Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi

New Open Post: Book Review - The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi. "Fun, raunchy, convoluted, and extremely well paced. It delivers satisfying payoffs for the setups in the previous book, and has a few surprise reveals at the end." (On Patreon, but open to all)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Debunking D'Souza with Kevin Kruse

I interviewed Princeton Historian Kevin Kruse about the role of the historian in this era of viral lies.
D: D'Souza clearly isn't interested in facts, so what kind of effect do you think you can have?
K: I'm under no illusion that I'm going to get him off Twitter. He's got a very profitable con—I assume it's a con. I do it for people on the sidelines, [for] people who aren't already his fans but are confronted with people pushing his work directly or his arguments indirectly. It's a way to serve as counterbalance. 
D: Are you worried that you're just giving him more oxygen?
K: Both D'Souza and Trump have a much bigger audience than I have. The millions of people who follow them are already going to see [their tweets]. It's important to not just let them go unchallenged. D'Souza's schtick was to say that no historians ever objected to what [he says]. So our lack of fact-checking was taken as at least our tacit approval. If we don't speak up and challenge these untruths, then they have the floor.
Historians have the same kind of duty that scientists have to climate change deniers, that doctors have to anti-vaccine folks.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Ramps Are Beautiful; Ableism is Not

Horrible people in Chicago attempt to use zoning rules to stop parents trying to build a ramp for their disabled child. Their reason - ramps are too ugly.
Steve Weiss, president of the Old Town Triangle Association, wrote a letter to Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), detailing his objections to the project.

“I understand that the people who purchased the house have a child that requires special needs,” he wrote. “What I don’t understand is why they chose to buy a house in a Landmark Zone when you have these needs. I don’t mean to be heartless or uncaring but this is not the neighborhood for that. Here you conform to the rules, not the other way around.”

The garage would ruin one of the most beautiful, and historic, lines of Victorian homes in Chicago, and the family knew they would be subject to the landmark district’s rules, he wrote.

“Now I’m feeling bad like they are shaming us because we are not willing to allow them this garage which they need for their child,” Weiss wrote. “They should have put their child’s needs first and moved to a neighborhood more conducive to her needs.”
Disabled people, according to Weiss, aren't allowed in historic districts.  Weiss, the worst person in Chicago (on this day) had more to say. From the article:
Weiss went on to write if the zoning board approved the plans for the renovation, he would soon follow with construction plans of his own. It’s a slippery slope when you start allowing homeowners to make certain renovations within historic districts, he argued.

“Do not approve this request to have a garage built,” he wrote. “If you do, I will have my lawyers contact you immediately about building my garage and my friends across the street will do the same. Then we’re like Wells Street and no longer a historic district. It’s game over for preservation!!!”
Well that's a charmer.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cooking for my Mom

"These are the ingredients of a memory that’s neither eulogy nor miracle. Stock, wine, garlic, onion and fat. Heat, cancer, childhood, sorrow and love. I wish I could cook for her again."

Today in The Washington Post.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Biscuits!

I'm still figuring out the relationship between my blog and posts on my patreon site. My wife and I are so grateful for all the love and financial help in this difficult moment, so she wrote up her biscuit recipe. It's amazing (she's a pro). Happy eating. Post open to all (but if you had 2$ a month to spare to support my writing and her recipe development, we'd be grateful).

Friday, November 16, 2018

HQ2 Shows Whats Possible

Whenever I argue about universal healthcare, building a robust safety net, fully empowering people with disabilities to live lives based on maximum autonomy, or otherwise articulate a vision in which government alleviates suffering, I get one answer - oh yeah! How are we gonna pay for it!

But the obscene spectacle of governments competing for Amazon's second headquarters shows what's possible when leaders feel the payoff is worth it and the political price for not competing would be too high.

Now just imagine those resources were expended on making life better for people who need help, rather than building infrastructure to enforce income inequality.

A man can dream. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

50 (white) Mums and 50 (white) kids with Down syndrome

This is a very pretty and hyper viral (4 million views) PSA of UK mothers and their kids with Down syndrome. It's cute. It was well crafted for virality. But there's one big problem ....




... all of the kids present as white.

I don't know the racial demographics of Down syndrome in the UK (anyone have those). The UK is about 80% "white." Down syndrome appears in all ethnicities, so it's likely that at least 20% of the people with Down syndrome in the UK are not white. These mums all met online, so what we have here is an example of racial stratification in the UK Down syndrome community. That's true in the US, too, of course, where white parents dominate the fundraising and messaging around Down syndrome. It's made the global image of Down syndrome into a cute while child. That's just got to change.

The stakes, in fact, are life and death. Black people with Down syndrome die much earlier than white people.
There's nothing wrong with this video. It's cute. But if you're going to feature 50 families, think about diversity and representation.

(Note: I have a new patreon. You can support my work here.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Joe Biden Gives George W. Bush A Medal

For Veteran's Day, Joe Biden gave a "liberty medal" to George W. Bush. He said nice things about being "the opposition, not the enemy."

George W. Bush is directly responsible for the deaths and maiming of tens of thousands of U.S. troops and perhaps as many as a million Iraqis, the loss of trillions of dollars, the corrupt dealings with profiteers like Halliburton and Blackwater, and the lack of support for soldiers with PTSD leading to a massive suicide crisis. And oh yes, he also put on a flight suit. "Mission accomplished," I guess.

There are plenty of other things to argue about regarding W.'s legacy, but when it comes to war and veterans, he surely deserves no praise.

So what is Biden, who wants to be president, doing? I assume that he believes his own message, but also believes that Democratic primary voters will reward centrism, reward outreach to perceived moderate Republican voters and draw a line between W. and Trump.

I, a Democratic primary voter, disagree. As I said in the Twitter thread, W. is a better person than Trump in terms of personal characteristics, and by the time Trump is out of office he may do much more damage than W., but that hasn't happened yet.

(Note: I have a new patreon. You can support my work here.)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Voting Rights Now

My first piece for HuffPost Opinions:
“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Congress had reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006 by a 98-0 Senate vote and a gaping 390-33 tally in the House, but in 2013 the Supreme Court’s conservative justices voted 5-4 to strike down its key pre-authorization provision.
The result has been predictable ― systematic disenfranchisement of voters across the South and beyond, undoubtedly contributing to the defeat of Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Florida and Georgia (the latter is still being contested), and perhaps even enabling Ted Cruz in Texas to keep his Senate seat.
Now that Democrats have reclaimed the House and key governor’s mansions, and flipped hundreds of state legislative seats, we have a chance to do something about it. It’s time for them to go all-in on the universal right to transparent and accessible voting.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Stimming Beauty

My son stims with beads. Most people see just a boring repetitive moment. But slow it down. Watch. Set it to Bach. #Neurodiversity #DownSyndrome #Autism #Parenting (Note: My son approves of this video).



Monday, October 29, 2018

Murder in Kentucky

I mostly share pieces now via Twitter and Facebook, but am going to make a new site to share stories (Both mine and those of others) soon! Just waiting to see what next year brings at Pacific Standard. Meanwhile, here's my latest:
Read it all here.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Hutch for Sheriff

New at Pacific Standard:

Hutchinson wants to show respect toward groups that feel excluded and bring them into the conversation. "I agree that black lives matter," he says. "They [community groups including BLM] deserve a voice and deserve to be heard."
If elected, Hutchinson may have one advantage when it comes to drawing in the diverse groups that make up Hennepin County: his own identity as a gay man. He doesn't fold his sexuality into his pitch, which remains focused on policing and basic issues of justice—but he also doesn't hide it. He mentions his husband, Justin, within the first few minutes of our conversation, and when I ask him later about the impact of his sexuality on his politics, he grows reflective. "I understand what it's like to be not in the majority," but he adds he has also learned that people turn out to be pretty accepting of differences, once they get to know you. "I was outed a few years ago when [someone] sent pictures of Justin and I getting married to all these old cops. Everyone was completely cool. Most cops are great people who don't give a crap as long as you do your job."
"As sheriff it shouldn't matter. It will matter to some," he admits, but the core issue for him is that he has learned to treat everyone the same. As Hutchinson says, "If you're a person in Hennepin County, you shouldn't be treated any differently because of who you love, what you look like, where you're born, who you pray to, whether you have disabilities or not. Hennepin County, we're a community. We're better together"

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Interview - Bruce Schneier and the Internet that Wants to Kill Us All!

NEW AT PACIFIC STANDARD!
Is the problem that corporations want to sell the data generated from devices like an e-toothbrush? 
In computer security, we have something called the CIA triad: Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. Most of what we worry about with data is confidentiality. That's the Equifax hack, or the Office of Personnel Management hack, or Cambridge Analytica. Someone has my data and they're misusing it in some way.
[Click Here to Kill Everybody] is primarily about integrity and availability, which matter much more when you have physically capable computers. Yes, I'm worried that someone will hack the hospital and see my private medical records, but I'm much more concerned if they change my blood type. That's an integrity attack. I'm afraid that someone will hack my car and turn on the microphone, but I'm much more scared that they'll disable the brakes. That's an availability attack.
And in the hospital they'll eventually have, if they don't already, Internet-connected IVs where a hacker could turn up the morphine?

That's right. When computers can affect the world in a direct physical manner, the integrity and availability threats are much worse than the confidentiality threats because they affect life and property. The obvious examples are always cars and the power grid, but there are many others.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Interview - Maysoon Zayid

I talked to the comedian Maysoon Zayid about her new ABC Comedy Can Can.
Is this a comedy about identity? About your identities as a disabled Muslim woman? Is it political?
Being Palestinian is inherently political, [but] it's funny first—really, really funny. I am super excited to see what I didn't see [on TV as a kid]. It's so rare we see a disabled person [who is] also a person of color; so rare we see an empowered Muslim woman, or a Jersey girl with style.
The story is just a single woman working on career, relationships, and family. She's single, Muslim, lives in Jersey. She has guys fighting over her, but her dating problems have nothing to do with disability. She just has very bad judgment.
The story I open the interview with about how we met is true. You can read about it here.

Friday, October 5, 2018

My Brain


I wrote about my brain for Pacific Standard, with gratitude for the people who have cared for me. You're not alone either. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Hurricane Maria and the Human Choices that Kill

On February 2nd, 2018, AnĂ­bal Dones Flores, 54, woke up in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, with an asthma attack. It was almost half a year after Hurricane Maria had savaged the island, but Flores still didn't have power in his house. His condition grew worse as he labored to awaken his brother, hoping his brother could turn on the generator to power Flores' breathing machine. The brother called 911, but the dispatchers sent an ambulance from neighboring Juncos, rather than one from San Lorenzo itself. By the time the EMTs arrived, Flores had died.
Flores is one of the thousands killed as a result of Hurricane Maria, a disaster still claiming lives even today, thanks to the severity of the storm, the long neglect of the island's infrastructure, and, arguably, a willful disinterest from federal disaster officials. The story of his death, along with the deaths of about 475 other Puerto Ricans, was collected through a collaboration between Quartz, Puerto Rico's Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Associated Press. The project came online even as President Donald Trump was falsely claiming that over 3,000 people didn't die in the disaster and subsequent response, arguing that he and his administration had done a "fantastic job" supporting the island.

The grim narratives in the project reveal just how badly relief efforts have failed, how long the road is to recovery, and, as we have regularly reported at Pacific Standard over the last year, how disaster recovery will continue to fail if it doesn't prioritize access for disabled people who are in harm's way. Instead, even when disaster services are robust, disabled people routinely get ignored or abandoned. In Puerto Rico, where federal efforts fell so short, story after story reveals the extent of preventable deaths in the wake of the hurricane.