Friday, January 30, 2015

Riverdale's Shrill Gets Hooked on Candy Craze in B&V FRIENDS COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #242

Sometime last summer, I was bored and was searching through the app store on my cell phone for something that I could download for free. I saw Candy Crush and decided to get it. I'd heard others talking about it and just wanted to check it out. The game quickly got added to my iPad and I've wasted way too many hours on that stupid game ever since.

(Interestingly, my own household Luddite Husband Mark somehow got hooked on the game, which would be comical if he didn't spend so much time stealing my iPad from me!)

It's with this in mind that I began reading the lead story in B&V FRIENDS COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #242! It's a great little story that starts out with Betty and Veronica, but actually features one of the Riverdale "New Kids," a goth girl named Shrill.

Shrill runs across our title characters playing an online game called Candy Craze. Veronica is fuming because she's stuck on Level 362. She's just about to plunk some money into the game in order to move onto the next level (something my son would disparagingly call a "Pay to Play Move"), when Shrill shows some curiosity about their joint preoccupation.

It only took her moments to become addicted to this game. That's how true to life this story is!

What happens when one of Riverdale's darkest girls gets hooked on one of America's most colorful, saccharine-laced video games?? What will it take for Shrill to hit rock bottom??

I've been a big fan of these new lead stories in the digests. Not only does it give me motivation to pick up the digests, which are otherwise filled with reprint stories. But they have done a really good job of spotlighting various minor characters who've otherwise faded into the background in recent years, like Shrill and the other "New Kids." Now if we could only get slightly longer short stories!! *hint hint*

"Candy Craze" is written by Tana Del Rio, penciled by Dan Parent, inked by Jim Amash, lettered by Jack Morelli, and colored by Colortek, Inc.

J & M Motor Lodge Closing Soon in Coralville

I wrote a little over a year ago about a battle between the nearby community of Coralville, IA, and J & M Motor Lodge (AKA Capri Lodge). The city was accusing the motel of operating as an apartment complex:
This became an issue after police officers responding to various calls at J & M Motor Lodge noticed several of the same motel residents living there for months and years at a time. The city investigated more and found that the motel wasn't collecting a hotel/motel tax at times for a variety of their residents. Lastly, Coralville officials noted that some of the residents were being removed from their room through court eviction processes.

The owners of J & M Motor Lodge are fighting this decision. They addressed the hotel/motel tax issue by referencing the Iowa code, which exempts occupants who rent a room for 31 consecutive days or more from paying the tax. There have been times when the motel has been filled with extended-stay occupants.

Additionally, J & M Motor Lodge residents don't sign leases. They don't pay deposits. There are no background checks. You can't say the same about apartments or other rental properties.
I commented that it would be a terrible thing, in my opinion, if J & M Motor Lodge got closed by the city or banned from permitting extended-stay guests:
I deal occasionally with the owners of J & M, as well as a neighboring motel that also offers extended-stay lodging. It's cheap housing. It gives people a chance to live somewhere while they search for other sources of long-term affordable housing -- which there isn't a lot of in this area!

This Press-Citizen article interviews a woman who's lived at J & M Motor Lodge since the 2008 floods. She asks a pertinent question. Where can she live for $550 per month (utilities included)? There aren't many options. And there are other extended-stay hotels and motels in the area.
I ended up doing an adult education hour at my church about the subject of the lack of affordable housing options in this community as a direct result of this blog post. It seems only fair that I provide an update to this story.

J & M Motor Lodge will be closing on July 1st:
The J&M Motor Lodge, located at 705 Second St. and formerly known as the Capri Lodge, dismissed its court appeal against the city in November. Its owner says he will voluntarily close the 18-room motel, as well as the small apartment building behind it, by July 1.

In return, the city has agreed to drop its action against the motel and allow it to remain open through the end of the fiscal year, giving the property owners time to find a buyer and longtime occupants time to move out.
There were no interviews with any of the motel residents in this latest article.

I will credit the Press-Citizen for interviewing Johnson County Social Services Director Lynette Jacoby about this development:
Jacoby said places such as the motor lodge offer fewer barriers to housing for those who might not qualify to rent elsewhere because of credit checks, background checks, long-term leases or the area's low vacancy rates.
"It provides an affordable option, and for some of the consumers we see, it may be the only option for them to avoid homelessness," Jacoby said. "From my standpoint, it's a concern to lose that type of flexible housing."
It's obviously the right of these business owners to quit, but I keep going back to my question from October 2013: Where can someone live in this community for $550 per month (utilities included)?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Peter Davidson: Doctor Who Should Always be a Male

Here's a little known fact: My favorite "Doctor Who" was portrayed by Peter Davidson back in early 1980s. He was just asked if the next person picked to play the role of "Doctor Who" should be a woman.

He answered, "No:"
"I have trouble with the idea of a female Doctor, only because I reckon if you're born on Gallifrey a man, you're probably a male Time Lord."

Davison said the key to the success of the modern Doctor Who series was the dynamic between a troubled Doctor and strong female companion. 

"It seems to me if you reverse that, if you have an uncertain, fallible female Doctor with a really strong male companion, you've got more of a stereotype than anything else."
This question has been bandied about for decades, but the program's current producer has openly contemplated the concept of a female Doctor for several months.

As for the idea that a Time Lord cannot switch his or her gender? Well, there's already a precedent for that.

Joanna Lumley once played the role of "Doctor Who" in a 1999 charity sketch called "Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death." Granted, this story really doesn't fall within the program's continuity. So I understand if others might not consider this to be a true example of a male-to-female Time Lord.

But the most recent season of "Doctor Who" just ended with a story arc involving a woman named Missy, who it later turned out was a female regeneration of the Master! So there's definitely precedent for a female Doctor.

What do you all think? Is there room in this world for a female actor to play the role of "Doctor Who?" Why or why not? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

House Republicans Submit Bill to Prevent County Recorders from Granting Any More Gay Marriage Licenses in Iowa

Remember yesterday when I shared information about House Joint Resolution 4, which would amend Iowa's constitution to ban legal recognition of gay marriage. This was co-sponsored by 12 GOP House members. Because Iowa has really been struggling after nearly six years of marriage equality.

I learned today that eight of those same GOP House members have filed a bill that would force Iowa's county registers from processing marriage licenses for same-sex couples until gay marriage itself is constitutionally banned. Whenever that may be:
House File 101 was offered Tuesday by Reps. Greg Heartsill (R-Melcher-Dallas), Steven Holt (R-Denison), Sandy Salmon (R-Janesville), Tedd Gassman (R-Scarville), Dean Fisher (R-Garwin), Larry Sheets (R-Moulton), John Kooiker (R-Boyden), and Ralph Watts (R-Adel). It would effectively end gay marriage in Iowa until a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman is put to a vote and the results are certified.
Not only would new marriage licenses not be granted for same-sex couples in Iowa if House File 101 got passed into law, but it would also bar the supreme court from considering whether or not it was actually constitutional.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

House Republicans Submit Resolution to Ban Gay Marriage in Iowa

It's been nearly six years since Iowa became a marriage equality state. There have been a few hiccups along the way, but things have largely gone smoothly. But that didn't stop a group of Iowa House Republicans from filing a constitutional amendment that would ban the recognition of gay marriage:
This afternoon, a small group of Republican Representatives in the Iowa House submitted a resolution that would ban marriage for thousands of loving and committed gay and lesbian couples in Iowa. House Joint Resolution 4 would seek to amend Iowa’s Constitution so that “marriage between one man and one woman shall be the only legal union valid or recognized in this state.”

House Joint Resolution 4 was introduced by Representatives Greg Heartsill, Steven Holt, John Wills, Clel Baudler, Sandy Salmon, Tedd Gassman, Dean Fisher, Larry Sheets, Matt Windschitl, Terry Baxter, John Kooiker and Ralph Watts. Click here for copy of House Joint Resolution 4.
It's been noted elsewhere that 56 GOP House members co-sponsored a similar anti-marriage amendment back in 2011, as compared to only 12 House Republicans this year. It's also interesting to note that most of this batch of co-sponsors are relatively new House members.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Riverdale is Overrun by Motorcycle Gangs in ARCHIE #663!

ARCHIE #663 was released a couple weeks ago, but I've been struggling a bit with my busy schedules, illness, and motivation. I decided that I needed to write something about the title or just move on. This comic was was apparently inspired by the "Sons of Anarchy" television program. I will need to take their word for it because I've never seen that program.

Here is the story: Archie loses control of his car and crashes it into a lake. This ordinarily would be problematic enough, but he has a date tomorrow night with Veronica to attend a concert by an opera singer. His dad refuses to pay for the repairs, so Archie goes to see his grandfather -- who looks very familiar...

Grandpa Andrews is busy working on Archie's old jalopy, but he has another idea to help out with Archie's transportation needs: an economical scooter! Archie spends much of the rest of this issue trying to talk himself into telling Veronica that she'll have to go to the concert on the back of a scooter. It's not until towards the end that Veronica agrees to ride on the scooter in order to catch up with Enrico Fabulosa -- who is stuck in the middle of a traffic jam.

This is an Archie Comics comic book. Do I really need to tell you that things won't work out the way it should??

There was another subplot that I found interesting. It seems that all of the Riverdale Gang decided to go shopping for scooters after seeing Archie's new wheels -- including Reggie! Too bad the local scooter dealer is a scammer. But Reggie learns the hard way that his scooter doesn't give him a lot of street cred -- with the local motorcycle gang! Who knew that Riverdale had a motorcycle gang?? Or that two of them are a pair of lesbians??

Reggie looks as shocked as I was!

"Sons of Anarchie" is written by Chuck Dixon, penciled by Pat & Tim Kennedy, inked by Rick Koslowski, lettered by Jack Morelli, and colored by Glenn Whitmore.

Gov. Terry Branstad Hospitalized with Flu-Like Symptoms

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad was speaking at an event at DuPont Pioneer in Johnston, IA earlier today when he began struggling with medical symptoms during a speech. An ambulance was called and he was taken to Iowa Methodist Medical Center to be treated for flu-like symptoms. He was admitted to the hospital and reportedly is doing better.

It seems that he was coughing a lot during the event and then began struggling with his balance. That's when a nurse -- who was in the audience -- advised him to lie down until an ambulance arrived.

Ben Carson: Gay Couples Should Be Careful Or Else Conservatives Will Poison Their Wedding Cakes!

GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson was in Des Moines this weekend at the Iowa Freedom Summit. He did his speech and then met with journalists to discuss same-sex couples, anti-discrimination laws that address sexual orientation, and wedding cakes:
Carson also criticized political correctness as he answered a question about gay marriage — and followed up by flaunting decorum with the type of comment that endears him with the base but could hurt his cross-party appeal.

"What I have a problem with is when people try to force people to act against their beliefs because they say 'they're discriminating against me.' So they can go right down the street and buy a cake, but no, let's bring a suit against this person because I want them to make my cake even though they don't believe in it. Which is really not all that smart because they might put poison in that cake," he said to chuckles from some of his staff and dead silence from the journalists in the room.
Because social conservatives aren't against poisoning gay people?

It sounds like his handlers need to do less chuckling and more handling.

Alabama's Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down // Updated on 01/26/15: 2 Week Stay Ordered

(Originally written on 01/23/15): Alabama just became the 37th marriage equality state this afternoon:
A federal judge in Alabama has become the latest to strike down a state ban on same-sex marriage, ruling against the Yellowhammer State’s prohibition on gay nuptials on the basis that it violates the Fourteenth Amendment. 

In a 10-page decision on Friday, U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade, an appointee of George W. Bush, issued summary judgement in favor of a plaintiff same-sex couple, finding Alabama marriage laws violate the couple’s right to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. 

“There has been no evidence presented that these marriage laws have any effect on the choices of couples to have or raise children, whether they are same-sex couples or opposite-sex couples,” Granade writes. “In sum, the laws in question are an irrational way of promoting biological relationships in Alabama.” 

Granade continues Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional for the same reason the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. 

“If anything, Alabama’s prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from its goal of promoting optimal environments for children,” Granade writes. “Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the State as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents. Yet Alabama’s Sanctity laws harms the children of same-sex couples for the same reasons that the Supreme Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act harmed the children of same-sex couples.” 

No stay is included with the decision, which enjoins the state from enforcing Alabama’s marriage laws in their entirety. It seems that same-sex couples can begin to wed in the state as soon as clerk’s office are open for business. The decision makes Alabama the 37th state in the country to have same-sex marriage.
Alabama's attorney general has vowed to fight on!

I'll post more as I learn more...

Updated on 01/26/15US District Judge Callie "Ginny" Granade approved a 14-day stay on her earlier order. So we're technically back to 36 marriage equality states.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Faithful and Welcoming Churches" Board Members Bond with National UCC Leaders // Seek Larger Role in the Denomination

The United Church of Christ has a reputation for being spiritually and socially progressive, but elements of that reputation aren't shared by all members of the denomination. In the past, a conservative group called Biblical Witness Fellowship operated within the UCC and actively sought to get rid of liberal leaders and members -- particularly GLBTs and feminists.

The BWF is largely gone by this point (as far as I can tell), but many BWF leaders and churches founded a new organization about a decade ago called UCC Faithful and Welcoming Churches. It was founded back around 2005 or 2006, not long after the denomination's 25 General Synod voted in favor of equal marriage rights & rites. There are roughly 70 FWC churches and their goal is to provide support and resources for Evangelical, Conservative, Orthodox, and Traditional (ECOT) UCC churches. Basically, they are trying to offer an alternative for these folks outside of quitting the denomination.

A group of 10 FWC board members went to the United Church of Christ's main office in Cleveland a couple Fridays ago to discuss common concerns with national UCC staff members and to plan for this summer's General Synod. It was noted here that the FWC plans to host a formal luncheon at the Synod in order to gain more visibility.

The FWC wants more "self-identified" ECOTs working on the UCC's national office and serving on different boards. Which is interesting when you consider the next two paragraphs of this report:
As the conversation shifted to human sexuality and same-sex marriage, (Rev. Bob Thompson, president of the Faithful and Welcoming Church,) helped break a momentary tension by acknowledging "the elephant in the room." But in the respectful dialogue that followed, FWC members voiced past guilt surrounding the treatment of LGBT individuals, though they still believe the Bible affirms marriage as only between a man and a woman. National staff agreed that many UCC members hold that view, and that the church’s welcome extends across a range of the theological spectrum.

"This was not a meeting in which all problems were solved and all divisions erased," Thompson said. "There are still many issues ahead, and many perspectives on each. However, the meeting was one peaceful, Christ-centered step on a journey of shared purpose. It was a moment when the UCC was all that it was designed to be—everyone was welcome at the table."
Which is always the sticky point when it comes to integrating diverse religious leaders. How do you integrate two groups of people when ultimately the one group is deeply opposed to the other group?

Honestly, I'm glad that the National UCC leaders continue to meet with the FWC leaders and I hope that they continue to stick with the denomination even though they disagree with pervasive progressive denominational beliefs.

I must also admit that I have to fight my own trigger reactions when it comes to the FWC. Different members may have a gentler disposition to LGBT Christians and leaders than the BWF, but it's hard for me to forget that this group appears to have been founded in direct reaction to the UCC General Synod's support for equal marriage rights. The FWC might believe that only a marriage between a man and a woman is actually a family; but my husband and our sons are every bit as precious, blessed, and real to me. My family is fully integrated within our home UCC church. It's a shame that I couldn't say that if we tried attending one of these 70 churches.

Hopefully, they'll have a good showing this summer at General Synod.

Alabama Probate Judges: Gay Marriage Ruling Only Applied to Plaintiffs

The Alabama Probate Judge Association issued a statement yesterday, declaring that Friday's gay marriage ruling only applied to Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand. They were the only plaintiffs in that federal court case which successfully challenged their state's gay marriage ban:
"Judge Granade's ruling in this case only applies to the parties in the case and has no effect on anybody that is not a named party. The probate judges were not parties in this matter," Al Agricola, attorney for the Alabama Probate Judges Association, explained. "The legal effect of this decision is to allow one person in one same-sex marriage that was performed in another state to adopt their partner's child. There is nothing in the judge's order that requires probate judges in Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples."

Judge Greg Norris, President of the Alabama Probate Judges Association, hopes that misinterpretation of Friday's ruling will not cause confusion among the general public.

"As probate judges, our duty is to issue marriage licenses in accordance with Alabama law and that means we can not legally issue marriage licenses to same sex couples," Norris said. "The recent federal ruling does not change that."
It's been pointed out elsewhere that this type of legal interpretation did not go over so well in Florida:

Maybe Alabama's myriad same-sex couples need to clog up the court system with hundreds of individual gay marriage challenges?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Christian Activist Claims Discrimination by Pro-Gay Bakery // Bakery Denies Claim

I have written about bakeries who've gotten into trouble -- either legally or just socially -- for refusing to work with same-sex couples on their wedding cakes. It never made sense to me why a bakery would turn away hundreds of dollars from potential customers or why their corporate religious identity never became an issue until gay couples began marrying. It also surprises me that these businesses don't just pull a "I'm sorry, but we're totally swamped at that time" as opposed to "We're a Christian business and reserve the right to refuse your business." But that's just me...

Anyway, there was a story out a couple weeks ago that I never got around to writing about. It involves a bakery in Denver, CO, called Azucar Bakery. I wouldn't say that they are a gay bakery, but they are a business that has made all sorts of wedding cakes -- including wedding cakes for same-sex couples.

About a year ago, a man came into the store seeking a Christian-themed cake, which the business was fine with making. But then things became progressively weirder:
The gentleman took a seat at one of the tables as the team served him free samples and began building his order. He swiped through pics of Bible cakes on the iPad they presented him, and it appeared he’d found the perfect fit. It was only when he produced a leaf of paper from his pocket — careful not to release it to any of the attending employees, but simply brandishing it for them to read before returning it to his pocket — that the order “got a little uncomfortable,” says Lindsay. 

“He wanted us to write God hates …” she trails. “Just really radical stuff against gays.” 

“He wouldn’t allow me to make a copy of the message, but it was really hateful,” Marjorie adds. “I remember the words detestable, disgrace, homosexuality, and sinners."
According to the owner, she was fine with making the cake, but didn't want to do the slurs. But she was willing to make the cake and give him the icing and the decorating tools to craft her own message.

The customer reportedly did not like this compromise and told her that the owner needed to speak with her attorney about this situation before leaving:
A few hours later, however, he was back, asking Marjorie if she’d conferred with her lawyer over the matter. She hadn’t. “I was busy,” she says. “I have a business to run here.”
The sweet-toothed patrons in the bakery’s dining room began to take notice of the confrontational man in the lobby and again, Marjorie offered to bake him the cake and sell him the appropriate tools to complete the task himself. Though she thankfully admits their banter never devolved into yelling, she says it’s clear the man was comfortable creating a scene. He left upon request once more, still visibly upset, and Marjorie hoped that was the end of it..

The third time the gentleman entered the store that day, Marjorie called for backup, asking her brother to excuse him... 

“He said, ‘You will hear from me!’ and I got scared,” Marjorie says. “I was worried he was going to follow me — you can tell who I am in our big, pink van.”
So the man ended up filing a complain with Colorado's Department of Regulatory Agencies, alleging discrimination. She responded by describing the incident and clarifying that she never refused service to the man, but instead only refused to write anti-gay discriminatory language on any cake "in the same manner we would not... make a discriminatory cake against Christians."

It turns out the the man who filed the complaint is a Christian educator named Bill Jack. He has issued the following statement:
I believe I was discriminated against by the bakery based on my creed. As a result, I filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights division. Out of respect for the process, I will wait for the director to release his findings before making further comments.
Azucar Bakery's owner has decided to seek legal council and created a successful GoFundMe fundraiser to accomplish that process.

I was reviewing some of the comments and noticed that another Christian activist is trying to capitalize on this process by setting up his own claim against Azucar Bakery.

That's the difference between these types of complaints. The gay couples are genuinely seeking bakeries as part of their wedding planning process, while the Christians are setting up stings in order to strike down anti-discrimination laws.

Gay Marriage in the USA -- 01/24/15

Gay marriage became legal yesterday in Alabama. I'm not aware that any marriages have begun and the state's executive government is still struggling to obtain a stay, but it's currently a marriage equality state:

As of today, 37+ states plus Washington DC issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize our marriages from other areas: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas (in select counties), Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. And then there is Missouri, which allows same-sex marriage in the city of St. Louis, plus St. Louis County and Jackson County. The state of Missouri recognizes marriage performed in each of these three jurisdictions. The rest of the state is halted by a judicial stay.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Iowa City Police: Vagrancy Calls Down 95% Since Temporary Homeless Shelter Opened

Remember Iowa City's new temporary homeless shelter? It was designed to serve as a temporary shelter during Iowa City's coldest months. Turns out that things are going well. And it seems that earlier concerns of increased crime in that area haven't really played out:
Officials say reports of vagrancy have decreased 95 percent since a temporary winter homeless shelter opened on Gilbert Street earlier this month, and the shelter has been regularly running at or above capacity.

During an informal meeting Thursday of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, Phoebe Trepp, program development director for Shelter House, and Iowa City Police Officer David Schwindt updated the board about the temporary shelter, which opened Jan. 5.

The winter shelter, inside the former Aldi grocery store building at 1534 S. Gilbert St., is housing people who might not otherwise be able to stay at Shelter House, either because they're intoxicated, refuse to follow the program rules or have been evicted in the past from the main facility. The temporary shelter is open from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.
It seems that homeless people aren't seeking protection in the hallways of apartment buildings these days, which is positive.

What Are Civil Unions?

If you watched "Jeopardy!" this past Wednesday, you would have seen a little zinger related to civil unions:
On the Jan. 21 edition of the game show, a saucy clue challenged that perception. Under a category called “Civil” the $800 clue read as follows: “Some opponents of same-sex marriage say, hey gay folks, how about these? Wouldn't these be good enough?”

The correct answer, of course, is “What are civil unions?”

The clue writers’ flippant tone in the rhetoric attributed to gay marriage opponents is clear evidence of how they—like most gay people—feel about civil unions as an alternative to full marriage equality: They are a weak attempt at placation that suggests second-class citizenship, if not a kind of segregation.
I scanned the game show's Facebook page and didn't find one negative comment about the question from any of the show's fans. That's a sharp distinction from how various online fans reacted to "Wheel of Fortune" last week when a winning contestant hugged his husband. Then again, "WOF" eventually scrubbed the anti-gay comments from their Facebook page. Maybe "Jeopardy!" is just quicker with the scrubbing!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

CNN Producing Political Game Show Featuring Anderson Cooper

TVNewser reported yesterday that CNN is working on a new political game show:
CNN is producing a political game show, TVNewser has learned. The blocking and testing of the show is happening this week at CNN’s New York studios. Insiders tell us the show will be hosted by Anderson Cooper and will air on Presidents’ Day, Feb. 16. If it’s successful, further episodes would go into production. We hear the program will be a quiz style game show, focused on presidential politics.
It sounds like the show may be titled "Political Jeopardy!"

I was listening to talk radio coverage of this game show earlier today. The radio guys thought that this was an original concept. And I supposed it is, if you are talking about this as a stand-alone concept. But both Rachel Maddow and Steve Kornacki have been incorporating game show-like elements to their programs for months over at MSNBC. Kornacki, in particular, runs his segment like an episode of "Jeopardy!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bread Bags Became Political

The State of the Union Speech happened last night. And the GOP sent Iowa U.S. Senator Joni Ernst to offer their rebuttal. She said mostly what you would expect her to say: cut government spending, balance the budget, reduce taxes.

But she continued her long-running meme about Iowa values and smalltown populism. Her farming family "taught us to live within our means" and there was a strong reliance on family and friends to make things work -- with the help of $460,000 in federal farming subsidies between 1995 and 2009.

Don't get me wrong. I don't have a major problem with farm subsidies. My own family has benefited from them in the past. In fact, many farmers -- including corporate farms -- benefit from farm subsidies. But it always bugged me a bit when my father and his friends would rail against welfare recipients while simultaneously receiving federal farm-related subsidies. But that's a discussion for another day.

But I'm here to write about bread bags. I don't know much about Joni Ernst's latest speech, but I know that she wore camouflage print low-heeled shoes (they were talking about it today on "GMA") and she used to wear bread bags over her shoes on rainy days:
We were raised to live simply, not to waste. It was a lesson my mother taught me every rainy morning. You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry. But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.
I've been on the road working all day, but I've heard plenty about the bread bags all day.

Some people have never heard of this -- despite having been raised on smalltown Iowa farms.

I'm not one of those people. I've heard of people -- usually old women -- wearing bread bags over their shoes.

I grew up in smalltown Minnesota -- just over the border from Iowa. It was a farming community. And I'm less than a year younger than Joni Ernst. I never saw any kids wear bread bags to my school. But maybe that's the difference between southwestern Iowa versus southeastern Minnesota.

But I currently live in urban Iowa with my husband and youngest son. He currently has one pair of shoes -- I'm not sure if it's currently in good shape. It probably needs to be replaced soon. He usually uses one of my extra pairs when we have a special event to attend. But we don't cover them with bread bags. Maybe we should, but a size twelve shoe doesn't fit too well within bread bags.

But we reuse shopping bags for kitty litter and we pass clothing down from one son to the other. Unfortunately, that particular recycling trick is not really an option anymore now that my youngest son is outgrowing my oldest boy.

Incidentally, here are some of my favorite tweets related to Joni Ernst's bread bags:

Incidentally -- and having no relevance to this particular issues -- Sen. Ernst is from the same county as the famous Villisca Axe Murder House.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Preview Artwork from THE BLACK HOOD #1

Earlier today, CBR posted an interview about Archie Comics/Dark Circle's new title, THE BLACK HOOD, which is scheduled to debut next month. I'm pretty excited about this title. It's about a bad cop who gets his face disfigured and who then gets hooked on pain meds and then runs around going all Punisher on the bad guys.

It actually promises to be more than that but that's all I've got for now!

Except I also have some preview images from the first issue. Check out this artwork from Michael Gaydos:

Of the three initial Dark Circle titles, this is the book that excites me the most. Hopefully it meets my expectations!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Boy Sent Bill for Not Attending Friend's Birthday Party

The parents of a five-year-old boy were billed a "no show fee" of £15.95 after he failed to show up for a friends birthday party at an English ski center.

It seems that five-year-old Alex was invited to the party during the Christmas break and his father said that he could come. The boy's mother later realized that Alex was scheduled to spend time with his grandparents on that same day and Alex said that he would prefer to do that. They didn't have contact information for the friend's parents, so they weren't able to send their regrets.

Once school resumed, the boy was send home with the £15.95 invoice. And Alex's parents are being threatened with going to small claims court.

I don't know how British courts work, but Judge Judy would throw the friend's mother out on her ear. There was no expectation that Alex would be responsible for a no-show fee -- verbally, in writing, or otherwise.

Needless to say, the boys aren't playing together these days. You should check out these email interactions between the two mothers at this link.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Married Gay Man Wins on Episode of "Wheel of Fortune" // Conservative Fans Freak Out

A restaurant owner and chef from Culver City, CA, named Ken Shepski competed yesterday on "Wheel of Fortune." He's married to a guy named Doug and the two enjoy traveling. Ken ended up winning the game and a final total of $64,078 in cash and prizes.

Congrats, Ken!!

It was a pretty ordinary game -- except for the fact that he acknowledged his husband instead of his wife, and his husband blew him a kiss from the audience, and the two men hugged each other after Ken solved the final Bonus Round.

Judging from viewer comments on Facebook and Twitter, you would have thought that something scandalous had occurred. Check out some of these snippets:

There were some positive comments, but there's definitely a vocal segment of the game show's fan base that's really upset by Ken and his husband.

Friday, January 16, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Gay Marriage Cases from KY, MI, OH, and TN!

The Supreme Court of the USA will be hearing marriage equality cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee soon -- most likely in late April 2015:
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to resolve the national debate over same-sex marriage once and for all. The justices will consider four cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, consolidated and heard together. They will hear 2 1/2 hours of oral arguments in April and issue a ruling before the current term ends in late June.

The new challenge to states' gay marriage bans is destined to become even more of a landmark than the two cases decided by the court in 2013 — United States v. Windsor, which forced the federal government to recognize gay marriages, and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which made California the 13th state to allow them.

Those rulings, while historic, did not resolve the threshold questions in the debate: whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, or whether states have the right to ban the practice. This spring's case will answer those questions.
I know that a lot of folks are excited about this. I'm not. I'm inherently pessimistic. That way, if it works out then I'm pleasantly surprised. If it doesn't, then I can point and scream, "I told you so!"

It's Jughead Versus the Cupids over Big Ethel's Heart in JUGHEAD & ARCHIE COMICS DIGEST #9!

Have you read JUGHEAD & ARCHIE COMICS DIGEST #9 yet? It has a cute original lead story titled "Mission: Most Improbable" featuring Jughead and Big Ethel. It was written by George Gladir, who's been dead for a couple year, so it's clearly an inventory story. But the artwork features some of our current favorites including pencils by Pat & Tim Kennedy, inks by Jim Amash, letters by Jack Morelli, and colors by J. Arthur Media Solutions Inc.

It's actually a pretty fun story, much better than the last new story that I'd read by Gladir. It starts with Ethel tearfully wishing for a kiss from Jughead at Ye Olde Wishing Well. That wish is heard by some of the cutest cupids that you have ever seen!
Riverdale's Cupids -- Check Out Those Three Stooges!
These guys really want to help Ethel, but they know better than to try getting Jughead to fall in love with any girl! Indeed, two different cupids with specialized weapons give it a try and find our favorite protected by some anti-cupid energy. None of the arrows can get past him.

I'll ruin some of the surprise, a feisty female cupid eventually figures out how to get a kiss out Jughead and really makes Ethel's day! But I won't tell you how she did it!

This is one of those stories that isn't a mystery about where it's going, but it's more about the ride. It was a smooth story and the artwork was beautiful. Plus the rest of the digest if filled with all sorts of classic reprint stories featuring Jughead and the rest of his friends. So definitely check it out!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Colorado Church Cancels Lesbian's Funeral at Last Minute // Church Staff Didn't Want her Wife's Picture Included with the Service // Update: United Church of Christ:

(Originally written on 01/13/15): A 33-year-old woman named Vanessa Collier accidentally died recent after her gun discharged while it was being cleaned. Her wife and two children planned a funeral at New Hope Ministries in Lakewood, CO. But then the church canceled the wedding at the last minute because Collier is a lesbian:
Vanessa Collier's friends say the funeral was canceled by the church 15 minutes after the service was supposed to start because the church would not allow a picture to be shown of Collier proposing to her wife. The open casket and flowers were in place and about 170 people were in attendance.

According to Chaplain Greg Rolando, who would later preside over the funeral across the street at Newcomer Funeral Home, the New Hope Ministry is very community oriented. He says pastors there welcome those who are gay but ask that alternative lifestyles be censored in the church. New Hope Ministries is not commenting on the decision.

He says moments prior to the funeral service, a video that was supposed to be played during the funeral was reviewed by church officials. The church asked the video to be edited in order to proceed. Rolando says the family refused to take the picture of Collier's proposal out of the video, and the funeral had to be moved to the mortuary across the street.
The pastor is upset and offended that the surviving family and friends are upset and offended.

I got into a brief discussion with a local pastor via Twitter this weekend about this post. He wanted to know if it was more offended that the church in this other story very publicly stated that they would not marry homosexuals as opposed to being vague about how they should address LGBT people?

I told him that I have more respect for a church that puts their opposition to LGBT people and our families out there for everyone to see, as opposed to churches who pussyfoot around and tell folks that they are open to all -- until gay people become emotionally invested in the church and church community. Then they pull back the welcome and clarify the strings and it really sucks for everyone involved. In other words, speak your truth.

That applies here with New Hope Ministries. They were planning a funeral with a woman for her recently-deceased wife. Why did they agree to this funeral, if indeed they "ask that alternate lifestyles be censored in the church?" Seriously, how would this church have been harmed by showing a picture of the deceased proposing to her wife? Would they have stopped the service if someone had said the word "lesbian?" Maybe they should have muzzled the kids in case they accidentally acknowledged that they had two moms!

How many prospective members or church allies did this church personally alienate and turn away by canceling this woman's funeral at the very last second? How did that decision honor Christ? This is why churches need to work out these details now before they make national public scandals of themselves.

Lastly, gay people and our families have spiritual worth. We need to remember this and embrace this truth. And we need to solicit and support churches that don't seek to shame us or our families.

Updated on 01/15/15: I was on Facebook tonight and noticed that my own denomination, the United Church of Christ commented about how this family was mistreated by this church during one of their most vulnerable moments:

This is why I stay in this denomination. They get it.

I looked at New Hope Ministries' Facebook page and it is filled with comments supporting the church for sticking up for its beliefs. Sadly, few see how it failed to offer even an ounce of grace to this family by canceling the services 15 minutes into the service!

Nero at Daycare -- 01/15/15 // PLUS: Learn the Origins of My Pets' Names!

Nero is getting a little stir crazy this winter. Fortunately, he still gets to go to doggy daycare a couple times weekly! He was sporting his new haircut today. What do you think?

Meanwhile, my son's birth father asked me earlier today why we named our poodle after Nero the Roman Emperor. Which seemed like a good excuse to reveal the origins of my pets' names.

Calliope Jane & Ms. Lion
Starting with Calliope Jane, who almost never gets blogged about. She's a great cat. She just gets left out a lot!

We inherited our cat from my parents. Their old dog had treed a cat on their farm and they decided that the kitten needed a safe home. I warned them that I'm not a cat person and that she might end up at the shelter, but they said they didn't care. I needed to take the cat off of their hands!

We had a smaller poodle at the time named Moogie. I'd had the privilege of naming him (after a Ferengi) and Husband Mark decided that he got the privilege of naming our next cat. If it'd been left to me, she would have been named Xena. But Husband Mark had something more classical in mind. He decided that she was to be our household muse and was given the name Calliope. Later on, her mischievous nature earned her a middle name. And that's how she got the name Calliope Jane.

That brings us to Ms. Lion.

We decided to get a second dog back when Moogie was 4-years-old. I originally was seeking a standard poodle, but instead fell in love with the runtiest pekepoo that you could imagine. I was a fan of the old "Spider-Man & his Amazing Friends" cartoon and really liked their fuzzy dog. Plus, she was half-Pekingese, which is a "lion dog." Lastly, she can be a bit of a nasty creature with a loud roar, so ultimately the name Ms. Lion ended up making a lot of sense.

Which leads us to Nero.

When we got our big poodle, I was looking for a name that was tangentially connected to Ms. Lion's name, but different enough that it didn't seem that way. Nero's father was named Prince, which prompted me to look for lion- and royalty-themed names. I eventually ran across a famous circuls lion from the late 1800s who was named Nero. And, of course, there was the famous Roman Emperor who went by that name. I liked the solidness of that name and I was able to get the others to endorse it. So that's how Nero got his name!

Poor Ratings for TLC's "My Husband's Not Gay"

I you, like me, watch TLC's recent "My Husband's Not Gay" special? If so, you were among a small group of viewers. In other words, it was a ratings disaster:
In the ratings, the show was one big dud Sunday night.
"My Husband's Not Gay" drew just 1 million viewers and ranked No. 69 among all cable offerings. (Hmm. What an interesting place to land in the ratings...)

That would suggest you won't see a sequel to the show about Mormon men who are attracted to men but are married to women.
By contrast, TLC's "Sister Wives" program, which aired immediately before "My Husband's Not Gay," had nearly 1.4 million viewers.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Iowa's Gov Branstad Pushing to Close the Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant

The news broke today that Governor Terry Branstad proposed $0 budgets for the Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant, IA:
Yesterday in his proposed budget, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad did not allow for dollars to be spent in fiscal year 2016 for either facility... Iowa Department of Human Services Public Information Officer Amy McCoy.. says the meetings held in both Clarinda and Mount Pleasant were very difficult for all involved. However, she says the Governor believes there is a better way to deliver mental health service to Iowans.
Currently there are 24 patients in Clarinda served by 76 full-time employees. McCoy says the current estimated funding to operate in fiscal year 2016 is $8.6 million.
Meanwhile in Mount Pleasant, McCoy says there are currently 47 patients being treated by 83 full-time employees at an estimated funding cost of $6.9 million.
Clarinda MHI provides acute psychiatric treatment for adults with extreme mental health symptoms in the southwest corner of Iowa, as well as long-term treatment for geriatric patients with chronic psychiatric and behavioral problems. Mount Pleasant MHI provides acute psychiatric treatment for adults with extreme mental health symptoms in the southeast corner of Iowa, as well as dual diagnosis treatment program for those struggling with severe mental health and substance abuse needs.

People are referred to MHIs when community treatment options have failed and after they've experienced repeated hospitalizations elsewhere. There are already long wait lists for these programs. What do you think will happen when we eliminate two more highly specialized treatment options?

AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued a statement about Branstad's recommendation to close the Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant MHIs:
“The well-being of the clients who rely on DHS facilities must come first in any decision about those facilities’ future.

“This decision by the Branstad Administration to propose closing these facilities has taken almost everyone by surprise, including legislators. Before releasing this recommendation as part of the budget, Governor Branstad does not appear to have sought the opinion of the families of the clients of these two facilities, legislators, community leaders, employees, or AFSCME. The Iowa Department of Human Services even requested funds to operate these facilities; however, the Governor removed those funds from his budget.

“The fact that this proposal was quietly tucked into a large budget book without explanation and not even mentioned by the Governor in his Condition of the State speech is yet another failure of the Governor to live up to his promises of a transparent and open government.

“Such a drastic recommendation that will impact the care of some of the most vulnerable Iowans should have not been reached behind closed doors. This sort of secretive government is wrong and it is not good for Iowans, especially those who will be affected by this decision.

The recommendation already appears to be impacting care. Rep. Dave Heaton said that he was told by the Administration that the facilities have stopped accepting new patients and filling job vacancies. These sort of unilateral moves toward closure without consulting the legislature is inappropriate.

“AFSCME Iowa Council 61 believes the future of these facilities should be decided by the Legislature after extensive opportunities for input by all. The vulnerable Iowans who rely on these facilities deserve nothing less.”
You can contact Gov. Branstad's office to communicate your displeasure with this decision at this link or you can contact him by phone at 515-281-5211. You can also contact your legislator by following this link. Please remember to be polite and constructive with your feedback.