Friday, August 18, 2017

On Naming Nazis

Yesterday, Pacific Standard published a piece of mine on Naming Nazis. Please read and share!

One general theme I'm noting a lot in the Trump era is a question of how we defend our principles. I wrote:
Over the last few days, I've been struck by the ways in which the debate over naming Nazis mirrors other arguments about the limitations of abstract principles. Should Milo Yiannopoulos be allowed to speak on college campuses if his goal is to incite harassment against transgender or undocumented students? Should the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia fight for the rights of Nazis when the Nazis' goal is to move from public speech (clearly protected) to mob violence and even murder (clearly not)? How do we respond in a moment when the norms that allow us a pretense of civil society are being so thoroughly disregarded? Trump, Richard Spencer, Yiannopoulos, and so many others have learned that they can hack our norms in order to spread their agenda, while never being held accountable to the norms themselves. It's an old play. Fascists always want to defend freedom of expression right up to the moment when they can throw you in jail for speaking against them.
When we take a principle and defend it on an abstract or absolute level, that usually means (if one is honest) accepting that other principles, and likely other people, will suffer. The men with guns outside a Synagogue demonstrate the tensions between the first and second amendments, for example. A pacifist recently talked to me about how his absolute pacifism means accepting that people might get harmed. He accepts it as a consequence of his belief.

Which is really what I want. I want people to think about the implications of absolute commitment to abstract principles in a moment when fascists are trying to hack those principles to cause harm.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

ADHD: Not Related to Parenting

Just putting this link up here as I try to find out more. Apparently not only is this ableist in terms of its misconstruction of the causes of ADHD, but it was in response to a question on policing. More to come. Here's a piece on the Town Hall itself.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Race in America and "Both Sides."

Historian Kevin Kruse has an important thread on the way that segregationists linked the Klan to the NAACP.  Trump is pulling an old move here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ban Laptop Bans: A Pedagogy for Tattoo Computers, Eyelid Phones, Fingernail Tablets

I've written against the ableism of laptop bans plenty. I want to add this thought today:

We are barely, barely, still in an era of tech when we can imagine separating the student from the device. That's going to fade soon. Our pedagogy should adapt now, rather than when it's too late.

Monday, August 14, 2017

GOP: In Favor of Running over Leftwing Protestors

As you know, a Nazi killed a protester named Heather Heyer and injured many others. What you may or may not know is that over the last year, many different state GOP lawmakers have been proposing decriminalizing running over protesters. Here's a thread.
In response to BLM, Standing Rock, and anti-Trump protests, the GOP has been trying to criminalize protest and decriminalize violent acts against protesters. The murder of Heather Heyer is the direct result of these actions. The GOP should renounce these efforts.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Disability and Voting Turnout in 2016

Rutgers professors Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse have a new fact sheet on turnout from people with disabilities. Their "key points:"
  • 6.0 million people with disabilities reported voting in the November 2016 elections.
  • The voter turnout rate of people with disabilities was 6 percentage points lower than that of people without disabilities.
  • Employed people with disabilities, however, were just as likely as employed people without disabilities to vote, suggesting that employment helps bring people with disabilities into mainstream political life.
  • The voter registration rate of people with disabilities was 2 percentage points lower than that of people without disabilities. The lower voter turnout was due both to a lower registration rate among people with disabilities, and to lower turnout among those who are registered.
  • If people with disabilities voted at the same rate as people without disabilities who have the same demographic characteristics, there would be about 2.2 million more voters.
Lots of barriers to voting for disabled Americans. Employment matters, though I suspect more of a correlation than causation here. Anyway, the data is useful. READ THE WHOLE THING.

I tend to want to see disability politicized, by which I do not mean made more partisan, but so that people vote based on disability related policy issues. I.e. people who voted to destroy Medicaid should be driven from office.

I previously covered some of Schur's work here.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


I am moving my family to Minnesota. You can listen to an interview and read about it from a good government perspective. I wouldn't expect much in the way of posts for the next week or so, unless I'm furious or happy.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

ACCESS LIVING: Policing and Disability Forum

On August 11, Access Living is hosting a forum on police interactions with people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or individuals with other disabilities. EVENT PAGE IS HERE

I'll have left town by then, but I'm so impressed with the incredible work Access Living is doing organizing around these issues, and especially the leadership of Candace Coleman. I'm thrilled to see them partnering with the ACLU.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"How Can I Help?" - Canada Ponders Mental Health and Policing

Four years ago, a police officer in Ontario shot Michael MacIsaac, who was running naked through his suburban neighborhood. He was allegedly holding a metal chair leg of some sort, and when he didn't drop it, Constable Brian Taylor shot and killed him.

An inquest into the shooting has just wrapped. One of the participants emphasized not just specialized training, but a general approach based on de-escalation.
Jennifer Chambers, one of 18 witnesses who testified at the inquest, is executive director of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health-funded Empowerment Council. The organization has long advocated for improved training for frontline officers who may encounter many different shades of mental illness on the job.

Chambers has made her case at more than 10 different police shooting inquests, including the one for 45-year-old Andrew Loku earlier this month, and says she's noticed some common themes.
"The police see somebody holding something they find threatening and they give the police challenge … When the person doesn't drop it, they just keep yelling," Chambers told CBC Toronto ahead of the release of the jury's recommendations.
Instead, she would like to see officers first ask: "What's going on? Can I help you? Is there something we can do? Let's talk."
I like this framing. It's pretty clear that a case of a naked man running through a suburb in winter might be in mental health crisis, but too many cases are less clear. Specialized training and resources are necessary, but just generally de-emphasizing reliance on instant compliance, absent other threat indicators, will save lives.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Mike Huckabee's "Short Bus" joke: Apology Not Accepted

On Fox News, yesterday, Mike Huckabee said this about incoming Chief of Staff John Kelly:
“If you have four stars on your shoulder, you’re not a slow learner, you didn’t ride the short bus. He will be fine.”
"Short bus" in this instance, is saying that Kelly is not intellectually disabled. In other words, it's an "r-word" type slur, delivered here in the negative (Kelly is not a ...). Huckabee then apologized over twitter.

I find the cultural space occupied by "r-word" type slurs revealing. So many people so casually resort to ableist slurs without even thinking, as Huckabee did here. It's no worse, though, than Obama's "special olympics" joke or Rahm's "r-word" slurs. Both of those men apologized too, of course. Slurs about intellectual disability, then, occupy an unusual cultural space in which widely diverse people use them constantly and quickly recognize that they are in the wrong (Ann Coulter being the notable exception that proves the rule).

Huckabee has also made numerous racist, sexist, anti-homosexual, anti-Islamic, remarks over the years. He thinks of himself as a kind of insult comic (he's not funny), richly sure he's hilarious (he's really not), and richly rewarded in cash from right-wing media. He's having a nice post-government career going on air and insulting people. It's what he does.

I'm glad Huckabee apologized. Ableism often escapes notice. It must be called out. But too often, especially among white parents of people with intellectual disabilities, our work against ableism starts and ends with the "r-word" and related slurs. We don't look for the ways that ableism intersects with other forms of hate, satisfied to know that we've drawn the line around the r-word. That's not good enough.

Huckabee is unfit for airtime. He is a vehicle of hate and division. If you've just noticed now with the "short bus" comment, go back and see his body of work. It's vile.

Apology not accepted.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Joy Policing. Don't do it for a few minutes ok?

No victories are ever total. Today I'm happy we saved Medicaid. It's ok to be happy. It's a meaningful if incremental win. Ignore the temptation to immediately point out all the battles yet to come, at least for five minutes.
In response to this thread, twitter user @feministlib shared a piece on "joy policing" that I found extremely apt.
We celebrate incremental wins, because it energizes us to keep moving toward the next win. Celebrating doesn’t mean we think we’re done; it means our efforts resulted in change in the right direction. 
Let's see what new facts we can help folks learn and politicize today!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Eugenics in Tennessee

In my latest piece, I write for The Marshall Project about the history of incarceration and sterilization, of course just scratching the surface in the short commentary.
Under no circumstances should the courts use their power to shape the reproductive decisions of individuals. But sadly, for over a century, attitudes about individuals convicted of crimes have made incarcerated men and women targets of such efforts.
Whether Benningfield knows it or not, his policy follows a long history of eugenic practices in this country. Eugenics is a pseudo-science which holds that the quality of humanity can be improved over generations through practices that encourage individuals with “desirable traits” to reproduce and discourage the “unfit” from doing so. There's a sense that eugenics is confined to a long-ago history, but coercive eugenic practices crop up constantly in the American criminal legal system.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Academic Freedom: Dr. Jonathan Higgins

Yesterday, I wrote about the adjunct prof fired by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for alleged homophobia. I wrote that we have to pay attention when people with less power are punished for speech, even if their views might be objectionable.

Today, I turn to the case of Dr. Jonathan Higgins, the director of Claremont Colleges' Queer Resource Center. He was fired for tweeting about white supremacy after a right-wing website latched on to three of his tweets and started campaigning for him to get fired. The college caved.

  1. Colleges need to realize that they cannot appease right-wing media by firing individuals.
  2. Professional staff (I'm about to be one) should be afforded the same rights for "extramural utterances" (i.e. Twitter) as faculty. We want our professional staff engaged in public conversations, not terrified of being fired.
  3. College PR depts should learn to write this statement: "We do not let right-wing media influence our hiring or firing decisions. That will be our only comment on the matter." 
There is an industry dedicated to finding people in higher education saying liberal things on social media and concentrating attention on them until they lose their jobs. As Tressie McMillan Cottom was quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education the other day - "If there’s an organized outrage machine, we need an organized response."

Part of that response must involve the high profile Free Speech Warriors shifting their attention away from leftwing protests of rightwing speakers, and working collaboratively with us to protect people like Bonesteel and Higgins. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Academic Freedom: Michael Bonesteel

Michael Bonesteel was contingent faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). I don't know the details of his appointment, but it seems he taught sufficient hours to have healthcare through SAIC and had been teaching about contemporary art and comics for a long time. According to Inside Higher Education, he has "resigned" after some of his classes were taken from him due to student complaints about course content and alleged homophobia. I have no information on the veracity of the accusations. They should be taken seriously. But I need to say a few things about the academic freedom issues.

We need to be clear: Taking away classes from adjuncts is firing them.

My position is this (as I wrote about at the Chronicle in a case of an adjunct making horrifically homophobic statements, but in an extramural context, rather than in class) is that the bar for dismissal of any faculty member based on speech exists, but that it is extremely high. Academic freedom does not mean one can literally say anything in any context with no professional consequences, but that the burden for proving it is impossible for a professor to move forward as faculty falls on the institution. The process should be clear, transparent, and aimed at restoring community if at all possible.

That doesn't seem to be what's happened here. Again, I don't know. What I do know is that I am infinitely more concerned about Bonesteel's rights than I am about Richard Dawkins' recent canceled speech, anything that's happened to Milo, Coulter, Charles Murray, or Peter Singer, or any other fancy featured lecture.

The fight over academic freedom includes defending speech that is repellant to us.

But it takes place in defense of vulnerable faculty, not millionaire right-wing speakers.

I have never (as I've been accused) claimed that only left-wing speech should be defended. I argue that when thinking about free speech and academic freedom, we should pay attention to power and prioritize the rights of the most vulnerable. Hence, I am more concerned with student groups than elite speakers. I am more concerned with politicians demanding profs be censored or fired than profs acting badly (i.e. the case of Melissa Click in Missouri or the whole state of Wisconsin). I am more concerned about adjunct profs being fired than tenured profs feeling unhappy that people don't like them. This case in Chicago is a good example of where people need to work for the principle of academic freedom.

So to all those folks currently polishing their scoldings of a Berkeley radio station for choosing not to host Dawkins, maybe instead you could expend some of your media platform worrying about adjunct rights?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Ozyfest 2017!!!!

I am pleased to announce that I will be appearing with Maysoon Zayid, Victor Pineda, Sinéad Burke at OZYFEST tomorrow in Central Park, New York City. I'm honored to share the stage with these three.

We will be talking about disability rights, and I will focus on parenting and formal journalism, but will hope to talk a bit about universal design, the cult of compliance and the modern expansion of eugenics. Here's the schedule for the afternoon.

Description: The schedule for Ozyfest's "Town Square."
Accessible version at link -
Hope to see some New Yorkers there! Because my co-panelists are amazing, and, well, Biden, Gillibrand, and Bush (who has a strong disability rights record overall) are surely worth your time. And over on the main stage, Samantha Bee is on at 4:20. So that's where I'll be.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Modern Knights Templar Prepare for Race War in Europe

There's an ongoing debate about the extent to which medieval scholars need to be concerned about explicitly fighting racism as medieval scholars. I haven't quite figured out how to write about the issues coherently. But the stakes, to me, are clear. 

Meet the Knights Templar International. Their FAQ wants you to know that they aren't racists.

But there's a coming civil war, says the "Hidden Templar" in the black hoodie.

Description: A screenshot from the KTI page, showing a black hooded figure in the front, ranks of knights in back
Headline - Britain's Coming Civil War 
Other stories include Islamic attacks on Children, the need to defend Syria's Christians. Other details:
Western civilisation is entering a period of existential crisis. A convergence of external and internal catastrophes is leading inexorably to a time when the survival of Christendom will only be secured by dedicated militancy in the teeth of demonic evil.
Demonic evil.
Accordingly, while we are not a ‘secret’ organisation, our collective leadership is discrete and so safeguarded as far as is possible from the hostile attention of the atheist, globalist and Islamist enemies of our sacred Cause.
Globalists means "Jews."

Other pages talk about the threat to white families in Europe.

I learned about them because I was reading the Twitter of a Holocaust denier, and came across this tweet talking about efforts from Italian fascists and others to arm militias against refugees (he's working to make sure boats don't save refugees off Sicily).
At any rate, we have a lot of work to do as medievalists. We have to go into our classrooms knowing this discourse is out there, and at least some people signing up will be partaking of it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Humanities Majors GET JOBS!

So part of my new job at the University of Minnesota is to convince students - and their families - that they can major in History and still be gainfully employed.

The good news is that it's true, they can. Even the Harvard Business Review says so.
According to three new books, the answer is “Quite a lot.” From Silicon Valley to the Pentagon, people are beginning to realize that to effectively tackle today’s biggest social and technological challenges, we need to think critically about their human context—something humanities graduates happen to be well trained to do. Call it the revenge of the film, history, and philosophy nerds.
We know this. But it's good to have more narratives.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Philosophy, Disability, and The Stone (New York Times)

I have a few requests

ONE: I would like The Stone, the New York Times philosophy column, to sometimes publish philosophers who are disabled and write about the intersections of philosophy and disability rights from that perspective. 

At current time, they have published two essays on disability and philosophy, one advocating that perhaps developmentally disabled people who cannot consent can also not be raped, so long as they enjoy it. 

The other, more recently, came from a grieving father arguing that he should have been able to have his infant disabled son put to death more quickly, with less suffering. More on this latter one below.

Given these two pieces, it's reasonable to suggest that a broader spectrum of philosophy and disability studies might be given some time in this highly public venue. 

TWO: I would like philosophers who want to write about disability to know more about disability. 

This will be long and not entirely organized. It's why it's on my blog and not submitted somewhere formal.

PART ONE: Comstock

Gary Comstock, a philosophy professor at North Carolina State, wrote a searingly painful second-person essay about the need to be able to euthanize suffering babies. It takes you, the reader, step by step through the process of discovering that your baby has trisomy-18 and coming to the decision to disconnect him from the ventilator. Here's a key paragraph.
Some parents choose to use all possible means of continuing their child’s life in the hope that their child will beat the odds and eventually overcome problems. Others choose to let the children die to spare the babies the pain of the ordeal.
Forget the statistics and what others do or don’t do. We would like to know what our Sam’s chances are for reaching the point where his life is valuable to him. But there is no answer to that question. No one can tell you whether your son’s life is worth living from his perspective, or yours. We cannot say whether your son will ever breathe on his own or look at you. We can say only that the literature suggests the odds are stacked heavily against him.
At the end, Sam - the baby -  suffers in his final 20 minutes in this narrative, and the author years later realizes that instead of letting the baby die, it would have been kinder to kill him quickly. He writes:
This thought occurs to you years later, thinking about the gruesome struggle of his last 20 minutes. You are not sure whether it makes sense to talk about his life, because he never seemed to have the things that make a life: thoughts, wants, desires, interests, memories, a future. But supposing that he had thoughts, his strongest thought during those last minutes certainly appeared to be: “This hurts. Can’t someone help it stop?” He didn’t know your name, but if he had, he would have said: “Daddy? Please. Now.”
It seems the medical community has few options to offer parents of newborns likely to die. We can leave our babies on respirators and hope for the best. Or remove the hose and watch the child die a tortured death. Shouldn’t we have another choice? Shouldn’t we be allowed the swift humane option afforded the owners of dogs, a lethal dose of a painkiller?
I find these quoted paragraphs very troubling. The decision that the parents made, faced by suffering and a potentially lethal condition, is not simple. We - the disability community - should not pretend that their decision to let their child die is simple or that we know what we would have done in their place. I, anyway, do know not what I would have done.

But that pathos doesn't mean ignoring the implications of this essay. I am struck by the ease with which agency is given to Sam and then removed within this piece. In the first quote, probabilities govern the decision. In the second quote, the author - again, a grieving father for whom I feel enormous empathy - provides Sam with enough agency to ask to die.

The piece was written in second person, following the rhetoric of the "thought exercise." That's how I reacted to it at first on twitter as I watched disabled friends reel in shock, pain, and horror at seeing their lives compared to that of animals needing to be put down. I've since been "checked" by an ethicist who told me that it's Comstock's real story. I am, it must be said, filled with pain at my mistake. I think back to my son's first minutes and hours after he was diagnosed, just a few minutes after delivery, and imagine that the words were Trisomy 18, not Trisomy 21. I understand why he needs to use his training as a theologian and philosopher to work through the difficult choice he and his wife made. I'm not even going to say that it was the wrong choice. We need, however, to consider for whom else we might want to have empathy.

I feel for Comstock. The question of how to ease death is important and needs good discussion and surely better policy. In America, we tend to die very badly.

I also feel empathy for the child. I feel empathy for disabled people who read this piece. Here's a storify from Alice Wong, featuring Ari Ne'eman's careful disassembly of the piece and its core assumptions. In the efforts to "check me," I haven't seen a response to this. Where is the empathy for the disabled reader who encounters this essay as "Comstock wants to make it easier for me to be killed?" 

What happens in this piece is that the author uses a single story - written as thought exercise, but actually true - in order to abstract generalized principles about making euthanasia more available in cases of trisomy-18 and other potentially lethal or severely disabling natal conditions. It is not, to my reading, based on research into palliative care techniques for suffering infants, but rather the philosophical method of thinking through the ethical and moral implications of the incident. It is rational, except for when it's emotional.

I see this willingness to dismiss the agency, indeed, the humanity, of disabled people as a too frequent consequence of certain strains of ethical and philosophical discourse. We can ... we must ... critique this tendency even as we feel empathy for the author struggling with his past.

PART TWO: Singer

The Comstock essay was published at "The Stone," the philosophy opinion column at the New York Times. It is, to my knowledge, only the second disability piece ever published in "The Stone," the philosophy section of the New York Times op-ed page. The other was, shockingly, by Peter Singer and a co-author, on the case of Anna StubblefieldAs I discussed last April, that essay suggested that if in fact the a person can't consent due to disability, they can't really be raped so long as they enjoy it (no, really, go read the essay). Again, agency is granted only in ways that serve the broader argument about the lack of agency for disabled people.

Shelley Lynn Tremain has written at Disability and Discrimination about her experience pitching "The Stone." She was told that the editor did not want to publish on disability and philosophy, "In part due to my belief that there is not an appropriate platform for writers with disabilities, and writing about disability, I am planning a separate series devoted to it." That separate series has been amazing and important, yet here we still have a "philosophy" site from which disability is excluded ... except when it isn't.

I've received pushback for tweeting that the Comstock essay is indicative of a problem with how philosophy, as a discipline, discusses disability. If I'm wrong, it's due to the intense veneration that Peter Singer still receives. Too many people are willing to regard eugenics and the core humanity of disabled people as a subject for abstract debate, often one isolated from the realities and complexities of real life.

For example, in a link provided me by Tremain (who comments in the post), is Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at South Carolina, writing about what an excellent public philosopher Peter Singer is:
“Philosophy always causes offense—perhaps it should cause offense,” says philosopher Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, in a recent interview, below.
Singer is one of the world’s most well-known living philosophers. Some philosophers are clearly bothered by Singer’s renown, in part because he holds philosophical views that many philosophers disagree with. But, of course, that is something he has in common with every other philosopher.
I think that Singer makes for an excellent famous public philosopher.
But it's not just about the "right to offend." Singer has long based his arguments about disability based on ignorance about disability. He assumes a lack of happiness in situations linked to disability, whether imagining it for himself or his child. Yet every time he encounters real people (see this amazing essay by Harriet McBryde Johnson), he admits maybe disabled people are happy and his assumptions are wrong ... before quickly reverting back to his earlier assumptions. Today, decades after disabled people first engaged him in the spirit of rich philosophical debate, his positions have not especially changed. The assumption that "offensive speech" must be doing something right is.

I am deeply troubled by what I see happening in public philosophy when it comes to disability narratives. I am sure there is much more than what I see, in part because I listen to disabled philosophers. I hope The Stone, and other public spaces, do likewise.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hamilton Chicago and Assistive Technology

Tonight my family goes to Hamilton in Chicago. Hamilton is super important to my son, as I wrote for the Washington Post. We've been moved up to seats with easy access to exits. It's apparently very loud. Also it's late. We're nervous, but ready to walk out and go home at any point if needed and count it as a win no matter what.

We do, however, have a $12 investment in assistive technology.
More to come!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Casual and Embedded Disablism: NYMag and Climate Change

New York Magazine has a big story on how terrifying the climate change of the earth is. It's long and scary and I kind of skimmed it honestly because I have deadline and moving to do. But the brilliant writer Emily DePrang pointed out this paragraph to me in which the author, for no particular reason, uses autism stigma to take a little swipe at Hollywood. My emphasis.
Other stuff in the hotter air is even scarier, with small increases in pollution capable of shortening life spans by ten years. The warmer the planet gets, the more ozone forms, and by mid-century, Americans will likely suffer a 70 percent increase in unhealthy ozone smog, the National Center for Atmospheric Research has projected. By 2090, as many as 2 billion people globally will be breathing air above the WHO “safe” level; one paper last month showed that, among other effects, a pregnant mother’s exposure to ozone raises the child’s risk of autism (as much as tenfold, combined with other environmental factors). Which does make you think again about the autism epidemic in West Hollywood.
There are two related problems here - one deep, one trivial. First, the author's last sentence reveals, in its casual snide swipe, the depths of bias. I don't use "casual" to minimize the impact here, but rather as a category of thoughtless writing (or speaking/action) that exposes the author's underlying assumptions. The quip is 1) stigmatizing and 2) without evidentiary basis.

The deeper issue here, though, is the assumption that rise in autism, even assuming we accept that ozone = higher autism rate, belongs as part of the "even scarier" context about the earth turning uninhabitable. That's a more nuanced and important discussion, but we can't even have it when this author is operating from a place where joking about autism, ozone, and Hollywood as his go to quip.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

NPR: Game of Thrones and Disability

NPR did a segment on Game of Thrones and disabled characters. Neda Ulaby talked to Rebecca Cokley about Tyrion and asked me for some general overview. I grumbled about Shireen's death (still pissed, not about her death, but the writing of it), and made a quip about ramps into castles being more important than magical cures.

Listen below!

Monday, July 10, 2017

UC Boulder: Conservative Prof and Conservative Speakers

Boulder has an endowed visiting conservative prof. I'm not so keen on billionaire ideologues funding prof lines who have to adhere to their ideology (do they test them, like religious colleges test your faith?) Anyway, it's gone fine.
I am happy to report that the lectures were well attended and that we had none of the disturbances or protests that we’ve seen on other campuses throughout the United States over the past few years. Audience members asked probing questions, but they were clearly offered in a spirit of inquiry and truth seeking, even when it was obvious that the questioner strongly disagreed with the speaker. That’s the sort of critical dialogue that many of us -- regardless of our political views -- believe to be integral to university life.
My general thesis is that right-wing speech on campus mostly goes fine. The same with left-wing speech. And that doesn't mean we shouldn't pay attention to the high profile incidents. The problem is that the Very Concerned Media parlays high profile issues into a broad problem of discrimination against conservative thought. There are, rather, specific moments of discrimination - and these should be addressed. I've always been forthright about the importance of defending abhorrent speech (right up to the line where Milo starts attacking specific students on campus. That, for me, is the difference between Milo and, say, Coulter). We have to push back at the generalized "left wing college campuses are destroying America" discourse though. This essay, in that context, is useful.

Author says he thinks things go well because he's framing things nicely:
What became my standard “stump speech” focused on the growing indifference to the attacks on freedom of speech, association and religion in the wider culture, but especially on our college campuses. As far as I could tell, my message was well received, even by many listeners who do not identify as conservative or libertarian.
I believe the main reason for this is that I framed this talk as a defense of what I like to call rock-ribbed liberalism, about which I have written elsewhere: “I miss liberalism. Real liberalism. Not this namby-pamby, afraid-of-your-own-shadow fainthearted liberalism. What I miss is the rock-ribbed, truth-seeking, justice-pursuing, rights-defending, I-don’t-agree-with-you-but-I’ll-defend-your-right-to-say-it liberalism. It was the liberalism that defeated Nazism and Communism. It was your daddy’s liberalism …”
This approach resonated with a lot of people.
But he's wrong, I suspect, about why things are fine. It's because mostly, things go fine. People on college campuses listen. There's a lot of great dialogue. There are a million or ten speeches a year across American campus.

The PC-run-amok panic is a tool used to whip up certain kinds of responses, rather than an accurate assessment of campus life across the diverse schools of America.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Moving to Minnesota

For people with disabilities, state government matters. Illinois finally has a budget, but it's not a state on which I can gamble my son's adulthood. We're moving.
"More house?" My son emphasizes the aspirated "H" as he climbs into our blue minivan. I pause and turn to look at him.
"More ... house." This time he says it even more slowly, with a long drawn out "'hah" before getting to "ouse." He's eager to get the car moving and continue touring properties for sale in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
"Good job saying 'house,' Nico," my daughter chimes in from the neighboring seat. I'm relieved. We're not going to buy a house today, but I'm glad to see everyone is having a good time as our realtor leads us on a tour through some of our Minneapolis options. We are moving from Chicago to the Twin Cities in just eight weeks. Moreover, we're doing it, at least in part, in hopes of ensuring a better future for our son.
When it comes to life with disabilities, state administrations matter. Sure, federal laws ensure basic civil rights, federal programs mandate (sometimes, but not always, with funds attached) all kinds of services, but states and their third-party partners (think non-profits) tend to administer everything. When a state collapses, it takes the disability services down with it. As Politico recently wrote: Illinois is a failed state.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

How to Cover "Lost Trump" and the Limo

There's a video of President Trump heading off his plane to his limo, and just wandering off down the runway, until someone turns him around to head back to the car ... which was right in front of him.
How do we report on such incidents ethically? A few thoughts, as an opening salvo. It's tricky.

  1. We can, I think, reasonably ask what happened when the president didn't see his limo. We can describe what we see. We can report on assurances from spokespeople with skepticism, as we should report on all statements from all spokespeople in all contexts. 
  2. We can distinguish this observable behavior from the pathologizing of his disgusting behavior. He's been disgusting, in fairly consistent ways, since the 1970s. His use of twitter is consistent with his whole life. My biggest objection to the pathologizing Trump stuff is when people see him behave in a foul way (i.e. constantly) and then characterize it as a mental disability. 
  3. We can remember that Twitter RTs will not lead to the 25th Amendment being invoked. 
  4. But your friends who have psychological disabilities do hear you link Trump's behavior to your presumption of psychological disabilities. So be thoughtful, please.
Lesley Stahl has talked about her anguish about whether to report on Reagan's "tuning out" and a moment in which he forgot he wasn't still a Hollywood actor. These incidents with Trump, should, likewise, be reported.

#4 is where my concerns lie. How do we report reportable things without hurting the vulnerable? I don't pretend it's easy.

[From last August: My response to the question, "What if Trump really is crazy?"]

Monday, July 3, 2017

Defending Lisa Durden from the Right

Conservative prof Jonathan Marks has written a great piece defending Lisa Durden. I wrote about Durden last week. A few excerpts from Marks:
This month, Durden appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight. At issue was a Memorial Day event, co-sponsored by Black Lives Matter NYC, and promoted as "a space for black people." One commenter, listed as an event co-host, went a little further and said that people who "do not identify as black" should "respect the space" and "not come." In the Facebook universe, to this very day, all of nine people have "loved" that comment, and seven have "liked it." Nonetheless, Carlson was on the case.
Carlson sets traps. He's very good at it. I'm glad Marks is writing about it.
This year we conservatives dutifully stood up when Charles Murray was shut down at Middlebury College because he co-wrote The Bell Curve. We even stood up for a man of the left, Bret Weinstein, also undone by an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, when his colleagues at Evergreen State College called for him to be disciplined. We like to say that we stood up for Weinstein in the name of free speech, but a reasonable person might suspect that we really stood up for him because he was bashing his more radical colleagues.

Perhaps we conservatives are prepared to overlook our principles and reputations because it is a pleasure to see the language of safe spaces come back to bite the left.
If we do not stand up for Lisa Durden, who has not merely been denied a forum or threatened with discipline but actually fired for airing her views publicly, then that reasonable person’s suspicions will be confirmed.

Friday, June 30, 2017

#SaveMedicaid: ADAPT Arrested in Colorado

Colorado ADAPT staged a nearly 3-day sit-in in Senator Cory Gardner's office before he had them. Here's the statement from Carrie Ann Lucas on what it's like to be arrested as a wheelchair user with a non-standard wheelchair and a trach. A small quote, but go read Lucas' whole statement and follow them on Twitter @disabilitycubed
My control was sitting in my lap the entire time, but because it just looks like a button on a wire, they couldn't figure out that was how I control my chair. Rather than simply disengaging the motors to push the chair, the police and paramedics spent a great deal of time trying to find a joystick on my chair. They kept moving my ventilator tubing around, as if plastic tubing would drive my chair. Because I am trached, moving the tubing moves my trach and causes pain (and causes me to cough), They stopped doing that after I complained. In their search for a nonexistant joystick, they disconnected the display (where I can see what mode the chair is in), which renders the chair inoperable. They also disconnected the switches for my head array, which also prevents anyone from operating any part of my chair. They kept threatening to take me from my chair and take me out of the building by ambulance,and bring my chair at some later date. I resisted all efforts to do that. First, separation from one's chair can be deadly to people with severe disabilities. Chairs get damaged, and sometimes "lost" for long periods of time. They way the officers and paramedics were wanting to transfer me would cause injury, and risk broken bones.
Ultimately, they charged Lucas with trespassing, but also with interference with a police officer because Lucas wouldn't tell them how to operate the chair.

I do not believe one is legally required to tell police how to arrest you without hurting you, but I'll leave that to the lawyers. I'm glad Lucas is safe. In the meantime, ADAPTers are still under arrest and being processed. Remember to donate if you can.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

PC Run Amok: Take 98

The American right-wing has a cultural theory, or at least a cudgel: America is being destroyed by political correctness. College professors and liberal students, especially those of color, are to blame. 

It's not a new theory, but in this age of multi-million (billion, for Fox?) dollar media companies and the magnifying effect of social media, it has intensified in its consequences.  On the one hand, Donald Trump ran for president against PC, which is pretty high stakes I guess, but I'm more focused on the academic context. There are well funded conservative anti-academia sites promoting comments, often social media off-the-cuff stuff, sometimes formal writing, and sometimes gross distortions, by professors that will inflame their readers. There are editors at Daily Caller, Fox, Breitbart, trolling those anti-academia sites for a professor-of-the-day to target. And then there are the consumers, who have learned that they can start calling and threatening and being loud, and get professors suspended or fired in some cases. In other cases, they can issue threats and harassment campaigns, and drive academics out of their homes, into spirals of anxiety, and otherwise perform Gamergate-like campaigns on academics (mostly women and PoC).

So here's my question: What are the centrist writers who have spent years criticizing PC run amok going to do about it?

I wrote a bit for Pacific Standard about this problem.

Mostly, when centrist writers acknowledge the threat from the right, the approach is to suggest the left talk less about racism, identity, the need for safety, for the left to make visible their openness to diversity. To argue that when the left says, "safe space," it opens up room for the right to say, "safe space." There's a lot of "both sides are equally bad" talk.

But although attacks on free speech are, in abstract principle, equally bad, on a practical basis, power matters. I'd like to see a shift to the practicalities in terms of how we spend our media power.

I always think back to Melissa Click, the professor at Missouri. She behaved badly to a student journalist. It was bad, and it received massive scolding coverage from across the media landscape.

Then the legislators got her fired. To me, state legislators interfering in hiring/firing decisions in public universities is WAY MORE SERIOUS A THREAT than a single professor behaving badly.

We need to focus whatever command we have of the attention economy on the more serious threats, rather than feed Tucker Carlson his lines with our own "PC run amok" confirmations.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What Happens When You Cut Medicaid? - Texas

New from AP today on the time Texas cut 350 million from Medicaid:
Some Texas children with special needs like Addison have lost critical services since the state implemented $350 million in Medicaid cuts to speech, occupational and physical therapy in December. In Texas, reimbursement offered to providers fell up to 50 percent for certain therapy procedures, said Rachel Hammon, president of Texas Association of Homecare and Hospice. Clinics closed and therapists quit.

The Texas cuts are separate from Republican proposals now before Congress, which academics say could cut federal Medicaid spending as part of a law to replace the Affordable Care Act. But the fallout could eventually be similar if some form of what’s been approved in the U.S. House, and is under consideration in the Senate, becomes law, said Elizabeth Burak, the senior program director of Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families

The Texas Legislature voted in 2015 to cut the state’s Medicaid reimbursement for pediatric acute therapy services, which effectively capped how much providers can be paid. Proponents of the cuts argued that Texas’ previous reimbursement rates were too high, sometimes even encouraging fraud.
In related news, my piece on the history of Republican attacks on Medicaid was picked up by the Dallas Morning News. My inbox has been lived.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Block Grants: A History

I have a piece today at The Washington Post about the history of Republicans trying to gut Medicaid, why they failed, and why they might win this time. 
As detailed in a 2013 report by the National Council on Disability (a nonpartisan, federally funded advisory council) on Medicaid block grants and their effect on Americans with disabilities, the first attempt to turn Medicaid into a block grant came in 1981, in Reagan’s first year in office. It made it into a big omnibus budget bill, but was stripped out in a congressional committee. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) actually got block grants passed in 1995 as part of his “Medigrant” proposal, but President Bill Clinton vetoed it (with strong backing from health policy experts), and it was dropped from the subsequent compromise bill. President George W. Bush and the Republican congresses of 2003 and 2005 could have passed block grants at any time, but sustained resistance from advocacy groups, Democratic leaders such as Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.) and Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) and the legislative distractions of forming Medicare’s prescription drug benefit kept the bill from advancing.
 Moreover, at the time, many Republicans wanted to find bipartisan solutions whenever possible. Henry Claypool, who has been working on Medicaid policy in and out of government since the 1990s, told me that the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 did include some Republican changes to eligibility, but also expanded support for home- and community-based services in ways that have helped many disabled Americans.
Today, everything has changed. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has been proposing block grants since 2010, but he had no chance to get them enacted under President Barack Obama. Now, he and McConnell have co-opted the legislation intended to fulfill GOP promises to “repeal Obamacare” (which would be bad enough) as a way to sneak through decades-long assaults on the basic American promise of Medicaid.

This time, the phrasing is “per capita caps.”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Juice and Stereotypes

Zuma Juice made the worst piece of disability stereotyping commercial I've ever seen. The disability community let them know what was going on, and I wrote it up for Pacific Standard.
This ad trades on two of the most pervasive stereotypes facing disabled folks. First, that their disability is attributable to poor lifestyle choices—i.e. drinking soda and eating junk food. Second, that lots of them are faking and are just lazy. The choices in this ad reflect deeply held stigmas about bodies, health, and disability. As we've reported at Pacific Standard, people working to cut disability benefits tend to blame disabled people for their disabilities, while simultaneously accusing many people receiving those benefits of having perpetrated fraud. Moreover, the belief that lots of people are just pretending to be disabled leads to public accusations and humiliation, even violence.
See more on the ad here.

Police Violence, Race, and Stigma in Chicago

I was recently on a boat with a friend who said - I never read Twitter or Facebook any more, but I do check your blog for new stuff. So when I publish new pieces, I'm posting little excerpts here. Hi Melissa! :)

How do you find my stories? What's the role of the blog for you today? Let me know ... maybe on Twitter.


My first feature for The Guardian is on the intersections of racism, poverty, and trauma in Chicago, and the black disabled leaders working to make a better city. They are fighting police violence, working to educate their communities on disability, and it was an honor to talk to them and write this:
Chris lives in Ogden Park in Englewood, a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, where I drove to meet him. As the hot afternoon waned, we spent an hour in the shade of the sycamore trees, sitting on a slanted wooden bench, talking.
He was restless. He sat. He stood up. He paced and smoked. Piece by piece, Chris revealed his theories about disability, race, poverty, policing and the vicious cycle in which Chicago’s disabled black residents have found themselves.
Chris Huff is a member of Advance Youth Leadership Power(AYLP), an advocacy group organized through Access Living, one of Chicago’s leading disability rights organizations. They have taken on a complicated twofold mission.
First, they are trying to teach those concerned about police conduct, including the US justice department (DoJ) taskforce, to see the disability component in the broader narrative of an abusive Chicago police department – especially as a third to half of people killed by police have a disability. Second, and perhaps even more critically, these activists are hoping to help their own communities perceive the links between disability and racial and economic justice.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Privacy Laws: Substitutes and IEPs

In my recent piece on criminalization of autistic children, I wrote: 
The prosecutor's office told me they could not discuss the case because Ashton was a minor. The school district told me they could not discuss any individuals because of federal privacy law (namely the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA), and did not respond to a follow-up email asking to discuss the conditions in the district for children with IEPs and 504 plans more generally. The Student Press Law Center notes that privacy laws are often used to protect institutions from having to comment to the press, rather than protecting individuals, and that seems to be the case here.
I'm going to be following up on this. One issue that emerged in the interviews and the comments related to whether substitutes can see IEPs/504s. Schools frequently defend their poor responses to behaviors by saying subs didn't know ... but they must know.
Your school administrators may incorrectly believe the IEP is confidential.
If so, the administrator thinks he cannot release it to teachers and other staff members. This is not true.Schools can release confidential information about your child to anyone at school who has a genuine need for that information.
From the Federal Special Education Regulations –
34 CFR 300.323 (d) Accessibility of child’s IEP to teachers and others.  Each public agency must ensure that-
(1) The child’s IEP is accessible to each regular education teacher, special education teacher, related services providers, and any other service provider who is responsible for its implementation; and
(2) Each teacher and provider described in paragraph (d)(1) of this section is informed of-
(i) His or her specific responsibilities related to implementing the child’s IEP; and
(ii) The specific accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided for the child in accordance with the IEP.
We need to reclaim privacy laws and use them to protect individuals, not institutions.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Disability Myths in Higher Ed

Too many college professors treat requests for reasonable accommodations as either students trying to get away with something (extra time, for example, on assignments) or signs of poor moral character (toughen up!). I would like such statements treated with the same care as casual racism, classism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry. Which isn't to say we always handle those well.

Three professors have written a terrific essay for The Chronicle on attacking these "disability myths."
We live in a time where the discourse of diversity is practically a bumper sticker found in faculty orientation packets. Yet the presence of disabled students in our classrooms is too often presented as an anomalous burden, a challenge to be met. Its overarching goal? To normalize disabilities by setting them up as simple problems to be easily overcome.
We saw a good example of that in a recent advice essay in The Chronicle — "Why I Dread the Accommodations Talk," by Gail A Hornstein. While her efforts as an ally of disability rights are certainly appreciated, her rhetoric — labeling disability conversations with students as something to dread — is dangerous, not just for the students it minimizes, but for the "advice" it offers to faculty members.
Disability activists and theorists such as Simi Linton and Margaret Price have been working for years to combat and dispel calcified and problematic tropes about disability. Unfortunately, Hornstein’s essay served to perpetuate them: the myth of overcoming disability (or what Hornstein labels "resiliency"), the trope of the able-savior, and the notion that disability itself is inherently deficient and, thus, runs contrary to academic life. We’d like to explore each of those in turn and then share some of our own suggestions for handling "the accommodations talk."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Seanan McGuire - INTERVIEW

I have a new interview up with Seanan McGuire, the awesome speculative fiction author. We talked about her new portal fantasy, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, her genre-queering approach to writing, and, of course, My Little Pony.

When you were a kid, what did you read, and what did you feel was missing in the fantasy that you consumed?
I grew up on welfare, which I bring up a lot because it's really relevant to what I used to read. Growing up super poor, you read what your mom brings home because you can't get anything else. My mother would come home from flea markets and yard sales with these gigantic boxes of whatever people were getting rid of. She was bringing books with unicorns and space ships on them for her nine-year-old, so I was getting science fiction that was 20 years out of date and I grew up on that.
There were virtually no women [in those books]. What I noticed was that only boys got to have adventures and go out and fight dragons or befriend dragons. Then a woman would show up and she would, 90 percent of the time, be a sexual reward for the guys for going out and having these adventures that were never offered to her in the first place. I didn't want to sit at home and then have sex with the hero when he came back from going on this grand quest.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Segregated Proms are Segregated

A segregated DC school throws a segregated prom and applauds itself for its segregation. Everyone in this story has nothing but good intent. They are working hard for their students. But this is the wrong attitude.
“If we had these students in a conventional school, they’d probably sit in a corner and not engage, or they’d be made fun of,” says Aimeé Cepeda, principal at River Terrace. “Here, they get to celebrate with their peers.”
That's a justification for intensifying segregation, as David Rosenblatt said:
Disability segregation does sometimes happen in our educational system (and housing, workforce, etc.). We should always be working to turn it back towards inclusiveness, not celebrating our segregation.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pacific Standard: Why American Keeps Criminalizing Disabled Children of Color

I have a longform piece for Pacific Standard today. I've been working on it for about 6 weeks. Please read and share throughout your networks, if you are so inclined. TWs for abuse of children by authorities.
"Why would a school cop in Florida throw a slender, autistic fourth-grade student to the ground? You might assume that the child must have presented some kind of serious threat to himself or others, that other skilled experts had already tried de-escalating interventions, and that there was no other choice. Such was not the case for 10-year-old Seraph Jones. This spring, a school cop threw him down and held him against the ground with sufficient force to cause rug burn.

It turns out that Seraph's worst day at school—so far—happened because he was clicking a key too loudly, then ended up trapped in a situation where he had no good way to safely calm down."

Friday, June 9, 2017

Saint Wars and Russian Cinema

My scholarly work centers around a simple premise: When you make a saint, you gotta tell a story. The same holds true for when you move a saint, create relics, place relics in new locations, develop new festivals. These sacred acts can have enormous cultural and political consequences, but only if you tell the right story.

In Russia, pro-authoritarians have been resurrecting (pun intended) the notion that Tsar Nicholas II was a saint and martyr due to his execution by the Communists. That's one story. Now a major Russian motion picture shows him in love with a ballet dancer (which is true), and one not appropriately beautiful or Russian-looking enough for the authoritarians. Controversy follows.

New York Times reporter Neil MacFarquhar has a fabulous feature on the controversy. Here's an excerpt.
That has done little to douse the hostility from the Russian Orthodox Church and its adherents. Some want the movie banned, while the most extreme have threatened to torch movie theaters that show it.
The main objection from the church is that because Czar Nicholas II and his wife were canonized in 2000, the movie is an insult to the faithful, which is a crime in Russia.
“This film represents, in my opinion, the apotheosis of vulgarity,” Bishop Hilarion, the head of the church’s external relations department, said on television, noting that the director had invited him to view a rough cut. The bishop conceded that there had been some manner of love affair, although he dismissed it as a youthful infatuation.
Even as Mr. Uchitel acknowledged that the movie contained elements of fantasy, he questioned the historical interpretation used by his religious critics. Nicholas II became a sainted martyr because of the way he and his family died — in a hail of bullets fired by a Bolshevik firing squad — not because of the way he lived.
“Their main concern is that since he was shot with his whole family, and thus became a saint, he could not have had any affairs,” Mr. Uchitel said. “On the contrary, it is totally correct to show him in this human way.”
Making saints requires stories. As always, READ THE WHOLE THING.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Comey and the Meddlesome Priest

Former FBI Director James Comey and Senator Angus King (I-ME) both referenced the murder of Thomas Becket by the oblique order of King Henry II. Comey is before the Senate Intelligence Committee testifying about President Trump, Russia, spying, and possible obstruction of justice.

Here's a clip with video.


King: When a president of the US in the oval office says something like I hope or I suggest or would you, do you take that as a directive?
Comey: Yes, yes, it rings in my ears as "will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?"
King: I was just gonna quote that in 1170, December 29, Henry II said "who will rid me of this meddlesome priest" and the next day he was killed, Thomas a Becket, and it's exactly the same situation. We're thinking along the same lines.

Medieval history is always with us. I had a similar thought in early March.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Zuma Juice: Drink Our Product or Be Fat and Disabled

I'm on vacation this week, but felt the need to post about this:

I was alerted by a twitter friend to an ad from a juicing company that shows two slender women making some kind of juice. The woman on the left is using a blender and, ew! On the right, slender woman number two uses this Zuma thing to make juice more easily!

And then a woman in a wheelchair, not slender, with a huge vat of cheese puffs and a giant mug of soda, rolls up. They begin fighting over the Zuma juice. The ad sets the fat disabled junk food eater against the thin Zuma-drinking women. It's meant to be comic. It's wholly unacceptable.

UPDATE: Here's the story, as I now understand it: Zuma Juice, by their own statements, wanted to compare the health conscious people who juice with a caricature of a health unconscious lazy slob - so they gave her junk food, soda, a big vat of cheese puffs, and a power wheelchair. In their "apologies," they indicate that they would have used a hover board if they had them, but that since many power wheelchair users don't even need them (just being lazy, in their minds).

The idea that disabled people are lazy and self-damaging is widely prevalent, linked to all kinds of stigma, from social shaming, police violence, and attacks on Social Security.

Zuma Juice rarely tweets.  You can contact them here.

Update with tweets (thanks to Karrie Higgins for pointing these out): More context with screenshots from various interactions with them.

Images captioned here.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Gig Economy and Disability - AirBnB

A few weeks ago I wrote for Newsweek about Uber and its poor record on providing transportation for disabled folks.
In the gig economy, profits pour in based on dodging the requirements of the regulatory state that enforce equal accessibility, pay, lack of discrimination, and basic economic justice. When vulnerable populations complain, they are brushed off with token responses and denial of legal culpability. 
Here's another example:
Ms. Garcia, who is from El Paso, was planning a May trip with her family to the Chicago area and wanted to know if the places she was considering could accommodate her needs as someone with muscular dystrophy. Unfortunately, she said, her questions appeared to scare off at least two potential hosts.
She said she feels that if she had not mentioned her disability, “they would have rented to me, no issue.”

Ms. Garcia is not alone in feeling that way. Other users have reported similar bias, and a new Rutgers University study — based on more than 3,800 Airbnb lodging requests sent by the researchers — suggests it may be common: Travelers with disabilities are more likely to be rejected and less likely to receive preapproval, or temporary clearance, for a potential stay, the authors found.

Hosts granted preapproval to 75 percent of travelers who made no mention of a disability, according to the study. That rate fell to 61 percent for those who said they had dwarfism, 50 percent for those with blindness, 43 percent for those with cerebral palsy and just 25 percent for those with spinal cord injuries.
1) Schur, the author of the Rutgers study, does great work.
2) This is the same phenomenon as with Uber. Dodging the regulatory state leads to discrimination.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Minnesota vs Illinois Spending on Developmental Disability

This morning, for no particular reason other than I'm moving to Minnesota in 8 weeks, I've been playing around with the "state of the states" chart creator for spending on Intellectual and Developmental Disability. I've loved my time in Chicagoland. It's packed with amazing advocates and leaders, but they are fighting against some pretty serious structural headwinds when it comes to disability rights and services. 

Here's some data:
Chart showing MN spends $6.95 per $1000 of personal income, IL spends $2.72
Other stats:

MN places 98% of its community funding in 6 or fewer person homes. Illinois, just 58.1

93% of all MN placements are in 6 of fewer person community living options. 48.2% for Illinois.

United Cerebral Palsy does an annual (I think) report on the best states for inclusion. The latest has a lot of details which I'll explore later. I actually don't think all their metrics are optimal (Arizona is ranked #1, and I'm skeptical for various reasons). But they do provide some useful overviews. For example, MN is ranked 12, the ranking low only because of a waiting list. It needs to grow by 20% to meet need.

Illinois is ranked 47. The entry reads:
Illinois has 7 large state facilities housing 1761 Americans at a cost of $155855 per person per year.
Illinois participates in the National Core Indicators, the premier quality assurance program, and reported their 2015 NCI survey data.
Illinois has a waiting list that would require the program to grow by 101% on average to accommodate the need
Minnesota will surely have its own problems for me to rage against. I'm sad to leave my allies and friends and colleagues and students behind. But I do like these numbers.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Make Vinland Great Again

The Portland killer posted "Hail Vinland!!!" a few days before his rampage. For the Washington Post, I argue that this fetishization of an imagined Viking pure white past presents a huge challenge to historians and other humanists.
"History has never just been “the past.” As a historian, I study the way that groups have always tried to assert control over their story, seeking to mold legend, myth and reality into a useful narrative about identity and destiny. Stories like this have power, and we’d be foolish to ignore the threat.
As we mourn the martyrs in Portland, care for the wounded and support the women who were initially targeted, we shouldn’t ignore the danger that racist appropriation of the medieval past presents. American white supremacists want to make Vinland great again, laying out an imagined past in which Vikings are the rightful conquerors of North America, locked in eternal battle with the Skraelings, the Viking slur for indigenous people. We must inoculate ourselves against this hate by telling a better story, one that recognizes the many errors of our past, but also lays out a vision for a more inclusive future."

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Flying Coach

I used an extended airline metaphor to talk about limitations of "choice" in today's piece at Pacific Standard, then tweeted with an @Delta in the promo tweet. Oops.

But I liked my metaphor.

Students Are Not Customers

NEW at Pacific Standard. Please click over and share!

Betsy DeVos and the GOP more generally say that we need to treat students like customers. Three responses.

1) What's so great about being a customer if you're not a billionaire?

2) The student's relationship to their educational institutions and the people who work there cannot be characterized as simply transactional.

3) When students are treated as customers, as Tressie McMillan Cottom show in Lower Ed, the extractive nature of the industry doesn't serve them well.

Also I wrote the first draft in an airport lobby:

"Education can be an engine of social change, a vehicle toward equality. McMillan Cottom makes it clear, though, that the wrong framing, policies, and financial models can turn education into an engine for inequality. To me, DeVos' false insistence on "choice" and on students as "customers" drives us toward the latter outcome. As a billionaire, she's going to fly in a private plane or at least in first class. As a white, cis-male, middle class professor and writer, I get a cramped middle seat in the back. More vulnerable Americans, meanwhile, will be left behind entirely on the ground."

Friday, May 26, 2017

Neil Gaiman on Syria - "They'd Like to Go Back."

For some reason Sara Benincasa has convinced Neil Gaiman to do a live reading of the Cheesecake Factory's menu if they can raise $500,000 for refugees, sending the money to the UNHCR. I love Neil's voice. I love the way he reads. I can think of many things I'd like him to read other than that menu, but hey, RAISE THE MONEY!

A few days ago 68 children, and over 110 people total, were killed in a bombing in Syria. It happened after the Manchester bombing and, of course, received relatively little coverage. Each horror is a horror, but I thought of those dead children in two very different parts of the world, and I wept a little that morning.

When I interviewed Gaiman for my American Gods essay, I spent awhile asking him about Syria and refugees, but couldn't fit it into the piece. But it moved me, so I offer it to you here (edited slightly to make sense as paragraphs):
The last time I saw figures, which was before the latest round of madness, there were over 6 million people had fled Syria, and more were internally displaced. We’re 6, 7, years into a nightmarish civil war. 
People should know that each of the refugees, each of the people who have made it out of Syria, has gone through a nightmare in order to get out. Making their lives worse helps nobody, making their lives worse is inhuman.

The UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency] was never built to handle a world in right now there are more displaced person than there were even at the end of World War 2. It was set up to be there for refugees, for local crises, in the assumption that it normally takes about 1 to 2 years in order for people to go home.
The other thing that people should know is that they want to go home! They like Syria. They love Syria. If there were a civil war in America … and there was no food and people were shooting at you for sport and you decided to get out. What you’d like to do is come back again, because it’s a nice place and your home.

They really just want to stay there [in Syria] and eat and educate their children which no one has been able to do for 6 years in Syria. They’d like to go back.
DONATION LINK IS HERE. Support the UNHCR if you can.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Disability Stereotypes Aren't Cute Marketing Tools

This is not a big deal requiring massive internet outrage spirals, but I do want to make this point very clearly: Disability stigma and stereotypes aren't funny memes you get to use in marketing. OCD, for example, is a serious condition that can play a major role in the structure of the lives with people who have it. Stigma about OCD is not trivial. Your "detail oriented" nature is not OCD.

Which brings me to this:

Image Description: Two male Tufts students walk by a big elephant. The headline reads: Do you have Jumbo-sized OCD? Do you sweat the small stuff? Then there's an ad for production managers for Communications at Tufts, reading in part, "University Communications and Marketing is looking for production managers. If you are totally Type A and care about getting the details 100 percent right, this could be just the opportunity for you."

Source: Linked In post from a Tufts Communication manager, now removed.

I emailed the author. He wrote:
Thank you for your message. I sincerely apologize for this and the offense to folks who suffer with this or any other disability. The last thing I would want to do is to hurt anyone who already suffers from or knows someone with a disabling condition. In my hope to garner attention and excitement to this job posting, I didn’t think about how it sounded.  Upon internal and external feedback, I now understand how I sounded and regret offending or hurting anyone.  I have removed the post and will revise the description for the position. This lack of sensitivity is entirely a reflection on me and not a reflection on Tufts University, which has a well-earned reputation for respect toward people from all backgrounds.  Here is the Tufts non-discrimination and separate ADA policies, which includes the university’s support for recruiting and hiring people with disabilities: