Hard News by Russell Brown

American Taliban

Kansas university professor Paul Mirecki , who devised a course describing intelligent design as "mythology", has been tailgated then beaten by two men who made reference to his course as they dealt to him. The beating happened after his course, 'Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies', was cancelled in the wake of a furore about an email in which Mirecki said the course would be "a nice slap in [the] big fat face" of "fundies" pushing for ID to be taught as science in the state.

Mirecki apologised for his indiscreet email. There was any amount of anger from conservative websites in response to Mirecki's email and the perceived content of the course. The same sites have gone curiously quiet on the subsequent thuggery.

Meanwhile, this one's causing a lot of excitement on AmericaBlog. As originally revealed in this story, Ford Motors has buckled in the face of a campaign by the American Family Association against its alleged gay agenda. In particular, Ford has agreed to cease advertising most of its vehicles in gay or gay-friendly publications (and take instruction from the fundies on the style of advertising for one brand, Volvo), and cease support for any gay cause. This wasn't a boycott based on a problem with the products, or indeed, anything that directly affects the bigots at the AFA. Its clear intent is to strangle gay and gay-friendly media by bullying their advertisers.

And hey, it even gets close to home. Among the examples of Ford's errant ways listed by the AFA is an ad for Volvo -- one of Ford's auto lines -- in the programme for the 2003 Sydney Mardi Gras. I find it very creepy that these people are seeking to determine the company's policy in markets that do not remotely share their values. (Gay groups have naturally not objected when Ford, pursuing market niches in a market economy, has targeted advertising to churchgoers and supported gospel groups.)

The Wall Street Journal has a useful story on the issue, which notes the fact that the Target retail chain was also pressured by the AFA - one of the AFA's aims there was to stop Target stocking Hanukkah merchandise during the Christmas season (a practice described by AFA president Tim Wildmon as "political correctness run amok") - but didn't buckle. The Washington Post also has a story. Ford initially lied about what had taken place, but has now basically fessed up.

It's a small mercy that the religious bigots didn't get everything they wanted - most notably, they couldn't get Ford to withdraw same-sex partner benefits from gay employees - but they've clearly won enough here to encourage them to do it again and again.

Meanwhile, at home, National's Katherine Rich deserves great credit for not only refusing to follow the 36 of her colleagues who voted in favour of Gordon Copeland's idiotic Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill (a would-be law against changing the law, if you will) but speaking frankly about it: "This bill is a cheap political stunt," she said. "It will be used as a platform for every banjo-playing redneck homophobe who wants to stand up and make comments about the way other people lead their lives."

Tony Milne looks at some of the speeches and how the voting stacked up. I'd like to see Rodney Hide explain how he could support a bill that on more than one count would seem to be the very kind of thing his party stands against. Isn't legislating to confirm something that is already confirmed in law just the kind of looney social meddling that Act people are supposed to hate? Rodney, you're a hypocrite.

PS: Not only do the coffee communications continue to flood in, they're getting better. Stayed tuned for a final dispatch tomorrow. (BTW, I incorrectly attributed words about Starbucks to Jim Cathcart in yesterday's post, because his attribution - to the people at exile.ru - wasn't clear to me at the time.)