Thursday, March 31, 2016

NE: Pro-LGBT amendment stripped from workplace privacy bill, 20-6

Yesterday, after five hours of debate over two days, the Unicameral advanced LB821, ll Sen. Tyson Larson's bill to establish workplace electronic privacy protections in Nebraska. From Unicameral Update:
     ...The bill and would prohibit an employer from requesting or requiring that an employee or applicant:
  • disclose his or her user names or passwords to personal Internet accounts;
  • log into a personal Internet account in the presence of an employer;
  • add anyone to his or her personal Internet account; or
  •  change his or her personal Internet account settings.
     The amendment also would prevent an employer from taking adverse action against, failing to hire, or otherwise penalizing an employee or applicant for failure to disclose his or her personal Internet account setting information.
     ...Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers offered an amendment March 29 that would add the words “including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity” to the bill’s prohibition on employer retaliation. He said the change would make LB821 inclusive of all employees.      “All this amendment does is to grant the same protection to my friends—your friends, some of our relatives—who are members of the LGBT community, the protections that every employee is seeking,” Chambers said.
Larson opposed the amendment, calling it unnecessary.
     “There is no discrimination [in the bill],” he said. “It is as broad and sweeping as possible. It protects every employee and every prospective employee.”
Chambers countered that LB821 creates a right to workplace privacy that currently does not exist in Nebraska law. As a result, he said, the definition of employee in the bill is only as broad as the understanding articulated in state policy generally.
     “The policy of this state is clear that members of the LGBT community have no rights when it comes to employment, period,” Chambers said.
     Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks supported the amendment, saying employers could discriminate against LGBT workers without the additional language.
     “Everyone that has equal rights in the workforce would have protections under this bill,” she said, “but without a way to protect [LGBT individuals] in the workforce, then they can be treated differently.”
     The amendment failed on a vote of 10-26.
Here are the votes on Chambers' floor amendment FL109 and the subsequent motion to reconsider:

Senator Chambers offered the following amendment to the committee amendment: FA109 Amend AM2210 Page 1, line 7 after "discrimination" insert ", including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity". Senator Larson requested a ruling of the Chair on whether the Chambers amendment is germane to the committee amendment. The Chair ruled the Chambers amendment is germane to the commit tee amendment. Senator Chambers moved for a call of the house. The motion prevailed with 24 ayes, 0 nays, and 25 not voting. Senator Chambers requested a record vote on his amendment. 
Voting in the affirmative, 10: 
Baker Cook Hansen Howard Pansing Brooks Campbell Haar, K. Harr, B. Mello Schumacher 
Voting in the negative, 26: 
Bloomfield Friesen Hughes McCoy Watermeier Brasch Garrett Johnson Riepe Williams Coash Gloor Kintner Scheer Davis Groene Kuehn Schilz Ebke Hadley Larson Schnoor Fox Hilkemann Lindstrom Stinner
Present and not voting, 8:
Bolz Crawford Kolterman Seiler Chambers Kolowski McCollister Smith
Excused and not voting, 5:
Craighead Krist Morfeld Murante Sullivan
The Chamber amendment lost with 10 ayes, 26 nays, 8 present and not voting, and 5 excused and not voting. The Chair declared the call raised. Senator Chambers offered the following motion: MO240 Reconsider the vote taken on FA109. Senator Chambers moved for a call of the house. The motion prevailed with 22 ayes, 0 nays, and 27 not voting. Senator Chambers requested a roll call vote on the motion to reconsider.
Voting in the affirmative, 7: Bolz Cook Howard Pansing Brooks Chambers Haar, K. Kolowski
Voting in the negative, 29: Baker Friesen Hughes McCoy Smith Bloomfield Garrett Johnson Riepe Stinner Brasch Gloor Kintner Scheer Sullivan Coash Groene Kuehn Schilz Watermeier Ebke Hadley Larson Schnoor Williams Fox Hilkemann Lindstrom Seiler
Present and not voting, 7: Cambell Harr, B. Mello Schumacher Hansen McCollister Morfeld
Excused and not voting, 6: Craighead Davis Krist Crawford Kolterman Murante
The Chambers motion to reconsider failed with 7 ayes, 29 nays, 7 present and not voting, and 6 excused and not voting. The Chair declared the call raised

Huge NC furniture trade show worred about boycott of state in wake of new antiLGBT law

Go here to read the entire press release. (Via JoeMyGod.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Guess which takes better video, a $649 iPhone 6s or a $2300 Nikon D750?

Strictly speaking, this wasn't a fair fight.
     Nikon D750s don't take 4K video (You can ask Nikon and Canon why even their most expensive DSLRs can't do this, but don't expect them to get back to you right away.)
     The test was conducted by downsampling iPhone 4k video to 1920x1080 in a video editor and comparing the results to native D750 1080 video.
     (And therein lies the bias: downsampling from a higher resolution usually does wonders for 1080 video.)
     Yeah, we know that a 24-megapixel Nikon FX-class camera with a fast lens makes an iPhone look pretty sorry in low light, considering the Nikon's much-larger sensor.
     And yeah, we know you can't put a nice zoom lens on a camera phone. (Unless you're a crazy Sony engineer.)
     We're not saying that cell phone cameras are as good as DSLRs. They ain't.
     But if you're covering a news event in decent light and can get a tripod near the talking head, you may as well leave the heavy stuff at home.
     Your 4K iPhone (or Samsung Galaxy S7 or Moto X Pure Edition or LG G5) will do the job just fine. And they all have apps to edit video and can, of course, send that video to YouTube or Vimeo.
     Watch the video below and be humbled D750, owners.
     (Note: prices quoted in headline are current list.)

Monday, March 28, 2016

NBC: widespread corporate and legal pushback to new antiLGBT 'religious freedom' laws in GA, NC

So many feature films and TV shows are shot in Georgia, which aggressively courts Hollywood with generous tax incentives, that a shutdown of entertainment productions there could cost the state six billion dollars.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Federal Judge in Omaha rules Westboro Baptist must stay 500, not 300, feet from dead people

Shirley Phelps-Roper, of the Westboro Baptist Church, sued Nebraska's governor, attorney general, and Omaha's police chief, saying that a Nebraska law unfairly targets her group and that the cops often allow counter protesters, like the so-called Patriot Guard, closer to the deceased than she can now get, on account of Nebraska's new law expanding the buffer zone around funerals to 500 from 300 feet.
     In her order, Chief U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp said the 500-foot buffer doesn't deprive protestors of the opportunity to reach their target audience and also permits law enforcement to manage the logistical concerns of large crowds...
     In a news release, a spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said the state defended the law because Nebraska has a substantial interest in protecting the peace and privacy of people paying their respects to the dead.
     "Nebraska’s Funeral Picketing Law does not restrict Westboro Baptist Church from expressing its protest message by ample, alternative methods, which methods should not include disrupting funerals," the release said.

The judge's decision comes just more than a year after both sides made their cases during a week-long trial.
In a news release, a spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said the state defended the law because Nebraska has a substantial interest in protecting the peace and privacy of people paying their respects to the dead.

A federal judge on Wednesday upheld the constitutionality of Nebraska's law that creates a 500-foot buffer zone around funerals from pickets and rejected claims by Westboro Baptist Church members that the law violated their free speech rights.
In a 34-page ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp said the law is narrowly tailored and provides ample alternative channels for the controversial church to share its message.
Plaintiff Shirley Phelps-Roper and her fellow church members argued the law unfairly targets the group and said police often allow counter protesters including the Patriot Guard to get closer.
Members of the Wichita, Kansas, church routinely protest at funerals nationwide, including those of servicemen and women who die in combat, saying the Lord is punishing America for allowing homosexuality. In Nebraska, the group has picketed 46 funerals since 2005.
Phelps-Roper's attorney, Margie Phelps, said they'll appeal.
Smith Camp's ruling is necessary, Phelps said, so they can take their case to the appellate level, where they believe laws like Nebraska's will be struck down to "put some restraint on some out-of-control legislators across the country."
Phelps-Roper sued Nebraska's governor and attorney general, as well as Omaha's police chief, in 2011 after the Legislature expanded the picketing buffer zone from 300 feet to 500 feet.
In her order, Smith Camp said the 500-foot buffer doesn't deprive protestors of the opportunity to reach their target audience and also permits law enforcement to manage the logistical concerns of large crowds.
The judge's decision comes just more than a year after both sides made their cases during a week-long trial.
In a news release, a spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said the state defended the law because Nebraska has a substantial interest in protecting the peace and privacy of people paying their respects to the dead.
"Nebraska’s Funeral Picketing Law does not restrict Westboro Baptist Church from expressing its protest message by ample, alternative methods, which methods should not include disrupting funerals," the release said.

The second death of LGBT workplace protection in Nebraska

Also: Westboro Baptist church's claim that its freedom of speech was being abridged in Nebraska is rejected by a federal judge in Omaha.

     Adam Morfeld, who introduced his LB586 again this year, knew what he was up against Tuesday when he vowed, during a lunch rally for supporters in the capitol rotunda, to be back again and again if things didn't work out this session. They didn't; the bill was bracketed (tabled) on a 26-18 vote until April, when it likely won't be revisited. The vote was 26-18.
     On his way to helping kill LB586 again, GOP loose canon Bill Kintner let loose again, inviting LGBTs to vamoose if they didn't like attitudes in the Cornhusker State:
Senators Kintner (l) and Chambers
When I go to San Francisco, sometimes I’ve seen some pretty weird things there. And I’m not that comfortable in San Francisco. But you know the difference between conservatives and my friends on the left? When I’m not comfortable someplace I leave. I go somewhere I am comfortable, I move to the state I am comfortable, I like it.

     Ernie Chambers, the Unicameral's only Black and only Atheist and outspoken defender of the state's LGBT community, wasn't in the chamber at the time, but he was listening to the proceedings. When he got back on the floor, he had this to say:
If I was up here, I'd probably pick these books up and start throwing them around. If I was a white guy, I'd get my semi-automatic weapon and come down here and mow everybody down.
     This caused Kintner to ask the Speaker to spank Chambers, who has been in the Unicameral for nearly 40 years, not counting a term-limit timeout. Instead, eyes were rolled.

     Visible on camera behind the next speaker, Morfeld seemed clearly pissed and disheartened; there was talk that he would exact a little amendment revenge on the principal architects of his bill's demise.
     Multiple autopsies of LB586 can be read and viewed here, here, here and here.
     Of special note were the casual lies spun by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, who recently attended his sister Laura's gay wedding in Illinois. He said this regarding LGBT employment protections in Nebraska:
I think that we've got law in Nebraska that already takes care of this so it's unnecessary and again... we've got current law that already covers it.
     This was complete bullshit, uttered with what must be absolute contempt for the intelligence of the electorate by Gov. Ricketts, a wealthy scion of the TD Ameritrade fortune, whose current office was purchased for him for $200,000 worth of attack ads paid for by dad Joe against opponent Jon Bruning, enabling a victory by his son of  fewer than 2,200 votes in the 2014 Nebraska GOP primary.

     State Senator Lydia Brasch birthed a whopper too, telling fellow senators that federal civil rights law made a Nebraska LGBT workplace protection unnecessary. Here is Brasch, doing what she does best.
     The following 26 senators voted to drive a stake through the heart of LGBT employment protections: Bloomfield, Brasch, Craighead, Davis, Ebke, Friesen, Garrett, Groene, Hilkemann, Hughes, Johnson, Kintner, Kolterman, Krist, Kuehn, McCoy, Murante, Riepe, Scheer, Schnoor, Seiler, Smith, Stinner, Sullivan, Watermeier, and Williams.
     Eighteen senators voted not to bracket the legisation: Baker, Bolz, Campbell, Chambers, Coash, Cook, Crawford, Gloor, K. Haar, Hadley, B. Harr, Howard, Kolowski, Larson, McCollister, Mello, Morfeld, Pansing Brooks.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Bathroom scare tactics fueled new NC law overtuning local LGBT antibias ordinances

      House Bill 2 declares that state law overrides all local ordinances concerning wages, employment and public accommodations.
      Thus, the law now bars local municipalities from creating their own rules prohibiting discrimination in public places based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Though North Carolina does have a statewide nondiscrimination law, it does not include specific protections for LGBTQ people.
      The law also directs all public schools, government agencies and public college campuses to require that multiple-occupancy bathrooms and changing facilities, such as locker rooms, be designated for use only by people based on their "biological sex" stated on their birth certificate. Transgender people can use the bathrooms and changing facilities that correspond to their gender identity only if they get the biological sex on their birth certificate changed. 
     Business Insider explained how proponents sold it:
     Supporters of the recently passed legislation have cited the debunked "bathroom myth" — that transgender non-discrimination laws give sexual predators access to women's restrooms, according to Media Matters for America, a nonprofit progressive organization.
     As Republicans have taken over the state legislature, progressives have looked to use local city governments, that lean left, to enact change. The bill passed by the state legislature on Wednesday is an effort to preempt these local governments, reports The Atlantic.
     Corporate America is not happy with North Carolina's new law or a similar one proposed in Georgia:

Here in Nebraska, antigay right-wing organizations like the Nebraska Family Council and Family First (now merged into the Nebraska Family Association) have induced women supporters and husbands to tell officials at hearings how frightened they are at the prospect of men being able to claim they are transgender simply for the purpose of following them into restrooms, an imaginary scenario for which they have never cited any evidence.
    Instead, they want people to use restrooms which correspond to the gender of their birth certificate, a policy that is transparently ridiculous — as the tweeter at left illustrated.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Sen. Adam Morfeld addresses supporters of LB586, NE LGBT antibias employment bill

ALSO: NE hate crime law could change after appeal by Omaha man
convicted of attack on straight Marine out with gay friends

Yesterday State Senator Adam Morfeld of Lincoln addressed a lunch rally of about 200 gathered in the rotunda of Nebraska's capitol to support LB586, the bill he had to withdraw in 2015, but which is on today's agenda in general file to be voted on again. Below are the remarks he made which bookended statements by other supporters. AKSARBENT will post the longer version today or tomorrow at the bottom of this post.

Below is some of the debate on LB586 last year, during which both Senator Morfeld and Senator Chambers advised Sen. Beau McCoy to consult a dictionary regarding his inquiries about the bill's language. McCoy, who represents Elkhorn, a suburb of Omaha, remains a steadfast adversary of LGBT rights who in 202 tried and failed to pass a state law (LB912) banning local LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances.

Below is Senator McCoy, in 2012, attempting to mislead the judiciary committee about support for LB912.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

NE hate crime law could change after assault on gay-friendly straight Marine, Ryan Langenegger

Both sides involved in the appeal by Gregory Duncan of his hate crime conviction in Omaha for sucker punching the straight Marine friend of two gays (Ryan Langenegger, right) have asked for clarification of the state's hate crime law. Excellent coverage by Bill Kelly of NET, including an audio version of the story here.
     At the hearing, questions were raised about what factors contribute to defining an assault based on discrimination and the potential need for a definition of “sexual orientation,” which recognizes transgender and increased understanding of more fluid expressions of sexuality.
     “Do we have to adopt a new definition or standard?” asked Chief Justice Michael Heavican at one point. Most of the seven judges in session asked what the attorneys arguing opposite sides of the case would add to an opinion that would give guidance to judges in future cases. At other times they wondered aloud if it would require a change in law from the state legislature.
     Video of arguments before the Nebraska Supreme Court is below. The Duncan appeal starts at about the 24:10 mark.

Monday, March 21, 2016

NE challenge of CO pot law dismissed by U.S. Supreme Court, 6-2

Howw much of your taxes do you think AG Jon Bruning and AG Don Peterson have squandered tilting at this windmill since 2014? From the Denver Post:
     Because the matter involves a dispute between states, it was filed directly to the Supreme Court. The first step in the lawsuit was for the justices to decide whether they even wanted to consider it. When the Supreme Court does accept such cases, the subsequent litigation can go on for years or even decades.
     Attorneys for both the state of Colorado and the Obama administration had urged the court not to take up the lawsuit...
     "Entertaining the type of dispute at issue here — essentially that one State's laws make it more likely that third parties will violate federal and state law in another State — would represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of this Court's original jurisdiction," U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. wrote in his brief to the court.
Nebraska's position (From High Times) was that Colorado's Amendment 64, ending Colorado's pot prohibition, flagrantly violated the Controlled Substances Act and the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately for NE AGs Jon Bruning (who started the suit in 2014) and Don Peterson (who continued it), and Nebraska taxpayers, who have footed the bill, not even the federal government bought the argument:

      In December 2015, U.S Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. advised the Supreme Court not to entertain the lawsuit because it was not “an appropriate case for the exercise of this Court’s original jurisdiction.” Verrilli recommended the abandonment of the case since the issue at hand was the criminal actions conducted by individuals and not by the state of Colorado. It is not known how much this guidance had to do with today’s outcome.
      “At the end of the day,” Angell [Tom Angell, of the Marijuana Majority] explained,  “if officials in Nebraska and Oklahoma are upset about how much time and resources their police are spending on marijuana cases, as they said in their briefs, they should join Colorado in replacing prohibition with legalization. That will allow their criminal justice systems to focus on real crime, and it will generate revenue that can be used to pay for healthcare, education and public safety programs."

Via SCOTUSblog:

Bait and switch: The National Safety Council wants to know if you've had surgery

Last year a friend got a ticket for one of the most trivial traffic offenses for which one can be cited. He decided to take the Nebraska Safety Council safe driving course (distributed by the national Council) to have the ticket waived. (The course cost more than the ticket would have. Such a nice racket revenue stream.)
     While taking the test, he discovered that the Safety Council's lust for intrusive information easily matched that of the Nebraska State Patrol, which (after issuing the ticket) wanted to know where he was going. (He hadn't been cited for speeding so it probably wasn't a fire.)
     To complete the test (and thus the course) friend had to disclose part of his medical history to the Safety Council, a dubious requirement not disclosed before he paid for the test. But at least he gained some priceless Safety Council advice: You shouldn't want the operating physician during your surgery to be reading the paper during the procedure, OK?

Click on above graphic to enlarge and sharpen

Disinformation from NE Family Association and NE Catholic Conference busted in one handy graphic

The graphic below can be downloaded and enlarged sharply to read the citations contained therein. Chart distributed by

Every trade has an inside joke; among Hollywood sound engineers it's the Wilhelm Scream

Dan Seitz explains:
     A dude screamed into a microphone about 60 years ago and it's been turning up in movies ever since. It was originally recorded for a movie called Distant Drums in 1951 as a series of "pained screams" which were recycled for a few movies, and then lost until about 20 years later, when Ben Burtt found the scream on a reel labeled "Man being eaten by alligator" and stuck it in Star Wars, as the sound of a Storm Trooper falling off a ledge.
      Burtt included it in every Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie, and it's been a running in-joke with sound designers ever since, showing up in everything from Poltergeist to Pirates of the Carribean...

    At least the provenance of the above is well-known. Another Hollywood audio meme is not: “liberty 285, code 6, 105 North Avenue.”

Sunday, March 20, 2016

GOP pollster says even Republicans rate Sanders more authentic than either Trump or Clinton

Across the board, Sanders polls best of the five candidates still in the presidential race, says Frank Lutz, who reminded his CBSN interviewers that a significant number of voters cast their ballots on personality, not issues, and that both Trump and Clinton are hugely unpopular. Lutz was taken aback by the respect shown Sanders even by GOP voters who can't stand most of his policies. Many Republican voters are as hostile to Wall St. as leftists are.
    Our between-the-lines takeaway from this is that Sanders, as a third-party candidate against Trump, would garner an unexpected number of GOP votes, given the unprecedented level of mud slinging expected in a Clinton-Trump contest.
     Of course, it's not as if hundreds of millions of dollars couldn't be set aside by billionaires to shred Sanders too, if his poll numbers held up in an independent candidacy.
Clinton's and Trump's unfavorable ratings, right now, are
53% and 63%, respectively
Interviewer: But Frank, if there is a third party candidate...
Lutz: Hold on. Aren't you going to ask me who that is?
Interviewer: Who are they saying they'd like to see?
Lutz: To my surprise, Bernie Sanders.
Other Interviewer: Really?!
Lutz: And not for his policies. We have Republicans in the group who said they disagreed with everything he stood for, but they believe he is honest, sincere; they believe he says what he means and means what he says and what's what they're looking for, and I can't emphasize that more — that we are leaving the time of where policies mattered most, and we are entering the time when persona matters most, and I have to tell you, with all this feeling of betrayal, with all this anger towards the economy, big corporations, Washington and Wall St., integrity is the most important attribute a candidate can have, and with Bernie Sanders, even some Republicans think that he's the candidate with the most integrity.

WI GOP Rep. Sensenbrenner threatens Apple: 'I don't think you're going to like what comes out of Congress'

     Sensenbrenner, you may recall, was an author of the Patriot Act, whose provisions have used by the government to log every telephone call you make. As that widespread surveillance dragnet became known, Sensenbrenner, in a press release, blamed "abuse" by the government for its "interpretation" of his law:
     “As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely troubled by the FBI’s interpretation of this legislation....Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”
     Recently at a congressional hearing, Sensenbrenner excoriated Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell for calling on Congress to decide the scope of governmental intervention to defeat encryption of personal devices rather than simply allowing the FBI to try to cut off such a discussion with a court order.
       Sensenbrenner chillingly told Sewell, "I don't think you're going to like what comes out of Congress.
     Given Sensenbrenner's previous legislation, it probably wasn't an idle threat.

From Mother Jones:
     Congress could simply pass a law outlawing any encryption that law enforcement can't access. Members of the House Judiciary Committee brought up that possibility to Apple's top lawyer during a hearing earlier this month, and Obama repeated the warning in Austin last week. Technology experts say that such a measure would create huge security problems for average citizens and potentially stunt the advances in the tech industry.
And more still:
     Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, may introduce just such a backdoor-access bill as early as this week. Feinstein also suggested last Wednesday that the government could charge companies with material support for terrorism if terrorists use their products. "If one of those proposals was to become law, it would be way worse than anything that would come out of any kind of yearlong technical commission," Green says. (Matthew Green is a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University and a prominent commentator on digital security.

How to make a Lockheed Martini

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Apple vs. FBI: Don't know who to believe? Watch this

Senator and hypocrite Diane Feinstein, who angrily slapped the lecturn while speaking to the Senate after she found out the CIA spied on her committee, doesn't mind a "material support of terrorism" law to punish companies which make encryption-enabled devices to protect your privacy.

The Hodge Twins answer another letter of significant contemporary import

Audio NSFW. You have been warned.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

There ain't nothing about this car ad we don't like

The ride, the Patsy Cline soundtrack, the driver (actor Matt Shallenberger), the voiceover dude, the road... everything. Screw the contrived, overplayed machismo of every other Chrysler commercial! By the way, the psychiatrist in us dubs this the most brilliant bisexual vehicle ad ever made. Such a rich subtext! (Tired of being a PASSENGER? Buy a Mazda and be a DRIVER (wink, wink.)

FYI:  the soundtrack, Patsy Cline's fantastic Back in Baby's Arms, is one of those slow country songs given a snappy, commercial "Ray Price Shuffle" makeover — a 4/4 arrangement of honky tonk music with a walking bassline.

Hillary's wayward warmongering

Well known is Hillary's duplicitous and covert help as Secretary of State to TransCanada in pushing Keystone XL as she issued an EIS and Supplementary EIS so flawed that both were contradicted by the EPA. State Department cables released by now-imprisoned Chelsea Manning revealed the shocking extent of her perfidy.
     We know about her support of NAFTA and TPP.
     We know about her insulting email railing against changing passport forms to Parent 1 and Parent 2 to accommodate same sex couples, her bizarre defense of the Reagan administration's unbenign neglect of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and her recent string of refusals to grant interviews to LGBT media.
     We know about her promise to "look into" releasing the transcripts of her $200,000+ per pop speeches to the out-of-control Wall St. behemoths she insists that she'll bring to heel as president.
     But how often is she asked to explain the consequences of her wayward warmongering?

Is Sen. Grassley morphing into Iowa's Mitch McConnell?


The World-Herald reports that GOP Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is hewing to his "no-hearings, no-votes" position even now that President Obama has announced he will nominate centrist Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.
     Clearly, Grassley is drunk on arrogance, or doesn't care any longer, or thinks Iowa voters get more rather than less gullible as time passes, or all three; else he wouldn't be parroting the Mitch Mantra, “This is not about a person or an individual. This is about the principle of letting the people decide.”
     The people did decide, Chuck, et al.
     That happened in 2008 and 2012, when they elected the person charged with the responsibility of nominating replacements for SCOTUS vacancies. That person is in the White House, not the Senate, and will be until 2017. That person is not you. Your responsibility is to hold hearings for that person's nominees. Do your job, lest the people decide that you need to be replaced. Mercifully, if that happens, it won't be accompanied by any transitional stalling.
     Now that we've thought about it, choosing Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge to replace you would be a breath of fresh air wafting over a pipeline-free Sandhills pond.
     We like what Judge just said about your partisan obstructionism: “He doesn’t need to wait for permission from his friends in the Republican leadership or from Donald Trump.”

An Introduction to Ted Cruz

Apparently, Cruz has had a popularity problem all his life with those who know him best. Here voters; get to know Cruz better. P.S. Don't miss Lindsey Graham's tipsy slam against Cruz. Graham should get lit more often.

(Via @JoshuaBrunken)

Hillary vs. Bernie: Clinton's victory margin over Sanders in FL, IL, NC, OH and MO on March 15th

Hillary has been declared the winner in Florida (64%-33%), Illinois (51%-49%), North Carolina (56%-41%) and Ohio (57%-43%). The race in Missouri has not been called as the difference is less than 1/2 of 1%. In Missouri recounts are not automatic but the loser in a race with less than a 1% difference is entitled to request a recount. So far, Sanders has not done so.
     Excluding Missouri, Clinton picked up 371 pledged delegates to Sanders' 271.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Notes on Spotlight

Last night AKSARBENT saw Spotlight, the story of the Boston Globe's exposure of comparatively widespread — and concealed — child molestation in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.
     Movies about reporters aren't intrinsically compelling and we don't think the film was 2015's best picture, as did The Academy, but it fascinated us, was occasionally thrilling, and certainly deserves your money, if only to encourage Hollywood to make more adult films and fewer badly-scripted video game extravaganzas.
     As is our mission around here, we shall now correct a misconception, popular in some quarters, that this was a film about good old ink-stained wretches doggedly speaking truth to power in the old-fashioned way via a milieu that the Internet is slowly eating alive.
     Pay attention to the movie! It isn't as old-fashioned as you've been told.
     The Globe got the goods on the bad padres and their enablers by being early adopters of the big new thing in investigative journalism — database reporting.
     Nowadays you would probably call it data mining reporting, as newspapers are siccing their tech hires on existing databases and looking for anomalies — and attendant chicanery, negligence or theft or what have you. USA Today has broken several major front page exposes doing just this thing.
     The Boston Globe didn't have an existing database for its crack "Spotlight" investigative team to comb, so it created its own, with the names of priests identified in church records as being on sabbatical, or absent or sick or any of the common euphemisms used to camouflage the real reason they were removed from their posts.
     Said database turned up out-of-commission priests, and easily drilled down into the subset of that group which had a history of uncommonly short assignment durations — and frequent absences.
     It was the computer, like a pig rooting for  truffles, that first fingered the lion's share — 87 vs. the 9 that the reporter/protagonists first suspected — of the pedophiles that the Church was shifting around every time they got caught.
     There's obviously no substitute for knowing your beat, having contacts and getting out to talk to people. But it's now microprocessors and software that can show you the patterns and first smell the rat, sometimes even before you're looking for anything hinky.
     Our advice to aspiring reporters: take a college class in relational database management and data conversion.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Iowa's House has passed an unconstitutional bill to punish groups boycotting Israel. Who voted for it?

First, know that the Iowa ACLU, which isn't under the thumb of the government of Israel or anyone else, opposes the companion senate and house bills, saying:
OPPOSE SF 2281 and HF 2331 Unconstitutional Prohibition
on Contracts With Businesses That Boycott Israel
     Senate File 2281 would prohibit Iowa government agencies and retirement systems from entering into contracts with businesses that boycott Israel. Similar legislation (House File 2331) passed the House on February 22. The ACLU of Iowa opposes these bills.
     A boycott is an important and powerful form of expressive association protected by the First Amendment. Speech in support of a boycott encompasses the practice of people sharing common views banding together to achieve a common end, a practice deeply embedded in the American political process. By this collective effort, individuals can make their views known when, individually, their voices would be faint or lost. The Supreme Court has held that economic boycotts are protected by the First Amendment. *NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co.*, 458 U.S. 886 (1982).
     In addition, the government cannot punish its contractors based on their political beliefs,associations, and activities. For example, in *O’Hare Truck Service v. City of Northlake*, 518U.S. 712 (1996), the Supreme Court held that a city violated the First Amendment by firing a contractor in retaliation for its refusal to support one candidate and its support instead for another candidate. The Supreme Court explained: “If the government could deny a benefit to a person because of his constitutionally protected speech or associations, his exercise of those freedoms would in effect be penalized and inhibited. This would allow the government to produce a result which it could not command directly.
     Such interference with constitutional rights is impermissible. 
     SSB 3087/HSB 583 [now known as H.F. 2331 and S.B. 2281] would create a blacklist of companies, organizations, and entities that boycott Israel, and would prohibit Iowa from contracting with or investing in blacklisted entities.
     Twenty-two states have now passed similar laws or resolutions. Below are the names of the 70 Iowa representatives who attacked free speech in order to run interference for a foreign government.
     Don't live in Iowa? Find out where your state stands on this issue here.
     There is a "Buycott" app for Apple and Android users who do not wish to purchase goods made in Israel or in occupied areas of Palestine.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hillary claims she doesn't know where Bernie 'was when I was trying to get health care in '93 and '94'

Hillary issues a second, long-form apology for bizarre claim that Reagans were in forefront of HIV/AIDS fight

Hillary's first apology was direct, but terse and oblique.

Today, she walked her statements way, way back. Although AKSARBENT prefers Bernie Sanders to Clinton, we have to say Hillary didn't beat around the bush and no politician could have handled an incredibly stupid remark any better. Click the link in the tweet below to read her full statement. If she was misinformed before, she sure isn't now.

How could she have pulled such an incredible boner? Here's one explanation:

Below are a couple of reminders of how Ronald Reagan and his wife really behaved in respect of HIV and AIDS. One should also remember that when an appeal was made on behalf of Rock Hudson to make an overture to the French government to have him treated in a French military hospital with cutting edge HIV procedures (which wouldn't have helped Hudson, as it turned out), Nancy Reagan personally nixed the idea, purportedly because it would have appeared unseemly for the Reagans to have officially favored a friend, even though AIDS-afflicted Roy Cohn somehow was mysteriously able to jump the NIH's AZT clinical trial line and it is well-known that the Reagans were not averse to intervening on behalf of old friends even after they became ensconced in the White House.
“Seems strange that the Reagans used that excuse, since they often did favors for their Hollywood friends during their White House years,” Staley told BuzzFeed News, pointing out a time when President Reagan personally intervened to assist a fundraising effort led by Bob Hope, as detailed in a biography of the entertainer. “I’m sure if it had been Bob Hope in that hospital with some rare, incurable cancer, Air Force One would have been dispatched to help save him. There’s no getting around the fact that they left Rock Hudson out to dry. As soon as he had that frightening homosexual disease, he became as unwanted and ignored as the rest of us.”

Friday, March 11, 2016

PO'd janitor uses bolt cutters to drop Mary Poppins mannequin to cathedral floor; 'Father this is bullshit... it's Disney crap!'

St. Cecilia, home of the Omaha Archdiocese, festooned with at least a dozen
signs designed to intimidate liberal politicians like Bob Kerrey (whose signage
was in a supporter's yard across 40th St.) who disagree with it on matters like
civil marriage equality. Kerrey recently lost a bid to regain his Senate seat..
Omaha World-Herald columnist Michael Kelly reports that a mannequin Mary Poppins, suspended from the ceiling of St. Cecilia's Cathedral in keeping with the "A Night at the Movies" theme of the 31st annual Cathedral Flower Festival, was cut down with bolt cutters by the church's custodian, Mark Kenney.
     Rev. Michael Gutgsell knew Kenney hated the display but didn't think he'd take action. Gutgsell's explanation: ‘Father, this is bullshit! We can’t have this in the church. This isn’t culture, it’s Disney crap!’ ”
Kenney, who said he confessed his sin to a priest at another Catholic church, feels “closer to God than ever.” He could have handled things differently, he said, and recalls walking through the cathedral in the immediate aftermath and thinking, “What did I do now?”
     But he says he is at peace with it, and in a letter to the archbishop objected to “pop art” and “absurd, secular cultural icons” in the cathedral.
     Kenney spent the night in jail and will be sentenced March 24.
     Kelly reports that he was fired, and his archdiocesan “safe environment” certificate was revoked, meaning he no longer can work or volunteer when children are present.
     Because in any Catholic Church safeguarding kids is job 1.

Above: The fantastically expensive pipe organ of St. Cecilia's, the seat of the Archdiocese of Omaha, one of the few such instruments on the planet which have both meantone and well-tempered pipes.
     Stanford University and a church in Dresden also have such an organ, but, sadly, with a narrower range.
     Without preferential tax treatment, The Church might have to make do with a cheap electronic organ or rude polyester vestments or candles not made of real wax or even those horrible goddamn electric candle lights that flip on when you drop your coin in the box.
     Oh, one last thing: the Omaha Archdiocese brazenly flouts the law prohibiting politicking within close proximity of polling places.

As jaws dropped at MO Senate shennanigans, the state's House quietly jumped the curb its own self

This week Missouri Senate Republicans were busy passing a law exempting religious bigots (on account of their religious bigotry) from treating LGBTs equitably in public accommodations. The ruse is that the freedom of pastors to refuse to marry gay couples is under seige. It isn't; rabbis, for example, have never been forced to marry gentiles, just as homophobic religions don't have to consecrate gay marriages. The MO GOP had to break the longest, continuous filibuster in that state's history even though it involved some chicanery. Then — get this — the MO Senate GOP attempted to edit out some of its own maneuvering in the chamber's journal, prompting another Dem fillibuster which lasted at least 6 hours.
     Relatively unnoticed next to the GOP Senate dumpster fire, the lower house in Missouri (also GOP-dominated) hopped the curb too — several times. Rachel Maddow explains:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

SJR39: Who voted to protect discrimination against LGBTs in MO?

After a nearly 40-hour nonstop filibuster by the eight Democrats in the Missouri Senate, SJR39 passed with votes from every Republican in that body. Here's what the Human Rights Campaign said about the bill, which would allow homophobes special privilege exemption from laws giving LGBTs the same rights in public accommodation extended to Christians.
As early as Monday, the Missouri Senate could vote on SJR 39. SJR 39 would create a ballot initiative to amend the Missouri state constitution and enshrine state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people and their families into law. If passed at the ballot, SJR 39 would explicitly allow individuals and businesses to pick and choose which laws they will follow, and wield their religious beliefs as a sword of discrimination against LGBT people. Taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies could refuse to place children who are in desperate need of loving and caring homes with LGBT couples. State-funded homeless shelters could turn away LGBT couples and their families. Government employees could refuse to file tax forms for same-sex couples or provide state benefits. Businesses could turn away a same-sex couple shopping for wedding dresses.
Here's the roster of shame (click each panel for a larger, sharper image of the text.)

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Film critic Owen Gleiberman thinks Trump rise was predicted by 1957 Andy Griffith film

Gleiberman thinks the culture of unreality, fathered by Hollywood's — and America's — addiction to idiotic popcorn films, has greased the path of Donald Trump, and that 1957's A Face in the Crowd predicted Trump's rise. In that film, Andy Griffith played Lonesome Rhodes a folksy, made-for-TV demagogue.

Sanders' Michigan win "one of the greatest upsets in modern political history"

Gay nerd Nate Silver's blog,, correctly called 49 of 50 states in the 2008 election and all 50 in the 2012 election. But Bernie Sanders' victory in Michigan yesterday fooled 538, which is now calling his win "one of the greatest upsets in modern political history."  Here's what Harry Enten wrote:
     Bernie Sanders made folks like me eat a stack of humble pie on Tuesday night. He won the Michigan primary over Hillary Clinton, 50 percent to 48 percent, when not a single poll taken over the last month had Clinton leading by less than 5 percentage points. In fact, many had her lead at 20 percentage points or higher. Sanders’s win in Michigan was one of the greatest upsets in modern political history.
     Both the FiveThirtyEight polls-plus and polls-only forecast gave Clinton a greater than 99 percent chance of winning. That’s because polling averages for primaries, while inexact, are usually not 25 percentage points off. Indeed, my colleague Nate Silver went back and found that only one primary, the 1984 Democratic primary in New Hampshire, was even on the same scale as this upset. In that contest, the polling average had Walter Mondale beating Gary Hart by 17 percentage points, but it was Hart who won, with slightly more than 9 percentage points over Mondale.

     Michigan's third biggest city is Warren and its independent mayor, Jim Fouts, is the latest critic of Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, considered by many to be a secret ally of Hillary Clinton and by Fouts to be a "totalitarian." Here's what the Unity Progressive Party website had to say:
The mayor of Michigan’s third largest city says he was threatened with expulsion from Sunday’s Democratic Debate at the Flint Cultural Center after he complimented Bernie Sanders within earshot of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  Warren, MI Mayor Jim Fouts, a registered independent told Buzzfeed News that he was speaking at a “normal” decibel level, encouraging the Vermont Sanders by saying “Great Job Bernie” and “We need more debates”. At the next commercial break, he was confronted by security...

Fifth Beatle, producer George Martin, dies, deaf, at 90

     Paul McCartney was miffed when a critic called Sgt. Pepper "George Martin's best album." But someone had to do things like tell John Lennon that violins (properly tuned) can't play middle C. Martin was a practical genius, classically trained, who made the Beatles' musical visions real.
     Although the Parlaphone's Abbey Road studios were a technological ghetto compared to California studios, Martin always rose beyond the limitations of his equipment.
     To achieve the weird steam organ background of Mr. Kite, Martin had a tape sliced into two-foot strips and flung from a ladder, picked up and spliced together as they had fallen. The Wiki account of this:
     In the middle eight bars, multiple recordings of fairground organs and calliope music were spliced together to attempt to produce this request. In a 1968 interview, Martin recalled that he achieved "this by playing the Hammond organ myself and speeding it up."[8] After a great deal of unsuccessful experimentation, Martin instructed recording engineer Geoff Emerick to chop the tape into pieces with scissors, throw them up in the air, and re-assemble them at random.
     The Beatles mostly recorded in Studio Two at Abbey Road, a converted 9-room Georgian townhouse built in 1830. 500,000 people a year knock on the door and are turned away but you can tour the place, via Google, here.

     Below is an extraordinary meeting Martin had, before he completely lost his hearing, with Beach Boy Brian Wilson. At the end he remixed the group's greatest song, God Only Knows, on the spot — flooring Brian, who said he liked it better than his own master mix. In 2013, AKSARBENT posted a wonderful video with Martin showing how he mixed A Day In the Life, but Universal Music Group has now blocked that video from the Internet in the USA.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Hockey KissCam: May I cut in?

Ah, faking the rainbow to be on TV, episode 587...

Missouri Dems filibuster law inserting antiLGBT bias in state constitution

The nonstop filibuster is now in its second day and beginning to attract widespread attention (National media are covering the filibuster and twitter users are following via the hashtag: #NotInMyState.)
     SJR39 is a sweeping attempt to codify protection for antigay bias in Missouri's constitution under the ruse of protecting ministers from being forced to perform same sex weddings, which they are not now and have never been compelled to do. When Antonin Scalia raised this red herring from the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, he was shot down by Justices Kagan and Breyer.
     Bernie Sanders tweeted his support, and, later, so did Hillary Clinton.

Christers go after McDonald's for gay Taiwan ad, just as they did for the gay French one

Here's the new one, about which the head of the Alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of Family said: “Now, even if you want to just take a leak at a McDonald’s bathroom, you can’t help but feel polluted."

And the old one:

And the parody of the old one:

Justin Trudeau, baby pandas

AKSARBENT refuses to put up egg-sucking blog posts about social media idiot-savant and "reality TV" star Kim K. because she's a trivial person and because we cannot spell her last name. Also, why would any sane gay male do that when there are twitter pictures available of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a baby panda on each one of his thighs?
     Pandas are adorable when they're young, but as they age, they can become mean and even dangerous to humans, like raccoons or Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Monday, March 7, 2016

This Wapo piece confirms everything you suspected about Apple CEO's fierce stand on privacy

Tim Cook (left) and Steve Jobs
If you grew up gay in a tiny Alabama town in the 60s, you know how valuable privacy can be. It's a lesson Tim Cook, the only openly gay CEO in the Fortune 500, has never forgotten.
     Cook — with a quick smile and the bushy hairdo popular at the time — was well-liked by his classmates.
     “He just seemed like a happy guy,” Huntsman said.
     “He probably considered himself to be a bit nerdy, but he didn’t come off that way,” recalled Harold Richardson, another former classmate.
     And the topic of whether Cook — or any other student — was gay wasn’t even on the radar.
     “In the ’70s, in high school, no one thought about that, especially in Alabama,” Richardson said.
     It was like it wasn’t even possible.
     Growing up gay in small-town Alabama a generation ago meant knowing the value of privacy, recalled Paul Hard, 57, who was raised in tiny Demopolis, Ala. He doesn’t know Cook, but imagines what he went through, because he went through it himself.
     “You kept your cards close to your chest,” he said.

Tweet analysis: Lincoln NE 5th most antigay city in USA, 7th most racist

Abodo, an apartment-location website, analyzed millions of tweets sent from June 2014 to December of 2015 by combing the content for hate speech (list here.)
     Lincoln, Nebraska was in the top ten nationally in racism and homophobia. No other Nebraska cities made the cut, fortunately for them and their Chambers of Commerce and Tourist/Visitors Bureaus.
(Via Towleroad.)


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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Art Garfunkel tells CNN why he gave Bernie Sanders his blessing to use his song, America

We never realized that America is NOT a Paul Simon song! The fact that Hillary isn't releasing the text of the $225,000 hour-long speech she gave to Goldman Sachs seems to have resonated with Mr. Garfunkel as much as it did with the crowd last Thursday in Lincoln's Lied Center when Bernie opined that for that much dough it must have been a great speech and that he'd sure like to hear it.

Here's the ad:

Bernie thanks Nebraskans for his Cornhusker State win: official statement

AP calls NE for Sanders by nearly 10 points

Ha! On Thursday, Big Dog Bill swooped into Omaha's trendy Indie Rock district, Benson, to sell his wife's candidacy before an overflowing crowd of 700 at The Waiting Room. And to what effect? Here are Friday's results from the caucus held at Benson High:


Early tweets say Bernie Sanders is beating HIllary all over Nebraska

Lincoln caucuses don't start 'till 6 pm, but Omaha began at 10 a.m. So far, Bernie is beating Hillary all over the state. Progressives haven't forgotten Hillary's machinations at the State Department and her covert support of Keystone XL, which would have been built over the Ogallala reservoir, the largest and purest underground acquifer in the world, most of which is under Nebraska. Keystone 1 leaked 12 times in its first year of operation. AKSARBENT posted about Hillary and Keystone XL here and here.
     Of particular note: Bill Clinton himself campaigned in the Benson area of Omaha yesterday to drum up support for his wife. It didn't work.
     Follow @AKSARBENT on twitter because we'll be retweeting results directly from the the caucuses intermittently all day.