Occupy’s Rolling Jubilee

Wipe our Debt

Hmmm. I… hmmmm.

This is brilliant, considering the goals of Occupy: use donations to buy customer debt for cents on the dollar, then just… forgive the debt. Then get the people whose debt is forgiven to donate to the Rolling Jubilee system (presumably in gratitude for no longer owing far more) and the cycle repeats.

This all depends on the pennies/dollars ratio that you can get, obviously, but by all accounts the collection agencies that buy consumer debt (and then harass the living daylights out of the debtor) pay a tiny fraction of the original debt. The Rolling Jubilee website is using a ratio of 0.05: a shiny nickel buys a dollar’s worth of debt, which is astounding.

A ginormous monkey wrench into the debt system would be to buy the debt, then sell it directly back to the debtor at the reduced rate.

The cycle of incentives this sets up is remarkably perverse, in a gleefully anarcho-screw-the-system kind of way, not to mention the moral hazard issues. It may very well be unsustainable in the long run, especially since pouring money into the debt purchasing pot will inevitably change the supply/demand ratio, raise the price of buying debt, making the solution less palatable… but think of the short run boost it could give the economy. Assuming of course the capital freed up by no longer servicing debt fees and interest is plowed straight back into the economic system, which if the focus is on the cheapest debt available (that with little hope of recovery) may be a stretch.

And at the same time, if this is a charity issue, that debt with little hope of recovery is in all probability the debtor that most needs charitable forgiveness. And here’s the kicker: the debt they are starting with is medical debt. Brilliant, since it sidesteps the moral hazard issue: it’s not like the people involved are going to run out and get butt implants now that the debt on grandpa’s bypass surgery has been forgiven. A disincentive to buy insurance? Possibly.  But tie this to the Affordable Care Act’s requirements to buy health insurance, and that disappears too.

I love these people for thinking about this.

Now, if the goal of the movement is to achieve real change in the financial institutions, then this is particularly pointless. This is debt with little hope of recovery that the banks are already willing to sell for cents on the dollar to collectors, and technically they would be perfectly happy to sell it to someone else: no more skin off their back than they had lost already, and therefore it gives them zero incentive to change.

But still interesting. Lots of pros and cons to think about. That’s what the internet is for. What do you think?


I guess some citizens are more united than others

Sheldon Adelson supported eight candidates for election, through SuperPACs on which he spent the largest amount of money any single donor has ever donated in political history. Millions and millions of dollars.

All of them lost.

All of them. ALL of them.


In February 2012, Adelson told Forbes magazine that he is “against very wealthy ­people attempting to or influencing elections.”

I’m so glad he he got his wish!

[edited 9:58pm Central]

And lest we forget, Karl Rove’s groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spent more than $390 million on the 2012 election; the candidates it supported overwhelmingly lost.


Unaffiliated. And proud.

For religious conservatives, election was a “disaster”

Fastest-growing segment of the religious voting category? “Unaffiliated”.

That includes atheists, agnostics, and (to be fair) religious people who don’t identify with any particular organized religion. That’s fine with me; it’s the organized groups like Moral Majority and Focus on the Family that cause the problems and divisiveness.

The major social issues of this campaign (women’s healthcare, abortion, same-sex marriage) were all raised by right-wing religious conservatives. They tried to use them as wedge issues, and as cowbells to wake up their base and scare them to the polls.

But we’ve reached the point in the demographic evolution of this country where they no longer have enough people on their side to make this type of tactic work. And I, as an “unaffiliated” myself, could NOT be happier. Now maybe we can focus on working on real issues, instead of wasting our time defending ourselves and our basic rights, against fundamentalism.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY:

“Our message was rejected by millions of Americans who went to the polls and voted according to a contrary worldview.”

That is correct. Glad you figured that out. Hopefully you will learn the right lesson from this, and not just decide to double down and fight the future. You’re welcome to join us, we won’t hold the past against you.

Because SCIENCE!

My 4th favorite moment of election night, after the call of the election for Obama and against the two amendments, was Fox News calling Ohio.

Not because it was pretty much the moment Obama was re-elected (although that, admittedly, was pretty sweet), but it was the moment when the following happened:

Fox News: We officially call Ohio for Obama.

Karl Rove: Nuh uh!

FN: Umm.. yeah, pretty much.

Rove: NO!

FN: Why not?

Rove: Because REASONS! Also Dick Morris and I predicted a landslide for Romney, so there!

FN: OK, let’s check with the math nerds. Math nerds?

Math Nerd: Yeah, it’s a done deal. BOOM!

Rove: BUT nobody really knows yet! TEACH THE CONTROVERSY! You can’t prove it!

MN: WE can. Because SCIENCE!

Rove: <head explodes>

It speaks to and reflects a certain denial of reality that also lies behind other, scientifically overwhelming, proven scenarios: anthropogenic climate change and evolution being the two major ones, but there are many others, like stem cell research. The big denial topic late in this election season was the argument around “unskewing the polls”: it seemed obvious to anyone outside that particular information bubble that there was an active attempt to cherry-pick only the data that supported a pre-existing opinion, and discard the rest as “biased” for no other reason than “we don’t like it”. That’s what tripped up Rove, Morris and many others, and what was most surprising of all was how unaware these two “masters” of bubble-blowing were of the bubble they were found themselves in when reality refused to be spun.

But it’s a similar response by the people who claim there is no consensus around climate change, because they once got 400 scientists to sign a paper saying that there was still ongoing debate. Once you realize that (a) most (~60%) of the signers were scientists whose expertise or area of study wasn’t even related to climate, (b) some said the paper purposefully misrepresented what they actually believed, and (c) in response, the scientific community easily found 400 scientists just by looking at the experts named “Steve” who understood the matter better and agreed that climate change is happening… well, then you realized how cherry-picked the data was.

“Teach the controversy!” Sounds familiar? In this situation, Karl was making the case that, in spite of the fact that he didn’t have the data or the expertise to make the call, his opinion was just as valid as the science nerds’. Again, based on his shocked response, the surprise was finding out exactly how much he had come to believe that himself.

Unfortunately for them, and as much as they probably wanted to, neither Rove nor Morris could unskew the votes that were actually cast. It was a beautiful moment when Megyn Kelly asked whether the difference in opinion could be similar to the exit poll discrepancy in previous elections, and the response from the math nerds was: “this is raw cast vote data; it’s not our opinion, it’s not polls, it’s not something that can be poorly sampled. The math just won’t work any other way.”

Simple arithmetic won the election, and two spinmeisters lost a huge chunk of “credibility”, live, on the only network that gives it to them.


Remember, friends: no matter how the Marriage Amendment vote goes tomorrow, the opponents of same-sex marriage have already lost.

We see it in the slow dismantling of the DOMA. We see it in the death of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We see it in the number of states where same-sex marriage is legal… and with a small amount of luck we’ll see a few more states added to that number tomorrow.

Where I see it is in the fierce, passionate faces of the people at the Loring Park, All God’s Children Church, and the other offices of MN United. Words fail me as I try to express my admiration and my love for these people. The volunteers and workers at these locations have had, in the last year, THOUSANDS of personal, meaningful and deep conversations with their friends and their families, and with TENS OF THOUSANDS of their fellow Minnesotans. Incredibly difficult and wrenching conversations, some of them; others, inspiring and life-affirming and bold.

And every single one of those conversations has made someone’s heart move. Maybe just a tiny bit. Maybe a lot. As our President once described it, a person’s heart needs to evolve over time, and for some hearts it takes a little longer.

For some, it will never happen. But we now know that they can be safely ignored.

Because the evolution of the Minnesotan heart has now been kick-started. It was done against our will, because we did not ask for this fight. But just because we did not ask for it does NOT mean that we were going to back down. We have stood up: gay, lesbian, transgender, bi, straight ally, we have stood up in WAVES, god damn it. And instead of fighting back with the hatred, divisiveness and animosity that were the tools of those funding the lie-filled ads that crossed the airwaves, we have fought back with our stories.

Stories about coming out. About family members who have found love. About friends whom we love dearly, and the life-long partners we embrace because they do. About those who are no longer with us, but who showed us love that was as true, as deep, and as fierce and as passionate as any the world has seen. And stories about the respect that ALL of these people deserve, the responsibilities they wish to share, and the rights and protections they have been denied for far too long.

If the people who oppose this respect, who deny and reject this love, win tomorrow: may they enjoy their brief moment, for brief it shall be. They have no idea what they have started.

They are on the wrong side of history. They always have been. And history has just been kicked in the ass. No matter what happens on Election Day, on Nov. 7 we will all still be standing together, along with thousands of new, inspired allies.

And we will win. Love will win.

So much love to all of you, my amazed admiration to some of you, my deepest thanks to everyone at MN United, especially my stern taskmaster Alysa. Let’s bring this thing home.

Vote No in MN, vote Yes in ME, MD and WA, or kiss my ass.

Love and deceit

Since MN Archbishop Nienstedt seems to not have an issue supporting lies, Catholics in MN should feel no guilt at lying back to him when he asks if they voted “Yes”.

Money that could have been used to help those in need has instead been channeled by the Archbishop to fund ads that have been repeatedly called out for being misleading, inaccurate and grossly deceitful. His actions have led to division and acrimony within his church; even as he uses threats to silence those who disagree, he waves around the promise of hell for people who complain that their family members are damaged by his misguided conviction that HE is better at interpreting the opinion of God and the word of Jesus.

As an atheist, I am often told that there is no way I can perceive right or wrong, or understand what is moral, since I have “nothing” to guide me, no supernaturally-inspired book to serve as my moral compass. If so, the Archbishop’s actions must be astoundingly immoral, since even I, with my limited, godless and unbiblical eyes, can see how broken and wrong, harmful and deceitful they are.

So MN Catholics: feel free to lie right back at him. Tell him what he wants to hear… but Vote No at the ballot box on Tuesday.


In spite of and because of

I’m not voting for Obama “in spite of” my disappointment that he hasn’t done everything he promised in 2008: I’m voting for him because he’s worked on almost all of those promises and delivered more than I expected he could accomplish back then, considering the crazed opposition he’s faced. I’d love to give him the chance to finish the job.

I’m not voting for Romney: because he, along with the organizations and people that seem to support him the most, consistently have proposed bills or made policy statements that I oppose regarding basic healthcare, choice, women’s rights, abortion, welfare, social security, Medicare, taxes, the military, rape, the role of religion in government and law, the role of religion in our daily lives, the economy, the housing market situation, the priorities of this country, foreign policy, same-sex marriage, campaign finance, being gay, bullying, the national debt, the debt ceiling, the safety net, stem cell research, jobs, anthropogenic climate change, evolution, the Big Bang, the role of science in crafting good law, the role of science in our daily lives, pollution, First Amendment issues, Second Amendment issues, Fourteenth Amendment issues, the role of the judicial branch, the role of the executive branch, the role of the legislative branch, DOMA, the Bush tax cuts, Iraq, Iran, China, immigration, energy policy, the path to citizenship, Grover Norquist, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, social issues, the death penalty, the bailout, the role of government in disaster assistance, addressing the deficit, separation of church and state, unions, oil and energy production, drilling, national parks, sex education, AIDS education, abstinence-based education, foreign aid, Citizen’s United, voter ID, voter roll purges, alternative energy, public broadcasting, “intelligent design”, waterboarding, the war on drugs, education, child care, the morning-after pill, civil rights, equal pay for equal work, paying for education, the role of the EPA, the role of the FDA, the role of the US in the world, privacy, the ACLU, reasonable search and seizure, the composition of the Supreme Court, what religion this country was “founded on”, funding for the arts, school vouchers, “faith-based initiatives”, minimum wage, voter fraud, civil rights and pretty much everything Rick Santorum is in favor of.

Among others. I’m sure I missed a few.

So I guess I’m a “single-issue” voter.

Not fully baked

OK, let’s see if we can unpack this logic: in a conversation about the Voter ID amendment, I noted that I am not 100% against requiring an ID to vote, WITH THE HUGE CAVEAT that the priority has to be to make sure EVERYONE has a valid ID first, and is able to get/replace one quickly, free, and easily (including on the same day they vote so we can still have same-day registration). Special focus given to people for whom it would be a hardship or costly to get one, like the elderly, disabled, and military.

It is only AFTER that whole process is completed that you should be able to make it a requirement.

The response: “Well, that would be very difficult to do, it would take a long time and would be hugely expensive.”

Yes. Yes, it would. But the point, a perfect argument about why the current proposed implementation is so terrible, seemed to go completely over the other person’s head, in spite of the fact that they themselves had made it. That they had just made a great argument against the Voter ID Amendment while attempting to defend it didn’t seem to register, when only seconds before they had pointed out that the amendment wasn’t an onerous requirement because “everyone has an ID”.

Either everyone has an ID already, or it’s practically impossible and hugely expensive to get everyone an ID. You can’t make both arguments in the same conversation.

Vote No on the MN Voter ID amendment. It’s not fully baked.

Loud and clear

“My opinion isn’t influenced by those of the people around me”, said no one ever.

Yes, I know it’s a fashionable meme to decry the political posts and claim that we are all unique adorable independent iconoclasts who float above our friends’ and family’s opinions… but we’re not. We (myself included) are all influenced by the opinions of those around us, and that includes those opinions that are posted on Facebook and Google Plus.

And that is why we have had so many conversations in the past year discussing the marriage amendment, the voter ID amendment, and the political candidates. The fact is, your conversations and your posts DO change hearts and minds: the single greatest influence on how people vote on these issues is, in most cases, their exposure to the opinions of the friends and family members that surround them. We are tribal, communal creatures, and we LISTEN to each other.

That’s why it’s important to present these discussions and have these conversations. SO many conversations I’ve had this year have started with a comment or a post on FB or G+ or Twitter, and all of the ones I’ve had where someone has changed their mind have had a personal story behind them. Not a talking point from a TV host or a quote from a new article: a story about you, and about me.

In the last few days before the election, DO reach out to those around you and have a discussion about the reasons to vote No on the Marriage Amendment, the reasons to vote No on the Voter ID Amendment, and the reasons to vote for Barack Obama. You are a friend, you are a family member, and your voice, your experiences, the ways YOU will be hurt by the amendments and the reasons YOU have to vote are far more powerful than 30-second platitudes and misinformation put together by a focus group a thousand miles away.

Get out there, have the conversations, and get out the vote. It’s the reason we’re here.

And never tell me my voice doesn’t make a sound, because I can hear all of you loud and clear.


Support in Washington, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota

Today the Obama campaign issued a statement about the president’s support for the ballot campaigns to win same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland, and Washington. The campaign has already spoken out against a ballot measure in Minnesota to prohibit same-sex marriage. It’s a historic first: no sitting President before has ever made such a clear declaration of support.

In that context, I would like to repeat the words of playwright Doug Wright, posted on Facebook today:

“I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Romney because of his economic policies (tenuous and ill-formed as they are), and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, ‘My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit an ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country, your healthcare, your right to inherit, the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and your very personhood.’

It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you ‘disagree with your candidate on these issues.’

I would also like to remind you that if you justify your GOP vote by saying you’re “fiscally conservative but a socially liberal”, you fall under the same category as above. That phrase means “I’d really *like* for there to be a support network for people who need it and rights for those who deserve them, but only as long as I don’t have to pay for any of it.”

I called a 70-year old woman tonight in northern Minnesota, whose 86-year old gay brother is moving back from Florida to live with her. When she was 15 she wrote him a letter telling him that she knew he was gay, but that was OK and she still loved him. In spite of the fact that the rest of her family had rejected him and would have nothing to do with him. They stayed in touch throughout their whole lives, and now that he can no longer take care of himself, he’s moving back here. Back to his home, for the first time in over six decades.

She said “I just wish he could have been born 60 years later: he would have had the chance for so much more love and happiness in his life.”

She’s voting No. She made me cry.

Look me in the eye and tell me that you prefer to vote instead for a businessman who has made you a vague promise to give you a tax break. Before doing so, make sure you’re OK with not speaking to me in the future, because I require a minimum level of humanity from the people I talk to.