Monday, September 30, 2013

San Francisco's Nebraska bar: Final Final

Image: Google
We at AKSARBENT were aware that Doug Simmons, an Omaha boy, wrote for and then edited New York's (and the nation's) premiere alternative weekly, the Village Voice, but were not aware that its San Francisco counterpart was also directly tied to Nebraska.
     Bruce Brugmann, an NU alumnus who was sports editor of the Rag (Daily Nebraskan) and is now editor-at-large of the [San Francisco] Bay Guardian, which he cofounded with his wife, Jean Dibble, reminisced recently in his blog about NU football before Devaney and Osborne, and then introduced his readers to the Nebraska hangout in San Francisco, Final Final (yes, it's a sports bar) across from the Presidio.
The bar is real Nebraska. It is owned by Arnie Prien, who comes from Lyons, Nebraska, and graduated from the university in 1964.  He has been running Final Final for the past 36 years and loyally broadcasts Nebraska football games every Saturday on his premier giant screen.
     Although the post did not mention gay sports fans (gays are assumed to be part of everything in San Francisco, so no need) the ensuing comments immediately focused on whether or not college sports are sexist and homophobic, whether gays should be sheeple beholden to sports hegemony in America, whether gays return the bonhomie of sports-minded straights, etc., etc., ad nauseum.
     We remember reading a long time ago that whenever two cars crashed in Rome (a not uncommon occurrence) the scene immediately became a shouting match between drivers, and soon, of opposing groups of Christian Democrats and Communists.
     The comments to Brugmann's piece reminded us of that. Below, a sample. (Disclaimer: AKSARBENT thinks that paragraph 1 is a generalization and doesn't quite buy the "nonwhite" premise, doesn't know if graf 2 is true or not, but totally agrees with 3, 4 and 5.)
The most bigoted groups are often subgroups of minorities.
     Blacks and hispanics hate each other, but reserve special venom for asians for proving that being non-whites isn't a disadvantage.
     In the transgender community, the M2F postops look down on the M2F preops, and refuse to share the same bathroom with them.
     Progressives routinely splinter into factions that hate each other more than they hate conservatives.
     And in gay bars, the femme guys who hate sports evidently look down on the butch guys who like sports.
     The idea that San Francisco is tolerant is a myth. San Francisco is tribal and you hate anyone not in your tribe.
 Hey, if you can't get to Rome, try Baghdad by the Bay!

U.S. figure skaters Gracie Gold and Evan Lysacek refuse to criticize Russian antiLGBT law; only Ashley Wagner speaks up

If Vlad Putin didn't intimidate U.S. figure skaters, the IOC and the USOC certainly did.
     In Park City, Utah, today, skaters at the U.S. Olympic Committee media summit were asked about the draconian antiLGBT legislation recently passed in Russia.
     Only one of the three skaters quoted by the L.A. Times supported LGBTs: Ashley Wagner, who said, mildly: "For me, [the law] is not something I personally agree with."
     Lysacek and Gold punted without uttering a syllable of support for LGBT athletes.
     Perhaps Gold and Lysacek are a) homophobic, b) apathetic, c) compliant tools of the IOC and/or USOC or d) worried that Russian figure skating judges may already be starting to keep score.

David Mixner: NJ Gov. Christie a 'total coward' on marriage equality

Photo via
Mixner, a political strategist and civil rights activist of long standing, did not hide his disdain for the gap between Christie's claimed fealty to the will of the people of New Jersey in respect of voting on gay civil rights and his contradictory willingness to override that will, as measured in public opinion polling, via the exercise of his veto power. 
     He has already vetoed marriage equality once after it had passed the state legislature. The polls show that the people of New Jersey want marriage equality by two to one margin. Those number have been consistent for months.
     Christie's leadership? He wants a ballot issue that will cost millions and millions of dollars, divide the state and allow voters to vote on the rights of other Americans. He has been a total coward on this issue.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Warren Buffett tweets a photo of himself as Walter White, but no meth dealer ever took $802,000,000
from the tax base of a town of 40,000

Warren Buffett just tweeted a picture of himself in Walter White drag, but not even the most ruthless of meth dealers ever accomplished what his Berkshire Hathaway (HRC score: zero) unit, Nebraska Furniture Mart, did earlier this year when it wrangled economic incentives approaching a billion dollars from a small city near Dallas, The Colony, in exchange for building one new store.
     According to Matthew Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, $802 million in economic incentives is 15 times the city's annual budget; roads, utility upgrades and a parking garage by themselves will run $291 million.
     NFM also will get up to $261 million to offset some of the store's building expenses. This despite the fact that retail jobs are some of the worst paying. Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First, wonders why a city should subsidize retail and "give away your tax base for years," since "retail will take care of itself."
     Which means that stores always follow growing populations, with or without incentives.
     NFM has promised to employ about 2,000 people, but only 850 will be full-time jobs.
     Robert Bland, chairman of the Department of Public Administration at the University of North Texas, wondered about incentives punishing previously existing businesses which have paid their full share of taxes and will now be gaining a major competitor.

Breaking Bad, tragic story of small businessman crushed by Obamacare, draws to a close

Guess Lee Terry was right and AKSARBENT was wrong!

Mother Jones: 'Corporate farming' barely exists

Photo: Alan Light via Flickr
Very few farms are actually owned by agribusiness behemoths, but that doesn't mean the corporate giants aren't calling the tune to which farmers must dance:
     ...Why is the perception of "corporate farming" so widespread when actually almost all of the country's food is being grown or raised by family-owned operations?
     It might have something to do with the fact that corporate agribusiness is indeed very real—it's just that it has carved out the most profitable parts of food production for itself, while leaving the dirty, uncertain work of farming for others.
     The reality is that farming itself is generally a terrible business. There's much more—and much easier—money to be made by selling farmers the raw materials of their trade—like seeds, fertilizer, or livestock feed. And there's also plenty of money in buying farmers' output cheap (say, corn or hogs) and selling it dear (as, say, pork chops or high-fructose corn syrup). In his excellent 2004 book Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization, Richard Manning pungently describes the situation:
A farm scholar once asked an agribusiness executive when his corporation would simply take over the farms. The exec said that it would be dumb for the corporation to do so, in that it is not free to exploit its employees to the degree that farmers are willing to exploit themselves.
Tomorrow, in Mother Jones, Tom Philpott will explain "just how tough it is for farmers caught between the huge corporate suppliers and the huge corporate buyers."

Google this, you AstraZeneca/Proctor and Gamble/
Prilosec whore

Please don't misinterpret us. We like Lincoln, NE (area) resident Dan Whitney (a.k.a. Larry the Cable Guy) a lot, except for the fact that he is a crass, vulgar sexist who recycles rancid, moldy jokes because no original thought could flourish inside his arid, rock-strewn skull. No one is perfect and we're not here to judge.

How Fox News makes you more ignorant: Obamacare edition

(Via JoeMyGod)

The Last Three Minutes

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Serbia caves to antigay thugs for third year in a row

The Serbian government has banned (after first approving it) a gay pride parade for the third consecutive year, blaming threats from right-wing groups, but insisting, in the words of the country's deputy prime minister Aleksander Vucic, that "hooligans have not defeated the state."
     EU envoy for Serbia Jelko Kacin says it was the "wrong decision at a wrong time."
     After learning of the ban, hundreds of proLGBT Serbians marched on the office of the country's prime minister.

Straight Jersey boy, Joe Leone, gives Barilla the boot; pasta la vista, after 20 years, over CEO's LGBT insult

Joe Leone
What stronzo Guido Barilla doesn't understand: it's not the 2-4% of LGBTs you have to worry about, it's all their friends and relatives. To whit:
     ...Leone, the owner of Italian specialty shops in Point Pleasant Beach and Sea Girt, vowed on Friday to cut ties with the Italy-based company after a two-decade relationship. Leone has a wife, but said he has friends and employees who are homosexual.
      So when Barilla’s pasta baron, Guido Barilla, said in a television interview that a same-sex family does not represent his idea of a “classic” family, Leone took umbrage.
     “We are a family here at Joe Leone’s,” he said. “I feel that our family is attacked.”
     A longtime member on the board of the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Leone said he would donate the remaining 200 pounds of Barilla pasta he had in stock to the food bank and then sever his relationship with Barilla. He spends roughly $40,000 a year importing several types of Barilla pasta, he said. Between his two shops and his catering business, he runs through about 20,000 pounds of pasta from a dozen purveyors, he said.

For its new Texas store, Nebraska Furniture Mart got $802 million in economic concessions from The Colony, a city of 40,000 — $20,000 per person

According to Matthew Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, that's 15 times the city's annual budget; roads, utility upgrades and a parking garage by themselves will run $291 million.
     NFM, a division of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, also will get up to $261 million to offset some of the store's building expenses. This despite the fact that retail jobs are some of the worst paying. Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First, wonders why a city should subsidize retail and "give away your tax base for years," since "retail will take care of itself."
     Which means that stores always follow growing populations, with or without incentives.
     NFM has promised to employee about 2,000 people, but only 850 will be full-time jobs.
     Robert Bland, chairman of the Department of Public Administration at the University of North Texas, wondered about incentives punishing previously existing businesses which have paid their full share of taxes and will now be gaining a major competitor.

Bertolli vs. Barilla, Part II

Also: Bertolli vs. Barilla, Part I

Via AdWeek: "We just wanted to spread the news that Bertolli welcomes everyone, especially those with an empty stomach."

Hat tip: @str8grandmother

Italy: MP baits two gay colleagues with 'fag bag' contents: 'Barilla's right. From now on I only eat his pasta.'

Lorenza Antonucci, in a Slate post yesterday (Why the Barilla Boycott Matters to Italian LGBT People) reminded her readers of the considerable amount of background homophobia in Italy:
During a political discussion in the Italian Parliament on the "Barilla case" yesterday, an MP from the Lega Party decided to provoke two openly gay MPs with a fennel bulb (finocchio is the Italian slang for “faggot”) and to try to physically assault one of them.
Here's what AKSARBENT thinks happened after perusing several accounts: Gianluca Buonanno (above, pointing), of Italy's Northern League, a party allied with Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom, brought a bag with one or more fennel bulbs, opened it and insultingly plopped one on his desk while gay MP Alessandro Zan was talking. Then another gay MP, Toni Matarrelli, insisted that the vegetable be removed from the chamber. At which point Buonanno approached Matarrelli, at which point a very large parliamentary "assistant" stepped in, at which point Buonanno ran away, denouncing Alessandro Di Battista, a Civic Choice deputy, on his way out.

Pro-LGBT Italian Chamber of Deputies members Toni Matarrelli and (in center) Allesandro Zan
Here's one account from Il Mattina, followed by a very rough translation via Google's translation bot, which does exhibit its own special flair in labeling a sack of fennel bulbs a "fag bag":
PADOVA. Il «caso Barilla» surriscalda gli animi nell'Aula della Camera. Sul finale, mentre sta parlando Alessandro Zan, deputato padovano di Sel, gay dichiarato, il leghista Gianluca Buonanno estrae dalla borsa un finocchio e lo mette in bella mostra sul suo banco. A quel punto Toni Matarrelli, altro deputato di Sel, va al banco della presidenza per chiedere di rimuovere l'ortaggio. Ma Buonanno gli si avvicina e tra i due si sfiora la rissa.
     Intervengono gli assistenti parlamentari, a evitare ogni contatto. Ma Buonanno, per sottrarsi alla morsa, corre fuori dall'Aula (urtando, denuncia il grillino Alessandro Di Battista, una deputata di Scelta civica). Dal Transatlantico si vede il leghista sfrecciare inseguito da un commesso e poi rientrare in Aula, alla ricerca di Matarrelli. Ma il contatto fisico tra i due viene evitato.
     Buonanno, già noto alle cronache d'Aula per le sue iniziative, è stato più volte protagonista oggi di interventi accesi contro la presidente Boldrini e contro i deputati di Sel. Andando via, ci tiene a far sapere: «Barilla ha ragione. D'ora in poi mangerò solo la sua pasta».

PADUA. The "case Barilla 'hot tempers in the Hall of the House. On the final, while talking Alessandro Zan, deputy Paduan Sel, openly gay, the League's Gianluca Buonanno extracted from a fag bag and puts it on display on his desk. At that point, Toni Matarrelli, another deputy of Sel, going to school to ask the Presidency to remove the vegetable. But Buonanno approaches him and between the two you touch the brawl.
     Speakers parliamentary assistants, to avoid all contact. But Buonanno, to escape the clutches, runs outside the classroom (bumping, denounces the grillino Alessandro Di Battista, a deputy of civic Choice). Since you see the Ocean League whiz chased by a salesperson and then return to the classroom, looking for Matarrelli. But the physical contact between the two is avoided.
     Buonanno, already known to the media the Classroom for its initiatives, has often been the protagonist of today's interventions turned against the President and against Boldrini Members of Sel Going away, he wants to say: 'Barilla's right. From now on I only eat his pasta."

Guido Barilla posts video apology

The Advocate notes that the Italian pasta company (with a huge plant in Ames, Iowa) talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk:
An American LGBT rights group called on the company to show it is serious about an apology by including sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy for employees. Freedom to Work points out that the current policy prohibits discrimination based on race and religion, but not sexual orientation or gender identity.
Said John Aravosis, snarkily:
It’s difficult to watch the video, and Barilla’s near comatose delivery, without thinking of Patty Hearst.
     AKSARBENT was thinking along the same lines earlier today, when it imagined that the best way for Barilla to put out the boycott fires all over the globe would be for the family-owned company to replace Guido with one of his (presumably less homophobic and sexist) brothers and have the new CEO make the apology for his stupido brother, who, to demonstrate the company's sincerity, would be visible in the background, lashed to a chair with duct tape over his mouth.
     But then, this is probably why we have never worked in public relations.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Revealed: IA Gov. Branstad's car was pulled over for speeding in August, following similar incident in April

     The speed wasn't included on the written warning. But the Franklin County Sheriff said 10 mph over the posted limit is the threshold for issuing a ticket, so that seems to put the speed at 64 mph.     Two of the three Democrats running for governor in 2014 quickly put out Friday press releases that slammed Branstad. Tyler Olson, a state representative from Cedar Rapids, contended that Branstad "continues to think he is above the law."
     State Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, sorta referenced what Ronald Reagan said to Jimmy Carter in a 1980 presidential debate with the opening line of his release.
"There he goes again. Did he not learn anything from the public outcry over the summer? No one is above the law in this state. His refusal to release reports of possible previous incidents seems to mean that this behavior is a pattern. I call on him to release a full report on the times that his security detail has been pulled over," Hatch said.

Skeletens of two teens missing for 42 years found in overturned Studebaker

The Sioux City Journal asked "How did no one see sunken car in Union County S.D., creek?" and then speculated that passersby assumed the vehicle, the upturned wheels of which are plainly visible, had been put along the bank by a farmer to slow erosion or that the 7-11 inches of rain dumped on the area during a weekend last May, may have uncovered the vehicle. The bridge is inspected every two years, including the surrounding creek to assess erosion and no report has ever noted the overturned car in the creek bed near said bridge. Regarding the cold case opened following the disappearance of the two teens:
     A South Dakota State Penitentiary inmate, David Lykken, of rural Alcester, S.D., was indicted on murder charges in the case in 2007. Those charges were dismissed after authorities learned that a jailhouse informant who claimed to have taped Lykken confessing to the alleged crimes had faked the recordings.
     Officials have not said if Lykken remains a suspect in the case.

Mont Blanc climber finds $330,000 worth of emeralds, rubies, sapphires, other gems in metal box

Mont Blanc funseekers at the summit.
No one in this group found any jewels.
The find was made on the Bossons glacier, which occasionally regurgitates debris from two Air India flights that crashed in 1966 and 1950. About 100 gems were in the metal box, in sachets, some of which were marked "Made in India." The finder turned them in. They are thought to be from the 1966 crash.
     "You can say the climber who made this find is someone very honest," local gendarme chief Sylvain Merly said.
     The prefect's office of Savoie will now contact the Indian authorities to try to return the jewels to the family of the original owner. It is thought that the jewels are more likely to have come from the 1966 crash. The local French paper, the Dauphiné Libéré reported that if an owner is not found, under French law, the jewels could be given back to the climber, who has not been named.

Brazilian writer Vanessa Barbara mocks NSA spying on her country in guest NYT op-ed

Vanessa Barbara. Photo: Nino Andrés
Earlier this week Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff's gave a blistering speech to the UN general assembly which embodied the most serious diplomatic blowback yet to the NSA, which has been caught snooping on her personal communications. The Times published a debate about the fallout here. From Barbara's op-ed, Have a nice day, NSA:
     Brazil is included in a group of key countries being closely monitored by the N.S.A. under the rubric “Friends, Enemies, or Problems?”
      ...The United States has suggested that its interception of data also aims to protect other nations against terrorism. But Ms. Rousseff had an answer for that, too: “Brazil, Mr. President, knows how to protect itself.”
      The country’s strategy on that matter does not limit itself to diplomatic grumpiness. Ms. Rousseff has also proposed establishing “a civilian multilateral framework for the governance and use of the Internet.” It would ensure “freedom of expression, security and respect for human rights” by protecting personal information online.
      But for now, we citizens have our own plan. It has become something of a joke among my friends in Brazil to, whenever you write a personal e-mail, include a few polite lines addressed to the agents of the N.S.A., wishing them a good day or a Happy Thanksgiving. Sometimes I’ll add a few extra explanations and footnotes about the contents of the message, summarizing it and clarifying some of the Portuguese words that could be difficult to translate.
      Other people have gone so far as to send nonsensical e-mails just to confuse N.S.A. agents. For example: first use some key words to attract their surveillance filters, like “chemical brothers,” “chocolate bombs” or “stop holding my heart hostage, my emotions are like a blasting of fundamentalist explosion” (one of my personal favorites, inspired by an online sentence-generator designed to confound the N.S.A.)

How the visitor and convention bureaus of cities which are not Omaha go after gay travel dollars

Short takes: Col. Gaddafi evidently raped men too; Brazilian president blasts U.S. at UN; what Linux inventor said when U.S. spymasters came calling

Parody: Vlad Putin submits another op-ed piece to the New York Times — on "modern love"

Days after Pope Francis' Jesuit PR offensive saying Church was too obsessed with gays, the Vatican excommunicated Aussie priest who supported gay marriage; document was written in Latin and gave no explanation. The Vatican has never excommunicated Adolf Hitler

What W. H. Auden can do for you

How Linus Torvalds got a big laugh from his audience when he was asked if the U.S. "approached" him to insert a spying backdoor into Linux

Little kid's exuberant romp with a weasel (scroll down to the youtube video)

Nine alarming things in your meat that are now in you 

Most of Libya's Col. Gaddafi rapes were against women — except for the male guards, male soldiers and male ministers

NSA provokes Brazilian anger at U.S. for tapping president's phone calls; her scathing UN blast just before Obama speech

Campaign to ban Russian politicians who support antiLGBT "propaganda" law from entering Canada

100 organizations will rally in D.C. October 26 against mass surveillance

Ex-Bradlee Dean employee, from Omaha, quits, calls antiLGBT rights activist a "crook" and his ministry a "cultic sham"

Can gays and lesbians be excluded from juries on account of their sexual orientation?

York News-Times: ' was a disgusting thing to watch, and if you have any respect at all for Lee Terry, let it go'

Via Progressive Oasis' facebook page comes this commentary from the York News-Times about the abusive, sexist badgering of Bold Nebraska's Jane Kleeb (video here), over which Energy and Commerce subcommittee chairman Lee Terry presided but did nothing to moderate:
     When it came time for Rep. Bill Johnson from Ohio to ask questions he put his sights on Kleeb and began a political assassination attempt unlike any other I have seen in a committee hearing. All the while, Chairman Lee Terry allowed this completely unacceptable behavior to continue, despite a plea from Rep. Schakowsky for Lee Terry to step up to his chairman’s responsibility and bring some civility to the hearing.
     It was obvious to all watching that Lee Terry had no intention of stopping the bloodletting on Kleeb, his fellow Nebraskan. Folks, I have to tell you it was a disgusting thing to watch, and if you have any respect at all for Lee Terry, let it go. He is not worthy, and openly displayed his reputation as a shallow, relatively non-effective politician in plain daylight.

Sochi: HRC vs. IOC

HRC in an email (to some LGBT blogs) ripped the IOC today:
“If this law doesn’t violate the IOC’s charter, then the charter is completely meaningless,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin.  “The safety of millions of LGBT Russians and international travelers is at risk, and by all accounts the IOC has completed neglected its responsibility to Olympic athletes, sponsors and fans from around the world.  The IOC and its new president, Thomas Bach, are putting the good reputation of the Olympic Games and its corporate sponsors in jeopardy.”

Barilla vs. Bertolli

Also: Bertolli vs. Barilla, Part II

Bertolli doesn't market dry pasta in the U.S., but it does compete with Barilla in pasta sauce. It is also the biggest maker of olive oil.
     Let the Barilla mocking begin:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

U.S. boycott of Barilla pasta, following antigay insults of Guido Barilla, could affect Ames, IA

Guido Barilla (projection). Photo: Jamais Cascio, Flickr
Italian LGBT groups are calling for a boycott of the company, which has about 25% of the U.S. pasta market, worth $457 million in sales in 2011.
      Here is the Huffington Post's translation of what he told an Italian radio host:
BARILLA: For us, the ‘sacral family’ remains one of the company’s core values. Our family is a traditional family. If gays like our pasta and our advertisings, they will eat our pasta; if they don’t like that, they will eat someone else’s pasta. You can’t always please everyone not to displease anyone. I would not do a commercial with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect toward homosexuals – who have the right to do whatever they want without disturbing others – but because I don’t agree with them, and I think we want to talk to traditional families. The women are crucial in this.
Barilla factory, Ames, IA.
The company has another in Avon, NY.
I respect same-sex marriage because that concerns people who want to contract marriage, but I absolutely don’t respect adoptions in gay families, because that concerns a person who is not the people who decide.”
     After the interview, Barilla tweeted an apology but didn't take back anything.
(Via ThinkProgress)

Bankster quote of the week

Via Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi:
[AIG]CEO Robert Benmosche, who just told the Wall Street Journal that the post-crash public outcry over the use of bailout money to pay bonuses to executives in Cassano's Financial Products unit was comparable to – get this – lynchings in the deep south. From reporter Leslie Scism's interview:
The uproar over bonuses "was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that – sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong."
For sheer "Let them eat cake"-ness, this ranks right up there with Lloyd Blankfein's "I'm doing God's work" riff and Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Charlie Munger's line about how it was proper to bail out Wall Street, but people in foreclosure should "suck it in and cope."

Sioux City gayby, Savannah Rose Hooper-Shulman, daughter of noted GoodAsYou blogger, Jeremy Hooper, debuts on Internet and real world

Jeremy Hooper and his husband, Andrew Shulman, were Martha Stewart-married in Litchfield, Connecticut in 2009. Congratulations and our sympathies to the Manhattan (New York City, not Kansas) couple, both of whom are on the verge of extended sleep deprivation.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Michele Bachmann's constituents honor Banned Book Week by trying to remove gay-friendly author's anti-bullying book from schools

“Bono met his wife in high school," Park says.
"So did Jerry Lee Lewis," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be," she says, "we’re sixteen."
"What about Romeo and Juliet?"
"Shallow, confused," then dead.
"I love you, Park says.
"Wherefore art thou," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be.”
— Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park
The Anoka-Hennepin school district, Minnesota's largest, is in Michele Bachmann's congressional district and is now under a federal consent decree obligating it to take bullying more seriously after it was sued following 11 suicides in about two years.
     You'd think the district would be delighted that there are 70 copies of the popular new anti-bullying Young Adult novel, "Eleanor and Park," by Rainbow Rowell, in school library shelves.
     After all, the book takes on bullying, is selling briskly (15 printings so far by St. Martin's Griffin), was selected as Tumbler's first Book Club selection, and was raved about by the New York Times
      Alas, a small activist group, the Parents Action League, has filed a formal challenge to get the school district to pull all copies of “Eleanor & Park” from school library shelves. PAL also wants librarians who chose “Eleanor & Park” for the district's voluntary summer reading program to be punished.
     According to Erin Grace's article [links added by AKSARBENT] in today's Omaha World-Herald the group went through the book and:
     ...counted 227 offending words, including 67 Gods, 24 Jesuses and 4 Christs.
     The other words I can't print in the newspaper. They are not words you'd say to your grandmother. (Unless you are Bo Pelini and your grandmother is a Husker fan.)
     Rainbow Rowell was interviewed about the contretemps in The Toast by Mallory Ortberg:
     This is the same county that Rolling Stone described as waging a “war on gay teens,” yes? 
     Yeah. (That Rolling Stone story is so heart-wrenching, I couldn’t even get through it.)
     The Parents Action League, the people who objected to Eleanor & Park, was actually formed in response to a district policy about discussing sexual orientation in the schools. You can read more about the Parents Action League here. And you can see their alert about my book here. Normally the group takes on books with homosexual content, which Eleanor & Park doesn’t really have. (Though my other books do.)
     One of the most horrific parts of their challenge was that they asked that the librarians who chose my book be officially disciplined.
Rainbow Rowell, from her website
     The Internet-savvy Rowell was supposed to be in Minnesota today for a two-day event, but was disinvited by the county library system after the School district caved and refused to pay an agreed-upon fee to Rowell, who offered to show up for free (she usually doesn't charge for book appearances anyway, unless offered a fee) but didn't get a subsequent response from either the school district or the library.
      Tom Steward, of Watchdog Minnesota Bureau, covered the controversy from Minnesota:
     ANOKA — Literary critics lavished high praise on Rainbow Rowell’s novel “Eleanor & Park,” a hot new teenage love story.
     A little too hot, maybe, at least in terms of getting public — taxpayer — support.
     The story of first love also captivated educators’ list for recommended summer reading in Minnesota’s biggest school district, Anoka-Hennepin. A-H even arranged for a two-day September student seminar with Rowell.
     Anoka County Libraries agreed to collaborate and cover the author’s $4,000 stipend with taxpayer money from the Minnesota Legacy Amendment Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
     National reviews give credence to the idea of “Eleanor & Park” as literature and Rowell as an emerging literary sensation.
     “Her writing swings from profane to profound, but it’s always real and always raw,” says National Public Radio.
     Kirkus Reviews said this: “Funny, hopeful, foul-mouthed, sexy and tear-jerking, this winning romance will captivate teen and adult readers alike.”
     Library staff thought so, too.
     “It was selected by our media specialists in each high school for what’s called the Summer Rock the Book program,” said Mary Olson, director of communications and public relations for A-H. “With that program, students in the high schools typically read the book that’s for Rock the Book if they’re interested in participating.”
     Several parents weren’t so taken. Rather, they found the language in a teen romance book — a work so enthusiastically promoted by their schools — as raunchy and vulgar.
     “In just the first three pages the book contains eight “f words” and three “s words,” plus two additional vulgar words,” wrote Kirk Burback of Coon Rapids in a letter to the editor to ABC Newspapers. ”The entire book contains more than 220 of the most profane words you can imagine.
     “And then there is the age inappropriate and highly controversial subject matter throughout. The book’s content is such that if it were attempted to be read over the air, the FCC wouldn’t allow it.”
     The parents of an unnamed 15-year-old freshman student who received the book wrote a scathing 13-page review, according to The Parent Action League website.
     “This book is littered with extreme profanity and age-inappropriate subject matter that should never be put into the hands and minds of minor children, much less promoted by the educational institutions and staff we entrust to teach and protect our children,” states an alert on the league’s home page.
     Olson acknowledges the profanity, and she doesn’t necessarily disagree with the parents. She doesn’t necessarily agree, either.
     “It does have some language, I can see why parents would object to it,” said Olson. “But I would say having read probably a third of it that it’s not overwhelming. The last maybe 15 to 20 pages I was looking at, I couldn’t find any language that I objected to. So it’s sporadic. I wouldn’t characterize it as being over the top by any means.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Opt out of Koch Bros. propaganda, not Obamacare

(Via JMG's reader Elroy)

More proof that, unlike Sir Paul, Elton John is not not merely a shadow of his former self

Former chess champ Garry Kasparov on Sochi: send athletes, keep politicos away, pressure sponsors;
'...let’s demand Coke to put rainbow flag on every can they sell there. Or McDonalds... Or NBC'

Kasparov told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell that Russia’s new anti-gay laws were not particularly surprising, given Putin’s recent political maneuvering.
“Putin’s regime…every month, every week, every day, you know, just comes up with new restrictions on freedom of Russia,” Kasparov said. ”That’s why I wouldn’t take anti-gay law as something, you know, absolutely outrageous; it was very natural.”
     Kasparov argued that Putin is playing to his “power base” of followers, consisiting mostly of older generations. [after massive anti-corruption protests in 2011 and 2012 ]... “He knows Moscow hates him,” he said. ”He knows young people are not voting for him.”
     ...Kasparov sees the games as a way for Putin and his friends to make money... “I think it’s wrong to use athletes as a shield... But there are politicians who could simply boycott Putin [by] not showing up there. There are sponsors who could demonstrate their disagreement—I mean, let’s demand Coke to put rainbow flag on every can they sell there.”

'Knives to meet you' — Russian coast guard again shoots at Greenpeace, pulls knives in an inflatable boat, boards ship and takes crew to Murmansk

Monday, September 23, 2013

This is good to know, Mr. Gelb

 Throughout its distinguished 129-year history,
the Met has never dedicated a single performance

to a political or social cause,
no matter how important or just.
— Peter Gelb, general manager of New York City's Metropolitan Opera, responding at Bloomberg to a request by Queer Nation NY to dedicate tonight's performance of Eugene Onegin, by gay Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky, to LGBT people in Russia. Russian conductor Valery Gergiev and  soprano Anna Netrebko, participating in the Met's opening gala, were described by Queer Nation as “longtime and vocal supporters of Vladimir Putin.”
Interior, Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City (Photo: Boss Tweed, Flickr)

Meet Vitaly Milonov, the Russian extremist who authored Putin's LGBT "propaganda" law

Julien Pain, of TV's France 24, conducted the interview with Milonov in English! There's a second video, which you can see at AmericaBlog along with a point-by-point refutation of Milonov's disinformation.
     Last Thursday, Milonov crashed St. Petersburg's QueerFest film festival with five or six thugs and called guests "animals," "un-Russian" and "faggots."
     Organizers said Milonov and his posse shoved around two guests, slapping them in the face. Shortly after that, police suddenly arrived but instead of investigating Milonov and his gang, they hassled the venue owners, insisting they show ownership papers.
     Interestingly, Milonov isn't Russian Orthodox, he's a Baptist.

Apple's "secure" fingerprint lock hacked two days after launch

Engadget posted the video below made by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) showing how easy it is to fool Apple's new iphone fingerprint security. Below that a bullshit video Apple made touting the "security" of fingerprint access, despite the fact that you leave images of your fingerprint on objects all day long. CCC spokesman Frank Rieger:

We hope that this finally puts to rest the illusions people have about fingerprint biometrics. It is plain stupid to use something that you can´t change and that you leave everywhere every day as a security token.

Expect Apple to yank the following video toute de suite. In it, the company brags that its demonstrably insecure fingerprint ID can even be used to authorize purchases — probably the most reckless, scary technology Apple has ever tried to con its users into adopting.

Cats with issues, vacuum edition

We suppose if a cat likes to fetch sticks in the water it should not be judged by the likes of AKSARBENT, but really.

Some things are just not right.

Like a breakdown in the well-known feline distaste for vacuums, lately abetted by the inexorable allure of Roomba rides made tolerable to Fluffies everywhere by the reduced noise of the comparatively new gadgets.

Though Roombas may be a gateway drug, the Russian cat below long ago graduated to the harder stuff.

We're sorry but we're still "evolving" in our assessment of this obviously perverted pet, discovered by AmericaBlog.

America's billionaire: New York Times columnist Maureen Down goes to Georgetown University to hear the Oracle of Omaha

Well, maybe heterosexual America's billionaire. At any rate, listening to the quote-friendly Warren Buffett talk is always an easy gig for a columnist. Here's some of what Maureen Dowd thought was worth repeating in her latest column:
  • He even joked that he had fond thoughts of 1929 because it was when he was conceived: “my dad was a stock salesman and after the crash he didn’t have anything to do.
  • But then, about five years ago, Buffett said at Georgetown, he and Gates began plotting about philanthropy and now they have enrolled 115 plutocrats pledging a majority of their net worth. “I’ve been dialing for dollars,” he said, adding that when billionaires resist, he gives them a warning: “If I’m talking to some 70-year-old, I say, ‘Do you really think your decision-making ability is going to be better when you’re 95 with some blonde on your lap, or now?’ ”
  • “I always tell people, if they’re going in the investment business and you’ve got a 160 I.Q., sell 30 points to somebody else because you won’t need it.”
    [Dowd]Or sell some to the House Republicans.

David Mixner: Republicans [like Lee Terry and Adrian Smith] make Marie Antoinette look like a flaming liberal

Left to far, far right: Marie Antoinette, Lee Terry, Adrian Smith
Rather than taking steps to close tax loopholes exploited by corporations like Apple ($70 billion in tax avoidance), GE, Microsoft, Google et al., Reps. Lee Terry and Adrian Smith instead voted to cut $40 billion out of SNAP, the Department of Agriculture's food stamp program, despite the fact that:
  • 76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.
  • SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline, but the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013)
  • The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744; net monthly income of $338 after the standard deduction and, for certain households, deductions for child care, medical expenses, and shelter costs; and countable resources of $331, such as a bank account.
  • SNAP benefits don’t last most participants the whole month. 90% of SNAP benefits are redeemed by the third week of the month, and 58% of food bank clients currently receiving SNAP benefits turn to food banks for assistance at least 6 months out of the year.
  • The average monthly SNAP benefit per person is $133.85, or less than $1.50 per person, per meal.
  • Only 57% of food insecure individuals are income-eligible for SNAP, and 26% are not income-eligible for any federal food assistance.
Much more outrage here, at Mixner's website.
(Via Towleroad)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

AKSARBENT watches the Emmys: Michael Douglas' slightly slutty acceptance speech; the best tweets; and (sob!) Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad gets stiffed

First, the breaking, bad news: Although Breaking Bad won Best Dramatic Series and the TV wife of previous Emmy winner Bryan "Walter White" Cranston, actress Anna Gunn, won Best Supporting Actress, AKSARBENT's personal favorite, Aaron "Jesse Pinkman" Paul, lost (aaarrgh!) to Bobby Carnavale of Boardwalk Empire. (If Jesse Pinkman had made out with Walter White in the show instead of just the gag reel, we're convinced Aaron Paul could have collected the Emmy rightfully due him.) Alas, Dean "Hank" Norris, BB's stalwart DEA agent, wasn't even nominated! All winners and nominees here.

Best #Emmy tweets:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel as superglue

German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a Pantone color chart

This designated smoking area is just mean

More video of sexist GOP badgering of Keystone XL pipeline opponent at house hearing chaired by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE)

There's a petition to get house members Lee Terry (R-NE), Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Billy Long (R-MO) to apologize for their disrespectful behavior to Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska. Lots of luck with that...
     Bill Johnson represents Ohio's 6th district, including Steubenville and Billy Long represents the 7th district of Missouri, including Joplin and Springfield. Charles P. Pierce, in his Esquire Blog, referred to Rep. Johnson of Ohio as a pipsqueak of a 'ho in the pocket of the extraction industries. More here.

Photo: NSA's Star Trek bridge replica built by Gen. Keith Alexander with your tax dollars; doors make 'whoosh' sound when they open and close

Also: Harvard professor says NSA is completely out of control.

From Glen Greenwald's Guardian expose:

But a perhaps even more disturbing and revealing vignette into the spy chief's mind comes from a new Foreign Policy article describing what the journal calls his "all-out, barely-legal drive to build the ultimate spy machine". The article describes how even his NSA peers see him as a "cowboy" willing to play fast and loose with legal limits in order to construct a system of ubiquitous surveillance. But the personality driving all of this - not just Alexander's but much of Washington's - is perhaps best captured by this one passage, highlighted by PBS' News Hour in a post entitled: "NSA director modeled war room after Star Trek's Enterprise". The room was christened as part of the "Information Dominance Center":
     "When he was running the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a 'whoosh' sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather 'captain's chair' in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.
     "'Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,' says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits."

Warren Buffett on budget threats: 'Markets only expect politicians to act irrationally for a certain length of time'

Nevertheless, the Oracle of Omaha and most successful large invester of the 20th century thinks prolonged obstructionism on lifting the debt ceiling is "disturbing" and not moving forward would be "pretty damn dumb."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Love the adherent, hate the religion: Mrs. and Mr. Steve Young give some encouragement to progay LDS group

During Prop 8, while LDS stake presidents, who hold the power of "temple recommends" over Mormons, were "encouraging" them to write generous checks to the compaign to end gay marriage in California, the Young family had, like, five "No on 8" signs surrounding their house.

FBI: marijuana possession (not 'distribution') arrests outnumber those for violent crime

Iowa GOP Rep. Tom Latham, who just slashed Ag Dept. food stamps program, got $313,776 in farm subsidies

From The New Civil Rights Movement:

Rep. Tom Latham Republican–Iowa 3rd District
Total Farm Subsidies Received: $313,776
Net Worth: $2,315,175 to $7,650,167

Trick question—which doesn't belong with the others: 15-year-old, boy, pantless, backseat, priest, Craigslist, Penn State campus

Pennsylvania's Lackawanna County, where the below incident happened, recently passed an ordinance banning all religious advertising on public transit in order to stop a local atheist group from running the ad above.
Bishops of the Diocese of Scranton since 1988, left to right: Joseph C. Bambera, appointed 4/26/2010;
Joseph Francis Martino, appointed 7/5/2003; James Clifford Timlin, appointed 4/24/1984
      Via JoeMyGod: "The Times-Tribune of Scranton reported that Paulish, 56, has been reassigned 15 times by the Diocese of Scranton after being ordained in 1988 and has had three separate leaves of absence. The diocese did not respond to the newspaper's requests to explain the reassignments and absences."

(Via @str8grandmother)