Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Quinnipiac Poll: Trump Sinks To 38% Approval / 55% Disapproval

President Trump
And the news gets just a bit worse for President Trump.

According to Tim Malloy, assistant director for Quinnipiac University Poll, “President Donald Trump’s popularity is sinking like a rock. He gets slammed on honesty, empathy, level headedness and the ability to unite. And two of his strong points, leadership and intelligence, are sinking to new lows.”

From the latest survey:

• Trump has a negative job approval rating - 38% approve, 55% disapprove

• 55% say Trump is not honest

• 55% say he doesn't have good leadership skills

• 53% say he doesn't care about everyday Americans

• 63% say he isn't level-headed

• 58% say he is dividing the country more than uniting it

• 58% believe Trump is intelligent, 38% do not

One month into his presidency, I can't imagine this is what he had in mind.

Exclusive: Kelly&Ellis "Who Am I To Judge?"

Stop, drop and scroll down to listen to this exclusive preview of "Who Am I To Judge?" from new acoustic duo, Kelly&Ellis.

The song, from Casey Kelly and Leslie Ellis' upcoming album The Long Road to You, is a like a musical love-child of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Brian Wilson. The hooky melody is a perfect dance partner for the independent-minded lyrics:

Religious right, or wrong?
Serious art, or porn?
And as for same-sex bride and groom
Is it anybody's business who does what with whom?

Who am I to judge?
Who am I to say what anybody does?
If it works for them, then I'm asking you my friend,
Who am I to judge?

A bit about how these two rambled and roamed down The Long Road to You:

After graduating from the prestigious Carnegie-Mellon University with a degree in acting and music, Leslie Ellis journeyed from Broadway (City of Angels, Cats, Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber) to Berkley to Nashville, picking up a Grammy Award along the way for her vocal contributions to Celine Dion mega-hit "My Heart Will Go On."

Casey Kelly's college years were spent opening arena concerts for major artists; a stint writing at the hit making factories at 1650 Broadway and the Brill Building; touring with Loggins & Messina, The Beach Boys and BB King; and writing hit songs (Grammy nominated #1 “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight” recorded by Kenny Rogers & Dottie West, George Strait staple "The Cowboy Rides Away," Tanya Tucker’s “Soon”).

Thematically, this unique collection of songs frames the duo's well-travelled talents as the diverse ingredients they are. Americana, Celtic, R&B, Broadway, pop and country meld effortlessly allowing Kelly&Ellis to lay claim to their own unique musical space, proving that artful songwriting and musical talent is always a winning recipe.

Among the winning new works, "I Just Don't Understand It," "An Ordinary Day," and "(I Ain't Just) A Pretty Face" are highlights showcasing range as well unmistakeable chemistry.

In addition to the craft and skill on display here, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that  Leslie Ellis' voice is easily one of my favorite musical instruments in the world. And throughout the album's thirteen tracks, Kelly's genius guitar work is undeniable.

Along with new songs, both artists re-visit and re-invent past musical triumphs. Ellis' lithe vocals take flight over a steady, earthy drum beat on "My Heart Will Go On," while she folds her country years back into a luscious and rich renewal of "Memory" from her Cats days.

Kelly's take on "The Cowboy Rides Away" reveals a life well-lived with a vocal that feels as warm and comfortable as my favorite 20 year old cowboy boots; and the duo's teaming on "Anyone Who Isn't Me Tonight" bounces and beams with sass for days.

The Long Road to You drops this Friday, but you can pre-order on iTunes here, or click over to the Kelly&Ellis official site for those who like a CD you can hold in your hands.

Follow Kelly&Ellis on Facebook here, on Twitter here, and on Instagram here.

White House Preps To Repeal Transgender Protections In Schools

(image - Mike Gifford)

We're expecting new guidance from the Trump administration as the Donald changes course from the Obama administration regarding the accommodation of transgender students' use of bathrooms in schools.

The "Dear Colleagues" letter will be issued jointly by the Justice Department and the Department of Education. According to reports, Education Secretary opposed the new language while Attorney General Jeff Sessions (no friend to the LGBT community) stood firm that the Obama era guidance should go.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, these Republicans said, telling Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her objections. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the choice of resigning or defying the president, has agreed to go along. The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday.

Though an official order from the administration was expected to be released as early as Wednesday, Mr. Sessions and Ms. DeVos were still disputing the final language.

According to a draft of the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, the Trump administration cites continuing litigation and confusion over the Obama directives as a reason for telling schools to no longer obey them.

“School administrators, parents and students have expressed varying views on the legal issues arising in this setting,” the draft says. “They have also struggled to understand and apply the statements of policy and guidance” in the Obama orders.

The draft also contains language stating that schools must protect transgender students from bullying, a provision Ms. DeVos asked be included, one person with direct knowledge of the process said. “Schools must ensure that transgender students, like all students, are able to learn in a safe environment,” the letter says.

While Trump played vague in the past regarding transgender issues, with this action he makes clear where he stands.

Yesterday, during a White House press briefing, spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that Trump views the topic as a "states' rights issue."

The executive order could be issued as soon as today.

Randy Rainbow: "You're Making Things Up Again, Donald"

Set to the tune "Making Things Up Again" from the hit musical The Book of Mormon, Randy Rainbow chides the Donald for his many mile-wide falsehoods.

Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Super Model Exits The Runway

Bandit, our super model

I've been a dog man my whole life. In that time, sharing my journey with nine dogs, I've only experienced dogs passing away quickly.

I've never had to face making "the decision."

Until today.

We have four dogs. Bruno, the daddy dog, and his three kids Tyler, Bandit and Bear.

Our middle puppy, Bandit, has been battling cancer for the past 6 months. (I say "puppy," even though he's 13, because he and his brother and sister will always be "the puppies" to us).

I'm sharing this not for sympathy but I realize this journey has been new terrain for me. And it may be for others as well who face being the human in these situations.

Also, as a writer, this is to a degree how I process.

We noticed Bandit was having some urinary issues back in July and August. There was a little blood in his urine, and he was going in the house. We originally thought it was a gall stone or some such. That it would pass, and all would be well.

But the issue lingered, and lingered. Finally we took him to the vet, and our guarded suspicions were confirmed. He had tumors in his bladder and liver, and some odd spots in his lungs. Our vet sent us to Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center. Cancer takes a special doctor.

There the diagnosis was born out  - definitely cancer, and it could not be cured.

We were given three options:

1. Aggressive chemotherapy which would impact his quality of life greatly. It could buy him 4-6 months, but he would be miserable.

2. A mild, oral chemotherapy which would slow the progression and much less side effects, along with meds to keep him more comfortable.

3. Take a palliative care approach and make him comfortable for what time was left.

We chose option 2. With no chance of a cure, we didn't want to give up but placed a high priority of quality of life.

Two pills twice a day (along with canine CBD oil) was the course of treatment for the past 6 months. Bandit seemed pretty normal for the bulk of that time. The urine issues remained but otherwise, he seemed fine.

Until about two weeks ago. He woke up wobbly in his hind legs. And he was being a puny in demeanor. He didn't eat all his breakfast (and Bandit loves to eat). He had had back surgery (being a dachshund) some years ago, and we thought it was a disc issue perhaps.

We took him to the specialty vet center and they said the cancer was spreading. Really no reason to continue the chemo, but we could up his pain meds to three times a day to make him more comfortable.

Hubby Michael was worried that that day might have been goodbye, but I didn't "feel" it. Not yet.

We came home, and a day later Bandit was back to "the new normal." We sensed the journey could end soon, but not yet.

Yesterday, Michael took Bandit for a walk - which he loved. Bandit is the only dog we have who gets excited by seeing the leash. It was a short walk, but Bandit's spirits were very high.

This morning, however, it was clear he declined overnight. He had great difficulty walking, and he had no interest in his food. He was panting for no reason, and panting a lot.

After a few hours, that elusive "decision" we waited for the universe to reveal to us arrived. It was clear. The balance between quality of life and effective treatment tipped in the other direction.

We knew.

We called a pet therapist we know in town, and she recommended a veterinary doctor who would come to our home and facilitate Bandit's passing.

We had to wait six hours for the doctor to arrive.

It was, of course, spent loving on Bandit constantly; feeding him his favorite foods; all attention was on the Bandito.

When the veterinarian arrived with her assistant, we chatted with them for about 15 minutes. Clearly part of their job is to help us as much as it is to help Bandit. We explained the journey to here. We shared who Bandit was.

We explained that of all our dogs, Bandit was "the diva." The "Super-Model." See the picture at the top of this post and you'll understand.

He carried himself with a royal confidence; a bearing that conveyed his assurance that yes, he knows he is special. And he was.

All those "Bitch, I'm fabulous!" memes you've seen on the internet? Yeah, he owned that. He truly was larger than life, and without trying.

He was our super-model. He liked being catered to, and we knew how to do just that. He rarely, rarely, ever doled out kisses. He made you work for them. And if he so deigned, you might get ONE.

If you pet him with one hand, he would look at your other hand wondering why both weren't in motion.

One night, when he was only 10 or so weeks old, he was crying in the night. I got up to check on him and his siblings, and ended up sitting with him for the rest of the night (see pic below). I stayed wrapped around his little paw for his whole life.

I was not Bandit's favorite, though. While daddy dog Bruno is my constant companion, hubby Michael has always been Bandit's favorite human. I loved Bandit deeply, but I knew I was "number two." That's alright - he was worth being a "number two" to.

And so, it's fitting that Michael spent the entire day sitting next to the super model, trying to keep him calm. Michael was perfect.

When the time came, we walked the veterinarian and assistant into our bedroom so he could be calm on our bed - his favorite place. We left the room for a few minutes so they could insert a catheter in his leg, and then they called us in.

We were told he could have a sedative, if we wanted, to calm him down. but Bandit was serene laying on the bed. We passed on the tranquilizer, and began to say goodbye.

After a few minutes, Michael nodded to the doctor, and while we continued to pet him, she slowly administered the drug.

He never got anxious or upset. And after about 45 slow seconds, Bandit was gone. Our super model had exited the runway.

The docs stepped out as we let the other dogs in, giving them a chance to understand why he would be gone. Bruno, Bear and Tyler all rushed into the room, sniffing the air, wondering who the strangers who had been in the room were. They one by one noticed Bandit, and sniffed at him.

Bruno - Bandit's daddy - seemed to understand something. Tyler and Bear paused briefly to take note.

The doctors then wrapped him in a blanket to take him away for cremation. In about a week, we'll pick up his remains. They will take a paw print which will be framed for us, and his ashes will be saved in a small urn.

It's a bit surreal to know what a monumental decision you're making; the gravity of the moment. I feel calm that we did our highest duty in being Bandit's humans.

There's a silence in the house that's unmistakeable, but I know this was "the" day. I can second guess so many moments in my life, but this is not one of them. And I'm thankful for that serenity.

There's a poem that was written long ago; no one knows the author. I hadn't read it until about six years ago. I've avoided looking at it until now. If you've ever shared your life with a dog (or any furry family member), you'll get it.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then, you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

With baby Bandit when he was about 10 weeks old

White House On Transgender Protections: "This Is A States' Rights Issue"

Yesterday, I posted about a possible change in direction from the Federal government regarding the rights of transgender students to use public bathrooms that match their gender identity.

Today, The Washington Blade's White House correspondent, Chris Johnson, asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer if the Trump administration would rescind Obama era guidance on the issue.

Spicer told reporters, "The president has maintained for a long time that this is a states' rights issue, and not one for the federal government."

So, somehow, whether or not you can use the bathroom you identify with depends on what state you live in?

Spicer also said there would be weighing in further with new guidance on the issue as well as "the case that's in front of the Supreme Court," referring to transgender Virginia student, Gavin Grimm.

Milo Yiannopolous "Resigns" From Breitbart

In light of his current "man/love/pedophilia" controversy, Milo Yiannopolous issued the above resignation from the alt-right website, Breitbart:

"Today, Milo Yiannopolous, senior editor at Breitbart News, has announced his resignation from the company.

"Breitbart News has stood by me when others caved. They have allowed me to carry conservative and libertarian ideas to communities that would otherwise never have heard them. They have been a significant factor in my success. I'm grateful for that freedom and for the friendships I forged there.

"I would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues' important reporting, so today I am resigning from Breitbart, effective immediately. This decision is mine alone.

"When your friends have done right by you, you do right by them. For me, now, that means stepping aside so my colleagues at Breitbart can get back to the great work they do."

Commercial: Diesel "Make Love Not Walls"

From Diesel:

#makelovenotwalls is about tearing down the mental and physical walls that separate us, and let all sides come together in the name of unity and love.

Diesel takes on the Wall, a symbol of separation by definition, breaking it down to create strong storytelling throughout the imagery developed around it: walls are built and the Diesel love tank breaks it with a heart shape turning a symbol of separation into a happy place full of flowers of celebration of freedom and love.

“At Diesel, we have a strong position against hate and more than ever we want the world to know that,” explains Artistic Director Nicola Formichetti. “Love and togetherness is cru-cial in creating a society we all want to live in, and the future we all deserve.”

These themes are not new territory for Diesel. Last year, Diesel announced “This ad is gender neutral” as two Asian and Caucasian models, wearing the same sweater, embraced.

WikiLeaks Julian Assange Defends Milo Yiannopolous

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange chimed in via Twitter regarding the Milo Yiannopoulos "pedophilia" controversy last night.

It was just this past Saturday that Yiannopolous was officially announced to give the keynote speech at CPAC this week, but the next day video came to light where Milo seemed to defend adult men having sex with young boys.

In short time, Yiannopoulos was disinvited to CPAC, and Simon & Schuster cancelled his $250K book deal.

Tweeted Assange: “US ‘liberals’ today celebrate the censorship of right-wing UK provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos over teen sex quote.”

He followed up with, “Issue is ‘liberals’ cheering on a clearly illiberal act — book censorship — for political reasons with morality as cover.”

Yiannopoulos is holding a press conference at 3 pm today in New York City.

Viral Video: "Tiny Trump"

The "Tiny Trump" meme is brought to life by the folks at Evil Ice Cream Pictures.

Canadian Man Denied Entry To US After Immigration Officers Searched His Scruff Account

A 30-year-old Canadian man from Vancouver was denied entry into the United States after immigration officers searched his laptop and social media accounts, including Scruff and BBRT.


André, a 30-year-old Vancouver set decorator who declined to give his full name for fear of retaliation from US Customs, describes the experience as “humiliating.”

André says he was planning to visit his boyfriend, who was working in New Orleans. But when he was going through Customs preclearance at Vancouver airport last October, he was selected for secondary inspection, where an officer took his phone, computer and other possessions, and demanded the passwords for his devices.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was scared, so I gave them the password and then I sat there for at least an hour or two. I missed my flight,” André says. “He came back and just started grilling me. ‘Is this your email?’ and it was an email attached to a Craigslist account for sex ads. He asked me, ‘Is this your account on Scruff? Is this you on BBRT?’ I was like, ‘Yes, this is me.’”

When the officer asked him what he meant by “looking for loads,” André says he tried to explain, but the officer kept grilling him.

“I could tell just by his nature that he had no intentions of letting me through. They were just going to keep asking me questions looking for something,” he says. “So I asked for the interrogation to stop. I asked if I go back to Canada am I barred for life? He said no, so I accepted that offer.”

André attempted to visit his boyfriend again a month later, but this time he brought several pieces of documentation (bills, apartment lease, pay stubs) to indicate that he had every intention of returning to Vancouver. He even deleted the social media apps to avoid any confusion. But that only made the officers more suspicious.

“They said, ‘Next time you come through, don’t have a cleared phone,’ and that was it. I wasn’t let through. He said I’m a suspected escort. You can’t really argue with them because you’re trapped,” he says.

André says between the two airline tickets (non-refundable) and hotel reservations, he lost over $1,200.

Stephen Colbert: "Never Fjorget What Happened In Sweden"

Last night, The Late Show's Stephen Colbert did not miss his chance to riff on President Trump's latest gaffe - the "incident" in Sweden that never happened.

“And just because this attack didn’t happen, folks, doesn’t mean we don’t stand in solidarity with all the people who did not suffer.”

Referencing Trump's apparent news source for comment and his propensity for skipping intelligence briefings, Colbert said, “I guess Trump only accepts intelligence reports with the logo, ‘As Seen on TV.'”

Monday, February 20, 2017

President Trump's "Great America" Looks Very White

Look at that "diverse" team of folks looking to MAGA!

Apparently, Donald Trump thinks a "great America" looks like eleven older white guys and one white woman.

A whole lotta white going on there.

News Round-Up: February 20, 2017

Happy Presidents Day! (image via Pete Souza)

Some news items you may have missed:

• How did you celebrate Presidents Day? Or was it more a #NotMyPresident Day for you?

• Rumors are swirling that loathsome conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopolous could be fired soon from Breitbart website for his "man-boy-pedophilia comments" on the Drunken Peasants podcast last year.

• The Trump administration is set Tuesday to rescind Obama administration guidance to schools barring discrimination against transgender students and ensuring they have access to the restroom consistent with their gender identity. #Shameful

• Virginia state House of Delegates approves a "religious freedom" bill - HB 2025 - that would legalize LGBT discrimination in the name of religion. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has promised to veto the legislation.

President Trump finally found someone to take the job of National Security Adviser.

• Check out royally ripped Charlie Hunnam in this new trailer for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (release date May 12)

Simon & Schuster Cancels Milo Yiannopolous' $250K Book Deal

Milo Yiannopolous

After video of conservative, loathsome, professional provocateur Milo Yiannopolous' appearance on the Drunken Peasants podcast last year resurfaced showing him allegedly defending sex between adult men and boys of the age of 13 or 14, book publisher Simon & Schuster has cancelled the publication of his book, Dangerous.

It's sad that Simon & Schuster even needed "careful consideration" to cancel Yiannopolous' book publication.

It wasn't hateful racist, transphobic, white supremacist, misogynist nattering. In the end, it was defending man/boy sex.

Nice to know there's a "bridge too far" somewhere.

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