My Challenge to Peter Schiff: Spend a Day with a Person who has an Intellectual Disability While They Work

One of my biggest pet peeves is when somebody speaks about a subject matter as if they are an expert when, in reality, they do not know the first thing about it.  Everybody is guilty of it to an extent, but at least I hope I can realize when I don’t know enough to speak about an issue.  I know enough to say that I shouldn’t be speaking about the ins and outs of international relations; I am not well read or studied on the matter.  However, there are some people with whom this construct has not set in.  One of these people is Peter Schiff.

Schiff was featured on The Daily Show this week on a segment regarding Obama’s State of the Union address.  During the address, President Obama spoke about issuing an Executive Order requiring federal workers to pay their federally-funded employees a wage of at least $10.10 per hour.  During the Daily Show segment, Schiff expressed some apprehensions about Obama’s executive order and proposed to get rid of the minimum wage as a whole.  He goes on to speak about how getting rid of the minimum wage would create jobs and how some people would be happy to work for $2 an hour.  That’s where things went south for Schiff.

When asked about which people would be happy working for $2 an hour, he mentioned teenagers working at McDonald’s and the intellectually disabled.  He defends this statement in a follow up interview by saying that if an intellectually disabled person could not make a minimum-wage level of output, then employers should not have to pay them minimum wage salaries.  He then speaks about how the intellectually disabled tend to enjoy the jobs they have when neurotypical people would find them boring and mundane.

Does Schiff really not see how offensive his comments are?  When speaking about intellectually disabled people and employment, he has the arrogance level of Donald Trump and the tactfulness of Archie Bunker.  He presumes to know about how intellectually disabled people function within society and assumes that they are either too happy or too naïve to understand or perceive when they are treated unjustly.  His remarks also carried a smug, condescending tone that should make anybody uncomfortable even reading them.

So, that is why I am proposing a challenge to Peter Schiff.  I would like for him to spend one day with an intellectually disabled person at their workplace and to do the job that person does on a daily basis.  We’ll let him feel how demeaning it is to have to come to work to do a menial job where he doesn’t get paid a living wage and where his employer does not appreciate the work that he does.  I would hope for him to learn that the work that these people often perform is not easy for anyone to perform.  Maybe then, he’ll actually learn what minimum-wage level work actually looks like.

I have had various kinds of jobs in the past.  In some of them, I have worked alongside people with intellectual disabilities (and no, that does not make me some sort of hero or martyr).  The people I have met are not only capable of performing the tasks they are assigned, they are some of the hardest workers in the place of employment.  Their work is not worth less than a neurotypical’s work because of their disability.  Many of these individuals live on their own and are responsible for many, if not all, of their finances.  If Schiff ever bothered to look, he would see that.  But, it is obvious he hasn’t.  I believe that any person who works a full work week should be paid a living wage, regardless of ability.  Schiff, obviously, does not.

Overall, I feel Schiff’s comments during The Daily Show interview and subsequent follow-up to be ignorant, insensitive, and disgusting.  Schiff is not only a man who has no idea about how people with intellectual disabilities live their lives, he also seems to have no idea about what it is like to have to really struggle to make ends meet.  Although he understands that people want to work, he does not understand that people want to be able to make enough to get by.  For too many people in the United States, this is not the case.  I hope one day, Schiff will be able to empathize with people who have to struggle to earn a living or with people who have intellectual disabilities working as hard as they can to survive as well.  Until then, he should just close his mouth and listen.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

Yet Another Reason Why the Media Diasppoints Me

Over the past few days, the general news media has been fraught with storied about Phil Robertson’s anti-gay comments and A&E’s subsequent suspension of the show Duck Dynasty.  Although the comments Robertson made are vile, it’s not someone I really care about.  While this non-story gets a large portion of media attention, the atrocities against LGBT individuals in Uganda are being given very little attention.  Just yesterday, the Ugandan parliament passed the bill which makes allows for people to be potentially jailed for life due to engaging in homosexual acts.  The bill also prohibits people from renting to LGBT people or even providing HIV counseling.  The bill is obviously bad and obviously extreme.  It is very likely to be passed into law.

Although there have been strides towards marriage equality in all 50 states over the past week, I feel the atrocities of the Ugandan bill greatly outweigh the positives that have occurred for LGBT rights in the United States.  This bill affects a lot more people in much significant ways than the marriage equality rulings do, and it certainly has much more effect of people than what some reality TV show person says about gay people.  The media’s priorities are not in the correct order; these days, entertainment is passing as news in many circles.  While there may be some news outlets that are reporting what they should be, most are not.  Additionally, if we, as a whole, think speaking about some persons unsavory opinions is more important than speaking about people possibly being jailed for life just for being gay, then we, as a whole, need to rethink our priorities.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

John Elder Robison Resigns from His Positions with Autism Speaks

What can you say about an advocacy group that loses its only member who is part of the target group they are working for?  You would say that group was doing a bad job at working for the people they advocate for.  This is now the case with Autism Speaks.  For the past few years, John Elder Robison, a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, has been working on the science and treatment boards at Autism Speaks.  He resigned just this week.  He explains his reasons in this post:

I am not going to summarize what he said because he is capable of speaking for himself, and because he enumerated his issues with Autism Speaks in a succinct manner.  I will say this, however:  I commend Robison for trying to work with Autism Speaks.  Upon hearing about his appointment, I feared he would end up being tokenized(well, he was) and start to tout the Autism Speaks mantra of fear, dehumanization, and stigma.  But his post shows otherwise.  He went into an organization knowing full well about its PR issues, its issues with allocating funds, and its general unwillingness to listen to the voices of autistic people.  It makes me upset that Robison could work for an organization that targets a population which he is a member of and not take anything he tried to say or do with the legitimacy it deserved.  From his post, it appears that he spent a great deal of time being frustrated with them and their inability to listen to him.  In my eyes, he chose the perfect reason and time to sever ties with Autism Speaks.  (For the post Robison is referring to, here’s the link:

For him to see a post like this, after working with that organization for that long a period of time, must have been completely infuriating.  It’s infuriating to me, and I don’t even work for the organization.  For it to be 2013 and to have one of the founders of the largest autism organization worldwide to call us autistics public health crises, the cause of families breaking up, and consider us general burdens to society is disgusting.  This type of rhetoric has no place in 21st Century dialogue.  No wonder why so many autistic people think Autism Speaks is evil.  Look at what they’re saying about us!  For Robison to stay on as long as he did shows that he has more patience than almost anybody I can think of!

Oh, and I find it funny how the science world believes we lack empathy.  That we can’t understand what other people are thinking or that we are not considerate of other people’s feelings.  So many believe that autistic people’s primary deficit is being unable to understand others and empathize with them.  But, even after all of the pushback Autism Speaks has faced from autistic people, whether it be after the “Autism Every Day” incident, or the pushback after the release of the “I Am Autism” video, they still use the same exact scare tactics they used before to promote their organization.  It’s as if they’ve learned nothing over the past few years.  They have learned nothing about how autistic people feel when they are called public health crises, diseased, defective, etc.  They have learned nothing about how to work with autistic individuals in developing the best solutions for mitigating disability and creating a more equitable society for everybody, autistic and neurotypical alike.  They have learned nothing about advocacy as a whole.  I think we all now know who really lacks empathy…

So, now that Autism Speaks’ only autistic member is gone, the organization can no longer make any claim whatsoever, that they are inclusive.  They have gone back to being 100% against the disability rights’ movement’s mantra: “Nothing about us, without us!”  Finally, they have thrown away any possibility of being able to have a dialogue with autistic individuals about how to improve our lives.

Are you listening now, Autism Speaks?  I doubt it.  So, you can go on with your fear-mongering, your dehumanization, and your ignorance.  We’ll move on without you.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

On “Tolerance”

The word “tolerance” gets thrown around a lot in many different circles.  Often, in debates, one side will call the other intolerant of their views, and vice versa.  In the United States, many people who subscribe to liberal views want to be viewed as tolerant of opposing views.  However, when they critique the views of conservatives, conservative people will try and identify a hypocrisy in liberal’s views, saying they aren’t truly tolerant because they don’t agree with their views.  I feel this whole dichotomy over-simplifies the use of “tolerance” when it comes to debate, and it’s time that is changed.

The most important thing I want people to realize is that blanket “tolerance” is not a virtue.  Some seem to think that being tolerant of something is synonymous with being good or being right, but that isn’t always the case.  There are obvious things that people should be intolerant of, like genocide, rape, exploitation of people, starvation, and poverty, among other things, but things get a little more nuanced when we talk about “culture war” issues or neurodiversity.

So, are there things I am intolerant of?  Yes, absolutely, and that’s not a bad thing.  There are a lot of things I am intolerant of.  A few examples: I am intolerant of the idea that religious beliefs should dictate public policy, I am intolerant of people who will blame rape victims for their rape, and I am intolerant of the idea that autistic individuals should spend their lives trying to act “normal” in order to appease society.  Intolerance is part of forming any argument of belief you may have.  You don’t have to be tolerant of everything in order to put yourself in the right.  A degree of intolerance provides evidence of applying critical thinking skills into forming your argument.  The important thing is striking the right balance of tolerance and intolerance.  When arguing, you must show enough tolerance to critique ideas, and not people.  Critiquing people and showing blanket intolerance for them does not get your point across and show a lack of critical thought on your part.  In short, do your research, know what you’re talking about, and solidify your position on an issue.

So, my final point is that intolerance is not something you should be afraid of.  It is a tool, but it is one that must be used carefully and with a lot of thought.


“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

This is How You Get Your Point Across

I have been following Lauren McNamara’s blog and YouTube Channel for a number of years now, and she has consistently impressed me with her outstanding ability to form a tight, well-thought out, well-researched, and interesting argument.  The arguments she makes in her videos and blog posts are so tight and concise that there is no real way for people to poke holes in it.  Lately, McNamara has been getting national media attention for being a witness for the Chelsea Manning case.  Much of her time in interviews, however, have been about Manning receiving hormonal treatments while she is in prison.  Here is McNamara’s latest interview on CNN:

As you can see from this video, McNamara gives factual, concise answers to each of the questions she is asked.  This is nothing surprising to me, since I am already aware of her intellect and the way she conveys an argument.  What I am really impressed by, however, is her ability to remain calm and collected while she speaks to the reporter.  The reporter doesn’t seem to accept being transgender as something that is legitimate, frequently referring to Chelsea Manning as “he”.  McNamara frequently corrects him without getting visibly angry or annoyed.  Her ability to maintain calm during that interview is impressive.

I hope we see a lot more of Lauren McNamara on a national stage.  Her type of commentary is something the world needs much more of!

Her YouTube Channel:

Her blog:

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

Now can the media admit to there not being two legitimate sides to every issue?

A large majority of news shows feature panels debating an issue during one of its segments.  One person will be defending one position and the other person will be defending the opposing position.  It is a good way for news watchers to get a cursory view of an issue from both sides and allow for them to come to their own conclusion.  But what if one side ‘s positions are not based on objective fact or sound evidence?  There are many cases in which two people are invited on to a news show to discuss an issue and one side bases its entire position on half-truths and outright lies.  Issues such as climate change, gay marriage and the existence of trans* people are what immediately come to my mind.

Yesterday, CNN hosted a discussion of the passage of transgender rights laws in the state of California.  They featured and Transgender Law Center’s Masen Davis alongside Randy Thomasson, the leader of the SPLC-identified hate group, Save California.  In this segment, Thomasson calls trans* people “sexually confused” and “in need of counseling.”  He also believes being transgender is not immutable and that gender and sex are synonymous terms.  None of Thomasson’s assertions are backed by any credible evidence.  The interview ends with Thomasson saying, “Hey, nice talking to you ladies,” in reference to the host and Davis.  Davis is a transgender man.

I understand that new stations want to look fair and balanced, but there are times, such as this one, where looking fair and balanced allows for dangerous misinformation and harmful attitudes to be spread.  For Thomasson to refer to Davis as a lady is not only offensive and insulting, it portrays an attitude that it is ok for people to refer to transgender individuals as a gender they do not identify with. It allows for other people to mimic the childish, cowardly, and crass attitudes Thomasson displayed.  Additionally, it is clear that Thomasson has no idea what he is talking about from this segment.  Between his failure to understand the difference between gender and sex and his attempts to tie being trans* to child abuse and divorce, it is clear that he is pulling stuff out of his ass.  It irks me that someone is allowed to say these things without being fact checked all for the sake of “balance.”

I realize this is not a new phenomenon by any means.  I am speaking about this issue because it seems like people are starting to become cognizant of news stations showing two sides to a story when only one is legitimate.  There is demonstrable evidence which points to the existence of climate change.  Gay people and gay couples exist and should have access to a marriage license.  Trans* people exist and deserve to have access to facilities that match their gender identity.  There is no reasonable opposition to any of these.  The news media shouldn’t be intimating that there is.  It may be of good entertainment value, but it is not good journalism.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

Man Shoots and Kills Minor…Gets Acquitted

I honestly don’t know how to start this post.  Do I rehash what happened?  Everybody knows at this point the George Zimmerman was acquitted for the killing of Trayvon Martin. The jury couldn’t prove that the crime fit second-degree murder criteria.  I admit I’m no legal expert, and I am not knowledgeable about the ins and outs of a second-degree murder charge in the state of Florida.  I am also not very knowledgeable about Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law.  However, I am baffled by how Zimmerman is allowed to walk away a free man.

Yes, much of the evidence in the case is cloudy.  It is not clear how the altercation between Martin and Zimmerman started.  It is also unclear who was attacking who.  I also can’t speak to the character qualities of Martin or Zimmerman.  Despite this cloudiness, there are some things about the case that are clear.  Zimmerman was armed.  Martin was not.  Zimmerman approached Martin after following him for a period of time.  Zimmerman shot Martin multiple times resulting in his death.  Martin was also a minor.

I don’t know what Zimmerman’s intent was in shooting Martin, whether it was in self-defense or to kill him.  If we give Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt and say the killing was, indeed, in self-defense, it would only be reasonable that he would be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, or a crime along the lines of that.  It doesn’t make sense to me that he gets to go free.  What if Zimmerman does something like this again?  What do we do about the laws in Florida surrounding “Stand your Ground”, murder, and manslaughter?What do we do about people who think they have the right to take the law into their own hands?  Something isn’t right.

I am angry that somebody can shoot and kill a minor and not get any sort of punishment.  I am angry that there are people out there who think they can police neighborhoods without proper training.  I am angry that a man can go after a minor because he “looks suspicious”.  I can’t help but wonder if the case would have been adjudicated in the way it was if Martin was white.  I would like to think that white privilege is a thing of the past, but I’m not disillusioned.  It isn’t.  We are not living in a “post-racial” society as many people would like to think we are.  White privilege exits today, as it has throughout the history of our nation.  Did it play a role in this case?  I wouldn’t doubt it.  There are certainly historical precedents that would suggest so.

In the end, I feel that the ruling was an injustice.  A person should not be able to murder a minor and then be set free because of legal technicalities.  Laws need to be changed.  Now.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

About the Rulings

So, I figured I’d write a quick post.  The Supreme Court rulings went the way I pretty much expected them to.  I knew there wouldn’t be a seeping ruling, declaring same-sex marriage legal for all 50 states.  It’ll be legal in California in a short period of time again.  Also, Section iii of DOMA was overturned, which is to be expected.  The narrow 5-4 rulings were also expected.  It’s not everything that needed to be done, but it is progress.

Although it’s not great, I am happy that the Supreme Court punted Prop 8 because the proponents didn’t have standing.  It basically tells groups like NOM and FRC that the Supreme Court doesn’t buy their shit about being “victims.”  Now, when NOM shoots out another “story” for their silly little “Anti-Defamation Alliance”, people can respond by saying, “You’re full of shit, and the Supreme Court thinks so, too.”  Prop 8 was punted because the proponents of it couldn’t show any demonstrable harm that rescinding Prop 8 would cause them.  We all knew they had nothing, and now it is recognized in the highest court of law.  Another advantage of this ruling is that other states could possibly overturn their ballot measures and cite this case as precedent.  Perhaps, marriage equality could come to more states more quickly.  So, the ruling is certainly something we can work with.

However, I am not happy about the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act.  It shames me to realize that I haven’t followed this as much as I should have.  Although we may have made progress on racial prejudice since the 1965, it is undeniable that racism and white privilege still exist in this country.  I believe the protections need to still be in place and it is a shame that they won’t be.  It is a tragic injustice, which should be given as much coverage as the Prop 8 and DOMA rulings.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”