- I wonder how many days a year Secretary of State John Kerry gets to visit his wife and other loved ones at home? Ten? Twenty? Never? I sometimes suspect there are five or six identical John Kerrys scattered among the world’s trouble spots. His face is everywhere. Is he doing a good job? Beats me. But I bet he’s careful of which e-mail server he uses.
- Have allied forces captured any ISIS fighters during the past year? If so, are they interrogated thoroughly, either Abu Ghraib style or according to the Geneva Convention? I have a hunch the Geneva rules of warfare have been pretty well abandoned by now. So have several parts of the U.S. Constitution, such as restricting the power to declare war to the president. After the beheadings and other savageries of ISIS, in years ahead it will not be surprising to hear of ISIS POW’s being marched off, supposedly to a holding area, and then never being heard from again. Such “disappearances” occurred during WW II and other conflicts, and were committed by all sides.
This story starts with a transgender high school student who was born male but identifies as female. As a public high school student, she wants the school to recognize her as a girl, to call her by her new legal name, to allow her to use the girls’ bathroom and to accept her in girls’ athletic programs.
Her high school in Palatine, Illinois, has pretty much complied. Teachers call the girl by her female name. She uses the girls’ bathroom. She plays on a girls’ sports team. Except, she does hit one wall: The school doesn’t provide unfettered access to girls’ locker rooms where students shower or change clothes. Administrators have experimented with different arrangements - such as a separate room. The New York Times reported the district said it would allow Student A (her name in this legal case) to change in the girls’ locker room, “but only behind a curtain.” Student A, for her part, “said she would probably use that curtain to change. But she and the federal government have insisted that she be allowed to make that decision voluntarily, and not because of requirements by the district.”
That is not good enough for President Obama’s Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which issued a letter Monday that warned Township High School District 211 is not in compliance with Title IX’s ban on gender discrimination. The government contends that having different accommodations excludes Student A and denies her “the benefits of its education program” by “subjecting her to different rules of behavior” and “different treatment.”
Hear the cries: “Seek the truth. Fight and die for the truth. Stamp out deception and lies. Can’t we cut through the baloney and find what’s real? Ye shall seek the truth, and the truth shall set you free! Or drive you mad.”
Millions of words have been devoted to determining what is true in life. This column will not add to the total. This column will talk about the bending of truth: spin.
“Spin” has several meanings. The one I have in mind refers to deception, propaganda, persuasion, and almost any sly attempt to win a favorable opinion about an individual, product, cause or event.
Over the weekend, images of wanton bloodshed in Paris were conveyed to Americans. Unlike ISIS’ other barbaric attacks, including the horrific bombing of a Russian airliner about a week previous, this attack seemed to hit closer to home.
The Paris attacks raised the level of concern and awareness of the ISIS threat to this country. An attack on a major U.S. city was feared next, and expected by many anxious Americans.
Immediately, the coordinated attacks in Paris that killed scores of innocent civilians were described by the media and our political leaders strictly in terms of another act of barbaric terrorism against Western civilization.
If you pay $39 for a hotel room, you shouldn’t be surprised if you unintentionally bring home unwanted hitchhikers. Bed bugs, to be precise.
Though I can’t prove the small hotel where I stayed was to blame for my month-long malady back in the early ’90s, my doctor advised me at the time that the inn was likely the culprit, since I had not slept in any other bed since then but my own. Never itched so much in my life.
Because of that experience and others, such as staying at a place I could have sworn had been a storage-unit complex, I’ve used more discretion in recent years in selecting hotels, and I must have stayed in hundreds of them.
I have a bold political prediction: if the next U.S. president is a woman, it will be either Carly Fiorina or Hillary Clinton. What an election campaign that would be: two mature, intelligent women outlining their programs and policies, speaking correct English, standing without putting their hands in their pockets, and performing other acts that male politicians sometimes fail to do.
If either of those women is elected to the White House, it may well be because of what other women do. (Or don’t do.) If most female voters turned out en masse to support Hillary or Carly, they would probably swamp any male opponent. Conversely, if women voters held back on either woman, a male opponent would almost surely be sworn in.
You might suppose that most American women would be strongly biased toward a female presidential candidate, just because she’s a woman. After all, we’ve never had a female in command at the White House. Many voters of both sexes would vote for Carly or Hillary just to see if a woman president could screw things up just as much as several male presidents have.
Backers and opponents of letting people bring guns onto Florida’s college campuses can’t logically support their arguments until there’s more slaughter to analyze.
It appears that a bill that would allow students with a concealed-carry permit to bring their guns onto the state’s public college campuses will become law next year.
A similar bill died in the 2015 session but the National Rifle Association and the bill’s Republican supporters are getting the bill teed up early. Crucial House and Senate committees already have approved the bill.
LBJ declared the War on Poverty; the GOP waged a War on Women; the state of Florida has never ceased its War on Nature.
The latest front: Bears!
How often have you come home from a hard day of flipping carcino-burgers at the local McWendyking’s, slaving away at the phosphate plant or working at the dairy farm pumping slurry into the nearest waterway, only to find a bear kicking back in your La-Z-Boy, cracking open a can of your PBR?
Free English lessons PINELLAS PARK – Free English lessons for adult speakers of other languages are offered Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8 p.m., in the parish hall at Sacred Heart Church, 7809 46th Way.
Everyone is welcome. For information, call 541-4447.
Faces of AIDS ST. PETERSBURG – World AIDS Day: Faces of AIDS, a panel discussion, will be presented Tuesday, Dec. 1, 6:30 p.m., in Wireman Chapel, at Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S.
In honor of World AIDS Day, a panel discussion will focus on the growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS. About 1.2 million people have been infected with HIV in the United States and Florida has the highest rate of infection. The infection rate in Pinellas County has increased by more than 30 percent in the past year. Since the beginning, HIV/AIDS has been a disease stigmatized due to gender, race, class and sexual taboos.
This event features a panel of people directly affected by the epidemic, squares from the AIDS Quilt and a candlelight vigil for those who have been lost.
First-time homebuyers workshop LARGO – The Community Service Foundation will host a free, two-part first-time homebuyers workshop on Tuesdays, Dec. 1 and 8, 6 to 9 p.m., at Pinellas County Housing Authority, 11479 Ulmerton Road.
The workshop is designed to help first-time homebuyers go through the process of purchasing a home and qualifying for down payment and closing costs assistance. Participants must attend both sessions to earn a certificate.
For information or to register, visit www.csfhome.org or call 461-0618, ext. 3.
Free facial and makeup mixer ST. PETERSBURG – Beth Mahon, owner of The Red Oar Boutique at 7228 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg, will host a free facial and makeup mixer on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 7 to 9 p.m.
Mahon will introduce American made Beauty Society products. Complimentary wine and cheese will be provided and a portion of the night’s proceeds will benefit the Northside Boys and Girls Club of the Suncoast.
Largo Woman’s Club meeting LARGO – The Largo Woman’s Club meets first Tuesdays, 11:30 a.m., at the Royal Palms, 300 Lake Ave.
The monthly meetings, held September through May, are $8 and include lunch.
The club’s mission is to promote charitable and civic progress of the city of Largo. Its members invite new residents and any fun and caring people to attend the meetings and business lunches, which include entertainment.
The club was founded to build sidewalks along Bay Drive. Its next project was building the Largo Public Library. The library and the Woman’s Club will be 100 years old in 2015.
For more information about the club, call Ellen at 584-8314 or Pat at 584-0297.
Military Order of the World Wars meeting CLEARWATER – The Clearwater Chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars meets for lunch on the first Tuesday of each month at the Belleair Country Club, 1 Country Club Lane.
Social hour starts at 11:30 a.m., followed by lunch and a short program.
Military officers who are retired or are on active duty or former officers and their spouses or widows are invited to attend. The MOWW also welcomes new members.
To make reservations or to inquire about becoming a member, call George Smith at 786-5578.
Pasta and dancing CLEARWATER – The Italian club of Greater Clearwater will host pasta dinners each Tuesday, monthly, from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at 200 S. McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater. Dancing also will be held on some Saturdays. For information, call 791-8698.
Safe boating class ST. PETE BEACH – U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 78 has a 12-week continuous cycle of Safe Boating Programs Tuesdays, 7 p.m., in the Warren Webster Building, at 1500 Pass-A-Grille Way.
Attendees can start at their convenience. New participants should arrive for their first class at 6:30 p.m. to register. Included in this program are detailed and illustrated materials that cover a variety of program topics.
The program package is based on the new USCG Auxiliary Boating Skills and Seamanship 14th edition 400-page manual. All materials will be included in the cost of the program, which is $45 per participant for 12 weeks. Cost is $60 for couples sharing the materials.
For information, call Jim at 360-4846, Warren at 321-7801 or Phil at 865-2226.
Seminole-SPC Toastmasters meeting SEMINOLE – Seminole-SPC Toastmasters meets at 6:15 p.m. Tuesdays at the Seminole Community Library, 9200 113th St.
This personal development program helps individuals become confident speakers in a self-paced, fun atmosphere.
Contact Dennis Hamel at 374-2612 or visit seminolespc.toastmastersclubs.org for more information.