Friday, July 23, 2010

What does power look like?

This is for the event People First: Empowering People With Disabilities.

What would it mean if people with disabilities were "empowered", or had power?

Disabled folks would be seen as real people, not as objects to be pitied or used for inspiration.

Disabled folks would be respected as worthwhile people, not dismissed as "useless eaters".

And then, maybe...

Institutions would take access and accommodation seriously.

People with disabilities would be able to get jobs.

Children with disabilities would be raised and educated with love and understanding, not with abuse and restraints.

Disability would not be seen as a fate worse than death.

Depressed people with disabilities would be directed to suicide prevention, not assisted suicide.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

In which cowboy boots are manly, and a candidate misses the point

According to a Washington Post article (or blog post or something), Senate candidate Ken Buck thinks voters should support him because he doesn't wear girly shoes. Specifically, "She has questioned my manhood; I think it's fair to respond. I have cowboy boots on."

To begin with... Cowboy boots are about the most femme men's shoes in existence. They're pointy at the end. They have decorations all over them. And, yes, they have heels.

Aside from that, his opponent Jane Norton has supposedly "questioned his manhood" by 'decrying third-party spending on behalf of Buck's campaign and urging Buck to "be man enough" to run the ads himself'. It's difficult to seriously see that as an attack on Buck's masculinity. It's pretty obviously an attack on his courage, couched in admittedly sexist slang. But I guess responding to substantive criticism is harder than bragging about your manly high heeled boots.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Harold and Clay

I've recently heard about a case (Greene v. County of Sonoma et al) in which a local government confined two men to separate nursing homes and confiscated all their belongings when one of them was hospitalized. The best description that seems to be available is here:

This is being billed as a "why we need same-sex marriage" case. But clearly that's not the only issue. It is just as much a "why people shouldn't be forcibly institutionalized" case, and a "why unmarried couples shouldn't get screwed over" case. This wouldn't have been okay if Harold and Clay had been able to get married, and it's not okay to force someone into a nursing home against their will whether they're partnered or not.

Once we can get some more information on this case (i.e. how exactly this happened), LGBT activists should invite anti-institutionalization activists and advocates for unmarried couples to join us in demanding justice for Clay.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Queering the Census

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is running a campaign called "Queer the Census". They want the U.S. Census to include a question that asks if people are LGBT.

The campaign does not appear to have a proposed wording for the LGBT question they advocate adding to the census. Instead, they're encouraging people to seal their census envelopes with pink stickers that say "Are you (check all that apply): Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, A Straight Ally".

This is rather silly, for a number of reasons.
  1. The census has a total of 10 questions. 2 of them are name and telephone number. 4 are about housing status. The other 4 questions cover age, race, and sex, making those the only demographics the census cares about. The general trend over time has been to decrease the number of questions in the census, not increase it.
  2. In the absence of an actual proposed wording, the wording of the stickers appears to be the wording they want added to the census. And it's ridiculous. Any serious proposal would need to include other terms people might use to describe themselves. For example, some older people identify as "homosexual", even though that's not what most of us prefer. It's the same reason the census still has "Negro" in the race question. People actually write it in for themselves. Also, nobody cares if you're "A Straight Ally".
  3. For a campaign with "queer" in its name, it's not very queer. Why isn't there a "queer" checkbox on my pink sticker?
  4. Throwing a question about sexuality or transgender status into the census will not get us accurate data about LGBT people. People who aren't out to their family or roommates won't out themselves as LGBT on the census. Parents of queer teens are likely to vastly under-report the LGBT identity of their children - because they don't know, don't approve, or are worried about someone finding out in 70 years.
Here's what I think would be a better way to queer the census, and get the data we want:
  1. Make the "sex" question more trans-friendly. Lobby to change it to "gender", and include an "other" option with space to write something in.
  2. Look into adding a queer question to the American Community Survey, which is a longer form with a lot of personal questions on it already. Make a serious investment in writing the question well, by talking to a variety of queer communities and survey experts.
  3. Get together with some other groups and start a national sexuality survey. This would get us all the data we could possibly want, and working with other groups would increase the response rate and accuracy while decreasing costs. I'm sure Planned Parenthood, for example, would love to have this sort of data. So would HIV/AIDS groups. And some researchers have successfully asked questions like "how often do you have sex with your wife?" -- we should talk to them.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Today is Victory of the Revolution Day in Iran. The holiday is dedicated to freedom. Unfortunately, the current government of Iran is more interested in repression than in freedom. Today, security forces overwhelmed protesters in Iran.

There have been some good suggestions on how the U.S. should approach Iran. Do negotiate. Don't impose sanctions that would hurt the people more than the government. Don't strengthen the government's hand by threatening military action.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Seclusion and Restraint bills

Ongoing issue: Students, especially disabled students, are often "disciplined" violently in public schools. Students have died after being locked up or restrained as punishment. In several cases, children with a history of abuse or neglect were subjected to very similar abuse, then punished when they reacted to it.

In December, two bills were introduced in Congress that banned seclusion and restraint except in cases of immediate danger. The bills are H.R. 4247 and S. 2860. Please keep an eye on these bills, and ask your representatives to cosponsor them. Lives are at stake.


The Supreme Court campaign finance decision is not the end of the world.

Over the past week, most liberals have been freaking out over the outcome of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. We've heard that it's the end of democracy as we know it, that corporations will now be allowed to flood elections with their money, that the five justices who supported the decision are evil. This is all rather strange, because most people don't seem to know what the decision actually was.

The decision struck down a prohibition on corporations using their own money to produce campaign ads. It also struck down a prohibition on corporate or union ads for 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election. But it left in place a ban on direct donations from corporations to candidates. And it did not change rules on disclosure of donors, or the rule that ads have to say who's responsible for them.

First of all, campaign ads are very clearly political speech. As such, they are unambiguously protected by the First Amendment. So the decision is actually fairly obvious. Restrictions on political speech are clearly unconstitutional. It is disturbing to see so many self-identified liberals and progressives objecting to the First Amendment.

Second of all, this is unlikely to change much of anything. Before this ruling, a corporation that wanted to influence electoral politics just formed a PAC. More likely, it waited until after the election, and then bribed lobbied whoever won. Corporations, by and large, don't want to openly support one candidate or another - it makes them look bad, and if their candidate loses, it makes it harder for them to influence the winner.

So please, calm down, and respect the Constitution. Principles are a good thing.