Saturday, April 30, 2016

Reporter: 'Martin, how's the nipple today?'; realtor hounded after plane incident with drunk Olympic Swimmer

Three-time Olympic gold medalist, Australian swimming great Grant Hackett, who won the 1,500m freestyle at both the 2000 and 2004 Olympic games, was removed from a Virgin Airlines plane earlier this month after he allegedly squeeze the nipple of a male passenger, Martin Slobodnik, in a disagreement over Martin's seat reclining. Hackett was questioned by Australian federal police but hasn't been charged.
     “I can still feel his hands groping. I still feel violated,” said Sydney-based real estate agent Martin Slobodnik to the The Herald Sun. after being identified by The Australian.
     Hackett's version of the incident:
     “I got on the flight, a gentleman put his seat back, I said, ‘Would you mind putting it up?’
     “I offended him, I had no intent to offend him inappropriately and from there the rest is history,” Hackett said today.
     “I don’t want to get into a he said, she said situation...
     “Did I mean to touch him inappropriately? If I did, I am very sorry, I didn’t mean to, I didn’t mean to offend him.
     “It was not my intent at the end of the day and for me I have spoken to the gentleman and his partner who were sitting in front of me, apologised to them profusely if in any way I did offend them and had a good chat with them.
     Hackett later said he plans to quit drinking and intended to get professional help to stop drinking in order to set a positive example for his children.
     Fellow passenger says Hackett was pretty much passed out during the flight and not aggressive.
     Days after the flight altercation Hackett admitted himself to Pindara Private Hospital with a serious mouth infection: uvulitis, a severe swelling of the uvula tissue that hangs from the back of the throat.

These NE schools applied for—and got—permission to discriminate against LGBTs while receiving fed funding

Update: Here are the corresponding schools in Iowa:

NOTE: After looking at several requests which do not specifically ask for waivers to discriminate against gay students (although at least one such college — Grace — does have such a history of discrimination) we can only conclude that BuzzFeed's overarching headline refers to the "T" in LGBT, as the Obama administration considers sex discrimination transgender discrimination.

The U. S. Department of Education has made available online thousands of pages of documents on 232 religious schools applying for, and receiving, permission to discriminate against LGBT people and women — while continuing to receive federal education funds. From BuzzFeed's Dominic Holden:
     ...Dorie Nolt, a spokesperson for the department, told BuzzFeed News, “Due to exceptional public demand for more information on this topic, we are posting documents related to this on our website to provide transparency around this issue.”
     The records are available on a department webpage that includes... applications to be exempt from civil rights laws banning sex-based discrimination in school, and letters from federal officials granting those requests. It also includes records from another 31 schools with pending requests.
     It appears no request has ever been denied...
Here are the schools in Nebraska (double listings indicate requests / responses):

[PDF] Grace College of the Bible
Page 1. Page 2. Page 3.
[PDF] Union College
Page 1. Page 2.
[PDF] York College
Page 1. Page 2. Page 3. Page 4. Page 5. Page 6. Page 7. Page 8.
[PDF] Concordia College
Page 1. Page 2. Page 3.
[PDF] York College
Page 1. Page 2. Page 3.
[PDF] Grace College of the Bible
Page 1.
[PDF] Concordia College
Page 1. 

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Two gay men who beat Donald Trump in business and in court

In 1988, entertainer and hotelier Merv Griffin used the courts and a well-timed tender offer to break up a Trump Resorts International deal, despite the fact that Trump was then worth ten times what Griffin had.
     Nina J. Easton, of the Los Angeles Times, described in hilarious and informative detail the financial details of how Griffin backed Trump so far into a corner that he had to negotiate.
     Griffin ended up with five hotels and two casinos, including the Bahamas properties he really wanted, and a beautiful house and yacht that Griffin (not a detail man, like Trump is) was flabbergasted to discover were part of the deal. Trump got the infamous Taj Mahal.
     What AKSARBENT found fascinating is how the cheerfully lethal Griffin unflappably handled Trump's bluster:
     ...Trump shakes Griffin's hand and guides him to the window to show off his latest acquisition--the [800-room] Plaza Hotel... "Gee, Donald," Griffin says, interrupting Trump's description, "that's how many rooms you're going to need to house all the lawyers it will take to fight me."
     ...After what Griffin describes as some "saber rattling" by Trump, Griffin finally asks, "Are you finished?" Griffin's own net worth is $300 million, he's got plenty of cash on hand and his own battery of lawyers. And unlike Trump, he has the luxury of time on his side. All of which Griffin points out to Trump.
     ..."I had no impression of him," Griffin recalls. "He's far better known on the East Coast than the West Coast. This was just about the time his book came out. I read it and thought, 'Now I know how to go after him. Thanks for the book!' "
     ...Michael Nigris, president of Griffin Co., returns to Griffin's suite at the Helmsley to tell him everything is settled; he can purchase Resorts International for $295 million. "Shhh!" Griffin says as he sits in front of the TV, his eyes glued to "Wheel of Fortune." "That woman just won $36,000--now that's real cash!"
     The insult-wielding Trump had nothing on Griffin in PR. Griffin could trash-talk too, if needed, but with a fun spin that then escaped The Donald.
     "His first words when he heard I was bidding against him were: 'You mean that band singer?' Now I had left Freddy Martin's band in 1952, and this was in 1988!"
     He added with a twinkle in his eyes: "The press came to me and asked, 'Are you going to answer him back?' I said, 'No, just tell him to behave himself or I'll go around Atlantic City and take the T off his name.' That infuriated him."

     In 1990, Marvin Roffman, then an analyst for Janney Montgomery Scott, told the Wall Street Journal he thought the Taj Mahal, Trump's signature Atlantic City casino, would fail. (Eventually, the casino filed for bankruptcy).
     Furious, Donald Trump faxed a threat to Roffman's bosses demanding an apology or his firing (all spelling verbatim, including that of the invented word "definity"): 
     “For Mr. Roffman to make these statements with such definity is an outrage. I am now planning to institue a major lawsuit against your firm unless Mr. Roffman makes a major public apology or is dismissed. For a long while I have thought of Mr. Roffman as an unguided missle.
     Days later, Roffman was fired. He sued his employer over his dismissal and won. He also sued Donald Trump for "libel and slander" — and won.
     During proceedings, Trump's lawyers asked Roffman about going to a gay bar. Said Roffman to Politico's Michael Kruse:
“I’m not promiscuous at all,” he told me. “I have a 30-year relationship. They just tried to make me feel uncomfortable. But I wasn’t going to back down.”
     Though terms of Roffman's settlement are sealed via a confidentiality agreement, he now lives in a lovely home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with forty rooms, eleven fireplaces, four pianos, a wine cellar, a movie theater, an elevator, a closet with 500 very nice shirts and lots of expensive antiques.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Here's Prince in a 1986 performance that probably gave Michael Jackson nightmares

Both were born in the summer of 1958, but Prince survived prescription drugs seven years longer than Jackson — and 15 years longer than Elvis.

New rules for redo of NE license plates:
nothing phallic and nothing from another state

Another stumble for GOP Gov. Ricketts and his reign of error.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Not just Flint: USA Today identifies 13 Nebraska water systems which have had excessive lead contamination

On March 11, 2016, USA Today published a database reporting story which revealed that in the last four years, 2000 water systems in all 50 states have had excessive levels of lead contamination. The EPA's limit is 15 parts per billion, but the agency says there is no safe level for lead exposure. Below are 13 examples of excessive lead contamination in Nebraska. USA Today's complete report is here.
Public Water SupplyCountySample Measure#Exceedances
DAKOTA CITY, CITY OFDakota17ppb-19ppb2
LAKE ALLURE SUBDIVISION - ASHLANDSaunders65.18ppb-79.32ppb2
GIBBON, CITY OFBuffalo19ppb1
TEKAMAH, CITY OFBurt15.9ppb1
DWIGHT, VILLAGE OFButler45.43ppb1
HICKMAN, CITY OFLancaster54.5ppb1
JEFFERSON CO DIST 300 - TRI-COUNTYJefferson15.9ppb1

UPDATE: M.U.D.'s bizarre, confusing twitter responses to AKSARBENT's post:

First, there was this:

Obviously, water systems near Lincoln and other parts of Nebraska distant from Omaha are not part of M.U.D. But contrary to M.U.D.'s false insinuation that they are private, several are, in fact, public.

Then there was this:

Well, M.U.D. does serve Douglas County, even if Mt. Michael's has its own, private well.

We think what M.U.D. was trying to say was:

"We would like to clarify that although M.U.D. provides water throughout Douglas County, Mt. Michael uses a private water supply which does not come from M.U.D. We think your "Public Water Supply" column title might lead to some confusion."

That would have been a valid criticism of USA Today's labeling (which AKSARBENT used) and would have avoided further confusing the issue.
     If M.U.D. doesn't know how to get around twitter's 140-characters tweet limit by making a screencap of a paragraph in Microsoft Word, AKSARBENT would be happy to demonstrate, provided whoever runs their twitter account is be willing to take a remedial course in business English taught by someone who could foster some attention to clarity in the utility's social media statements.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

You'd be nuts not to see 2016's biggest Oscar winner, Mad Max, Fury Road

So we rented Mad Max Fury Road to find how how it possibly could have managed to score 6 2016 Oscars, more than any other flick. Now we know, and may I say a) the Academy wasn't wrong and b) it's plainly evident that a lot of voters actually SAW Mad Max, a total audience smack-down.
     Not to insinuate it wasn't completely ridiculous, but then George Miller has never much cared about your petty rationality; he has Spielberg-burying chase flicks to make and his actors wear tortured logic on their tattered sleeves while they sneer at you.
     How lucky humanity is that Australia's craziest man (which is saying a lot, considering) only makes films.
     If your girlfriend or boyfriend doesn't like this installment, then you have every right to question his or her masculinity and/or appreciation of witty, giddy nihilistic fun.
     The CinemaSins verdict: "This movie blew our minds. We loved it. It still has sins, dammit. And we're still duty-bound to list them for you."
     As for your snobby, snotty little cinemaphile friends, dear readers, just tell them you saw a foreign film and smile wordlessly if they press you for deets.

NC Governor Pat McRory tries to justify state's new anti-LGBT law on Meet The Press

The disingenuous McRory is now selling the narrative that salt-of-the-earth, small town North Carolina citizens are thanking him for "protecting" them against transgenders who need to use the bathroom.
     The extremist Nebraska Family Alliance says North Carolina's law, which forces transgender males to use the ladies room and bans municipal gay rights ordinances (and other progressive ordinances as well) throughout North Carolina, is "common sense."
     160 companies, and counting, vigorously disagree.

Win one for Willa!

Let the ridicule continue!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Now Microsoft, like Apple, is suing the government for abusing privacy guaranteed by Fourth Amendment

Via Reuters:

     The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in federal court in Seattle, argues that the government is violating the U.S. Constitution by preventing Microsoft from notifying thousands of customers about government requests for their emails and other documents.
     The government’s actions contravene the Fourth Amendment, which establishes the right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property, the suit argues, and Microsoft's First Amendment right to free speech...

Straight-on-straight assault upheld as LGBT hate crime by NE Supreme Court

Above: drag-queen led protest in Omaha's Old Market after Halloween, 2013 assault of Ryan Langenegger outside the Old Market Pepperjax

Duncan, (right) sucker-punched Langenegger during a night
out with his buddies, self-admitted blackout drunk Joey
Adriano and Omaha attorney Paul Larson.
AKSARBENT believes this case has not received the attention it deserves. Why? Omaha prosecutors used a LGBT hate crime provision to go after a heterosexual (construction worker Gregory Duncan) who assaulted another heterosexual (Marine Ryan Langenegger) and won the case before a jury; then their argument prevailed in a state supreme court challenge. Remember that the next time your local DA says hate crime prosecutions are just too hard to win.

According to NET:
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.
Muddying the waters of definitions is a favorite tactic of right-wingers when they attack gay rights policies and laws. When the ploy was tried in Duncan's defense, the Nebraska Supreme Court was quick to slap the tactic down. In the end, it decided that common, ordinary understanding of the meaning of "sexual orientation" was sufficient and that the jurors were not confused.
Jurors are accepted because they are men and women of common sense and have a common understanding of words ordinarily used in our language. In instructing a jury, the trial court is not required to define language commonly used and generally understood. Under the facts of the instant case, the term “sexual orientation” was a word commonly used and generally understood. The term was used throughout the jury selection process and the trial, and there is no indication in the record that it produced confusion.
Duncan's appeal also raised the issue of ineffective assistance on the part of James Martin Davis, his first attorney. Duncan contended that Davis's closing argument was “demeaning and disparaging to the victim and the State’s witnesses” and that both Davis's suggestion that the widely circulated photo of a bloodied Langenegger was digitally manipulated and his "sex on the widewalk" diversion were damaging to his defense. The court ruled that they weren't.

More from the ruling:

     Duncan also testified that he did not notice Foo’s group or stare at them and that he had no idea that any homosexual people were in Foo’s group. He did not hear Adriano make any slurs against homosexual people, and he does not remember seeing a man dressed as a woman in the restaurant.
After Duncan testified, he renewed his motion for a directed verdict of acquittal. He argued again that the evidence did not establish that he targeted Langenegger because of his association with people of a certain sexual orientation. The court overruled the motion...
Nebraska Supreme Court
     We have often discussed causation in criminal cases. We have said that criminal conduct is a cause of an event if the event in question would not have occurred but for that conduct; conversely, conduct is not a cause of an event if that event would have occurred without such conduct. But this is the first time that we must apply the concept to a defendant’s motive rather than his conduct. This concept of causation is ordinarily used to determine whether a defendant’s conduct is the cause of another’s injury or loss. Under the language of the statute at issue here, we must adapt it to the context of a defendant’s motive as a cause of his behavior. Applying our causation principles by analogy, the phrase “because of” in the enhancement statute required the State to prove that Duncan would not have assaulted Langenegger but for his association with a person of certain sexual orientation. Under our highly deferential standard of review, the State did so.
 although Duncan claimed that he did not know that Foo and Fendi Blu were homosexual, the State introduced evidence sufficient for a jury to infer that he did. The State presented testimony that Duncan, Adriano, and Larson were sitting together at the restaurant when Foo heard members of Duncan’s group call out derogatory names for homosexuals as he, Langenegger, and Fendi Blu exited the restaurant. A rational jury could infer that even if Duncan did not say the derogatory names himself, he heard them. Additionally, while Duncan stood close enough to lunge and punch Langenegger outside the restaurant, Langenegger heard Adriano say, “‘Faggot,’” and Foo heard someone say the word “‘queer.’” A rational jury could find that Duncan did in fact hear those words and that he therefore believed that Langenegger was with people who were homosexual.
    The evidence was sufficient to prevent a directed verdict on the enhancement charge. First,
     Second, the State presented evidence to show that Langenegger’s association with homosexual people was the reason for the assault. The State’s witnesses testified that there was no other apparent motivation. Langenegger testified that he had not spoken to Duncan before the assault, and Foo, Langenegger, and Larson all testified that Langenegger did not touch Adriano or anyone else in Duncan’s group. A rational jury could infer from this evidence that Duncan’s motivation was his belief that Langenegger was associated with homosexual people. Therefore, the district court properly overruled Duncan’s renewed motion for a directed verdict.

Friday, April 15, 2016

New video busts lies about NC's new anti-LGBT law told by apologists like Gov. McRory and Nebraska Family Alliance

The Nebraska Family Alliance has been supporting North Carolina's two-faced governor, who signed HB2 into law, then defended it with lies and half truths, and now want to modify it slightly because a businesses and entertainer boycott is starting to make North Carolina a national and international pariah.

Retaliation to North Carolina's new antiLGBT law expands; NBA considers moving all-star game and a Beatle cancels a concert

Former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr has announced that he will join Bruce Springsteen in boycotting the state over HB2, which forces transgender men to use ladies rooms and transgender women to use men's rooms unless their birth certificates have been changed. The law also repeals municipal ordinances throughout North Carolina which grant employment, public accommodations and housing protection to LGBTs. Starr's statement:
Ringo Starr cancels his North Carolina performance in opposition to the passing of HB2. Like Bruce Springsteen and other fellow artists, Ringo stands with those fighting against the bigotry of HB2.
      Ringo states, "I'm sorry to disappoint my fans in the area, but we need to take a stand against this hatred. Spread peace and love.” This law opens the door to discrimination everywhere by limiting anti-discrimination laws against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
      Ringo adds, “How sad that they feel that this group of people cannot be defended." He asks that we all support organizations that are fighting to overturn this law in whatever way we can.
      As Canned Heat sang, "let’s work together," and The Beatles said, "all you need is love."

Friday, April 8, 2016

Lincoln, NE's LGBT fairness ordinance is nearly four years old — and unenforceable

It was passed in May of 2012 by the Lincoln City Council. Shortly thereafter, the Nebraska Family Council and Family First of Nebraska (now merged into the Nebraska Family Alliance) enlisted the held of the Roman Catholic Church and various protestant denominations to gather 10,000 signatures to either repeal the law or put it on the ballot as a referendum. However, there is no deadline within the law for the Lincoln City Council to repeal the law and it hasn't, so the ordinance, though on the books, is toothless.
     Below: a few of the several thousand Lincolnites who helped kill legal guarantees of equal treatment in employment and housing for the city's LGBT citizens. Some have suggested that a searchable database be created of everyone who signed Lincoln's petition. (The information is public; signatures can be cross referenced to a database of registered Lincoln voters at the time of the referendum.) This was done in Massachusetts when an unsuccessful petition was circulated to reverse the state's marriage equality law and the signers were put on an Internet-accessible database by
Click to enlarge for legibility

Springsteen cancels Sunday's NC concert over new antiLGBT law

Here's Bruce Springsteen's message to his fans, from
Click graphic below to enlarge for readability.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A phallic PlateGate: Nebraska halts production of new license plates

The Omaha World-Herald reports that the "vendor" producing the ugly Ricketts administration sesquicentennial Nebraska license plates will halt production until a new image of the Sower sculpture can be produced. The current image is a composite of the sculpture atop the state capitol in Lincoln (left, at the bottom of this post) and a bas relief sower image at Michigan State (right, at the bottom of this post. Both were created by Lee Lawrie, who also made the bronze Atlas installed in 1937 in Rockefeller Center in New York City.
This rendering of the Nebraska State
Capitol, one of the world's most
phallic government buildings, used to
grace the wall at P.O. Pears, a Lincoln bar.

     The real reason for the reversal, we'd bet, is that Nebraskans largely hate it and that it has been ridiculed as outrageously phallic on Comedy Central, although to be fair, having a sculpture of a sower flinging seed atop a dome atop a 400-foot shaft is pretty phallic to begin with and was probably the reason that Ernest Hemingway once referred to the Nebraska State Capitol as the "penis of the plains" in a visit to UNL.
Mosaic on floor inside NE capitol
     @Midnight host Chris Hardwick snarked: “They chose Myriad Pro Black for the font!? Real original.” He also didn't like that it drew attention from "the muscular Quaker jerking off on the cupcake."
(Obviously, Hardwick has never seen the inside of the state's Art Deco capitol.)
     In respect of fonts, few people know that Bertram Goodhue, who designed the capitol building, also designed an enduringly popular typeface, Cheltenham, which for years served as the headline font of the Omaha World-Herald.
     This marks the latest embarrassment for Nebraska's rookie GOP Governor Pete Rickets, scion of the TD Ameritrade fortune. It follows publication of him posing for a smiling selfie with the right-wing radical who called SCOTUS Justice David Souter a goat fucking child molester, of him flying to Chicago to attend his sister's gay wedding after opposing same-sex marriage in Nebraska, of his administration trying to list gay spouses as "friend" on birth certificates, of him blowing in excess of $50,000 of tax dollars attempting to import illegal drugs into the state,  of him pronouncing it "fitting and proper" for "all" Nebraskans, (presumably including Atheists and Agnostics) to acknowledge their gratitude for god's blessings and of him and his staff employing private emails to do public work.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Philip Bloom just put a Sony April Fools Day easter egg in his blog

We wrote a blog post about this, which we regrettably had to reword, once it dawned on us what was going on. Brits are better at deadpan than Yanks are, especially when they grasp that ordinary people want to believe engineers are as confused by digital camera menus as they are.
“We at Sony realise the importance of autofocus in video and we are proud of what the A6300 can achieve. We have understood the frustration from some that our flagships Alpha cameras do not perform as well as the A6300, that is why we are very pleased to announced the new tracking autofocus in video modes for the A7RII and A7SII using phase detection which is available immediately for use on your cameras.”
Phillip Bloom explains why the feature is available now:
So how can it be available immediately? Firmware? Nope! It seems it was in the cameras’ menus all along. The camera designers just couldn’t find where they put it so the easiest thing for them to do was simply not list it as a feature. After months of research they have figured out where it is in the menu to enable the proper video auto focus. It is understandable as Sony menus can be somewhat confusing!
Below is all you need do according to Philip's blog.
  1. Go to menu, settings, custom settings, custom key settings, assign function 1 to auto/ manual focus,
  2. then go to the setup (the last one in the menu)
  3. go to number 6 and highlight the number
  4. then press up which brings up the system menu,
  5. in the system menu select option 5 which is video focus settings and 
  6. assign that to function 2, 
  7. come out of the menu and reboot the camera. 
  8. Once it has restarted go to camera (first setting) 
  9. and page 9 select memory and save to memory 1. 
  10. Restart the camera and set it to movie mode. 
  11. Press the function buttons you just programmed as follows; 
  12. 1 then 2 then 1 twice followed by 2 three times, then pause for 5 seconds and press both 1 and 2 together and hold for 7 seconds, no more no less and that is it!
You now have phase detection tracking in video!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Seth Meyers rips NC, GA antiLGBT 'religious freedom' laws: Will we have 'bathroom bouncers' checking ID?

San Francisco's 'hot cop of the Castro', arrested for felony hit and run last November, has pled not guilty

The SFPD faces more texting investigations after five cops were discovered by the District attorney of San Francisco, George Gascon, to have send racist/homophobic texts on their personal cell phones in 2014/15.
     Gascon said the texts ‘used the N-word repeatedly and insulted LGBTs, according to the Los Angeles Times.
     About a year ago, 2012 cop texts involving 14 officers included calling Blacks "monkeys", encouraging the killing of 'half-breeds'  and various antigay remarks.
    As if that weren't enough, in November, Officer Christopher Kohrs, better known virally on the Internet as the "hot cop of San Francisco" or, the "hot cop of the Castro", was arrested.
     In December he was charged with two felony hit and run counts after abandoning his orange-and-black 2009 Dodge Charger in North Beach in the wee hours of the morning after hitting two pedestrians. He got out on $100,000 bail and on March 14th, pleaded not guilty.
     He didn't turn himself in for hours, so it was impossible for authorities to know his blood alcohol level at the time of his accident.

     Kohrs, now on medical leave, was paid just over $195,000 in salary and benefits last year. He is, at least as farm as SFist knows, "heterosexual and single." After his social media fame became intense, the SFPD moved him from his Castro beat to the Haight.