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Bernie Sanders, Underpants Gnome of Revolution

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Another day, another white dude crediting Bernie Sanders with all things progressive.

Under the subheadline “Bernie Sanders lost the primary but reshaped his [sic] party,” Ben Smith at Buzzfeed has written a remarkable work of historical (fan) fiction that credits Bernie Sanders’ primary performance for a Clinton-allied think tank writing a plan for investing in American infrastructure.

So you’re forgiven if you missed the big development on the Democratic Party policy front: the call for “a large-scale, permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment.” That plan, titled “A Marshall Plan for America,” came not from Bernie Sanders but from the Center for American Progress, the Clintonite Washington think tank John Podesta led. The proposal breaks in tone and substance with the Clinton–Obama focus on an economy led and dominated by the private sector.

Now I love these alternative histories where Germany wins World War I or something, but I am not sure I understand the point of writing one where Hillary Clinton didn’t pitch a massive infrastructure plan during the 2016 election. The one detailed here. That one.

And the really interesting thing about this alternate universe is if it’s not one white dude who gets credit, it’s another:

Democrats’ opportunity is to deliver on the explicit and implicit promises that Trump abandoned once he was elected: expanded and improved health care and large-scale jobs programs, cost no object.

It’s the Trump and Bernie show, promising magic white dude stuff! Never mind the boring lady with plans to make it happen and to pay for it! Whether that's Hillary Clinton or Neera Tanden, who co-wrote the proposal the article begins with and is briefly quoted. I wonder what she--a female person of color--would think about all the White Dude Magic in the rest of the article.

I guess I'll never know, because Smith has many white dudes to quote! How about a white dude from one of the whitest states in the union?

“What happened in the presidential campaign is that Bernie ran explicitly in support of a Medicare-for-all approach” — a simple framework for single-payer — “and what the politicians saw is that voters were fine with that,” said Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, a longtime advocate of single payer.

“It’s inclusive and it doesn’t get us into the identity politics divisions that are problematic,” he said. “It gets us into inclusive politics.”

Yes, that’s right folks. Nothing says ‘inclusive’ like deriding voting rights, reproductive justice, the safety of trans folk, same sex marriage, Islamaphobia, nativism, police violence against African-Americans—you know, identity politics. It’s much more inclusive to focus on issues that directly affect white men! Take it from a straight, Christian white man, he’d know!

P.S. Mr. Welch, the plan the article started with specifically cites the need to protect civil rights--"identity politics"--alongside strengthening the economy, because we can do both.

But it really takes the cake to claim that Sanders’ primary performance has given the Democrats cover for anything, other than white dudes’ tiresome insistence on re-writing history to center themselves.

Bernie Sanders lost the primary. It wasn’t especially close. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the primary by 12%. In 2008, Barack Obama actually lost the popular vote to Clinton, by 1%. Now that’s close, and a testament to the fact that (a) Hillary Clinton is pretty great and (b) she’s not unstoppable if a candidate has the right stuff. Barack Obama did, Bernie Sanders didn’t.

And one of the reasons Bernie lost the primary is that when push came to shove, he didn’t have plans.

Because Bernie Sanders is the Underpants Gnome of Revolution.

South Park’s gnomes have plans to steal underpants, then follow an unknown second step, then get to step 3: PROFIT. Similarly, Sanders preaches that we have to want [liberal thing] very much and then somehow [that liberal thing] will happen. We know it won’t involve wheeling and dealing and making compromises, because that’s what neoliberal $HILL$ do, amirite? Amirite?

Back here in the real world, I remember the primary and Bernie Sanders’ utter inability to explain how he was going to achieve even some of his most talked-about goals. In Sanders Fanfic Universe, the New York Daily News interview never happened, but back here on Earth-1, I have receipts:

Daily News: Now, switching to the financial sector, to Wall Street. Speaking broadly, you said that within the first 100 days of your administration you'd be drawing up...your Treasury Department would be drawing up a too-big-to-fail list. Would you expect that that's essentially the list that already exists under Dodd-Frank? Under the Financial Stability Oversight Council?

Sanders: Yeah. I mean these are the largest financial institutions in the world….

Daily News: And then, you further said that you expect to break them up within the first year of your administration. What authority do you have to do that? And how would that work? How would you break up JPMorgan Chase?

Sanders: Well, by the way, the idea of breaking up these banks is not an original idea. It's an idea that some conservatives have also agreed to.

You've got head of, I think it's, the Kansas City Fed, some pretty conservative guys, who understands. Let's talk about the merit of the issue, and then talk about how we get there.

Right now, what you have are two factors. We bailed out Wall Street because the banks are too big to fail, correct? It turns out, that three out of the four largest banks are bigger today than they were when we bailed them out, when they were too-big-to-fail. That's number one.

Number two, if you look at the six largest financial institutions of this country, their assets somewhere around $10 trillion. That is equivalent to 58% of the GDP of America. They issue two-thirds of the credit cards in this country, and about one-third of the mortgages. That is a lot of power.

And I think that if somebody, like if Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, he would look at that. Forgetting even the risk element, the bailout element, and just look at the kind of financial power that these guys have, would say that is too much power.

Hey, we got all the way to Zombie Teddy Roosevelt, and you know what? He didn’t actually answer the question. He didn’t say how he would do it. And he got called on it.

Daily News: Okay. Well, let's assume that you're correct on that point. How do you go about doing it?

Sanders: How you go about doing it is having legislation passed, or giving the authority to the secretary of treasury to determine, under Dodd-Frank, that these banks are a danger to the economy over the problem of too-big-to-fail.

Daily News: But do you think that the Fed, now, has that authority?

Sanders: Well, I don't know if the Fed has it. But I think the administration can have it.

Allow me to observe: this is not a peripheral issue for Sanders. Breaking up the banks was in every fucking speech. And he’s not sure what authority the Fed has now, or even if he’s going to have legislation passed where Congress the directly grades banks or of if the legislation will give the Secretary of the Treasury authority.

Proceed, Senator.

Daily News: How? How does a President turn to JPMorgan Chase, or have the Treasury turn to any of those banks and say, "Now you must do X, Y and Z?"

Sanders: Well, you do have authority under the Dodd-Frank legislation to do that, make that determination.

Daily News: You do, just by Federal Reserve fiat, you do?

Sanders: Yeah. Well, I believe you do.

Now the Daily News wants to know what will happen to the employees and assets of JPMorgan. Sanders’ answer:

Sanders: What I foresee is a stronger national economy. And, in fact, a stronger economy in New York State, as well. What I foresee is a financial system which actually makes affordable loans to small and medium-size businesses. Does not live as an island onto themselves concerned about their own profits. And, in fact, creating incredibly complicated financial tools, which have led us into the worst economic recession in the modern history of the United States.

Daily News: I get that point. I'm just looking at the method because, actions have reactions, right? There are pluses and minuses. So, if you push here, you may get an unintended consequence that you don't understand. So, what I'm asking is, how can we understand? If you look at JPMorgan just as an example, or you can do Citibank, or Bank of America. What would it be? What would that institution be? Would there be a consumer bank? Where would the investing go?

Sanders: I'm not running JPMorgan Chase or Citibank.

Daily News: No. But you'd be breaking it up.

Sanders: That's right. And that is their decision as to what they want to do and how they want to reconfigure themselves. That's not my decision. All I am saying is that I do not want to see this country be in a position where it was in 2008, where we have to bail them out. And, in addition, I oppose that kind of concentration of ownership entirely.

You're asking a question, which is a fair question. But let me just take your question and take it to another issue. Alright? It would be fair for you to say, "Well, Bernie, you got on there that you are strongly concerned about climate change and that we have to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel. What happens to the people in the fossil fuel industry?"

That's a fair question. But the other part of that is if we do not address that issue the planet we’re gonna leave your kids and your grandchildren may not be a particularly healthy or habitable one. So I can't say, if you're saying that we’re going to break up the banks, will it have a negative consequence on some people? I suspect that it will. Will it have a positive impact on the economy in general? Yes, I think it will.

And that was the day Bernie Sanders admitted he actually had no plans for how to break up banks or transform the fossil fuel industry and not a clue what to do about the workers who would be displaced when he did so.

Also. Those very untrustworthy big banks are to be trusted to figure out how to break themselves up (I guess) and the reconfigure themselves somehow (I guess?) This is not serious policy. And remember: this is his signature theme, and has bee his signature theme for years.

Just one more quote so you can appreciate the full gloriousness of the Underpants Revolution, though the entire thing is worth a read if you haven’t.

Daily News: Well, it does depend on how you do it, I believe. And, I'm a little bit confused because just a few minutes ago you said the U.S. President would have authority to order...

Sanders: No, I did not say we would order. I did not say that we would order. The President is not a dictator.

Daily News: Okay. You would then leave it to JPMorgan Chase or the others to figure out how to break it, themselves up. I'm not quite...

Sanders: You would determine is that, if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. And then you have the secretary of treasury and some people who know a lot about this, making that determination. If the determination is that Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan Chase is too big to fail, yes, they will be broken up.

Daily News: Okay. You saw, I guess, what happened with Metropolitan Life. There was an attempt to bring them under the financial regulatory scheme, and the court said no. And what does that presage for your program?

Sanders: It's something I have not studied, honestly, the legal implications of that.

”It’s something I have not studied.” Oh.

Now maybe the Brocialist left is untroubled by these lack of plans, because they’re insulated by privilege from so many things that those of us with “identities” have to deal with. But if you want to see what this kind of thinking brings when it comes to enacting a political agenda, look no further than our current president.

Trump has the advantage of both houses of Congress being from his own party. So what, exactly, was stopping him from achieving his big goals in his first 100 days? Could it be a total lack of plans, and a total lack of the political ability to broker compromises? I’m not trying to discount the very real effects of the Resistance, nor downplay the strategies the Democrats are desperately employing as a minority party in order to save the Republic. Nor how bad it is for those suffering from what he has managed to do. But imagine if Trump were actually good at compromise and if he had an actual plan for, say, building a wall with Mexico. We’d be in some even deeper shit than the Aegean stables of oppression we’re trying to muck out now.

Bernie Sanders’ agenda, of course, is infinitely preferable to Donald Trump’s. But that doesn’t mean his plans for achieving it were much ever more realistic. And his political negotiating skills haven led to an unremarkable record of legislative success, though, to be fair, he’s surely better than Trump in that regard.

So no, back here in the real world, it’s not at all strange that a Clinton-allied think tank is drafting pragmatic progressive policy that involves an ambitious public infrastructure plan, with attention given to how it might be implemented and paid for. Rather than showing that Bernie Sanders pushed the party left, or whatever ridiculous assertion white men are making today, it means that Hillary Clinton’s economic agenda, which was always progressive, is serving as a base for new plans in the age of Trump, plans that in no way mean abandoning intersectional civil rights concerns.

Nor is it surprising that a Clinton-allied think tank would formulate plans designed to woo reachable Trump supporters. Because, again, I know we're supposed to put the entire campaign down the Memory Hole and pretend that she didn't give a fuck about the white working class, but in fact, she specifically addressed their concerns.

"We're going to make it clear that we don't want to forget those people," Clinton said. "Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories. Now we've got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don't want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on."

Don't remember that quote? Maybe because the media spent months promoting the special Republican edit of it, which only included the sentence rpeceding it, saying "we're going to put a lot of coal miners out of jobs." Funny how that works. Turns out evil Hillary was actually addressing white working class concerns. She just didn't give them White Man Magic as an answer. And who can forget this?

But the other basket -- and I know this because I see friends from all over America here -- I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas -- as well as, you know, New York and California -- but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change. It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

Huh. It's almost as if Hillary Clinton was reaching out to those actually feeling economically anxious, without pretending that there were no racists among Trump voters. But you'd never know that in the GOP/Sanders memory Hole, where all she did was to (correctly) label Trump's neo-Nazi, neo-Confederate base a "basket of deplorables."

The fact is that Hillary Clinton's words and actions were never without care for the Trump demographic. She just didn't lie to them, nor did she erase the concerns of the Democratic base of people of color, women, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, and others with identities along various axes of oppression. And most Democrats are continuing that approach. But now the Democrats must also take into consideration fixing the economic and social hole that Trump and the GOP are set on digging the country into, rather than starting from the relatively stable platform of Obama’s last year in office. If plans become more ambitious than Hillary Clinton's 2016 platform, it is from necessity, not because of Bernie's White Man Magic.

And how will Democrats ever be in a place to enact that agenda? By doing all the things we “identity” folk are doing right now: resisting Trump’s terrible edicts, pressuring our legislators, fighting to protect voting rights, campaigning hard and raising money for Democrats in 2017 and 2018, registering new voters and doing our damnedest to get them to the polls. If you ever get tired of the Underpants Revolution, white dudes, maybe you could see your way to giving us boring old ladies some help with the real work.

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Obama v. Trump at Yad Vashem

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President Obama visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, when he was running for president in 2008. His inscription in the guestbook reads: "I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution. At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man's potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here, and know this history, so that they can add their voices to proclaim 'never again.' And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit. Barack Obama, 23 July 2008."

Donald Trump visited on Monday. His inscription reads: "It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends—so amazing & will never forget! Donald Trump." Melania's signature appears just below his.

Spot the differences indeed. One looks like the words of a president leaving his considered thoughts on the pages of history. The other looks like the words of a B-list reality TV star quickly scratching some bullshit on a cocktail napkin for a fan.

Which is what Trump is. Unfortunately, he is also a president.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn't very significant. There are a lot bigger things about which to worry than Trump being a tacky, ineloquent, unserious dipshit in a guestbook.

Often it's these smaller distinctions that really affect me. Of course President Barack Obama would never have engaged in any of the overwhelming corruption (and possible treason) that Donald Trump has. That's so abundantly evident that it virtually doesn't even register emotionally.

But reading their words juxtaposed like that. Damn. For some reason, that's the sort of thing that really evokes in me a pointed grief about just how much we've lost.
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8 hours ago
I wish this were parody.
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“Naked American Hero” Loses Challenge to TSA Fine


Just over five years after John Brennan‘s heroic (and heroically naked) stand against TSA oppression, the Ninth Circuit has rejected his appeal.

As you may recall, Brennan was arrested in April 2012 after he got fed up with TSA screening nonsense in Portland and decided to strip naked as a form of protest. Although obviously this greatly simplified the screening process—or it would have, if the goal were actually to determine whether a traveler is carrying anything dangerous—the TSA acted like it didn’t, and shut down the checkpoint. See TSA: Wants to See You Naked, Complains When You Get That Way,” Lowering the Bar (Apr. 18, 2012).

Brennan was charged with indecent exposure, and promptly acquitted, because in Oregon “symbolic nudity” is considered free speech that is protected under the state constitution. But if it occurs to you that there’s a similar sort of “free speech” protection in the federal constitution, like maybe in one of those amendments or something, then you must not work for the TSA. It separately charged Brennan with violating the regulation saying you can’t “interfere with, assault, or intimidate screening personnel in the performance of their screening duties,” and fined him $1,000 (later reduced to $500). Its argument, of course, was that he had “interfered with” the screeners even though they made the decision to close the checkpoint instead of conceding he wasn’t a threat and letting him travel.

I think I made my position on this matter relatively clear. SeeTSA Fines ‘Naked American Hero’ $500” (Apr. 8, 2014) (opining that “[t]his sort of argument is what we lawyers refer to as ‘bullshit.'”). But in rulings that surprised no one, TSA administrative-law judges upheld the fine. Brennan’s constitutional challenge could not be raised there, because a handy TSA regulation specifically forbids its ALJs from even considering the validity of any TSA requirement “under the U.S. Constitution, … or other law.” And Congress stripped district courts of jurisdiction to consider TSA rulings, so appeals go directly to the circuit court. “[P]lease hope along with me that the Ninth Circuit will reverse,” I hoped in 2014, but if you actually hoped that hope, it turned out to be hopeless.

Not only did the Ninth Circuit panel uphold the fine, it did so unanimously, without oral argument, and in a brief and dismissive two-page opinion. So either I, or three federal judges,  got this one completely wrong. And it is unusual for three federal judges to get things so completely and unanimously wrong, but, as you can see, it does happen.

Brennan made two arguments: first, that what he did was expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment; and second, that either he didn’t violate the “interference” regulation or it’s unconstitutionally vague.

The panel dealt with the first one in a single conclusory sentence: “Brennan fails to carry his burden of showing that a viewer would have understood his stripping naked to be communicative.” But under the circumstances, it’s hard to see what a viewer might have thought Brennan was doing if not sending a message that he thought the security procedures were unnecessary. He didn’t just strip in the middle of the airport, he stripped in the checkpoint line while being delayed by the TSA. The panel doesn’t explain what it thinks viewers might have believed was going on if not some sort of protest.

The second argument doesn’t get much more than a sentence. A rule is unconstitutionally vague if it “fails to provide a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice of what is prohibited, or is so standardless that it authorizes seriously discriminatory enforcement.” The term “interfere” isn’t vague, the court points out, and then just says that courts have often applied the term, “but never in a way that would lead a person of ordinary intelligence to think that he or she could strip naked at a TSA checkpoint and refuse to get dressed, leading to the closure of the checkpoint.” There’s no authority or analysis supporting this, which seems to accept without question the TSA’s position that Brennan, not the TSA, was necessarily responsible for closing the checkpoint. If they said, “okay, you can go,” and he still refused, that’d be different, but I don’t think that’s what happened.

I guess reasonable people can disagree on these points, but it’s disappointing that the court plainly didn’t take the case seriously enough to analyze them. I realize it involved a guy getting butt-naked at the airport, but the state judge was able to see past that to get to the issues. This panel doesn’t seem to have really tried.

One member of the panel, Judge Jay Bybee, is best known for signing the memos drafted by John Yoo that justified the torture of prisoners as part of the “War on Terror,” back when they were working in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. I’m not saying that the legal opinions Yoo expressed in those memos were so biased and poorly reasoned that just rendering them was an act of professional misconduct, although the DOJ’s own Office of Professional Responsibility did later say that. Nor am I saying that Bybee’s presence on Brennan’s panel was necessarily a bad sign, given his history of extreme deference on “security” issues, but—well, actually, I am saying that. One of the other judges was also appointed by George W. Bush, but the third was appointed by Obama, and the decision was unanimous, so politics alone doesn’t seem to explain the outcome.

I have some concern that the Obama appointee might have been subjected to some sort of enhanced negotiation techniques to get him to agree, but I’m probably wrong about that.

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Atlanta, GA
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When I Became President For the Seventh Time

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Earlier today, Donald Trump read some words somebody prepared for him off of a teleprompter. So of course:

Two days ago, it was revealed that Trump told representatives of a foreign government that interfered with an election on his behalf that the director of the FBI he fired to obstruct the investigation into said interference was a “total nutjob.” But, yes, if he wears a suit and can read text without literally drooling he’s very Presidential. And you thought undergraduate grade inflation was bad!

While we’re here:

Clinton “has the biggest teleprompters I’ve ever seen,” Trump said at a Massachusetts campaign rally in January.

“I don’t use teleprompters,” he said in that speech.

But Trump’s disdain for teleprompters is not confined to Clinton’s use of them.

“I’ve always said, if you run for president, you shouldn’t be allowed to use teleprompters,” Trump said in October. “Because you don’t even know if the guy is smart.”

He used the teleprompter attack on his primary opponents in the opening months of the campaign.

“These other guys, they’re going around, they make a speech in front of 21 people. Nobody cares, they read the same speech…They have teleprompters,” Trump said at a campaign rally in August 2015. “I say we should outlaw teleprompters … for anybody running for president.”


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Watson Mill - circle library, part 4

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Continuing work on the circle library.  With the ladder moved to the front wall, I now have 8 3/4" of library wall space not including the two vertical end boards that will close it on the sides.  I marked the final position of the center circle.  This gives me a bit of shelf space to the right but allows me more room on the left to play.  The left will be more visible anyway.   To build the shelves, I cut 1/8" wide channels in the plywood wall using the Dremel Trio.

Since I didn't trust the wall edges to be straight, I used a fence board clamped in place.

You can plunge cut with the Trio, which is a great feature.  You can start anywhere along your line.

The bit made a channel slightly too narrow, so I tapped the fence board with a rubber mallet for a second run, widening the final channel to the proper width needed to fit the 1/8" shelves.

The top channel is rough because there was something catching the bit in the wood and it was close to the edge.  Once the ceiling is in, I will add trim to enclose the top space to keep it from being a dust-catcher space that's difficult to clean, so the rough cut didn't matter much.  These might not be square to the floor or ceiling after the build is in place, but they are reasonably parallel to one another.

The channels provide a sturdy hold for each shelf cut from 1/8" basswood.  I started with 1" wide basswood strips and cut them down to end up with a roughly 3/4" deep shelf.   I hand cut the angles around the circle supports.  Not easy.  :\

The two end boards are slightly deeper than the shelves.  For the top, I cut a piece of 1/4" strip wood for stability for the eventual final trim. I still need to cut the support piece for the bottom of the circle, but I am tapped out for the night. :D

The space under the bottom shelf will be enclosed by trim or baseboard in the end, and I left a bit of clearance on the bottom for flooring thickness.

Next up, covering the plywood back between the shelves and cutting the mirror for the center.

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2 days ago
This is so, SO COOL. I love all of her work and I'm so glad she blogs the process.
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medievalpoc: actuallyblind: kimboosan: actuallyblind: [Image...






[Image: tweet by Titanium Cranium (@FelicityTC) including three screenshots of a Harry potter book in three different formats on Amazon. Text:

“Harry Potter on Amazon -

Print: $6.39
Audio: $44.99
Braille: $100.00


So, let me explain this a bit.

The defenders of CripTax prices will say that those prices cover the cost of production. This is, without a doubt, true. I work at a university where we often have to take written materials and convert them into braille – it takes a LOT of people hours, special software, and a braille embosser.

But those defenders of higher prices are reversing the argument to justify fleecing disabled readers.

What do I mean by that?

Braille is not magic. It is done by taking plain text and feeding it through fairly affordable translation software, creating a document that can easily be printed in braille.

All that time and effort and special software? IS NOT FOR THE BRAILLE.

It is to take the document provided by the publisher (usually in PDF format, the same file they send to the printers) and turn it into plain, unadorned text, by hand. Text has to be “stripped” (OCR/text recognition); images have to be described; footnotes have to be embedded; special pullouts and other formatting shifted or removed. 

Printing in braille is cheap; reverse engineering a finished text to print it in braille IS NOT.

Same with those audio books. After a book is completed and, often, after it has already been published, the publisher arranges to have the book recorded by a professional voice actor/reader, which usually also involves a recording producer, if not a recording studio, which all stacks up to $$, no two ways about it.


Oh, it might be, if the author is JK Rowling and it is well known that readers will want audio versions right away. But most of the time, nope, the audio book is produced only after the hard copy book has become a decent seller, and so it’s an extra cost which is claimed must be covered by making the audio version extra expensive to buy. (Even then it’s somewhat ridiculous, since honestly, creating an audio book is, in the end, cheaper than printing, factoring in the cost of paper.)

If publishers factored audio book production into the assumed costs of publishing a book, they would have very little reason to price it higher.

If publishers factored in creating a “plain text” file – including having editors/authors describe images – that could be used to print braille copies or to be used with refreshable braille readers (electronic pinboards, basically), then there would be zero reason to price those books higher.

Yes, it’s a #criptax, and the excuse that “those formats are more expensive to produce so they have to be priced higher” is only true if you completely throw out the premise that publishers have an obligation to account for disabled readers when they are actually budgeting for and publishing the book.

I’m really glad you brought this up, because this is exactly the sort of argument thatpeople try to use to justify inaccessibility in all kinds of areas. When we tell a company that their website or appliance or piece of technology isn’t accessible, they frequently tell us that they are sorry to hear that but that the accessibility is too expensive and time-consuming to add in now. There is also a provision in the law that allows companies to not bother including accessibility in their products if the cost of building in the accessibility is more than 5% of the total cost to build the whole product in the US.

That seems reasonable on the surface, doesn’t it? Except here’s the thing—the accessibility should have been a part of the original plans to begin with and designed in from the very beginning and should have been considered a necessary element and just another ordinary part of the cost of producing the product, not some extra feature that can be opted out of if it’s too expensive. The problem is that these companies do not understand the fact that if you cannot afford to build the product with the accessibility included, then you cannot afford to build the product and that is that. It’s exactly the same as not being able to afford to make the product with all elements up to safety and health codes and standards. If you can’t afford to meet the legal standards, then you can’t afford to make the product, and it’s that simple. Accessibility is not an exception to this and it should not be considered as such. It should be just as much an ordinary required part of the design process as any other element, not an extra, shiny, fancy feature that you can just choose not to bother with if it costs a little bit of money.

Accessibility should be part of the standard design process just as much as safety codes and health standards and other legal regulations. The ADA has existed for 20 years so companies have had ample time to catch up and learn to plan for accessibility from the beginning as a part of the standard required design process. If you can’t afford to create the product fully up to code, standards, and accessibility laws, then you simply can’t afford to make the product. No excuses, no exceptions.

Thanks for this awesomely informative post; this is precisely what I used to do for a living, in a college environment. People were often surprised that this work was not somehow already done by the publishing companies, but nope. My department did it all by hand, more or less. From scanning, to creating PDFs, to OCR text extraction, to formatting the files for JAWS, to making the corrections and image descriptions.

The thing is, college textbooks are so image heavy, compartmentalized, and splashed with text boxes on every page, with increasingly convoluted diagrams that sometimes take up multiple pages, I was basically *writing* half the textbook myself. Basically, you have to take an image like this diagram (which might be in a book, or part of a handout, or be embedded in an inaccessible online module, or part of a video lecture, or maybe it’s part of a powerpoint or slideshow):

and figure out how to describe every bit of pertinent information that is happening visually, decide in what order to present that information, and do it in a way that doesn’t make the student just decide to give up because holy crap, right??

And this part is *just* the textbook. I did this for all class materials-in all topics, in all formats, for every teacher, in every discipline. everything from astronomy, world history, american history, economics, biology, literature, art history, history of modern philosophy, poetry, and even a few things for extracurricular and clubs.

And you know what? A lot of the time professors would seem to think they’re doing everyone some kind of favor by giving us the books and materials like, the DAY before class starts. Or, y’know, sometimes like a week AFTER.

There’s a reason I decided to become staff in Disability Services rather than a professor as I’d originally intended-I was a disabled student too, and I wanted to do my best to prevent others from having to fight like I had to fight. I started out with like 5 people working under me to get the stuff scanned and processed and I was doing the final corrections, formatting, and image/diagram descriptions; by the time it was nearing its end it was just me literally flopping books on a scanner with one hand and typing with my fingers and wrist with the other.

They eliminated my department like 2 years ago, and I got laid off. **there’s** your “commitment” to accessibility in higher education.

That’s how the sausage gets made, my friends….and in this case, how it doesn’t.

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