Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Parents in ‘Purple Penguin’ School District Say Their Objections Are Getting Quashed

School is not listening to concerns about controversial transgender training, families of schoolchildren say. 

Superintendent Dr. Steve Joel addresses the media at an October 9, 2014 Press Conference regarding Gender Identity and Professional Development

Parents with kids at Lincoln, Neb., public schools say their concerns about the district’s controversial gender-identity training are being blatantly ignored by the district.

Approximately 40 people attended the school-board meeting last Tuesday to comment on the training, and about half of those 40 came to express their disapproval of the materials. But when the district published a release to inform the rest of the community about what had happened at the meeting, it included excerpts only from supportive speeches.

“The school board representatives are elected to represent the parents and community to the school’s administration . . . they’re not doing that,” Rachel Terry, who has three kids in the district’s schools, tells National Review Online.

The release also included a quote from Superintendent Steve Joel gushing about the amount of support for the initiative the district received at the meeting:

“It’s heartening to hear so many of our trusted, loyal LPS supporters . . . hopefully have an understanding of what we’re trying to do,” Joel said. “It’s always going to be about creating relationships with individual students . . . so that those students can be successful.”

Terry says this is especially misleading considering that only a couple of the supportive speakers actually had children at one of the district’s schools.

“The people who showed up to speak supporting the school district, they didn’t even talk about these training handouts or anything and they weren’t parents for the most part,” Terry says.

As reported by National Review Online earlier this month, a training document given to middle-school teachers at Lincoln Public Schools instructs teachers, “Don’t use phrases such as ‘boys and girls,’ ‘you guys,’ ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ and similarly gendered expressions to get kids’ attention.”

Of the speakers who identified themselves as parents of children currently attending the school, only two said they supported the initiative, according to a video recording of the meeting. Speakers on the supportive side included LGBT activists, a representative from Nebraska’s American Civil Liberties Union, teachers, and ministers.

Many parents who attended the meeting to express concerns about the program said it was an overreach.

“We need to focus on the academic goals and that is what our taxpayer money goes to,” parent Janna Harris said during the meeting, adding that the viewpoint presented in the materials “goes against the conservative majority in this city.”

Other parents said that statements later made by superintendent Joel stating that the items in the work training were just suggestions and not a mandate did not change how they felt about the issue. (As National Review Online’s original story made clear, the instructions appear in a training document and weren’t handed down in an edict, although this has gotten lost in the subsequent coverage.)

“This is good to hear, but is missing the point, which is that the district is actively condoning and supporting the redefinition of gender,” Rachel’s husband, Ben Terry, said during the meeting.
“Indeed, faculty now have 12 easy steps to guide them in this process of redefinition.”

Another parent, Jon Cosby, said this is just another example of the school locking parents out of the way it is educating their children, adding that his wife had to ask three times to be able to review a textbook before finally receiving it a month later. He also said that the school had to consult its legal counsel before allowing him to see the gender-identity training handouts — and that an administrator told him this was because the school’s lawyer was “really good at keeping us out of trouble.”

“What is LPS trying to hide?” he asked during the meeting.

Rachel Terry said that she and other parents with objections are going to continue to fight the issue.

“Parents are on the phone, we’re getting together and talking about what we are going to do and in that way I don’t think it has tampered things down the way that I’m sure they hoped for,” she says. “I think probably the contrary is happening.”

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Meet the spy who is harder than James Bond

Matthew Dunn, a former field officer with MI6, has lifted the lid on the Secret Intelligence Service to create a fictional spy.

By and Thomas Harding
18 October 2011

There is a scar on Matthew Dunn’s right hand, a deep gash running down the edge from the little finger, as if at some point he has had to defend himself from the strike of a blade. A memento, perhaps, of the clandestine operations during his career as a field officer at the sharp end of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. Has he ever come close to losing his life in the service of Queen and country? His fingers drum the table.
“Can we pause there for a second?” Tap, tap, tap.
“The answer is, yes.” Tap, tap.
“Let me think how to answer that ----.” Pause.
“We’ll leave it as Yes.”
We are sitting in his new home in the south of England, hidden in autumnal woodland at the end of a long and winding drive. The house is virtually empty of furniture, the kind of place in which George Smiley might conduct one of his gently menacing interrogations. So, about that scar?
“It was earned during an operation that almost went wrong but didn’t.” A knife wound? “Well, it was sharper than a gun.” Not a DIY injury then? “I would have done a better job of stitching it up if it had been.”
Dunn is 42 and our newest spy writer. Like le Carré and Fleming before him he is the real thing, a former member of SIS turned fictional chronicler of the secret world. His, though, is a more muscular creation than Smiley, or even Bond. Meet Will Cochrane, a one-man weapon of mass destruction; 007 is a cocktail-sipping lush compared with Cochrane, a man who treats bullets in the stomach as others would an attack of dandruff.
“My experience does help enormously,” says Dunn of his new career. “Obviously, I know all the technicalities of espionage. I chose to write about a field operative because that was my speciality. As a field officer you are on your own, you make your own decisions. What is authentic in the book? Certain trade craft techniques, the isolation, the decision making. Of course, I have intensified it in the book.”
You can say that again. Dunn’s first book is called Spartan, Cochrane’s codename, and its opening pages are littered with the bodies of Iranian (and British) heavies gunned down during a spat in New York’s Central Park. Cochrane takes a few slugs but is soon up and about, on the tail of an Iranian master-spy bent on Armageddon.
Six feet four inches tall, Dunn was involved in some 70 clandestine operations, receiving a personal commendation from the then foreign secretary, Robin Cook, for his role in one episode. “I was told a commendation is very rare,” he says. “It’s upstairs but you can’t see it because it has Top Secret written on the top of it.”
What can he say of the circumstances? “Very little, beyond that it was a major incident. It was outside British territory and resolved to the satisfaction of HMG.”
Dunn was born in London, the son of a merchant seaman turned photographer. Educated at a state school, he read politics and economics at the University of East Anglia before taking a PhD in international relations at Cambridge. It was there that a tutor raised the matter of his future.
“There was a discussion about doing something academic. Part of me was attracted to that but I also had fire in the belly. I mentioned the diplomatic service and at some point he said there was another aspect of the service that might be of interest, also involving travel and complex situations. We knew what we were talking about.”
Six months of selection followed, involving tests of mental agility, role playing, repeated interviews and intrusive vetting. Five of the dozen people on his course were women, the successful ones a cross-section of society.
“MI6 is not some elitist club. The officer has to able to interact with any kind of person. You can’t have people who have lived only in a gentlemen’s club environment. It’s not like joining the Household Cavalry.”
What bound the new recruits? “We all felt anything was possible. You don’t enter with the mindset that 'this is impossible’. You just have to think of a way to do it. One of the questions in interview was, 'Who do you look up to?’ My response was, 'Frankly, nobody’. A degree of self-confidence is required, but not arrogance.”
Part of the selection process was conducted at Fort Monckton, the MI6 training establishment near Portsmouth. Candidates were sent into the naval town to test their ability to extract information.
“They might ask you to come back with 10 passport numbers,” says Dunn. “I had to sit in the pub and ingratiate myself with a group of strangers, getting as many personal details as I could. I did OK – some did tarot card readings or magic tricks to get details.”
A black tie dinner at Monckton marked Dunn’s formal acceptance into SIS. It was 1995 and he was 27. He was to find himself at the sharp end of SIS operations. “The Directorate of Requirements and Production is the operational side of the service. Officers operating in particularly hazardous areas were those who had excelled in the paramilitary side of training. I worked with the Increment, the SAS unit attached to SIS.
They provided back-up for anything that might be extremely dangerous. I was trained in close quarter and unarmed combat. I was good at it, I enjoyed it. Yes, there is an element of James Bond. There were no watches that could burn holes through walls but you might have a letter with explosives in it that could blow off a door.”
Dunn’s first job was with a team targeting rogue states. Officers are eased into operations – non-lethal ones first – often shadowing experienced colleagues. Dunn became an agent runner, responsible for about 20 in all. Some of those he recruited would have been tortured and executed if exposed.
“As an intelligence officer, you are there to listen to an agent, to get them to reveal their secrets, and then quietly to leave a country and get back to London without all the guns and glory. A thing mostly ignored in popular fiction is the terribly close bond between an officer and his agents. I used to think of my agents as a family.”
Dunn travelled under 12 separate aliases at one time, usually alone, usually reliant on his own resources. “It’s best not to bluff being a different nationality. You can sustain an accent for just over an hour, but after four hours it goes. You get briefings from people who do for a living what you are pretending to be. You may decide that this person is a good role model, so you adopt that accent, that persona.
“The loneliness, the isolation, is the real thing. The moment you step on the plane you are on your own. You are dealing with complex individuals with their own agendas. You are constantly asking, 'Is this a set-up?”
As a thriller, Spartan has pace and style, if occasionally overburdened dialogue. Abu Dhabi is unlikely to be impressed by it. Lana, the romantic interest, describes to Cochrane how the emirate’s security people beat her before extracting her back teeth and toenails with pliers. Dunn says the war on terror has posed fresh ethical challenges for his former service.
“The issue of collaborating with people who may use torture has made the work of MI6 officers very difficult. The service maintains that torture largely doesn’t work because the person tells you what you want to hear.”
Have SIS officers found themselves in dark foreign places, within screaming distance of interrogations? “I cannot imagine that arising. If an officer was in that situation I would expect him to walk out and report it. We don’t use torture and we must maintain those morals overseas. Of course, it is very hard for the field officer. There are situations in which your morality is tested to the limit, yet you have to walk away with dignity.”
Dunn quit MI6 in 2001 to raise a family. He was tempted to return following 9/11 but needed to make money – his spy’s salary being £35,000, hardly a fortune in London. Life out of the shadows, working for a recruitment company in the City of London, was a shock.
“I had done things and seen things that few have done and seen, and met people you would never believe, but to the people in the City it was, 'That’s all fine but can you make money?’ It’s moving from the Rolls-Royce of British government to a barrow boy existence.”
He divorced three years ago and cares for two young children. He has no close friends. “It’s taken me about 10 years to adjust to leaving. It’s not like a soldier coming back from the front. SIS is still around you, but you are no longer in it. You go to a restaurant and there are certain habits: checking the entrances and exits, the table spacing. I still think that way, sometimes not through paranoia, just because you do. Then I find I don’t need to be like that.”
The novel is printed in America under the title ‘Spycatcher’ published by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins.
'Spartan' by Matthew Dunn (Orion) is available from Telegraph Books for £11.99 plus £1.25 p&p, to order your copy call 0844 871 1515 or go to books.telegraph.co.uk

Ron Klain and Solyndra

The administration’s point man on a solar fraud is now in charge of Ebola. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Staring at the Void

October 19, 2014

Echoes of the Void 1by TylerCreatesWorlds

He’s very smart, my childhood best friend, and very faithful in his atheism. When he was 6 he was clever as clever, but now he’s past 60 and knows he will not live for ever and ever. Yet now, as in years past, even the most modest mention of God brings a growl: “Don’t proselytize me.”
He called me this summer and pleaded that I come visit him, so I hopped on a plane and did. He has many physical problems for which doctors have prescribed this and that, with meds for one ailment making another worse. He has worse psychological problems, which he first summarizes with sociology speak: “I lack a support network.” Then he speaks more plainly: “I’m all alone.”
He puts his head on the table and says, “I don’t know what to do.” He’s haunted by unused potential: “I’ve wasted my life.” He programmed computers for others but never worked on any trend-setting products. He knew some women but never married. No children. He knows he could go underwater with hardly a ripple. He doesn’t look back proudly at anything in his life, including military service. Seems noble to me, but he says all he learned was, “It’s better to be a live coward rather than an f-ing dead hero.”
For a time he took satisfaction from his financial worth, having socked away maybe $2 million, but he long expected a stock market crash, kept his money in cash and commodities, and missed recent run-ups. He’s angry about that, and blames the Federal Reserve. He blames politicians. He blames Obama, for whom he voted.
He says he would be suicidal except that he fears death and oblivion. When he was working, he could keep his brain busy on computer problems. When he stopped working, he could keep his brain busy learning a new language and his legs busy by learning how to dance. But at some point the void within him became unbridgeable by activity. He stared at the void and reacted with the cry of Ecclesiastes from 3,000 years ago: “Meaningless.”
Some Christian writers have understood what my childhood friend is going through. Blaise Pascal wrote in 1670, “I see those frightful spaces of the universe which surround me, and I find myself tied to one corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am put in this place rather than in another, nor why the short time which is given me to live is assigned to me at this point rather than at another of the whole eternity which was before me or which shall come after me. I see nothing but infinities on all sides, which surround me as an atom and as a shadow which endures only for an instant and returns no more. All I know is that I must soon die: What I know least is this very death which I cannot escape.”
T.S. Eliot wrote in 1925, “We are the hollow men. We are the stuffed men.” A half-century later Walker Percy described the contemporary secular man as one who “works, grows old, gets sick, and dies and is quite content to have it so, [living] as if his prostate were not growing cancerous, his arteries turning to chalk, his brain cells dying off by the millions, as if the worms were not going to have him after all.”
But what happens when secular man wises up and is no longer content?
I spent three days with my childhood friend as his world was disintegrating. He was in despair, but I can’t consider that a bad thing: With his hostility toward God, he should be in despair. He has to hit bottom before he can rise, and maybe his only chance is to hit bottom. But how will he then bounce up? Augustine wrote in his Confessions that he was “speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighboring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, ‘Take up and read; Take up and read.’”
Augustine did that, picking up Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. When others will not take up and read, true change seems impossible. Except, except…with God, nothing is impossible.
Reprinted with permission of WORLD. To read more news and views from a Christian perspective, call 800-951-6397 or visit WNG.org.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jameis Winston and Florida State: college football at its very most

By Mike Wise
October 16, 2014

Jameis Winston is the embodiment of the big-time college athlete who can do whatever he damn well pleases as long as he remains the greatest economic engine on campus.
Jimbo Fisher is the embodiment of the big-time college coach who is not really a leader of men but actually a follower of arrested locker-room development.
Florida State football and Tallahassee law enforcement are the embodiment of how athletic revenue transforms universities into institutions of higher corruption.
You can’t follow the two-year odyssey of Winston and come away with any other conclusion: Heisman trophies and national championships give superior athletes immunity from real-life consequences for their actions.
This learned culture of entitlement bleeds down from the NFL and Ray Rice, through the Florida panhandle and then trickles all the way to the high school level in Sayreville, N.J. That’s where seven adolescent boys were arrested last Friday on charges stemming from sick hazing rituals that allegedly involved the sodomizing of “teammates” — and where some parents and coaches couldn’t believe they canceled the rest of the varsity football season because (horrors) the Bombers’ streak of 20 straight postseason appearances would end.
This is the part of Football in America that gets edited out. This is our new national pastime.
Winston will start at quarterback for Florida State in college football’s game of the week against Notre Dame on Saturday night. I predict he will start the remainder of his team’s games this season, too, because no FSU compliance officer interested in further employment with the university would declare Winston ineligible while investigating the sophomore star for the latest allegation against him: swapping autographs for cash.
In further evidence of the game’s twisted values, this claim may be the most serious yet — because criminal behavior toward women and irresponsible pranks such as firing BB guns on campus or stealing food from a supermarket is considered nothing compared to trying to profit personally off your own exploits that generate millions of dollars for others. Now that’s criminal, son.
Fisher says Famous Jameis is innocent, and except when he and the school are publicly embarrassed into taking action, Fisher always says Famous Jameis is innocent — whether he’s being accused of trying to make a little coin on the side or something far more serious, such as last year’s sexual assault investigation.
Winston could join ISIS and contract Ebola tomorrow, and you feel like Fisher would tell you he was trying on a Halloween costume and had a sore throat before sending him out to take on the Fighting Irish.
The coach, who has lost just 10 times in 41 / years and is 4-0 in bowl games after replacing the legendary but hardly saintly Bobby Bowden, oversees a program with at least nine players arrested in the past three years on charges from sexual assault to being an accessory to a fatal shooting, the New York Times reported last week.
Fisher’s continued support shows he needs Winston more than Winston needs him. Florida State and Tallahassee need Winston more than he needs them. Never was that imbalance of power and leverage more clear than last season before prosecutors decided to drop a rape investigation against Winston, deciding there wasn’t enough evidence to bring charges.
Fact: The athletic department made sure Winston’s attorney had the investigation report before the state attorney did. By the time the state prosecutor’s office got it, Winston’s attorney got copycat affidavits from his roommates to say the sex was consensual. His defense was set before the proper authorities even knew of the case.
Fact: The investigating officer, Scott Angulo, has done private security work for the Seminole Boosters, a nonprofit claiming, oh, $150 million in assets, the New York Times reported last spring. Seminole Boosters is the main financial pipeline to Florida State athletics.
The lawyer for Winston’s accuser said the investigating officer who handled the case told her that her client would be “raked over the coals” if she went forward with the case — because down there in the panhandle, they take cracking helmets seriously.
The entire affair — Winston’s entire college career, really — shows how the system failed everyone, how star athletes are inoculated from repercussions for their actions at the cost of the institutions they represent. And it’s the same corrosion afflicting the NFL and a high school football powerhouse in New Jersey.
Here’s a window into what Winston learned from that investgation: A month or so after prosecutors decided not to charge him, he and a teammate posted an Instagram video of themselves singing a verse from a rap song called “On the Floor.” It’s about men who proceed after hearing the word “No” from women. Sample lyric: “She said she wants to take it slow. I’m not that type of guy I’ll letcha know. When I see that red light all I know is go.”
I don’t know whether Winston sexually assaulted a woman or the sex was consensual. No one knows but the people in that room. I do know that, through their handling of the investigation, Tallahassee police and the university made it all but impossible to find out.
I do know for all of Jameis Winston’s rotten decision-making off the field, he did make one important one as an 18-year-old that propelled him toward the NFL yet prevented him from genuine human development: He decided to play football at Florida State, where he would never be told no — and if even he was, no one would ever find out about it.
For more by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.
Photo: Reuters

Incompetence Meets Mendacity in Obama Administration’s Ebola Response

Americans are shaken by government’s inability to function. 

Friday, October 17, 2014


By Ann Coulter
October 15, 2014

Political Cartoons by Glenn McCoy

There had never been a case of Ebola in the U.S. until a few months ago. Since then, thousands of people have died of the disease in Africa, and millions upon millions of dollars have been spent treating Ebola patients in the U.S. who acquired it there, one of whom has died.

But the Obama administration refuses to impose a travel ban.

This summer, the U.S. government imposed a travel ban on Israel simply to pressure Prime Minister Netanyahu into accepting a ceasefire agreement. But we can't put a travel restriction on countries where a contagious disease is raging.

It's becoming increasingly clear this is just another platform for Obama to demonstrate that we are citizens of the world. The entire Ebola issue is being discussed -- by our government, not the United Nations -- as if Liberians are indistinguishable from Americans, and U.S. taxpayers should be willing to pay whatever it takes to save them.

Maybe we should give them the vote, too! If Ebola was concentrated in Finland and Norway -- certainly Israel! -- we'd have had a travel ban on Day One.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, justifies Obama's refusal to prohibit flights originating in Ebola-plagued countries, saying, "A travel ban is not the right answer. It's simply not feasible to build a wall -- virtual or real -- around a community, city or country."

What is it with liberals living in gated communities always telling us that fences don't work? THAT'S WHAT A QUARANTINE IS.

At the congressional hearing on Ebola last week, Republicans repeatedly pressed the CDC representative, Dr. Toby Merlin, to explain why Obama refuses to impose a travel ban.

In about 17 tries, Merlin came up with no plausible answer. Like Frieden, Merlin kept insisting that "the only way to protect Americans" is to end the epidemic in Africa.

Why, precisely, must we attack Ebola in Africa? Research on a cure doesn't require cuddling victims in their huts. Scientists who discovered the AIDS cocktail didn't spend their nights at Studio 54 in order to "fight the disease at its source."

Until there's a treatment, we can't put out the disease there, or here. The only thing Americans will be doing in Liberia is changing the bedpans of victims, getting infected and bringing Ebola back to America. When there's a vaccine, we can mail it.

Naturally, Obama is sending troops from the 101st Airborne, the pride of our Army, to Liberia. Their general should resign in protest.

Merlin further explained the travel ban, saying that if West Africans can't fly to America, "that would cause the disease to grow in that area and spill over into other countries." So instead of infecting people in surrounding countries, our CDC wants them to come here and infect Americans.

But that won't happen because the government assures us there's nothing to worry about with Ebola. They've got it under control.

Unfortunately, everything the government says about this disease keeps being proved untrue -- usually within a matter of days.

They told us that you'd basically have to roll in an infected person's vomit to catch the disease. Then, nurses at two first-world hospitals in Spain and the U.S. contracted Ebola from patients.

With no evidence, the CDC simply announced that the nurses were not following proper "protocol." The disease didn't operate the way CDC said it would, so the hospitals must be lying.

The government told us that national quarantines won't work, but then they quarantine everyone with Ebola -- or who has been near someone with Ebola, such as an entire NBC crew. To me, this suggests that there's some value in keeping people who have been near Ebola away from people who have not.

Quite obviously, the only way to protect Americans is to prevent Ebola from coming here in the first place. The problem isn't that Ebola will leap across oceans to infect Americans; it's that Obama doesn't want to protect Americans.

At least he's only putting expendable Americans on the frontlines of the Ebola epidemic -- doctors, nurses, members of the 101st Airborne.

At the moment, more than 13,000 West Africans have travel visas to come to the U.S. Having just seen an Ebola-infected Liberian get $500,000 worth of free medical treatment in the U.S., the first thing any African who might have Ebola should do is get himself to America.

Of all the reasons people have for coming here -- welfare, drug-dealing, Medicare scams -- "I have Ebola and I'm going to die, otherwise" is surely one of the strongest. The entire continent of Africa now knows that this is a country that will happily spend half a million dollars on treating someone who just arrived -- and then berate itself for not doing enough.

Thomas Eric Duncan's family may be upset with his treatment, but they have to admit, the price was right. Medical bill: $0.00. Your next statement will arrive in 30 days.

And now we're going to have to let in entire families with Ebola, because the important thing is -- actually, I don't know why. It's some technical, scientific point about fences not working.

Republicans -- Americans -- have got to demand Frieden's resignation. If only we could demand Obama's.