Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Unexpected Apple support from former CIA/NSA chief: FBI's request for backdoor 'harms American safety and security'

On Tuesday, protesters in 30 American cities demonstrated against the FBI's attempts to force Apple to break the security it has built into iPhones. From the The New York Daily News:
     Even retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and the NSA, has questioned whether the FBI is overreaching.
      “(FBI director) Jim (Comey) would like a backdoor available to American law enforcement in all devices globally,” Hayden told USA Today. “And, frankly, I think on balance that actually harms American safety and security, even though it might make Jim’s job a bit easier in some specific circumstances.”

NE Sen. turns tables on antiLGBT law backers; wants faith-based adoption agencies investigated for bias

Democrat State Senator Adam Morfield of Lincoln wants backers of antiLGBT adoption bill, LB975, to be investigated for violation of President George W. Bush's 2002 order prohibiting discrimination in adoption. The antiLGBT Nebraska Family Alliance says that order only applies to beneficiaries of adoption agencies and that they are free to kick prospective parents who don't meet religious or sexual orientation litmus tests to the curLin

The Lincoln Journal-Star has more:
     A state senator from Lincoln is calling for an investigation into whether faith-based adoption agencies in Nebraska are violating federal law by discriminating against potential adoptive or foster parents based on religion.
     The move by Sen. Adam Morfeld comes after three Nebraska child placing agencies said they would refuse to work with families who are not active in their local churches. 
     "All of these admissions raise serious questions about whether these contractors are in violation of state law, federal law and executive orders," Morfeld wrote Monday in a letter to Courtney Phillips, CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
     Morfeld said he plans to notify the federal government of his concerns as well.
The three agencies are supporting a measure (LB975) by Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward which would protect them from adverse action by the state — including denials of funding — if they decline to serve certain people based on the agencies' sincerely held religious beliefs.
     We found an incisive comment in response to the Journal-Star's earlier story about the LB975 hearing, which starkly illuminates the scope of immunity being proposed for discriminatory private adoption agencies in Nebraska by LB975:

      Morfield, a staunch supporter of LGBT rights, will try again to pass LB586, an antiLGBT bias measure he had to table last year. During that legislative session, he had a heated exchange with an LGBT rights opponent during a hearing for LB647, a bill giving LGBTs more rights in state adoptions:

Trump tweets veiled threat against family of Nebraska Governor

Marlene Ricketts, who lives in Nebraska, is the wife of TD Ameritrade founder and billionaire Joe Ricketts, who lives in Wyoming. She has contributed millions to a SuperPac which excoriated Trump in Iowa and probably contributed to his loss. After Trump found out, he tweeted this, misspelling the family's name:
      The Ricketts family is, except for lawyer and gay activist daughter Laura, solidly and actively Republican. A son, Pete, is the governor of Nebraska and has been brazenly trying to illegally import death penalty drugs into the state. He and his father are the principle backers of a referendum to bring back the death penalty following the Unicameral's override of Ricketts' veto of its abolition of capital punishment.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Antigay KS Sec'y of State says League of Women Voters are ACLU's "fellow Communists"

Kris Kobach, KS Secretary of State, exposer of rampant
Communism in the League of Women Voters, and graduate
of Harvard and Yale universities.
AKSARBENT wrote about antigay Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in January of 2015 when he  turned up in Lincoln to lobby for a GOP voter suppression bill (later blocked), sold in the guise of Voter ID legislation to help solve the nonexistent problem of fraudulent voting. (Here's Kobach's favorite voter disenfranchisement software.)
     Last weekend at a Kansas GOP state convention, Koback went off on the ACLU and all their Communist fellas at the League of Women voters because both groups (and others) are suing over the proof-of-citizenship voting law he championed in 2011.
     Talking Points Memo adds:
     The ACLU filed a separate lawsuit against Kansas' requirement that residents present proof of citizenship to register to vote. The lawsuit also challenges the state's plans to remove 30,000 voters from the registration roles because they did not provide proof of citizenship during a required 90-day period.
     The Department of Justice indicated that it will side with voting rights groups when the agency on Monday filed a brief arguing that the EAC's decision should be temporarily blocked while the courts assess the case.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Tea Party Senator reads mean tweets from Trump Supporters

Senator Ben Sasse is a freshman, antigay, Tea Party favorite from Nebraska who lambasted Donald Trump recently in a series of twitter fusillades, eliciting some pushback from The Donald's fanboys and girls.

Before his election, some folks in Nebraska had a lot of fun saying Senator Sasse's name.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hearing on LB975, NE bill to reward religious anti-LGBT bias with tax subsidies; Chambers: 'It's not your job to protect freedom of religion. It's your job to protect the welfare of children.'

The New Civil Rights Movement wrote about LB975 last month:
Via Ballotpedia
     Republican State Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, 64, recently introduced LB 975, a bill that would allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children in the homes of qualified LGBT parents, while preventing the state from taking away any agency's funding or limiting its contracts. All the agency would have to do is claim they refused a qualified couple based on the agency's "religious objection."
     The anti-gay bill is cleverly named the “Welfare Services Preservation Act” as a way to disguise the fact that the bill’s sole purpose is to discriminate against LGBT families. 
Watch KETV's hearing coverage here
     Yesterday the bill had a hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee and Sen. Ernie Chambers was fit to be tied (skip to the 1:14 mark in the video link.)
     Mark Kolterman, the bill's sponsor, is apparently quite offended that some people are outraged by his attempt to guarantee that private agencies practicing discrimination should continue to get public money from Nebraska taxpayers:

     Despite all this I have received a number of attacks on my character. This saddens me for a number of reasons. First, that anyone would refer to me as “homophobic” and that my legislation “is a violation of human rights and also an indication of [my] lack of understanding among [my] constituents” is highly offensive. I have close friends and family who identify as members of the LGBT community. In fact, I have discussed this bill with some of those friends and family from District 24. One particular close friend of mine who is openly gay, after understanding the true intent of the bill, supports the idea for people to be able to ensure their religious liberty.
     Additionally, if one’s intent is to stop hateful and hurtful behavior, it is beyond reason to engage in hateful and hurtful dialogue. I realize the issue of discrimination against the LGBT community can be a heated one. Although I assure that my intent is not to single out any group of people, I understand the objections before me. It is unfortunate that reasonable people in the midst of a heated issue get caught in the crossfire of unreasonable dialogue. If those who take issue with LB975 took the time to get to know me, I think they would realize that there isn’t a hateful or homophobic bone in my body.
     Yeah, whatever. Below, Sen. Kolterman portrays as victims the religious agencies practicing discrimination  — the same religious adoption agencies who are also playing a placement extortion game with strapped state governments — subsidize us and exempt us from the rules everyone else must play by, or we'll dump the kids on you and walk away:
     No agency should be forced to choose between abandoning their faith or abandoning the children and parents they serve. Unfortunately, in the states of Massachusetts and Illinois, and in the District of Columbia, faith-based agencies have been forced to make that exact choice.
     Want to know what really happened in Massachusetts, uncolored by Sen. Kolterman's disingenuous spin in the previous paragraph? Read the following by Laura Kiritsy.
     Pay particular attention to this: the bishops simply elected to shut down Catholic Charities of Boston’s adoption services – despite a unanimous vote by the agency’s 42-member board to continue facilitating adoptions by gay people.
     Remember that the next time you hear Senator Kolterman complain about being misunderstood, that he isn't really homophobic that Massachusetts forced Catholic Charities out of the adoption business, yada yada yada and then decide whether he's just playing anyone he thinks can be had.

     ...Lastly, this is an issue I followed closely not for just professional reasons – I was on staff at the LGBT newspaper Bay Windows when the saga unfolded – but deeply personal ones. I and my four siblings were all adopted through Catholic Charities, so I know firsthand the immeasurable value of their good work. In 2006 I wrote an essay about my own experience and the impact of the agency’s decision to quit the adoption business.
     So here’s a little reality check. Catholic Charities of Boston was not forced out of the adoption business... The organization voluntarily ceased doing adoptions after the state’s four Catholic Bishops got wind that gay parents had been adopting kids through Catholic Charities from an October 2005 Boston Globe story. Not surprisingly, all of this happened as the Massachusetts Legislature was wrestling with whether to put an anti-gay marriage amendment on the statewide ballot, which the local Catholic hierarchy supported wholeheartedly.
     The Globe reported that over the course of about two decades, Catholic Charities placed 13 children with gay parents, out of about 720 adoptions they facilitated during those years. For the record, those 13 children were considered hard to place with adoptive parents because they were older or had physical or emotional difficulties, meaning had they not found loving parents who happened to be gay, they’d likely not have parents. Catholic Charities was accepting state funds to provide adoption services and was thus bound by the state’s gay-inclusive anti-discrimination law not to reject qualified adoptive parents based on sexual orientation...
     The Globe also reported that though Catholic Charities President Bryan Hehir didn’t love the idea of placing children with same-sex couples, he saw it as “a legal accommodation in the name of a greater social good.” The story later states that, “Hehir said that to his knowledge, his agency has never sought an exemption from the nondiscrimination language.”
      At least not until the four bishops, led by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, decided that Catholic Charities should be exempt from the state’s non-discrimination law, a move that was detailed in a March 11, 2006 Globe article about Catholic Charities decision to stop doing adoptions. When that proved to be a non-starter on Beacon Hill, the bishops simply elected to shut down Catholic Charities of Boston’s adoption services – despite a unanimous vote by the agency’s 42-member board to continue facilitating adoptions by gay people. As the Globe reported on March 11, Hehir and Catholic Charities board president Jeffrey Kaneb said the decision stemmed from their inability “to reconcile church teaching that placement of children in gay homes is “immoral” with Massachusetts law prohibiting discrimination against gays.”

Panasonic extends benefits to gay couples, bars LGBT discrimination among its 250,000 worldwide employees

The change will happen this April.
According to the Mainichi Shinbun (click English Version), the company has received numerous requests for this policy change from employees in addition to facing pressure as an Olympics sponsor — the Olympics Charter forbids discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on sexual orientation.
AKSARBENT was one of Panasonic's 2013 critics:
     Today, Towleroad published a post based on Buzzfeed's survey of the reaction of Olympic sponsors to the threats Russia has made to arrest gay athletes and the International Olympic Committee's threats to disqualify athletes who self-identify as gay, which it evidently considers a political "statement."
     Olympic "marquee sponsor" Panasonic's statement on the controversy was that the company “has no involvement in, and is not in a position to comment on political and social matters related to the Olympic Games or specific governments in any country or region.”
     Contrast Panasonic's "Go screw yourselves — not only won't we defend you, we won't acknowledge that homos exist" attitude with GE's public statement: “...we expect the IOC to uphold human rights in every aspect of the Games.”
     Remember that when you go camera shopping, boys and girls.
     This is wonderful news, as Pansonic's GH line (current model: GH4) includes the best moderately priced video-capable cameras sold in this country in the last several years.
     They regularly garner better reviews for their video quality than Nikon and Canon DSLRs which cost three or more times the purchase price of the Panasonics.
     Below is video from a discontinued GH2. You really can't buy a better video-capable digital camera with a decent-sized sensor for anything close to the money, and now you can do so from a company which has (finally) committed to do right by its gay employees.

     Sometimes the sound in these Lumix wonders eclipses even the exemplary video:

Below, bathtub buddies Chris and Jordan reviewed the GH4, which they really, really like.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

PBS reveals Lord Grantham's Downton Abbey codeword for Tom's nipples

From the Downton Abbey podcast in which Allen Leech (Tom Branson) talks about fellow prankster Hugh Bonneville, who plays Lord Grantham:
Hugh is also a big prankster but Hugh does something in scenes that absolutely throws you where he’ll walk up to you and say, “Of course in Downton,” and then he’ll say this word means something else. And he came up to me in one scene and he said, “Of course in Downton, politics means nipples,” and he walked away. And I was like, “What? I don’t-- what?” And then we said, “And action.” And he walks up to me and he goes, “Branson, Sybil tells me your politics are hardening.”
     So that was the end of that day of filming for me. So Downtonisms has become a great a game, at the dinner table especially.
     Jace: Speaking of mischief: True or false, did you once drunkenly break into Highclere Castle after a night out with Rob James Collier?
     Allen: There’s a couple of disclaimers here. I may have got very drunk on a cider called Old Rosy, which is 7%. And as myself and Rob say, “Old Rosie’s a cruel mistress.”
     I left Rob’s hotel and got in a car to go back to mine but it was a terrible foggy night. The taxi dropped me off at my hotel which was all closed up because I had forgotten to check in. So in my wonderfully inebriated wisdom, I thought I would walk back to Highclere and sleep in my trailer. It was a 2 and a half hour walk in the fog. I had to climb the gates and I turned into MacGyver; I used my bag anyway as some kind of footrest, got over...I did. So I technically broke into the grounds, I did not break into the house, and I slept in one of the trailers. It was-- By the time I got there I think it was about 5 AM and we were on set at 7:30. So I didn’t look my best that day. I gave hair and makeup a bit of a challenge. And Rob James Collier, it’s his fault because he refused to wake up, he didn’t answer his phone and if he had I could have gone back to his hotel and had a good night’s sleep. So, yeah, it’s actually all Rob’s fault.
     Jace: It usually is Thomas’ fault.
     Allen: It is! It is! Yeah. Rob is very, very mischievous.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pro basketball players showing more leg as they inch away from baggy shorts

Laker Jerry West (right), the unacknowledged model for the NBA's logo, wore high, tight shorts which gave way in the 90s to 20 years of ultra-baggy, loose-fitting replacements.
     Now the worm has turned; the Washington Post reports that younger players are rolling up waistbands or putting on newer, briefer styles.
     Interestingly, there are on-court disadvantages to wearing shorts which seemingly allow more freedom of movement but often don't:
“Those uniforms were never built for the athlete’s body,” said Nguyen, who added he believes basketball shorts will never grow as baggy as they once were. “It was almost contrary. If you see that from an aerodynamic perspective, those uniforms aren’t really conducive. It’s not aerodynamic at all. And now the fashion, for the last few years, really, has been going to the slim[-fitted]. It’s suiting. It’s jeans. Even for hip-hop guys.”
     Some players attest to making the switch for practical reasons. In 2011, Will Cummings, then a freshman guard at Temple, began rolling up his extra-large shorts simply because they were too big on him. They settled above his knee, and he quickly grew accustomed to them. The following year, he downsized to a large but still rolled up his shorts.
     “I really was just thinking, ‘Man, if I’m able to do a crossover through my legs without the ball hitting my shorts, I’m going to keep it like this,’ “ said Cummings, who now plays for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League, the NBA’s minor league. “It didn’t even matter. I was just trying to get my shorts shorter so I can play.”

On Today: Omaha lawyer Clete Blakeman talks about newfound social media status as Superbowl 50's "#hotref"

Storycorps interview revealed a gay secret separating father from son

Andy Goodling didn't tell his father, Scott, that Andy's friend, Bryan, was really his boyfriend until after Bryan died. Storycorps interviewed both Goodlings in a piece broadcast nationally by PBS.
      The founder of Storycorps, a traveling project that records personal reminiscences for posterity, is Dave Isay, who won 2015's TED Prize of $1,000,000.
     During his prizewinning talk (which you may view here), Isay talked about his gay father's coming out and about the 1969 Stonewall incident in which gay bar patrons revolted against being pawns in payoff negotiations between the NYPD and the mafia owners of gay bars in the big Apple.
     (In San Francisco, because of the formation of the Tavern Guild, which provided a united front against police harassment of gay bars, such a flash point never occurred.)
     Storycorps has a subproject, OutLoad, to specifically document LGBTQI stories of those who lived before Stonewall. It is here: