Friday, May 30, 2014

Big Earl's Bait House and Country store showed two 'fags' the door; now LGBTs are using Yelp! to exact revenge on the (overpriced) joint

The waitress waited until they had paid (and, presumably, tipped) then leveled a parting insult and a Do Not Return warning to an LGBT couple. Now the fake reviews are pouring in, via Yelp!

A jealous NBA responds to avalanche of attention paid to Michael Sam kissing BF Vito during NFL draft

Rachel Maddow, the mistress of intro-padding, just aired a piece in which the unrelated introduction was longer than the piece itself — on fracking

It's quite good, but skip to the 10:45 mark unless you're retired and have time to waste.

IA Sen. candidate and pig castrator Joni Ernst says UC Santa Barbara killings were "unfortunate accident," but she's still a shill for the NRA

Catherine Thompson of Talking Points Memo reports on Iowa U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst's pugnaciousness when asked a question by the moderator of a televised primary debate:
     "Mrs. Ernst, a viewer wrote us saying in light of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the shootings at the Aurora, Colo., theater, and most recently at the UC Santa Barbara campus, 'we have a Joni Ernst in the television ad that is running continuously on all local television stations that contains violent imagery pointing a gun directly at the viewer and vowing to quote ‘shoot them down’ and hateful language directed toward their opponents. Is this really what politics has become in this country?'" the moderator said. "Mrs. Ernst, what do you say to this viewer?"
     "Yes, I would say to this viewer that what happened in that shooting and that stabbing is an absolute tragedy," Ernst said. "However, I remain firm in my commitment to the Second Amendment. I have been endorsed by the NRA in this race, and again, just because of a horrible, horrible tragedy, I don’t believe we should be infringing upon people’s Second Amendment rights."
     The moderator then asked Ernst if she would change the ad or its timing in light of the UCSB shooting.
     "I would not -- no. This unfortunate accident happened after the ad, but it does highlight that I want to get rid of, repeal, and replace Bruce Braley’s Obamacare," Ernst replied, referring to a Democratic Senate candidate. "And it also shows that I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. That is a fundamental right."

50 senators (but not Sen. Fischer or Sen. Johanns) seem to understand that "Redskins" is a racial slur

In the year 2014, the fact that neither of Nebraska's two senators would sign a letter written by 50 of their colleagues decrying the racial slur that the football team representing the city in which they work continues to use as its name, represents, in AKSARBENT's opinion, a giant middle finger raised at Nebraska's 20,000 Native Americans. Nice work, Nebraska GOP.

After creating a furor with his vulgar abuse of atheists, La Vista, NE mayor now wants to meet with them; they agree, but are planning a "Minorities Matter, Mr. Mayor" rally on Monday, anyway

From The Friendly Atheist:
Everyone could move forward if Kindig would offer an honest
apology instead of asking everyone to just forget about what he
said. While the event may have been emotional, the preparation
leading up to it allowed for ample time to make sure no laws
were being violated. His staff either didn’t know about the legal
problems or didn’t care. Either way, they need to promise it
won’t happen again.
Just to be clear, the Omaha Atheists don’t want to file any lawsuit.
They would prefer to have a conversation with the Mayor before
taking any drastic steps.
After national media attention put La Vista and its Le Vulgar Mayor in a bad light, Mayor Douglas Kindig, who obviously subscribes to the Gov. Dave Heineman School of Public Relations, ducked the press and issued to KETV a non-apology through Mitch Beaumont, a La Vista community relations coordinator.

Omaha Atheists / American Atheists / Apostacon


For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 29, 2014

Atheists Plan “Minorities Matter” Rally to Challenge Nebraskan Mayor’s Outburst
Mayor Will Meet with Atheist Representatives on Tuesday

Omaha, NE—Omaha Atheists and the national nonprofit American Atheists announced on Thursday plans for a rally in La Vista, a suburb of Omaha, to be held Monday, June 2. The rally’s theme, “Minorities Matter, Mr. Mayor,” challenges La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig’s disparaging remarks about the role of minorities at a city-sponsored Memorial Day event last Sunday.
     The rally, which will begin at 5:30 at La Vista City Hall, is scheduled to feature a diverse program of brief remarks from representatives of various minority groups in the Omaha metro area. Immediately following the rally, a “Meet the Atheists” potluck, open to all, is planned at Central Park a half mile away.
     The rally protests the city of La Vista’s recent Memorial Day activities, which included a “Prayer Walk” and a “Faith and Freedom Day,” including an official “Service” led by a local Christian pastor. The activities, promoted on the city’s official website, included songs praising “Jesus” and overtly Christian prayers. After the religious service, a La Vista resident in attendance, Robert Fuller, approached the mayor to request a meeting at a later date about Mr. Fuller’s concern regarding separation of church and state at the service. Mayor Kindig responded to Mr. Fuller, an atheist and board member of Omaha Atheists, by stating, “Take me to f*cking court because I don't care," and "Minorities are not going to run my city."
     Following national media coverage of the comments, Mayor Kindig’s staff has sent a request for a meeting with Mr. Fuller, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, June 3, to which Mr. Fuller has agreed. Amanda Knief, Managing Director and Inhouse Counsel of American Atheists, and Jill Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for Omaha Atheists, will accompany Mr. Fuller to the meeting.
     “Mayor Kindig’s remarks about minorities are despicable,” said Ms. Fitzgerald. “Minorities such as atheists create a healthy diversity and though we may be in the minority in the Bible Belt, our government has a responsibility to represent us and our interests equally to those of all other citizens. It was Mayor Kindig who suggested a lawsuit, not us—we see this as an educational opportunity and a chance to build bridges.”
     “At this meeting, we have three objectives,” said American Atheists Managing Director Amanda Knief, a former Omaha resident and journalist for the Omaha World-Herald, who will be coming to Omaha from American Atheists headquarters in New Jersey for the rally and the Tuesday meeting with the mayor. “We will invite Mayor Kindig to offer a real apology to the minority groups of his community. We will invite him either to include representatives from every religious, humanist, and atheist group at future government events, or ideally, to keep government events entirely secular. Lastly, we will invite Mayor Kindig to attend the Apostacon secular conference in Omaha this September, where he will be asked to join American Atheists President Dave
Silverman on stage to explain his remarks to the atheist community at large and create a plan for how we can work together to undo this damage and ensure La Vista Nebraska is known as an accepting place for all people.”
     OMAHA ATHEISTS is a Nebraska based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to welcoming atheists and nonbelievers as they promote the separation of church and state and make charitable contributions to society through positive community action in and around the Omaha Metro Area. Omaha Atheists was founded in 2008 and is a proud sponsor of Apostacon.
     AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in New Jersey that defends civil rights for atheists, freethinkers, and other nonbelievers; works for the total separation of religion and government; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy. American Atheists was founded in 1963 by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
     APOSTACON is an annual Omaha-based secular conference focused on bringing nationally known speakers of the scientific, secular, and skeptical communities to the Midwest. Apostacon began as the Midwest Freethought Conference and is entering its sixth year as an annual event. Apostacon is sponsored by Omaha Atheists and the national nonprofit Recovering From Religion. This year’s conference will feature astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson at its Evening of Scientific Inquiry and Dr. Lawrence Krauss as its keynote speaker, and will be held at the Doubletree Downtown from September 19-21.

An increasingly addled Tom Becka wins on-air argument with himself on KFOR over defending La Vista's anti-atheist mayor, Douglas 'Take me to fucking court because I don't care' Kindig

Hermant Mehta, of the (not so) Friendly Atheist accompanied his account of Becka's live, on-the-air evolution with actual audio:
The funny thing is that, as Becka kept complaining about the atheists, he eventually (and hilariously) came right back around to supporting the Omaha Atheists’ position...
     It even got to the point where Becka, without fully acknowledging it, ended up making the Omaha Atheists’ case for them, while still suggesting they shut up about all this.
     So there you have it. Tom Becka’s body is completely out of control. He’s talking out of his ass and putting his foot in his mouth at the same time.
Read more:

Fleet Week sailors have left New York City

An old Bruce Weber photo that Stephen dug up to mark the
occasion. Pretty witty for squids, we think. Or models.
Joe Jervis wrote about Fleet Week here:
Then the light changes, the sailors surge, and somebody shouts, "Don't nobody know the fuck where the pussy at?" And I die a little inside. At least they didn't ask me. Somebody says, "Ask the hot nuts guy!" And still they don't ask me. How rude. Some dude cups his hands and shouts, "Fellas, y'all just gotta stay going on 7th Avenue down to 23rd. It's 'bout a thirty minute walk, fifteen if you double-time it." And in a Broadway choreography miracle that is the stuff of which Tonys are made, one hundred young men instantly coalesce into a united multi-legged creature, a single-minded, purpose-driven, white bell-bottomed Naval sperm in search of an egg, probably one named Autumn, or maybe Summer, who is currently working her way through law school by stripping.

Who renders YouTube videos best, Century Link, Cox or Time Warner? Google's new tool shows you

From The Verge:
     You'll know which ISPs are faring best because they're labeled as "HD Verified." This means that customers can expect reliable streams of at least 720p; apparently setting the bar at 1080p was too great of a challenge for these companies to meet. The methodology YouTube uses to grade ISPs is here.
     Go here to compare.
     Related: 5 U.S. Internet Service Providers whose connection ports are saturated refuse to upgrade their infrastructure.

PBS to air On The Precipice, skeptical examination of suicide ruling in death of gay brother of AOL millionaire

From the program description:
Steve Johnson (l) with murdered brother Scott
Sunday, June 1: Australian Story: On the Precipice details Steve Johnson's 25-year quest to find justice for his gay brother, Scott, who was found dead at the bottom of a cliff while on a trip to Australia. While authorities told the family he had killed himself and closed the case, Steve never believed his kid brother would do that. In 2005, a police investigation code-named Operation Taradale, uncovered horrifying evidence of a gay-hate killing. The search for the truth of what happened that day has brought together an Internet pioneer, an international super sleuth, and the North South Wales Police Cold Case Unit.
Nebraska Public Television doesn't carry World Channel, but Iowa Public
TV does. Omaha viewers can see it over the air on 32.3 and perhaps
on cable. Lincoln and other Nebraska viewers can watch via the
website of ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Company) here.

From the press release, via Windy City Times:
(Boston, MA) What would you do if your gay younger brother was found dead at the bottom of a cliff 10,000 miles away in Australia, and authorities told you he had killed himself and closed the case? What if, 17 years later, a police investigation lifted the cover on a deadly Australian "sport" popular at the time of your brother's death, known as "poofter bashing"? What if you repeatedly contacted Australian authorities and were ignored? If you were Cambridge resident and entrepreneur Steve Johnson, you'd raise some hell Down Under. Which is exactly what he did. Beginning June 2, 2012, an acclaimed Australian documentary will air for the first time in the United States, chronicling Johnson's quest for justice for his brother and scores of other gay men targeted in hate crimes.
     Throughout June, World Channel ( produced and distributed by WGBH, American Public Television and WNET/New York in association with PBS ) will broadcast a film produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's flagship show, Australian Story. The half-hour documentary details Steve Johnson's 25-year quest to find justice for his brother, and is scheduled to air 18 times in every major market in the U.S. beginning in early June. The explosive film forced the New South Wales Police Force, after 23 years of dragging their feet, to open "Strike Force Macnamir" to investigate Scott's death, and to offer a $100,000 reward for information about how Scott died. Police announced the task force and reward the day after the broadcast, which was viewed by one out of every 23 Australians.
     Johnson, a Boston technology entrepreneur, never believed his younger brother killed himself. Then, in 2005, he discovered what probably happened to Scott, when a police investigation code-named Operation Taradale uncovered horrifying evidence that young thugs routinely preyed on men at gay meeting places called "beats" around Sydney — and ran some of them off cliffs. When Steve learned this, he asked police to reopen Scott's case, but was rebuffed again.
     This time, Steve Johnson was in a position to put his money where his doubts were. A former AOL executive and currently the CEO of ChoiceStream, a Boston-based technology company, Steve hired investigative journalist Daniel Glick to go to Sydney and poke around. Glick, a former Newsweek correspondent, had covered the murder of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey and knew something about police incompetence and stonewalling.
     Over the course of the next few years, "Team Scott" discovered shocking details that police overlooked: the place where Scott died was a "notorious" open-air beat, and a gay man had survived a stabbing a year previously at the exact spot where Scott died. They met other families with loved ones whose mysterious deaths were ruled suicide and "misadventure," and have laid bare dozens of other unsolved murders from that era.
     World Channel salutes "Equality for All" ( equality-for-all/ ) during the month of June, beginning with an airing of Scott's story, Australian Story: On the Precipice, on Sunday, June 1, 2014.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Nebraska Family Alliance wants its members to thank these senators for killing anti-bias LGBT job bill, LB485

Here at AKSARBENT, we'd like our readers, when they vote, also to remember the names of the following senators who "took a stand" AGAINST a bill (LB485) preventing arbitrary employment discrimination against LGBTs...

Why hasn't Koch Industries' remarkable business success received the same attention as Berkshire-Hathaway?

Note: Koch Industries is very good at the Berkshire-Hathaway technique of scooping up distressed businesses for a song; Flint Hills Resources, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, bought a bankrupt $52.5 million biodiesel plant in Beatrice, NE for just $5 million in 2008 and will operate it in a joint venture with Benefuel.

If the Koch Bros. hadn't achieved widespread notoriety due to their political activities, few people would have heard of their family or their company. Below, Chris Leonard, author of a forthcoming Simon and Shuster book on Koch Industries, talked to about his piece in Fortune, The New Koch.
Why isn’t Charles Koch mentioned in the same breath as Warren Buffett?
I think one key reason Charles Koch doesn’t get the attention he deserves is because the company is not publicly traded. Because Berkshire Hathaway has public shareholders (at least the handful who can afford the stock!), it generates a lot of coverage by media outlets. Koch Industries, on the other hand, isn’t traded on any stock exchange, so there isn’t the same kind of story to follow. Koch doesn’t hold the kind of splashy annual meetings that Warren Buffett presides over, for example. On the contrary, Koch is a very private person. Again and again, I heard from current and former employees that Charles Koch, and by extension Koch Industries, prefers to avoid the limelight when possible. The culture is more about getting the job done rather than trying to get attention.

New Koch Bros. bio, Sons of Wichita, is one of the books on which Amazon is delaying shipment in Jihad against small publisher

Time calls Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
(above) "controlling, ruthless
and vicious"
but defends him
Amazon's well-publicized feud with Hachette has resulted in the online giant putting the screws to the publisher by listing Hachette titles as "out of stock" while subjecting others to shipping delays and uncompetitive pricing.
Sons of Wichita -- a brand-new book about the Koch brothers by first-time author Daniel Schulman. Amazon says the hardcover is subject to a 2-to-4-week shipping delay.
      "As a first-time author, you have so much to prove -- that you can produce a good book, but then that it can actually sell," Schulman told Al Jazeera. "If my book isn't seen as a success, regardless of the reason, it can affect my ability to sell a second one."

Video: UC-Santa Barbara students hold surfer-style memorial for six victims of Isla Vista shooter

It was a "paddle-out" in which a circle is formed in the ocean and flowers thrown in the middle. Commemorated: David Wang, Veronika Weiss, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, Katherine Cooper, James Hong and George Chen.

Family Research Council officials really aren't gay, they're just kidding around. Yuk, Yuk

The titillating discomfiture / fascination with homosexuality evidently was a wellspring of nervous laughter for pastors at the Family Research Council’s Watchmen on the Wall conference. Zzzzzz.

Gov. Dave Heineman's failure to comply with 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act by May 15 deadline means Nebraska may lose 5% of DOJ prison grants

The Washington Post reports that seven states and one territory will face  5% cuts in federal grants because their governors have either refused to adopt federal standards to combat prison sexual assault as required by the Prison Rape Elimination Act, or have not committed to comply with the law.
     The law to “prevent, detect and respond to” sexual abuse and rape in prisons, jails and juvenile facilities was passed unanimously by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush in 2003. May 15 was the deadline for states and territories to submit certifications or assurances of compliance to standards created by a national bipartisan commission.
     The governors of Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska, Texas and Utah as well as the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific either did not meet the deadline or have indicated that they do not intend to comply with the law.
From the National Criminal Justice Association:
Congress mandated that the penalty for noncompliance is 5 percent of any DOJ grant funds "that it would otherwise receive for prison purposes," a term left undefined in statute.  DOJ is interpreting this to mean any grant program eligible to be used for prison construction, administration or programming, which in FY14 will include the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act’s Title II formula grants, and the Office on Violence Against Women’s STOP grants.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Baseball has not been very good to 50 Cent

Homophobic Nebraska governor now wants to helm NU; Dave Heineman's long history of hostility to LGBTs

Now that he's being term-limited out of office, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman wants to be the University of Nebraska's next president, a cushy job which comes with a mansion rivaling the one Heineman now inhabits and a salary more than four times his current pay of $105,000 per year.
     Heineman has no experience in academic administration and no advanced degree, but he does have a long history of hostility to the interests of LGBTs (see selected highlights of that, below).
     There is already a facebook page opposing Heineman's selection as NU president, and the chairman of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents is clearly disgusted by Heineman's tactics of campaigning for the post while still governor:
     “Now that the governor has publicly announced his candidacy for the position, his current requests for one-on-one meetings with the members of the Board of Regents, chancellors and other administrators, and search committee members are inappropriate and will not be honored,” Howard Hawks said in the statement.
     “To do so would present a problem of fairness and it is not practical to track and offer comparable opportunities to all candidates.”

     Hawks said in an interview he wants potential applicants to know the regents intend to have a completely fair search process. “I think it was important to have it be known that we’re not going to provide any applicant an advantage over all other candidates knowingly,” he said. “Our search consultants and me personally have some concerns that this will have a dampening effect on applications. I think that’s the history of this.”
     Asked whether the governor should have kept his application quiet, Hawks said, “He could have.”

Governor Heineman, pictured with a weasel.
Heineman is on the right.
     In 2014, Heineman subjected candidates to the State Board of Education to an irrelevant gay litmus test (see picture below): Do you support or oppose adoption of children who are wards of the state by gay and lesbian parents?
       In 2013, Heineman refused a gay couple an adoption waiver, blaming Nebraska's antigay adoption policy on a memo from the 1995 Health and Human Services director instead of simply revoking the policy.
     In 2012, Heineman opposed the extension of domestic partner benefits to gay (and straight) NU employees. At Thursday's press conference, where he  announced his decision to apply for the NU presidency vacancy and then shamelessly campaigned for it while on the clock in his current state job, he was asked about that opposition; his response was that since the Board of Regents (subsequently) approved the benefits, his job as president would be to execute the board's decision.
     In 2007, Gov. Heineman refused to comment on guidelines that his administration's Health and Human Services System prohibited diversity teams from providing programs about gay and lesbian issues and wouldn't say whether he agreed or disagreed with the policy.
      At the time, the Lincoln Journal documented the hostility of his administration toward even the discussion of LGBT issues.
But some members of HHS diversity teams in Omaha and Lincoln recently resigned after administrators prevented programs that included discussion of gay and lesbian issues.
     In Omaha, at least 10 of 24 team members quit when administrators stopped a program and panel focusing on gay and lesbian issues.
     One of the invited speakers said the administration first stopped a daylong training and then said the group could not host a shorter program offered after work hours.
     Committee members were told they could not discuss gay, lesbian and transgendered issues on state time, said Betty Dorr, past president of Omaha PFLAG, a group representing parents, family and friends of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons.
Click picture to enlarge sufficiently to read bottom query
Questionnaire excerpts via the Omaha World-Herald.

Omaha suburb's mayor wants to force atheists to help pay for prayer day: 'Take me to fucking court — I don't care'

LaVista, Nebr mayor Douglas Kindig
LaVista Mayor Douglas Kindig added: "Minorities are not going to run my city."
     To which Omaha Atheists responded thusly:

“Minorities Are Not Going to Run My City” Snaps La Vista MayorContact: Omaha Atheists Spokesperson Jill Fitzgerald: 402.740.8645 -
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Omaha, NE— May 26th 2014 — Omaha Atheists, an educational nonprofit focused on local secular issues, invites La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig to meet and discuss his recent disturbing comments to La Vista resident Mr. Robert Fuller, board member and treasurer of Omaha Atheists. Mr. Fuller approached Mayor Kindig after the “Faith and Freedom Day” Memorial Day service at La Vista Daze. Mr. Fuller explained he respectfully gave Mayor Kindig his business card indicating his concerns about possible church and state separation issues and his desire to speak with the mayor another time. Mayor Kindig’s response to Mr. Fuller was “Take me to fucking court because I don’t care,” and later, “Minorities are not going to run my city”. 

     Josiah Mannion, Army veteran and former board member of Omaha Atheists states, “As someone who proudly served my country defending Mr. Kindig’s rights, I am heartbroken he used the memory of my brothers and sisters in arms to defend bigotry.” Meagan Wilson, president of Omaha Atheists states, “Mr. Kindig’s comments are insulting and dismissive of the rights of citizens to bring concerns to their elected officials. He clearly has strong opinions about this topic, but we are saddened and concerned that he would rather demand legal action that wastes taxpayer resources than have a respectful conversation.” Mr. Fuller stated, “Such an emotional reaction was shocking and I was baffled. I don’t understand what being a minority has to do with anyone’s right to be heard by their mayor.”

     Omaha Atheists have been the target of discriminatory behavior before. Their “Adopt A Highway” road sign was recently vandalized and they reacted positively, inviting the public to meet and dispel misconceptions about them. Continuing this trend of meeting adversity by embracing opportunity, OA welcomes Mr. Kindig to publicly explain his offensive comments. According to the Papillion Times 2012 Election Special Coverage article written by Scott Stewart located, Mr. Kindig stated “I am willing to listen to our citizens because they are the ones suppose [sic] to direct our future.” Omaha Atheists walked in the La Vista Daze parade in support of their La Vista members and to promote their sponsorship of Apostacon, a secular conference coming this September featuring renowned astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, star of the popular Cosmos show. For more information contact Omaha Atheists spokesperson Jill Fitzgerald at 402.740.8645 or by email at

Today's most viciously funny tweet about the Keystone XL pipeline and the Koch Brothers

Anti-gay National Organization for Marriage fined $50k by Maine Ethics Commission in complaint filed by Fred Karger accusing it of hiding donors

NOM will appeal, of course, and it's also going to sue Human Rights Campaign, the nation's richest gay rights organization. Karger said the ruling will help his complaint against NOM in Iowa and that he is considering filing another complaint against NOM in New Hampshire.
    In 2009, NOM poured more than $2 million into the $3 million referendum campaign to repeal the law... [NOM attorney John]Eastman said the investigation did not prove that contributions were earmarked for the Maine referendum, meaning the donors’ identities are protected by federal laws governing nonprofit “social welfare” organizations.
     ...Michael Healy, a member of the five-member ethics commission, said Eastman’s arguments didn’t make sense. He said that Brown’s dual roles effectively gave him control over the Maine ballot committee.
     “Your organization gave two-thirds of the (campaign money) to the (Maine) committee,” he said. “I have a hard time not concluding that you didn’t control the ballot question committee.”
Ethics commission chairman Walter McKee said to accept NOM’s explanation would be to “accept a mockery of Maine’s election laws.”
     McKee pointed to a series of donor solicitations and transactions that were obtained during the investigation. The records show that some donors gave specific amounts to NOM’s treasury. On the very same day, the records show that identical, or nearly identical, amounts were transferred to Stand for Marriage Maine. McKee said it was hard to believe the transactions were a coincidence or that the donations were not specifically designated for Maine campaign.
     “(The explanation) strains the credibility here,” McKee said. “It’s a tough set of facts for you.”
 Earlier today, AKSARBENT posted hilarious excerpts from a deposition in Maine's investigation by NOM's head, Brian Brown.

As the Maine Ethics Commission decides whether to fine NOM $50,000 for thumbing its nose at campaign disclosure rules, AKSARBENT revisits hilarious excerpts from Brian Brown's deposition to the agency

This deposition was made in 2010, but rich humor is timeless.

Below: Ooops! The dog must have eaten the email death threats and our cat,
Rosemary W., must have accidentally erased the phone message death threats

That stunning Watford, ND mancamp tornado video should sell a lot of Nokia Lumia cellphones

It was recorded on an "old" Nokia Lumia 925, a Windows phone, and looks like a million bucks. We would have sworn it was taken with a DSLR.
     Nokia (now owned by Microsoft) may not have a lot of apps, and you can be sure that the NSA would MUCH prefer you to use a Microsoft product rather than a harder-to-spy-on Apple device, but if you want jaw-dropping videography from your phone, those Lumias fill the bill like nothing else.
     The newer ones are exceptional in low light too, according to the company's ads and reviewers.
     After seeing this, we may get one.
     You might want to turn down the sound on the video unless you enjoy watching individuals who say "Holy shit" and laugh as a tornado comes well within a tee shot of them — and from the ladies' tees, we might add.

Nigerian Senate Majority leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, says Nigeria had to ban gay marriage because of teen pregnancies, child abandonment, child prostitution, human trafficking, corruption, kidnapping and insurgency

Victor Ndoma-Egba
And what does all that have to do with gay marriage, you might ask? Wonder no more, for Ndoma-Egba has an answer: those social ills "all started as insignificant criminal activity but have today become monsters threatening our very existence."
     Even though Nigeria's law is known as the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition act, it does much more, threatening partners in same sex relationships with 14-year prison sentences, criminalizing not only intimate LGBT relationships but also attending or organizing a meeting of LGBTs, and patronizing or operating any gay organization.
     Secretary of State John Kerry asserted that the law violated basic human rights protections guaranteed by Nigeria’s own Constitution, adding, "Beyond even prohibiting same-sex marriage, the law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association and expression for all Nigerians.”
     Adotei Akwei, managing director of government relations at Amnesty International USA in Washington, said in an email that the group was “appalled at the new legislation, which we believe will put members of Nigeria’s L.G.B.T. community at risk and is a clear violation of Nigeria’s international and regional human right obligations.” Mr. Akwei said all governments “are tasked with protecting the rights of all of their citizens and individuals in their areas of jurisdiction, not just the ones they like.”

     Nigerian gay-rights advocates said the law also elevated the risk to people living with H.I.V. and AIDS, because organizations that help them might also be deemed illegal. Davis Mac-Iyalla, a gay-rights activist, said in an interview with, a Nigerian news website, that the law’s effects “may well translate into more young people becoming homeless, and social and state violence.”
     With more than 175 million people, Nigeria is twice the size of Africa’s next most populous nation, Ethiopia. As one of the world’s leading oil producers, it wields huge economic and political influence in Africa, in no small measure on account of its status as one of the world's leading oil producers; its hostility to LGBTs will certainly reverberate elsewhere in Africa.
     Nigeria’s population is about evenly split between Muslims and Christians, but there is little dissent to widespread antipathy toward LGBTs; the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project said that the 98% of Nigerians who answered “no” to the question “Should society accept homosexuality?” — was the largest of 39 countries it surveyed on the issue.

Monday, May 26, 2014

CNN pundit: robots poised to displace a billion workers worldwide

It isn't just replacing typists with voice recognition or Big Mac makers with a mechanized griller/assembler; robots can now do the most critical part of hip replacement surgery and are closing in fast on making medical diagnoses.

Bayer attacks Harvard study linking bee deaths to chemical in its pesticides

Neonicotinoids are widely on crops like corn, soybeans, cotton, sorghum, sugar beets, apples, cherries, peaches, oranges, berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and potatoes and are commonplace in yard and landscaping products.
     And now, a new Harvard study fingers neonics as the key driver of colony collapse disorder:
The experiment couldn't have been simpler. Working with nearby beekeepers, Harvard researcher Chensheng Lu and his team treated 12 colonies with tiny levels of neonics and kept six control hives free of the popular chemicals. All 18 hives made it through summer without any apparent trouble. Come winter, though, the bees in six of the treated hives vanished, leaving behind empty colonies—the classic behavior of colony collapse disorder.

     Bayer accused Lu of "overdosing" the bees with neonicotinoids (even though the amount he used was tiny) and that 13 weeks of exposure was "too long" to simulate exposure of bees to crop pesticides even though in New England, the home of Harvard, "bees can forage outside from March to September — 30 weeks," and elsewhere in the U.S. they can gather food for as long as 41 weeks.
     Perhaps Bayer needs more academics like this one at the University of Nebraska who are respectful of both its talking points and its attempts to blame bee deaths not on the pesticides it sells, but on viruses and mites, for which it just happens to sell insecticides.

When a computer set Dean Martin up on a date with Frank Sinatra...

This is surprisingly unhomophobic, even after the cops showed up in the park. Points subtracted, however, for breaking the Hollywood Code of Silence about Liberace.

Too bad we'll never read Roger Ebert's review of
Life Itself, the film about Ebert himself

Morgan Freeman treats his voice of god to a hit of helium

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Comment of the Day

Via Slate.

Mitch and Cam now endorsing straight-gay marriage

It's the new frontier in equality!

Nebraska GOP Governor candidate Pete Ricketts and his amazingly Caucasian twitter feed: From 4/1-5/24, 2014: 163 campaign photos, 0 black faces

Ricketts for Governor just loves to portray white people in its
Twitter feed, especially blonds/blondes, who seem to get the
most close-ups. Black Nebraskans? Not so much.
This is really quite extraordinary. As AKSARBENT was browsing the campaign photos tweeted out by @RickettsForGov, we thought: geez, this is really Aryan with a capital "A" — does the Pete Ricketts campaign see black people at all?
     So we looked at every one of the photos tweeted by the wealthy TD Ameritrade scion in May (about 78, through yesterday when we checked) and couldn't pick out a SINGLE black face. Amazing.
     Then we went through April's tweeted photos (about 85).
     Again, NOT A SINGLE BLACK FACE. Dozens of campaign stops all over the state. Hundreds of people depicted in group photos and not one person of color that we could detect.
     If there is any more baldly racist-by-omission gubernatorial campaign in America, we'd love to see it.
     Or maybe not.

Jeremy Paxman's adorably obscene query to former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi about German Chancellor Angela Merkel shows why the BBC's interviewer will never be allowed anywhere near Joe Biden

Brit film about miner-LGBT alliance against PM Margaret Thatcher, Pride, wins Cannes award

This year's unofficial Queer Palm award at Cannes for the film that best depicts homosexual, bisexual and transgender issues was given to British Tony Award-winning theatre director Matthew Warchus for his feature Pride, about the unlikely anti-Margaret Thatcher alliance in the 1980s between LGBT activists and striking miners.

     In San Francisco, in 1977, Harvey Milk did the same thing in San Francisco, getting gay bars and restaurants to join an AFL/CIO boycott against Coors. As a result of an ensuing boycott of Coors in California gay bars/restaurants, Coors Lite dropped from #1 in California to #2, then #3, and finally bottomed out in fourth place before the panicked company began to make amends to the gay community.
     The Hollywood Reporter reviewed the film here. Below is IMDb's synopsis of Pride:
    Its the summer of 1984 Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is on strike. At the Gay Pride March in London, a group of gay and lesbian activists decides to raise money to support the families of the striking miners. But there is a problem. The Union seems embarrassed to receive their support.
    But the activists are not deterred. They decide to ignore the Union and go direct to the miners. They identify a mining village in deepest Wales and set off in a mini bus to make their donation in person. And so begins the extraordinary story of two seemingly alien communities who form a surprising and ultimately triumphant partnership.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Reaping what it sowed: GOP political exploitation of homophobia now working against the party

In Nebraska, outrageously and publicly homophobic Attorney General Jon Bruning lost his primary bid for governor by just over 2,000 votes in a state with nearly two million people. There are easily enough gay GOP Cornhuskers to have accounted for the stake just driven through the heart of Bruning's political ambitions.

Consider these factoids:
  • In Colorado, Democrat Sen. Mark Udal is bashing his GOP opponent for voting to deny LGBTs discrimination protection
  • In Arizona, Democrats plan to go after Republicans who passed a law (vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer) giving businesses owned by homophobes a "religious liberty" bigot exemption to public accommodation laws
  • In Pennsylvania, GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, already unpopular, is getting more grief for comparing gay marriage to incest
     Some Republicans believe that mounting public support represents a danger to their party, and they are scrambling to prevent Democrats from using the issue of gay rights in the same way some in their own party did for years...
     Nevada Republicans dropped their opposition to gay marriage last month from the state party's platform, and a national campaign is underway to remove such language from the national party platform in 2016. Major Republican donors have formed a coalition to push the party to become more gay-friendly.
GOP political homophobia has been particularly costly to the party in Colorado:
Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet narrowly defeated a Republican challenge in 2010 after the GOP candidate compared homosexuality to alcoholism. The next year, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper shamed Republicans in control of the state House for refusing to grant gay couples civil unions. The GOP lost control of the chamber in 2012, and Hickenlooper signed a civil unions bill last year.

Kremlin propaganda outlet, Russia Today, lambastes Prince Charles for comparing Putin's adventurism to Hitler's

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg defended Prince Charles' private remarks.

1000 workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh have already died constructing 2022 FIFA World Cup venue in Quatar

From The Guardian, which has done several exposes of abuse of foreign workers in homophobic Quatar:
     The report by the international law firm DLA Piper calls for changes to the much-criticised kafala system that ties workers to their employers. It also contains the Qatari government's own figure on the numbers of migrants who have died on its soil: 964 from Nepal, India and Bangladesh in 2012 and 2013. In all, 246 died from "sudden cardiac death" in 2012, the report said, 35 died in falls and 28 committed suicide.
     But the real purpose of the 135-page report, commissioned in the wake of Guardian revelations about appalling working conditions in Qatar, was to make recommendations for reform. The document was welcomed by human rights campaigners as a major step forward, particularly given early fears that DLA Piper's independence could be compromised by its work for Qatar-owned news network al-Jazeera.

Flying Drone orchestra

KMel Robotics did this, with the following acknowledgement: "Many thanks to Lockheed Martin and Intel Corporation for their support."
     AKSARBENT thinks Lockheed Martin and Intel should thank KMel robotics for putting a smiley face on the technology they deliver to the Pentagon. This looks SOOO much better than showing the collateral damage of dismembered, dead children at Muslim wedding parties attended by alleged terrorists.
     Which brings to mind the snarkiest Intel product placement AKSARBENT can recall — the Simpsons Halloween episode (Treehouse of Horror VIII) where Mayor Quimby insults France, which, in a fit of annoyance, decides to off Springfield with an neutron-bomb-laden ICBM hidden underneath the Eiffel Tower. In the cartoon, as the tower unfolded to clear the way for the rocket, the camera panned up to the nose carrying the nuclear warhead to reveal an "Intel Inside" sticker.

Etienne Daho — comme un igloo

Doris Day turns 90

Actually, her birthday party was April 5th. She celebrated at the Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley at a fundraiser for her charity, the Doris Day Animal Foundation. Polly Edwards, who took and uploaded the video, wrote:
Doris was not expected to attend, at least not by me, but ...She walked in the room and the crowd went wild. A crowd gathered around her and moved with her as she made her way to her seat. She had a man standing hear her to act as some protection through the evening's entertainment, but when people walked up to her she was incredibly friendly and welcoming. At the end of the event she stayed while everyone went up to her one by one to thank her or hug her or wish her happy birthday. It was an incredibly happy event. As you can see from the video she looks fantastic, is sharp as can be, and is loving life.
     Below: Day, back in the day, when Rock Hudson pretended to be a straight character who was pretending to be gay so "Jan" would be encouraged to verify that he wasn't by sleeping with him. Don't laugh. In the 60s, Playboy Magazine once playfully encouraged its horndog readers to try this ploy in order to get laid. In life, Doris Day called Hudson "Ernie" and he called her "Eunice" instead of her usual Hollywood nickname, Clara Bixby.
     Doris Day turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate because she thought it would be bad for her image. Well, she got that right. It might have caused critics to stop thinking of her as a movie star and start considering her to be a serious actress. Fortunately, Ann Bancroft got the part and even subliminally (almost) flashed Mike Nichol's camera.

Fun Fact about Doris Day, from IMDb:
In order to make a political statement regarding the platform of the Canadian Alliance Party, in 2000 Canadian Satirist Rick Mercer launched an attempt to hold a national referendum on the question of whether or not Stockwell Day should be forced to change his first name to "Doris." Within days he had the required number of signatures under the Alliance Party's then-current platform to launch a federal referendum. Doris, according to her publicist, was amused by this.
Fun fact about Rock Hudson:
Once, quite drunk, he welcomed a gay buddy who worked as a suit at Universal to one of his pool parties and escorted him to the second floor where they surveyed the guests splayed around the pool. Hudson helpfully pointed out that "the brunettes are named 'Grant' and the blonds are named 'Todd.' "

This Bollywood star has more money than any other actor in the world except Jerry Seinfeld

According to Wealth-X, a Singapore-based company that researches the ├╝ber-rich, Shah Rukh Khan of India has $600 million, more than even Tom Cruise or Johnny Depp, but not Jerry Seinfeld, whose Seinfeld reruns have earned $3 billion over 16 years.

Facebook's guilty-until-proven-innocent robot tribunal suspends another account

Del Shores, a writer for the U.S. version of Queer As Folk, was notified that his page was shut down for 30 days because, he suspects, religious bigots mounted a campaign against him:
The particular offending post was attacked by a few religious bigots, one who railed on the gay community by quoting scripture after scripture. Many fans commented back, and I ultimately banned and blocked him, deleting his hateful comments in the name of the Lord. But apparently not before he and his trolls reported my page.
Here was Facebook's automated nonexplanatory explanation:
     Facebook's modus operandi seems to be to automatically suspend pages in response to any orchestrated complaints — legitimate or not —  and then not meaningfully review or respond to said revocations until hundreds of people waste their time getting the attention of actual humans at the contemptibly impersonal social media behemoth in order to attempt to persuade it to do the right thing.
     You might say that Facebook doesn't act until its users embarrass it, but that posits the questionable assumption that the company is capable of being ashamed of the never-ending stream of lying, deceit and shell games that it inflicts on its hapless users.

NPR's Tom Moon: new CD by Omaha indie-rock star Conor Oberst, Upside Down Mountain, a career peak

Friday, May 23, 2014

After three-day waiting period following legalization, same sex marriages begin in Pennsylvania

     Performance and recognition of same-sex marriage was banned via the Pennsylvania House of Representa­tives and Senate in September and October 1996. The House approved Rep. Allan Egolf's (R-Perry) amendment, 177-16, after an effort to deem it unconstitutional failed, 171-29. The Senate took it up Oct. 1, 1996, and passed it, 43-5. Republican Governor Tom Ridge subsequently signed the amendment into law.
     Whitewood v. Wolf: On July 9, 2013, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, the ACLU filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on behalf of 23 plaintiffs—10 couples, 2 of their children, and a widow—seeking to overturn Pennsylvania's 1996 statutory ban on same-sex marriage. The case, originally Whitewood v. Corbett, was assigned to Judge John E. Jones III. On July 11, Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a named defendant, said that she would not defend the statute as she "endorse[d] equality and anti-discrimination laws" and that the statute was "wholly unconstitutional". On July 30, Governor Tom Corbett announced he would defend the statute.
Nebraska author Willa Cather, who
moved to Pittsburgh 118 years too early.
     All parties agreed to having Corbett's name removed as a defendant. The remaining named defendants are the state health and revenue secretaries, and the Bucks County register of wills. On November 15, Judge Jones rejected the state defendants' motion to dismiss the suit. The judge found that while Baker v. Nelson was precedent, it did not require him to find that denial of marriage equality is outside federal jurisdiction because "[t]he jurisprudence of equal protection and substantive due process has undergone what can only be characterized as a sea change since 1972", foremost being the recent Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windssor. Jones set the trial date for June 9, 2014; later deemed unnecessary (see below). In early December, the state's attorneys asked Jones to allow them to ask the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on whether Baker v. Nelson is binding precedent. Judge Jones denied this interlocutory appeal on December 17, writing "this Court is rightfully in position to consider and assess such doctrinal advancements [since Baker]."
      On April 21, 2014, plaintiff same-sex couples filed a motion for summary judgment in Whitewood v. Wolf. This allows the court to rule solely on the briefs, without a trial, where the facts are undisputed in a case. The state defendants have agreed to dispense with trial as well.
     On May 20, 2014, Judge Jones ruled in Whitewood v. Wolf that Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, opining that it violates both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution. The ruling went into effect immediately and was not stayed, allowing same-sex couples to request and receive marriage licenses throughout the state, who can marry after a mandatory 3 day waiting period.
     Pennsylvania's Republican Governor Tom Corbett announced on May 21, 2014 that he and his legal team would not seek to appeal Judge Jones' decision, rendering same-sex marriage permanently legal and making Pennsylvania the 19th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Violent Duck Dynasty homophobe Phil Robertson, merchandising mascot at Cabelas, Walmart and Cracker Barrel, goes off on gays again

Dry drunk Phil Robertson's old man sanctimony has a nasty, violent provenance but Robertson blames that history on Satan and a permissive 60s culture — not himself — insisting that outside forces were responsible for the eight years of liquor and substance abuse in his 20s during which he savagely beat a bar owner and his wife over a rent dispute, sending them to the hospital and forcing his wife and small sons to fend for themselves while he hid in the woods of a neighboring state from the Louisiana State Patrol for four months.
     After repeatedly kicking his wife and kids out of the house, Robertson finally straightened up.
     Nowadays, the only people Robertson assaults are LGBTs, with cherry-picked biblical clobber phrases from the Apostle Paul.
     Curiously, Robertson avoids Corinthians, even as he recites Romans with both relish and Johnny-come-lately piety.

Anderson Cooper, once bitten by a Communist rat on camera, mocks Amy Kushnir, daughter of TV evangelist Robert Tilton

This is one of Cooper's most trenchant and biting Ridiculist pieces, perhaps because he has a dog in the fight. Cooper was once bitten by a Communist rat on camera. Kushnir, though her bio conspicuously conceals the fact, is the daughter of disgraced televangelist Robert Tilton.

Artie Shaw Centennial

Below, game latter-day pretenders subject themselves to the brutal scrutiny of trying to match the style and grace of Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell famously tapping their way through Begin the Beguine in Broadway Melody of 1940.
     Johnny Mathis recorded an eight minute disco version which reached #37 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary survey in 1979, but AKSARBENT didn't search for it on YouTube for fear that we would find it.

From Wikipedia:

Artie Shaw (born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky; May 23, 1910 – December 30, 2004) was an American clarinetist, composer, and bandleader. Also an author, Shaw wrote both fiction and non-fiction.
      Widely regarded as "one of jazz's finest clarinetists," Shaw led one of the United States' most popular big bands in the late 1930s through the early 1940s. 
About Shaw's biggest hit, Begin the Beguine:
     Cole Porter (1891-1964) composed the song between Kalabahi, Indonesia, and Fiji during a 1935 Pacific cruise aboard Cunard's ocean liner Franconia. In October 1935, it was introduced by June Knight in the Broadway musical Jubilee, produced at the Imperial Theatre in New York City.
     A Beguine was originally a Christian lay woman of the 13th or 14th century living in a religious community without formal vows, but in the creole of the Caribbean, especially in Martinique and Guadeloupe, the term came to mean "white woman", and then to be applied to a style of music and dance, and in particular a slow, close couples' dance. This combination of French ballroom dance and Latin folk dance became popular in Paris and spread further abroad in the 1940s, largely due to the influence of the Porter song.
     Based on the title dance, the song is notable for its 108-measure length, departing drastically from the conventional thirty-two-bar form. Where a typical "standard" popular song of its time was written in a fairly strict 32-measure form consisting of two or three eight-measure subjects generally arranged in the form A-A-B-A or A-B-A-C, "Begin the Beguine" employs the form A-A-B-A-C1-C2 with each phrase being sixteen measures in length rather than the usual eight. The final "C2" section is stretched beyond its 16 measures an additional twelve bars for a total of 28 measures, with the twelve additional measures providing a sense of finality to the long form.
The slight differences in each of the "A" sections, along with the song's long phrases and final elongated "C2" section at the end, give it unique character and complexity. The fact that the song's individual parts hold up melodically and harmonically over such a long form also attests to Porter's talent and ability as a songwriter.
     Musicologist and composer Alec Wilder described it in his book American Popular Song: The Great Innovators 1900-1950 as "a maverick, an unprecedented experiment and one which, to this day, after hearing it hundreds of times, I cannot sing or whistle or play from start to finish without the printed music ... about the sixtieth measure I find myself muttering another title, End the Beguine."
     At first, the song gained little popularity, perhaps because of its length and unconventional form. Josephine Baker danced to it in her return to America in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, but neither she nor the song were successful. Two years later, however, bandleader Artie Shaw recorded an arrangement of the song, an extended swing orchestra version, in collaboration with his right-hand arranger and orchestrator, Jerry Gray.
     After signing a new recording contract with RCA Victor in the summer of 1938, Shaw chose "Beguine" to be the first of six tunes he would record at his initial recording session on July 24. Until then, Shaw's band had been having a tough time finding an identity and maintaining its existence without having had any popular hits of significance; his previous recording contract with Brunswick had lapsed at the end of 1937 without being renewed.
     RCA's pessimism with the whole idea of recording the long tune "that nobody could remember from beginning to end anyway" resulted in it being released on the "B" side of the record "Indian Love Call", issued by Bluebird Records as catalog number B-7746 B. Shaw's persistence paid off, though, when "Begin the Beguine" became a best-selling record in 1938, peaking at No. 3., skyrocketing Shaw and his band to fame and popularity. The recording became one of the most famous and popular anthems of the entire Swing Era. Subsequent re-releases by RCA Victor (catalog number 20-1551) and other releases on LPs, tapes and CDs have kept the recording readily available continuously ever since its initial release.

Terry Gross asks biographer Daniel Schuman why the Koch Brothers need so many different political organizations, instead of just one

On Fresh Air's May 21st show, How the Koch Brothers Remade America's Political Landscape, Terry Gross interviewed the author of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America's Most Powerful and Private Dynasty, Daniel Schulman, who took great pains to explain what the Kochs are not:
     The Kochs have always had an uneasy relationship with the Republican Party, or they traditionally did, because their politics aren't exactly Republican, they're very much more libertarian, and there's only a narrow subset of issues on which they actually agree with Republicans...For instance, they're generally anti-war. They're civil libertarians; they are not social conservatives in any sense of the word. David Koch has said he's pro-gay marriage. You wouldn't see these guys advocating against reproductive rights.
     ....Across the board, the Kochs are anti-regulation... They view climate change and any regulation surrounding it as a major threat to their business model, which is a lot having to do with oil and petrochemicals. They have certainly funded an array of groups that have tried to create doubt about the very existence of it...