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October 02, 2012

Down's Syndrome Voters Have Opinions, Too

The blog princess has linked to Kirsten Powers several times when she bravely spoke out against a position held by her fellow progressives. Now Ms. Powers is surely not the only progressive ever to do this, but on the times we have linked to her, she has done it particularly well. Her arguments were sound, and not only because we happen to agree with them.

They were sound on the merits.

Today we link to another women speaking out against a position held by her fellow pro.... err... conservatives. We do so, not because we happen to agree with her (quite honestly, this is not a question we had considered in any focused way), but because - on reading her impassioned arguments - we found them to be sound and well reasoned.

It takes courage to buck your own side, especially close to an election when the stakes are so very high. None of us wants to lose. But this kind of courage is admirable and deserves fair consideration. We have purposely not linked the most compelling parts of her argument. Please read it yourself - in its entirety.

You'll be glad you did.

Posted by Cassandra at October 2, 2012 08:38 AM

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Doing the right thing shouldn't be a partisan issue. I have friends on both sides of the aisle that can't seem to figure this out.

Posted by: Dan Irving at October 2, 2012 09:36 AM

I understand her position, but I think this is a case where she was looking to be upset. While a few examples of the blogs she quoted DO in fact say Brittany is being used as a pawn, none say her voice shouldn't be heard. Or that she shouldn't vote. Nor that she should keep silent. None.

And yet, that's how she took it. And I'll even go further. I do not think she herself thought through her own position. She states:
"If a girl named Brittany had written in a letter saying all of the same things, but had erased the part where she said she had Down syndrome, would there be any uproar at all? No, there wouldn’t be."

There wouldn't be an uproar, because the letter would never have been published by the Obama campaign. She's 100% right that plenty of people without disabilities say they're in the (now mystical) 47%. But you do NOT see the Obama campaign pushing their letters. Why? Because, as she points out, there's nothing remarkable about those letters. Instead they chose Britanny's letter ONLY because she has Downs Syndrome. I do not believe that an Obama campaigner came to Brittany's house and tricked her into writing it. So if that is your only definition of "exploitation" then I'd agree. But it's not.

It's exploitative for the same reasons the movie Shaft is considered exploitative of blacks. Blaxploitation is an actual genre of film. Now, were the actor's tricked into it? By calling those films "exploitative" are we saying the actor's shouldn't have a voice? No! But we are pointing out that they are still being used nonetheless.

Posted by: MikeD at October 2, 2012 09:41 AM

Honestly? If Brittany wrote that letter entirely on her own, then I don't see how she's disabled enough to warrant living a life dependent on government assistance. The author clearly had above-average intelligence. If she has other Downs-related physical ailments that make her unable to work, then of course she should get help. Nevertheless, judging from the Downs syndrome sufferers I have know, someone wrote that letter in her name. Most employers would be surprised and pleased to receive a letter from an applicant stated in English that competent.

What's more, 47% of Americans do not have serious enough disabilities that they are unable to work and support themselves. If 10% do, the problem is the other 37%, who are freeloading on scarce resources that ought to be reserved for the truly unfortunate.

Posted by: Texan99 at October 2, 2012 10:17 AM

"simply because this girl has Down syndrome, her voice apparently shouldn’t be heard. At least, that’s what all of these conservatives are basically saying."

"The idea seems to be that because she has Down syndrome, she couldn’t possibly understand what she’s saying, and so therefore, Obama is manipulating her and using her."

"People with Down syndrome want to be treated like anyone else. And they should be."

It's difficult to say but I think Cassy's reaction is understandable (her own child having Down's Syndrome), defensible (the viability of such children/adults living near normal lives) and worth saying. I do believe though her anger is misdirected.

The 'conservatives' are not arguing against Brittany but against Obama's use of Brittany. It is fair - given the Left's vituperative attacks against Sarah Palin's DS child – that she should have aborted him; given the Democratic Party's convention bordered on being an abortionpalooza; given that Obama opposed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act; given the reasonable conclusion that most everyone calling themselves Democrat would have advised Cassy abort her child - that people would find Obama's use of the letter a cocktail of disingenuous, insincere, and hypocritical.

Posted by: George Pal at October 2, 2012 10:21 AM

There's a history here, as well. Gold Star mothers also have opinions, and they are valid opinions that ought to be heard and considered.

However, who's the only Gold Star mother to have been turned into a national figure by the Democratic Party's public relations machine? Cindy Sheehan. She was turned into the figure with 'ultimate moral authority,' and her position was broadcast as having that authority even though others with very similar 'authority' were ignored (including her son, the one who actually died for what he believed).

I never thought it was wrong for her to feel as she did, but I did think it was exploitative for the Democratic Party and their fellow travelers to use her feelings they way they did. They weren't really interested in what a Gold Star mom thought. They were interested in a political weapon they could use.

So I'm sympathetic to the claim that they are using this young lady for their own purposes. Of course they are.

Posted by: Grim at October 2, 2012 11:00 AM

Off topic (sorry for that) but did anyone else see this over at John Donovan's place?

What in the blankity-blank-blank!?!?!

Posted by: MikeD at October 2, 2012 11:08 AM


Note the date (28 Sep). Because a new fiscal year is beginning, a determination of this type was necessary to spend any money right now on Libyan, etc., training of security forces. You can understand why we'd want to do that right now in Libya (the same reasons apply in Yemen, etc.).

Here is the one from 2010 (the first year the law went into effect). Expect to continue to see them annually in September/October as long as we consider it in the national interest of the United States to train security forces in countries like this.

Posted by: Grim at October 2, 2012 11:40 AM

Agree that Ms Powers has the right to be upset at what she perceives to be conservatives denying her child's ability to reason and write letters. I do also believe that those who say that had Brittany not been advertised as having Down's Syndrome the letter would never have seen the light of day.
I really don't get the whole outrage business about the now infamous 47%. The man was obviously not referring to genuine diability cases,pensioners, veterans or others who have earned government payments.He was referring to what--in a former day-- would have been called slackers and welfare queens, and his remarks were pretty much factual if you count in the given Obama vote by blacks, academe and unmarried women.
Right on about Cindy Sheehan--though I think she was deranged.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at October 2, 2012 11:46 AM

I think you all make some good points.

I had not (and have not had time to) read the actual letter, nor any of the posted linking to or commenting on it.

I do worry about implying that highlighting anyone's voice is "exploitation" based solely on various demographic/identity factors. There's certainly nothing wrong with benefiting from having a member of some identifiable class of people speak out on your behalf.

The right does this with black conservatives. It's one reason Mia Love's race (pun fully intended) gets so much attention on conservative blogs and so little on liberal ones. Are we "exploiting" her? I don't think so.

I'm more sympathetic to T99's argument. Not having read the letter myself, I can't comment on it but if I accept her assessment at face value, it has real merit.

I'm also quite sympathetic to Grim's argument wrt Gold Star moms - the Dems weren't at all interested in hearing from troops or Gold Star moms who supported the war, and I don't imagine the DNC would be terribly interested in testimonials from any member of the 47% who thinks they should be paying more taxes :p

Finally, I fully agree with Capt. Mongo's last point here:

I really don't get the whole outrage business about the now infamous 47%. The man was obviously not referring to genuine disability cases, pensioners, veterans or others who have earned government payments.

Anyway, interesting comments!

Posted by: Cassandra at October 2, 2012 03:29 PM

wrt to child soldiers:

So... the US is only concerned about human trafficking and child soldiers in *some* countries?

Posted by: Cassandra at October 2, 2012 03:31 PM

My first thought was that the letter sort of validated Romney's position. Here is a person, part of the 47% (having taxes withheld is *not* the same as paying taxes) dependent on the .gov (rightly or not) who under no circumstances is going to vote for him or support a position of reducing gov't assistance.

Campaigning for Brittany's vote is a waste of donor's resources.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 2, 2012 05:23 PM

Oh thank God you commented! I didn't want to continue to be a thread derailer.

Ok, the actual text of the White House memorandum states that they want to cut exceptions to the 2008 law (which went into effect in 2010) to prevent the sale of arms and military training to nations which use children as soldiers. Every year this law has been active, the President has requested exceptions to the law (as the law allows). His justifications have been, to put it politely, pathetic. With the sole exception requested for Chad in the Memorandum of Justification issued with the 2011 request for exceptions (seen here: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/files/fp_uploaded_documents/111004_2011%20CSPA%20PD%20MOJ.pdf which is the only one I could find), they all seem to amount to either "They're still using children as soldiers, but at least if we give them money, they might someday stop using children" to the utterly contemptible "Yeah, they're using children as soldiers, and have made it clear they're not going to stop, but we REALLY need to give them money cause they're fighting terrorists!". I give Chad a break, because the justification for their waiver seemed to be "it honestly looks like they've not only stopped using child soldiers completely, but they've taken proactive steps to prevent it from occurring again." And that seems like a reasonable justification.

And Grim, I respect you as I respect few men. I think of you as a teacher, a mentor, a man of good faith and utmost honor. But on this, I must wholeheartedly and unconditionally disagree with you. I do NOT see why we would want to try and train soldiers in these countries, especially in Libya. For crying out loud, our own FBI STILL hasn't been to the crime scene because it's not "safe enough". And we want to REWARD them with millions of dollars in aid and training? No sir, I will have none.

I understand the concept that foreign aid gives us a lever by which we hope to move them in the right (i.e. more Western) direction. But this is the wrong lever, one which is coated in the blood of children. My favorite (in an ironic sense I am afraid) line from the 2010 article from the New York Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/29/world/africa/29soldiers.html?_r=0), found for me by a friend when I expressed my outrage that we had never heard of this before, is as follows:
"And now, they said, the four countries are effectively being given a year to change their ways."


Yes, and that has worked out so well, we need to CONTINUE to grant waivers for Yemen and Sudan. Unbelievable. In fact, the only countries on the list I can seem to find that we did not issue a waiver to is Myanmar and Somalia. Well... why the hell did we sign this into law then? Why not just cut aid to Somalia and Myanmar and call it a day? CLEARLY protecting children is not really a consideration.

And further, al-Qaida operates in Somalia, and yet don't grant them a waiver like we do for Yemen? That justification is clearly bull excrement. Myanmar? Well, at least we're not giving them arms or military training. And they've finally relented on the house arrest of Suu Kyi and have even made motions like they are finally going to allow opposition parties, and yet, they did so without the "incentive to moderize" that we've said we need with the Congo. So clearly that excuse doesn't cut it either.

Sorry if I am far too animated about this, but I normally do not have outrage over the current Occupant of the White House. This has not only crossed the line, it's raped and pillaged it as well. And the silence from the media is DEAFENING. Just (for a moment) imagine this was a Republican President who requested these exceptions.

Posted by: MikeD at October 2, 2012 05:30 PM

Wrt child soldiers:

I suppose you could make that claim, if and only if US concern can only be expressed by completely cutting off aid at this time. Otherwise, we'd have to say that we remain concerned, but that circumstances justify the waiver of this particular method of expressing concern.

Posted by: Grim at October 2, 2012 05:43 PM

I don't know how much more of these idiotic campaigns I can stand. Well, that's not true. I know exactly how much more of these idiotic campaigns I can stand. Problem is, suicide is against my religion.

Posted by: spd rdr, feelin' grumpy at October 2, 2012 05:55 PM

Can't argue with that, spd.

Posted by: Princess Leia, Wearing a Bikini Made of Grumpiness at October 2, 2012 06:41 PM

With the sole exception requested for Chad ... they all seem to amount to either "They're still using children as soldiers, but at least if we give them money, they might someday stop using children" to the utterly contemptible "Yeah, they're using children as soldiers, and have made it clear they're not going to stop, but we REALLY need to give them money cause they're fighting terrorists!". I give Chad a break, because the justification for their waiver seemed to be "it honestly looks like they've not only stopped using child soldiers completely, but they've taken proactive steps to prevent it from occurring again." And that seems like a reasonable justification.

I guess it really comes down to whether it was wise to make a law forbidding the US to provide military support to nations that use child soldiers?

If you keep having to grant waivers, my instinct is that the answer to that question is not just no, but hell no.

Either this is a deal killer, or it isn't. I understand the point I suspect Grim is trying to make (if your country is being controlled by marauding despots who rape, steal and kill with abandon, child soldiers are probably the least of your problems).

Which, now that I think of it, only points out the stupidity of such a law.

How many waivers has this administration granted so far for unenforceable/ill advised laws?

Posted by: Princess Leia, Wearing a Bikini Made of Grumpiness at October 2, 2012 06:54 PM


I didn't see your comment before -- you may have written that while I still had an old version of the page up.

The problem in Libya particularly is that the new government has only existed at all for about a year, and it still hasn't even reigned in full control of the multiple militias. Some of these are Qaeda-aligned, and others are not. If they are to sort out which ones are which, and bring the good ones into order, they're probably going to need some help.

US Special Forces are ideal for this kind of mission, in which you have to train allies while derailing a potential (or actual) insurgency that may have terrorist ties. This kind of mission is called FID ("foreign internal defense") and it is one of the core competencies of USSF.

The law would prohibit us spending money to have USSF partner with the Libyans, though, as well as other purposes. It's precisely because its dangerous that we ought to have them engaged.


I agree that it's a foolish law. The Yemen situation is one where I'm not sure I see the point of what we're doing, although I see the 'why' of it in Libya. In Yemen I think we're off the rails a bit.

Still, how odd to require ourselves to pass a law that overrides the administration's right to spend money unless the administration approves the spending of money. All it does is require the relevant department to approve it once, and the White House itself to file a separate piece of paper (literally, just one, as you can see from the posted notification) that says, 'Yes, we really mean it.'

Posted by: Grim at October 2, 2012 09:25 PM

Thanks for highlighting this story Cass! As the mom of a kid on the (high-functioning end of the) autism spectrum, I could relate to a lot of it. Particularly the obvious point that free citizens with disabilities have as much right to their own opinions as anyone else. And we should not patronize them or (as a parent) tear our hair out if they are different from our own.

However, I should also add that in my own family there are individuals who would materially benefit from proposed policies of Obama's, but that we do not believe the country can afford, and which we therefore will vote against.

In other words, don't assume that just because a person needs help, or is in a difficult situation, that they will whine for a handout regardless of the needs of everyone else or the state of the nation. We are not all spoilt brats....Even if most politicians are.

Whether one has a disability, special interest or whatever, plenty of us do our best to vote our conscience and vote for what we think is in the best interests of the country as a whole, not just for whomever seems likely to give us the most benefits or money.

All parents know what I'm talking about: do I buy the six pack of beer and the chicken wings for a DVD movie night with the hubby after the brats are asleep after getting hot dogs? Or do I buy a roaster chicken and ice cream for the whole family to enjoy together for family dinner? Most moms will do the latter, so that everyone can enjoy the dinner together. Even if perhaps the parents might have preferred something spicy...

I have strong feelings on the subject of health insurance, for example, because my own parents could not afford to return to this country in their old age after working overseas for some years. They had developed expensive chronic health conditions, and could not afford the health care costs in the US, so ended up dying overseas in a country with national health insurance. Despite my dad having had a succesful career in the US, and started his own company which employed hundreds of people in different locations worldwide. He was mournful about dying in exile from his beloved country, but resigned to American medicine being too expensive and American insurance companies being too vicious for it to be possible for him to return (one year's care would have exhausted the extended family's assets).

I am NOT, however, for Obamacare which is a rotten program designed by our current insurance companies and which ignores a huge parts of the problem in medical costs today, namely, the need for tort reform. Likewise, our nation's health will continue to deteriorate as we tolerate greater unemployment, unchecked immigration, growing income inequality, and the growth of a caste system where the rich and large corporations wink at hiring illegals and others under the table for cash who work under unsafe conditions for rotten wages.

I lived in Latin American countries as a kid where this was common, and disease was rampant. If you abandon any attempt to pay people decently and treat workers well, public health deteriorates, and even the rich end up catching things from the help they scorn and exploit.

Obviously, I'm voting against the Big Zero, but I don't know what's the answer to our country's health care crisis, beyond all of us doing the best we can to eat and live right, exercise, and avoid getting sick in the first place....(not always possible).

To return to the subject of kids with disabilities and politics. My kid of voting age doesn't want to vote because, like his non-disabled sibs of voting age and his parents, he is so disgusted with the choices in our local elections, and so unenthusiastic about either Presidential candidate. He doesn't see the point. He admired McCain in the last election because he saw him as a hero, but we have no heroes in this election. It isn't that kids are apathetic, but that the politicians they are presented with are truly uninspiring these days.

My kid is Christian, and very pro-military, and doesn't respect an ex-stoner OR someone who used their religion to get out of military service during the Vietnam War.

People often assume that because many kids with disabilities have benefitted from specialized educational services and hours of extra parental attention, that they are all very liberal and loosey goosey. In fact, their political, religious, intellectual views vary as much as any other people's.

For example, my kid has been classically educated in a family that loves military and political history, and one reason he hates draft dodgers is that people in the military are his heroes. He regreta not being able to serve himself (we tease that in VIking times he would been a berserker as he is over 6 feet, built, and fearless)

Posted by: retriever at October 2, 2012 10:29 PM