Friday, April 15, 2011

The Bully Project, Etc.

Because Sioux City is the home of that grotesque parody of Christianity Bob Vander Plaats, it’s hard to remember sometimes that good things come out of Siouxland, too.

“The Bully Project,” a new 90-minute film that will premiere April 23 during world documentary competition at the Tribeca Film Festival, looks like it will be one of those.

Directed by Lee Hirsch and underwritten by the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention, headquartered in North Sioux City, S.D., the documentary, subtitled “A Year in the Life of America’s Bullying Crisis,” follows for a year the stories of five students and their families, including two families shattered by their sons’ suicides.

Although the stories are from a variety of places and the bullied “different” in a variety of ways, the work of the Sioux City Project, a multi-year concentrated anti-violence and anti-bullying program in the middle and high schools of Sioux City, also underritten by the Waitt Institute for Violence Protection, will be featured.

It seems like a film well worth seeing, although I suppose the fact that anti-gay bullying is part of the package  will prevent Christianist Republicans --- who look upon bullying and gay teen suicide as therapy --- from seeking it out. Here’s the trailer:

If the name Waitt seems familiar, that’s because Ted Waitt is the billionaire co-founder of Gateway, Inc., founded with Mike Hammond during 1985 on the cattle farm of Waitt’s father near Sioux City (remember those big computer boxes with Holstein patches?).

Waitt established the Waitt Foundation during 1993. It’s principal focus now is protecting and restoring the world’s oceans. Two operating institutes, the Waitt Institute and the Wiatt Institute for Violence Prevention, were created by the original foundation in 2005. The Waitt Institue focuses on enabling scientific pioneers; and the Violence Prevention institute, on “changing social norms that accept violence as a part of life.”

The Foundation moved its headquarters from Siouxland to California during 1999 and both it and the Waitt Institute are headquartered there. The Violence Prevention institute, headed by Ted Waitt’s sister, Cindy, is located in North Sioux City.


It’s been a fairly eventful week on the same-sex marriage front. Delaware lawmakers gave final approval to a civil union, aka marriage lite, bill on Thursday that the governor will sign. Currently five states offer same-sex couples civil union options --- California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. Illinois couples can begin applying for civil union licenses on Jan 1; and Hawaiian couples, on Jan. 1, 2012. Same-sex couples may marry in five states, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut, as well as the District of Columbia. Delaware brings the civil unions total to eight.

Back home in Iowa, that peculiar little man with the mustache who now lives in the attic of Terrace Hill, is hinting he’d kind of like to see another Supreme Court justice, David Wiggins, ousted in 2012 when his name is on the retention ballot. Apparently Wiggins, who chaired the the nominations committee that selected replacements for the three justices ousted by voters last fall, didn’t treat all applicants with the degree of deference Branstad would have liked.

Of course Terry B. won’t campaign against Wiggins --- he’s above all that; in fact, he’s above doing almost everything.


And finally in the what-would-cause-Steve-King’s-head-to-explode? department, a bill is moving through the California legislature that would mandate that LGBT history be taught in public schools, much as black, Hispanic, American Indian and other histories now are. The bill’s fate is somewhat doubtful. Now I wonder who we could get to introduce something similar in the Iowa Legislature?

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