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A Noxious Stew of Cowardice and Stupidity


Michael Kranish’s story of how part of the home school lobby brought down the UN Disability Treaty is just fantastic:

Then a witness named Michael ­Farris stunned many in the hearing room as he sought to demolish the arguments for the treaty.

Farris was speaking in his role as the president of the Home School Legal ­Defense Fund, a group with 83,000 dues-paying families that he founded in 1983. The group monitors government actions that potentially impact home schooling and says its mission is “to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms.”

Farris, added to the witness list after Republicans on the committee learned of his objections to the treaty, testified that the treaty was “dangerous” to parents who teach disabled children at home. In a later radio interview, Farris would put his argument in the starkest terms: “The definition of disability is not defined in the treaty and so, my kid wears glasses, now they’re disabled; now the UN gets control over them.”

Kerry sounded sarcastic as he belittled Farris’s claims.

“So you believe that President George Herbert Walker Bush and Attorney General Thornburgh and majority leader Robert Dole, and a bunch of other people, just don’t understand the Constitution or can’t read the law?” Kerry asked Farris.

Santorum soon took up the cause from the outside, followed by Inhofe and Demint on the inside. Most of the rest, terrified of Tea Party challenges, soon fell into line. I do wish Kranish had spent a bit more time on the Beltway-Neocon think tank crowd, which also by and large opposed the treaty and which appreciated the opportunity that the home schoolers offered. Recognizing the  “morons and people frightened of morons” part of the story shouldn’t cause us to miss the genuinely repellent elements that continue to hold the cards in the GOP foreign policy establishment.

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  • Joel Patterson

    And another thing that Kranish’s Globe article does not really cover is the long history of the conservatives’ opposition to the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 1996, I casually mentioned the ADA with a conservative law student and he characterized it as the worst-written legislation ever, saying that the government could stop employers from firing drunk employees* because alcoholism was a disability. And I am pretty sure his opinion was not just one individual’s pet peeve but a rather common attitude about a law requiring equal access and opportunity for people with disabilities.

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (1990) is one of those innumerable “feel good” but accomplish-the-opposite pieces of legislation that is designed to “harrass [sic] our People, and eat out their Substance.” Sad though it is to acknowledge, another good ol’ Ioway boy, Senator Tom “I’m Collectivist as Hell and Proud of It” Harkin was one of the primary sponsors who helped cram this travesty of “justice” down the throats of the American public. Aided and abetted by King George “Read My Lips” Bush the First — that old-block off of which the current president is a chip — Harkin and his cohorts in crime touted this draconian bill as profoundly moral and important and compassionate and all the usual lies.

    • rm

      So interesting how everything they do not like is being “crammed down [their] throat[s].”

      • expatchad

        It’s because nobody is cramming what they DOlike down their throats enough….

    • LeeEsq

      He also leaves out that conservatives have been opposed to the United States entering into these sort of international treaties since the end of WWI and the reaction against the League of Nations.

      • Anonymous


        The conservative posture towards international relations tends to be either isolationism and opposition to all international treaties, or an aggressive militarism. Either way, they tend to be disdainful of other nations.

        One gets the impression that they wish other countries didn’t exist.

  • Joel Patterson

    *I am well aware that I have offered up a softball for one of the LGMers to knock it out of the park with a flip comment about hard liquor. Please proceed, Professors!

  • How convenient that this right-wing anti-globalism almost never applies to free trade agreements.

    I vaguely remember Glenn Beck ranting about a (apparently mythical) NAFTA superhighway, but that appeared to have been the most of it.

  • Defining what a disability is kind of seems like a very big part of any sort of treaty regarding disabilities. If disability is not defined, it can be anything that government wants it to be- I’ve seen some people on this blog suggest that conservatives are mentally disabled- and because of that some sort of body of international thugs (the UN) would have some (any) control over them? Seriously, the treaty had flaws, and should not have been passed.

    I’ll also note that the Senate rejected this treaty, which is controlled by the Democrats… did every single one of them vote in favor of the treaty? If so, then you can chirp about the evil Republicans, but if not, I really don’t think you can.

    • Rob

      And once again A Conservative Teacher shows how poorly his students must be informed. May want to look up how many votes are needed for ratification.

    • Joel Patterson

      The Senate voted 61 to 38, five short of the two-thirds needed for approval. All of the 38 votes against the legislation were cast by Republicans. Many of them walked off the floor without greeting Dole. His fight was over, at least for the moment.

      In addition to the opposition from the Kansans, Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who had backed the bill in committee, voted against it on the floor; he and 35 other Republicans had signed a letter opposing treaty votes during lame-duck sessions, although that practice has been common. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi at first voted for the measure on the floor, according to media reports at the time, but switched his vote in the final count. (Isakson and Cochran did not return calls seeking comment.) Several other senators had waited until the last moment to see how the vote was going and voted against it.

      All the opposition was Republican. It’s right there in the story.

      • Ahh, okay then… second part of my points addressed. But the more important point- defining what disabled is- still remains and is still a valid reason for those who voted against it. Hopefully they’ll improve this legislation, clarifying that important issue, and re-vote on the better legislation again, and I eagerly look forward to all of you commenting and posting about how great a job the Republicans did improving it and then helping to pass it.

        • Sly
          • dp

            That is the most amazing thing about this story.

            Farris just asserts what the effect of the treaty will be, and the argument becomes whether he’s right or wrong, but apparently NO ONE asked Farris to refer to the actual provisions of the treaty to justify his interpretation. His only response when challenged is an ad hominem attack on the treaty proponents and his assertion of his alleged L.L.M.

        • heckblazer

          You mean they should re-negotiate a treaty that already has been ratified by 130 countries and entered into force five years ago? Remember that this treaty was an American idea pushed by America to entrench an American framework into global law.

          As for the lack of a definition, according to the UN secretariat for the treaty the definition was intentionally left open-ended because who is targeted by discrimination evolves. That said Article 1 does give guidance:

          “(p)ersons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.

          • R. Porrofatto

            Which is a perfectly adequate definition. Of course, standard tactics for opponents of any such regulations is to then demand hundreds of pages of increasing micro-specificity for each and every category being defined, resulting in an unwieldy, ridiculously bureaucratic regulation that’s impossible to enforce. Which they will then point at and say, “this is an unwieldy, ridiculously bureaucratic regulation that’s impossible to enforce!”

            • John Protevi

              Excellent point. In homage, I will steal this and use it often.

        • (the other) Davis

          But the more important point- defining what disabled is- still remains and is still a valid reason for those who voted against it.

          This is only a problem if you don’t understand how international treaties become enforceable law in the U.S. I don’t mean that in a snarky way; this is a legitimately complex topic. It’s worth educating yourself on this before you get too worked up — I’d suggest starting with the definition of “self-executing.”

    • Joel Patterson

      Conservative Teacher, you should read the whole story. Bob Dole was a wounded veteran who shepherded this legislation through, and the conservatives in the grassroots humiliated this man in his old age. There’s no honor in what lobbyists like Farris of the homeschool movement did.

    • DrDick

      I’ve seen some people on this blog suggest that conservatives are mentally disabled- and because of that some sort of body of international thugs (the UN) would have some (any) control over them?

      Well, I can certainly see why this might concern you. On the other hand, you might wan to read the actual language of the treaty. It is not about controlling the disabled, but the prevent discrimination against them (thus allowing you to keep your job despite demonstrable intellectual incompetence) and to ensure that programs are in place to help them lead as full and productive lives as possible. In your case that would serving as a door stop in a 7-11.

      • Door Stop


        We used to have standards.

        • ajay

          Apparently he’s an affirmative action hire.

    • Glenn

      ACT demonstrates utter ignorance of how treaties work, or at least this one. The UN isn’t given “control” over these issues, it’s a commitment by the States Parties to take or not take certain actions. It’s not even self-executing, which means that persons would not even be able to sue directly on it in our courts to enforce it. It would only be enforceable insofar as Congress chose to enact legislation to do so.

      • …which Congress did twenty+ years ago, rendering this treaty completely irrelevant within the United States.

        If anything, this treaty represents the utilization of the UN to export of American values and standards to other countries.

        • Glenn

          Good point. I was assuming the possibility that the Convention might go farther than the ADA. But I expect you’re right to say it doesn’t (at least for the most part).

    • DocAmazing

      Here we have a teacher advocating for the position of a homeschooling organization. Does he know something about his own capabilities that we don’t?

      • The principal of one of Lowell’s middle schools home schools his kids.

        I really don’t know what to make of that. He runs an excellent school, so I assume his kids are getting a good education, reflective of the same values as those found in the Lowell schools.

        • DocAmazing

          Apparently, the cobbler’s children are well-shod.

        • witless chum

          Would it be legal to fire him for that? If I was running the district, I’d certainly want to.

  • Methinks “Gridlock in DC” prevents either party doing the dastardly things they would otherwise get away with if they were in ascendancy…

    • DrDick

      Dastardly things like protecting the rights of people who are disadvantaged and often discriminated against?

  • LeeEsq

    The very concept of Home-Schooling is dubious. Understand certain geographic conditions, like living in rural and isolated areas without enough kids to support a school system, home-schooling does make sense if its done according to state guide lines to ensure that the kids are learning what they need to know. The problem is that home-schooling is done by highly ideological people with kooky ideas that could be detrimental for their kids to learn like young-earth creationism or anti-vaccination theory or some really stupid if not outright evil takes on history. Public schools and even private schools act as a counter to this.

    • Origami Isopod

      While the majority of homeschoolers are fundie xtians, there are some liberal ones too. They often live in places where public schools are under the control of fundie ideologues. Oftentimes their kids are being bullied in those schools for being liberal, atheist, pagan, GLBT, etc.

      I don’t think homeschooling is ideal for a number of reasons, but banning it entirely would be harmful to such families. I’d rather see it strictly regulated so that the kids get science-based education about human sexuality, the age of the earth, and so forth, whether their WATB elders like it or not. (Yeah, I know, that’s so fascist, Conservative Teacher, thinking kids have rights that can supersede those of their owners parents.)

      • Davis X. Machina

        A country that has come to terms with a certain number of children/students being killed each year as the sad, but inevitable cost of the Second Amendment, blessed be It, can surely come to terms a certain number of children/students having their heads filled with rubbish as the sad, but inevitable cost of maintaining the First.

      • LeeEsq

        My comment about highly ideological people was aimed at both the Far Right and the Far Left of the political spectrum. Kids should have some counter to whatever beliefs their parents might have be they on the Left or Right side of the political spectrum or just plain dumb without having a particular political orientation.

        • Origami Isopod

          Wake me up when there’s a critical mass of “far left” homeschoolers to worry about.

        • Manta

          In other words, kids need to be brainwashed by the state (instead of their parents).

          • Instead of?

            Do you think parental influence comes to a screeching halt when kids go to school?

          • And what’s with the base-stealing term “brainwashed?”

            Yes, Manta, children are taught and socialized by adults. They aren’t sharks, born swimming and eating. This is a progressive plot that goes back at least to Hillary Clinton’s book from the early 90s, perhaps even longer.

            • John Protevi

              Joe, sometimes we don’t see eye-to-eye. This is not one of those times.

              Excellent points.

          • GFW

            No, kids need to be exposed to the consensus viewpoint(s) of their nation’s leading scholarly societies. E.g. History textbooks should pass muster with the American Historical Association, Biology textbooks with the AIBS, etc. Kids are automatically exposed to their parents viewpoints to a far greater degree. If the parent can’t “win” on some topic, maybe their position is transparent bullshit.

            • delurking


            • witless chum

              This is very true and it’s why there are allegedly standards for what homeschooled kids get taught. My understanding is that they’re routinely flouted and nobody’s much interested in enforcing them.

              I can see why people don’t want to, for example, send their kid to public high school to shield them from the shitty hierarchies involved. (Though, when those kids are supposed to deal with the real world and its shitty people and bad institutions is usually not explained.) But home schooling seems like a pretty dubious solution that’d be hard as hell to do well.

  • Peter Hovde

    And if the Senate ratifies the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the UN will govern my bathtub. I say no!

  • Joe

    Dole needs to listen to the guy. What does he know about being disabled?

    Dole had been wounded in Italy in World War II, leaving him with limited use of his right arm. While he recovered from most of his wounds, he learned that many people with disabilities had a hard time getting employment, or getting to work, and even just getting around. A person in a wheelchair faced obstacles traveling on sidewalks or ascending buildings or getting into bathrooms. Some people with disabilities were forced into separate schools. To Dole, this was a matter of civil rights.

  • Katherine

    See also – the Convention for the Elimination of all Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Two major international treaties that have been signed up to by the majority of the world’s countries (more or less effectively, depending, of course), but that the US haven’t ratified.

    CEDAW- unratified by Iran, Palau, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tonga, and the United States.

    CRC – ratified by every member of the UN except Somalia and the US, and Somalia has said they will soonish.

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