Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for May 2012

Scott Walker and Rs outspend Barrett and Ds 2-to-1 in WI Recall

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Well, it’s official.  Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker and various Republican Super-PACs have outspent Democratic challenger Tom Barrett and various Democratic organizations by a 2-to-1 margin according to WisPolitics.com over the past week (ending date May 16, 2012).  But considering WisPolitics.com is a pay site, and the article I am using to reference it is through the Huffington Post, I’d rather link to the latter.

The figures for the week of May 9 to May 16, 2012, officially, are these:

  1. Scott Walker and various Republican groups/SuperPACs — $216,980
  2. Tom Barrett and various Democratic groups/SuperPACs —   $87,980

As you can see, Walker and his allies are outspending Barrett, et. al., by over a 2-to-1 margin.  Which if you lived in Wisconsin, you’d know quite easily because for every ad either praising Tom Barrett or bashing Scott Walker, there’s at least six ads praising Scott Walker or (more commonly) bashing Tom Barrett.

While I haven’t seen any figures for the local state Senate race in District 21 between current Republican Senator Van Wanggaard of Racine versus former Senator John Lehman, also of Racine, the ad buys are strikingly similar.  For every six to ten pro-Wanggaard or anti-Lehman ads out there, there might be one pro-Lehman ad or one anti-Wanggaard ad (so far it’s been one or the other, not both, which shows a lack of balance with regards to ads).   The only difference between the ads thus far is that most of the anti-Lehman/pro-Wanggaard ads have aired on the radio, while the anti-Barrett/pro-Walker ads have aired on TV.

I hate negative advertising, and I hate even more that so many ads have flooded the airwaves.  Yet I condemn the Rs — all of them, including the misnamed “Wisconsin Club for Growth” (actually a Koch Brothers front group), Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, etc. — for running ads that distort both Tom Barrett and John Lehman’s records.  These ads are terribly biased, and unless you’re aware of what these men actually did, you might think they’re the political equivalent of axe murderers.  (Which they aren’t.)

For example, one anti-Lehman ad talks about how Lehman voted for “the biggest expansion in healthcare, worse than Obamacare, in Wisconsin history.”  Do you know what the vote Lehman actually took was for?  It’s for Badgercare, a state-run health plan that helps give low-income people health insurance for low or no cost.  Badgercare actually saves the state money because it allows people to go in immediately when they get sick rather than going in only after things have drastically worsened to be admitted to the hospital via the emergency room.

So why is it that the Rs don’t just say Badgercare instead?  Because they know that the vast majority of state voters, including most Republicans, approve of Badgercare because they know it actually saves the state money in the long run.

The anti-Wanggaard and anti-Walker ads are much more factually-based.  They talk about what Wanggaard has actually done since he became a Senator — in other words, they talk about his checkable record, and don’t distort it out of recognition.  And they talk about what Walker has actually done with regards to education cuts and the results of said cuts — most of the ads have been about education — or about Walker’s large amount of out-of-state travel due to fundraising, which also are truthful, checkable facts.

So it’s clear that the Ds and their allies are for the most part taking the high road.  The Rs aren’t; instead, the Rs are taking the muddiest, dirtiest road they possibly can in order to confuse and befuddle as many voters as they possibly can.

Overall, if I were a voter who hadn’t paid any attention in the past year (not that Wisconsin has many of these), I’d be wary of the Republican ads due to how awful they are, while I’d be more kind to the Democratic ads because at least there, a voter can go online to check the veracity of the facts.  But as most voters have paid attention, I can only hope that they, too, realize the difference in the ads and don’t get fooled.  (Again.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 19, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Just Reviewed “The Countess” at SBR

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Folks, if you enjoy romance mixed with screwball comedy, you will enjoy Lynsay Sands’ THE COUNTESS.  While not high art, the story of Christiana, Countess of Fairgrove, and her love story with Earl Richard will amuse you.  Richard, you see, had been “disposed of” by his brother George, who took Richard’s place and called himself “Dicky.”  George then married Christiana, who knew nothing about the real Richard; the world knows one of the Fairgrove twins died, but for whatever reason, George assumed Richard’s identity rather than rule in his own right.  (Yes, I know the reason, but if I told you that, some of the comedic effect would be spoiled.  Just go with it.)

Anyway, George dies suddenly, but Christiana covers this up because her sisters need to be “brought out” into society quickly before word gets around about her father’s gambling debts.  (Besides, she never liked him anyway.)  But to her complete surprise, “Dicky” shows up at a ball she and her sisters are at — he’s not dead, and in fact, he’s not Dicky, either.  He’s the real Richard, and he’s wondering the same thing any of us would in a similar situation — what the Hell is going on here?

This is a screwball comedy that often descends into farce, and it’s not the art-house type of screwball comedy, either; instead, it’s the “pie in the face, don’t look now, the train’s coming!” sort.  But it’s quite good for what it is, and I enjoyed it very much despite the plot’s oddities.  (Maybe because of them, as I can’t resist a novel that makes me laugh over and over again.  I really can’t.)

Anyway, go take a look at my review over at SBR, will you?  Then, if you’re in the mood to laugh (hard and often), go pick up THE COUNTESS.

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/lynsay-sands-the-countess-funny-irreverent-historical-romance/

Enjoy!

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 19, 2012 at 10:39 pm

May 2012 Milwaukee Brewers: Not Hitting on All Cylinders

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As I write this, the Milwaukee Brewers are losing, 5-4, in the bottom of the 11th inning against the Minnesota Twins; so far, they’ve lost three in a row and are at the bottom of the National League Central Division standings.  But even if they win this game, the Brewers obviously aren’t firing on all thrusters just yet (or hitting on all cylinders, either; take your pick of clichés).  They aren’t hitting well, fielding well, pitching all that well, and their baserunning is suspect.

Now, as former Brewers first base coach Davey Nelson said last night on Brewers Extra Innings on WTMJ-AM 620 radio last evening (he was host Dan O’Donnell’s guest), it’s difficult to win games when you can’t hit, pitch, or field.  (Nelson put it a bit more diplomatically, but this is the substance of what he said.)  A caller added that the Brewers couldn’t run the bases overly well, either, as even big stars like Ryan Braun and Corey Hart have made odd baserunning errors in recent days; Nelson then added poor baserunning to his assessment.

All I could do when I heard this was laugh.   

As for today’s game, it’s now over.  With two outs in the bottom of the 11th, the Brewers had the light-hitting Cesar Izturis up, and all he could do was send a line-out to the shortstop.  Brewers lose, 5-4, due to a home run hit by the light-hitting Twins SS Trevor Plouffe (he had been hitting .143 before he hit the game-winning HR in the top of the 11th).

At any rate, today’s game featured some clutch hitting by Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, and some good table setting by Nyjer Morgan and Corey Hart.  But it also featured two errors (one odd one by RF Hart where he may have lost the ball in the sun; he should’ve caught the ball in foul territory, but it instead bounced off his glove), some questionable baserunning, and a dearth of clutch hitting as six Brewers were left on base.

The Brewers have now lost four in a row, twice to the lowly Twins, twice to the lowly Astros.  Their current record is 16-24; they are one game ahead of the Chicago Cubs due to the fact that the Cubs haven’t yet played their game against the White Sox so the Cubs’ record is currently 15-24.  Most likely, the Brewers will be in last place again tomorrow.  (The Twins’ record has improved to 14-26 due to their two wins over the Brewers.)

I don’t know what the Brewers can do at this point to improve as a team, except work on fundamentals such as bunting, baserunning, and fielding.  Rickie Weeks is hitting well below .200, while Aramis Ramirez is stuck in the low .200s; these two hitters were expected to do far better than they’ve done thus far.  (Even with Ramirez’s well-known penchant for slow season starts, he was still expected to have more than 21 RBI at this point.)  Even the guys who are hitting, like Braun, catcher Jonathan Lucroy (a surprising .333), Nori Aoki, and Corey Hart (hitting only .252, but with 8 HR and 18 RBI, which is fourth-best on the team), can’t make up for the guys who aren’t doing much of anything.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke says that the Brewers need to show more personality on the field,  basically blaming the whole clubhouse for being quiet and reserved.  I’m not certain how showing more personality would win games, considering the 1962 Mets had loads of personality, yet won only 40 games.  But that’s Roenicke’s story and he’s sticking to it.

The usual way to fire up a team is to fire the manager, but the Brewers gave Roenicke a two-year contract extension earlier this season so that’s highly unlikely to happen.  The second way would be to fire a coach — perhaps pitching coach Rick Kranitz, as the Brewers’ team ERA is 5.20 — horrible — and the Brewers are dead last in the majors in this particular statistic (which probably is the main reason they’re not winning too many games).  Individual pitchers, such as Zack Greinke or Shaun Marcum among the starters, or Kameron Loe and to an extent Manny Parra among the relievers, have been OK; it’s the fact that others who were expected to do well like Yovani Gallardo have done very poorly that has caused the team ERA to balloon up.

The Brewers need to get something going in some area.  Whether it’s clutch hitting, fielding, pitching (definitely pitching) or baserunning, the Brewers need to improve.  Until or unless it does, the Brewers will remain mired in the bottom of the NL Central.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Just Reviewed “Dead Reckoning” at SBR

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Folks, if you love steampunk, zombies, Westerns, fantasy, action-adventure, or just plain good writing, you will love Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill’s novel, DEAD RECKONING, which will be released on June 5, 2012. This is an excellent young adult adventure that I called a “zombie steampunk thrill-ride” for good reason — this book kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.

Here’s the link to my review:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/dead-reckoning-a-zombie-steampunk-western-thrill-ride/

Enjoy!

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 18, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Harlequin Mess: New Authors, Stay Out

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In the past few weeks, two well-known writing blogs (Passive Voice and A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, which is Joe Konrath’s blog) have taken a look at Harlequin’s onerous contractual language, and have come up with some startling conclusions.  Both blogs were based on a guest post written at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by Ann Voss Peterson, who used to write — prolifically — for Harlequin.  The reason she no longer does is because she can no longer afford to do so.  As she says here:

If you do a (very) little digging into publishing companies, you’ll discover that while the industry standard royalty rate for mass market paperback sales is 8% for US retail, Harlequin pays its series authors only 6%.

The royalty goes down from there.

(Peterson goes on to point out that Harlequin pays lower than standard industry advances, too.)
 
Then she discloses what she’s made on her most popular book:
 

My life-to-date statement says this book has sold 179,057 copies so far, and it has earned $20,375.22. (bold text by Joe Konrath) That means the average I’ve earned is a whopping 11 cents per copy. If you use the cover price to calculate (the number used in the contract), which was $4.50 at the time of release, I’ve earned an AVERAGE of 2.4 % per copy.

Why is this?

First, while most of my books are sold in the US, many are sold under lower royalty rates in other countries. In this particular contract, some foreign rights and -ALL ebook royalties- are figured in a way that artificially reduces net by licensing the book to a “related licensee,” in other words, a company owned by Harlequin itself. (content bolded by Barb Caffrey)

As Konrath says at the end of this blog, this is absolutely disgraceful.  But a comment made at both blogs by Donna Fasano points out something even worse than these horrible contracts; when someone has the guts to complain, he or she apparently gets blackballed.  From Fasano’s comment (cut and pasted from the Passive Voice):

While attending an RWA conference, a friend of mine stood up and asked a panel of HQ editors and other ‘suits’ how they expected their authors to live on the paltry wages they paid. Their blunt answer, “We don’t.” They said they warn authors not to quit their day jobs; they tell them not to expect to earn a living as a writer. They stress that this is a hobby, not a career. I was stunned and saddened. Consequently, after my friend spoke out, she never sold another manuscript to the company.

 

This experience raises the following question: what kind of publisher tells its writers not to expect to make a living at writing?

Obviously, after being made aware of this substantial problem with regards to Harlequin’s contract, my advice to other emerging writers is this: stay away from Harlequin unless they change their terrible contractual language (and for that matter, their horrible attitude regarding the rights of professional writers to make a living).  Remember that you can and will do better as a self-published author than at Harlequin or any of its subsidiaries.  And if you can’t bring yourself to test the self-publishing market yet, you’ll also do better at any other publisher because every one of them pays better royalty rates than Harlequin.

One caveat, though, for those who are going through any “Big Six” publishing house (these are the well-known, long-established publishing houses such as Random House, Penguin Putnam, etc.) — read the contractual language carefully before signing.  Get a lawyer to look it over if you can (if you have an agent, make sure they have a lawyer look it over as well), and know your rights with regards to any given contract.

Publishing is fraught with so many challenges as it is, which is why you must be careful and vigilant.  Know your rights.  Don’t get taken in by a big company with a long reach like Harlequin; instead, believe in yourself and your talent, because ultimately, that is the only way to win.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 17, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Just Reviewed “The Outsourced Self” at SBR

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Folks, you owe it to yourself to read THE OUTSOURCED SELF  by Arlie Russell Hochschild.  Hochschild, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, has an interesting and often trenchant take on the current trend of personal outsourcing — where we pay someone else to do something we used to do ourselves, like organizing a child’s birthday party, or finding a name for an infant, or finding someone to meet and marry (as in the case of e-Harmony.com).  This is an interesting book with many laugh out loud moments, but it’s the power of its argument that eventually won me over.

Know, though, that this isn’t a perfect book; Hochschild mostly deals with the American upper middle class, and in these tough economic times, that really seems nonsensical.  (When we do see low-income people, they are almost always foreigners, which seems really strange.)  We have plenty of poor people in the United States; why didn’t Hochschild interview a few?  Didn’t she think they would advance her argument, considering that this whole idea of “outsourcing yourself” seems prevalent now among all classes and cultures in the United States, for one reason and one reason alone — that is, “if you pay for it” (whatever it is), “it must have more value.”

While I disagree, and disagree strongly, with that idea, I’ve certainly seen other people who espouse it.  That’s why Hochschild’s book is both topical and relevant — and it’s why I believe every writer should read this book.

Here’s the link to tonight’s review:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/sociologist-hochschild-asks-how-much-should-you-outsource-yourself/

Enjoy!

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 12, 2012 at 10:54 pm

May Baseball: Brewers in Extras, Rottino Sent Back to AAA

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Currently, as of 11:56 PM on Friday, May 11, 2012, the Milwaukee Brewers are tied with the Chicago Cubs, 7-7.  They’re about to go to the thirteenth inning; all position players and all non-starting pitchers have been used, with the only two players available being starting pitchers Yovani Gallardo (who pitched two days ago) and Marco Estrada (who’s supposed to pitch Sunday), which leaves Brewers reserve pitcher Vinnie Chulk as the pitcher of record . . . this is a game, believe it or not, where the Brewers were ahead, 1-0, until the top of the seventh inning.

All of that sturm und drang, though, pales in comparison to the latest twist of the Vinny Rottino saga.  Rottino was called up by the New York Mets on May 4, 2012, played in three games, went 0 for 4 during that time, and now has been sent back to AAA Buffalo.  The main reason Rottino was sent down is that Mets IF Ronny Cedeno was reinstated from the 15-day DL.

Some of what Rottino is dealing with has to do with being the 26th guy on a 25 man roster; that is, he’s good enough to play in the majors, though probably not every day, and the Mets know this or they’d never have called him up.  They also have to know that Rottino is a guy who does better if he plays every day or every other day — that doesn’t mean he’ll never stick in the majors, but the timing has to be right for him. 

Rottino’s career, thus far, seems to be plagued by bad timing.  This, of course, is entirely out of Rottino’s control.  All Rottino can do is prepare himself, persist, and hit the cover off the ball at Buffalo.  If he does this, let’s hope the right opportunity will finally arise as Rottino truly deserves it.

By the way, the Brewers are now batting in the bottom of the 13th inning.  The game’s still tied, 7-7.  The Cubs are now out of relief pitchers and have used their very last player, catcher Geovany Soto, off the bench.  Rickie Weeks got hit on the left wrist and may have hurt himself badly; he can’t get the batting glove off his hand and is wincing in pain.  Ryan Braun is about to bat; let’s hope he can end this game so the Brewers can find out what’s wrong with Weeks already.

UPDATE:  Braun, too, was hit by a pitch (in the back); the Cubs final reliever, Lendy Castillo, was wild and didn’t get warned.  Aramis Ramirez lined a single into center, then came the hero of the day night — Corey Hart.  Hart had already hit a 2 R HR in the 9th to tie the game at 7, then hit a seeing-eye single that drove in the eighth and final run for the Brewers.  Brewers win, 8-7; Hart goes 4 for 7 with a HR, double, and two singles, and drove in 3.  Chulk gets the win (his first win since August 19, 2007 in the majors); he’s 1-0.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 12, 2012 at 12:11 am

Scott Walker Tape Surfaces: “Divide and Conquer” Strategy Clear from Day One

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Folks, it is official.  Scott Walker is a liar.

You see, when Walker was campaigning in 2010 for Governor of Wisconsin, he never told the public that he would eliminate collective bargaining for public employee unions.  Nor that he intended to use a “divide and conquer” strategy.  But due to a video that surfaced a day ago, that is indeed exactly what Walker intended all along.  In this recording, Walker used the words “divide and conquer” clearly to one of his biggest fund-raisers, Beloit (WI) billionaire Diane Hendricks; she, of course, approved of this. 

This recording was made in January of 2011, a few weeks before Walker “dropped the bomb” and announced that his “budget-repair” bill would have a provision in it to strip public employee union members of their collective bargaining rights.

And lest anyone complain that this somehow is a “gotcha” moment — well, Walker did this to himself, talking with a real, Republican backer.  Since he uttered those words, Ms. Hendricks has given over $500,000 to Walker’s campaign, so it’s obvious what Walker intended.

Please see this link from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for further details:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/barrett-walker-at-odds-over-divide-and-conquer-union-remark-oi5coda-151148935.html

While Walker now says he “doesn’t remember” what he said back in January of ’11, and now just wants to “move forward,” this is a typical politician “non-denial denial.”  None of us should believe it.

Democratic opponent Tom Barrett, the current Mayor of Milwaukee, astutely analyzes why Walker said such a thing.  In this quote from the above-cited Journal-Sentinel article:

Barrett said that he first heard about the video Thursday night while driving home from Wausau and was flabbergasted at his language.””If you want to know when Scott Walker is really telling the truth, it’s when he’s talking to billionaires and when he thinks he’s talking to billionaires,” Barrett said. “He says one thing to the public, but to people who give him $500,000 or to people he thinks are giving him $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, his message is completely different.”

All of this is important because Walker insists that he does not want to make Wisconsin a “right-to-work” state.  “Right-to-work” states make it harder for existing unions to operate, and almost impossible for new unions to arise, due to its onerous provisions against such practices.  Or as the recently surfaced video says (quoting from the above article):

In the conversation on the video, Hendricks was seen asking Walker about right-to-work legislation. “Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions – ”

“Oh, yeah,” Walker broke in.

“- and become a right-to-work?” Hendricks continued. “What can we do to help you?”

“Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill,” Walker said. “The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer. So for us, the base we get for that is the fact that we’ve got – budgetarily we can’t afford not to. If we have collective bargaining agreements in place, there’s no way not only the state but local governments can balance things out . . . That opens the door once we do that. That’s your bigger problem right there.”

So that just goes to show you, folks.  Walker’s intentions — that is, to break unionswere clear from the moment he took office.  Any denial to the contrary is just nonsense; worse than that, it shows Walker’s mendacity in full measure.

So don’t fall for the Walker “non-denial denials.”  Because they just don’t make sense.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 11, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Quick Writing/Editing Update

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Right now, I’m still ensconced with the nuts and bolts of a lengthy non-fiction manuscript that I’m editing for two other writers.  So very little fiction writing has been done in the past month or so.

That said, I did get about 1100 words into a new story, which is of all things a YA dystopia.  (No, I’m not trying to follow today’s market trends so much as just figure out where this story leads me.  Tomorrow’s market trends may be much different than today’s, and every writer worth her salt knows this.)  So that’s encouraging.

Otherwise, I sent two different stories (the second only after the first was rejected) to a well-known anthology.  Neither story was picked, but I’m pleased that I was able to format these stories properly for the market and get them out despite the otherwise heavy workload.

I also have two other stories out, plus a third at a place that’s part writing workshop, part market.  (This latter is for Universe Annex, and that particular story will likely need to be revised for this particular market if I’m to have any hope of selling it there, which is fine.)  And three poems are currently sitting at a different market altogether, so at least I’m getting my completed short fiction and some of my poetry off my computer and out to various markets. 

All of this is important, because you can’t possibly sell anything if you aren’t willing to take the risk.  I know this sounds basic, and it is.  But you still must take that risk.

Now, I need to get back to editing.  Just know that unless something really interesting happens between now and Saturday, it’s unlikely I’ll post much except to get a book review out the door at SBR due to the ongoing work that must be completed — and soon — lest I risk the wrath of my writers and their publisher.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 9, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Posted in Editing, Publishing, Writing

President Obama Comes Out In Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

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Folks, today was a historic day in United States politics.  It was the first time, ever, that a sitting U.S. President, Barack H. Obama, said that he is in favor of same-sex marriage.  (Before this, he’d only said that his beliefs were “evolving.”)

Here’s a link (which includes a link to the video interview with ABC News reporter Robin Roberts):

http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/president-obama-affirms-his-support-for-same-sex-marriage.html

Here’s a few words from the President as to why he’s changed his position:

“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told Roberts in an interview to appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday.

While I’m glad the President has come out in favor of same-sex marriage, the timing of this announcement seems a bit odd.  Earlier in the week, Vice President Joe Biden was castigated because he said he was in favor of same-sex marriage (here’s a link to an excellent article at the Christian Science Monitor if you don’t believe me), and actually had to backtrack.  Yet now, on Wednesday — a day after the President was embarrassed in West Virginia as a convicted felon who didn’t even live in the state garnered 41% of the vote in the Democratic primary — the President has admitted that, just as Biden said last week on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Obama indeed is in favor of marriage equality (marriage for all people regardless of sexual orientation, which obviously includes same-sex marriage).

Still, it’s great that Obama has come out in favor of marriage equality regardless of the timing.  It is historic, and it should give my friends in the GLBT community hope that, sooner rather than later, they will be able to marry the person of their choice.  That is the right message to be sending in the 21st Century, even if Obama’s Republican opponent, Willard “Mitt” Romney, strongly disagrees.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm