Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Speed Demons Across Iowa!

Iowa was full of speed demons this morning. If by "full," one means three drivers drove really fast on our highways this week!

First is Mason City, somebody was clocked at 117 MPH. He or she was reportedly late for work yesterday and got pulled over by the Iowa State Patrol.

The officer took a moment from issuing a speeding ticket to post the moment on Facebook and remind "drivers to obey all posted speed limits." This person face

And then today, the Iowa State Patrol reported via Facebook that they pulled over a driver near Denison, IA, who was traveling at 124 MPH. It seems that the driver was running late this weekend for a graduation party and ended up receiving a $424.50 speeding citation.

But the prize goes to this person over near Stockton, IA, where this driver got caught driving last week at 144 MPH (!!) on Interstate 80 in the middle of the night. According to the media, this driver should have received a $559.50 speeding citation and a possible licenses suspension.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Women at the Well

I haven't been to the blog much this week. I've been extremely busy recently due to work, plus I've been working on a new powerpoint for an upcoming convention panel on "Midsomer Murders."

Then this past Thursday, I got joined a group of people from my church and took a road trip to Mitchellville, IA. More specifically, we went to the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women to participate in a worship services as part of a ministry called Women at the Well. Women at the Well is the church community at the Mitchellville prison that worships every Thursday evening. It's a United Methodist congregation, but remains open to people outside of that denomination.

Which doesn't explain why I was at the prison. Women at the Well actively invites visitors from other churches and organizations to fellowship with the women who worship there every week:
Jesus tells us that sometimes the greatest gift we can give to another person is simply to be present. As a visitor to Women at the Well, your presence is your gift. It reminds every woman incarcerated at ICIW that someone cares, that those outside the razor wire have not forgotten them. It reminds all of us that, through us, Christ is a very real presence in our world.
Worship visitors go through a screening process and are given a list of strict rules before we visit. We are reminded that we aren't allowed to touch the residents and we need to be careful about what personal information we share. I have had some not-so-pleasant experiences with prison employees as a visitor in the past, so I was a bit leery about what to expect this past Thursday. But the prison staff were respectful and the ministers and volunteers were all warm and inviting.

Frankly, I'm still processing my experience with the Women at the Well. The members of my church were encouraged to spread out in the congregation and resist the urge to clump together. There were probably 75 people in the room. Maybe more or less. It was a contemporary worship service, mostly with praise music. But the sermon was meaty and the women were definitely feeling the Spirit. And their choir was amazing!

Part of the service was a presentation by the director of Youth & Shelter Services, Inc. and Teens Against Human Trafficking. Get this. The women raised money over the past two weeks to benefit YSS and managed to raise roughly $93. Keep in mind that they earn roughly twenty-five cents per hour for the work that they do in the prison. That's digging in deep!

In the end, it was humbling to be included in the residents' worship service and to witness their ministry. I anticipate that members from my church will look into ways to maintaining ties to this ministry in the future.

Friday, May 19, 2017

ARCHIE #20: Which Major Character Went Over the Edge: Betty or Reggie?? // UPDATED Below

(Originally written on 05/19/17): It's been a pretty busy week because of work and some extra stuff that I'll probably write about later this weekend. I've got the day off from work and need to run to the gym, but I wanted to write about ARCHIE #20, which kicks off the three-part "Over The Edge" story line. This is the story that's going to kill off -- or at least permanently change -- one of Archie Comics' core five characters

Here are the basics. Archie and Veronica are struggling right now with their relationship and Archie doesn't want anything to shake things up too much. Reggie threatens to share some info that might make Veronica think less of Archie. In exchange for his silence, Archie agrees to drag race on Serpent Hill. Keep in mind that Archie is also racing for continued ownership of his 1969 Mach 1 Cobra Jet. (That's a car.)

Without getting too much into the details, the race began. A third car got in the way of the drag racers. An oil slick happened. And all three cars got crumpled.

Archie Comics wants you to know that Archie himself is safe. They're not killing off their star character again! Also, Veronica and Jughead are safe. They weren't at the race. Heck, Jughead was hardly in the book!

So it comes down to Betty and Reggie. I honestly don't see Archie Comics killing off Betty Cooper. After all, she's the co-star of at least two comic book digests and of a comic book that sometimes gets published! Meanwhile, Reggie is the bad boy that everyone includes in their list of core five characters and yet he's completely on the outskirts of life in Rivedale.

Plus, check out this image from the upcoming ARCHIES one-shot:

In other words, it's not looking too good for Reggie Mantle...

ARCHIE #20 is written by Mark Waid, with art by Pete Woods, and lettering by Jack Morelli.

Updated later on 05/19/17: I thought that the bass player in the above pic is Chuck Clayton, given the skin coloring. It's been pointed out by more than one person that I was stupid for looking at that pic and seeing Chuck. So there you go.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Christian Blogger Publicly Excommunicates Her Gay Son on His Wedding Day // Complains About Her Grieving Process

I learned today about a Christian preschool blogger named who decided to take a break from her traditional blog topics to write about how she and her husband surrendered their son to the Devil:
It has been said that in marriage, the pain and stress of divorce is greater than even the pain of losing a spouse to death. I believe the same can be said of breaking ties with your child. Unless one has experienced this kind of loss and grief, they cannot fully understand the depth of pain experienced by a parent.
Someone may ask, “Why would anyone break ties with her own child?” The answer is, “loyalty to Jesus.” Being a disciple of Jesus demands our relationship to him be greater than our relationship to our own family, even our own children (Matthew 10:37).
It seems that their wonderful son -- her son with an infectious laugh who sang beautifully and spent time bonding over cooking projects and home schooling activities -- succumbed to some unspecified sin. What's the sin? It doesn't matter, according to Blogger-Mom. Sin is sin. Her beloved son gave in to sin and that's enough to cut him off. Meanwhile, she wants the world to know that she is grieving for the son that exiled.

Here's the deal though. It turns out that the world actually knows about her son's secret sin. He's a gay man. In fact, her son just got gay-married. And Blogger-Mom wrote her article about surrendering her son to Satan on his wedding day.

I'm piecing together stories, but I'm learning that Blogger-Mom kicked her son out of the family home when he was a teen. According to one source, he ended up being raised by a friend's family. According to Blogger-Mom's new son-in-law, they maintain an open-door invitation to the son's family. But they have no real relationship with Blogger-Mom or the rest of the family.

I was recently on GCN and read a question about LGBT people and allies boycotting events at anti-gay churches. For example, refusing to go to a child's baptism when invited because it is taking place at an anti-gay church. On the face of it, it seems rude for LGBT people and allies to refuse these types of invitations.

On the other hand, it's actually pretty rare that gay-affirming people "boycott" non-affirming events. Much more often, it's the other way around. For example, at least two relatives did not attend my own wedding because of religious disagreement. I wasn't happy about it, but was told to suck it up. Which I have, but it's still one of those festering irritants for me.

It's actually pretty common -- though not quite as much, fortunately -- for people to "boycott" gay weddings because of religious disagreement. I'm aware of funerals where people have "boycotted" or where venues have canceled because they learned of a gay spouse, or because the person had AIDS, or because the person was a trans person. I'm aware of churches that refuse to baptize our kids. I'm aware of religious schools that expel our kids because they have gay kids.

LGBT people routinely get "boycotted." And while it's largely okay to do, we need to do more to remind people that it's really not *okay* to do. It's rude. It's hurtful. It's shameful. And you shouldn't get patted on the back because you're upset over your gay son's wedding ceremony.

Here is some advice, Blogger-Mom: Time is short. You have cut your son out of your life. You have missed his wedding. You are missing out on developing a relationship with her new step-daughter. You are missing out on every future milestone and achievement in his life. You can blame him for your decision to cut him out, but the end result is that he is gay and he is married. And even though things didn't turn out the way you envisioned, this is the reality of his life. And no amount of public pouting and public shaming will force him to come crawling back into your life.

You should seriously take stock of your own life-choices and beg your son for forgiveness.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sabrina's Life Continues to Implode on "Return to Amish" -- Fortunately, Her Gay Best Friend Matt Is There to Support Her!

I've really gotten sucked into the latest season of "Return to Amish" on TLC this month. Most of the season has circled around Abe, Rebecca, Jeremiah, Carmela, and Mary. Kate -- arguably the most stable and successful of the original "Breaking Amish"/"Return to Amish" bunch -- finally left the franchise this season.

And then there is Sabrina all by herself.

The others are raising their families and building houses and teaching each other to drive. Meanwhile, Sabrina is back in Pennsylvania fighting the state to retain her parental rights over her young daughter and her unborn baby. Sabrina is barely an afterthought to most of the rest of the cast -- except for Mary. Otherwise, she's pretty much on her own.

Fortunately, TLC decided to re-introduce Matthew to the "Return to Amish" franchise. Matthew was a cast member for one season during the "Breaking Amish: LA" spin-off series. He was conveniently invited to Mary's tupperwear party last week and reunited with childhood friend and fellow fallen Mennonite, Sabrina. He finally came out as a gay man after years of struggle.

At the time, I thought that it would be nice if Matthew was brought into the fold full-time. Or at least regularly. And it looks like someone else had the same idea. Matt spent some time again with Sabrina this week, making her some special Mennonite spaghetti and listening to her tales of woe. And woe is me! Sabrina's life is heart-breaking right now!

Sadly, Sabrina learned that her parental rights over daughter Oakley were officially terminated. She made some really bad choices early in Oakley's life, which led to her daughter being placed in foster care. She stabilized enough to regain custody of her daughter, but then made some no-so-bad choices while caring for Oakley. Unfortunately, her choices were being overly scrutinized by this point in their lives and Oakley was returned to foster care. She struggled to regain custody of her daughter, but it was too late.

Now Sabrina is pregnant and doing her best to prevent DCFS from taking her unborn baby from her as soon as the child is born. Her original place was to do a home birth, but the pregnancy was too high risk to risk delivering outside of a hospital. Now there is a strong chance that the hospital will notify DCFS social workers of the baby as soon as Sabrina gives birth and the child will be removed from her care and parental rights immediately terminated.

Matthew did a good job of listening to Sabrina's struggle and offering support -- even though it was clear that he was struggling with what to say. But he did okay. Sometimes you just gotta say something like, "I don't know how to respond, but I just appreciate you trusting me enough to share," y'know?

He did encourage Sabrina to keep fighting for her unborn child and even offered to rally behind her along with her other friends. But Sabrina's main goal right now is to get her parents to agree to adopting to the baby. She would rather the baby be raised in the stability of the Mennonite community as opposed to the instability of the English world.

That was the interesting thing. Both Sabrina and Matt gushed about life as Mennonites, but they both rejected that life for themselves and neither is allowed to return. Sabrina because she got divorced and Matt because he's gay. But they both say that they prefer that life to the English world.

Sabrina said that life has been a mess since leaving the Mennonites to become English. And it's true that she's led a horrible life: Drug addiction, homelessness, loss of her children. disrupted marriage. But that spun out of a series of bad decisions that Sabrina made when she was in her early 20s. It's too bad that she blames the world for her own choices.

Anyway, Matthew took off after the spaghetti was made and hasn't been seen since. It looks like Mary will be hosting a baby shower next week and it looks like some of the other "Return to Amish" folks will be attending. Maybe Matt will get introduced to the group to further cement his presence on the show?

One can only hope!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Casey Cott -- Kevin Keller on "Riverdale" -- Promoted to Series Regular for Season Two!

One of my favorite characters from The CW's "Riverdale" series is Casey Cott, who portrays gay teen Kevin Keller. Kevin always has the perfect quip for every occasion. And his romance with Joaquin -- the undercover Southside Serpent gang-member -- was one of the hottest hook-ups of the season!

But for all his prominence on the program, Kevin Keller has remained a "recurring character" throughout Season One. But not anymore!

We learned this week that Casey Cott has been promoted to series regular just in time for Season Two!! It's a well-overdue promotion and I can't wait to see more of my favorite "Riverdale" actor!!

Ross Butler (AKA Reggie Mantle) Being Recast on "Riverdale" in Season Two

(Originally written on 04/25/17): Fans learned that Ross Butler, known for his portrayal of Reggie Mantle in "Riverdale," will not be returning to the program when the program returns for its second season:
TVLine has learned exclusively that producers of The CW’s rookie teen drama have decided to recast the role of Archie’s foe Reggie ahead of Season 2 as a result of scheduling issues with the character’s portrayer Ross Butler. 
“We love what Ross did with the role of Reggie [this season], but because of his commitments to other projects, we couldn’t use him nearly as much as we would have liked,” series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa said in a statement to TVLine. “[Next season], we want more Reggie on our show — he’s Archie’s rival! — and because Ross is unavailable to come back to Riverdale, we’re looking for a new Reggie. Those are big shoes to fill, but we’re confident we can find an actor who is as funny and sexy as Ross. And of course we all wish Ross the best.”
Charles Melton
Ross Butler has seen a lot of success this year in Netflix's "13 Reasons Why," which will most likely be picked up for a second season. He's been the one character with the most potential who's barely seen any screen time on "Riverdale." Hopefully his successor will become a much more active character on the program.

Updated on 05/13/17: "Riverdale" has its new Reggie!! Charles Melton has been cast to play the role of Reggie when "Riverdale" returns for Season Two. Melton's previous experience includes roles in "American Horror Story: Hotel" and "Glee."

Muscatine City Council Begins Impeachment Effort Against City's Mayor // Updated Report: $100,000 in City Legal Fees May Be Used to Justify Impeachment Effort // More Updates... // Updated on 05/11/17: Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson Has Been Removed from Office by Unanimous Vote of her Accusers, the Muscatine City Council

(Originally written on 01/13/17): This is interesting. Last night, the mostly Republican City Council in Muscatine, IA, unanimously approved impeachment proceedings against the city's Democratic mayor, accusing her of unspecified incidents of misconduct and neglect, as well as making disparaging comments towards city employees.

I've been reading the sordid conflict between Mayor Diana Broderson and the Muscatine City Council with interest. She unexpectedly won an election against the incumbent mayor back in 2015 and has since struggled for achieve any of her limited mayoral duties, which pretty much consist of making appointments to city commissions, as well as appointing the Police and Fire Chief. In fact, the City Council voted last summer on an ordinance that stripped the mayor of those duties. Mayor Broderson challenged this new ordinance and received a decision from the state Attorney General's Office back in October 2016 indicating that the City Council lacked the authority to make these changes and that it was potentially criminal. However, the Muscatine County Attorney declined to act on the state Attorney General's opinion last month.

Which leads us to this week. The Muscatine City Council announced that it would vote on a request to impeach the city's mayor at its 01/12/17 city council meeting. According to the Muscatine Journal, none of the Council members wouldn't offer any explanation for this move and instead referred the reporter to the city attorney, who conveniently couldn't be reached for comment.

Last night, Councilman Michael Rehwaldt read the following motion:
An elected City official may be removed from office for, among other reasons, misconduct or maladministration in office, and willful or habitual neglect or refusal to perform the duties of the office; and

Willful misconduct or maladministration in office and include, but is not limited to, conduct such as repeated public criticism of the City or staff; repeatedly engaging in defamatory attacks against the City, staff or public; breach of fiduciary duties; or other conduct which tends to erode public confidence in the City or staff.

Habitual neglect or refusal to perform the duties of office an include, but is not limited to, such conduct as repeated breaches of the public official's fiduciary duties and/or repeated failure to follow established city ordinances or policies;

It appears the Mayor may have engaged in some of the foregoing conduct to the detriment of the City and in contravention of her established duties and, as such, written charges for removal should be filed to determine if the Mayor should be removed from office as a result of such conduct.

Therefore, the City Council of the City of Muscatine, Iowa, hereby motions to instruct the City Attorney to draft and file written charges for the removal of the Mayor as provided for by Iowa Code Chapter 66 and City Code section 1-7-6.
The Council members continued to avoid any specific accusations. Hopefully, they have evidence of willful misconduct or maladministration. Certainly something more substantial than vague suggestions that she "may have engaged" in detrimental conduct.

About 60 citizens attended the meeting and all appeared to denounce this impeachment effort.

I'm not a citizen of Muscatine, but this really doesn't pass the smell test. The Muscatine City Council better watch out or they might engage the citizens enough to vote out its incumbents -- particularly those like Councilmen Rehwaldt, Bynum, and Natvig -- all of whom are up for re-election later this year.

Updated on 01/19/17: We're beginning to get an idea about what the Muscatine City Council plans to use to support their impeachment effort against Mayor Diana Broderson:
The Muscatine city attorney said in an email to City Administrator Gregg Mandsager Wednesday that the city has incurred more than $100,000 in unbudgeted expenses in fighting what he says are "unproven claims and allegations" made by Mayor Broderson...

City officials said the official charges could be released as early as Friday.

City Attorney Matthew Brick detailed the 2016 attorney fees in an email to Mandsager. That email was in response to an inquiry Mandsager received from Broderson requesting more information about costs and attorney fees. Brick's email stated that complaints filed by Broderson against city officials, staff, contractors, and citizens resulted in about $64,000 in unbudgeted legal fees and $43,600 in staff time during the 2016 calendar year.

Mandsager had forwarded the email to the mayor and city council members early Wednesday morning. The email was also forwarded to the Muscatine Journal and Quad City Times.

As to the allegations that she caused funds to be spent by filing complaints, Broderson said she was just doing as the citizens asked...

Her reaction to the amount of costs paid to the city attorney was to wonder how much had been spent changing the city's appointment process. The council passed an amendment earlier in 2016 that created a nominating committee made up of the mayor, the city administrator or his appointee, and two council members to review candidates for city appointments.

"My take would be most of the money has been spent trying to reduce the office of mayor," she said.
By the way, I was listening to this Muscatine-based podcast earlier tonight and was shocked to learn that City Administrator Gregg Mandsager has apparently banned the city's employees from speaking or interacting with Mayor Broderson, outside of basic greetings. It's apparently been this way since shortly after Broderson's election in 2015.

Updated on 01/25/17: I'm not even sure that the Muscatine City Council actually has a clue about Mayor Diana Broderson's impeachable offense. Check this out:
Muscatine City Attorney Matthew Brick says charges for removal of Mayor Diana Broderson may not be filed for weeks, and the nature of the charges has yet to be determined. Brick said he will continue to investigate, and "slow equals fair. I want to make sure if there are relevant issues that they get looked at," he said. 
The Muscatine City Council two weeks ago voted to take the first steps toward ousting the mayor. Councilman Michael Rehwaldt cited "habitual neglect" and "willful misconduct or maladministration in office" as two possible reasons. State law says elected officials can be removed by two-thirds vote of the council. 
"It would be nice for not only me but for the people of Muscatine to know sooner rather than later so both sides could work to prepare," Broderson said. 
If evidence for removing the mayor under state law is not found, Brick said at the end of the investigation he would report back to council.
It sounds to me like the City Council members are just biding their time until after the next election cycle. Pretty shady, Muscatine...

Updated on 02/17/17: Muscatine City Attorney Matthew Brick filed a list of complaints early this morning, which are being used as the basis for Mayor Diana Broderson's impeachment:
Broderson is accused of ignoring Brick's legal advice when he told her that she was stepping outside of the boundaries of her power as mayor, listed in the document as "willful misconduct or maladministration … habitual neglect or refusal to perform the duties of her office..."

In the document, Broderson is accused of "making baseless complaints” that cost the city as much as $100,000 in legal fees and staff time to investigate, including asking for an investigation into whether she had been discriminated against on the basis of her gender and requesting investigation into actions of the city that were later determined to be unfounded.

Also outlined is an alleged breach of fiduciary duties, failure to comply with city code, defamation and/or false allegations and misuse of power and/or abuse of discretion.
These charges have been filed with the city and could appear on the agenda for the next Muscatine City Countil meeting. That is scheduled for 03/01/17.

Updated on 03/10/17: The Muscatine City Council scheduled the date for Mayor Diana Broderson's impeachment hearing at their council meeting last night. The hearing will begin at 8:00 AM on Thursday, March 23rd.

According to news reports, residents approached the Council and expressed disappointment with this whole process. One particular resident suggested that they should have waited until the next election when Mayor Broderson's term expired and just run a better candidate against her instead of going through the time, money, and embarrassment of impeaching her mid-term:
Although advised by City Administrator Gregg Mandsager to answer “no comment” to residents’ questions, Councilman Santos Saucedo responded to Nathan Baker, of Muscatine, after Baker said the recent actions of the council were making Muscatine a statewide laughing stock. Baker said that the mayor would not have retained her seat through the next election in November, and the council should have waited instead of trying to impeach her. "I wouldn’t vote for her again except for that you guys have created this problem," he said. "The right thing would be to let her finish her term, and for you guys just to do your thing." 
Saucedo was visibly upset after Baker’s remarks. Saucedo said he was doing what he felt was right and promised that the reasons behind the charges filed for the mayor’s removal would be revealed at the March 23 hearing. "All the information is going to come out," Saucedo said.
The problem is that the Muscatine City Council has been so cagey about why they are impeaching her that there is little else for residents to do except assume that there's something under-handed, political, and nasty about this whole affair.

Updated on 03/21/17: The impeachment hearing begins first thing Thursday morning. Here are some new details. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 8:00 AM in the council chambers in Muscatine. The hearing will be open to the public, but they will not allow any public comments at the meeting. They will not broadcast the hearing on their local government channel, so you won't have any televised footage for use during future campaign commercials (unless someone in the audience records something on Facebook Live).

Muscatine has brought a retired judge and mediator in to act as special counsel for the city and to act as prosecutor. Mayor Broderson will be represented by her own attorney, presumably at her own expense. Council members will hear the arguments for and against Mayor Broderson's impeachment. Two-thirds of the Council will need to vote for her impeachment. It's unclear if they will actually vote on Thursday or not.

The Muscatine City Council is walking on fragile ice here. This is the first case of a mayoral impeachment in Iowa history. There is an election in a few months and three of the seven Council members are up for reelection. There are already efforts to vote out all three Council members this fall.

Updated on 03/23/17: Mayor Broderson's impeachment hearing dragged on for eleven hours today. You can follow the #musmayor hashtag on Twitter, but it's not clear to follow most of the testimony because there's very little video or written coverage (outside of some tweets and 2-minute clips). Eventually, the hearing was postponed until 9:00 AM on Saturday, 04/01/17.

Updated on 03/24/17: Hear are some details on the testimony, courtesy of the Muscatine Journal. It offers more substantial reasons for the impeachment hearing:

Gender Bias Complaint: Mayor Broderson had initiated a gender bias investigation against the City Council and City Administrator Gregg Mandsager. It was later determined that there was no basis for her allegations:
When he was called as a witness, City Administrator Gregg Mandsager said he may have been negatively impacted by the investigation during a recent job search, because he was required to say he had been the subject of an investigation into gender bias. He also said his health had been negatively impacted by the investigation and allegations made against him and council members during her term.
Misuse of Campaign Funds: Mayor Broderson has been accused to spending $500 of her campaign funds to pay for her attorney. She is also alleged to have spent $1200 in campaign funds to send letters to residents that attack the character of Council members. For example, she referred to the Council members as "good old boys."

Complaints Against City Staff: Mayor Broderson allegedly claimed that two staff members violated Muscatine's Code of Ethics for negative comments made on Facebook about her during their free time. For example, she was called an "asshat" by a city accountant. She also questioned the employment status of a retired city engineer who was hired as a temporary independent contractor while also drawing from his IPERS pension.

Mayor Broderson still hasn't testified on her own behalf. She will presumably have the chance defend herself on April 1st.

Updated on 04/02/17: Testimony resumed and concluded yesterday in Musatine. I was traveling this weekend, but monitored the impeachment hearing as much as I could on Twitter. Testimony was split between City Attorney Matthew Brick and Mayor Diana Broderson.

We learned more of the complaints against Mayor Broderson:

Coffee with the Mayor: Mayor Broderson is accused of violating city code by forming an ad hoc committee, i.e., her monthly Coffee with the Mayor chats. These informal events were characterized by the city as a committee or task force.

Contacting City Staff: Mayor Broderson was accused of contacting city staff without permission by the city administrator. Broderson claimed that she was permitted to contact city staff by email as long as she cc'ed City Administrator Greg Mandsager. She noted that other city counselors were not required to cc the administrator on emails.

Misspending Campaign Funds: Mayor Broderson is accused of using her campaign funds to fund letters to Muscatine residents, which violates the city's code of ethics.

Lastly, it's been reported that Mayor Broderson stated that there is some sort of political deal in the works. If true, it would dismiss the impeachment charges -- with some strings attached:
Broderson dropped that bomb Saturday at the very tail end of another marathon hearing of her impeachment trial. "I don't understand this, since you'll give me back my appointment power if I agree not to run again in November," Broderson responded when acting City Council Chairman Bob Bynum asked if she had "anything else to say."

Broderson's power to appoint Muscatine residents to its various commissions and committees is at the heart of the legal and political battle that, for the past year, has fractured the city of 23,000. Last spring, just months into her tenure, the City Council stripped her of unilateral appointment power. It set off an all out war, with Broderson alleging all kinds of malfeasance on the part of City Administrator Gregg Mandsager and City Council members.
It's worth reading this article so that you can visualize the shocked responses from those in the room -- including Broderson's own attorney.

Updated Again on 04/02/17: Someone who was watching Saturday's impeachment hearing in person noted a slight difference in Mayor Broderson's final comments:
As I heard it (and heard again thanks to the Muscatine Profile recording), she says it this way: "It surprises me that the Council is acting like this is such a big travesty, some of the things that I've done, yet they were willing to make this all go away and give me back my appointment powers if I would just agree not to run again in November. And I think that that is such a terrible thing for the people—"
This latter quote rings more true to me.

Updated on 05/11/17: It took three minutes. The Muscatine City Council voted unanimously to impeach Mayor Diana Broderson. There was no discussion. No input from the various citizens in the room.

Four months ago, the Muscatine City Council moved forward with plans to impeach the city's mayor, citing unspecified charges of misconduct. Eventually, we learned that the mayor held informal gatherings with constituents. We also learned that she spoke to city staff without getting permission first from the city manager. We learned that she made some unwise decisions as mayor, but we also learned that she was pretty much cut off from the rest of the city staff. Which means that nobody pulled her aside to help her through her growing pains.

The Muscatine City Council accused her of misconduct. The Muscatine City Council acted as judges and jury. The Muscatine City Council then voted her out of office. And now they get to appoint anyone they want as the city's new mayor. Mayor Broderson might have been a mediocre mayor, but the optics on this look bad.

There is an election later. Three of the council member are up for reelection and they've managed to piss off and energize a sizable chunk of the voters. I can't wait to see the results of this election.

Updated on 05/13/17: Muscatine has a new Mayor Pro Temp: Alderman Bob Bynum. Bynum will act as mayor for Muscatine until the City Council makes a decision about how to replace impeached Mayor Diana Broderson. Bynum is one of three City Council members who is up for reelection later this year.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Iowa City: Methodist Campus Minister in Trouble for Officiating at Gay Wedding

The United Methodist Church was recently in the news after a Bishop got defrocked or disrobed following a complaint about her being a married lesbian. Now a similar story is unfolding here in Iowa City after a campus minister within the University of Iowa got reported to her UMC superiors for officiating at a gay wedding:
The board of directors for the Wesley Student Center at UI is supporting the Rev. Anna Blaedel, the center's executive director. Blaedel faces possible censure from the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church for having officiated at a wedding ceremony April 4 in Oklahoma for a fellow clergywoman and her wife. 
The Appointive Cabinet of the Iowa Conference filed a unanimous complaint last month against Blaedel, charging the campus minister with practices considered “to be incompatible with Christian teaching.” The cabinet includes the superintendents of the eight church districts within the state.
Blaedel acknowledged in news reports that she could lost her pastoral credentials and her job officiating over this wedding. But she felt called to do it.

I posted this linked article to the Iowa News Facebook page earlier today and someone shared it on her own Facebook page, along with some public commentary. She wrote:
Guess she's trying to follow a sect of California Methodists. I hope the Christian Methodists will stand upon the Bible teachings and remove her. The predictions of the last days are upon us. And it's getting more difficult to reject these wicked ways as our families and congregations are being infiltrated.
For the record, the UMC's Book of Discipline explicitly bars its ministers from officiating at gay weddings or from being ordained as ministers. I understand that. Rev. Blaedel will likely be defrocked. Or at least punished professionally. I get that. It's one of the reasons that I left the church of my childhood for the United Church of Christ back in the 1990s.

But this woman (let's called her D.L.) really annoys me. First, marriage equality isn't a "California" thing. I understand that people like to dismiss things that they don't like as some leftist kooky thing springing from the left coast. But let's get this straight. Iowa is a marriage equality state. It has been for eight years. In fact, Iowa became a marriage equality state at the same time that California went back to being a marriage inequality state.

Lastly, the United Methodist Church isn't being infiltrated by LGBTQ people. We grew up in the church. We are the church. We'd love to stay in the church, even if the church really doesn't want us. One way or the other, gay marriage will come to the UMC. I just don't know if the UMC will survive the experience as an intact denomination.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

SUPERB Comic Book To Star New Superhero With Down Syndrome

Comic books frequently feature characters with disabilities. However, there's usually a common theme when it comes to those disabled individuals. Their disabilities usually limit their mobility. Usually that means that they get around in wheelchairs. Occasionally someone gets introduced who uses braces crutches or leg-braces. Or you will meet a character who is blind or deaf.

But it's not terribly common for a mentally disabled character to show up as a regular character. I can think of characters offhand. The Penance twins from Generation X -- who sometimes seemed autistic to me in their portrayals, though I don't think that this was ever spelled out -- and Shape from the original Squadron Supreme -- who was portrayed as someone with an intellectual disability of some sort. I also remember an X-Men back-story from sometime in the mid-90s featuring Magneto and a young mutant with Down Syndrome who was never heard from again.

I've yearned for stories featuring heroes with mental disabilities for a long time -- whether they be folks with costumes and super-powers or funny characters by a company like Archie Comics. But life hasn't caught up with my desire... Yet!

I learned today of an upcoming comic book called SUPERB that stars a young hero with Down Syndrome! SUPERB was produced by partnership by Lion Forge Comics and the National Down Syndrome Society.

The hero in question is a young man named Jonah. I'm not certain if his code name is Superb or if he just goes by the name Jonah. According to news reports, Jonah is trying to figure out what to do with his new superhuman abilities -- strength, telekinesis, and telepathy:
“Everyone faces different challenges in life, but those challenges don’t prevent us from wanting to be heroes,” Lion Forge head Geoff Gerber told The Hollywood Reporter. “Superb is a story about two young people faced with challenges who struggle to understand one another and what it means to be heroes. But some challenges are more difficult for many of us to understand.”
I'm assuming that the second young person is the black girl on the cover, who possibly has Down Syndrome herself. It's not clear to me from the picture. It's also unclear to me if she has powers of her own or a costumed identity. But I'm really curious to find out!

SUPERB is being written by David F. Walker and Sheena C. Howard with art by Ray-Anthony Height, Le Beau L. Underwood, and Veronica Gandini. The first issue is scheduled to arrive in stores in July.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Giant Rabbit Died While In Transit from London to New Home in Iowa // Updated: Simon's Owners Accuse Airlines of Killing Rabbit by Placing It In Freezer for Hours

(Originally written on 04/27/17): You might have heard about United Airlines' latest public blunder. United Airlines has egg on its face again after news broke that a rabbit -- a 3-foot giant rabbit named Simon flying from London to Chicago -- ended up dying while in their custody.

You might not have known that this story has an Iowa connection. Simon was purchased by an Iowan for about $530 and they paid roughly $1800 to fly the giant rabbit to America. The giant rabbit was going to settle into a luxury pen in Norwalk, IA, which is right near Des Moines in south-central Iowa.

Simon was successfully flown from London to Chicago, but then died while at a pet holding facility at the airport. United Airlines has reportedly offered compensation to the rabbit's breeder, but apparently not the new owners.

Simon was the son of the largest rabbit in the world. He came to America where his new owners planned to exhibit him at the Iowa State Fair later this summer.

Updated on 05/08/17: This is messed up. It's now being alleged that United Airlines staff placed Simon in a freezer for hours and then cremated the rabbit without permission:
A 3-foot giant rabbit that died last month following a United Airlines flight from London may have mistakenly been placed in a freezer by airline employees, a Des Moines attorney announced Monday. 
Simon, a Continental Giant rabbit, was purchased by an Iowa-based ownership group with hopes that he could win the Iowa State Fair's biggest rabbit contest in August and be used to help raise money for the fair and its Blue Ribbon Foundation. But the giant rabbit was found dead following a United flight from London to Chicago. 
Des Moines trial attorney Guy Cook announced at a press conference on Monday that the owners are demanding an independent investigation into Simon's death. At least one airline employee has reportedly said that Simon may have been inadvertently locked in a freezer for up to 16 hours after arriving in Chicago. Additionally, the rabbit was cremated by United following its death, making an autopsy to determine what exactly happened impossible, Cook said. That action by the airline was tantamount to "destroying evidence" in the case, he said. The airline cremated the remains without the permission of the ownership group, he said.
The Simon Group is demanding reimbursement for the rabbit's purchase price, as well as shipping costs and the "economic loss" from the rabbit's death.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Matthew Bristol (Formerly of "Breaking Amish LA") Comes Out as a Gay Man

I was watching the first half of tonight's "Return to Amish" episode, which was interesting -- though the episodes run so long these days! It would be so much nicer if they cut them back to one hour in length again!

Anyway, there was one part of the program where elder cast member Mary went to Sabrina's home to see how she is doing given her pregnancy and the stress of her involvement with DCFS. While she was there, Mary decided to host a tupperware party at Sabrina's home so that she could spread a little money and tupperware Sabrina's way.

We were treated to a reunion of sorts at the party. Two cast members from "Breaking Amish: LA" -- Lizzie James and Matthew Bristol were among the Tupperware guests! It was nice to see them, though Lizzie barely said a word the entire time.

Later on, Matthew scheduled a private moment between him, Sabrina, and the production crew to share a little bit of truth about his life. Matthew wanted Sabrina to know that he's finally come out as a gay man!

That's right! The former Mennonite who left the religious community to design clothing finally admitted to the world that he is a gay man. Plus he has a boyfriend in NYC. Sabrina was super-excited to have a gay friend in her life and then began grilling him about guys, bears, and how gays handle it when two tops get in the same room!

And that was pretty much Matthew's contribution to the program. I'm not sure if he'll return to the program again or not. Frankly, it would be nice if he stuck around for a while -- especially since Kate isn't coming back. They could trade a female model for a gay designer! Otherwise, it just seemed like an odd interaction for a character who hasn't been around since 2013!

RIVERDALE: Jason Blossom & Polly Cooper's Romance Was Tainted By Third Cousin Incest // How Scandalized Is This?

We all now know who killed Jason Blossom on The CW's "Riverdale." One of the show's mysteries was also explained in this week's episode. I had Hal Cooper as one of my prime suspects because -- among other things -- he broke into Sheriff Keller's home and stole all of the evidence, pictures and video interviews.

I just couldn't wrap my head around why he would do that. I now know.

We learned that he was trying to get rid of evidence that would lead to awkward questions about the Blossom and Cooper families.

We learned in this episode that Great-Grandpa Blossom was not just a business partner with the man that he killed way back in the day, Great-Grandpa Cooper. It turns out that the two men were brothers. That means that Jason Blossom and Polly Cooper were related to each other. Distantly related, but still related. Hal didn't want the world to find out that Polly committed incest or that their children were the product of incest.

Ew! Incest, right?

Then you think about it and they're not that closely related. Jason and Polly were third cousins to each other. If they wanted, they could get married in any state and it would be completely legal. And any genetic problems that might be encountered because of incest? Well, they're really not that statistically prevalent in this type of situation.

I've pointed this out a few times in online places where "Riverdale" fans congregate. It's earned me a few "likes," but I still find myself in the odd place of defending third cousin incest! How did I get here??

Part of it's because I come from small town America. Where I come from, it's not completely foreign for people to date or marry distant cousins. The joke in smaller communities is that you're somehow related to most people around you. And third cousin relationships are probably more common than most people would expect, even in larger communities.

I mean, think about it. Do you know who your great-uncles' and great-aunts' great-grandchildren are? Do you even know who your great-uncles or your great-aunts are? I'm sure that I could find out, but I really don't know. So how easy would it be to connect with one of your classmates who also happens to be a forgotten third cousin?

The situation is slightly scandalous, but not that scandalous. Certainly not work stealing police evidence and risking a conviction and jail time. At least from my perspective.

What about you? Were you sickened to learn that Jason Blossom and Polly Cooper were third cousins? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Iowa City's Press-Citizen Highlights Community's "Only Practicing Psychic" // Conveniently Ignores Iowa City's Other Psychics

I read with interest yesterday an article in the Iowa City Press-Citizen about "Iowa City's only openly-practicing psychic." The writer interviewed Stephanie Prier, who operates a business in downtown Iowa City with a big sign that reads "Psychic Readings." I've driven past this sign many times and have been curious about the business.

According to the article, Prier has been running her psychic shop for the past year. She identifies as a psychic and intuitive energy healer. She does palm reading, Tarot card reading, psychic evaluation, and chakra balancing. She meets clients in her office, over the phone, and online.

That said, Stephanie Prier is far from the only psychic in Iowa City. There are practicing psychics at PrismsScape. I know people who do Tarot and Oracle card readings. And I've met several Iowa City psychics and energy healers at various metaphysical expos over the past 3-4 years. Heck, we even had our own psychic animal communicator for a while.

So interesting article for learning more about that "Psychic Readings" sign that I drive by every day. Not so interesting article when it comes to learning about Iowa City's other openly-practicing psychics.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

"Riverdale" Episode 12: Jason Blossom's Killer Revealed!

Last weekend, I shared by top three suspects in Jason Blossom's murder over on CW's "Riverdale" -- and I struck out in all with all three suspects!

It wasn't Cheryl Blossom. Hal Cooper was innocent. Not even Hermione Lodge nor poor Smithers pulled the trigger that killed the heir to Blossom Maple Farms!

SPOILERS... (And yes, I'll wait until the show wraps up in the west coast...)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Venice Beach Freakshow Closes After 11 Years of Freaky Entertainment

I can't believe that it's been nearly three years since I wrote about freak shows on this blog!! Back then, "American Horror Story: Freak Show" was debuting and I couldn't get enough of it. I decided to highlight my favorite five freak shows in this blog post and freak show #4 was AMC's "Freakshow" reality TV show, featuring the real life folks at the Venice Beach Freakshow!

I learned late Sunday night that the Venice Beach Freakshow sadly put on its final show this past Sunday night.

Based in Los Angeles, CA, the Venice Beach Freakshow featured a wide range of acts, including body-puncturing, sword-swallowing, and fire-play. Some of its acts included little people, a bearded lady, a wolf boy, and a lobster boy. I've never been to the Freakshow -- heck, I've never been to LA! --, but I followed their activities on Facebook.

According to news reports, the freakshow's owner, Todd Ray, learned six months ago that their lease wasn't being renewed. The building was purchased by Snapshot Partners and all of the tenants found themselves without a home -- exception for Snapchat, which just happens to be on the third floor of the building. Ray is still searching for a new home for the freakshow on Venice Beach, but hasn't had any luck yet.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Iowa AG Office Rejects Petition to Remove Muscatine City Council

Here is another story that I didn't notice when it began. I've written quite a lot recently about efforts by the Muscatine City Council to impeach Mayor Diana Broderson (read here for more details on that mess).

Back in mid-March, the Muscatine City Council was informed that a group of citizens were gathering signatures for a petition that they planned to deliver to the Iowa Attorney General's Office and to the Office of the lieutenant governor.

The petition accused the Muscatine City Council of violating Iowa Code 66.3 and asked for the state's assistance with removing the Muscatine City Council from power.

According to the petition:
We the undersigned believe that the Muscatine City Council along with the Muscatine City Administrator have failed in their duties to serve the citizens of the City of Muscatine, Iowa resulting in a lack of confidence in the governing body. Furthermore, we the citizens of the City of Muscatine Iowa believe that the City Council have violated laws in regards to the Mayor Diana Broaderson.
We learned yesterday that the AG's Office has declined to move forward with the petition to remove the Muscatine City Council from power:
On March 16, Muscatine resident, Ann Brumback, delivered the petition, with allegedly 1,100 signatures, asking the Attorney General to remove the city council pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 66. Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown responded to the petition April 18, claiming the instances cited "failed to meet legal criteria," and ruling the office would decline to pursue action on the petition. In an interview, Brumback said she is working with Jim Merideth, a Muscatine County resident, to review the Attorney General's letter and consider their options, which could include taking the case to court. With the petition, Brumback sent a packet of complaints, including allegations the council has made "disparaging remarks about the mayor's decisions" and making allegations "regarding nepotism by the Muscatine city administrator that were approved by the council," according to Brown. In response, Brown wrote, "there is insufficient proof that the council members acted with an evil or corrupt motive or acted in a dishonest or fraudulent manner."

Monday, May 1, 2017

Jeremiah Raber of TLC's "Return to Amish" Arrested & Charged with Domestic Violence

I was feeling under the weather yesterday, plus it was raining all day. As a result, I spent way too much time watching episodes of last season's "Return to Amish" reality TV show, plus most of last night's season premier on TLC.

Here's the gist for those who are unfamiliar with this program. A few years ago, TLC gathered five Amish and Mennonite adults and transplanted them into NYC to live as "English" people and struggle to cope. Keep in mind that most of these TV personalities (Jeremiah, Kate, Abe, Sabrina, and Rebecca) had already lived lives away from their conservative religious communities. But the show took off and these folks continue to reunite every few months -- along with Abe's mother Mary.

Over the years, Abe and Rebecca have married and had kids. Kate has increasingly distanced herself from the program and the others due to her growing modeling career. Sabrina has struggled with drug abuse and homelessness and is now in the process of losing parental rights of her young daughter. And Jeremiah continues to have run-ins with the law for a variety of reasons.

Case in point...

Last season ended with 37-year-old Jeremiah Raber marrying his new love, Carmela. News broke late last month that Jeremiah getting arrested on 04/22/17 and charged with domestic assault against his wife.

According to the arrest report:
During a verbal dispute the defendant did purposely throw hot coffee onto the lap of his wife. The defendant did make several threats to cause harm *REDACTED* during the argument. The victim did show me several large bruises on her legs and arms that were caused from the defendant striking her with a closed fist. The victim stated that the defendant strikes her on a daily basis.
Raber told Radar that he has "evidence" to prove that he is innocent of these charges, implying that the abuse in their relationship goes both ways.