Thursday, May 28, 2015

Scholastic Publishing Novel on Transgender Eight-Year-Old By Self-Described 'Fat Queer Activist'

     The speed with which the transgender agenda is moving may end up making the same-sex marriage debate look slow and deliberative by comparison. And now Scholastic, the children's publisher that specializes in distributing and selling books through schools, is poised to bring the issue to a middle school classroom near you. The medium is George, the story of an eight year old boy named George who desperately wants to be considered a girl.
     George is the first effort by author Alex Gino, self-described on Facebook as a "[p]rogressive middle grade novelist, author of GEORGE (fall 2015, Scholastic). Fat queer activist, glitter liberationist, urban gardener, and then some." Gino's bio on Twitter is similar:

     Although the book will not be published until August, Scholastic is sending pre-publication copies to teachers for feedback on the novel. The letter accompanying the advance copies of the book reads as follows: 

     Although the book is targeted at middle-schoolers, George tells the story of a fourth grader named George, a boy who has "always" thought of himself as a girl. He keeps a stash of Seventeen and other girls' magazine hidden in his room, chafes at being called a "boy" or "young man", and is mortified by his own anatomy. A class production of Charlotte's Web brings the issue to a head when George wants to portray the spider Charlotte, a part offered only to the girls in his class.
     The author Gino exclusively uses female pronouns to refer to George throughout the story, distracting for an adult but potentially unsettling for the novel's preteen and young teen target audience. The book's back-flap bio of the author takes a different tack, saying of Gino that "George is their first novel," a remarkable grammatically incorrect concession for an educational publisher to make in a children's book.
     Although George uses Charlotte's Web as the vehicle to tell this eight year old boy's story, readers may find that the story The Emperor's New Clothes comes to mind as well. Although not everyone immediately accepts George's new gender, many of the cool characters do, and the reader is given the impression that reason will win the day and the others will come around. There is one mention by George's mother about George seeing a therapist to talk about "these things", but the mother says she probably needs someone to talk to about it also. There is no discussion of what other feelings that conflict with biological reality (race, appearance, age) might also be worthy of affirmation.
     When asked to comment on the appropriateness of having a self-described "fat queer activist" be the one to address such a difficult, sensitive and controversial subject, a spokesperson for Scholastic initially replied, "Please provide an address and I’d be happy to send a copy of the book so you can make an informed judgment on the content." [A copy of the book had already been obtained for this story.] After a follow up inquiry, Scholastic provided the following statement:
Author Alex Gino has been working on GEORGE for more than twelve years and, during that time, the issue of gender identity has come out of the shadows and is now very much a part of American life.  What GEORGE manages to do – with sensitivity and grace – is bring questions of identity to younger audiences in a natural and truthful way and with an age-appropriate storyline.  As we have shared the book with educators, parents, and librarians, the resounding refrain has been, “This is the book we’ve been looking for!”  These parents and educators have told us that rather than having young readers overhear conversations among adults or in the media, the book helps them to have the conversation directly with children, in a way that is deeply appropriate for their age level.  They value the message of GEORGE as one that everyone, child and adult, can benefit from:  BE WHO YOU ARE. 
     The spokesperson did not respond to a question about whether or not Scholastic has published any books with alternative points on view on transgenderism.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Someone (Ahem) Did a Statistical Analysis of Vox.com Photos, And It's Actually Pretty Depressing

    The other day, Vox.com ran a piece entitled "Someone did a statistical analysis of New Yorker cartoons, and it's actually pretty depressing." The semi-serious article presented the findings in the "semi-satirical journal Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science" regarding the race and gender of characters in the semi-iconic New Yorker cartoons. The study found that "[o]ut of 1,810 total characters, 1,277 (about 70.6 percent) were male, and 1,714 (94.7 percent) were white." Vox writer Joseph Stromberg argues that there is a "need for accurate representation of nonwhite guys", and not just in movies and on TV. Stromberg quotes Amy Rothschild of the FiveThirtyEight blog asserting that it's a problem "[w]hen whole groups of people appear as stereotypes or not at all[.]" Rothschild was referring to children's books, but Stromberg says "adults are impressionable, too."
     After reading the article, I became curious about what impressionable adults might find to skew their something-other-than-the-content-of-a-persons-character worldview on the site where the article appeared, Vox.com. Since Vox does not regularly produce cartoons, I decided to use as a proxy a Google search of the Vox.com site of the first 100 facial images since the beginning of 2015. (Small sample size, but I have staff limitations.) You won't, as they say, believe what happened next:

    Read 'em and weep:
  • 81% "white dudes", as Vox likes to say
  • 9% women, all white
  • 10% non-whites (and four of them are President Obama)
     Others may come up with slightly different figures. I am particularly bad at guessing a person's race (maybe that's a good thing?)
     Anyway, to try to eliminate the possibility that Google itself is the culprit in white-male-skewing the results, I also conducted a general (the whole web) image search for "faces" since the beginning of the year.

     At a glance, the results seem more eclectic (certainly more women than men), but I did not conduct a full statistical analysis (again, staffing issues...).
     I decided to do a few more for comparison. Here's the New York Times:

     Looks like quite a variety.

     How about MSNBC?

     Whoa. Elizabeth Warren is looking pretty lonely there, eh, MSNBC?
     And finally, just for fun, The New Yorker's website:

     It appears the "white dude" dominance at The New Yorker is largely confined to the cartoons.

     So what conclusions can we draw from these analyses? Got me. I think I got a C in Statistics in college. I told you we have staffing issues.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bill Clinton on Martin O'Malley in 2014: 'Terrific Governor,' 'Best Run State'

     As former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley emerges as perhaps the most significant threat to Hillary Clinton in her quest for the Democratic nomination for president, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation may be trying to downplay O'Malley's connections to the organization. At the annual meeting in June 2014 for the Clinton Global Initiative, O'Malley appeared on stage with Bill Clinton to announce O'Malley's involvement with a project of CGI called the Mid-Atlantic Infrastructure Exchange (MAX). Clinton praised O'Malley as "a terrific governor of Maryland" and noted his education reforms in particular [remarks related to O'Malley begin around 5:00 in the video]:

    Clinton went on to note that "Maryland at least twice during [O'Malley's] two-term tenure has been voted the best run state in the country". The former president was optimistic about O'Malley and the Democratic Party's future in Maryland, predicting, "his lieutenant governor who he endorsed... I think will succeed him [as governor in November 2014 election,] showing that the people of Maryland like where they're going and believe in what they're doing." Republican Larry Hogan actually went on to beat O'Malley's lieutenant governor Anthony Brown in a shocking upset in the 2014 race.
    But despite Bill Clinton's warm welcome and praise for O'Malley, the former governor's appearance is difficult to find in the Clinton Foundation's recap of the 2014 CGI meeting. O'Malley's name appears only once on the foundation's website, pictured below [highlight added]:

    However, the link provided takes users to "CGIA 2014 Commitment Announcement: Scaling Community Advantage Capital for Small Business" rather than O'Malley's announcement. Video of his appearance with Bill Clinton is on the Clinton Global Initiative's YouTube channel, but is listed as "CGIA 2014 Commitment Annoucement [sic]: AFL-CIO and MAX"; O'Malley's name is not mentioned in the description. O'Malley is not listed as as a participant in the Clinton Global Initiative's agenda for the 2014 meeting, either.
    The fate of the Mid-Atlantic Infrastructure Exchange that O'Malley announced is something of a mystery as well. It is not mentioned on the Clinton Foundation website, and does not appear to have a website of its own, either. Emails to the Clinton Foundation and to Martin O'Malley's office inquiring about the Mid-Atlantic Infrastructure Exchange and O'Malley's involvement have gone unanswered.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Bill and Hillary Clinton's Million Dollar Day

     Disclosure forms filed last week with the Federal Election Commission by Hillary Clinton provide fascinating details of the remarkable money-making machine that is the once-and-possibly-future First Couple. Between January 2014 and the filing of the forms on May 15, 2015 (up to and including a speech by Bill Clinton to the American Institute of Architects the day before the filing), the Clintons made about $30 million, approximately $25 million from speeches alone.
     Both of the Clintons have given speeches regularly in the 16-month period covered in the filing with rarely more than a few weeks off in between engagements. Often events are crowded together during a period of several days, sometimes with more than one speech on the same day. On a single day last October, Bill and Hillary delivered a total of four speeches, taking home over $1 million. Those four speeches fell in the middle of a three-day blitz that brought in a total of $1,511,000. (Mrs. Clinton edged out her husband $786,000 to $725,000.)

Hillary Clinton

Bill Clinton

     Now that Hillary Clinton is a declared candidate, she has stopped giving paid speeches. The former president, however, shows no signs of slowing down. Less than two weeks before his wife announced her candidacy, Bill Clinton was paid $765,000 over a two-day period for three speeches:

     Although the audiences for the Clintons vary widely, the actual content and duration of the speeches is not always revealed. However, a YouTube video of Bill Clinton's recent speech to the American Institute of Architects, apparently recorded by an attendee, shows that the $250,000 fee paid to Mr. Clinton purchased the group a 23 minute speech, an hourly rate of about $652,000.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

An Interview With Hillary Clinton

     Since Hillary Clinton officially announced her second run for the White House, the press has only managed to elicit thirteen answers from the Democratic frontrunner. As a handy reference, I set up a Twitter account called Hillary Answers with each of her thirteen answers in a tweet. But as long as Mrs. Clinton is avoiding talking to the press, I figured why not use this resource to conduct an interview in absentia?
     What follows is how an interview might go if Mrs. Clinton agreed to sit down with Speak With Authority:

Speak With Authority: Madame Secretary, thanks for providing some answers for this faux interview even though you're not really here. I think it's a wonderful idea.

Secretary Clinton:

Speak With Authority: Let's start off with the Clinton Foundation. Lots of controversy about foreign donations, influence, and speeches by you and your husband involving companies and foreign governments that also lobbied the State Department when you were Secretary of State. Isn't there at least an appearance of impropriety?

Secretary Clinton:

Speak With Authority: But it's not just your opponents that have raised these questions. Even some Democrats are concerned about the apparent conflicts of interest.

Secretary Clinton:

Speak With Authority: What is it then that you are going to make this campaign about? Have you got a plan?

Secretary Clinton:

Speak With Authority: But your website still doesn't have an "issues" page. When will you spell out what is important to you and what you plan to do as president?

Secretary Clinton:

Speak With Authority: Well, how about foreign policy? Do you have any regrets about the "Russian Reset" or policies regarding Libya, Iran, or the Middle East in general?

Secretary Clinton:

Speak With Authority: That sounds familiar... where have I heard that before?

Secretary Clinton:

Speak With Authority: Do you feel that the fact that you and your husband made $30 million since the beginning of 2014 helps or hurts your ability to connect with the average voter?

Secretary Clinton:

Speak With Authority: So you believe the financial success of you and your husband demonstrates that "you can get ahead and you can stay ahead"?

Secretary Clinton:

Speak With Authority: There are some who say your "Scooby van" trip to Iowa was just a glorified sight-seeing trip that lacked substance and allowed you to avoid hard-hitting interviews like this one. Is that true?

Secretary Clinton:

Speak With Authority: That's all the time we have for now, mostly because I'm having trouble coming up with questions that fit one of your answers. But I trust this interview was not too uncomfortable and we'll be sitting down in person with you very soon.

Secretary Clinton:

Speak With Authority: When do you think that in-person interview might be?

 Secretary Clinton:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Confirmed by ABC News: George Stephanopoulos Was Clinton Global Initiative Member in 2010, 2011

    John Sexton of Breitbart News did some more digging and uncovered additional details about George Stephanopoulos's involvement with the Clinton Foundation's Clinton Global Initiative that I first reported Friday. Sexton was also able to get a response from ABC News:
George Stephanopoulos’ connections to the Clinton Foundation may be more substantial than he has so far admitted. 
An archived page of the Clinton Global Initiative website lists George Stephanopoulos as a “notable member” for the years 2010 and 2011. ABC News has confirmed Mr. Stephanopoulos was a member during both years.
    Read his entire story here.

Note: Mediaite also ran a piece on Stephanopoulos and CGI based on my original story.

George Stephanopoulos Was a Member of the Clinton Global Initiative [Updated]

UPDATE: See new post including new information via John Sexton of Breitbart News.

     George Stephanopoulos, under fire for not clearly disclosing donations of $75,000 to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation (via Andrew Stiles of the Washington Free Beacon), was at some point a member of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an arm of the Clinton Foundation. The foundation's website lists Stephanopoulos along with other "notable past members" of CGI, among them Tom Brokaw, Anderson Cooper, and Greta Van Susteren, Rupert Murdock, and T. Boone Pickens:

     According to the foundation, the "CGI membership fee is $20,000 per calendar year, $19,000 of which is tax deductable [sic]." (Some complimentary memberships are available for "nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations.") Stephanopoulos has acknowledged (via CNN) giving $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation between 2012 and 2014; the Foundation's website reports Stephanopoulos as giving between $50,001 and $100,000. After an initial response, the communications office of the Clinton Foundation did not answer emailed questions regarding the duration or timing of Stephanopoulos's membership, if his membership was a paid membership, or if the tax-deductible membership fees count toward donation totals.
     Membership benefits include annual meeting attendance and various networking opportunities. At one time, membership included access to a members-only website that has "a member directory, a messaging system, and commitment information," but it's not clear if that website still exists.
     George Stephanopoulos's relationship with the Clinton Foundation goes back at least nine years. He acted as moderator of a panel discussion that included former President Jimmy Carter at CGI's annual meeting in 2006 (where he was referred to on the Foundation's blog as "the smart and funny George Stephanopoulos"). As recently as 2014 he served on a panel of judges along with Chelsea Clinton at "Up to Us, a nationwide campus competition sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative University and Net Impact", which seeks to engage students in "America’s long-term fiscal and economic challenges." Stephanopoulos also participated in the CGI annual meeting in 2007 and 2009.
     ABC News did not return an email seeking answers about what years Stephanopoulos was a member of CGI, if he paid the membership fee, and, if so, was the membership fee in addition to the $75,000 of donations he has acknowledged.