Free healthcare for everyone at the ER!

People who are depressed and don’t have healthcare can just wait until they (unsuccessfully) attempt suicide, and then they get free healthcare at the ER! YAY AMERICA!

Of course, if they’re successful, then problem solved.

The “everyone in the US has free healthcare because they can just go to the ER” argument is one of the most cold-hearted, callous, whatever-word-best-describes-the-opposite-of-empathy ones out there, and can only legally be used by a person who doesn’t know what asthma, diabetes, breast/prostate/cervical/ovarian/colon cancer, glaucoma or heart disease are.

If anyone you know (like a Presidential candidate, for example, on 60 Minutes) uses that argument, then they are shooting themselves in the foot.

Which, ironically, would be treatable at the ER.


I’d like to be President… of half of you.

Mitt Romney states that half of the population of the United States are parasites who think of themselves as victims who deserve everything (food, housing, healthcare, “you name it”) from the government. And as an add-on, that group of people… well, they’re Obama’s core support group. Everyone else is presumably either an independent or a Republican.

It’s very rare that the first report of “gaffes” from Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and pretty much any other politician lives up to the hype of the first breathless headlines. By the time you read the quote in context you realize that the intent has been exaggerated or overblown, the real meaning lost by taking it out of context, the subtleties removed.


There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what …


These are people who pay no income tax. 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect… my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

But… I don’t see this with these recent recorded quotes from Romney at a fundraiser for the wealthiest of his supporters, published by Mother Jones. I really don’t read any subtlety or context missing here. I hear Mitt Romney expressing, in very clear language, two things:

  1. The very worst opinions he has been accused of holding, but has always denied
  2. The very worst opinions from what we just thought was the right-wing extremist fringe of his party

And what is particularly damning is that Romney’s campaign response to the release of these videos was not to distance himself from the comments, or claim they were taken out of context, or even to admit that he might have chosen his words or phrasing poorly. The campaign response was more of the same: we really *care* about the people who are unemployed, truly we do, even though our candidate thinks they’re freeloading moochers who deserve nothing. Oh, and he stands by the comments in the video.

Romney apparently wants to be president of a country where he believes half the population are money-grubbing parasites who take no responsibility for their lives. He expresses, quite frankly, disgust at half the population of the entire United States. They’re not achievers like him, and they deserve nothing. Not even that 11% who pay no federal taxes because they are elderly, retired and living off the Social Security income that they rightfully deserve because they already PAID for it. Not even that 28% of people who pay no federal taxes but still pay state and local and payroll taxes because they, you know, have a job.

I guess that since they don’t pay federal taxes, they wouldn’t pay any of his salary if he were to become president, so why should he care about them?

Boy, you thought Kanye West saying “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” was a crazy statement. “Mitt Romney doesn’t care about half the population of the United States” is even crazier… and it was Romney himself caught on tape saying it.


More on the reality behind the “47% don’t pay taxes” comments here and here.


It’s always a little dispiriting to call and talk to dozens of people whose only rationale for voting against same-sex marriage is “I’m a Christian and this is what the Bible says”.

The surrender of critical thinking to disputed interpretations of texts that are thousands of years older than our understanding of the universe, the picking and choosing of what passages to follow and which ones to ignore, the astonishing surrender to doing what you are TOLD despite what is right, instead of doing what is RIGHT despite what you are told…

It makes me so angry, but more than anything else it makes me sad. Because in a call today, a mother in Minnesota told me she no longer speaks to her son since he came out as gay. And she has the Bible quotes to show why she still thinks that was the right decision to make. This is a woman who has caused and experienced so much pain, for nothing more than misguided words set down on paper by people who didn’t know any better; misinterpreted myths and fables that should NEVER have had that kind of power over her (now destroyed) relationship with her own child.


Bronze Age-era superstitions.

How many times over has that same story been repeated over the last few hundreds of years? Any how many more times will it repeat? And how many more dispiriting conversations do we need to have?

I’m in an angry, sad mood today. Next time someone asks why some atheists seem to be angry, think about this: I’m angry, I’m FUCKING FURIOUS that superstition caused this family so much pain, and I’m even ANGRIER that some now want to embed that same hateful superstition into the laws that govern my life, and my friends’, and my family’s, and my loved ones.

If you’re not angry for the same reasons, I truly don’t understand you.

We all belong

The narrator in a video presentation from the DNC said “Government’s the only thing we all belong to”.

And of course the GOP practically fell over itself claiming that this means the Democrats think the government “owns” all of us, and that obviously explains the policy difference between the two parties. “We don’t belong to government, the government belongs to us,” tweeted Romney’s campaign (I have no illusion that the candidates are actually writing those).

It’s very telling that Romney’s proxy tweeters don’t think he belongs to the government: they think he OWNS it. Presumably since he OWNS the government, he can sell his share in it for a profit when he is done saddling it with debt and charging it millions in management fees, which was the Bain modus operandi.

Of course, as usual, theirs is an out of context misinterpretation. The very next line:

“We have different churches, different clubs, but we’re together as a part of our city, or our county, or our state – and our nation.”

Why wasn’t there a complaint about how aren’t “owned” by our churches? Where was the uproar about us being “owned” by clubs? It’s only if you intend to deliberately and disingenuously claim that Democrats believe we all “belong” (as in being members of) churches and clubs, but we “belong” (as in being owned by) the government, mixing up the meanings halfway through the sentence, that this makes sense. Within the context of the rest of the speech it is quite clear that the statement being made is that we are ALL part of the government, we are all members, we all belong. It is “We, the People”, after all.

I agree with the statement. I do belong to the government of this country, Mr. Romney, in the same way I belong to the ACLU, MN Atheists, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. None of these organizations own me, but one of the privileges of my membership and inclusion means I get a voice in influencing what each of those organizations do.  That’s what belonging means:

I get to vote.

And part of my membership also means that I support the work that they do, with my time, my skills and my money. That’s also what belonging means:

I pay my membership dues.

The ACLU doesn’t own me, and just as with the government, if a majority of us decide we no longer support their goals, we can change the rules. We can even dissolve the club and start another one: if everyone renounced their membership in the ACLU and stopped paying dues, the organization would go away. The powers of government in this country are given to it by the people; by the same token, they can be taken away.

We, the People (the members of government), took a vote in 2008 and made a statement that we didn’t like the way the club was being managed, so we changed the management. We didn’t all agree with that statement, and we don’t all agree today with everything the new management has done. As is our right, thanks to our membership, this year we get to make another statement about the way the organization is being managed.

In this video, one of the groups is very clearly making the statement that they proudly claim me as an active member of the management of the club. Another group hisses and recoils at this inclusive statement, because they prefer to point at management as the source of all problems, while obscuring or denying the fact that they are as much a part of the management as I am. And that it was they, not some mystical “other”, who had a significant hand in causing the problems in the first place. And that whatever problems exist, it is only with all of our help that they can be solved.

I won’t consider membership in a club whose management are so ashamed of themselves that they can’t bring themselves to admit they are members in the first place.

I am a U.S. citizen. I belong to the government, in the same way one belongs to a club, to a church, to the ACLU. And because I do, I pay taxes instead of playing shell games to obscure the benefits I have gained from that membership.

And because I belong to the government, I vote.

Voter ID: fraud and suppression

If I had $50 million dollars of taxpayer money and I really wanted to improve voter identification and reduce fraud, I would use that money to set up locations at polling stations where people could quickly and conveniently get a government ID that could immediately be used to vote. You would get same-day registration (as we do today), a one-step process, people get a useful ID that can be used for other purposes as well, and as a side effect you get a reduction in the minuscule amount of identity fraud that actually occurs on voting day. It serves the final goal, while at the same time providing a useful service to the hundreds of thousands of people who go through same-day registration today.

If I had $50 million dollars of taxpayer money and really wanted to suppress voters, I would use that money to set up an alternate, confusing “provisional” voting method that would do nothing at all to help those who have no ID today, while slowing down the entire electoral system, causing endless litigation over the validity of those votes, and throwing away large numbers of those “provisional” ballots because of the difficulties involved in confirming them. And putting in place a process that, in the end, provides NO useful service to those who are actually voting, nor does it help them vote in the next election, and really gains no benefit for that $50 million.

Guess which one the MN Voter ID Amendment puts in place?

If you really want to understand whether a law being proposed is really a voter ID law intended to reduce fraud vs. a voter suppression attempt, just ask your representatives how best to spend $50 million in taxpayer dollars. If their answer involves spending that money to actually help people get an ID and make it easier for them to vote, it’s the first one. If their answer involves spending that money only to make legitimate voters’ lives more difficult, then it’s the second one. If the answer involves making voting more difficult for the elderly, the disabled, lower economic classes and absentee voters, then it’s DEFINITELY a suppression effort.

If the answer means that under the new law, at the end of election day, FEWER total eligible voters will have been able to cast votes than otherwise would have, then you have a law that is being put in place to suppress votes.

Guess which one the MN Voter ID Amendment does?

This is why I’m voting “No” on the Voter ID Amendment.

Archbishop Nienstedt: time to stand down

Minnesota Archbishop John C. Nienstedt sends out another letter stating the church’s support for the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.  According to reports, many people reacted by walking out of the parishes and churches where the letter was read (which included the Basilica of St. Mary).

Are you Catholic and voting no? Number 1: I love you, and Number 2: you can get your “Another Catholic voting NO!” lawn signs by contacting Mary Kay Orman at (St. Paul) and Michael Bayly at or call 612-201-4534 (Minneapolis).

“But the reality is that marriage is not ours to redefine,” said Nienstedt, the man at the head of the organization that once led the charge to redefine marriage by making interracial marriage legal. Yes, it was a coalition of Catholic bishops that helped support Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case which ended anti-miscegenation laws in the U.S. in 1967. We call upon that very same spirit of support today, and the language from that decision:

“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law… Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not to marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Archbishop Nienstedt, you are not only holding positions that are on the wrong side of history, you are promoting division, misunderstandings, misconceptions and causing unnecessary heartache and family divisions that are contrary to the history of your own Church’s actions and teachings, as well as to the very nature of the country in which you live.

Archbishop Nienstedt: if you can’t stand for love, then it’s time to stand down as the leader of the organization that claims to represent love.