotion of a 2008
U.S. Olympic swim trial that Mutual sponsored; the 2012 hype was even more outlandish.)
The well-known Omaha corporations whose headquarters are pictured above, all flunked the 2013 Corporate Equality Index ratings released by Human Rights Campaign (HRC),  the country's preeminent gay rights organiza­tion. That study evaluated how America's leading corporations treat their gay employees and job applicants. You can read the whole thing here, with an explanation of HRC's methodology.
ConAgra: almost as good to gay employees as Berkshire is bad
     Notably absent from HRC's rankings was Omaha's huge brokerage firm, TD Ameritrade, whose founder Joe Ricketts, and son, Peter, have a nasty habit of bankrolling antigay GOP politicians like U.S. Senator Deb Fischer and state senator Beau McCoy.
     Here are the rankings for several internationally-renowned companies based in Omaha:
ConAgra: 95
Kutak Rock LLP: 90 (law firm)
Mutual of Omaha: 60
Union Pacific: 55
Peter Kiewit Sons: 15 (construction)
Berkshire-Hathaway: 0
     AKSARBENT is less than surprised at the abysmal rating of gigantic Berkshire Hathaway, whose founder, Warren Buffett, finds the prospect of even joking about being gay offensive.
     GEICO, a Berkshire company, once engaged as a commercial spokesman Charlie Daniels, the only singer we can think of to chart a top 10 record in the United States referring to gay people as "fags" and then to have released a followup which heaped even more of his redneck abuse at the same targets. (Good choice, GEICO, especially when Progressive has run at least one television ad with two males obviously intended to be perceived as a gay couple.)

     The Daniels records in question were his 1973 smash "Uneasy Rider" (skip to 3:17 here) and the sequel, "Uneasy Rider '88," which contained the following lyrics:
But this funny looking feller kept coming on
And he was making me mad with some of the things he said
Then he put his hand on my knee
I said if you don't get your paw off me
I'm gonna locate your nose around
The other side of your head
     AKSARBENT has a hard time picturing, even back in 1988, the scenario of Charlie Daniels being hit on by dudes as anything other than a fantasy of poetic license.
     In April [of 2010], GEICO fired gay gay supportive voice-over actor Lance Baxter, aka D.C. Douglas, best known for his "save up to 15%" tags on GEICO commercials, after a voicemail he left for Dick Armey's astroturf group FreedomWorks was widely circulated in the right-wing blogosphere. (Rule #1: If your voice is on commercials heard by millions of people, use email, not voicemail, when you're pissed off.)
     Baxter was incensed by what he considered to be rampant racism and homophobia among Tea Party members. Baxter's home phone number was subsequently posted on Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Another inept reporter question in wake of OK tornado: Wolf Blitzer asks atheist if she "thanked the lord"

(Via Towleroad)

CBS didn't escape unscathed either.

Antigay Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson, at the center of exploding Michele Bachmann campaign scandal

Iowa Republican
As Iowa authorities drag their feet in investigating the Michele Bachmann / Kent Sorenson scandal, the FEC and FBI are looking are looking harder at possible criminal activity by the two.
     Sorenson accepted concealed monthly payments of $7,500, trying to dodge a state ethics rule prohibiting that. The Iowa Senate still has not disciplined him and has now passed responsibility to a special prosecutor (see video).
    Three months ago, Sorenson helped sponsor another constitutional amendment to kill marriage equality, as well as any prospect of civil unions and domestic partnerships in Iowa, even though Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has vowed never to let such legislation come to a vote.
    Sorenson is also alleged to have either stolen or orchestrated and abetted the theft of an emailed list of Iowa Home Schooler supporters. The Urbandale Police Department has been "investigating" that for months.
The three-count complaint against Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson, who sits on the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee, was filed by former Michele Bachmann presidential campaign staffer Peter Waldron.
     The Senate Ethics Committee, a bipartisan group of six that deliberated for 30 minutes, dismissed the money laundering charge for lack of evidence and said it wasn't "appropriate for the Senate Ethics Committee to insert themselves into ongoing litigation" in the alleged theft charge of a homeschooling database still being investigated by the Urbandale PD. Said alleged theft is the subject of a lawsuit by Barb Heki, who has accused Sorenson of complicity in the data's unauthorized duplication.
     Only Sen. Joe Seng, D-Davenport voted against delaying action on the two and dismissing the one complaint.
He said a better option would have been to ask the Iowa Supreme Court to open an investigation into the allegations.
     “It wasn’t a presumption of innocence or guilt,” Seng said. “The (investigation) seemed a more, better alternative where a Supreme Court justice could give us a reason to see if there was a probable cause for this to go forward.”
Actually, Sorenson may be getting smarter about committing crimes than he was when he was busted for delivering drugs:
Eric Woolsen, the former manager of Bachmann's Iowa campaign, filed an affidavit in February claiming that Sorenson admitted he had "stood watch" while Heki's email list was stolen. In May, Chris Dorr, Sorenson's legislative clerk, filed an affidavit in which he admitted to downloading an email list from Heki's computer that may have been the list of home-school advocates.

Heterosexual problems: cuckolded in Brazil

One of the jeerers on the street yelled "cornudo." (Google "cornudo translated into English.")
     The husband, according to the Daily Mail, was yelling, "Whose shirt is this?"
     At first, AKSARBENT thought for sure this was shot in Italy, but we were wrong. Our mistake is certainly understandable.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Copper Beach Mansion in Greenwich, CT now is costliest home for sale in USA — $190 million

What the listing says:

Single-family home is rather a misnomer for this estate, as it consists of so much more than just the home itself- a 13,519 square foot French-renaissance mansion with 12 bedrooms, seven full baths, two half baths, library, solarium, wine cellar and entire floor for staff.  Special features include 12-foot ceilings, multiple carved fireplaces and balconies, plus huge windows and glassed-in porches for taking in the panoramic Long Island Sound view.
     The property straddles 50 acres spread over two islands, and outdoor features include a 75 foot pool with spa and pool house, grass tennis court, stone carriage house and guest cottage, plus abundant rolling lawns and gardens.

What the listing does not say:

Whether the WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER unceremoniously bolted to the exterior of the grand entrance to this luxe property stays. Be sure to ask the listing agent, won't you Muffy? If not, dispatch Jeeves to pick up a replacement at Sears.

Gay marriage already starting to affect MN economy

White on asphalt,
combed cotton.


Zack Ford (see comments) who works for ThinkProgress in Washington D.C. and who is nobody's fool, informs us that these shirts may be the product of an Iowa Company — not a Minnesota firm — which makes this story all the more sinister.
     It would appear that desperation is in the air as Iowa entrepreneurs find their exclusive midwest marriage equality franchise beseiged by legislative actions in Minnesota and possibly Illinois.
     These shirts may represent a clever, but last-ditch effort to salvage a diminishing amount of coin left on the midwest marriage equality T-Shirt table, just as this addition to AKSARBENT's post may represent a last-ditch effort to salvage blog credibility without actually changing a now-dubious headline.

OK tornado victim finds her dog during CBS interview

The best part of the piece was when the CBS reporter said: "Are you able to comprehend what happened here?" To which the elderly woman responded: "I know exactly what happened here!"
     Not so much the dazed and confused dog...

Daily Beast's Peter Beinart excoriates Matt Drudge
et al., for 'disgusting' response to Obama's
Morehouse commencement speech

Beinart noted that Matt Drudge manufactured a headline quote that President Obama didn't say, but that wasn't the worst of it.
In other words, Obama gave exactly the kind of tough-love, individual-responsibility speech that conservatives claim African-American liberals don’t give. The students at Morehouse responded with thunderous applause. Drudge and Boyle responded by calling Obama a whiny race-baiter. Makes you wonder whether maybe, just maybe, they’re less interested in the black poor than in using their plight to demonize black political leaders.

Sens. Levin, McCain explain how Apple dodged taxes on $44 billion in income; Google, Facebook and Microsoft use similar strategies

The chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Levin, and the subcommittee's Ranking Minority Member, Senator John McCain, have released a memo explaining how Apple, which already outsources to China most of the jobs required to build its products, also avoids taxes on tens of billions of dollars in sales.

     The hearing will examine how Apple Inc., a U.S. multinational corporation, has used a variety of offshore structures, arrangements, and transactions to shift billions of dollars in profits away from the United States and into Ireland, where Apple has negotiated a special corporate tax rate of less than two percent. One of Apple’s more unusual tactics has been to establish and direct substantial funds to offshore entities in Ireland, while claiming they are not tax residents of any jurisdiction. For example, Apple Inc. established an offshore subsidiary, Apple Operations International, which from 2009 to 2012 reported net income of $30 billion, but declined to declare any tax residence, filed no corporate income tax return, and paid no corporate income taxes to any national government for five years. A second Irish affiliate, Apple Sales International, received $74 billion in sales income over four years, but due in part to its alleged status as a non-tax resident, paid taxes on only a tiny fraction of that income.
      In addition, the hearing will examine how Apple Inc. transferred the economic rights to its intellectual property through a cost sharing agreement with its own offshore affiliates, and was thereby able to shift tens of billions of dollars offshore to alow tax jurisdiction and avoid U.S. tax. Apple Inc. then utilized U.S. tax loopholes, including the so-called “check-the-box” rules, to avoid U.S. taxes on $44 billion in taxable offshore income over the past four years, or about $10 billion in tax avoidance per year.

Google sheltered even more — $60 billion. Facebook and Microsoft also have aggressive tax avoidance strategies.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The only way to flick dandelion pods

Disclaimer: This is a joke. AKSARBENT condemns pyromania by people of all sexual orientations. Except where dandelions are concerned. Speaking of which, in our neighborhood, a Bic wouldn't begin to solve the problem. You'd need napalm and helicopters.

Video of two-mile-wide E4 tornado that killed at least 51 in Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb

Left: map of the tornado's path, released by the National weather service. An E4 is the second most powerful tornado classification, with winds of 166-200 mph.
     Fox News reports that OU Medical Center spokesman Scott Coppenbarger said his hospital and a nearby children's hospital are treating approximately 85 patients, including 65 children, whose injuries range from minor to critical.
Integris Southwest Medical Center spokeswoman Brooke Cayot said 10 of 37 patients being treated at that facility Monday are listed in critical condition. Twelve are in serious and 15 others are listed in fair or good condition.

Animated text short about typography

Nowadays all the smart kids (and Google) have renamed animated text "Kinetic Typography" and use Adobe After Effects to hammer the eyes of their audience with Type Gone Wild.
     Here, thankfully, we just see stop motion, although AKSARBENT wonders why the creator of this short seems to think printing started in the West. Also, no mention of one of the greatest fonts ever created with perhaps the best letterfit of all — Garamond.
     Still, a nice introduction to and overview of type.

(Via Towleroad)

Now mayor-elect Jean Stothert says she won't push for a repeal of Omaha's gay rights ordinance after all

Note: To those of you sent here from Towleroad who are wondering whether it's "Sothert" or "Stothert," it's the latter. Andy Towle misspelled it because AKSARBENT had a typo in our headline when he created the link. Our fault.

If this weren't a gay-centric blog worried about being taken the wrong way, we'd say "Oh, for the love of Mike..."
     Progressive Oasis brought to our attention that Mayor-elect Stothert just gave an interview to KOIL's popular Omaha right-wing radio host, Tom Becka, in which she claims that charges she intended to push for a repeal of Omaha's gay rights ordinance weren't true... "none of it..."
     Becka: It wasn't just the police and fire unions. The gay and lesbian groups, bisexual and transgender were all against you also, too; there was some real activity on this and some things that I thought, you know, that made it sound like you were a homophobe, that you were against the gay people and issues like that. Ah, how did that get started and indeed — is any of that true?
     Stothert: Those were the charges, and no, none of it is true... Now that it is an ordinance, my job as mayor is to make sure all city ordinances are carried out and I will do that with this ordinance and I have no plan to try to repeal it.
     Really? The Suttle campaign accused Sothert of wanting to repeal the ordinance, Stothert featured an antigay activist in her television ads who both testified against the ordinance and is a leader in the group collecting signatures to repeal it AND his organization printed a voter's guide saying Stothert would help repeal the ordinance, and now — after the election — Stothert says none of it was true?

     Maybe the whole thing was just a dream...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Kickstarter campaign for exceptional antiKeystone XL documentary only a few bucks short of $50,000, but deadline is tomorrow

The kickstarter website address
for this project is here.
(Via @janekleeb)

SNL's Stefon send-off: a 'Graduate' homage in which Anderson Cooper gets beat up

For you youngins who missed the allusion, here's the original:

We at AKSARBENT totally approve of the gay co-opting of The Graduate (which, with Bonnie & Clyde represents the best American cinema of the 60s) because its director, Mike Nichols (Diane Sawyer's husband), once said, cattily, "The love that could not speak its name has become the love that won't shut up."
     Graduate trivia: the wedding was filmed at a Santa Barbara church whose pastor freaked out at how hard Dustin Hoffman was beating on the window; he was told to ratchet it down. The awkwardness on the bus was due in part to the fact that Nichols let the camera run a while without yelling "Cut!"
     More trivia: Ann Bancroft's role-of-a-lifetime in The Graduate was first offered to Doris Day(!), who turned it down because she thought it would be bad for her image. 
     Two degrees of separation between The Graduate and Brokeback Mountain: decades after Katharine Ross played Elaine Robinson in The Graduate, she played Lilian Thurman, the shrink in Donnie Darko, which starred Jake Gyllenhaal, who played Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain.
     Below, from Donnie Darko: "...And I burnt down that pervert's house! I only have a few days left before they catch me." 


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Andrew Sullivan proves he is the other side of the Peggy Noonan coin

Lady Noonington has a problem with forests and trees.
It's really not her fault. I think she's incapable of
understanding her own opinions, because
they aren't really hers to begin with.
—David in Toronto
(Via JMG)
Former W apologist Andrew Sullivan finds W defender and GOP media spinner/ex-Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan to have been "simply unhinged" from the first sentence of her column published yesterday:
We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate.
Sullivan goes on...
Can she actually believe this? Has this president broken the law, lied under oath, or authorized war crimes? Has he traded arms for hostages with Iran? Has he knowingly sent his cabinet out to tell lies about his sex life? Has he sat by idly as an American city was destroyed by a hurricane? Has he started a war with no planning for an occupation? Has he started a war based on a lie, and destroyed the US’ credibility and moral standing while he was at it, leaving nothing but a smoldering and now rekindled civil sectarian war?
...concluding with this remarkable remark:
So far as I can tell, this president has done nothing illegal, unethical or even wrong.
From where we stand, Sullivan needs to look a bit harder, even if that means nothing more strenuous than subscribing to Glenn Greenwald's twitter feed.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Who knew? Oprah Winfrey, worth about $2.8 billion, is $200 million poorer than Seinfeld actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Dreyfus, though quite well off from her stint on Seinfeld, is also an heiress of one of the five richest extended families in France. Yeah, Dreyfus of the shipping/investment/oil & gas dynasties. That Dreyfus. From Wikipedia:
The company was founded in 1851, in Alsace, by Leopold Louis-Dreyfus, who developed a fortune while still teenager, through cross-border cereal trading. He rapidly diversified across shipping, weapons manufacturing, agriculture, oil and banking, thus establishing one of the wealthiest dynasties in Europe. His descendents still own the company to this day. By the early 20th century, the Louis-Dreyfus family were described as one of the "five great fortunes of France". However, as a Jewish family, during the Second World War, many of their assets were confiscated by the Vichy government and some members of the family fled to America.
     Leopold Louis-Dreyfus's great-grandson, Gérard Louis-Dreyfus was chairman of Louis Dreyfus Energy Services, a subsidiary of the group involved in crude-oil trading, gas investments and infrastructure. Gérard is also the father of American actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Another branch of the dynasty, based in Paris, was headed, until his death in 2009, by Robert Louis-Dreyfus (who was also the CEO of Adidas). It is currently overseen by Margarita Louis-Dreyfus. A third-branch of the family is headed by Philippe Louis-Dreyfus (born 1945), concerned primarily with offshore industrial activities, and freight-shipping operations.