Monday, April 30, 2018

UK Homeopathic Grifters Try to Kill Autistic Kids

The "Autism cure" industry harms kids and uses ableism to fuel their grift. Case in point:
Smits, the creator of CEASE therapy, wrote in his book that “all kinds of detoxification reactions may occur” as a result of the treatment. Most common is fever, he said, which “should not be treated with medication, as it is a healthy reaction of the organism and not a disease! ... Eliminations like diarrhea, flu, expectoration, and bad-smelling and cloudy urine should also be left alone, because they are a part of the healing process.”
One child he treated had diarrhoea that “relieved his system so much that his autism almost disappeared instantly”. After 10 days, however, his mother was so concerned that she took him to the doctor, who gave him immodium to stop the diarrhoea.
“Almost immediately the child had a setback and became autistic as before. The diarrhea was a perfect detoxification for his bowels and brain. Neither the doctor not the mother understood this, and the medication interfered with the progress of the cure,” claimed Smits.
I am not going to get into the big homeopathy debate, but this ... surely this we can all agree is wrong and should be stopped.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Verne Troyer, RIP

Eugene Grant reacts to the death of this actor with dwarfism:
I hate the character Mini-Me – the replica, the biddable pet, the victim of violence made to appear funny. But I was moved and saddened to hear of Verne Troyer’s passing and to learn more about his struggles. I am thinking of those who knew and loved him, those he knew and loved, those who now have an empty space in their life. It should not take the death of a member of the dwarfism community to prompt a sincere and meaningful discussion about the prejudice and discrimination many dwarf and disabled people face in their everyday lives. But it is a discussion we really need to have.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ethan Saylor

Ethan Saylor case settled for 1.9 million dollars. Off-duty deputies murdered the young man with Down syndrome in January 2013.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Don't Normalize Murder: Dallas Filicide

The Dallas Morning News has a piece on parents, as they age, contemplating murdering their adult kids. Explaining away these murders as understandable, however, promotes the notion that it's a reasonable act. The risk of contagion with such reporting is high.

Reporters: read ASAN's anti-filicide kit before writing about filicide, please. And if you are going to write about the murders of disabled people talk to the experts on preventing the murders of disabled people (i.e. ASAN is a good start). Talk to disabled people. The story above quotes a parent who runs an organization, which is fine I guess, but talk to disabled people.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Koch on Campus: ASU Version

Around the country, the Koch Brothers are donating to universities to create right-wing-only counter institutions within more open institutions, creating precisely the kind of ideological bubble they claim to deplore. Here's the latest from Arizona State University.
I served as the director of the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University from 2012 to 2017. I had a unique vantage point to watch the birth of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.
The new school came in the wake of the creation of “freedom” centers largely funded by the Charles Koch Foundation: The Center for the Philosophy of Freedom at the University of Arizona and the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty and the Center for Political Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University, the latter nested within our school in the form of a certificate program and contributing faculty.
I welcomed the new perspectives the center and faculty brought to our curriculum. I felt then as I do now: we are strengthened by all forms of diversity.
Welcoming Koch gifts undoubtedly came with risks, then, as it does now. The Charles Koch Foundation has infused existing college curriculum with libertarian ideology by supporting strategic hires of new professors in existing departments in universities and colleges across the country.
More recently, it has circumvented history, philosophy, economics, and political science departments altogether by financing the creation of new schools and departments that contain only professors that share their conservative views. These are troubling trends.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Weekend in White Supremacy

Another weekend in white supremacy.

So that's all going terribly. 

The Right Wing on Campus

They're coming for your student government.
"The American right, aided alas by far too many allegedly centrist writers, keep attacking left-wing academics for what the right wing is actually doing. Right-wing provocateurs and their violent supporters are what's threatening free expression on campus—not safe spaces or trigger warnings. Christian schools make students worship the flag and believe in hyper-specific theological dogma (it's often not enough to worship Jesus; you have to worship the right kind of Jesus), enforcing groupthink to a degree impossible at secular universities. Now, Turning Point wants to take over your student government as well, to make sure that only the right groups get funding."

Friday, April 20, 2018

Asperger and Nazi Collaboration

At long last, Herwig Czech's study of Hans Asperger's complicity in Nazi eugenic programs was published. My understanding is that he has been talking about his findings for some years, but only allowing select authors to view his documents. There's also a new book by Edith Sheffer, who wrote this op-ed. The book comes out in May. The news, thanks to Czech, is not a surprise, but of course it's generated significant news coverage.

I'm recommending folks read this stunning conversation between Steve Silberman and Max Sparrow. Sparrow writes, "It is deeply subversive to live proudly despite being living embodiments of our culture’s long standing ethical failings."

And then read this twitter thread by Ari Ne'eman for an overview of what this finding doesn't mean for diagnostic shifts.

More to come as I carefully read the article and Sheffer's book.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Ship Who Sang: AT in SF

I wrote about John Scalzi's assisted tech series, Lock In and Head On. It's an interesting series from a disability culture series in many ways, but especially because there's so little sci-fi really focused on assistive tech as a major plot issue. There's lots of assistive tech around sci-fi, but not as a central point. I wrote about an old favorite from when I was a kid:
While many works of science fiction explore the transhumanist potential of separating the mind from the body, I struggle to think of many that engage such premises through the lens of assistive technology. Anne McCaffery, one of the most famous speculative fiction authors of the 20th century, did so in her Ship Who Sang series. In McCaffery's universe, physically disabled babies are euthanized unless their minds are sufficiently exceptional. The brains of those lucky few are implanted into life-supporting shells to become organic computers, and some of them get to become spaceships and roam the universe. Those novels were published in the 1960s. I read them in the 1980s, as a teenager, and thought them marvelous. Today, I shudder. I'm not alone. In an essay titled "The Future Imperfect," Sarah Einstein explains why that universe feels so grim to contemporary readers: "In McCaffrey's world, disability is so depersonalizing that the very promising are rewarded with slavery and disembodiment; those who don't pass the test for these rewards are put to death." The problem is that McCaffery—like me as a teenage reader—didn't really understand that The Ship Who Sang isn't a tale of liberation; it's a horror story.
Got any others? The VISOR in Star Trek: The Next Generation had its plot moments (and was inconsistently written). Others?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

#AbolishICE: Man with Down Syndrome Threatened with Deportation

I am so angry. There are so many outrages. But this one ... ICE is magnifying the vulnerability of this Latinx disabled man. Meanwhile, based on the reporting, it feels like things were going pretty well for him with a strong support structure and a job locally.

"Just following orders" is not, and never has been, a moral statement. When this era ends, we're going to have to abolish ICE. It needs to become a consensus position. And the people who did this are going to need to find other lines of work.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Real" Autism

Read Sarah Kurchak on "real" autism
Where I saw the first irrefutable proof of myself, though, so many others saw a referendum.
“But you’re not really autistic,” an acquaintance posited a few weeks later, when I was still testing out how and if to introduce this new explanation for everything into casual conversation. “You can have conversations. You’re out at a bar. I have a friend who’s autistic. Like, real autistic. You can tell. And he could never do this.” He took my wandering eyes and distracted response as signs of concession, not as a testament to my at least somewhat obvious autism, and moved on. I soon got used to this type of exchange. I’m still hoping that I’ll eventually get better at handling it.

Monday, April 16, 2018

#TimesUp at UCLA

In 2008, a history professor at UCLA forcibly kissed a graduate student, the start of years of harassment. In 2018, he was fired. Is #TimesUp finally in academia? My latest at Pacific Standard.
""I'm so thrilled I can't even tell you. There's 10 years of weight lifted off of me." These are the first words that Kristen Hillaire Glasgow says to me over the phone as she reacts to the news that the professor who sexually harassed her and other students for years at the University of California–Los Angeles is being forced from his job at the university. Today, she's feeling satisfied about how UCLA has handled her case and reassured by its procedures for addressing sexual harassment. She wasn’t always so happy. Her first experience with UCLA's Title IX office was a disaster, she says, an experience that's all too typical of the erratic ways in which American colleges and universities adjudicate sexual misconduct. Universities can, and must, do better. More recently, UCLA has changed its procedures in order to support people like victims, proving that it's possible to hold predators accountable."

Friday, April 13, 2018

Break up Sinclair

Boycotts are fine, but we need trust busting in the 21st century.
Boycotts are fine, but threats to democracy like the one posed by Sinclair require more than collective consumer action. What we need, instead, is to elect politicians who will implement regulations intended to break up media and other corporate monopolies. As we head toward the 2018 elections in this new age of inequality, it's time for good, old-fashioned trust-busting.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Deaf President Now at 30 Years

I wrote about one of the great Civil Rights acts in US History, the "Deaf President Now" protests at Gallaudet University. Read more
"Deaf President Now is an American story. It's not my story, or only the Deaf community's story, or Gallaudet's story, but an American Civil Rights story. It needs to be told in every school." - Birgitta Bourne-Firl

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Why So Much Credulity About Vikings?

In the last year or two we've had numerous "oooh Vikings!" news stories hit national and international media, all of which have eroded when looked at closely by experts. There was the Viking women warrior (DNA PROVES VIKING WARRIOR WAS A WOMAN!) which turned out to be, yes, a woman, but unclear evidence of being a warrior one way or another.  No relevant historians were consulted.

We had the VIKING SILK SAYS ALLAH! which then turned out not to say Allah according to actual textile experts who were not consulted.

Now we have VIKINGS USED CRYSTALS TO NAVIGATE! See above - they didn't seem to read the sources.

We want the Vikings to be so much more than the evidence permits. The evidence is wonderful. Let them just be that.

More to come, I think, as I flesh this out over the next week.

Monday, April 9, 2018

No real progress on racism and ableism in school discipline

There's a new report out from the GAO showing that for 2013-14 (the most recent data), black and disabled kids are penalized heavily and disproportionately in schools, nationwide. Boys and poor kids also disproportionately disciplined.

Read the full report here. I'll be digging in later today to see the more complicated data when they combine factors (race + poverty, poverty + disability, etc.).

Friday, April 6, 2018

Christian Universities: The Actual Ideological Bubbles

Last year I wrote about Ozark College and its mandatory god, guns, and flag worship sessions for Freshmen, arguing:
This course is pure indoctrination. In fact, schools such as the College of the Ozarks explicitly demand homogeneity and fealty to religious and nationalistic ideologies. They punish divergence, and they aren't alone. There's a whole class of schools, some wealthy and influential, that demand obedience and conformity. And we are in a national moment when far too many influential voices are characterizing liberal arts institutions as hotbeds of politically correct intolerance. It's true that many schools do push students to think about diversity, but the "Patriotic Education Fitness Class" ought to give us a little perspective.
Here's another example of the ways that these religious schools aspire create precisely the kind of rigid ideological sameness that they accuse liberal schools of seeking. A Christian group (focused on the specific words of Christ as written in the Gospels) wants to pray on Liberty's campus, invites Falwell to pray with them, and is rebuffed and threatened with arrest.

Imagine that news cycle played out about Oberlin threatening to arrest people who were coming to pray. Just go ahead, imagine all the takes sprawled across legacy media.

These colleges can do what they like. But if the big fancy "PC run amok" people cared about young minds being exposed to diverse viewpoints, they'd turn their attentions to Liberty and its like.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Nicola Griffith - Ableism and Book Reviews

The brilliant author Nicola Griffith has written a new book, So Lucky. As the reviews roll in, she's been talking online and now blogging about the ways that ableism intersect with sexism in the response. She writes:
In How to Suppress Women’s Writing Joanna Russ lays out eleven methods to belittle the work of women (and, I would argue, of members of other oppressed groups). Labelling fiction as ‘autobiographical’ could be assigned to either Denial of Agency or Pollution of Agency. From a male-identified author (for example, Karl Ove Knausgaard), autobiographical fiction is Art. From a female-identified author, it is merely a transcription of real life with no creativity involved: Oh, she wrote it, but it’s not really art because it’s the story of her life. She just, y’know, transcribed what was actually happening.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Monday, April 2, 2018

Bad Disability Journalism: Filicide Stories

Here are two stories recently on murder and attempted murder of disabled children. They follow the same pattern I discussed here in which the murderer is praised as a kind caregiver who inexplicably murdered their children/attempted to murder. No disabled people are quoted. We learn little or nothing about the victim of violence, their story erased. The event is treated as isolated, rather than as part of a pattern (it happens about once a week).

  • ABC News says "overwhelmed" mom tried to behead son.
  • WaPo says "doting grandmother" who spent years caring for kids murdered her granddaughter. Worse, what we learn about a surviving child in the second paragraph is that he has incontinence. I should not know anything about this teenager's bathroom support needs unless I am in the position of needing to assist him. 
Reporters reporting on violence against people with disabilities should reach out to leaders in the disability community with expertise on violence. This is journalism 101. More broadly, tell victims' stories.

Crime reporting is a highly specific beat. A crime reporter is going to cover violence in lots of different communities. I believe, though, that they generally do better in other communities where they see patterns and talk to local members of those communities. For disability, each murder is treated as a one-off tragedy in which the killer's "hardship" narrative takes prominence over the victim's story.