And you didn’t even notice/When the sky turned blue/And you couldn’t tell the difference/Between me and you

Last night after the sun went down, multiple buildings at the University of Rochester, down the street from my house, were bathed in blue light. Buildings across the country, across the globe, followed suit. Strategically placed bulbs behind Niagara Falls illuminated the cascading water. Everything lit up, blue.

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April is widely acknowledged as Autism Awareness Month. The UN designated April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day back in 2008, and Autism Speaks began their Light It Up Blue campaign in 2010, urging people to dress in blue and put blue bulbs in their front porch lights, in an effort to spread awareness of how widespread autism is. For most people in the autism community in the US, World Autism Awareness Day and Light It Up Blue are inextricably linked, and both are clearly associated with Autism Speaks.

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A year before the Light It Up Blue Campaign was inaugurated, Autism Speaks hired Alfonso Cuaron to direct a four minute long video called “I Am Autism”. Given that Cuaron was in the midst of an ugly divorce following his son’s diagnosis with autism, procuring his services to make a film about the effects autism can have on a family had somewhat predictable but no less distressing results.

Over ominous music and grainy home videos of children stimming or staring blankly into space, a chilling voice intones, “I am autism. I’m visible in your children, but if I can help it, I am invisible to you until it’s too late. I know where you live. And guess what? I live there too… I know no color barrier, no religion, no morality… I have no interest in right or wrong. I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness. I will fight to take away your hope. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams. I will make sure that every day you wake up you will cry…I am still winning, and you are scared. And you should be.”

And then the music modulates ever so slightly, to a major key, to a triumphant rebuttal. “And to autism I say: I am a father, a mother, a grandparent, a brother, a sister. We will spend every waking hour trying to weaken you…We search with technology and voodoo and prayer and herbs and genetic studies and a growing awareness you never anticipated…We speak the only language that matters: love for our children…You are alone. We are a community of warriors. We have a voice. You think because some of our children cannot speak, we cannot hear them?…When you came for my child, you forgot: you came for me.”

The message of the video could not be clearer: autism is an insidious force that steals your children, and Autism Speaks is an organization that represents the parents fighting back. It’s a game of telephone — parents presume to speak on behalf of their children, and Autism Speaks presumes to speak for the parents. But given how much inevitably gets lost in translation in any given game of telephone…

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…let’s be honest — Autism Speaks is really just speaking for parents. Their public relations campaigns promote the challenges faced by “warrior moms”. Light It Up Blue spreads awareness, yes. It spreads awareness of how much “autism parents” have to struggle. I have two autistic kids, so basically Autism Speaks is speaking for me. Um…thanks? I guess?

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Autism Speaks was founded in 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright. Bob Wright was the chairman and CEO of NBC Universal when his grandson, Christian, was diagnosed with autism. With an essentially infinite rolodex of connections and gobs and gobs of cash, Wright must have found it unfathomable that this might be an unfixable situation. And because of those connections and that cash, Autism Speaks swiftly became the 800 pound gorilla of autism charities. (I mean, people in Buffalo bought a lot of Flutie Flakes, but let’s be honest, Doug Flutie was never going to be able to make the sort of dent that the head of one of the world’s largest entertainment monoliths could. He sure did make a great pass that one time, though, as I understand it.)

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Autism Speaks was steering the ship, and the course was clear: wide-release, big name PR would bring in the donations, and the donations would fund research into the cause of and potential treatments for autism.

The Wrights’ daughter, Katie, was convinced of the then-still-vaguely-plausible theory that her son’s autism was caused by vaccinations, so a lot of money went in that direction at first. When no studies could find a connection, Autism Speaks officially repudiated any link to a possible danger from vaccines. In doing so, they caused a rift between Katie and her parents that has yet to heal. Katie now often writes for Age of Autism, the pre-eminent anti-vaccine blog, and is a vocal critic of the research Autism Speaks has chosen to fund.

Katie Wright and her pals in the anti-vaccine movement are far from the only critics of Autism Speaks, however. Because the louder Autism Speaks’ voice became, the more blue puzzle piece bumper stickers dotted the interstates, the more dollars got tacked on to the tail end of Toys R Us purchases…the more glaring a particular aspect of the organization became to those who were paying attention. Namely, there were no actual autistic people involved in any sort of leadership position at Autism Speaks.

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Autism Speaks was eager to trumpet each new autism prevalence statistic that any study bore out, for the sake of their bottom line — one in 100, one in 66, possibly even 1 in 50 children in America would be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. (Side note: As cited in an utterly execrable Washington Post op-ed yesterday by noted anti-vax “warrior mom” Kim Stagliano, MIT scientist and noted moron Stephanie Seneff believes that soon half of all children will be autistic if current trends continue — but she is indeed a noted moron whose limited grasp of statistical analysis and odd predilection for talking about subjects far outside her own field of expertise [which is robotics, not autism, for the record] makes me strongly doubt the wisdom of the university tenure system — and I’m the wife of a college professor!) But what Autism Speaks chronically neglected to disclose when doom-and-glooming about rising rates was that a great deal of that increase was clearly due to a broadening of the diagnostic criteria and a subsequent boom in the number of autistic people with the capacity, in whatever form, to speak for themselves. And when they began to speak, their voice was almost unanimousAutism Speaks does not speak for them.

This was problematic for Autism Speaks. So much of their program is built around PR that a bunch of adult autistics undermining their message could be truly damaging to their business model. When President Obama named Ari Ne’eman, the head of the Autistic Self- Advocacy Network, to an advisory position in his administration, what had previously been a relatively quiet rumble mainly confined to particularly dusty and nerdy corners of the internet became a clear public dissent. And what resulted was truly unseemly. Autism Speaks was happy to use stats that included so-called “high functioning” autistics to fuel their fundraising efforts, but as soon as those people began to talk back, they were told they were too high-functioning to really count.

But that’s because Autism Speaks really has only ever spoken for parents to begin with. The only autism that is REAL autism, remember, is the kind that needs to be fought ceaselessly with “technology and voodoo and prayer and herbs and genetic studies and growing awareness.” I don’t know how voodoo and prayer fit into their accounting scheme, but I assume some of the technology in question might be the electroshock behavior modification practiced at the Judge Rotenberg Center, an organization that Autism Speaks featured at a resource fair during their national policy and action summit in 2013. By herbs they’re almost certainly talking about the types of biomedical treatments Katie Wright swears by — they may have disavowed any anti-vaccine stance, but they still fund plenty of studies of complementary and alternative medicine, much of which is harmless or even legitimately beneficial but when taken to extremes can basically bankrupt desperate parents pumping their children full of B12 injections and high-dose anti-parasite medications and synthetic castrating hormones and even bleach enemas. Because autism is winning, and parents should be scared. What horrifies many adult autistics most is the newer focus on genetic studies. Personally, as a person with multiple autistic kids I find genetic studies to be of interest on a “The More You Know!” level, but to people who view autism as an integral, inseparable aspect of their humanity, this all sounds like fancy code for eugenics. If there was a genetic test for autism, the way there is for Down syndrome, would most expectant parents abort?

That’s where the last part of Autism Speak’ battle cry becomes vitally important — growing awareness. That’s what this month is supposedly about, what Light It Up Blue is meant to accomplish: making the public aware of autism. But if Autism Speaks is the one defining what people need to be aware of, is that the sort of awareness we really want to spread? Are we spreading awareness of how hard “autism parents” have it, how much we have to cope with that other parents don’t, how terrible autism has made our lives? That seems to be the message of awareness they presented in “I Am Autism” and the message Suzanne Wright voiced in her “call to action” in the fall of 2013 where she once again described autistic children as “missing” and their families as “not living. They are existing. Breathing — yes. Eating — yes. Sleeping — maybe…Life lived moment-to-moment. In despair.”

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I don’t live in despair.

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No, really, I don’t.

I can’t speak for the parents of children who need more support than my kids, or who have other issues that seem woven inextricably into their autism lattice like seizures or gastrointestinal issues or violence or allergies. But for me, with two kids on the spectrum — my life is tough. But THEIR lives are tougher. This should be awareness of THEM, not of ME. I want to raise awareness about the ways they struggle — but also the ways they succeed and the ways they excel. I want to raise awareness of the fact that their lives have value, whether they have fluent spoken language or not. They shouldn’t have to speak to be heard, and until Autism Speaks does a better job of listening, they should stop hogging the megaphone.

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The hard thing is, Autism Speaks DOES do some work that truly directly benefits families affected by autism and autistic people themselves. Whenever an anti-Autism Speaks thread starts in any of the autism-related internet forums I frequent, inevitably people chime in with, “But my kid got an iPad because of Autism Speaks” or “our local organization got a grant from Autism Speaks that has allowed us to create such-and-such fantastic service for adults on the spectrum.” Awesome! I myself have found some of the text resources on their website to be useful, including one about medications that was developed by a nurse practitioner at our local university hospital. But SUCH a small percentage of their HUGE income goes to those sorts of efforts, and so much goes towards questionable research and unfortunate rhetoric that I simply cannot stand behind the organization and will not Light It Up Blue until they make some large systematic changes in their mission statement.

One of my very favorite bloggers, Jess Wilson of A Diary of a Mom, used to actively fundraise for Autism Speaks, participate publicly in their walks, function as one of the largest parental voices for them in the Boston area. But then something happened, an encounter with Suzanne Wright that made her head spin, and soon she could no longer stand behind the organization.

Someone walks over to our step to say hello. She bends at the waist, looming over Brooke.

Brooke doesn’t look up. She doesn’t stop stripping her stick.

Dig. Pull. Dig. Pull.

Our visitor reaches out a hand and cups it below Brooke’s chin.

I freeze. Oh God.

She uses the hand to pull Brooke’s head up by the jaw.

A thin line of panic starts somewhere deep. I know that Brooke is going to scream. 5,4,3,2 …

She does scream, but not in the way that I expect.

“I HATE BEING TOUCHED!!” she shouts.

I am flabbergasted.

Words. Self-awareness. Communication. Self-advocacy.

I know the sentence will need to be reformatted. But I am drenched in pride.

I turn to Brooke. “Great job telling us how you feel, Brooke. Really great job.” I hope that my words send a message to both of them. I stand with my girl.

Our visitor is undaunted.

“I just want to see that beautiful face,” she says. “Lift up for me.”

I am stymied by etiquette. By deference to our host. By generational difference. By convention.

Brooke is not.

She lifts her head as instructed. And growls.

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A woman with so little respect for the physical autonomy of an autistic child, let alone so little regard for the sensory sensitivities common to autistic people, simply SHOULD NOT be dictating the way we raise awareness about autism in this country. And she clearly doesn’t need to act as anyone’s voice. If we bothered to listen, we would find that autistic people truly can speak for themselves, even if it’s just lifting their head and growling. As a parent, I want to open doors for my children, and I will fight to get them the supports they need to succeed in whatever will make them happy. But I’m not a warrior. My kids are warriors, and they’re not fighting against autism, they’re fighting against a world that is unforgiving of any deviation form the norm. I don’t want the world to be aware my children exist. I want the world to accept my children as they are.

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Awareness can be the first step, certainly, although not the sort of awareness Autism Speaks spreads. But acceptance and understanding is what we need to shoot for. And sadly, that’s not what the world’s largest autism charity is all about.

There were no lights at my house last night. Autism has not robbed me of my children or my dreams. They were in bed beside me, dreaming dreams of their own.

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“‘I feel all sleepy,’ she said.”

I didn’t want to write this post. And there are a couple of reasons for that.

First of all is the obvious, which is that I’m only writing it because there is a large scale outbreak of a preventable childhood disease that was on the brink of total extinction in this country fifteen years ago. I would prefer that was not the case, and if it was not the case, I wouldn’t feel the need to write this post. Second is more personal, which is that I know some people who do not vaccinate. I know people who are passionate about not vaccinating. I actually know at least one person who believes their child developed autism as a result of vaccinations. I like all of these people. I do not want to offend or upset those people. Some of you who knew me when I was younger and more volatile might not believe this, but I really am a pretty “live and let live” kind of person. My blood pressure benefits from taking a very Wooderson-style approach to life. For the most part, I do not give a shit about the choices people make with regards to their personal lives. You do you, man. Just keep L-I-V-I-N. Alright, alright, alright.

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So let’s not look at it that way. I’m not writing this to try and sway anyone who has already made up their minds. That’s probably not going to happen. People who are committed to the idea that vaccination is harmful, is a scam, is a tragedy…those people aren’t going to change their minds. So, fine. Instead, I’m writing this for two other groups of people. I’m writing this for people who haven’t made up their minds. I’m writing this for people who don’t have kids yet, so they haven’t been bombarded from information on both sides. I’m writing this for people who have a natural skepticism towards anything that comes from Big PHRMA (I totally get that!) or who don’t like the idea of the government forcing you to make certain choices about your body (please refer back to my Wendy Davis post for confirmation that I totally get that, too!). I’m writing for people who just aren’t sure, who don’t know what to think.

But I’m mostly writing it for people who, like myself, are passionate about vaccination in this country, for whatever reason. People who want to wade into the muck of the internet to shout loudly at stubborn douchebags, or, hopefully more likely, to calmly rebut information being disseminated by the antivax crowd. Because they have a lot to say, and I would like to give you some things you can say back. You can’t go into a knife fight armed with a spatula, and you can’t argue with antivaxxers without knowing who they are, how they think, and what they’re going to throw at you.

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The backlash to inoculation began basically five minutes after someone thought up the idea of inoculation. Jezebel has actually recently published a great post about the older history of the topic, including a lot of stuff I didn’t know. My knowledge of and interest in the subject doesn’t go back quite that far. But I’m pretty well versed in the last thirty years of the anti-vaccine movement. I think the best way to approach this is to write out a Who’s Who, because that’s the fastest way for you to check sources — if you see any of the following names, be skeptical, because these are not people speaking from a position of neutrality. And any Who’s Who of the antivaccine movement has to start with…no, not who you’re all thinking of. Honestly, she’s almost a footnote. No, not him either. We’ll get to them, don’t worry. Instead, we’ll start off delicately, with the grande dame of last 20th century antivax activism. Her name is Barbara Loe Fisher.

•Barbara Loe Fisher: Fisher founded the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) after her son had a seizure “within hours of his fourth DPT shot…when he was two and a half years old.” This was the old whole-cell pertussis shot, which legitimately did have a worse record of adverse reactions than the current acellular pertussis (DTaP) shot which children now receive, although those adverse reactions were still rare. Fisher wrote a book in 1985 called DTP: A Shot In The Dark. According to Fisher, she saw linguistic regression in her son immediately following the seizure, as well as “chronic infections, constant diarrhea, new allergies, failure to thrive,” and he ended up with “multiple learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder”. Another website I found claimed he has ADHD, asthma, dyslexia, and diabetes. As far as I can tell, no doctor has ever decisively linked any of those things to the vaccine, and I don’t believe she ever took a case to the Vaccine Court. Her son is now a videographer and competitive power lifter, so apparently he started thriving at some point.

OK, herein lies the inherent problem with criticizing many of the people in the antivaccine movement — I don’t want to talk shit on people’s firsthand experience with their child. What Barbara Loe Fisher went through with her son was certainly extremely difficult and emotionally trying. She believes wholeheartedly that her son’s learning disabilities and autoimmune issues were caused by a vaccine reaction. It is impossible to disprove that, in any single individual case. I’m actually shocked she never took her case to the vaccine court as far as I can tell, because I would guess “convulsion following DTP” would be considered a table injury and pretty quickly compensated just to get it off the docket. (We’ll talk more about “table injuries” in my next post, and just as a heads up, IANAL.) But instead of focusing her attention solely on her son, she became an activist. And that’s where I become critical, because now you’re having an impact on public health. But as a rule, I find it harder to pile on to parents, because I am a parent, and I understand how terrifying it is when your child is sick and how frustrating it can be to not know the cause.

I do not have a similar problem piling on to this next asshole.

•Andrew Wakefield: Hoo boy, THIS GUY. I will try to limit my discussion of Andrew Wakefield to absolutely necessary information and not just shout obscenities. In 1998, Wakefield was the lead author on a paper in The Lancet, generally considered one of the foremost medical journals in the world, that asserted a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine and what he later dubbed “autistic enterocolitis”.

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Basically, to boil it down, he suggested to the world that autism was likely caused by the MMR vaccine and was really developmental regression caused by inflammatory bowel disease.

People went batshit. Vaccination rates in England, where Wakefield is from and The Lancet is published, dropped precipitously! Congressional hearings were held! (We’ll also get to those in a later post.) Suddenly, even though we were talking about a totally different vaccine, Barbara Loe Fisher’s crusade was vindicated!

And then, a guy named Brian Deer looked a little closer at this study. It was problematic. I use that word because it is a hilarious understatement.

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To begin with, the article was a case study that used only 12 children, all self-selected, hardly a large scale study with a random sampling of autistic kids. So the scientific impact of the paper, based on the evidence presented by the paper itself, by all rights should have been very limited. But wait, it gets more interesting.

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Two years before the paper was published, Wakefield was hired by a lawyer named Richard Barr who wanted to start a class action lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies that manufactured the MMR vaccine. Not only that, but Barr paid Wakefield out of the UK LEGAL AID FUND, and Wakefield made around $750K, not including expenses, which was laundered through his wife’s personal company! Oh! Oh! AAAAAND! A year before the paper was published, Wakefield secretly filed for a patent for a single measles vaccine! So, here we go, on top of the grant he personally received from the Legal Aid Board to do the research, he also made $750K (also public money, meant to help the poor and disabled) from a lawyer who wanted to sue the pharmaceutical companies, AND he stood to financially profit from his own proposed vaccine if he could cast doubt on the safety of the triple shot. You got that? That’s Wakefield’s financial shadiness.

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BUT THE STUDY ITSELF WAS EVEN BULLSHIT. Most of the children were referred by the lawyer who wanted to sue Merck, their medical histories were repeatedly changed and falsified, Wakefield gave the kids spinal taps and colonoscopies without getting approval from the Royal Free Hospital’s ethics board, and later tests showed that the intestinal biopsy results stated in the study were incorrect.

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Oh, and also he got his study controls by paying the parents of kids at his son’s birthday party five quid each for their blood. Jesus christ, THIS ASSHOLE.

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So, you know, he’s been stripped of his medical license. The paper’s been retracted. The dude is dodgy in every single way shape and form and anyone with an ounce of sense knows that. But he is still actively celebrated by the antivaccine community. He is their martyr. He founded an organization in Texas called Happiness House where desperate parents could take their kids to be tested and treated for so-called autistic enterocolitis, and more shady research could be done. After he lost his license, Happiness House changed its name and Wakefield and his cohort disappeared from their research masthead. Wakefield now mostly hangs around conferences lapping up speaking fees and doing propaganda videos for various antivax media outlets.

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It’s worth also mentioning his buddy Arthur Krigsman, who basically has built an entire career around diagnosing autistic enterocolitis. Storytime: About a year and a half ago, a woman named Dorothy Spourdalakis killed her son, Alex, who had been hospitalized for apparent gastrointestinal illness and who was non-verbal and autistic. Wakefield showed up at his bedside in the hospital to make a short movie (with the help of Polly Tommey from the Autism Media Network, and disseminated with the help of then-CBS reporter Sheryl Attkisson, who can reliably be counted on to take the conspiracy theory stance on basically everything and who also believes that Obama bugged her laptop because Benghazi)

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…about how the hospital was treating this boy horribly and refusing to entertain the notion of using any alternative protocols. Wakefield and Tommey’s video, which I am not going to link to because it is too upsetting, revealed that an independently obtained gastroenterologist had been flown into Chicago and discovered that Alex was almost certainly suffering from measles enterocolitis. Guess who that gastroenterologist was? Hi, Arthur Krigsman! Wakefield has recently put out a documentary called “Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis?” The answer is apparently NOT “his mother and godmother who tried to overdose him and then stabbed him to death when the overdose failed.” No, according to Andrew Wakefield, Alex Spourdalakis was killed by mainstream medicine, Big PHRMA, and everyone who had refused to listen to him, Saint Andrew Wakefield, who has only ever had the needs of the children at heart.

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I hate Andrew Wakefield, and you should too.

•Jenny McCarthy: Jenny falls into the same category as Barbara Loe Fisher for me, to a certain extent, in that I don’t doubt her sincere belief that her child’s medical challenges were due to vaccines. But man alive, did throwing her hat into the antivax ring during that Oprah special ever revitalize her career in a creepy way.

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Jenny has written three books about autism and vaccines since her son Evan was diagnosed with autism. Her first book deals specifically with Evan’s story. According to Jenny, after Evan’s MMR he started showing behavioral and language regression, bloating, eczema, and then eventually seizures. She tried every biomedical treatment under the sun and now, as a preteen, Evan barely shows any signs of autism and doesn’t qualify for special ed services through the school district. Evan also recently called the cops on Jenny for texting while driving. I like Evan. He sounds like my kind of kid.

Jenny’s second book is basically a compilation of stories by other “autism moms” who subscribe to a biomedical approach to treating autism. (One of the moms in the book is Katie Wright, who believes her son Christian developed autism after his MMR shot. Katie Wright’s parents subsequently founded Autism Speaks, which I don’t even have the time to get into here other than to say that Autism Speaks does a lot of great stuff and a lot of messed up stuff and her dad Bob Wright seems to have his head generally in the right place and her mom Suzanne Wright seems to be a horrible narcissist and neither of them believe Katie’s “mommy instinct” about vaccinations is correct and it has been incredibly damaging to their family and I am sorry for Christian and I hope he’s doing OK. Would you like to add one dollar to your Toys R Us purchase today to Light It Up Blue with Autism Speaks?) They tell their stories and then Jenny butts in with parenthetical or italicized asides, because she’s your cool funny friend with big boobs who likes to fart and also talk to you about chelation. This book is not very good.

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Jenny’s third book is nearly unreadable. I’ve tried a few times but I have to jump around because I just keep going “urrrrrrrgh” or “bleeeeeggghhh” or “you have to be kiiiiidding me” and rolling my eyes and banging my head on the back of the chair in the library and generally libraries frown on that sort of behavior. She co-wrote it with a guy named Jerry Kartzinel, who is a DAN! doctor. DAN! stands for Defeat Autism Now! and was a list of doctors endorsed by the Autism Research Institute (which I think would have really befitted from an exclamation point of its own: the Autism Research Institute!) who would treat autistic kids with a variety of biomedical approaches, all of which Jenny and Jerry discuss AT LENGTH in this book. Ranging from relatively uncontroversial and harmless (gluten free/casein free diets, probiotics and vitamin supplements) to nutty and dangerous (chelation, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, chemical castration), DAN! doctors like Jerry Kartzinel made their living by telling desperate parents that their children could be cured if only they tried these very expensive and totally overwhelming treatments to undo the heavy metal poisoning they had been exposed to through vaccination, heavy metal poisoning which of course can only be confirmed by these specific blood tests that they run at this one lab in Kansas, because that’s not suspicious at all and is totally how blood tests work.

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The book is literally just these two people talking about all the interesting things that come out in kids’ poop once they start flushing out toxins. It’s EXHAUSTING, and one of only two books I have ever been tempted to buy simply so I could scribble fact-checky tirades in the margins. (The other book was Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. Both times I managed to keep my wallet in my pocket, my pen in my purse, and my brain from actually melting out of my ears…but only just barely.)

The Autism Research Institute is now defunct, the official DAN! doctor list has disappeared, Jerry Kartzinel has a Wellness Center where you can buy his own line of supplements and enzymes for only $150 a month, and Jenny McCarthy isn’t showing up much at Generation Rescue or SafeMinds rallies now that she has a place at the table on The View where she wears smart lady glasses and talks about how much she likes to make out with the New Kid she married. (What’s truly horrifying most days on The View is that Jenny McCarthy is almost always the voice of reason. Don’t watch The View, people.) Jenny has walked back pretty much every previous statement she has ever made about vaccines, claiming she’s not ANTI VACCINE per se, she is simply pro SAFE vaccines and pro PARENTS MAKING THEIR OWN CHOICES AND DOING THEIR OWN RESEARCH about vaccines. I think that Jenny McCarthy death calculator website took the wind out of her sails a little bit. But let’s talk a little about parents doing their own research about vaccines. Because that brings us to a guy that I used to give the benefit of the doubt, but who recently has me seeing red.

•Bob Sears: Most expectant parents of the last decade, when they first found out they were pregnant and went to the bookstore to flip through books that would either give them heart attacks about everything they were doing wrong (NO CHEESE OR MEAT OR WINE! COFFEE? ARE YOU EVEN SERIOUSLY ASKING ME THIS? NO YOU CAN’T HAVE COFFEE DON’T YOU LOVE YOUR BABY?) or teach them that everything would go perfectly because Mother Earth Gaia Perineal Massage Evening Primrose Oil, ran across the books in the Sears Library. The Baby Book, The Pregnancy Book, The Birth Book, etc etc etc. Those books were written by Dr. William Sears and his wife Martha, who is a nurse. Bill Sears is known as the primary proponent of “Attachment Parenting” which advocates natural vaginal childbirth and extended breastfeeding if you can swing it, baby wearing, co-sleeping, and basically trying to be as in tune and responsive to your baby’s needs as possible. I read all these books and did a lot of attachment parent-y stuff, and it’s great but it is also EXHAUSTING, as you can pick up from the paragraphs Martha contributes here and there throughout the books that try to sound perky but have a definite undertone of “I have been a stay at home breastfeeding baby wearing cosleeping mom to eight children I am so tired haaaaaalp.”

Appearances to the contrary, Bob Sears is not Bill Sears. Bob Sears is in fact the second oldest child in the Sears brood. He has contributed a few books to the Sears Library, and the one he is best known for is The Vaccine Book. Yes, Bob Sears is a) not his father as much as his books make it kinda look seem like he is, and b) the guy who came up with the much vaunted Alternative Schedule. All hail Dr Bob and his sensible alternative schedule.

I have read The Vaccine Book. I think he does a good job at explaining the different shots, mostly, and having an alternative schedule to suggest to wary parents is certainly better than ending up with parents who don’t vaccinate at all. I would like to take Dr Bob at his word that he believes in the importance of vaccination and isn’t an “antivaxxer” per se and is really just trying to find a middle path through all the sturm und drang on either side. Unfortunately, I have also read another one of his books. It’s called The Autism Book: What Every Parent Needs To Know About Early Detection, Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention.

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I’m going to give you a hint, as a parent who has tried to read basically everything about autism I can get my hands on. If you see the word “recovery” anywhere in the title, you’re dealing with an antivaxxer, or at the very least someone who is deeply entrenched in a biomedical treatment model of autism. Dr. Bob brings up the Wakefieldian measles enterocolitis theory as a possible cause of autism. This book was published in 2010, the same year that The Lancet completely retracted Wakefield’s study. I talked a little bit earlier when DAN! came up about what biomedical treatments consist of. Dr Bob talks about all of them in The Autism Book. Megadose vitamins, chelation, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, enzymes and yeast treatments and GFCF and on and on and on. I don’t remember if secretin (i.e. chemical castration) was discussed, to be fair, but if MMS treatment was around in 2010 when the book came out, I bet he would have made room for that in his book, too. (For those reading this who don’t know, MMS stands for Miracle Mineral Solution, which is basically giving your child ever-increasing doses of bleach both orally and rectally to clear them of all their toxins. Wheeeee!)

princeDr. Bob likes to claim he’s not antivaccine. But anyone who has read The Autism Book knows that Dr. Bob is on Team Biomed, all the way. He’s made that increasingly clear over the last couple years as more and more clusters of vaccine-preventable illness have popped up. Pouting over whooping cough. Tut-tutting about rotavirus. But man, this Disneyland measles thing has just blown his cover wide open. His initial reaction to the outbreak was telling people that they’re overreacting and measles is nothing to fear, and then when people called him out about it he posted a petulant reply on Facebook saying that OF COURSE people should get their measles vaccines but meanwhile, “just to be complete, since I mentioned the ‘S’ disease as well, let me remind you that there is a vaccine to prevent stupid. If you haven’t gotten it already, you should.”

princepianoplz

I’m pretty sure the vaccine against stupid is reading Bob Sears’ Facebook page on the regular. That way you will be exposed to his idiocy in small doses so when he totally loses it, like he did the other day with his satirical piece about how Disneyland should require all parents of kids with ADHD to medicate their children, you will have built up an immunity to that astonishing level of asshattery. Also good to know that Dr Bob not only thinks my kids are vaccine-injured, but that one of them has another disorder that’s super funny and shouldn’t be medicated without ridicule. Isn’t watching kids suffer from ADHD hilarious? Almost as hilarious as kids going blind from measles! Dr. Bob’s Orange Country pediatric practice is most assuredly a non-stop laugh riot, and also a geographically super convenient petri dish for communicable childhood disease. It’s a small world, after all.

goslingface

I’m going to stop there for now, because this got way way way longer than I intended it to — and we haven’t even gotten to Age of Autism! Or the Congressional Hearings! Or the Vaccine Court! Or Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo! Give me some time to regroup and I’ll come back with more. In the meantime, remember to spay or neuter your pets! Wait, that’s not it…

“Here Is Fruit For The Crows To Pluck…Here Is A Strange And Bitter Crop”

I had meant for this to be a post about the 20th anniversary of the release of “Exile in Guyville” and the effect that album had on my life. I meant to write a post about music videos that stopped me in my tracks when I happened across them on MTV during my adolescence (“Silent All These Years” by Tori Amos, “Hit” by the Sugarcubes, and “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails, for the record). Maybe I’ll still write that post someday. But on this day, I would like to write about something else I saw on MTV during my adolescence that was far more mindblowing, although I didn’t realize it until years later.

Like most kids my age, I watched a lot of MTV. And so like my most kids my age, I ended up watching a lot of The Real World. It’s a little hard to remember now, since the show long ago descended into a swamp of debauchery, showcasing the absolute worst America’s youth has to offer, but that first season is actually a relatively understated little documentary: 13 episodes about young people pursuing careers in the entertainment industry in a still-vaguely-gritty New York. It’s available in its entirety on Hulu+, and watching it without all the blaring pop music that branded it as an MTV product (“Julie’s in church, but she’s a rebel! Play ‘Personal Jesus’! Now they’re about to fight! Play the ominous tinkly piano bridge from ‘Right Now’ by Van Halen!”) but had to be removed for licensing reasons, you’ll find the overall vibe is very chill. There are a couple episodes that are spectacularly mundane. Andre and Heather are trying to record mediocre albums, Norman turns out to be gay and gets a boyfriend and nobody particularly cares, they’re all sad that Jerry Brown loses the Democratic primary so they paint a big Jerry Brown mural on the loft wall that also includes Sesame Street characters for some reason… The producers tried to spice things up by shipping the girls off to Jamaica to “meet guys”, but Julie just gets her ear talked off by a Canadian masonry salesman and Becky hooks up with one of the show’s directors, getting him and his glorious salt-and-pepper mullet fired. Outside of a totally nonexistent romance the producers tried to cobble together from footage of Julie peeing on the toilet while Eric was in the shower, there was really only one source of drama or narrative thrust.

And that was Kevin.

Kevin Powell has gone on to a decent career as an author, public speaker, and activist. He’s also had a less decent career as a politician, failing multiple times to unseat Ed Towns as New York’s congressional representative from the 10th district by making rookie mistakes like telling a bunch of Satmar Jews he would “bring home the bacon” to Williamsburg and also, you know, not paying his taxes. But in 1992, Kevin was a cowrie-shell-necklace-wearing spoken word poet (Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe, y’all! I read about that in the Sassy magazine piece on spoken word! Man, I thought that must have been the coolest place on earth) from Jersey City who was the oldest and most outspoken member of the cast.

Midway through the season, Kevin was made the butt of an extended practical joke meant to highlight how little time he spent in the loft. The show essentially made it appear like Kevin spent the majority of that loft time arguing racial politics with his castmates. The most memorable argument is the one he had with Julie, the 19-year-old ingenue from Alabama, who claimed he had physically threatened her. He emphatically denied basically every aspect of her story, and the production staff apparently inexplicably (and conveniently) had no footage of the blowup in question. I tend to believe Julie here, given that her account was filled with consistent explicit details (he allegedly called her a fucking bitch, threatened to break all her fingers, and threw a metal candlestick), while his rebuttal was basically, “Nope.” So it’s a classic he-said she-said. Kevin’s stance was that everyone made assumptions about his character and potential for violence simply because he’s black. The fact that he says this while physically towering over Julie, thrusting himself into her personal space and shouting two inches from her face tends to undercut his case here a little. But a lot of what he’s saying is clearly true on a systemic level, even if his personal behavior in this particular situation was hardly exemplary.

Kevin was clearly a very angry young man. But on a certain level, he had a right to be. Earlier in the season, he had another fight, this time with a tipsy Becky, who started blathering something about how we live in a great country that’s a melting pot full of opportunity, which made Kevin snort. Becky tried to defend her statement, Kevin made a crack about the land being stolen from Native Americans, Becky said he had a chip on his shoulder, they bicker, Kevin calls her a racist and Becky of course gets indignant, because as we all know being called a racist is obviously way worse than being affected on a daily basis by systemic institutional racism.

And then Kevin says something really important.

K: Race plus power equals racism, look it up.

B: What power do I have, Kevin?

Watching this when I was 12 years old, I thought Kevin’s statement was ludicrous.

Watching it now, 20 years later, I realize that MTV had enrolled me in Critical Race Studies 101 and I didn’t even know it.

Race plus power equals racism. A lot of the arguments about this boil down to semantics. People of color can certainly hold their own prejudices, or be bigoted. But racism, as a word, holds a specific meaning. It means that we live in a country that was literally built on the backs of black slaves. It means that our society functions in a million ways, big and small, even today, that make it almost impossible for black people to succeed. A society where a seventeen-year-old black boy in a hoodie who happens to be walking in a former Sundown Town is seen as a threat just for his very existence. A society where there is apparently nothing criminal about stalking that seventeen-year-old to the point where he finally turns and confronts you and then when he hits you shooting him point blank in the heart. A society where everyone wants to talk about the kid’s record of school suspensions and weed-smoking as though that’s relevant when he was by all accounts walking back from buying Skittles and Snapple, but not about the shooter’s record of both sexual and domestic assault (not to mention punching a cop!) because that has nothing to do with anything and his parents say he’s a nice guy and not a racist so that’s good enough to trust his word on anything he says about the night in question. A country where the shooter’s lawyer has the audacity to assert in a post-verdict press conference that if the shooter was black the whole thing never would have gone to trial. A country where black males are disproportionately imprisoned, disproportionately sentenced, and disproportionately disenfranchised upon release. Sure, everyone would have been ok with a black vigilante shooting a white kid in Sanford, Florida. Totally would have been fine. Knock knock.

Something else the shooter’s lawyer said was equally jaw-dropping:

“There are people who are vicious in their hatred for George Zimmerman. I don’t know which is the one who’s going to walk down the street at the same time George does. They know what he looks like; he doesn’t know what they look like.”

Welcome to Kevin Powell’s life. Welcome to Trayvon Martin’s life.

I could link here to many different first person essays by black men who feel like what happened to Trayvon could happen to them, essays by black women terrified that what happened to Trayvon could happen to their sons. But while Becky and I, as middle-class white women, still face systemic obstacles based on our gender, we can never fully understand what it is like to fear for our lives simply because of the color of our skin. That is a privilege that we have and are able to take for granted.

As an adolescent, I thought Kevin was an angry aggressive dick with a chip on his shoulder, like Becky and Julie did. And you know, my opinion of him hasn’t changed all that much, except now I feel like the chip on his shoulder is valid and his anger is earned. In the last 20 years, LeVar Burton has moved from teaching kids literacy to advising young men on how not to get shot by cops for driving while black. What George Zimmerman did was apparently totally legal, and all the cable pundits talk about the potential for black riots in the aftermath of that verdict. That’s Becky’s melting pot? That’s Becky’s country of unlimited opportunity?

The Real World is basically just a filmed orgy now. But 20 years ago, it was planting tiny seeds for young people to have a deeper understanding of complicated social issues. In the first few years of the show, before I was even able to drive, I saw intense discussions about race, and about homosexuality, and about abortion. We saw a young man living with and then all too quickly dying of AIDS. And we saw Kevin Powell, who was intelligent, and angry, and passionate, and flawed.

“Race plus power equals racism, look it up.”

I wish more people, myself included, had followed his suggestion. Because if what happened between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, and what happened within the justice system following the shooting, wasn’t about power or race, then I would like someone to tell me what it was about. Was it about being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was it a tragedy of errors? Was it about how those fucking punks always get away with everything? Tell me. But more important, tell Kevin Powell. Tell the parents of Trayvon Martin, of Oscar Grant, of Kimani Grey, of Kendrec McDade, of Sean Bell. Of Amadou Diallo. Of Emmett Till.

“Whoever’s in charge up there had better take the elevator down and put more than change in our cup…”

Aside

I learned about the filibuster in the Texas state senate late Tuesday afternoon. I was generally aware of the abortion bill making its way through the Texas legislature.  I had the impression that it was largely similar to bills that have passed in many states where the Republicans held both executive and legislative control.  These bills, firstly, try to ban abortion outright after some arbitrary point in gestation, usually 20ish weeks.  They also impose onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions in the name of “protecting women’s health” which are really intended to create insurmountable obstacles for women seeking abortions to do so in a timely fashion, as well as forcing smaller clinics to close due to the financial impossibility of meeting the new requirements.

Texas has already passed plenty of obnoxious anti-abortion bills, including one that requires mandatory sonograms — the one thing that gets me more tiled up than anything else that shows up regularly in this type of legislation.  Given that most abortions will be performed early in the first trimester, before a heartbeat is detectable by an abdominal ultrasound, that means most women will be forced to have a transvaginal ultrasound.  and yes, transvaginal ultrasounds are exactly what they sound like, even if the people legislating them refuse to say the word or hear the word.  So essentially the state is forcing doctors, against their will, to perform acts of penetrative sexual assault on women.  I know I’ve digressed a bit here, but seriously, I could write a whole post on how angry I get about mandatory ultrasound laws and the condescending arguments legislators have the gall to make in their defense.  But I won’t.  I’ll talk more about what was being proposed in Texas the other night.

The bill in question was called Senate Bill 5, or #SB5 if you wanna tweet about it.  SB5, a version of which had already passed through the Texas House of Representatives, would:

  • Outlaw all abortions at 20 weeks post-fertilization, with no exception for rape or incest victims
  • Require all abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where they practice.
  • Require women to have TWO in-person visits to a doctor before she gets an abortion
  • Require every abortion provider to be licensed as an ambulatory surgery center, at a cost of approximately $1 million per clinic, effectively guaranteeing the closure of all but 5 clinics in the state, clinics that provide many services above and beyond abortion.  That would leave vast swaths of the second largest state in the nation not only far removed from any abortion services, but much harder up for other health care, like pap smears, mammograms and contraception.

(verbiage taken mainly from the rundown on this site)

This bill would make it virtually impossible for the majority of Texas women to exercise what the Supreme Court ruled 40 years ago was a constitutionally guaranteed right to an abortion.  This was the bill that finally sent Senator Wendy Davis into filibuster mode.  Wendy Davis, who was once a teen mom living in a trailer park who worked her way up to Harvard Law.  Wendy Davis, whose district was almost gerrymandered such that she would surely lose her seat but was saved by the oversight imposed by Sections 4 & 5 of the Voting Rights Act — sections that were essentially deemed void by the Supreme Court the same morning that SB5 was set to pass the Texas State Senate.  Mere hours after the Supreme Court decision came down in Shelby County v. Holder, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that the ruling would allow him to institute the redistricting maps in question. This was Wendy Davis’s last stand, and, as many reporters were quick to note, she was making it in a pair of very sassy shoes, looking like Tami Taylor.  Hi y’all!  Someone call Connie Britton; her Oscar winning role is waiting for her!

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When I first heard about the filibuster, I decided I wasn’t going to watch it or follow it on Twitter.  I had gotten exactly, no lie, 45 minutes of sleep the night before; I was home with my kids; and I just didn’t have the emotional strength needed to deal with what I was sure would be a crushing defeat.  Her first “strike” was for being off topic, but her second was for receiving assistance from a fellow senator in putting on a back brace.  (Side note here: apparently Senator Ellis wasn’t allowed to help Davis put on a back brace, but during the longest filibuster in Texas history, Republican senators brought their colleague a trashcan and then formed a human circle around him so he could take a dump in private.  OK. Sure.) I was positive the third strike would be for some infuriating momentary lapse.  She would shift her weight enough that her hip would rest momentarily on a desk, say.  Or she would sneeze really hard and put her hand out reflexively to steady herself because she was exhausted and dizzy.  Something stupid.  Basically the floor of the Texas senate had become one giant game of Operation and Wendy Davis was a shaky pair of tweezers.

But as time ticked by I grew more and more intrigued by this lady who never leaned, who never sneezed, who never did anything but adjust her glasses slightly as she flipped through pages and pages of material — first person stories of abortions that had been submitted on her website, descriptions of the procedures in question, and finally, after I eventually realized that something epic was under way, that this woman was in it to win it, after the kids had gone to bed and I was flipping back and forth on my phone between Facebook, Twitter, and the Texas Tribune live camera…finally, she began to talk about how the different restrictions on abortion would combine together to create a circumstance that took far too much time and money for almost any woman to overcome.

At 9:38 CT, I posted on Facebook, almost delirious with excitement and anticipation:

I was in labor with D for 20 hours.  My sister was in labor for 40 with her son.  Underestimate the strength and stamina of women at your own peril.  We are made of sinew, bone, and steel.  10.5 hours down. 2.5 hours to go.  Stand.  With.  Wendy.

Shortly after that, the sound on the live feed was cut.

*

I didn’t see what happened immediately before the sound went out; I turned the live feed back on after a short break and it was already silent.  Having read earlier that no sound meant there was some sort of off-the-record debate happening, I scour the #sb5 tag on Twitter to try and discern what they are talking about.  Apparently a Republican senator had tried to call a third strike, claimed that something Senator Davis had said was “not germane” to the bill as is stipulated by the filibuster rules.  Someone tweets that she’d mentioned RU-486 and been deemed off topic.  I scoff. No way could anyone with half a brain say that discussions of abortions aren’t germane to a bill about abortions.  Next someone says that she was called out for discussing the sonogram bill that had already passed last year.  Again, totally germane.  You tell women they have to do two visits and a sonogram and the only clinics available to them are hundreds of miles from home, that clearly adds up to an undue burden.  No way could they shut her down for that.  No way.  No way.

Facebook 10:06 pm:

THAT IS FUCKING RIDICULOUS.  THAT IS FUCKING…THOSE DISINGENUOUS MOTHERFUCKERS.

 

(Sometimes, when I’m mad, I use long words like “disingenuous”.  Sometimes, when I’m REEEEEEEALLY mad, I use even longer words like “motherfuckers”.)

They were never going to let this happen.  That much is clear now.  They were always planning to torture this woman, to make her waste her time and energy in a task that they would find a way to thwart in the end anyway. Hm.  Sounds surprisingly similar to how they approach another relevant issue, affecting not just one women but all women.  But THIS one woman, this woman that they had planned to crush all along, keeps standing as Twitter and Facebook erupts along with the crowd watching from above in the senate gallery.

And then, as Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst banged the gavel to silence the boos and the “shame!”s and one absolutely livid cry of “BULLSHIT!” a middle-aged white-haired man stands up, looking and sounding like he’s just apparated there from the set of “Inherit the Wind”, and says, “Parliamentary Inquiry: Is your decision appealable?” This terrifying wraith in a white wool suit at Dewhurst’s elbow whispers in his ear; he reluctantly answers that it is. Kirk Watson (D-Austin): “Point of Order: I move to overturn the motion and begin debate.”

Facebook 10:12 pm:

OH SHIT IS WHAT I THINK IS HAPPENING ACTUALLY ABOUT TO HAPPEN? Is this guy about to start debate on this motion and essentially start a new filibuster? Please tell me yes.  Please.  Please.

Reply from my super smart lawyer friend Abby 10:13 pm:

WATSON IS ON IT

Facebook 10:13 pm:

OH SHIT WHO CAN WE CAST AS WATSON IN THE MOVIE NOW?

Facebook 10:15 pm:

OH SNAP WHO IS THIS NEW LADY UP IN HERE MAKING HIM RE-EXPLAIN EVERYTHING? I suddenly love all the Democrats in the Texas state senate.

 

The new lady is Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), who poses another “Parliamentary Inquiry”, this time to Senator Robert Duncan, who has taken over for the Lt. Governor on the dais: “Since I was not able to be here on the floor because of my father’s funeral (!!!), I ask that you tell me the three points of order so that I may understand even in the most basic way the debate about to begin.”

weekendupdate

Duncan rolls his eyes,  The scary elbow lady looks like she’s about to throttle someone.

My Super Smart Lawyer Friend Abby 10:19 pm

To whom can we submit ideas for stupid parliamentary order questions they can ask for the next 1.5 hours?

 

And then all hell breaks loose. Someone named Senator Estes moves to table Watson’s appeal.  Someone named Senator West claims Duncan was out of order for recognizing Estes. I can’t make heads or tails of any of it, so I get down to the brass tacks of fancasting Connie Britton’s Oscar-winning movie.

Facebook 10:24 pm

OK, Randy Jackson gets to cameo as Senator West.

Facebook 10:28 pm

Senator Estes will be played by the Slurm Monster from Futurama

 

Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) says they should take a break to review the parliamentary procedure that has gotten them to this point and see whether Estes should have been allowed to make a motion or whether Watson still had the floor.  “Just review the tape,” he says in a silky smooth baritone, gesturing with the slightest shrug.  “That’s all I’m asking.” I suddenly get a little hot under the collar and mentally recast the role of Senator West with Idris Elba. (THAT IS SERIOUSLY MY HIGHEST POSSIBLE COMPLIMENT SENATOR ROYCE WEST D-DALLAS JUST SO YOU KNOW IF YOU EVER READ THIS.)

The floor becomes a kerfuffle of incomprehensible “point of order” and “parliamentary inquiry” requests.

Facebook 10:30 pm

SIT DOWN SENATOR TANKERBELL YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. SENATOR WATSON HAS NOT YIELDED THE FLOOR.

 

I actually begin to fear that scary elbow lady might start shooting death rays out of her eyes to pick off cranky Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), who is clearly attempting to debate the ruling on “germaneness” and “aid” technicalities even though she’s claiming she simply has a “parliamentary inquiry”.  Duncan finally puts his foot down and orders Watson to give his closing statement.  Watson, speaking as slooooowly as possible, basically starts in with an abortion-themed “I’m just a simple country lawyer” monologue.  I give up.  There’s no way they’ll be able to drag this out.  I turn off the feed.

But I can’t stay away.  Despite my lack of sleep, I am somehow hyper-awake.  Ten minutes before midnight, I turn my phone back on, and everyone on Twitter is going apeshit over something Senator Van de Putte has said.

 

“Did the President hear me or did the President hear me and refuse to recognize me?” state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte asked.

“At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” she asked as the chamber erupted in cheers. (Huffington Post)

I turn on the live feed.  The room is in chaos.  Senators and staffers are wandering around, looking bewildered.  The crowd in the gallery is screaming so loud no one knows what’s going on.  They are drowning out Dewhurst’s attempt to hold a roll-call vote, and it’s one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen.  The leadership finally trued to gather everyone into a scrum to vote, but it’s too late.

Facebook 12:00 am

NO VOTE NO VOTE MY PHONE SAYS MIDNIGHT

 

On the floor, in the middle of the huddled legislators, Senator West thrusts his phone into the air, looks up into the crowing gallery, and shouts, “It’s midnight! It’s midnight!”

Facebook 12:02 am

RANDY JACKSON’S IPHONE SAYS IT’S MIDNIGHT TOO

 

Suddenly you can distantly hear names being called and responded to.

My Super Smart Lawyer Friend Abby 12:02 am

they are voting. they are voting.

*

In the aftermath, some of the senators said they didn’t even know what they were voting on.  Was it the motion to end the filibuster? Was it the bill itself? The Republicans dutifully hollered “support!” and the Democrats who were close enough to hear shouted “oppose!” and Senator Van de Putte paced in agitation around the dais.  But we were all watching.  There were over 150K of us watching.  We’d seen with our own eyes that the vote came after midnight.  The senators began to leave the floor, the cameras were pushed back to the perimeter, the state troopers came to clear the gallery.

CBS News tweeted that the bill had passed.  Their source was an unnamed Republican legislator.

The people I follow on Twitter went absolutely nanners.  I was actually a little concerned that Wil Wheaton was going to have a stroke.

I retired to bed at that point, resigned to the idea of a lengthy court battle.  So I missed all the fun drama around 1 am when screenshots surfaced showing that the Texas legislature website originally logged the vote as happening on the 26th, until someone apparently manually changed it to 11:59 pm on the 25th.  I can only assume that SOMEONE raised serious hell about that backstage, because around 3 am it was changed back and Dewhurst grudgingly acknowledged that the vote had not happened within the time limits of the special session.

In the end, this was all mostly symbolic.  Clearly Governor Perry would just call another special session to pass the bill. But the Republicans in the senate were so determined to deny Wendy Davis even that small symbolic victory that they made an absolute mockery of the whole process.  They took what was already a parliamentary farce and decided that the rules they had been so determined to enforce all day with regards to Senator Davis didn’t apply to themselves.  (I would like to sidebar here for a moment and point you to a document that shows how this is not an isolated incident. It is called “The Only Moral Abortion Is My Abortion” and it seems more than germane to the topic at hand.)

I have read comments saying that the so-called “citizen’s filibuster” that happened in the last ten minutes of the session was less democracy in action and more the rioting of a mob.  But what really happened was a realization that this game was rigged from the start; that our democracy is filled with tricks and traps, like gerrymandering and filibustering and parliamentary rigamarole and court packing and straight-up fucking vote fraud.  These things are built into the system.  And a whole bunch of people, mostly women, sat in that gallery and watched their democratically elected representatives play a game that would directly affect their lives, their bodies, the lives and bodies of the people they love.  They watched people of principle make a stand on their behalf: Senator Van de Putte cared enough to leave her father’s funeral to come back to vote.  Senator West and Senator Ellis woke up that morning and basically heard the Supreme Court rule that there was no more racism in Texas; I’m guessing that might well have galvanized their resolve a bit.  And Senator Davis saw, in that very same ruling, the Supreme Court eviscerating any chance she had of re-election.  So she was going to stand. And Van de Putte, West, Watson, Ellis, Zaffirini: they were all going to stand with her.  And so were the people in that gallery, and so were the people in the rotunda, and so were Wil Wheaton and my Super Smart Lawyer Friend Abby and me and the thousands upon thousands of us glued to the live feed of a tiny local media company that had barely gotten any hits before this.

You can call it a mob.  But the only weapons any of us had were our feet (so we stood) and our voices (so we shouted).  And CBS and the AP were taking the word of the lieutenant governor that the bill passed, no questions asked. And CNN was literally talking about blueberry muffins.  Maybe even more people would stand and shout, if only we had a national news media that would ACTUALLY COVER NEWS.

There was a tweet from a Jill Biden parody account floating around that evening that said, “At 12:01 AM, CT, I predict Wendy Davis will give us the best mic drop the world has ever seen.” We were cheated out of a mic drop, but we got a phone thrust — those of us who were watching knew the exact moment a line had been crossed.  And we refused to let them cheat.

It will only be for a moment.  The bill will be back, and it will pass.

I don’t have a good ending for this post.

We stood with Wendy.

That’ll have to do for now.

“I know you’re fed up, ladies, but keep ya head up.”

Would I like for there to be fewer abortions? Of course I would. But you know how you could reduce the number of abortions performed in this country? You could give comprehensive sex-ed to adolescents in schools, including ACCURATE information about contraception and the use/effectiveness thereof. You could require insurance companies to cover contraception as part of every health insurance plan. (We’re working on that one, but OH NOES GOD HATES SLUTS!) Or you could institute actual universal health care so that the potential cost of pregnancy and childbirth isn’t completely untenable without decent insurance coverage. (An abortion costs around $500; pregnancy and childbirth will run you $6000 IF you have zero complications. C-sections, the frequency of which continues to rise, can cost up to $25K!) You could also actually attempt to stimulate the damn economy so people have JOBS and can afford to feed and clothe children. You could create stronger penalties against domestic violence, or get rid of laws that discourage women from calling 911 in domestic abuse situations for fear of being arrested for being a public nuisance or deported for being in the country illegally. That would keep women safer and make it less likely for them to desperately need an abortion to prevent bringing a child into an abusive home. You could subsidize child care, extend unemployment benefits, make the tax code more progressive rather than more regressive. Basically every damn plank in the Democratic Party platform would create an environment where fewer women were stuck in situations where the prospect of having a child is unfathomable.

Or, you know, you could pass a bunch of laws that force doctors to lie to women, force doctors to sexually assault women, send women to Crisis Pregnancy Centers where they will be berated and shamed, close clinics and set time limits that leave women with no other choice to flee across state lines into the offices of butchers like Kermit Gosnell. That sounds like a good plan, guys. Thumbs up.