Thursday, March 31, 2011

Right-wing Michigan think tank, funded by Koch, Walmart and Blackwater families, now combing emails of three universities for mentions of Rachel Maddow

Talking Points Memo explained:
Mackinac Center, a Michigan think tank funded by big names in the conservative movement ranging from the Kochs to the Wal-Mart Waltons to the family that founded Blackwater, used the Freedom Of Information Act to request copies of every email sent or received by labor studies professors at state universities that mentioned Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), the city of Madison and Maddow. The universities have not decided how to respond, but the professors say the FOIAs suggest Mackinac is trying to catch them in illegal political advocacy. Mackinac has declined to speak on the record about the requests.

Microsoft's first sale

1978 Logo
Vanity Fair's current issue contains an article "Microsoft's odd couple," an excerpt from company cofounder Paul Allen's new book, in which he recounts clinching the deal for Microsoft's first sale, a BASIC interpreter, and takes swipes at Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.
The flight was uneventful up until the plane’s final descent, when it hit me that we’d forgotten something: a bootstrap loader, the small sequence of instructions to tell the Altair how to read the BASIC interpreter and then stick it into memory. A loader was a necessity for microprocessors in the pre-ROM era; without one, that yellow tape in my briefcase would be worthless. I felt like an idiot for not thinking of it at Aiken, where I could have coded it without rushing and simulated and debugged it on the PDP-10.
     Now time was short. Minutes before landing, I grabbed a steno pad and began scribbling the loader code in machine language—no labels, no symbols, just a series of three-digit numbers in octal (base 8), the lingua franca for Intel’s chips. Each number represented one byte, a single instruction for the 8080; I knew most of them by heart. “Hand assembly” is a famously laborious process, even in small quantities. I finished the program in 21 bytes—not my most concise work, but I was too rushed to strive for elegance.
     ...The following morning, with Ed and Bill Yates hanging over my shoulder, I sat at the Altair console and toggled in my bootstrap loader on the front panel’s switches, byte by byte. Unlike the flat plastic keys on the PDP-8, the Altair’s were thin metal switches, tough on the fingers. It took about five minutes, and I hoped no one noticed how nervous I was. This isn’t going to work, I kept thinking.
     I entered my 21st instruction, set the starting address, and pressed the Run switch. The machine’s lights took on a diffused red glow as the 8080 executed the loader’s multiple steps—at least that much seemed to be working. I turned on the paper-tape reader, and the Teletype chugged as it pulled our BASIC interpreter through. At 10 characters per second, reading the tape took seven minutes. (People grabbed coffee breaks while computers loaded paper tape in those days.) The MITS guys stood there silently. At the end I pressed Stop and reset the address to 0. My index finger poised over the Run switch once again …
    To that point, I couldn’t be sure of anything. Any one of a thousand things might have gone wrong in the simulator or the interpreter, despite Bill’s double-checking. I pressed Run. There’s just no way this is going to work.
     The Teletype’s printer clattered to life. I gawked at the uppercase characters; I couldn’t believe it.
     But there it was: MEMORY SIZE?
     “Hey,” said Bill Yates, “it printed something!” It was the first time he or Ed had seen the Altair do anything beyond a small memory test. They were flabbergasted. I was dumbfounded. We all gaped at the machine for a few seconds, and then I typed in the total number of bytes in the seven memory cards: 7168.
“OK,” the Altair spit back. Getting this far told me that 5 percent of our BASIC was definitely working, but we weren’t yet home free. The acid test would be a standard command that we’d used as a midterm exam for our software back in Cambridge. It relied on Bill’s core coding and Monty’s floating-point math and even my “crunch” code, which condensed certain words (like “PRINT”) into a single character. If it worked, the lion’s share of our BASIC was good to go. If it didn’t, we’d failed.
     I typed in the command: PRINT 2+2.
     The machine’s response was instantaneous: 4. That was a magical moment. Ed exclaimed, “Oh my God, it printed ‘4’!” He’d gone into debt and bet everything on a full-functioning micro-computer, and now it looked as though his vision would come true.
     “Let’s try a real program,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant. Yates pulled out a book called 101 BASIC Computer Games, a slim volume that DEC had brought out in 1973. The text-based Lunar Lander program, created long before computers had graphics capability, was just 35 lines long. Still, I thought it might build Ed’s confidence. I typed in the program. Yates launched his lunar module and, after a few tries, settled it safely on the moon’s surface. Everything in our BASIC had worked.
     Ed said, “I want you to come back to my office.” Through a flimsy-looking doorway, I took a seat in front of his desk and the biggest orange glass ashtray I had ever seen. Ed was a chain-smoker who’d take two or three puffs, stub the cigarette out, and light the next one. He’d go through half a pack in a single conversation.
     “You’re the first guys who came in and showed us something,” he said. “We want you to draw up a license so we can sell this with the Altair. We can work out the terms later.” I couldn’t stop grinning. Once back at the hotel, I called Bill, who was thrilled with the news. We were in business now, for real; in Harvard parlance, we were golden. I hardly needed a plane to fly back to Boston.

     ...One evening in late December 1982, I heard Bill and Steve speaking heatedly in Bill’s office and paused outside to listen in. It was easy to get the gist of the conversation. They were ... discussing how they might dilute my Microsoft equity by issuing options to themselves and other shareholders. It was clear that they’d been thinking about this for some time.

Nebraska/Iowa Republican Gang of Five provides huge financial boon to anti-gay Christian schools at taxpayer expense; erodes funds for public schools

Nebraska/Iowa Republicans who helped mug DC public schools (clockwise from upper left):
Steve King (5th district, Iowa), Adrian Smith (3rd District, Nebraska),
Lee Terry (2nd district, Nebraska), Tom Latham (4th District, Iowa),
Jeff Fortenberry (1st District, Nebraska)
All five Iowa/Nebraska House Republicans voted for HR431, a D.C. school voucher program.

Here is what People for the American Way said:
While Tea Party Republicans are claiming to take the high ground on government spending, they vote to throw millions of dollars at reviving a program that the Department of Education has shown is ineffective. After studying the program for four years, the Department found that use of a voucher had no statistically significant impact on overall student achievement in math or reading. The results were the same when the Department looked only at students who had applied from schools in need of improvement. As the Obama Administration stated in opposing the bill: "The Federal Government should focus its attention and available resources on improving the quality of public schools for all students. Private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement." So if the program doesn't educate kids effectively, what exactly does it do?

For one thing, it helps religious schools stay open. This voucher program has been in existence since 2003, and more than three fourths of the students in it have used these government funds for private religious schools. While Congress is slashing government spending on public education in communities across the country, the House decided to throw a few million dollars to keep religious schools afloat. This raises significant First Amendment concerns.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Best Gay Books of 2010

Back in November, Band of Thebes invited 80 authors to choose the best LGBT Books of 2010...

Here are two of many...

Aaasecret Michael Downing, author of Life with Sudden Death:
Secret Historian by Justin Spring. An astonishment--reading this book will up-end your sense of history and your sense of yourself.  Justin Spring's superb and genuinely heartening biography uncorks a life story that is, at every turn, as original and queer and true as an Oscar Wilde epigram.

Aaabob Christopher Bram, author of Mapping the Territory: Selected Nonfiction:
The best book I read in 2010 is Bob Smith’s forthcoming Remembrance of Things I Forgot. This is the gay time-travel novel about a comic book dealer in his forties who travels back to New York in the 1980s where he meets his younger, more innocent self. The book combines great comic prose with the imagination of the best science-fiction and the emotional soul of first-rate autobiographical fiction. It's both ingenious and moving, a rare combination. I can't recommend it too highly.

Canadian cable companies using bandwidth caps of their ISP subsidiaries to clobber Netflix

Nate Anderson of Ars Technica reports Netflix's announcement last night that Canadians will, receive a lower default-quality video stream to protect them from bandwidth caps by that country's ISPs.

Fast Internet connections could previously chew through 30-70GB of data while streaming 30 hours of Netflix video in a month. Data caps for the Rogers cable operator and for Bell Canada start at 2GB per month; cable operator Shaw starts at 15GB.
     Faced with the prospect of users thinking twice before streaming anything on Netflix, the company has decided to put Canadians into a default “Good” streaming tier that will transfer only 625Kbps (which works out to 0.3GB per hour), using up 9GB a month if someone watches 30 hours of Netflix. The move is designed to keep users from exceeding their caps by accident.
      ...This is the first time Netflix is purposely dialing back video quality and size for connections perfectly capable of handling the larger streams.
     The major Canadian ISPs—Shaw, Rogers, and Bell Canada—all offer separate pay-TV services of their own. Netflix has offered its own streaming service in Canada for only eight months, and ISPs like Rogers welcomed Netflix to the country by lowering the data caps on some tiers. (One lower-priced tier dropped from 25GB to 15GB.)
The hostility of Republican politicians like Lee Terry, Adrian Smith, and Jeff Fortenberry to net neutrality will undoubtedly free U.S. cable companies to use their customers as pawns to do the same thing to Netflix here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Which Indiana senators voted to deny marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships to gay constituents?

The Indiana Senate passed HJR 6 today, 30-10 (roll call vote here). According to Indiana Equality, the constitutional amendment, if approved by Indiana voters, would ban not only gay marriage, but also similar legal structures such as civil unions, threaten domestic-partnership benefits, and endanger other legal protections for unmarried families. All Republicans (highlighted in red) voted against their gay constituents. So did the Democrats highlighted in yellow. Democrats highlighted in blue voted to defend their gay constituents and against enshrining discrimination in Indiana's constitution. Find your senator here, if you don't already know.

Ronnie J. Alting , Republican, District 022
Jim Arnold , Democrat, District 008
Jim Banks , Republican, District 017
Vaneta Becker , Republican, District 050
Phil Boots , Republican, District 023
Richard D. Bray , Republican, District 037
Jean D. Breaux , Democrat, District 034
John Broden , Democrat, District 010
Jim Buck , Republican, District 021
Ed Charbonneau , Republican, District 005
Mike Delph , Republican, District 029
Doug Eckerty , Republican, District 026
Beverly J. Gard , Republican, District 028
Susan C. Glick , Republican, District 013
Ron Grooms , Republican, District 046
Randy Head , Republican, District 018
Brandt Hershman , Republican, District 007
Travis. Holdman , Republican, District 019
Lindel O. Hume , Democrat, District 048
Luke Kenley , Republican, District 020
Dennis Kruse , Republican, District 014
Timothy Lanane , Democrat, District 025
Sue Landske , Republican, District 006
Connie Lawson , Republican, District 024
Jean Leising , Republican, District 042
David C. Long , Republican, District 016
James W. Merritt Jr., Republican, District 031
Patricia L. Miller , Republican, District 032
Ryan Mishler , Republican, District 009
Frank Mrvan Jr., Democrat, District 001
Johnny Nugent , Republican, District 043
Allen E. Paul , Republican, District 027
Lonnie Randolph , Democrat, District 002
Earline S. Rogers , Democrat, District 003
Scott Schneider , Republican, District 030
Vi Simpson , Democrat, District 040
Tim Skinner , Democrat, District 038
Jim Smith , Republican, District 045
Brent Steele , Republican, District 044
Karen Tallian , Democrat, District 004
Greg Taylor , Democrat, District 033
Jim Tomes , Republican, District 049
Greg Walker , Republican, District 041
Brent Waltz , Republican, District 036
John W. Waterman , Republican, District 039
Thomas J. Wyss , Republican, District 015
Carlin Yoder , Republican, District 012
Michael Young , Republican, District 035
Richard D. Young Jr., Democrat, District 047
Joseph C. Zakas , Republican, District 011

Frontline tonight: The private life of Bradley Manning

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Earlier this month, Manning's father deplored the treatment of his son, currently in the custody of the US Marine Corps in Quantico, VA.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Frontline notes:
In response to this interview, the Pentagon issued a statement disputing Brian Manning's claims. In it they explain that they are keeping Bradley under what's called a prevention of injury watch for his own good. Brian Manning told FRONTLINE that the last time he saw his son, he showed no signs of having suicidal intentions.

Thousands leave Finnish Lutheran Church to protest antigay campaign

     The week-long campaign, called “älä alistu” (“don’t acquiesce”) was organized by several Christian groups, ended this weekend, and was met with anger.
It claimed that gay people can become straight and urged youths not to give in to thoughts of homosexuality.
     In one promotional video, a young woman called Anni describes how she stopped being bisexual. She also compares her situation to that of a reformed murderer.
     The Lutheran Evangelical Association of Finland did not lead the campaign, it gives money to the organisations which did.
     Members of the Lutheran Evangelical Association of Finland, which is Finland’s national church, pay money to support the church and those it subsidises.
     By Thursday, 3,000 people had signed an online petition declaring that they were leaving the church, YLE reports.
     Kari Mäkinen, Archbishop of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, criticised the campaign and said it should be stopped.

Urban WiFi networks visualized with time exposures and illuminated measuring rod

(Via Jockohomo)

New York Times paywall goes up;
Gothamist publishes end runs around it

Wallyg, flickr
The New York Times paywall, which purportedly cost $40,000,000 to code, evidently has some cracks, according to Gothamist.
  • You can delete the end of the URL—everything after the ".html" or anything that starts "&gwh="—and access the article.
  • Another suggestion, via Twitter: "'Private browsing' in Firefox seems to disable it, as does switching browser. Pointless.
  • Also clearing browser caches might work because of session cookies.

Congratulations citizens! If you paid any federal taxes at all in 2010, you paid more than GE.

Jon Stewart notes that GE, which made more than $14 billion in 2010, not only paid no corporate income tax but got a tax benefit in excess of $3 billion. On the day the story broke, NBC, a subsidiary of GE, did not cover the story on its nightly news program.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Jimmy Kimmel to Jake Gyllenhaal: 'Maybe I'll get your boyfriend to tie it up for me.'

Blind Gossip: MTV star headed for sex rehab?

Most commenters about the following item on think it's one of the Jersey Shore himbos, but they can't seem to reach a consensus. If you've already decided, and are tired of amateur speculation, you can always go to the next level by visiting GayOrJersey. And if you're really into Guidos, did the Village Voice publish an issue for you!

MTV Star Has a Problem

What MTV Reality Star is headed to sex rehab? Family members and handlers of the popular hunk are trying to get him to check into a facility after learning he’s practicing unprotected sex, engaging in wild orgi*s and dr*gs.

Winner of the Stella Shouting Contest at 2011 Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival is a Grand Rapids, MI girl

CBS News taped the "Stella" screaming contest in New Orleans at the finale of that city's five-day 2011 Tenessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival. The winner was from Grand Rapids, MI; three of the five finalists were women, of whom two yelled for Stella and one for Stanley.

Other contestants:

The original. Compare and contrast.

And more about the festival:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Playwright Lanford Wilson, author of 'The Fifth of July' and 'Hot l Baltimore,' dead of complications from pneumonia at 73

Aksarbent first became aware of Lanford Wilson's work when the press had a field day with the transition from Christopher Reeve in the lead of the Broadway production of the "The Fifth of July" to that of Richard Thomas, who totally trashed the Johnboy image he forged in the television series, "The Waltons" the moment he approvingly sniffed his boyfriend's sweaty shirt on stage.

To say that Lanford "Lance" Wilson, who died Thursday, was among the greatest of American playwrights of the second half of the 20th century is probably an understatement.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Monday, 4/25: Stonewall Uprising on PBS' American Experience

Aksarbent is a huge fan of American Experience. Its documentaries are uniformly illuminating and compelling. We like that in the promotion for Stonewall Uprising, PBS calls the event "a major turning point" and not the "beginning" of the gay rights movement in America, since San Francisco was way ahead of New York in that respect in 1969.

While perusing online viewing choices on the American Experience web page, Aksarbent noticed that the program about Dolley Madison can now be seen online. Watch it.

The program about Dolley Madison reminded us of the long view of history, especially in light of the recent death of Elizabeth Taylor, a loyal friend of gay people who put her money and her influence where her mouth was, but who, at the end of the day, was merely a great movie star (or, if you will, actress.) Dolley Madison was a great American in whose debt every citizen who followed will always be. If you only know of her as a celebrated White House hostess who set a high standard for other first ladies, you don't know the half of it.

Gay USA: March 22-28, 2011

Mart Crowley wrote the groundbreaking and controversial play "The Boys in the Band" that opened in New York in 1968 and ran for 1,001 performances. Now documentary filmmaker Crayton Robey, in "The Making of the Boys," looks back at the social context for gay people in which "Boys in the Band" was written and performed. This terrific documentary includes interviews with former cast members, Edward Albee who opposed the play at the time, veteran gay activists Larry Kramer and David Rothenberg, Dominick Dunne who was one of the executive producers of the movie version, Billy Friedkin who directed it, Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, Democratic Party Treasurer Andy Tobias, and many, many more. Our guest co-host with Andy Humm is Corey Johnson. Ann will be back next week. A new poll finds majority support in the U.S. for same-sex marriage. New York City is sued over its policy requiring genital surgery before giving transgendered people new birth certificates. Obama administration charged with overcharging 13 who got arrested protesting DADT outside the White House. Montana on the attack against local laws protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Police departments in Fort Worth and New Orleans taken to task over gaybashing. Armistead Maupin and his husband Chris Turner got a rude awakening in Alice Springs, Australia. The Uganda kill-the-gays bill is revived. Three gay Americans gaybashed in St. Lucia.bAndy reviews an all-male "Comedy of Errors" in Brooklyn and John Leguizamo's new show on Broadway, "Ghetto Klown."

Tired old queen at the movies visits
Suddenly Last Summer

Apparently Steve Hayes had already decided to give Suddenly Last Summer his treatment when Elizabeth Taylor died, as memorial references appear to be tacked on to the beginning and end of the video.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor's eerie interview with Johnny Carson: 'I've been pronounced dead...I've read my own obituaries. They were the best reviews I ever had.'

From Elizabeth Taylor's only interview (in 1992) with Johnny Carson:

On dying:

Taylor: I've almost died a couple of times. I've been pronounced dead.
Carson: That's true. It was in London, were you not?
Taylor: I've read my own obituaries. They were the best reviews I ever had.

On Marriages:

Carson: I've often made jokes about mine...
Taylor: And mine too...
Carson: If marriage was a giant slalom, I'm a bronze medal winner. And you're a gold medal winner, right?
...Recently, it seems that older women are marrying younger men. In your case, that's the way it worked.
Taylor: Well, no... See, my men have stayed the same age... I used to marry men 20 years older — and they've stayed the same age. You know, around 40. I like it.
Carson: Did you ever think...of marrying a comedian?
Taylor: They were, most of them, comedians...
Carson: I was married to a Pisces once.
Taylor: I'm sure you were.

On live audiences:

Carson: When you went on tour... you felt uncomfortable working in front of live audiences. Now most people would find that strange, because you've been in front of audiences, in a way, all your life.
Taylor: Well, no because the camera is, in a sense, like an eye, but it's only one... I never have been on your show because I thought I'd be terrified of an audience [in Shirley Temple voice] AND YOU'RE REALLY NOT SCARY AT ALL!
Carson: Come and try the monologue some night. You'll find out.

On Michael Jackson:

Taylor: Until about two months ago, he kept saying to me: "Oh, God, I just loved your performance in Jane Eyre!" I said "Jane Eyre! I was 11 years old! Michael, I have grown up." He finally saw "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and he said "I was very impressed." and I said "Thank you Michael. Now I can play other records than 'ABC.' "

On Louis B. Mayer (the second "M" in MGM) and her clout as a movie star:

Taylor: ...I realized there was a certain value to this commodity called Elizabeth Taylor when I told L.B. Mayer, who was swearing at my mother and using words that I really have never heard before...
Carson: He was a tyrant, wasn't he?
Taylor: Oh, he was foaming at the mouth and carrying on like a lunatic and he was swearing at her and being so abusive and I jumped up with tears pouring down my face and said, "You and your studio can both go to hell!" and I stormed out of his...
Carson: How old were you?
Taylor: 15.
Carson: And you told that to Louis B. Mayer!
Taylor: ...And that kind of made me realize, when they didn't fire me, that this commodity must have some value to them, otherwise I would have been sacked.

ABC explains how Dan Savage kept the desk of Sioux City, Iowa's most famous resident, Ann Landers, in the advice column business

(Skip to 5:01 to find out.)

Spring comes to Omaha

None of the hateful cynics we know ever believes Aksarbent when we tell them how indescribably beautiful Omaha is in the Spring (click picture to enlarge), so we took our Fuji for a shake test ride in our pickup this morning to prove it. This picture should shut them up.
     We also verified something else today. When a certain automotive manufacturer, which shall remain nameless, says that its trucks are built "Ford Tough," believe it. They have to be to survive the shitty suspension. But we digress.

Iowa Republicans go after Bob Vander Plaats' judicial jihad; governor's spokesman rejects his assertions; former Lieutenant Governor tells him to 'come clean' and release donor names

Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa reported on the press conference by Justice Not Politics' Republican attorney Dan Moore who once served as treasurer for one of Vander Plaats' three unsuccessful campaigns for Iowa governor.
“Mr. Vander Plaats needs to provide straight answers and stop purveying misinformation about Iowa’s judiciary,” Moore said at a news conference in Des Moines. “Bob needs to stop conveying political rhetoric. Bob needs to acknowledge his efforts are to make the courts cede to special interests, not the constitution.”

Vander Plaats led the successful effort to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices in the 2010 judicial retention election, then he became chief executive of The Family Leader late last year, a group that has been at the center of the crusade against gay marriage in Iowa. Moore cited a recent Des Moines Register poll which found 45 percent of Iowans “disapprove” of Vander Plaats and his agenda and Moore suggested Vander Plaaats is “out of touch” with the “real issues” Iowans face.

... Moore said “I think where my friend Bob has crossed the line for me is now the senseless and reckless attacks on the remaining four justices on the Iowa Supreme Court.” Three days after the November election Vander Plaats began calling for the four justices to resign.

...Former Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning, who is also a Republican, has called upon Vander Plaats to “come clean” and release the names of donors to the effort to oust supreme court justices. Neither Vander Plaats or a spokesman for The Family Leader have responded to requests for comment.
Watch video here
Yesterday, Vander Plaats, also in Des Moines on a Family Leader bus tour of 99 Iowa counties, voiced implied criticism of fellow Republican and current governor Terry Branstad: "Within six hours, without even sleeping on it, we had three appointments," he said, arguing that it meant nearly half of the seven-member court was picked with almost no public debate.

The governor's spokesman, Tim Albrecht, rejected Vander Plaats' assertions.

"Branstad's goal was to choose Supreme Court justices, from the available slate of nine candidates, who are most likely to faithfully interpret the laws and Constitution and respect the separation of powers," Albrecht said.

Are straight boys more polite?
Are gay boys more political?

Several months ago Christian Rudder at OKCupid published some interesting charts, graphs and conclusions by repurposing match question answers (669 million of them!) Aksarbent doesn't know what Rudder's statistical credentials are, but he sure has a lot of data.
Beyond Sex: Gay & Straight Personalities
More than just asking about specific desires and behaviors, our match questions are designed to tease out our users' underlying personalities. We've collected over 669 million answers from users so far. Below is a straight/gay comparison on 23 personality categories. You can mouse-over the ?s for each category to pop-up some examples of the many questions that affect it.

Awesomely, the mountain West lives up to its Brokeback reputation, and Canada is orange nearly coast-to-coast. Even in the yellow and blue areas, you can see pockets of gay curiosity in interesting places: Austin, Madison, Asheville. Anywhere soy milk is served, basically.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bills to put Creationism in classrooms pending in Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Missouri

Mother Jones' Josh Harkinson observes that conservative legislators evidently consider now the perfect time to promote creationism in public schools, since state governments are grappling with massive budget deficits, overburdened social programs, and mountains of deferred spending.

American Foundation for AIDS Research's affectionate tribute to Elizabeth Taylor

 "President Bush, Mr. Quayle, Senator Helms: Your policy is wrong. Dead wrong. And you know it."

"I am not here in Washington to make people like me. I'm here to speak about a national scandal. A scandal of neglect, indifference and abandonment."

Matt Baume deconstructs National Organization for Marriage's latest television propaganda

Here, Baume exposes NOM's lies, sentence by sentence.

Here, he exposed NOM's new tactic of driving a race wedge into its pro-DOMA campaigns.

Mattell's new Ken modeled after former Iowa State football player

ESPN reports that former Iowa State player, Kurtis Taylor (#47) will become the next face of the Ken doll and that Mattell is reportedly readying a modeling contract for Taylor, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound native of Fort Dodge, Iowa.
     While at Iowa State, Taylor won the team's comeback player of the year award after the 2007 season when he finished second in the Big 12 with 6.5 sacks a season after missing all of 2006 with a knee injury suffered during spring drills.
     He made 41 tackles that season, including eight tackles for loss.
     In 2008, Taylor was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection as a senior. He finished his career with 85 tackles, 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.
KCCI in Des Moines interviewed Taylor.

Australian dam surfing

I don't know if Jersey Shore is shown in Australia, but clearly they don't need it..

DAM DAY: Tackling Australia from Paul Fisher on Vimeo.
(Via Towleroad via Deadspin)

Reagan union-busting legacy comes full circle at Washington airport named after him

Pilots of two passenger jets from American and United Airlines with a combined total of 165 people on board had to land last night without getting an answer from the tower at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, the commercial airport closest to the Pentagon, White House and US Capitol.
     In 1981 11,000 members of PATCO, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association, struck and President Ronald Reagan fired them all. More than 8,700 air traffic controllers were subsequently hired.
     Not enough, apparently.

World's loudest cat: 92 decibels

"Just think of the movies she could ruin..."

Gawker reaches out to gay readers with news they can use about turning mice gay and homoerotic career building!

How close do you live to a nuclear power plant?

That's CNN's question, accompanied by a calculator and map to help you find out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

US Marines 'rescued' downed airmen by shooting six friendly Libyans who had come to help

US F-15E Strike Eagle fighter
Manchester Guardian: Libyans say US helicopter came in with
blazing guns,panicking and wounding friendly Libyans
after F-15E Strike Eagle crash (Photo: Sean Smith)
The Manchester Guardian reports Marines sent to rescue downed American airmen botched the mission by shooting and wounding friendly villagers who had come to help.

Sunday rally at Quantico to protest Marine Corps abuse of Bradley Manning

3/20/11: Supporters of Pfc. Bradley Manning outside the building
where US. Senator Dianne Feinstein's offices are located.
Via Dan Goodin in San Francisco
David J. Hoffman of The Washington Blade reports on a protest to be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Quantico Triangle near the intersection of Joplin Road and Route, 1 50 yards from the main gate of the Virginia Marine base, according to Kevin Zeese, an organizer of the Bradley Manning Support Network.
     The protest will be led by famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.
“Long-term solitary confinement is torture,” said Zeese, quoting Charles Dickens (who spent months at a time living with populations of U.S. prisons and mental hospitals in the 19th century).
     ...He is awakened every morning at 5 a.m. and is not allowed to sleep again until 8 p.m.  ”If he attempts to sleep at any time from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” said Zeese, “he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards.”     He is not allowed to exercise in his cell, forbidden even from doing pushups. If he tries, the guards stop him, Zeese said.
     Recently, for more than a week, he was placed on a so-called “prevention of injury watch” and required to give up his prison jumpsuit and boxer shorts at night, sleeping naked, ostensibly to prevent him from committing suicide, he added.
     The brig psychiatrist however has labeled Manning as a low suicide risk. Even so, he was ordered to sleep in the nude, to prevent him from using any garments to assist in a suicide attempt. Each morning, then, he was forced to get out of bed, “shivering from being naked all night in a cold cell,” said Zeese, and forced to walk to the front of his cell, “with his hands in front covering his genitals.”
     “A guard orders: Stand at parade rest,” said Zeese, ands Manning is told to remain there, his hands behind his back with legs spread shoulder width apart, “waiting and waiting,” until the Brig Supervisor arrives, and everyone is then called to attention.  The supervisor and other guards then walk past his cell inspecting him from all sides.  ”They stop,” said Zeese, “they look as he stands naked, they stare at him, then they stare at him some more.”  Finally, Manning is told to go back inside his cell and wait there, still naked, until, perhaps 10 minutes later, his clothes arrive and he can dress.  But Zeese said, “the shiver from the cold night stays with him.”
     ...On Sunday, P.J. Crowley, the official spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, resigned (or was forced to resign), after he was quoted having termed Manning’s treatment to be “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid” in off-the-cuff but on-the-record remarks made by Crowley recently when speaking to a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.     President Obama rejected that criticism on Friday, saying that he had asked the Pentagon about Manning’s treatment and had been assured that his terms of confinement were “appropriate and are meeting our basic standards.”
     Calling the U.S. government “our Big Brother security state,” Zeese told the crowd at Busboys and Poets on Sunday that “the military says they do it for Manning’s own protection” but that this is “a lie that does not pass the straight face test.”
     “The president re-enforces the lie, telling America that he has talked to the Pentagon and they have said it is for his own protection.  The president says this with a straight face,” a grim Zeese said, asking, “Does anyone believe the president any more?”
     ...Before the rally, the one person able to visit Manning other than family members, David House — a friend who is a computer scientist and MIT researcher — will visit him in the morning with words of support and then come out to report on his condition. [House himself has been the target of government harassment because of his efforts on behalf of Manning—Aksarbent.]
     After the rally, Zeese said that the march to the main gate will begin, “and we’re not sure what will happen next, but for sure we’re taking our message to free Bradley Manning to the front gate,” and that Ellsberg and retired Army Colonel Ann Wright, an activist with CodePink, will ask for a meeting with the Brig Commander, CWO2 Denise Barnes to discuss Manning’s treatment.
     For more information about the rally on Sunday and about the Bradley Manning Support Network, contact Kevin Zeese, director of Come Home America and steering committee member for the BMSN,  at 301-996-6582 or by e-mail at or visit  Another local BMSN organizer to contact is Peter Perry at 202-631-0974.

Netflix rates performance of isps at streaming its videos

Russian soldiers start 'controlled' avalanche

Apple pulls Exodus iPhone app after yesterday's letter from researcher complaining about misrepresentation of his work

Nearly 150,000 people have signed a petition to get the app out of the iStore. But the most influential protest may have been the following letter that Dr. Gary Remafedi sent yesterday to Steve Jobs and Tim Cook:

Dear Messrs. Jobs and Cook,

This message serves as a request to remove the Exodus International application from Apple's iPhone offerings because the website content is objectionable. It erroneously cites my research (Remafedi 1992) in support of claims that homosexuality can be changed.

Various professional organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental or physical condition. Programs which aim to change sexual orientation have been opposed because they are unwarranted, ineffective, unethical, and harmful.

Exodus's website features an article (Buchanan 2010) which makes erroneous statements and conclusions and attributes them to Remafedi (1992). Statements were made to the effect to that many teens are confused about their sexual orientation and that sexual orientation is amenable to change. Further, associating my work with that of the ex-gay ministry and other unfounded treatments is professionally injurious and grievous.

As a savvy consumer, I understand that corporations market phones both by offering a wide array of applications and by appealing to niche audiences like Exodus's. In turn, Exodus applies the Apple "4+" smartphone application rating to its own website as an imprimatur (see
From my perspective, the risk of offending and harming consumers by providing a platform for erroneous information about an important health and social topic far outweighs the potential financial gain. Arguably, corporations have no affirmative responsibility to vendors under the First Amendment of the Constitution, but they are accountable for the quality and consequences of their products.

For the aforementioned reasons, I ask Apple to revoke the 4+ rating and delete the Exodus application from the iPhone's menu of applications.

Gary Remafedi, M.D., M.P.H.

Elizabeth Taylor dead at 79 of congestive heart failure

Wikipedia: Taylor photographed for
Argentinian Magazine in 1947
Actress Elizabeth Taylor, sometimes referred to as "the last movie star," died today in Los Angeles. She won two Best Actress Oscars, for Butterfield 8 and Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?

She is survived by her four children, Michael Howard Wilding and Christopher Edward Wilding, Elizabeth Frances Todd and Maria Burton.

One of her last interviews, to, was in late 2010. Promoting her fragrance Violet Eyes, she shared 25 things she felt people didn't know about her:
 1. Before I made films, I had a lemonade stand in Southern California.

2. When José Eber is out of town, I love to cut my hair and anyone else's.

9. The film I'm proudest of is Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

13. My very first memory is of pain.

14. I'm still heartbroken that Richard [Burton] never won an Oscar.

15. I am sincerely not worried about getting old.

16. I never tried to act until A Place in the Sun.

24. My dog Delilah is in love with my cat Fang. To each his own.

25. My family and people with HIV/AIDS are my life.
Aksarbent vividly remembers Taylor's bravura real live performance with then-husband Sen. John Warner of Virginia at the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia where, clutching her bible, she managed to listen to Jerry Falwell talk shit from the pulpit while simultaneously maintaining a mien of attentiveness, respect and decorum.

Taylor was born in North London to an art dealer and an actress from Arkansas City, Kansas. She had a mutation that caused double rows of eyelashes, which enhanced her appearance on camera.

Wikipedia chronicled her love of jewelry:
Over the years she owned a number of well-known pieces, two of the most talked-about being the 33.19-carat (6.64 g) Krupp Diamond and the 69.42-carat (13.88 g) pear-shaped Taylor-Burton Diamond, which were among many gifts from husband Richard Burton. Taylor also owned the 50-carat (10 g) La Peregrina Pearl, purchased by Burton as a Valentine's Day present in 1969. The pearl was formerly owned by Mary I of England, and Burton sought a portrait of Queen Mary wearing the pearl. Upon the purchase of such a painting, the Burtons discovered that the British National Portrait Gallery did not have an original painting of Mary, so they donated the painting to the Gallery.
Taylor's worst press came when she was accused of being a home wrecker after having an affair with Debbie Reynold's husband, Eddie Fischer. Reynolds described her discovery of the affair to London's Daily Mail:
Lonely at home, while Eddie was away on tour, she telephoned her best friend Elizabeth Taylor at her hotel for a chat.
     To her great shock, Fisher answered.
     'Suddenly, a lot of things clicked into place,' she recalls. 'I could hear her voice asking him who was calling - they were obviously in bed together. I yelled at him, "Roll over, darling and let me speak to Elizabeth".
     Fisher slammed the receiver down and rushed home for a face-to-face confrontation. 'I'm sorry,' he told her. 'Elizabeth and I are in love and I want a divorce.'
Taylor was a tireless fundraiser for AIDS/HIV causes and was one of the first celebrities to do so. Shortly after the disclosure that Rock Hudson was struggling with HIV, she appeared with Burt Lancaster, Shirley MacClaine, Burt Reynolds and other celebrities at an L.A. Benefit to fight the disease.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Theatre: Someone Who'll Watch Over Me
by Frank McGuinness

(Frank Rich's review of the 1992 New York production is here.)

From the website

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me
by Frank McGuinness 
March 11-13, 18-20 and 25-27
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m.

Minorwhite Studios
1111 N. 13th Street, Studio 104

Omaha, NE

Read the Omaha World Herald review!

Three men are being held captive by terrorists in Beirut. They exercise and they argue, supportive in their mutual determination to survive. The three display their national biases and prejudices, which are intensified in the cramped confines of their cell. As time passes, resentments and recriminations give way to an acknowledgment of their characters, strengths and weaknesses. They learn that humor is their surest weapon against their captors and the safest armor to protect themselves. Each comes to know himself through listening to the stories, sorrows and joys of the others.  William E.P. Davis directs Jonathan Purcell, Michael Arch, and Michael McCandless. 

To make reservations or inquire about ticket information, please email is $15.  We are happy to accept cash and checks.

Des Moines: "Let Us Vote" tea baggers
accost counterprotesters

The Iowa Independent shot video of teabaggers getting up close and personal with pro-marriage equality counterprotesters at last week's right-wing "Let Us Vote" Iowa rally.

Iowa's indefatigable defender of marriage equality celebrated it this weekend; daughter Kate married fiance Dennis

Dennis Sigafoose and Kate Gronstal

The Des Moines Register took note of the Sigafoose/Gronstal nuptials set against a backdrop of daily attacks by the Republican/Evangelical political machines on father/father-in-law Mike for vowing not to subject marriage equality to a popular vote.
Gronstal stepped away from the pressure in Des Moines for the weekend.
     He went home to Council Bluffs to celebrate at a wedding: His daughter Kate got married today.
Aksarbent is delighted to extend to the happy couple its best wishes for a long and blissful life together.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Enthralling Zeid and the Wings Valentine to Beirut / Brickbat to Lebanese Republic President Michel Suleiman

Before the violent Lebanese strife from 1975-1990, which tore Beirut apart, it was considered by many to be the Paris of the Eastern Mediterranean. It's still a beautiful, enthralling place to visit, and its charm is framed eloquently by this music video which calls the Lebanese president to task for his administration's authoritarianism (like arresting people for Facebook "insults" to the president....)

Lady Gaga's St. Patrick's Day surprise encore
at Omaha gay dance club

Turned out that Omahans who didn't get tickets to Lady Gaga's date at the Qwest Centre could still catch her performance of "Born This Way" for just the cover charge to The Max (a lot less than good $175 seats to the concert.)
     Rumors started buzzing early in the evening that she would show, and following a walk-through by her security, she did, at about 1:30 a.m.
     Gaga spent Chrismas in Omaha, hanging out at Benson clubs and bowling, presumably because her boyfriend (whose parents live in Springfield, just south of Omaha) is a semipro.
     Aksarbent just wants to know who the awesomely sexy/talented dancer who is usually to her right nowdays, is.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gay USA: Mar. 15-21, 2011

Our guest is Nikolai Alekseev, Russia's leading gay activist, who will join us a little more than halfway through the show to talk about the challenge of working for LGBT rights in Russia and his fight for holding LGBT pride marches in Moscow among other issues. You can learn more about his work on Facebook at!/profile.php?id=612060271. Maryland's House of Delegates did not have the votes to pass a marriage equality bill, so it was pulled until next year. A bill is introduced in Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. A new poll finds that Americans oppose the plans of Republican Congress Members to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, an Act the Obama Administration says is unconstitutional. New York's Governor Cuomo meets to discuss the campaign for a marriage equality bill. A transwoman is murdered in Arkansas and in New York, an 18-year old straight teen is gaybashed to death. The last original member of the 1950s Mattachine Society dies at 81. New York City is giving money to anti-gay groups that coordinate St. Patrick's Day Parades. There will be a demonstration in New York on Thursday, March 17 from 11 AM - 1 PM by Irish Queers at the anti-gay St. Patrick's Day Parade on Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets on the west side of the avenue. A big decision on protecting the rights of people with HIV in Europe. Can a gay writer for Vanity Fair call the gay kids on "Glee" "fags"? GLAAD does not think so. Ann is headed for Rome and the Amalfi Coast and the Isle of Capri in May and welcomes your suggestions on nice but reasonable places to stay and eat as well as things to do there other than the standard tourist things. She is not interested in nightlife suggestion. Please e-mail your ideas to We review productions of "That Championship Season" on Broadway, "The Merchant of Venice" with F. Murray Abraham off-Broadway, and "Broadway's Next Hit Musical" off-off-Broadway. Next week, Andy will review the all-male "Comedy of Errors" at BAM from the Propeller Company and CSC's new production of "Double Falsehood

Friday, March 18, 2011

Onion: Small town throws gay pride parade for only gay inhabitant; Davenport destroyed by wrath of God following gay wedding

Small Town Throws Pride Parade For Only Gay Resident

The Onion's god is apparently a fickle and myopic one as Davenport was claimed to be the object of Almighty Vengeance in another article.

Defunding of National Public Radio supported by Nebraska's Terry, Fortenberry and Smith and Iowa's Latham and King in H.R. 1076 vote to strip member stations of funds to buy programming; PRI affected too

Fresh from their votes to trash Netflix and further enrich cable TV operators, Nebraska's three Republican representatives and two of Iowa's have now attacked NPR. Rep. Henry Waxman capsulized their behavior beautifully when he called their actions “a mean ideological assault on public radio.
"This bill does not save a cent," he says. "It simply says that any grantee of funds from the federal government to public stations can’t use that money to buy programs from NPR [or PRI — Aksarbent]. It’s a dramatic interference with the ability of the American people to get the content they can’t get anywhere else except public television and public radio."

Why not call Terry, Fortenberry, Smith, King and Latham and let them know what you think of their efforts to destroy the evenhanded reporting, incisive interviewing, rich social commentary, penetrating documentaries and witty entertainment  of Nina Totenberg, Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Teri Gross, Car Talk, Prairie Home Companion, This American Life, Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me! and all the other terrific programming from NPR and PRI?

Ask them why they are attacking the tiny amount of federal money consumed by Public Radio, and interfering with the decisions of member stations on where to buy programming to best serve their audience.

Steve King:
1131 Longworth Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202.225.4426
Fax: 202.225.3193

Tom Latham:
2217 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Toll Free:866-428-5642
Phone: 202-225-5476
Fax: 202-225-3301

Lee Terry:
2331 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-4155 phone
(202)226-5452 fax

Jeff Fortenberry:
1514 Longworth House Office
Washington, DC 20515
p (202) 225-4806
f  (202) 225-5686

Adrian Smith
503 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone (202) 225-6435
Fax (202) 225-0207

Thursday, March 17, 2011

John Cryer responds to Charlie Sheen slur; 'outs' himself on Conan; announces: 'It gets better'

Playgirl offers $10,000 for naked pictures of Anderson Cooper

JoeMyGod (see bloglist) reports that Playgirl's Daniel Nardicio has offered $10,000 for pictures of Anderson Cooper sans pants. (Cooper makes millions per year.) This leads Aksarbent to several conclusions:
  1. Playgirl must be close to broke,
  2. Daniel Nardicio is a sleazeball, and
  3. Why didn't Aksarbent think of a publicity stunt like this?
Therefore, Aksarbent forthwith and officially offers $8.37 to the first person who can send us an 8x10 glossy of Nebraska's two-faced, homophobic Governor Dave Heineman without any clothes. The winning entry, as well as all subsequent entries, will be immediately burned, now that we've located our barbecue amongst the shed detritus. Entries must be sent to our physical mailing address which we aren't publishing because, frankly, we hope we don't get any.

Anyway, the upright, morally straight readers of JoeMyGod were absolutely appalled by Mr. Nardicio's attempt to violate Mr. Cooper's privacy, and were not shy in articulating their outrage in comments, such as the following:
  • How about offering $10K for naked pictures of the smoking-hot Corsican boyfriend
  • WIN!
  • Ooo. I'm interested too.
  • DING! DING! DING! DING! DING! —  Yeah Baby!
  • No shit!
Since Aksarbent doesn't subscribe to cable television (only Netflix), we barely know what Anderson Cooper looks like, much less his alleged boyfriend, Benjamin Maisani (see pictures below), so we had to scour the internets in order to educate our readers. In doing so, we learned that Mr. Cooper and his alleged boyfriend bought and are fixing up an old New York City fire station, which presumably means that instead of taking an elevator or walking down stairs, Anderson Cooper gets to slide down a pole every morning before he goes to work. No, readers, this is not a double-entendre. Aksarbent has loved fire station poles since childhood.

Now let's review some things:

  • Anderson Cooper is a Vanderbilt (Mother: Gloria)
  • He has an interesting job.
  • He gets to live in a large, loft-type building with a brass pole on which he can take an exhilarating ride to start his work day
  • He lives with a dude who looks better than a lot of porn stars (which would be totally awesome if Anderson Cooper liked boys, but we wouldn't know anything about that because our mothers told us never to listen to rumors, and our dads considered two guys getting it on to be a one-way ticket to barf town.)
Conclusion: Dan Savage is right! It does get better, even if you start life as the son of an heiress to the remnants of a gilded, robber baron-age fortune.

Anti-Gay Black Des Moines Baptist calls religious denominations accepting of gay adherents "Burger King brand religions"; Presumes to speak for MLK from beyond the grave

Tyler Kinkade of the Iowa Independent reports that Rev. Keith Ratliff, of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, claimed that the gay community has won gains in civil rights on the back of the Black civil rights movement, which he claimed was an "insult."
“For those that spiritually see the big picture, this issue is a battle ground as we said and not a playground,” Ratliff said.
     But Ratliff also spoke in favor of marriage between one man and one woman and allowing a vote on the issue.
     The rally was organized by The Family Leader, an organization led by former three-time gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats. The activists are urging Iowa lawmakers, particularly Senate Democrats, to pass a measure that would set the stage for Iowans to vote on forbidding same-sex marriage in the state’s constitution.
     Ratliff also declared Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was raised in a biblically structured home and would not have approved of the “deviant behavior” by the gay community.
     “Rev. Dr. King, Jr. wasn’t taught to subscribe to private interpretations of Burger King brand religions, any ‘you can have it your way’ religions,” Ratliff said.
The arrogant Rev. Ratliff did not explain why MLK's widow, Coretta Scott King, who did more for Black civil rights than Ratliff will in several lifetimes, gave her support to gay marriage in 2005 during a speech at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey:
POMONA, N.J. (AP) — The widow of Martin Luther King Jr. called gay marriage a civil rights issue, denouncing a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban it.
     Constitutional amendments should be used to expand freedom, not restrict it, Coretta Scott King said Tuesday.
     "Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union," she said. "A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."
Nor did Rev. Ratliff explain why MLK's daughter, Yolanda, did not consider the struggle for gay civil rights to be an "insult" to the Black civil rights movement when she said the following in 2006 at Chicago’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit:
“If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you do not have the same rights as other Americans. You cannot marry … you still face discrimination in the workplace, and in our armed forces. For a nation that prides itself on liberty, justice and equality for all, this is totally unacceptable.”

Nor has Rev. Ratliff ever publicly acknowledged the role that Gay Black people in MLK's own organization had in advancing civil rights, such as that of Bayard Rustin, the gay man who was chief organizer and strategist for the 1963 March on Washington that provided the setting for the "I have a dream" speech which will forever define Martin Luther King's legacy.

Aksarbent thinks that the opportunistic Rev. Ratliff should probably stop bitching about how gay rights supposedly besmirches Black civil rights, in light of the obvious contrary opinions of those who knew MLK better than Ratliff ever will. Otherwise cynical people might conclude that Rev. Ratliff is just a low-rent, pandering jerk. Aksarbent doesn't think this, of course, but cynical people, they might.

Newt Gingrich & Co. bankrolled 1/3 of $850,000 campaign to remove Iowa Supreme Court justices

ThinkProgress had already disclosed the $200,000 that Gingrich directed from an anonymous donor to the anti-marriage equality group Iowa for Freedom (also funded by AFA Action, the political arm of the virulently homophobic American Family Association.) The Associated Press reported yesterday that one of the cogs in Gingrich’s vast network of business enterprises and front groups, ReAL Action, provided $125,000 to AFA Action. The Des Moines Register reported this morning that ReAL Action also contributed $25,000 to yet another Iowa anti-LGBT group, the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Iowa's new Tea Party kingmaker plunged into movement conservatism when Iowa State students accused Red Cross of discriminating against gay men

Beth Reinhard, a political correspondent for the National Journal, has profiled 28-year-old Ryan Rhodes for The Atlantic. Rhodes is currently organizing the Iowa Tea Party's two-week-long statewide bus tour in June, which will train hundreds of voters to participate in the Iowa caucuses and showcase presidential candidates along the way. Rhodes is closely aligned with Kent Sorenson, Kim Pearson and Glen Massie.
His unlikely road to grassroots activism began with a protest over a campus blood drive after he returned to Iowa State in 2007. A handful of students were accusing the Red Cross of discriminating against gay men by refusing to take their higher-risk blood.
     To Rhodes, the protest smacked of political correctness, and he plunged into movement conservatism. He read Barry Goldwater's "The Conscience of a Conservative," William Blackstone's "Commentaries on the Laws of England," and Thomas Paine's "Common Sense." He started going to church. He interned at the Leadership Institute, a boot camp for conservative activists in Virginia.
  Rhodes appeared on Iowa Press in early March.

The Omaha World-Herald and other media outlets are reporting that in a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin pledged his support for Iowa State Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal in the face of attacks by conservatives like Rhodes because of Gronstal's vow to block attempts to introduce constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships.
     Said Harkin: “He’s a great state senator. I will do everything I can ... to back him up. He’s right on this issue.”
     Rhodes, co-chair of the "Iowa Tea Party Patriots" immediately attacked Sen. Harkin, saying “He’s not listening to the people ... He’s made it very apparent he doesn’t care what people think.”
     Harkin said he believes Gronstal has made the right decision.
     Harkin said: "The courts have spoken, and state lawmakers should not be in the business of trying to override court decisions. This court decision was unanimous. It wasn’t like a split decision. It was a unanimous decision by judges appointed by Republicans and Democrats.”
     Rhodes response: “If Harkin wants to abdicate the three branches of government, he can be our guest.”