Sunday, September 24, 2017

Aaron Carter Enters Residential Treatment Program Following Repeated Reports of Drug Abuse, Erratic Behavior, & Suicidal Ideation

I learned yesterday that Aaron Carter continues to go through a spiral of troubling behavior. The singer recently revealed that he is bisexual and then began having breakdowns. More recently, he appeared on "The Doctors," where he decided to address risky sexual behaviors and concerning weight loss by undergoing an HIV test on national television. Fortunately, we learned that he's HIV-negative. Unfortunately, the troubled celebrity also tested positive for several drugs and revealed that he abuses cosmetic filler medications.

On Friday, news began circulating that police have rushed to Aaron Carter's home several times recently following reports of suicidal ideation and drug abuse:
Aaron Carter has not only threatened to take his own life multiple times in the past few weeks using a deadly mix of prescription drugs and computer duster, he also threatened to hurt those closest to him. The Blast obtained recent reports from the St. Petersburg Police Department performing mental health evaluations on Carter. One report states the caller told cops Carter was “not in a safe mental state … engaging in drug activity.” Police noted that Carter has “threatened to harm family and others.” Another call says Carter threatened to commit suicide by mixing Xanax, Clonopin [sic], and “Dusters.” Dusters is a reference to huffing computer dusters. Cops responded to Carter’s apartment and observed he “does have a lot of prescription meds in his home.” Most recently, one of Carter’s friends called cops Thursday afternoon begging for them to check on the singer after a Facetime conversation led them to believe he needed to be hospitalized immediately. The friend said the singer’s “words were slurred and did not make sense.” They also noticed his “skin color was off.” Cops responded to Carter’s apartment and evaluated him for the Baker Act, which allows someone to be involuntarily institutionalized if police deem they are a danger to themselves or others. They did not feel he met the criteria for hospitalization.
Shortly after this information came out, it was released that Carter has entered into a inpatient treatment facility to "improve his health and work on his overall wellness."

Shortly before entering treatment, Carter posted the following message on Twitter:

He then tweeted that he's cut his family out of his life and plans to keep it that way.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Iowa: Man Sues Van Buren County Sheriff's Office for Bursting into Wrong Homes & Confiscating His Personal Property

A family in Douds, IA, has filed a lawsuit against the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department, accusing the county's sheriff's officers of illegally entering his home and for their "deliberate indifference to and/or reckless disregard" of his constitutional rights against unreasonable searches.

This specifically relates to a search warrant that the five sheriff's officers executed at the wrong address on June 27, 2017. According to the Des Moines Register, a judge granted the officers' request for a search warrant at a Douds home as part of an illegal drugs investigation. However, the officers went to the wrong house. Michael Owings came home and found that his front door had been kicked in and that the officers were confiscating and destroying his personal property -- even after he offered proof that they were at the wrong home:
Despite two address markers and a sign on the front door that said “The Owings,” Van Buren Deputy John Zane and four other unnamed officers attempted to kick in the door. The officers ultimately cut the locked chain securing the door and “began to conduct an intrusive search” of the wrong property, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit further alleges that the officers uncovered multiple items during the search that established them to be at the incorrect residence. “Rather than terminate the search and depart the premises, defendants consciously disregarded the information and continued searching,” the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, Owings told the officers that they were at the wrong house when he arrived, which garnered this response: "We own this property."

Keep in mind that Van Buren County is pretty tiny. About 7,570 people live there. And Douds is even tinier, with a population of merely 165 people. It amazes me that the Sheriff's Department would make this type of mistake. Not only that, but house that they were supposed to search is a two-story home and Owings' home is a mobile home.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Actor KJ Apa Injured in Late-Night Drive from "Riverdale" Set Following 16-Hour Work Day

Today's "Riverdale" news is that KJ Apa -- the actor who portrays Archie Andrews on everyone's favorite CW series -- fell asleep at the wheel of his vehicle and crashed into a light pole just after midnight last night. He was taken to the hospital for observation and eventually discharged without serious injury. But his car was totaled.

Apa was traveling back to his hotel following a 16-hour work day and was pretty much exhausted. Which is indicative of a common complaint from the "Riverdale" set:
The show routinely requires shoots that last until the early morning hours, and the cast and crew are not provided transportation to and from the set. Cole Sprouse, who co-stars as Archie's pal Jughead and is one of Apa's close friends, had apparently planned to be in the car as well that night but changed plans at the last minute. Sprouse, a leader of sorts of the actors on the show, has asked that the Greg Berlanti-produced series provide transportation to castmembers working late hours
SAG-AFTRA announced earlier today that the union will be investigating the program's Vancouver set:
This is an extremely troubling situation and we are deeply concerned about the safety of performers on the Riverdale set... We are sending a team to Vancouver to review the circumstances surrounding safety issues affecting performers on this production.
Warner Bros. TV issued a response:
First and foremost, we are extremely grateful that KJ Apa was uninjured during his recent accident. Secondarily, we want to specifically address the characterization that conditions on the set of Riverdale are of concern... We have a large cast of series regulars, and our actors do not work every day. On the day of the accident, KJ worked 14.2 hours. The previous day he worked 2.5 hours, and the day before that he worked 7.7 hours. KJ has repeatedly been informed about making production aware if he is tired or feels unsafe, and if so, either a ride or hotel room will be provided for him. The accident occurred last Thursday. Additionally, it is untrue that KJ was taken to the hospital. He was treated by first responders on the scene and released by them. We also sent a doctor to his home later that same day for a follow-up to confirm his well-being.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

New "Sabrina" Television Series to Debut in 2018 on The CW!!

Pretty exciting news coming out of Archie Comics today. Archie Comics has announced a new "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" television series featuring Sabrina the Teenage Witch!:
SABRINA will draw from the critically acclaimed CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA comic book series from Archie Comics written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Robert Hack, detailing the compelling and shocking re-imagining of Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s occult origins. This dark coming-of-age story deals with horror, the occult, and witchcraft and will see Sabrina struggle to reconcile her dual nature of being half-witch and half-mortal while protecting her family and the world from the forces of evil.
"Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" will debut on The CW during the 2018-19 television season.

I'm very excited about this new television series -- though I still wish Archie Comics would green-light a "Sabrina The Teenage Witch" reunion series featuring Melissa Joan Hart and the other stars of the 1990s ABC sitcom! I truly believe that we could live in a world where both versions of Sabrina could coexist!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Iowa City: Ped Mall Shooter Plans to Use "Stand Your Ground" Defense

Iowa passed its own "stand your ground" law during the past legislative session. It states that law-abiding people do not have to retreat before using deadly force to defend themselves if they believe their life is in danger — even if they are wrong in perceiving the danger faced, as long as the belief is "reasonable." That law went into effect on July 1st.

Now the Ped Mall shooting suspect from late last month, 23-year-old Lamar Wilson, has indicated through his attorney that he will use Iowa's new "stand your ground" law as a defense in the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Kaleek Jones. He also plans to claim self-defense, defense of other, defense of property, and defense against a forcible felony.

His trial has been scheduled for 11/07/17. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and intimidation with a dangerous weapon.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Social Media Reactions to Reports of Student Suspended Over American Flag

(Originally written on 09/17/17): There is a story brewing in nearby Cedar Rapids. A Facebook message has gone viral that reads:
The owner of the blue truck in the picture got suspended today from Jefferson high school for flying an American flag and a police flag on his truck. Comment what you think about this.
It became a big enough deal and garnered enough local attention that the Cedar Rapids Community School District needed to issue a statement denying that anyone was suspended for flying an American flag and/or a Blue Lives Matter flag, while also remaining vague about the specifics because of federal FERPA laws:
ATTENTION: We are responding to a post circulating on social media regarding an incident which took place at Jefferson High School on Friday. The post suggests that a student was disciplined for flying an American and a Blue Lives Matter flag. 
This is INACCURATE and INCOMPLETE information being shared on social media. While CRCSD is bound by state and federal confidentiality laws regarding students, and which prevent us from providing context, we can say the following: 
1) The representation of the circumstances being described with Jefferson High School is INACCURATE and INCOMPLETE. 
2) No student has been suspended or disciplined for flying an American flag and/or a Blue Lives Matter flag. 
3) Students have, in fact, several times since August 23, been allowed to fly American flags and Blue Lives Matter flags as we respect the rights of students to fly both of these flags. 
4) So long as students’ behavior does not disrupt learning, conflict with the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s non-discrimination policy, or pose a threat to the safety of others, we respect our students’ rights to freedom of speech and expression. 
5) This incident is part of a much broader situation involving behaviors against school and district policy and which disrupt student learning.
It has been difficult to find accurate information about what happened. Most of it is gossipy "he-said-she-said" stuff. I've heard that the principal took the flag off of this student's truck and threw it in the trash. I've heard that another student took the flag off of this student's truck and threw it in the trash. I've heard that the suspended student marched down the school hallway waving it around spouting racist statements. I've even read one student's assertion that the principal had a one-on-one discussion with him and stated that the flag "a racist and white supremacist flag" (not sure which one he was referring to).

In other words, it's unclear what actually happened. One student (whose assertion has been heard all over the place) says that her classmate was suspended for flying two flags on his truck. The school district has denied that assertion, but cannot say anything more. And the suspended student hasn't said anything -- at least not anywhere where I've been tracking down information. Oh, and KCRG has reported on the story -- which is how I learned of it in the first place.

I will make this observation. If Jefferson High School really does hate the American flag, it has done a very bad job of separating itself from the flag. For example, the school was waving what I assume to be the American flag outside its building last September.

Granted, that was a year ago. That means nothing. The flag could have been taken down and desecrated since then. But then I began trolling the school's Twitter feed and discovered that the American flag is being hung in the school gym last month. And this month.

In other words, it's unlikely that the school is punishing students for displaying the American flag -- and least not unless the student was displaying the American flag in such as way that he was going out of his way to disrupt the school community.

That didn't stop a handful of students from protesting the student's suspension early this morning with flag-adorned vehicles:

I can't wait to watch KCRG News tonight at 5:30 PM. I'm curious if we'll learn anything more, or it just continues to be about people reacting to rumors and gossip.

Updated on 09/18/17: I finally got the opportunity to watch last night's KCRG segment about this story. We finally got to hear from the suspended student, who continues to assert that his suspension was because of his Blue Lives Matter flag, but also squashed some of the other rumors going around.

The student told KCRG that he was asked to take the flag off of his truck two weeks ago, but that he continued mounting it on his vehicle. He says that last week, "someone ripped it off the back of my truck and put it in a trash can." He says that the principal said that he would do something about it, but never did (or the suspended student just wasn't aware of what happened because of the very same FERPA laws that prevent them from directly addressing his own suspension to the media).

According to the student, several other students became frustrated -- presumably by the slow pace of the investigation. So they all brought flags to school as a form of protest. He denies that any of them shouted racial slurs in the school building. But he was suspended for one day following Friday's flag protest.

The suspended student plan on transferring to the Mount Vernon school district instead of returning to the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

RIVERDALE #6: Did Pop Tate Sell His Soul to the Devil to Save Pop's Chock'Lit Shoppe?

I was catching up on my pile of unread comic books earlier today, which brings me to RIVERDALE #6, which is a comic book adaptation of CW's "Riverdale," which of course is a television adaptation of the various characters published by Archie Comics. The story here is "Chock'Lit Shoppe of Horrors" and it features writing by Ross Maxwell & Will Ewing, art by Joe Eisma, colors by Andre Szymanowicz, and letters by John Workman.

RIVERDALE #6 features the story of Pop Tate and Pop's Chock-Lit Shoppe. Betty has approached Pop Tate for an interview with the school's newspaper, in honor of Riverdale's 75th anniversary.

We learn in RIVERDALE #6 that Pop's has been around longer than the town of Riverdale itself. It started out originally in the 1930s by his father as a pharmacy and soda shop. We learned that a variety of celebrities have stopped by Pop's over the decade -- including Bonnie & Clyde, the notorious gangsters.

Through Pop Tate, we learned a little more about the history of Sweetwater River. We learned that this area has a long history of mysterious disappearances and odd drownings -- as well as a possible river monster!

In fact, this researcher, who young Pop sent off on a possible lead for Riverale's very own fresh water cryptid ends up disappearing himself. Pop discovers the man's camera and comes across this image:

Despite the picture, Betty remains skeptical about whether or not Riverdale has its own river monster. To her, it looks like the water with shadow of a cloud formation on it.

We then learned that Pop's began struggling in the 1970s, the victim of a rival restaurant that actually served food. A mysterious traveler stopped by Pop's one night and talked the young entrepreneur into frying him up a couple of hamburgers. He was so appreciative that he gave Pop Tate some advise -- add hamburgers to the menu.

Creepily enough, Pop stated that he would do anything to put the other restaurant out of business. Which met the traveler's approval. And sure enough, the rival restaurant burned to the ground within one week and never reopened. But the implication is that Pop Tate sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for Pop's renewed success.

Which got me wondering... How old is Pop Tate? He really doesn't look that old and yet his father was old enough to start up a business in the early 1930's. Maybe he had Pop late in life, but Pop was at least in his twenties back in the early 1970s. This nagged at me long enough to check out the IMDb page for Alvin Sanders, the actor who plays Pop Tate on "Riverdale." Turns out that he was born in 1952, so he's certainly old enough to have lived through this time frame. But he'd be in his late 60s by now. Which leaves me hoping that there's a third (or fourth?) generation version of Pop Tate running around to take over Pop's in the near future.

Because young Pop Tate really needs the opportunity to retire someday soon!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Remembering Judge Joe Brown's Homophobic Attack Against a Defendant

Occasionally when I'm bored, I watch reruns of small claims court programs on YouTube. I was annoyed yesterday while watching this clip from three years ago of "Judge Joe Brown." A woman was suing her friend for $190 for money that she says that she loaned him to hire a locksmith to get his keys out of a locked car. His defense? He never asked for the money and that she could afford to pay for it.

Pretty open and shut as cases go. But then Judge Brown went there during the cross-examination when he began accusing the defendant of being gay:
Judge Joe Brown: Young man. I'm a seasoned and proven mature man. It would do you a lot of good in your journey through life to pay careful attention. Don't roll your eyes like a woman. You're a man. Stand up straight! I hope you're a man. Stand up straight! i don't know. A lot of folks are down low these days. 

Defendant: C'mon, cuz! You got me ***'ed up. How you gonna come at me like that, judge? That's disrespectful. You're not acting like a man coming at me like that. 

Judge Joe Brown. Oh, but I am. 

Defendant: Oh, but you're not, folks! Unreal, man...
Meanwhile, the plaintiff and the audience are laughing and tittering at this interaction.

Instead of continuing with the case, Judge Brown continued along this line of discussion and increasingly upsetting and provoking the defendant:
Judge Joe Brown: What I have been most disturbed about... 

Defendant: So by calling a man "on the down low" is making a man out of him, right?

Judge Joe Brown: Be quiet!... What I used to see is when there was a man standing at the podium, what he was doing was behaving in a certain way and I saw the young ladies and they would act in a certain way. And what's interesting is over the last 12 years I've been doing this particular arbitration thing I'm doing right now and considering... the 20 years that I have done this before I have noticed an interesting transition. The boys are starting to act like the girls used to in terms of the body language -- rolling eyes... hand on hip... 

*Audience Cheering*

Judge Joe Brown: Women since time immemorial have talked over somebody who's trying to address them and you're talking over me just like you're a woman. So when you start acting like on, sounding like one, moving like one, then I'm going to put it out there...
And it went downhill from there. The defendant rose to the bait and began talking back to Judge Brown and Judge Brown ended up detaining him and sending him to jail for disrupting the arbitration process.

Judge Brown continues to accuse the defendant of being a girl and "down low" while he's being led out of the courtroom.

I've always been curious if the people that Judge Brown escorts out of the courtroom are actually arrested or not. You would hope not, but Judge Brown often seems weak to me in these moments. He defames and provokes others in these moments and then punishes when his defendants push back.

Regardless, this whole exchange comes off as homophobic and sexist and it irritates me that everyone laughs it off like it's nothing. I'm not saying that I would stand up and make a scene while he's in the midst of his tirade, but I would hope that I would have the courage to get up and leave the program as soon as the case ended before any other cases began.

You can watch the entire clip here.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Aaron Carter Learns He's HIV-Negative on "The Doctors"

Singer Aaron Carter came out as bisexual a few weeks ago. I didn't write about it at the time, but made a mental note about his self-outing. Then I started hearing stories of him breaking down during performances and other concerning situations.

Now this evening, I found out that Carter appeared on a new episode of "The Doctors," where he sought an HIV test following a period of risky sexual behavior and concerning weight loss. And why wouldn't you want to find out your HIV status on a national television program during a time of emotional crisis?

Fortunately, Carter found out that he's HIV-negative. He also tested negative for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. He also tested negative for cocaine and meth.

However, he tested positive for pot and Oxycodone and Xanax and several other prescription meds. He regularly uses filler medications, such as Restylane, Voluma, and Rejuviderm. He's also malnourished and has a body mass index of 17.

Iowa City Man, Whose Cat Was Allegedly Tortured by Roommate, Now Charged with 18 Counts of Sexual Abuse // Updated Charges Below

(Originally written on 12/19/14): A local man was arrested two months ago and charged with torturing his roommate's 8-week-old kitten for at least three hours non-stop. This abuse was reportedly recorded by a video camera on the roommate's laptop.

Here is where everything gets complicated. Its seems that the Iowa City Police Department found additional videos on Nathan Schloss' laptop. Those videos led to his arrest earlier today. According to the Gazette and the Iowa City Police Department, Nathan Schloss faces 18 counts of third-degree sexual abuse for allegedly committing sexual acts with "an 'incapacitated' woman and recording those acts without her knowledge:"
Police said that while all 18 charges involve one victim, there are multiple victims involved and more charges are to come. Police have not given a definitive number of victims.
“We have identified and spoken to several of the victims involved in this manner and continue to identify others,” (Sgt. Scott) Gaarde said...

According to criminal complaints, the earliest incident occurred on May 13, 2012 and continued until September 8, 2013. The criminal complaints are sparse in details, but share in common traits. 

Police said that in each case, the victim was “incapacitated” and had no idea she was being recorded. 

Schloss is depicted in the videos touching and, in multiple cases, penetrating his victim or rubbing himself on her, according to the criminal complaints.

It appears that in at least one case, police had to inform the alleged victim that she was sexually assaulted.

“The victim has never seen this video and was unaware this ever happened,” one complaint reads.
Gaarde said he could not comment on how the women were incapacitated or what would account for their lack of memory of the events...

In one case, police said video shows the alleged victim waking up in the middle of the abuse and repeatedly telling Schloss to get off her.
According to the Gazette, Schloss told the police that the woman in the video was aware of both the sexual activity and that she was being recorded.

Schloss faces up to ten years in prison for each of those 18 counts of third-degree sexual abuse.

It goes without saying that he has been accused and not convicted of these charges.

Updated on 12/30/14: The Press-Citizen reports that Schloss has now been charged with 22 counts of invasion of privacy:
According to criminal complaints, Schloss video recorded or photographed himself with visibly incapacitated women against their consent. The videos and photos depicted Schloss having sexual intercourse with one victim, touching multiple victims' genitalia and using victims' hands to touch his own genitalia, according to criminal complaints.

Schloss had multiple victims, police have said, and it is possible that not all of the victims have been identified. Police also said some of the victims were unaware the abuse had taken place. According to criminal complaints, the abuse took place between May 13, 2012, and Sept. 8, 2013, at three Iowa City addresses...

According to the State of Iowa legal code, a person charged with invasion of privacy the charges Schloss faces is "a person who knowingly views, photographs, or films another person, for the purpose of arousing and gratifying the sexual desire of any person." According to the code, the victim must have no knowledge of the event, must not consent or be able to consent and must be in a state of full or partial nudity.
Schloss was released from jail yesterday after posting bond. The PC reports that he must remain within the state of Iowa and is not allowed contact with any of his alleged victims.

Updated on 07/13/17: It's been a really long time since I last wrote about this case. It's being reported in local media that Nathan Schloss will finally be entering a new plea next week. A plea hearing has been scheduled for Monday, July 17th. His trial was supposed to begin on August 8th.

Updated on 07/17/17: Nathan Schloss successfully entered a plea deal earlier today. He pleaded guilty to five counts of invasion of privacy and one count of assault causing serious injury. Under the plea agreement, Schloss will be sentenced to up to five years for the assault charge and up to one year for each of the individual invasion of privacy charges. The sentences will run consecutively for a period of up to ten years. Schloss will also be required to register as a sex offender for 10 years and will be placed on probation for 10 years following his prison sentence.

Updated on 09/14/17: What a crazy story. Back in late 2014, Nathan Schloss contacted the Iowa City Police and shared video images of his roommate severely and torturing his kitten. Two months later, Iowa City Police arrested Schloss himself after discovering numerous videos of him committing sexual acts on women who were incapacitated and unable to offer consent. Three years later, Schloss pleaded guilty to five counts of invasion of privacy and one count of assault causing serious injury.

Earlier today, Nathan Schloss was sentenced to ten years in prison. According to KCJJ, his attorney had attempted to secure a suspended sentence. But Judge Chad Kepros sentenced Schloss to the maximum sentence.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Benham Brothers: Gay Marriage and Trans-Inclusive Bathrooms Are the Storm Surge that's Destroying America

Remember the Benham Brothers? They are the twin brothers who were in the process of creating a new reality TV show for HGTV back in 2014 called "Flip It Forward." Then the producers began realizing that David and Jason Benham and their father Flip Benham are a family of rabidly anti-gay, anti-abortion, and anti-Muslim activists. So the show got canceled before it began.

Among the things that this family has done over the years: They blamed the 911 attacks on abortion. They have picketed local Islamic centers and mosques. They disrupted a Unitarian church service and showed graphic abortion pictures to the church's nursery. They loudly and persistently disrupted a gay wedding. Actually, they've done a lot of stupid stuff.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that they blamed the damage and deaths caused by Hurricane Irma on gay marriage, homosexuality, and trans people:
In our Bible reading from yesterday on the schedule that we were on.... Psalm 104 was our reading. And listen to what verse 4 says. It says, "God, he makes the winds his messengers." So God is speaking through the wind and now we have just yesterday Hurricane Irma touching land in Florida and God is speaking, saying "I'm making the winds my messengers." And throughout the rest of that, the next few verses in Psalm 104, it talks about the waters of the flood and how God then pulled back the waters from the flood and he set waters in their boundaries and he made the land boundaries for the water. And now what we see with Hurricane Irma and any other hurricane, the most dangerous thing is not the wind. The most dangerous thing is the storm surge. And what a storm surge is is when the waters breach their boundaries. And when they breach their boundaries, we get a chance to see what types of havoc they can create.

And we see that morally and spiritually in America today. The boundaries that God has put out for us morally are for our flourishing and for his best in our lives. And when we say that gender, there is no boundary. When we say that sexuality, there is no boundary. When we say that marriage can be whatever you want it to be, we are breaching the boundaries of God. And we as a country on the anniversary of 911 -- 16 years after that horrific terrorist took place in our country -- God is speaking: "Repent! Yes, you've rebuilt, but it's time to repent because the damage is when the boundaries are removed and the storm surge of moral corruption comes in. That is what's devastating our nation.
That's right. My marriage and others like it is the moral storm surge that's destroying our nation. And don't get me started on trans people using public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

I have no doubt that the Benham Brothers truly believe that society will drastically improve when every homo breaks up his family and every lesbian marries a man. But getting rid of the gays and the trans people won't improve the culture and it certainly won't stop the storms. Once the LGBT communities are erradicated, people like the Benham Brothers will identify others whose morally inferior lives are blocking God from blessing this nation into becoming the paradise that these guys desire.

You can watch the entire video here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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 // Updated on 06/16/17: Court Reinstates Diana Broderson as Mayor

(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.

Updated on 06/16/17: Oh my! Diana Broderson has been reappointed as Mayor of Muscatine, IA, while her impeachment appeal moves on.

Last month, Broderson filed an appeal in court, arguing that the impeachment process was improper and that it was a conflict of interest for Muscatine's City Council to preside over her impeachment, given that they were her accusers. And, it appeared from news report of the initial court hearing that Judge Mark Smith agreed with her attorney:
"I counted 17 allegations in the decision where Mayor Broderson was accused directly affecting the city council, can you tell me why that isn`t a conflict of interest," said Judge Mark Smith. Judge Smith didn't hand down a decision in court and didn't say when he will. He did leave the door open that the former mayor may return to office, "The likelihood of success is pretty good on this case in terms of the plaintiff, in terms of being successful."
Judge Smith issued an order this morning that reinstated Broderson as mayor, pending final hearing on this case:
The judge said there were "inherent conflicts of interest" throughout the council's removal of the mayor, and to ensure a fair trial, "no man is permitted to try cases where he has an interest in the outcome."
Of course, that means that Mayor Pro Temp Bob Bynum is no longer Muscatine's mayor.

It's been reported that the City of Muscatine has spent more than $107,500 in their effort to remove Mayor Broderson from office. Ironically, one of their complaints about her was bad decisions that cost the taxpayers a lot of money.

Updated on 06/26/17: The political drama continues to unfold down in Muscatine, IA. Earlier this month, Judge Mark Smith returned Mayor Diana Broderson to office, pending a July 17th hearing. But don't assume that the City of Muscatine is sitting back and letting her run over them. And why would you?

Muscatine's city manager, Amy Reasner, filed a motion last week asking Judge Smith to reconsider his order. She argued that the City Council has the full authority to accuse, try, and sentence its mayors when it comes to impeachment. In fact, she actually challenged the court and questioned its own ability to interrupt the execution of their impeachment conviction.

Meanwhile, Mayor Broderson has resumed her "Holding the Coffee with the Mayor" chats last weekend -- much to the chagrin of the City Council! Roughly 50 people showed up to cheer her on and to share local concerns. During the event, Mayor Broderson indicated that she plans to run for re-election.

Updated on 07/02/17: There was a court hearing late last week, where the City Council tried to get Judge Mark Smith to change his mind and uphold their impeachment decision. Judge Smith reviewed the cases and then sent everyone home, with Mayor Diana Broderson still the mayor of Muscatine.

It's not looking good for the Muscatine City Council:
In the judge's ruling, Smith wrote there is a probability the council's impeachment proceedings will be found to be unconstitutional and in violation of the 14th Amendment. 
It's ironic that the City Council and City Manager argued that Mayor Broderson wasted the city's money. Meanwhile, they've seemingly pissed away $107,500 (and probably more by this point) over the past six months in their effort to kick her out of office!

A final hearing is schedule with Judge Smith on July 17th.

Updated on 08/15/17: The court hearing to determine the legality of Mayor Diana Broderson's impeachment continues to drag on. We learned this week that Judge Mark Cleve (Jon's Note: I thought it was Judge Mark Smith??) has ruled that transcripts from several closed session meetings held by the Muscatine City Council will be used as evidence in court. The city had been fighting to keep these transcripts inadmissible as evidence:
In the ruling, Cleve decided the recordings of the closed meetings are necessary in determining whether the council violated Broderson's right to due process when removing her from office. Broderson argued the council violated her 14th Amendment right by acting as investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury... 
The judge said the city also waived attorney-client privilege by allowing third parties to be present during the meetings, as the mayor was allowed to attend the initial meetings and Mandsager also was present, despite threatening litigation against Broderson. 

The transcripts, Cleve said, could also show if the council had "personal animus or bias" toward Broderson, which would result in a due process violation.
The transcripts are to be submitted to the court by Friday. The judge will then issue his final ruling.

Updated on 08/16/17: We learned earlier this evening that City Administrator Gregg Mandsager is fighting the court order that would make public five recent closed session Muscatine City Council transcripts, arguing that his personal performance information as a public employee would be revealed if the transcripts were released.

Updated on 09/12/17: Yesterday, the Iowa Supreme Court granted a stay on last month's district court ruling that ordered the public release of five recent closed session Muscatine City Council transcripts. Now we will have to wait for the Iowa Supreme Court to make a final decision on this matter. In the meantime, Diana Broderson will continue to serve as mayor of Muscatine until the court case is decided or until her term ends in November. Which means that this entire year of political turmoil has most likely been a huge waste of time and public resources.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Who Is the Blue Beetle?? ("Electric Company" Version)

Something triggered a childhood memory today of the Blue Beetle. Not the Blue Beetle from Charlton Comics or DC Comics, but Blue Beetle from the old "Electric Company" children's TV show. 

I've never figured out how Blue Beetle ended up on "The Electric Company." Spider-Man also appeared regularly on the program as a special gift from Marvel Comics. I'm assuming that something similar happened with Charlton Comics, but I've read one report that this Blue Beetle was created solely by the show's writers and that the comic book company was going through bankruptcy hearings at the time.

This Blue Beetle bears little resemblance to any other version that I've ever seen (here and here). He was an affable yet bumbling hero that never got things quite right. He was known for a song that went: "I would if I could, but I can't, so I won't."

I've looked around YouTube but have only been able to find one video featuring the Blue Beetle (as portrayed by Jim Boyd). It co-stars Spidey, which is probably why the clip still exists. You can watch it here.

Every so often, I think of an idea for an updated version of various public domain Charlton Comics characters. Blue Beetle clearly does not fall under the category of public domain. DC Comics owns the rights to the character and actively publish his adventures.

But I think it would be fun to recreate this version of the Blue Beetle -- using the same or similar appearance, but with a slightly different name. I imagine these stories as one-page gags, ostensibly geared towards a younger audience and with a retro fill. 

CBS to Produce "Celebrity Big Brother" in 2018

I learned some exciting news on Thursday. CBS announced that it will be producing a new "Celebrity Big Brother" series in 2018. It's unclear to me if the show will be on CBS or if it will be on the CBS All Access streaming series. I'm hoping that it's the former because I'm not up for investing in another streaming service.

I love the idea of "Celebrity Big Brother." It's been airing in the UK since 2001. A group of celebrities are isolated in the world for a period of time, systematically evicting the celebrity houseguests one by one. "Celebrity Big Brother" has an abbreviated schedule, lasting 2-4 weeks instead of the 90 day "Big Brother" schedule.

At this point, we don't have any details about the celebrities that will appear on the show. The UK version of the program featured everything from actors to talk show hosts to reality TV stars to athletes. American celebrities that have appeared on the UK version have included Pamela Anderson, Ivana Trump, Perez Hilton, Austin Armacost, Frankie Grande, and Spencer & Heidi Pratt.

Which celebrities do you want to see on "Celebrity Big Brother?"

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Ozark, MO: Man Threatens Woman with Gun Over Liberal Bumper Stickers

A Missouri man was arrested late last month and charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon after he threatened another driver with a gun because of her liberal bumper stickers:
Edward Burns of Ozark, Mo., was charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon in the late August incident. The woman involved, Laura Umphenour, crashed into a guardrail at highway speeds as a result of the threatening show... An incident report issued by the Ozark Police Department sheds light on what happened: 
Burns pulled up alongside Umphenour’s vehicle and flashed an “L” sign with his hand. Umphenour flipped him off. Burns then removed a handgun from his waist area and pointed it at her, Umphenour told police. “Laura said she was scared and jerked the steering wheel, which caused her to lose control of the vehicle,” the report states. She then struck Burns’ vehicle before crashing into a guardrail. 
Burns first denied pointing a gun at the woman to police but later admitted he had done so. “I made a bad choice,” he told police. He added he thought the woman’s bumper stickers were “stupid.” The statement said, “Edward is a conservative and the decals were liberal in nature.” A gun was later recovered from a briefcase in Burns’ vehicle.
According to Umphenour's attorney, Burns has a .380 pistol. She is working with her attorney to get him to reimburse her for damages caused to her vehicle, as well as compensation for physical and emotional trauma from the encounter.

Burns was released from jail after posting a $5,000 bond.

This is why I don't put bumper stickers on my vehicle, not to mention political signs in my yard.

Creston, IA: High Schoolers In Trouble for Posing as KKK Members

(Originally written on 09/06/17): Iowa is in the national news again today -- and not for a good reason. A quintet of high school students from Creston, IA, are in hot water after a pic of them wearing KKK gear, holding a Confederate flag, and burning a cross began circulating online.

Creston High School launched an investigation into the picture earlier today and identified each of the boys. Officially, the school has declined to indicate the punishment that the boys are facing because they are minors. But I've heard that they have all been suspended from playing football for a couple of games. There may be more punishment, but that's what I've heard so far.

This was an interesting news article featuring one Creston High sophomore, who happens to be one of the roughly 6% minority students who attends the school. His father was shocked at the picture, given that some of the teens in this picture had spent time in his home in the past. He noted that they are "good kids" and was hoping to move forward. His son Derek wasn't ready to move on, though: "I've lost all respect for them."

Updated on 09/09/17: Since originally writing this post, it's been confirmed that these five students are indeed football players with Creston High School. An interview with the coach indicated that they are off of the team and not just suspended. I also just read an article that a lawsuit has been threatened to bring the players back onto the team.

On a brighter note, one of the families submitted a public apology to their local newspaper and stated that they fully supported the school's decision to remove their son from the football team over this matter.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Girl Flips-Off "Infowars" Reporter

There is this great video going viral today. Some guy from Infowars approached a teenage girl, shoved a microphone in her face, and asked: "How are you, young man?"

Her response was golden:
"Um, you're a f*cking idiot." 
"Wow, who taught you that language?" 
"My mother." 
"So, your mother taught you that foul language?" 
*Nod* "In the car." 
"Oh wow, oh my gosh."
The girl then flipped off the camera and walked off confidently.

I love how media sources such as Infowars go out of their way to antagonize others and then pretend to be shocked when they get a little push-back.

You can watch the video here.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

35 Years Ago, Johnny Gosch Vanished Without a Trace

It's been 35 years since 12-year-old Johnny Gosch disappeared while delivering newspapers in West Des Moines, IA. The police initially treated his disappearance as a runaway case, but it's pretty clear that he was abducted off of the streets.

Johnny Gosch was a few years older than me when he vanished back in 1982. Like many other children in the Midwest state, fears surrounding his abduction never quite subsided.

His parents have continued to search for clues related to his disappearance over the past 35 years. Husband Mark and I watched a documentary about the Gosch case -- titled "Who Took Johnny" -- two years ago. In that movie, Noreen Gosch shared her belief that Johnny and several other boys and girls throughout the Midwest are victims of a powerful ring of pedophiles.

Noreen has also claimed that she briefly reunited with Johnny back in 1997. She says that he threatened to leave if she contacted anyone else, so she chose to listen to his account of what happened. Essentially, he was kidnapped, raped, and groomed for future involvement with the above-referenced ring.

Monday, September 4, 2017

My Thoughts on "Disjointed," the Sitcom about Marijuana

Discovered a recently released sitcom on Netflix starring Kathy Bates called "Disjointed." It's about a sixtysomething cannabis activist who now runs a marijuana dispensary with her son and several other twentysomething "budtenders."

At times, "Disjointed" is a really bad sitcom. It abuses the laugh track button. And the character dynamics are pretty predictable. Stoner mom versus business-oriented son... Stoner mom versus straight-laced neighbor... Drop-out Asian med student who's afraid of disappointing her strict parents... There's even a will-they-or-won't-they romance between Ruth's son and one of the employees. And there in a ton of stoner humor in this series.

But then there are these insightful moments in most of the episodes that say something really cool about pot legalization, or pot culture, or the pot industry, or the power of trauma, or even the power of addiction. And I find that I can't stop watching.

One of the cooler subplots has featured Carter (played by Tone Bell), the security guard at Ruth's Alternative Caring. He was a soldier in Iraq who is still plagued by his wartime memories -- not to mention childhood abuse that was inflicted upon him. We periodically slip into his mind's eye, which is a cartoonish kaleidoscope of traumatic memories. Carter begins exploring the myriad marijuana products around to help him open up to the pain -- before realizing that his PTSD is bigger than either he or the pot can fix.

And there are some really great supporting characters. There's Chris Redd and Betsy Sodaro as permanently blitzed vloggers Dank & Dabby. There's Michael Trucco at Tae Kwon Doug, owner of the TKD dogo next door and perpetual thorn in Ruth's backside. Or is that the other way around. And then there is Nicole Sullivan as unhappy housewife Maria. I've loved Sullivan since her days on "Mad TV." She's

One of the things that annoyed me about the shop has to do with the amount of weed that Ruth and the others ingest while working. Effective bar owners quickly realize that you don't drink when you're working. The same surely must be true for a marijuana dispensary also.

One last thing for my current and future employers: I don't smoke pot.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Dear Whitney: How Can a Bigger Guy Find the Confidence to Date Easier?

I was on YouTube late last night and discovered a series of "Dear Whitney" videos featuring Whitney Thore of "My Big Fat Fabulous Life." The concept was pretty simple. Fans send her brief questions. She offers brief responses.

Here is one that grabbed my attention:
Calvin M: How can a bigger guy have more confidence or date easier? 
Whitney's Response: I would give the same advice to a man as I would give to women. I think that... Remember that dating is hard for everybody. Everybody gets rejected no matter what you look like. And if you don't take a risk, then you're definitely never going to get that date. So I would just try to be brave, put yourself out there, and remember if you get rejected that it's probably not personal.
I actually agree with her advise quite a lot.

I also want Calvin to know that there are women out there -- and guys -- who really like bigger guys. If he can't find those people in person, look online. A little confidence and the right venue and Calvin should be able to find the woman (or man) of his dreams.