Thursday, February 27, 2014

Actor Seth Rogen Wants to Smoke Pot With Senator Tom Harkin

(Seth Rogen)
Actor Seth Rogen testified before the Senate Committee on Appropriation yesterday in favor of increased federal funding for Alzheimer's research. Somehow that led to the following question by ABC News reporter Arlette Saenz:
She asked him several questions, including, “Is there one politician you’d want to smoke pot with?

He answered, “That Harkin guy seemed pretty cool. I’d go with him.”
Rogen, of course, is talking about Iowa U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. Harkin's staff had a great response when asked about Rogen's desire to share a joint:
Harkin Spokeswoman Kate Frischmann followed up on the Register’s request with a coy, “Ask us again in January, 2015.”
Senator Harkin is not running for re-election this year.

Arizona Lawmakers Pass "Right to Discriminate" Bill // Will Gov. Jan Brewer Sign It Into Law? // Update on 02/27/14: Gov. Brewer Vetoes Arizona's "Right to Discriminate" Bill

(Originally written on 02/22/14): You have likely heard about Arizona and Kansas and an assortment of other states who have recently pushed legislation aimed at protecting anti-gay businesses, employees, and government officials from anti-discrimination policies that protect gays from discrimination. All of these states have backed off -- except for Arizona whose House and Senate both passed the following sweeping bill earlier this week:
Section 1.  Section 41-1493, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:
41-1493.  Definitions
In this article, unless the context otherwise requires:
1.  ”Demonstrates” means meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.
2.  ”Exercise of religion” means the PRACTICE OR OBSERVANCE OF RELIGION, INCLUDING THE ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.
3.  ”Government” includes this state and any agency or political subdivision of this state.
4.  ”Nonreligious assembly or institution” includes all membership organizations, theaters, cultural centers, dance halls, fraternal orders, amphitheaters and places of public assembly regardless of size that a government or political subdivision allows to meet in a zoning district by code or ordinance or by practice.
5.  ”Person” includes
 a religious assembly or institution ANY INDIVIDUAL, ASSOCIATION, PARTNERSHIP, CORPORATION, CHURCH, RELIGIOUS ASSEMBLY OR INSTITUTION, ESTATE, TRUST, FOUNDATION OR OTHER LEGAL ENTITY.
6.  ”Political subdivision” includes any county, city, including a charter city, town, school district, municipal corporation or special district, any board, commission or agency of a county, city, including a charter city, town, school district, municipal corporation or special district or any other local public agency.
7.  ”Religion‑neutral zoning standards”:
(a)  Means numerically definable standards such as maximum occupancy codes, height restrictions, setbacks, fire codes, parking space requirements, sewer capacity limitations and traffic congestion limitations.
(b)  Does not include:
(i)  Synergy with uses that a government holds as more desirable.
(ii)  The ability to raise tax revenues.
8.  ”Suitable alternate property” means a financially feasible property considering the person’s revenue sources and other financial obligations with respect to the person’s exercise of religion and with relation to spending that is in the same zoning district or in a contiguous area that the person finds acceptable for conducting the person’s religious mission and that is large enough to fully accommodate the current and projected seating capacity requirements of the person in a manner that the person deems suitable for the person’s religious mission.
9.  ”Unreasonable burden” means that a person is prevented from using the person’s property in a manner that the person finds satisfactory to fulfill the person’s religious mission.
Sec. 2.  Section 41-1493.01, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:
41-1493.01.  Free exercise of religion protected; definition
A.  Free exercise of religion is a fundamental right that applies in this state even if laws, rules or other government actions are facially neutral.
B.  Except as provided in subsection C
, government OF THIS SECTION, STATE ACTION shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.
C.
Government STATE ACTION may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if
it THE OPPOSING PARTY demonstrates that application of the burden to the
person PERSON’S EXERCISE OF RELIGION IN THIS PARTICULAR INSTANCE is both:
1.  In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest.
2.  The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
D.  A person whose religious exercise is burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding,
and obtain appropriate relief against a government REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE GOVERNMENT IS A PARTY TO THE PROCEEDING.  THE PERSON ASSERTING SUCH A CLAIM OR DEFENSE MAY OBTAIN APPROPRIATE RELIEF.  A party who prevails in any action to enforce this article against a government shall recover attorney fees and costs.
E.
In FOR THE PURPOSES OF this section, the term substantially burden is intended solely to ensure that this article is not triggered by trivial, technical or de minimis infractions.
F.  FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION, “STATE ACTION” MEANS ANY ACTION BY THE GOVERNMENT OR THE IMPLEMENTATION OR APPLICATION OF ANY LAW, INCLUDING STATE AND LOCAL LAWS, ORDINANCES, RULES, REGULATIONS AND POLICIES, WHETHER STATUTORY OR OTHERWISE, AND WHETHER THE IMPLEMENTATION OR APPLICATION IS MADE OR ATTEMPTED TO BE MADE BY THE GOVERNMENT OR NONGOVERNMENTAL PERSONS.
In other words, any business, charities, or individual can legally discriminate against anyone else as long as they have sincere religious beliefs to justify that discrimination. The Arizona was specifically crafted to allow people a reason to discriminate against LGBT people and couples, but it's broad enough to be used to justify discrimination against pretty much any anyone.

I've participated in my share of online discussions about the consequences of this type of legislation (here and here), but it really makes me sick to continue. Personally, I don't understand the mindset of business owners who what to go out of their way to turn away paying customers and risk negative publicity. But I've learned from interacting with others that there is a real desire by religious people to commercially ostracize gay people.

This bill has been sent to Gov. Jan Brewer for her signature, but it's unclear if she will sign it or not. She wants business owners to have the ability to turn away paying customers. She just doesn't want the state to suffer negative results from large corporations and from tourists.

There was one major surprise coming from Arizona's new "right-to-discriminate" bill. Arizona actually managed to secure the support of members of the Westboro Baptist Church. This church has never found a church or a state or a soldier or a funeral that they haven't wanted to curse and protest -- until now. Way to go, Arizona! You should be very proud of yourselves.

Updated on 02/27/14: Last night, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed Senate Bill 1062 after lots of commercial and political pressure:
 
Good evening, and thank you for joining me here today.

I am here to announce my decision on Senate Bill 1062.

As with every proposal that reaches my desk, I gave Senate Bill 1062 careful evaluation and deliberate consideration. I call them like I see them, despite the cheers or boos from the crowd.

I took the time necessary to make the RIGHT decision. I met or spoke with my attorneys, lawmakers and citizens supporting and opposing this legislation. I listened and asked questions. As Governor, I have protected religious freedoms when there is a specific and present concern that exists in OUR state. And I have the record to prove it. My agenda is to sign into law legislation that advances Arizona.

When I addressed the Legislature earlier this year, I made my priorities for this session abundantly clear… Among them are passing a responsible budget that continues Arizona’s economic Comeback.

From CEOs -- to entrepreneurs -- to business surveys -- Arizona ranks as one the best states to grow or start a business. Additionally, our IMMEDIATE challenge is fixing a broken Child Protection system. Instead, this is the first policy bill to cross my desk.

Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences.

After weighing all of the arguments, I vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments ago. To the supporters of the legislation, I want you to know that I understand that long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before.

Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes. However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want.

Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is non-discrimination. Going forward, let’s turn the ugliness of the debate over Senate Bill 1062 into a renewed search for greater respect and understanding among ALL Arizonans and Americans. Thank you.

Social conservatives are already upset and complaining that Christians are now second class citizens compared to LGBT people. As if...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Decorah Eagle Nest Threatened by Freezing Temperatures

Were you one of the hundreds who sat in front of the computer and watched live web stream footage of the eagles nest in Decorah, IA? People have been watching the eagles lay eggs and nurture their eaglets for eight years.

Unfortunately, Decorah has been experiencing uber-frigid temperatures for the past couple months and it's expected the continue for a while. Sub-zero temperatures lead to frozen eagle eggs, which leads to much sadness:
Bob Anderson, director of the Raptor Resource Project, says these frigid temperatures could freeze the egg and kill the embryo...

“That nest is totally frozen from the rain we got last week. It rained and then it froze, so this nest is one giant ice cube, and they did bring in some grass right before they laid their eggs, which was good,” Anderson said.
One eggs was laid by the eagles this past Sunday evening, while two additional eggs are expected to be laid later this week.

Hump Day

Hey Superman! Do you know what day it is today??

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

UCC Leaders/Members Come Out Against Arizona's "Right To Discriminate" Bill

I wrote this weekend about the "right to discriminate" bill (Senate Bill 1062) that sailed through the Arizona House and Senate last week. This bill would allow anyone to refuse goods or services to pretty much anyone as long as they have a sincere religious belief to justify that discrimination. It's basically a way for folks to get around statewide anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people -- but the Arizona bill is written broadly enough that it can be applied to anyone for any reason. You can read more about it here.

The bill now awaits Gov. Jan Brewer's signature to transform it into a law, but it's unclear if she will actually sign this bill into law or if she will veto it. She's getting a lot of pressure from others throughout the country -- particularly Arizona businesses.

Meanwhile, members of the United Church of Christ gathered along with other protesters last night outside of the Arizona Statehouse. They wanted to join the chorus against Senate Bill 1062 and remind Arizona's legislators that discrimination isn't a religious value:
"Our group and our message is that religious freedom is not freedom to discriminate," said UCC pastor the Rev. Jeff Dirrim. "Everybody has the right to believe what they want to believe, but that should not infringe on the rights of others."

Dirrim, pastor at Rebel and Divine UCC in Phoenix, joined more than 25 people from his congregation and about 75 from the Southwest Conference of the UCC outside the Arizona Statehouse. His issue with SB 1062 is that it's "marketed as religious freedom."

"It's wrong for the state, and wrong for the people," said Dirrim. "But the general public has risen, and I don't see a way Gov. Brewer cannot veto it."

The Rev. John C. Dorhauer called it "one of the worst bills passed in state history" and believes it would permit "state-sanctioned discrimination." Dorhauer is conference minister for the Southwest Conference of the UCC, which ministers to UCC congregations in Arizona...

When a local journalist asked Dorhauer if he planned to publicly shame lawmakers, he replied, "I am not sure if shame would have any impact on them. If they had any shame at all they wouldn't have passed this legislation."
The UCC isn't perfect, but there are times that I dearly love being a member of this denomination!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Iowa Man Suing Casey's General Store, Claims Unlawful Firing Because He's Gay

(Wayne Shimer)
Wayne Shimer was employed at a Casey's General Store outside of Des Moines, IA, between July and September 2012. His manager learned that he is a married gay man about a month after getting hired. About a month later, Shimer was fired. After being fired, Shimer filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission for what he believes was unlawful discrimination based on his sexual orientation. The state agency reviewed his case and eventually issued a right-to-sue letter earlier this month, which prompted the 22-year-old man to filed a lawsuit against Casey's General Store.

According to Shimer's lawsuit, his manager learned that he was gay roughly one month after being hired by Casey's. He was reportedly called into her office and discouraged from acting "feminine" while in the store. It was explained that his supposedly feminine mannerisms made customers and other co-workers uncomfortable.

Additionally, his husband was not allowed to visit him during his shifts. Shimer claims that other employees of Casey's General Store were permitted to have family members, boyfriends, and girlfriends visit them briefly during their shifts.

Shimer also claims that his supervisor also repeatedly made derogatory comments about him, indicating that "you don't fit in normal society."

He was eventually fired in September 2012 about a week after getting into an argument with one of his co-workers over how she could have handled a customer interaction better. Shimer and his attorney believe that this incident was a pretext for him being fired based on his sexual orientation.

Casey's General Stores hasn't issued any public comments on this lawsuit.

Shimer and his attorney are seeking monetary damages. He also hopes that his lawsuit will discourage other employers from discrimination of LGBT employees.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rattlesnake That Killed "Snake Salvation" Minister Returns to Church

(Rev. Cody Coots)
Rev. Jamie Coots of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name and "Snake Salvation" was bitten and killed a week ago yesterday by a rattlesnake. Fortunately for the rattler, Rev. Coots' congregation doesn't hold a grudge. The church's new pastor -- Cody Coots AKA Rev. Jamie Coots' son -- brought the snake to church this weekend and included it during worship:
Cody Coots prayed over a bevy of snakes -- one of which was the rattler that killed Jamie.  The video is insane ... it looks like a revival service with a live band and snakes and worshipers all flailing in the air. As we told you ... Cody made it clear to us ... if the rattler bit him he would refuse treatment ... just like his dad. But snakes weren't the only trick up Cody's sleeve.  He also played with fire ... literally.
The younger Rev. Coots has already gone on record saying that he will refuse medical treatment if he ever gets bitten by a snake. Hopefully, he will get life insurance -- unlike his father.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Archie Comics to Introduce Physically Disabled Teen in Upcoming Comic Book!

I was checking out the newly released May 2014 Archie Comics solicits earlier today and they have some neat offering, including the Equalizer's premier in KEVIN KELLER #14, new stories in SONIC SUPER DIGEST #7, and undead adventures within AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #7. But here is what I'm really excited about: ARCHIE #656! This comic book features the debut of the latest in a long-run of Veronica Lodge cousins. Her name is Harper Lodge and she's the first disabled comic book character to appear in Archie Comics in a really long time. Check this out:
ARCHIE #656: "Let's Hear it for Harper" Veronica's cousin Harper is coming to Riverdale, where she's considering attending Riverdale High. When she arrives, they see something they weren’t expecting: she is physically disabled. However it doesn't take long to see that her disabilities don't hold her back, but instead add to her dynamic personality! Harper teaches the gang how something that you think can hold you back can make you that much stronger—all while being decked out in the most fashion forward wheelchair ever seen!
I know that this seems like nothing, but I've already heard from two different Archie Comics fans who are very excited to read about Harper's adventures. These fans have physical disabilities of their own. One particular fan shared her own struggles with progressive hereditary spastic paraparesis. She thought it would be cool if Harper was diagnosed with her own disability. She also wondered how Harper learned to cope with her disability. Does she ever use a walker? Does Riverdale High School have wheelchair ramps? Is Veronica embarrassed by her disabled cousin?

These are all great questions! I can't wait to learn the answers in ARCHIE #656!

Polk County Judge Orders Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo to be Re-Opened // Updated on 02/07/14: Gov. Branstad to Appeal this Decision to the Iowa Supreme Court // Updated on 02/21/14: Iowa Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Arguments over IJH's Closure

(Originally written on 02/05/14): On December 9, 2013, the Iowa Department of Human Services and Governor Terry Branstad announced that they were going to close to Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo, IA, as soon as possible. The 21 residents receiving treatment there were discharged from the facility in Toledo in the rough span of one month. Six were sent back to their homes. 15 were sent to other licensed and/or accredited facilities throughout Iowa. One was sent to a temporary shelter placement. And the final resident was placed in a temporary juvenile detention program. And the IJH program ended up closing down by January 16, 2014.

IJH was a residential treatment program for delinquent and CINA (child in need of assistance) girls who it had been determined could not be treated safely elsewhere. They stayed within the treatment program for 5-9 months on average and most had mental health diagnoses.

Concerns have been expressed about IJH's closing. Correctional officers and DHS case workers were particularly concerned that they just lost one key placement option for troubled youth in this state. Several of the former IJH residents were sent to less intensive facilities who had previously rejected them and asserted that they weren't capable of meeting their needs. And, of course, there's now 93 Iowans who just had their careers snatched from them.

A lawsuit was filed on January 2, 2014, to stop the closure of IJH by Danny Homan (president of AFSCME), Senator Steven Sodders, Senator (and Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Jack Hatch, Rep. Pat Murphy, and Mark Smith, and Rep. Mark Smith.

Today, Judge Scott Rosenburg ruled against Gov. Branstad and DHS Director Charles Palmer and ordered that the IJH program in Toledo be re-opened:
"The legislature intended that the Toledo facility be established and operate and that the money so appropriated be used for salaries, support, maintenance and miscellaneous purposes," reads the court documents. "But to totally eliminate the operations of the Toledo Home under the guise of the language 'or so much thereof as is necessary' is to essentially ignore the laws of the State of Iowa as enacted lawfully by the General Assembly and allows the Executive branch to unilaterally decide which laws it will obey and which laws it will not...

"If the Governor of the State of Iowa decided that the Toledo Home should not operate, he had the opportunity to end its operation when the appropriations bill was placed upon his desk for signature. At that point the Governor could have vetoed the bill. To later, however, decide that the Toledo Home should no longer operate under any circumstances is not only a failure to carry out his Constitutional duties to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, but is an affront to the very purpose and establishment of our governmental institutions as adopted by the Constitution of the State of Iowa with the approval of the people of the State of Iowa. The danger in allowing such an action to happen is the destruction of our republican form of government itself and the democracy which it is designed to serve for the general welfare of all of its citizens."
Danny Homan of AFSCME issued the following response:
We are pleased that the court has sided with the plaintiffs by opening the Iowa Juvenile Home. Iowa’s young girls are the real winners in this decision. For the sake of the safety of Iowa’s children, the governor should immediately comply with this court order and reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home as instructed by the District Court.
Senator Jack Hatch also responded to the news:
Today an Iowa District Court judge ruled Governor Branstad must reverse his reckless, ill-considered decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home at Toledo, which housed some of the state's most troubled youth. This is a victory for the girls Terry Branstad put in jeopardy of serious harm to themselves or others, but it reveals a scary pattern in the way this Governor does business.
The judge is the latest in a long line of Iowans who have tried to get Terry Branstad to follow the law. The ruling is another example of how this Governor operates above the law, without accountability or respect for the rule of law. As the judge wrote, the Branstad administration cannot unilaterally decide which laws to obey and which laws it will not.
So far, the Governor's actions have resulted in at least two girls running away and going missing, and we still don’t have a handle on exactly how many may have been lost. Keeping track of at-risk children who are in the Department of Human Services (DHS) system is one of the most serious core functions of government. At this, Branstad has failed. A complete accounting of the whereabouts of the girls who have been lost should be provided immediately by DHS.
My colleagues and I in the Iowa Senate will continue to investigate and seek answers, above all to protect the children involved. But we’ll also continue to ask what so many Iowans have asked this Governor: when, sir, did you start believing you no longer needed to follow our laws?
I haven't yet seen any statements from Gov. Branstad or from DHS Director Charles Palmer.

I think it's fair to say that this story isn't over yet. It is anticipated that the Branstad administration will appeal this decision and if that happens then the IJH facility won't immediately re-open.

Updated on 02/07/14: As expected, Gov. Terry Branstad has indicated that his administration will ask the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn this court decision ordering the re-opening of the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo, IA.

Updated on 02/21/14: The Iowa Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments over whether Gov. Terry Branstad had the power to unilaterally close down the Iowa Juvenile Home. The Iowa Supreme Court also undid an earlier court order calling for the immediate reopening of the IJH.

It's unclear when the Iowa Supreme Court will hear this case.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Archie: Riverdale Rescue": No New Quests! // Plus PC Users Unite!

I began writing about the "Archie: Riverdale Rescue" iOS gaming app back in October 2013. It's an oddly addictive game where you are tasked with the improvement and beautification of Riverdale USA using a variety of recognizable characters, such as Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. A big part of the game also involves building emotional bonds between the various characters, leading to romantic couples, BFFs, and overall friends. I thought it would be fun to discuss aspects of the game that I find exciting, disappointing, and/or note-worthy.

I've been playing the game for quite a while. I learned all about the characters and about my own private Riverdale. I've matched and nurtured romantic couples. I've helped BFFs bond, break up, and then bond all over again. I've upgraded all of the buildings in Riverdale. I've achieved Level 25. I've celebrated Halloween, Christmas, and Valentines Day.

And now I've run out of Quests! Check this out:


Normally, there is a string of Quests that need to be completed along the right side of the screen. I once assumed that old Quests would eventually recycle, but apparently not.

I posted the tweeted the following message on Twitter, which prompted a response from the official Archie Game Twitter account:
Sure enough, I received a series of new Quests about one week later, which allowed Big Ethel, Jughead, Reggie, Moose, Dilton, Betty, and Veronica to get busy again. But then I completed those Quests and Now I'm Quest-less again!

I assume that we will eventually have new upgrades with new costumes and new Quests as we shift into Spring, Summer, and subsequent holidays. Otherwise, my current "Riverdale Rescue" game consists of me checking in at night and filling up my bank for the foreseeable future!

I'll keep you updated!

Meanwhile... It used to be that you had to have an iPad or an iPod in order to play "Riverdale Rescue," but no more! Earlier this week, players gained the ability to download "Archie: Riverdale Rescue" onto their PCs! Still no word about an Android app, but at least PC users can finally enter the game!

Facebook Memes That I Hate!

I've had a couple friend post the following meme on Facebook. It annoys me to no end:


Needless to say, I didn't share this image on Facebook -- though I shared it here on this blog, so what does that say about me?

I just hate these images that some people forward on Facebook. "Like this image if you hate cancer" -- like anyone loves cancer. "Share this image or else you're ashamed of Jesus" -- because otherwise you're a shameful Satanist.

I know a couple people who will unfriend anyone who posts images like the one listed above. I haven't gone that far, but I've come close with a couple folks!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Should You Come Out to Your Social Work Grad Program?

I was putzing about on the Gay Christian Network earlier today and somebody indicated that she is working towards enrolling at a graduate college where she will earn her master's degree in social work. She has write up essays about herself in her applications. She is mulling over whether or not to come out to prospective colleges. She noted that she wants to intern with a program that serves LGBT populations while at school. Should she come out?

I have a degree in social work. I actually had to interview with professors to get into my program. Do you know what got me accepted into my social work program? Self-revelation.

I shared my professional experience working in a group home with mentally disabled adults and what I'd learned throughout that experience. I spoke about how my family struggled with poverty during my teen years and how we couldn't keep our home without support from our extended family and from food stamps. I talked about the addiction that one of my family members grappled with and how that affected my tolerance towards alcohol. I also talked about coming out as a young gay man and what I'd learned about myself, about my friends, about my family, and about my small town community because of that process.

I'm not a young man now. I didn't come out last year or even within the past decade. I came out in the early 90s at a Christian college in the middle of Iowa. Coming out didn't keep me out of my social work program. In some ways, it probably helped me. I mean, all of the above helped me.

This was a social work program. Anything that demonstrated professional and personal diversity and potential for understanding others helps you when applying for a social work program.

It was suggested by others that she should first tour the colleges and universities before coming out so that she could figure out if it's safe or not.

My thought? This is a social work program we are talking about here. Coming out won't hurt you. If it does at a particular grad program, then you really don't want to attend that college. And especially if you are planning to work with LGBT populations but the professors within the grad program freak if you come out, then you really don't want to attend that college.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Afterlife With Archie #4" Preview Hints at Twincest...

If you're a fan of Cheryl and Jason Blossom, then you are already aware of this development in the new AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE comic book:


#BlossomsInTheAttic, Indeed!

Iowa Senate Wages Bipartisan Snowball Fight

(source)
Several Iowa Senate members and staff took advantage of a break yesterday afternoon to participate in an unplanned bipartisan snowball fight. The Iowa State Capitol building was evacuated for about twenty minutes yesterday because of a fire alarm. The alarms were caused by smoke from a cafeteria smoke detector.

It was unclear from reading this article what prompted the Senators and their staff to pummel each other with snowballs. It is also unknown who won the battle.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Snake Salvation" Preacher Jamie Coots Died From Snake Bite

Rev. Jamie Coots was the pastor at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus' Name church in Middlesboro, KY. He was also featured on a reality TV show called "Snake Salvation" on the National Geographic channel. Coots was a snake-handling pastor. He, his contemporaries, and his followers believe that handling venomous snakes is a sign of divinity stemming from Mark 16:
And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)
I really don't get it, but it appears that they believe that God will protect them from the poisonous snakes.

Anyway, Rev. Coots died at the age of 42 Saturday night after getting bit by one of his snakes at a church service. Somebody called for an ambulance, but Coots and his family refused emergency medical treatment and he died about an hour after that.

This is the part of the blog where I'm supposed to support Coots' religious belief system and practices. Except that it's illegal. It places practitioners and followers at risk for death. Kentucky specifically bans snake-handling in church services. It is a misdemeanor in that state and is punishable by a fine of $50 to $100. One wonders if anyone will face a fine in this case?

If so, it doesn't look like anyone will be able to afford the fine. A Facebook page has been created by the family with this repeated message:
Brother Jamie did not have any insurance. Donations for his burial and his family can be mailed to: (*Clipped out by Jon's Blog*). If you can not make a donation, Please, keep Bro. Jamie's family, friends and church in your prayers. Please, do not send cash... Please, share this with your family and friends.
In other words, he handles deadly snakes and trusts God to keep him safe and healthy. So he doesn't get health insurance. And then he leaves his family without life insurance so that they cannot pay for his burial or for their future financial needs after his passing.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Grace Unplugged," "The Bible," & "Shark Tank" Win Big During the 2014 Faith & Values Awards Ceremony

Did you watch the Faith & Values Awards early this month? Frankly, I hadn't ever heard of this event until after it happened. I guess it's all about rewarding spiritual seriousness in Hollywood, but you wouldn't know that from glancing through a large chunk of the winners. Check this out:
$100,000 EPIPHANY PRIZE FOR MOST INSPIRING MOVIE OF 2013
Winner:  GRACE UNPLUGGED
2 - BLACK NATIVITY
3 - 42
4 - MAN OF STEEL
5 - THE TOWER

$100,000 EPIPHANY PRIZE FOR MOST INSPIRING TELEVISION PROGRAM OF 2013
Winner:  THE BIBLE
2 - LAST MAN STANDING: Back to School
3 - THE CROSS
4 - DUCK DYNASTY:  TILL DUCK DO US PART
5 - BLUE BLOODS:  Bad Blood

10 BEST MOVIES FOR FAMILIES
WINNER:  #1 - FROZEN (2013)
2 - DESPICABLE ME 2
3 - THE CROODS
4 - TURBO
5 - GRACE UNPLUGGED
6 - MONSTERS UNIVERSITY
7 - BLACK NATIVITY
8 - OZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
9 - CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2
10 - LINSANITY

10 BEST MOVIES FOR MATURE AUDIENCES
WINNER:  #1 - IRON MAN 3
2 - 42
3 - THE HOBBIT:  THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
4 - THE HUNGER GAMES:  CATCHING FIRE
5 - GRAVITY
6 - MAN OF STEEL
7 - THOR:  THE DARK WORLD
8 - CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
9 - JACK THE GIANT SLAYER
10 - THE TOWER

FAITH & FREEDOM AWARD MOVIES
WINNER:  #1 - IRON MAN 3
2 - 42
3 - THE HOBBIT:  THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
4 - THE HUNGER GAMES:  CATCHING FIRE
5 - TURBO
6 - MAN OF STEEL

FAITH & FREEDOM AWARD TELEVISION WINNER:  #1 - DUCK DYNASTY:  TILL DUCK DO US PART
2 - LAST MAN STANDING:  Back to School
3 - CHRISTMAS IN CONWAY
4 - REMEMBER SUNDAY
5 - BLUE BLOODS:  Bad Blood
6 - SECRET MILLIONAIRE:  George & Kym Rapier:  Oakridge, Oregon

$50,000 FRIESS FOUNDATION FREE ENTERPRISE PRIZE
SHARK TANK:  Episode 4.20
2 - TURBO
3 - LAST MAN STANDING:  Shoveling Snow
4 - MONSTERS UNIVERSITY
5 - CHRISTMAS IN CONWAY
6 - REMEMBER SUNDAY
7 - THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
8 - SECRET MILLIONAIRE:  George & Kym Rapier: Oakridge, Oregon

GRACE AWARD MOVIES
Actress - 1 - AJ Michalka - GRACE UNPLUGGED
Actor - 1 - James Denton - GRACE UNPLUGGED
3 - Forest Whittaker - BLACK NATIVITY
4 - Harrison Ford - 42
5 - Sandra Bullock - GRAVITY
6 - Russell Crowe - MAN OF STEEL
7 - Henry Cavill - MAN OF STEEL

GRACE AWARD TELEVISION
Actress - 1 - Roma Downey - THE BIBLE
Actor - 1 - Willie Robertson - LAST MAN STANDING:  Back to School
2 - Diogo Morgado - THE BIBLE
3 - Tim Allen - LAST MAN STANDING:  Back to School
4 - Billy Graham - THE CROSS
5 - Len Cariou - BLUE BLOODS:  Bad Blood
6 - Tom Selleck - BLUE BLOODS:  Bad Blood
I mean, some of them seem like obvious winning choices for those concerned with faith and spiritual messaging. But "Iron Man 3"? "Shark Tank"??? Others are interesting choices and, of course, they got a couple episodes of "Duck Dynasty" into the mix. Several others I'd never even heard of, but that doesn't mean much anymore.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Bob Vander Plaats Won't Run for Senate

Ever since Senator Tom Harkin announced that he would not be running again for his U.S. Senate seat, Iowans have wondered who our next Senator will be? One possible contender who has been floating out there for weeks (if not months) has been Bob Vander Plaats. BVP is one of Iowa's more prominent anti-gay social conservatives who has made his name by fighting against gay families and by punishing Iowa's Supreme Court.

Today we finally learned that BVP will not be running for Harkin's U.S. Senate:
After weeks of buzz that he’d be the firecracker to reconfigure the U.S. Senate race in Iowa, religious conservative Bob Vander Plaats has decided not to run, citing a focus on his message of national spiritual revival...

His decision — sure to disappoint both the far right and far left — has been awaited for months as Republicans try mightily to find a candidate with the best chances of taking away a powerful seat that has been in Democratic hands for nearly 30 years...

Even Vander Plaats seemed a bit surprised by his decision, noting he “came very, very close” to going for his fourth attempt at elected office.

A clear-eyed examination of the race, he said, showed he likely would’ve been victorious in replacing his polar opposite, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a liberal Democrat who retires in less than a year. “Polling shows I’m ahead three to one in the current (GOP) field,” said Vander Plaats, who added that he had “a great campaign team in the wings.”
BVP will instead focus on finishing his book titled "If 7:14":
(H)is priority is his new book, “If 7:14.” It’s based on a Bible passage that says if people pray and turn from their wicked ways, God will hear and heal their land.

Vander Plaats said he has been booked for speaking engagements across the country, including at the Billy Graham Evangelical Association in North Carolina a few weeks ago, the New Canaan Society in Florida, a conference in Texas next week with pastors from large churches, and the National Council of Religious Broadcasters the following week.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Judge Strikes Down Virginia's Ban On Gay Marriage! Ruling Stayed Pending Appeal

Here is some exciting news that happened late yesterday evening: Virginia's marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional by a Federal District Court:
The Federal District Court ruled that Virginia’s marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution. It said that loving couples like our plaintiffs, Tim Bostic & Tony London and Carol Schall & Mary Townley are entitled to the same basic rights and protections as every other American.

This is a monumental victory—for Virginia and our country—and the first of its kind for a state in the South.
You can read the entire court order at this link.

Don't expect huge lines of same-sex couples rushing to get marriage licenses. The court order has been stayed pending appeal.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

AFSCME Iowa Council 61 PEOPLE Committee Endorses Jack Hatch 2014 Gubernatorial Candidacy

Last October, the AFSCME Iowa Council 61 PEOPLE Committee endorced Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tyler Olson, which pleased me very much. And then Olson announced his marital separation and subsequent resignation from the gubernatorial fight, which didn't please me much at all.

Earlier today, I learned that the AFSCME Iowa Council 61 PEOPLE Committee announced a new endorsement for the upcoming election: Jack Hatch:
Today, the AFSCME Iowa Council 61 PEOPLE Committee and Teamsters Locals 90, 120, 238, and 554 announced their endorsement of Jack Hatch for Governor.

Jack Hatch is the leader that we need in order to build a better Iowa – an Iowa with a strong and growing middle class. With a record of success in both the private sector and the public sector, Jack will bring Iowans together to create real opportunity for Iowa families,” said AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan.

Jack has always been there for the working men and women of Iowa and now we are here for him. Terry Branstad has been in office for too long and he is coasting. Jack is the change we need in Terrace Hill,” said Teamsters Local 238 Secretary-Treasurer Gary Dunham.

“I am honored to have the endorsements of AFSCME and the Teamsters. AFSCME members are working every day in our communities to keep us safe, protect the most vulnerable, and make our communities run on a day to day basis. Teamsters are a powerful force in Iowa and represent a wide array of Iowa workers. Iowans know we can do better than Terry Branstad’s status quo. Together, we are united in our goal to build a better Iowa,” said gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch.

AFSCME is known for its political action program which is financed with voluntary contributions. The program supplies grassroots volunteers for AFSCME-endorsed candidates.
The Iowa gubernatorial election will take place in November 2014.

Nero at Daycare -- 02/13/14

It's snowy outside, but it was still much warmer today than it has been in several days. I know Nero has enjoyed the slightly warmer weather. This sub-zero weather isn't cool! Anyway, Nero had a good time romping in the snow with his various four-legged friends at doggy care.

Look at this smile!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

THE FOX #4: Did a Hero Get Outed??

I found myself with a rare evening to myself last night and realized that I hadn't yet read most of THE FOX #1-4. This is a comic book mini-series published by Archie Comics under its Red Circle imprint. THE FOX is plotted and penciled by Dean Haspiel and scripted by Mark Waid. It's a pretty good superhero title. The Fox is the last of several heroes sent by the Queen of Diamonds to save her King from an evil Druid. The other heroes failed, but the Fox seems to have what it takes to save the day. In the meantime, the Fox has rescued several of those failed heroes and gives them a second chance to shine, including Bob Phantom, the Marvel, and... Inferno the Flame Breather.


This blog article is about Inferno the Flame Breather.

Inferno is an old superhero dating back to 1941. He first appeared in ZIP COMICS as a villain for the original Steel Sterling. His power (which has been expanded in modern appearances) was to breath fire. Inferno would use his flame powers to melt locks and steal valuables. But he quickly befriended Steel Sterling and turned away from crime. He went on a couple missions with Steel Sterling, but eventually turned himself into the police to pay for his earlier misdeeds.


At some later point, Inferno got out of jail, donned a costume, and became a superhero. He was subsequently recruited by the Queen of Diamonds and sent to save the King from the Druid -- though he failed at this and got himself transformed magically into a golem slave. Fortunately, the Fox saved him from this fate.


While on this latest mission, the Fox and Inferno came across another old hero whom I've never heard of before: The Marvel! He was being tortured by the Druid and immediately attacked our two heroes. He eventually regained his wits, but not before he and Inferno found themselves locked in a death-trap together. That's when things got interesting. Check out this dialogue:


Okay. This isn't a 2014-Kevin-Keller-"Look-at-me//I'm-gay"-level outing. This is a 1980s-Northstar-"Look-at-me-come-to-the-edge-of-coming-out-but-not-quite-saying-it-so-that-another-writer-can-undo-this"-level outing. But I'm an old enough comic book fan to appreciate this subtle attempt at introducing another gay character to the worlds of Archie Comics!

I immediately went to Twitter and commented on this development. "Caught up w/ "The Fox" by Archie Comics. One of their old heroes was outed. Possible date for Kevin Keller? #Inferno". Which resulted in a shout-out from Kevin Keller himself -- or the official Kevin Keller Twitter account, which is just as cool!):


How many LGBT folks do we have now? Kevin, Devon, Crazy Tribble Guy, Clay, Jinx's mom and step-mom, Ginger Lopez, Nancy, and now the Inferno. Pretty cool stuff!

Federal Judge: Kentucky Must Recognize Legal Gay Marriages from Other States!

Kentucky has become the latest state to advance the rights of married same-sex couples. U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled today that Kentucky doesn't have to issue marriage licenses to gay or lesbian couples -- but the state does have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states! Check this out:
The decision in the socially conservative state comes against the backdrop of similar rulings or actions in states around the country where same-sex couples have long fought for the right to marry. The constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was approved by voters in 2004 and included the out-of-state clause.

The decision came in lawsuits brought by four gay and lesbian couples seeking to force the state to recognize their out-of-state marriages.

The ruling only requires Kentucky to recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples performed in other states or countries. It does not deal with the question of whether the state can be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as that issue wasn't brought up in the four lawsuits that triggered the ruling.

Heyburn noted that recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings and his opinion in the Kentucky case "suggest a possible result to that question."
The usual suspects -- mainly religious and social conservatives -- are predictably upset by this ruling.

I assume that this court decision will be appealed soon.

Standard Poodle Wins 2nd Place in the 2014 Westminster Dog Show!

The 2014 Westminster Dog Show was last night. Everyone is pretty excited about the 2014 Best In Show, which was a five-year-old fox terrier named Sky (AKA "GCH Afterall Painting The Sky"). In fact, she's been all over the news today and made the round of mornings news programs:

(GCH Afterall Painting The Sky)
But Nero and I are all about the 2014 Reserve Best In Show, which was a five-year-old standard poodle named "GCH Brighton Lakeridge Encore":

(GCH Brighton Lakeridge Encore)
Nero used his superior poodle math skills and realized that he's not much younger than the lovely Ms. Encore. It was love at first site for my favorite standard poodle!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Iowa's Governor & Advocacy Group to Investigate Eldora State Training School

Disability Rights Iowa instigated an investigation that ultimately led to Gov. Terry Branstad closing the Iowa Juvenile Home for girl in Toledo, IA -- despite evidence that their earlier concerns had actually improved during the past year. The decision to close IJH is being decided in the courts, but Disability Rights Iowa has now focused in on a new target: the Eldora State Training School:
Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, says her watchdog group is looking at the education services at Eldora. The Eldora State Training School is for boys between the ages of 12 and 18 who’ve been charged with a crime and sent to the Eldora facility rather than to prison...

The State Training School for Boys and the now-closed Iowa Juvenile Home for teenage girls have both been under the jurisdiction of the Iowa Department of Human Services. Governor Terry Branstad says he agrees with Disability Rights Iowa that Eldora’s operation should be scrutinized, but he’s not calling for closure of the facility.

“I think it would be appropriate to look at all of our institutions and are they meeting the needs of the children that are placed there and is there better options or alternatives, so I’m not advocating that we change or close that institution,” Branstad says.
I have no doubts that they are working towards the closure of the Eldora State Training School.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Missouri Lawmakers File Articles of Impeachment on Gov. Jay Nixon Over Gay Marriage Income Tax Executive Order

Eight Republican lawmakers have filed two articles of impeachment against Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon because of a November 2013 executive order allowing married same-sex couples to file their state taxes jointly despite a 2004 constitutional ban against the recognition of same-sex marriages:
Representative Nick Marshall (R-Parkville) has filed two articles of impeachment. He says Governor Nixon’s executive order instructing the Department of Revenue to accept joint tax returns filed by same-sex couples legally married in other states “is a direct violation” of Missouri’s Constitution. Further, he says Nixon “misstates and misrepresents the meaning and requirements under Missouri’s constitutional and statutory law and thereby misleads the citizens of this state...”

The articles of impeachment have been co-signed by seven Republican members of the House: Ron Schieber, Ken Wilson, Jeff Pogue, Kurt Bahr, Mike Moon, Rick Brattin & T.J. Berry.

Moon (R-Ash Grove) has said he will seek to impeach Nixon for not acting quickly enough to set special election dates for vacant seats in the House and one in the Senate.  Moon told Missourinet earlier this week he would file articles of impeachment this week, but that has not happened and calls to his Capitol office today have not been answered.

Articles of impeachment move through the legislative process in the House similarly to the way a bill would. They would have to be first referred to a committee. If the the articles are passed in the House, Nixon would be tried by a commission of seven jurists elected by the Senate.
Gov. Nixon justified his executive order by pointing out state tax law that indicates that state tax filing should match what is filed at the federal level. If a married same-sex couple living in Missouri files joint federal tax returns, state law requires that they should also file state taxes jointly.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Feud Between Batman and Bee Sting Threatens to Destroy the Michigan Protectors!

I learned earlier today that Petoskey Batman and Bee Sting are feuding and their once-close friendship has created a schism within the membership of the Michigan Protectors.

(Michigan Protectors)
The Michigan Protectors are a team of real-life superheroes who wear costumes and fight crime. The Protectors have been around for three years and the two heroes -- Petoskey Batman (AKA Mark Williams) and Bee Sting (AKA Adam Besso) -- were reportedly tight allies. Williams got in trouble with the police during a solo superhero mission back in 2011, which grabbed Besso's attention. He subsequently invited Williams to join the Michigan Protectors.

The problems came after Besso found himself jailed following a shotgun-involved mission. Once out of jail, he tried rallying the team, but many of the Michigan Protectors said that Besso was too strict. They wanted Williams to co-lead the team. And Besso did not want to share the leadership duties.

Ever since, Bee Sting and Petoskey Batman have been sniping at each other back and forth. Not only that, but they have both taken to the pages of the Detroit News to accuse each other of everything from romantic impropriety, welfare fraud, and driving without a license.

And I'm left wondering who's looking after the innocents of Michigan??

Saturday, February 8, 2014

ARCHIE #652: The Archies Go Down Under!

Archie's Rockin' World Tour just made it to Destination #3 in "Blunder Down Under" in ARCHIE #652. That's right, the Archies, Josie & the Pussycats, the Bingos, the Madhouse Glads, Cheryl Blossom & Alexandra Cabot, Raj Patel, and Marcy Lodge landed in Australia. While the music might be rocking, but many of those touring are feeling unsettled. For example...

The Bingos and the Madhouse Glads are enjoying their musical adventure. However, they're feeling like third and fourth wheels compared to the more popular Archies and Pussycats. (I'll leave it to you to determine which of those latter two bands is the first wheel and which is the second!) Their luck changes when they get invited to fill in for a smaller Australian band tour. That concert was wonderful and these lesser-known bands are left with a quandary. Do they honor their earlier commitment and continue playing with the Archies and the Pussycats or do they strike out on their own? Or maybe there's a middle ground?...


And then there is also the on-again-off-again relationship between Archie and Valerie. Archie became smitten with Indian singer Amisha and got caught on camera professing his love to her. Cheryl and Alexandra revealed this information to Valerie, who promptly dumped Archie's red-headed butt. Amisha seems to have gone back to India, but Valerie can really hold a grudge! Now both Valerie is spending most of her time in Oz grumbling at each other while secretly missing Archie:


Josie and Melody from the Pussycats launch a plan to rekindle the romance between Valerie and Archie. But is it too late?

On a positive note, ARCHIE #652 re-introduces Archie Comics readers to supermodel Katy Keene. She's organizing the Rock 'n' Roll Fashion Palooza and is using Archie's Rockin' World Tour to raise money for charity. In a shocking turn of events, Archie doesn't go gaga over the lovely Ms. Keene. Instead, Raj immediately begins crushing on Katy!


The Rock 'n' Roll Fashion Palooza will feature musical performances by our bands (of course), but our friends will also strut their stuff on a fashion catwalk -- if Archie doesn't ruin things with his usual shenanigans!!

Katy didn't come to the party alone. She brought along another singer to help out with the fundraising event. This new singer has ties to Riverdale: It's Brigitte Reilly!

I don't know much about Brigitte. I know that she is a good singer, that she threatened to break up Frankie and Maria, and that she was designed to be a plus-sized character. But she kind of disappeared from the comic books before I got back into Archie Comics. I just figured that she faded into the background to make room for Kevin Keller, the zombies, and the fairy tale princesses. But I guess she graduated from high school early in order to become a world famous singer.

Was that part of an earlier storyline or was that an explanation of why she disappeared from the comic book? Feel free to educate me in the comments section. Thanks in advance!

Either way, Brigitte has a famous hit song called "End of Time." And the people of Australia love her! She's warmly welcome back into the Riverdale Gang and invited to perform for the joint Rockin' World Tour/Rock 'n' Roll Fashion Palooza.


"Blunder Down Under" is written and pencilled by Dan Parent and inked by Rich Koslowski.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Woolstock, IA, to Celebrate the 100th Birthday of "Superman" Actor George Reeves! // Updated on 01/06/14: George Reeves' Birthday Celebration Pushed Back to Sunday, January 12, 2014! // Further Updates

(Originally written on 01/05/14): Have you ever heard of Woolstock, IA? Neither had I before today. But you now have an excuse to travel to this small community in north-central Iowa on this very cold January afternoon: It's George Reeves' 100th birthday! Reeves was born in Woolstock, IA, on January 5, 1914. He didn't live there long, but the people of Woolstock are pretty excited to celebrate his centennial birthday.

George Reeves was an actor who was best known for playing the role of Superman/Clark Kent on the television series "Adventures of Superman" from 1952-1958. Reeves acted in many of films and television programs between 1939 and 1958. He died at the age of 45 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in Los Angeles, CA, on June 16, 1959, though this ruling of death-by-suicide still doesn't sit well with those familiar with Reeves, causing people to speculate that he was really murdered.

Organizers in Woolstock plan to begin events today at 2:30 PM CST. A series of different kiosks have been set up that pinpoint various periods of Reeves' life. It's a free event that's open to anyone and everyone.

It's unfortunate that George Reeves Day is taking place on one of the coldest days in recent history. I'm hopeful that they will still manage to pull in a good crowd -- or at least good enough to encourage its residents to move forward with its tribute to Reeves in coming years.

Updated on 01/06/14: I was notified overnight by the organizer of George Reeves' 100th Birthday Celebration in Woolstock, IA, that yesterday's centennial birthday celebration has been postponed for next Sunday, January 12, 2014, due to the bone-chilling sub-zero weather that's currently attacking Iowa and much of the Midwest.

Thanks to that same message, I learned that Woolstock has scheduled a series of events for the next six months. The plan is to kick off events with the anniversary of Reeves' 100th birthday and then to wrap things up in June with the 55th anniversary of Reeves' death. Check this out:

GEORGE REEVES' 100TH BIRTHDAY ANNIVERSARY OPEN HOUSE PARTY!
Sunday, January 12, 2014, from 2:30 PM -- 4:30 PM
Woolstock Community Hall in Woolstock, IA

FROM PRAIRIE TO PASADENA: A LOOK INTO THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF GEORGE REEVES
Saturday, February 15, 2014, from 1:00 PM -- 3:00 PM (Re-Scheduled Date)
POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER FORECASTS!!
Saturday, February 8, 2014, from 1:00 PM -- 3:00 PM
Lower Level Conference Room, Kendall Young Library, Webster City, IA

FAMILY SUPERMAN DAY
Saturday, March 22, 2014, at 1:00 PM
Heartland Museum, Clarion, IA
Grandparents (and parents, too!) are invited to bring their grandkids and watch episodes of The Adventures of Superman. Check out this link for more details.

THROUGH THE YEARS AND GONE WITH THE WIND **
March or April 2014 -- Fort Dodge, IA, or Webster City, IA (TBA)

GEORGE REEVES HONORING VETERANS OF WAR -- Showing "So Proudly We Hail" and other films featuring George Reeves **
Monday, May 26, 2014 (Details TBA)

** Additional details to be announced by the George Reeves 100th Birthday Celebration organizers on their Facebook page (and hopefully here) -- including an event in June 2014.

By the way, I was notified in the message below that the organizers of the George Reeves 100th Birthday Celebration have started their own Facebook page with all sorts of updates and excitement about the big day. I was invited. I'm assuming this was an open invitation. Check it out and ask if you can join the group. I did this morning.

Updates As They Come: I noticed that the George Reeves 100th Birthday folks have confirmed one of their tentative events. I'll update the blog as I learn of new confirmed events and bring this blog entry to the top of the page.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Federal Jury Deadlocks in Case of Man Who Assaulted Gay Men & their Pink Poodle

Remember the woman who recently got convicted of obstructing justice in an assault case involving two gay men and their pink poodle? The two men were reportedly walking their dog in Hillsboro, OR, when a guy in an SUV began screaming anti-gay slurs at them and then, when he got out of his vehicle, he was accused of assaulting one of the men with his fists and a foot-long metal wrench. Several witnesses wrote down the assailant's license plate number and he was eventually arrested and charged with 2nd degree intimidation, 2nd degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon, reckless driving, and federal hate crime charges.


His wife might have been convicted in this case, but a federal jury found itself deadlocked earlier this week on whether or not 23-year-old George Allen Mason Jr. was guilty of federal hate crimes:
The 12-person jury initially told U.S. District Judge Michael Simon on Monday afternoon that they were deadlocked, just three hours after beginning deliberations. Although Simon sent them back to continue discussions, they issued a second written note Tuesday indicating they could not come to a unanimous decision. Simon declared a mistrial after the presiding juror confirmed that the panel was hopelessly deadlocked. 

The trial stemmed from a March 1, 2013, incident in which Beltier and his partner, Jeremy Mark, were walking their pink-dyed poodle in Hillsboro. Mason and his wife were in their SUV at a stoplight when Mason yelled at the gay couple, saying their dog was "un-American." 

Mason then made a quick U-turn to circle back to the couple in the crosswalk, got out of his vehicle, and hit Beltier with his fists and a metal tool, witnesses testified. He was yelling profanity and anti-gay slurs before and during the attack, according to the victim, his boyfriend and an FBI interview with Mason’s wife.

Mason’s attorney had sought to portray his client as someone with behavioral issues made worse by a lack of medication — not “a gaybasher.” Mason in fact had a gay relationship himself, the lawyer noted, pointing to testimony by Rod Lange of Ohio about their two- to three-week relationship in 2010.

The “altercation” with Beltier occurred because Mason “has a hair trigger,” said his attorney, Jim Halley, adding that Beltier did not attack Beltier because of his sexual orientation. Citing testimony by Mason's wife, the lawyer said Beltier swore at Mason after hearing the "un-American" comment, and that the cursing set off Mason. Beltier had denied saying anything to Mason.
So nutshell: Mason yelled at the guys. He lost his cool (even more) because one of the victims might have swore at his for making fun of them and their dog. He jumped out of his vehicle and assaulted one of the men with his fists and with a metal tool. But it's okay because he forgot to take his meds and because he was in a relationship with another guys two or three years ago.

A new trial for Mason has been scheduled for April 28, 2014.

Clay Aiken Announces Congressional Campaign

Clay Aiken announced yesterday that he is running for Congress. Here is his "Open Door" campaign announcement video:


So far, I've heard enough to wish that I could vote for him.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Gay Norwegian Minister of Health to Bring Husband to Sochi

(Solvang & Høie)
Norway's Minister of Health and Care Services is a man named Bent Høie. He will be Norway's official representative to the Paralympics Games that will be happening next month in Sochi, Russia. Oh, and he's gay... and married to another man... and will be bringing his husband to Sochi to attend the events:
Norway’s Minister of Health and Care Services, Bent Høie, has decided to comment on the Russian propaganda laws by taking his husband, advertising exec Dag Terje Solvang, to Sochi...
“It’s natural to take Dag Terje along when attending this type of event,” Minister  Høie told reporters. “Having said that, everyone understands what two married men think about gay rights...” I cannot wait to watch and support all the Norwegian athletes.”  Minister Høie said. “These are athletes with disabilities who perform at a very high level.”
Minister Høie and his husband Dag Terje Solvang, plan to arrive in Sochi today, expecting to be received like any other foreign minister and his spouse would be.
Minister Høie has been a longtime Paralympics Games supporter and enthusiast.

Given the broad scope of Russia's new anti-"gay propaganda" laws, it should be interesting to see how Russian authorities respond to a government representative from another country who comes to their country with his husband.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Nero at Daycare -- 02/04/14

Nero had a great afternoon for romping with his friends before the snowstorm began. Lots of running and a bit of chasing today. Just what my poodle needed. Check this out:


Monday, February 3, 2014

"Stan Lee's Mighty 7" on The Hub!

Archie Comics briefly published a superhero comic book called STAN LEE'S MIGHTY 7 a couple years ago. It's the story of the time that comic book legend Stan Lee mentored a group of alien superheroes and then sold the story to Archie Comics. In a nutshell. The comic book series was originally scheduled to run for six issues, but ended after only three issues.

I always assumed that poor sales killed the series. But multiple sources indicate that the comic book ended because there was interest in making the comic book into an animated series and/or animated television movie. Last year, it was announced that "Stan Lee's Mighty 7" would be premiering on The Hub with an all-star cast of voice actors and that animated movie finally aired this weekend.

And I really enjoyed it!

Some of the characters experienced some cosmetic changes during their transition from comic book to cartoon, but the animated movie featured the following characters: Strong Arm (a super strong space cop, played by Arnie Hammer); Lazer Lord (a laser-shooting hero, played by Christian Slater); Silver Skylark (a winged warrior, played by Teri Hatcher); Lady Lightning (a super fast hero, played by Mayim Bialik); Roller Man (a chubby guy who rolls like a wheel, played by Flea); Micro (a former thief who can shrink, played by Darren Criss); Kid Kinergy (a bald-headed telekinetic played by Sean Astin); and, of course, Stan Lee himself (who proved to be quite nimble for a 91-year-old man in more than one scene!). The Mighty 7 found themselves fighting against two separate enemies: military-based alien hunter Mr. Cross (played by Jim Belushi) and Xanar (played by Michael Ironside), the leader of the reptilian Taegon aliens!

There were a couple minor plot-issues that really got me laughing throughout the movie.

First, I'm glad that they didn't try passing Stan Lee off as a young guy. While he's probably more fit in the cartoon than he is in real life, they didn't try pretending that he's a youngster. Like the one time he quipped about needing to take an extra pill for his high blood pressure! Stan Lee is a 91-year-old man and he should be proud to play a 91-year-old man.

Secondly, people over at the Archie Comics Fan Forum were curious if Stan Lee was still going to try selling the story of the Mighty 7 to Archie Comics in the movie. The general opinion was that this detail would be dropped. But it wasn't! Archie Comics co-CEO Jon Goldwater showed up several times in the movie (though I'm not sure if he actually played himself). References to STAN LEE'S MIGHTY 7 artist Alex Saviuk were made in the movie. They even showed images of Archie and his friends early on in the movie. It was fun to see Archie Comics getting some props in the animated movie, even if we don't get to see the rest of the comic book.

But like I said, I enjoyed this animated movie. The characters were fairly interesting and they boasted a wide range of abilities. Not only that, but seeds were planted for future animated programs featuring the Mighty 7.

"Stan Lee's Mighty 7" airs on The Hub, which appears to be the go to place for Archie Comics-related cartoons these days. I missed the premier date, but caught the movie when it reran on Sunday afternoon. I assume that it will air again in the near future. You should check it out. It's a lot of fun.