I made a new “NO” vote today

I made a new “NO” vote today. Don’t EVER tell me one person can’t make a difference in an election. From an email I just received:

Hi David,

We met through MN United around the South Minneapolis kickoff. You inspired me to get moving on US Citizenship and, I’m happy to report, I was sworn in yesterday.

I just wanted to thank you for being a catalyst in my process…

Booyah. And because of MN’s same-day registration, she can vote in November. THAT same-day registration, the one that helps make Minnesota the leader in voter turnout, the one that’s threatened by the Voter ID Amendment… which just gives you another reason to vote “NO” on that one too.

The best part of the whole thing? Today, Oct 19th, is the exact one-year anniversary of me becoming a U.S. citizen.

You can make a difference too. Eighteen more days to go: sign up over at MN United, come and be inspired, have some great conversations, and GET OUT THE VOTE AND VOTE NO TWICE!


Will you join me?

Dear friends: there are 30 Days left until the election.

Thursday, October 11th is National Coming Out Day. It is the event’s 24th Anniversary, a day in which many of the people we love and support decide to have what can be the most difficult and challenging conversations of their lives with their friends and families.

In support of and in solidarity with our GLBTQ friends and family members, I am asking all of my MN friends, regardless of orientation, to join me at the Minnesotans United for All Families’ Loring Park office (1629 Hennepin Ave, across from the Basilica) to reach out to voters who are still deciding to vote NO on the marriage amendment. Join me this Thursday at 6:30pm, and every Thursday from here until the election, and help us explain to Minnesota voters why a NO vote is necessary.

Yes, these are voter conversations that can sometimes be difficult for us. But they can also be exhilarating, inspiring and joyful. And on a day like National Coming Out day, we need to recognize that these voter conversations are FAR easier for us to have than those that our LGBTQ friends around us are having, on the same day, with their own families and friends. If you feel that you can’t call a voter and have this type of conversation because it’s “too hard”, then you MUST do it to recognize and celebrate the courage of the people who will be having much scarier and harder conversations with their families this Thursday.

By then there will be less than 30 days left in the campaign, and we need to have everyone coming together to work towards victory in November. Everyone means you: I have not seen a whole lot of my friends at these events, and while I know a lot of you support defeating this amendment, your NO vote is only the bare minimum required to do so. The No votes are NOT winning right now, and our MN Constitution will be fundamentally changed to reduce and eliminate rights for loving Minnesota couples unless we take further action today.

Will you be there with me? Or better yet, go to http://mnunited.org/volunteer and sign up to make calls tonight and every Monday, or Tuesday or whatever day you can.

Let’s not make it to November 7th and regret the opportunity we wasted.

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 c4me.stpaul@gmail.com (St. Paul) and Michael Bayly at info.c4me@gmail.com 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.

Crystal clear.

The GOP top brass fall over themselves condemning Rep. Akin’s comments, while at the same time approving strict anti-abortion language in their official platform, which includes no explicit exceptions for incest, rape, or a pregnancy that endangers the woman’s life. Consider then that a major plank in the GOP platform is to call for a Constitutional Amendment that will result in forcing rape victims to bear their rapist’s children, or would force a woman whose pregnancy will kill her to continue said pregnancy regardless, and ask: is that significantly different or any less offensive than Akin’s point of view?

A Presidential candidate for this party who seems to favor exceptions in the case of rape and incest, a VP candidate who doesn’t (and has also proposed bills that would make many forms of birth control and all forms of IVF illegal), then throw in a Neanderthal whose ideas of rape and pregnancy seem to come from early 17th century alchemy textbooks, and stir.

I don’t agree with everything Obama has done. I don’t agree with everything he says. But I can’t even start to convince myself that anything I disagree with Obama on (e.g. indefinite detention, use of drones, extension of Bush-era tax cuts) would be better under a Republican government, and in fact prior experience proves that it would most probably be worse on practically all those issues. Add that to ALL of the issues that I feel VERY strongly about (e.g. healthcare, women’s rights, choice, same-sex marriage, DADT, separation of Church and State) with which Obama’s perspective seems to be ideologically aligned with mine, and the choice for me is clear.

Crystal clear.

Ignorant opinions have no place in law

Many of the people and organizations rushing to support Rep. Todd Akin are not doing so by saying “He just misspoke, he obviously doesn’t hold those atrocious and ignorant opinions, it was a mistake, he was quoted out of context.” I don’t think that anyone can even honestly say that about him and his opinions at this point. No, they are supporting the original, medieval-era concepts of rape, pregnancy and abortion that he ignorantly spewed, and their main complaint is that he is being criticized for holding them.

You have to remember these ill-informed, harmful opinions every time a new bill is introduced that defines “personhood” as beginning at conception, every time a new law is passed requiring a new restriction on choice (medically unnecessary trans-vaginal ultrasound, anyone?), any time there are attempts to redefine “rape” or “pregnancy”. The majority of GOP Presidential candidates this season don’t even believe in allowing abortion in the case of rape and incest; the GOP VP candidate co-sponsored a bill with Todd Akin to differentiate “forcible rape” from “non-forcible rape” when banning abortion funding.

There are valid, considered, intelligent, nuanced and reasonable arguments to debate the pros and cons of abortion: but these are not the arguments or reasoning behing these bills proposed by this group of people. Akin’s comments boil down to “if she got pregnant, then she’s lying about being raped, therefore she can’t have an abortion”. That’s the ignorance behind his proposed bills.

Ignorant opinions have no place in law, and ignorant politicians have no place in politics.