Enabling Acts by Lennard J. Davis

book jacket

Enabling Acts: The hidden story of how the Americans with Disabilities Act gave the largest US minority its rights by Lennard J. Davis (2015)

Fascinating history of the ADA but somewhat boring to read. Worth the read to gain a full understanding of the background and significant too for the behind the scenes kind of wrangling by opponents and their ilk. BTW, as the Rethuglicans gained power in the White House and Congress, they sought to undo the good things of the ADA as they are currently no doubt planning to do as well. The amended statute was signed into law by George W. Bush just before Obama was elected in 2008. The ADAAA changes the way ADA cases could proceed, protecting business and harming plaintiffs of course.

I am finding it amusing (per the “I used to be disgusted, but now I am amused.” coping mechanism), when I read historical material AND now know the level of scum that were doing bad deeds on the side while holding themselves as holier than all else. In one case, the now disgraced sexual predator and pervert Dennis Hastert “hammered away at people who were testifying.” (p. 182) As always, the Republicans did not want to do anything that would help people for any reason. It should be their party platform: “We’ve got ours, you can hurry up and die.” Terrify to think he served so long as Speaker of the House and thus 3rd in line for the presidency. There really has to be better vetting of candidates for office!

With politicians you cannot take anything they do or say at face value. The somewhat more subtle (except for the now woke people) traps laid by Republicans when, back in the day, they could not stop a bill, was described by the author:

[Representative William Dannemeyer] also questioned what he called the overly broad definition of disability. “As you describe the act,” he said, “it’s possible that there isn’t anyone in America who doesn’t come within the coverage. It’s a brilliant mov about which you are engaged. We are all disabled. . . .You should hear some of the things people say about me. I mean, people have not only questioned my judgment but my thinking capacity. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Feldblum [testifying] dodged the bullet: “You would have to prove that you were mentally disabled in order to get under protection. I don’t know if you’d want to come into court and do that.”

Amid general laughter, Dannemeyer jokingly replied, “It’s obvious, really, isn’t it?”

The humor, however, didn’t hide what Dannemeyer might be trying to do. By asking such questions, the congressman, perhaps sensing that the ADA would pass even with his opposition, was trying to create legislative history that could be used in later court decisions that might rule in favor of his more conservative position. In fact, when Feldblum consistently refused to offer yes-or-no answer to complex question posed by Dannemeyer about people who were HIV positive or drug addicts, the representative said, “Are you telling me you don’t know?”

Fedblum replied, “No, I’m telling you the way it often is in law.”

Dannemeyer snapped back, “Or you don’t want to say?”

Feldblum quickly replied, “No, no. The way it is often in law the for question is not, for example, a yes or no issue.”

Dannemeyer revealed, perhaps, the reason for his adamant grilling: “Are we finessing legislative history for some judge to resolve [later]?” (pp. 181-182)

I am confident that this would qualify as a kind of transference, which I understand to be that people say stuff like this when it is they who are doing that which they accuse others.

Long story short, the vote split along party lines. The Republicans big concern was “wheelchair lifts on busses were expensive. Having to provide both these and paratransit would be a burden on communities.” The author continues to recap:

The Republicans argued that places where the winters were bad and had much snow would also be unable to use those wheelchair lifts, because most users could not really get out of their houses and through the snow to bus stops. Moreover, they said, lifts malfunctioned more in the snow. These interrogations were reminiscent of a TV legal procedural in which an aggressive prosecuting attorney attacked a hapless witness. At one point, Hastert cross-examined someone who was advocating UNIVERSAL ACCESSIBILITY on busses. . . . (pp. 183-184)

The crux of Hastert’s  argument was that the cost per rider was not worth it to the taxpayers. That is to say, that ALL busses would have to be accessible and yet some may never have a wheelchair user.

In this case, Hastert’s talking points are to push for a local option that would countermand the idea of universal access on buses and trains. Local option, of course, was anathema to disability activists.

There interrogations might look like they are about trivial technicalities, but at base, the argument is about how broad the federal government’s reach should be. On the liberal side is a central government regulating private businesses, states, and localities; on the conservative side is the [“] free market [“] and states’ rights. This is an old argument dressed up in new clothes for the occasion. When it came time for the bus owners to testify, one congressman not on the committee made a special trip to the hearing to testify about the chair of the board of the American Buss Association and own of three bus companies . . . “Frank Henry represents the essence of free enterprise system and the success of that system not only in Pennsylvania but nationally.” The stakes were that high — the essence of free enterprise versus the force of federal regulation. (pp. 184-185)

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA bastards.

Plus I disagree with the author’s characterization of liberals REQUIRING regulation of businesses and states and localities. First, there are no liberals in government any more, only neoliberals which is definitely not the same thing. Second, liberals would NOT HAVE TO demand regulations IF THE MISERABLE GREEDY CONSERVATIVE AUTHORITARIAN THEOCRATS were not trying to turn us all into chattel and cannon fodder.

The ONLY REASON regulations are necessary is because “free market” capitalism is a corrupt and false economic system pretending to be “fair” by the “invisible hand of the marketplace” which actually is anti-competitive and ALWAYS moves from competition to monopoly.

PROFIT IS THE GOD of capitalism and is only something CAPITALISTS (i.e. people with MORE MONEY THAN THEY NEED TO SURVIVE even in luxury) merit. Money makes money, but on the back of the actual work of labor. And they, by God, don’t want to share, so they develop this “free market” dogma and ideology that allows them to fuck over anyone and anything that costs them a dollar. (Remember the exploding cars under Lee Iaccoa’s $1 or 1 pound edict that killed people when a cheap fix could have prevented the problem, nah, ancient history now. Gosh it is weird to be older.)

[Aw geez, when I looked for the case that won and caused the company to change, I didn’t even find the specific case, but found about MORE bad products under the same directive.]

Ah, found it. It was the Ford Pinto that exploded on impact for want of a tiny little piece of plastic. 

But no, liberals are scum for demanding that manufacturers don’t make deadly products, pollute clean water needed to sustain life, or expect fair wages and paid vacations and overtime and weekends and so much more for actual CITIZENS, including people with disabilities.

The Greyhound bus provider tried to pit the poor against the disabled and threatened Senator Sherwood Boehlert directly with withdrawal of service to his district region of Uttica, New York. (p. 186)

But no, businesses can be trusted to do the right thing. Just like financial services companies don’t need a specific regulation that theoretically requires them to be responsible to their clients.

Interesting tidbit: President Reagan and Bush (the first?) had both recommended stripping funding from Amtrak. (p. 186) One has to wonder why when trains are a great way to get around if you have the time and don’t have a car — if they had been built like the railway system in Europe anyway. Now they are more expensive and tatty and too time consuming for even a variation of serving “poorer” citizens. No, regional busses remain, like almost all bus systems in most of America, the only possible transportation for poor and disabled people.

Oh, another fun tidbit, the chair of the Subcommittee on Transporation, Representative Buz Luken, obsessed about disability as it applied to drug addicts, and drug testing DRIVERS of trains.

Luken himself could hardly afford to take the high ground, having just been convicted for soliciting the sexual favors of a sixteen-year-old girl and then trying to appease her mother with the compensation of a government job. [!!!!] He would subsequently be convicted of FINANCIAL CRIMES and do jail time after being forced to resign from Congress in 1990. He was replaced by the [past] Speaker of the House, John Boehner. [!!!!!] (p. 187)

Too too bizarre! We got stuck with Boehner because of a corrupt pervert. Actually, I saw on Wikipedia once lists and lists of the crimes and misdemeanors committed by Congress and *none* of them should be allowed get pensions. I’m not sure if being convicted makes a difference or they get pensions regardless of abuse of office.

So among the negotiations proposed was that having one railroad car accessible was “good enough” but they still protested over having to make the actual train stations accessible, saying as they always do: “We cannot possibly survive and I don’t think we will survive WITHOUT SUBSIDY.” (p. 187)

There you have it. A profitable business unwilling to use a penny of their own money to be responsive to a legitimate public need and expecting the TAXPAYERS to subsidize their profit-making.

In the end, the final truth comes out. Corporations deny any civic obligations or responsibility for fair wages, profit sharing with employees, good benefits, or economic security while demanding the workers, essentially, pay for them to retain their profiteering greedy ways under the false flag of the God of the Free Market. Note too, that in a truly free market, a business needing government subsidies to survive much less make a profit should die.

Well, I had to take the book back to the library and I didn’t get back to writing my conclusion soon enough so I have forgotten what I was going to say. I did take photos of the few pages left that had bits of significant information and discussion, but I will have to upload the images first so I can see and read them. I need to get a move on because to many books are waiting in line so I will have to post update later and hopefully later will actually arrive.






















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