Monday, December 8, 2014

More on the Death of Ethan Saylor

We recently wrote about similarities in the murders of Eric Garner and Ethan Saylor, who had Down Syndrome (DS). Garner was strangled, while Saylor suffered a crushed larynx. Following up, a more detailed discussion of Saylor's case follows. USC Professor Nick Cull wrote in Truthdig about this American tragedy: "On a Saturday night in mid-January, Saylor and his caregiver went to a Regal movie theater near his home in New Market, Md., to see “Zero Dark Thirty.” When the movie ended, the caregiver went to get her car and left Saylor outside. He re-entered the theater as if to watch the movie again and was told by the management that he had to either buy a new $10 ticket or leave. When he failed to do either, sheriff’s deputies who were moonlighting as security guards at the mall where the theater was located were called in and the confrontation escalated into a scuffle. The sheriff’s deputies restrained Saylor with handcuffs and forced him onto the floor at which point he became “unresponsive.” He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office suspended the off-duty deputies involved, but reinstated them after the grand jury’s decision".

Langdon Down wrote more than a century ago about characteristics of people with DS and highlighted the trait of obstinacy. Herein I have, with love (and sometimes exasperation) recounted some my experiences with David and his stubbornness. Only last weekend we were at the movies and he was single minded about where he would sit and when he would leave. God help him if he encountered, alone, a security guard like those who killed Ethan.

Langdon Down was apparently no stranger to such encounters and advised consummate tact in relating to these impasses. In fact, David has spent his life teaching all around him about patience and tact! And he becomes prosocial and cooperative under prosocial and cooperative conditions. Imagine that! Authoritarianism is predictably counterproductive.  Saylor's response is the proof that he was confronted, probably forcefully. And escalating and unnecessary force killed him. In another similarity to Garner, a Grand Jury found no reason to charge Saylor's assailants.

Professor Cull observed, "One of the troubling things about Saylor’s case is the nagging fear that the silence is not a response to careful consideration of the available evidence but a symptom that in the last analysis in the America of 2013, people with an intellectual disability simply do not count".

Thursday, December 4, 2014


It's time for this blog to again review state sanctioned torture in the United States. Past articles have looked at atrocities in nursing homes, developmental centers, prisons  and group homes. As pointed out by many, people are victimized twice: first in the abuses against them and second in the systemic failures of courts and governments to prosecute and reform.

Last week the UN authored a wide ranging 16 page report addressing ongoing torture in America. What is torture?

"For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any
act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is
intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or
a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a
third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or
intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on
discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at
the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or
other person acting in an official capacity".

The report eviscerated practices of our military, prisons and police. As the world looked on, our popular press failed to carry the story that in these instances we are the "bad guys". At the circles of support our position is both historical and practical: the roots of prisons and institutions are the same kind of evil that demonizes people reduced to objects and called inmates. Elders and people with disabilities  live today (in the lie of labels) at care homes and care facilities.  They are now called clients, patients, consumers and residents-but they are inmates, who are sometimes tortured.

The current UN report identified solitary confinement and isolation, violence including sexual violence, and taser assaults. As I write, groups are writing to the UN to request consideration that the atrocities within the walls of the American care home be included in statements identifying American violations of the conventions on torture.

Eric Garner and Ethan Saylor: death by choke-hold/crushed larynx

Eric Garner and Ethan Saylor suffered similar fates: Garner was choked to death and Saylor, suffered a crushed larynx. Saylor was handcuffed and forced to the ground, but no allegation of choking was made. And similarly, no charges brought against the men who choked them: Racism and ableism in American culture. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014


A free and open internet stimulates ISP competition, and helps prevent unfair pricing practices.A free and open internet promotes innovation and the spread of ideas. A free and open internet drives grassroots movements and empowers marginalized persons. A free and open internet protects freedom of speech and helps the net architecture of "circles of support".

Without an open internet, big corporations would have tight control over how we access websites and services. Please do your part to keep the internet a cornerstone of freedom and self-determination.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Judith Heumann: "Keep our Foot on the Gas"

In 1976, the unit television, caked with shit, had been turned off. Teens wandered aimlessly about the large day hall.  Institution staff were gathered in an office, where the price of admission was to step over  a young and naked  man with PKU who directed his futile cries underneath the door and into the office. Inside smiles and welcomes were extended to me, the new employee on this block. Everyday at 3, I escaped the hell hole, but never have forgotten those who did not.  Segregation!

The 1970s revolutionized disability rights across the nation. The civil rights movements of the 1960s inspired the disability rights movement says Judith Heumann, speaking about her own journey to activism. Today's Pacifica broadcast interview of  Neumann, highlighted her own journey from then till now. Acknowledging the great progress, she stated today's downside: "people with disabilities are not seen as equivalent...(they are seen as) too demanding".

I have always been haunted by a similar dissonance: the firestorm disability right movement through 1970-1980s in hellish contrast to the stark  realities of the institution. I became an academic, advocate and activist in the deinstitutionalization movement.

And today, post Olmstead, as institutions close down, advocates and bureaucrats cheer and I agree...mostly. You see, human beings were rescued from the fire but too many were flung into the frying pan of group homes. While some fulfill the spirit of Olmstead and maximize community experiences, too many are just mini institutions.

David lives in such a home. Where he awakens to a day not of his own choosing; where segregation from the surrounding community is his reality till he is put to bed with the sun 530. Segregated home, busing, sheltered workshop and back.

Our contemporary disability rights movement is strong, but in the shadows are the mini institutions.

As Heumann said today, "We must keep our foot on the gas".

Friday, July 4, 2014




Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

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Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
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Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
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Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
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Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
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Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
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Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
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Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
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Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
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Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
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Article 10.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
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Article 11.

(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
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Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
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Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
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Article 14.

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
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Article 15.

(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
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Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
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Article 17.

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
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Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
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Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
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Article 20.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
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Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
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Article 22.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
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Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
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Article 24.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
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Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
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Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
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Article 27.

(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
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Article 28.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
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Article 29.

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
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Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Friday, June 20, 2014


California's war on vulnerable citizens includes forced sterilizations going back decades.
According to  Lutz Kaelber, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Vermont: " Those individuals targeted generally fell into one of three categories, dependent, delinquent, or mental deficient.  They were thought to threaten the strength and wellbeing of the race."

Terrifying tales of the past?

No.  The sterilization wars never stopped.

Today, the California state auditor "blasted federal and state oversight of sterilization surgeries for female prison inmates, finding numerous illegal surgeries and violations of the state’s informed-consent law".  This per Corey G. Johnson, writer for The Center of Investigative Reporting.  CIR cited the damning audit in detail: "Of the 144 inmates who underwent tubal ligations from fiscal years 2005-06 to 2012-13, auditors found nearly one-third were performed without lawful consent".

The Golden State appears to lead the nation in incarceration, solitary confinement and sterilization. It was eleven years ago when our State Senate passed Resolution 20, to belatedly apologize to those victimized by sterilization.  Our Senators lamented the past  "injustice done to thousands of California men and women".

Maybe they ought to take another look.