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Monday, June 4, 2012

The First Amendment, Religion and "small government"

A dear, rather conservative friend of mine posed a question to me a few days ago.  He asked how far should First Amendment freedoms stretch?  He asked this question in the context of California's Prop 8, since many Mormons backed this hate-bill to keep their adoption and other programs from being dismantled because they need the ability to discriminate against gay people.  That's their "freedom of speech," by the way.  I'm a firm advocate of First Amendment rights, to be sure, but I think in this country today we are blurring the line between speech and action.

I believe it is a bigot's right to think he is superior (for whatever convoluted reason) to women, blacks, Latinos and homosexuals.  He can have a website, a private clubhouse and even an organization to promote and air his stupidity.  I do not believe he has the right to start up a "whites only" adoption agency and use his First Amendment rights as a shield against any criticism for doing so.  He can't have a "whites only" school or hospital, either.  He certainly does not have the right to use his convictions as a reason to be shielded from disciplinary action if he chooses to enact violence on someone he believes he is superior to.  These things are not "free speech."

My view of the First Amendment extends to religious organizations, as well.  I do not believe that Catholic hospitals should have the right to deny a woman an abortion that would save her life.  I do not believe that the Mormon church should be allowed to run an adoption agency that will never consider adopting children out to a healthy, committed gay couple with the means to give those children a good and fulfilling life.  I do not believe that churches should be able to use tax dollars to fund "therapists" that will tell your gay son how wrong he is to be gay or tell an abused woman how important it is to submit fully to her husband.

Everything I listed above is unacceptable.  I think you should be allowed to say whatever you want,  but do not expect to access federal or local tax dollars to fund it.  I also have come to realize that there are some basic agencies and services that religion should not be allowed to have a hand in.  There should be NO religious adoption agencies.  If the birth mother wants the child raised in a certain religion, it is her right to choose a couple from that religion to raise her baby.  But no adoption services should be operated solely from a church.  That service begs for governmental oversight.  The same with hospitals, pharmacies, and other basic human services.

In other words, you can have your religion and be proud of it.  Go to your religious services, take religious classes, practice your religion in your home and teach it to your children.  Use your OWN money to send your kids to a religious school.  But do not expect to have those beliefs enforced on anyone outside your church and especially don't expect special treatment or government money because of those beliefs.  Enjoy them on your own time and dime.

In the past few days, as I thought over my view on First Amendment rights, I also began to really think about the concept of "small government," as well.  I've realized that my own beliefs on this front have evolved over my lifetime, and I can now say I do NOT believe in small government.  I am not afraid of government programs designed to help the less fortunate or in paying higher taxes to fund those programs.  The power of "big government" does not scare me in the least.  In fact, every time someone tells me that "big government" is a bad thing, and I bring up the fact that the poor need help feeding their children or finding a warm place to sleep, they state that they can get help from their local church.

No!  A religious answer to a secular problem is wrong.  So an atheist who is down on his luck has to choke down his pride and sacrifice his beliefs to get a hot meal?  A secular humanist mother needs to go to a church that will help provide her children with daycare so she can get a job, but she just has to accept the indoctrination of her children that comes with that "free" help?  Unacceptable!

No, the power of "big church" scares the shit out of me.  When churches have taken our tax dollars to fund their hate speech, to further their agenda, and to wield enough power to have their demands written into law, that scares me.  It scares me a whole hell of a lot more than the idea of funding a welfare program that gives women the opportunity to stay home with their babies until they're old enough to go to school.  It makes the idea of someone fearing Universal Healthcare laughable.  It makes me believe that small government is not what we need to be focusing on; "small religion" should be our goal!

We need to take back our country from the churches!  Religion is slowly choking out our country's ability to be great by allowing its fundamentalists to infiltrate the government.  No faith-based program should be allowed to access federal dollars.  Period.  If you want to feed the homeless or provide an after-school program for inner city kids, I applaud you.  But either fund it from your church's coffers, or keep your religion out of it.

16 comments:

  1. Okay, just to transplant from FB, so we can continue it here.

    Me: ‎
    "I think you should be allowed to say whatever you want, but do not expect to access federal or local tax dollars to fund it."

    That presents a pickle, though. Some of these Mormon adoption agencies are completely self-funded. No tax dollars required. So do they get to turn away 'unfit' couples, because they don't get a dime of taxpayer dollars?

    Say you ran an adoption agency, and a couple came in and said they were ready and willing to take a child in, and they had the funding - but were Southern Baptist evangelists, and thought the gays, unwed mothers, and abortionists were going straight to Hell.

    I sure as shit wouldn't want to put a child in that home. But what justifiable reason could you use to not do it? "I don't believe what they believe"? "Putting a child in that home would be dangerous for their mental health"? The super religious would say the same about either one of us being parents.

    "In the past few days, as I thought over my view on First Amendment rights, I also began to really think about the concept of "small government," as well. I've realized that my own beliefs on this front have evolved over my lifetime, and I can now say I do NOT believe in small government."

    Hahahaha, no kidding, but I love you anyway.

    "every time someone tells me that "big government" is a bad thing, and I bring up the fact that the poor need help feeding their children or finding a warm place to sleep, they state that they can get help from their local church."

    That's an argument for A government, but not an argument for BIG government. What if the government could be small, state-based, and still do those things? Would you be in favor of it then?

    "When churches have taken our tax dollars to fund their hate speech, to further their agenda, and to wield enough power to have their demands written into law, that scares me."

    A-greed.

    "No faith-based program should be allowed to access federal dollars. Period. If you want to feed the homeless or provide an after-school program for inner city kids, I applaud you. But either fund it from your church's coffers, or keep your religion out of it."

    Amen.

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  2. You:
    In my post I stated that adoption agencies should not be allowed to be run through religious organizations. Maybe I need to make that clearer? Anyway, I don't care if they CAN fund it themselves, they should not be allowed to. Just like hospitals and pharmacies shouldn't be allowed to have religious affiliations. And yes, I think that some religious teachings are just flat-out child abuse, and those couples who practice that way can be prevented from adopting unless a birth mother specifically chooses them. Then again, the children can be taken away if there's a problem later, so they'd better mind their P's and Q's :)

    You can use spanking as one way to keep kids out of those homes. EVERY study ever done on spanking has shown it to be harmful to a child's psychological development and fundy christian households overwhelmingly choose corporal punishment for their kids. I think making sure that the birth mother is intimately involved in the choosing of the family and educating her helps this a lot. In fact, I recently read a story about an ex-Quiverfull girl who got knocked up and chose a gay couple to adopt her baby specifically because she knew that a gay couple could not raise her kid as a fundamentalist Christian!

    By the way, only anti-choice people use the term "abortionist." The correct term is "OB/GYN who preforms abortions" or just "doctor." LOL. Feel free to post this stuff on my blog. I wouldn't post it if I didn't want to start a conversation about it.

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  3. Me:
    LOL, naturally, I made this whole post about it, cut it from Facebook so I could put it over here, then copied your post before I pasted mine. Gotta start from scratch now, lol.


    "In my post I stated that adoption agencies should not be allowed to be run through religious organizations. Maybe I need to make that clearer?"

    No, what I'm saying is that you're determining the State is somehow going to do a better job than private organizations, despite the fact that the government is made up of the same sort of flawed people that run the churches.

    Wouldn't you want a diverse set of adoption agencies, if the State goes wrong? You know our country hasn't been the most progressive in its history... what if the Federal agency says "gay couples can't adopt, ever" or "a pagan mother is an unfit mother"? It happens with State adoption agencies... why couldn't it happen with a Federal one? So the Federal one goes wrong, and now the gays and the pagans have NO agencies to turn to, in country, to adopt. Look how much better we've made the system!


    "I think that some religious teachings are just flat-out child abuse, and those couples who practice that way can be prevented from adopting unless a birth mother specifically chooses them. Then again, the children can be taken away if there's a problem later, so they'd better mind their P's and Q's :) "

    You say this with a little smile, but this goes back to what I was saying, to a point. Why would you want the state to determine which religious teachings were child abuse, and which weren't? What if they decide YOUR teachings are child abuse?

    I'm not talking about "To Raise Up a Child" or any nonsense like that. I'm talking about "eternal damnation" or the guilt complex being a hardcore Catholic can give you. With a wide latitude, that could be child abuse. But with a wider one, so could anything.

    Add to that, why would you EVER want the State, which changes its administration from time to time, to continually determine if you can keep your kids? So Obama lets you have Joaquin & Rhys, but Mittens wants to take them away? Yeah, that's a healthy atmosphere for a child.


    "I recently read a story about an ex-Quiverfull girl who got knocked up and chose a gay couple to adopt her baby specifically because she knew that a gay couple could not raise her kid as a fundamentalist Christian!"

    So you're okay with a mother choosing to let a family that believes in corporal punishment adopt her child? How far does 'mother's choice' take her?

    "By the way, only anti-choice people use the term "abortionist.""

    Remember 9/11? When Falwell made those comments about 'who was to blame' for the attacks, and he started listing gays and feminists? Yeah, the next one was those damned 'abortionists.' I was pulling up an example of a fundamentalist Christian, and he's always the one that comes to mind, God damn his soul.

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    Replies
    1. Okay, there's a lot to address here. I'll say this, yes there should be some variation in adoption agencies. There can be private ones. But NONE of them should be affiliated with a church. I think this is where the current system goes wrong. Plenty of private adoption agencies exist on secular level, and I'm fine with them. It's the Catholic and Mormon ones that need to go away.

      I think that, until parental corporal punishment is made illegal, yes we have to allow the birth mother to choose a couple that would raise her child that way. It would be her choice. But then if the child pops up in the ER with obvious signs of abuse, the kid gets yanked from the home. I wish we had a better system to keep children from being abused, but right now this is all we have.

      I think that raising a child in the "eternal damnation" mindset is tantamount to child abuse, but right now this abuse is protected, as well. The best we can do to combat this is the birth mother's screening process for adoptive parents. Then again, that only works for babies being adopted as newborns. For older children, and those in foster care life is much more difficult. We have so many older kids in need of homes that the foster system is overwhelmed. I hate to say it, but a return to group homes would be a better system than the abuse-factory that the foster system is as it stands. I don't mean to offend any wonderful, truly good foster parents out there. I know that good people participate in the foster system, and that they deserve our eternal gratitude. However, that same system allows a lot of awful people to abuse children and turns a lot of sweet, innocent kids into abused wrecks by the time the system churns them out.

      I think I've gotten a little off topic. So, no religious adoption agencies, not no PRIVATE adoption agencies. Let the birth mother choose her baby's family.

      As for my "small government" comments, I just want to know how small is small? What are we cutting? Are we cutting programs that help the poor and disenfranchised? THOSE seem to be the first on the cutting block when we talk "small government." Or are we talking about getting rid of oil, corn, and soy subsidies and shrinking the military? I can back those, but the "small government" people almost NEVER want to talk about those. They want to pull welfare and food stamps, cut taxes and keep the military enormous. I cannot back that.

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    2. “NONE of them should be affiliated with a church”

      Okay, but then we’re in a situation where it’s not run by the church, but by religious members of the church. Is that so much different?

      ”It's the Catholic and Mormon ones that need to go away”

      Southern Baptists are cool, then?

      ”if the child pops up in the ER with obvious signs of abuse, the kid gets yanked from the home”

      Okay, we’re on the same page here.

      ”I hate to say it, but a return to group homes would be a better system than the abuse-factory that the foster system is as it stands.”

      I could go on and on about the horror of group homes and orphanages in general, but I’ll stand by this: there are examples of AMAZING foster parents, and horrible ones. Just like there are examples of well-run, loving group homes, and god-awful-I’d-rather-be-dead group homes… but I look at the foster system as spreading out the risk. Two kids get harmed by a crappy household – rather than twenty.

      ”that same system allows a lot of awful people to abuse children and turns a lot of sweet, innocent kids into abused wrecks by the time the system churns them out.”

      I don’t know how we’d rid the system of this happening – group homes or single placement, you’re still going to have screwed up parents and screwed up kids.

      ”As for my "small government" comments, I just want to know how small is small? What are we cutting?”

      I love that you asked me this question. I’ve always wanted to sit down and hammer it out. I’ll stick to cuts I think we agree on, though. What cuts I want as well can come in my own post, lol.

      Defense, we agree on. How about we cut that down to 2002 levels? The Afghanistan campaign had just begun, so we’re accounting for a war effort, if a somewhat smallish one. So just there? $329 billion. Sounds fair, right? 2012’s set to be over a trillion; maybe even a trillion and a half. Let’s split the difference, and call it $1.25 trillion - a savings of $900(ish) billion.

      Farm subsidies take off another $20 billion, so we know we’re getting rid of those.

      Energy subsidies (foreign tax credit, credit for production of non-conventional fuels, oil and gas exploration credit, alcohol credit for fuel excise tax, renewable electricity production credit, corn-based ethanol credit, research & development for nuclear power and fossil fuels, energy efficiency credit) equal $475 billion, so let’s get rid of that bullshit.

      So far we’ve saved $1.395 trillion, and that’s KEEPING the Bush tax cuts, Social Security as it is, Medicare and Medicaid, as they are – ALL the social services programs, exactly as they are. We’re ALREADY living within our means… cutting that much means there’s NO DEFICIT, AT ALL.

      But say we want to SAVE? Say we want to pay down the debt! Sounds fun, right?

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    3. Medicare and Medicaid made an estimated $47 billion in improper payments in 2009. Let’s fix that, okay? A little bit of reform – but nothing that would cut the core of the program that I know you care so much about. So $47 billion…. Actually, let’s pretend we can’t even get rid of all the improper payments. Let’s call it a savings of $25 billion. And Social Security was falling behind in 2008 as far as checking to see that Americans on disability were still disabled – with improper payments coming in at $11 billion. Let’s pretend it takes a billion to get them caught up, and they can only catch half. So $5 billion in savings?

      $1.425 trillion so far.

      We spend $500 million a year on business subsidies through the National Institute of Standards and Technology, so let’s dump those. We could save $70 million just requiring federal employees to fly coach on domestic flights when they have to do government business. We could save $215 million eliminating the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, but it’s only that volume every four years, so let’s call it a yearly savings of $54 million.

      Oh, I remember what else I wanted to throw on the pile! $2.7 billion for state homeland security grants (this lets small town police departments buy unnecessary armored vehicles for their operations in the name of ‘fighting homegrown terrorism’ – like there’s a lot of that in a town of 2000).

      $1.429 trillion.

      Suspend federal land purchases – that’s $200 million a year, right away. All of foreign aid – that’s another $42.1 billion… that’s not counting the aid we give to Iraq/Afghanistan for humanitarian assistance (which would be another $11.2 billion if you wanted, but I imagine you don’t).

      So… $1.44 trillion cut.

      Amtrak’s been a black hole for money… if we privatize it, then we could save $1.9 billion. Earmarks are estimated to cost AT LEAST $14 billion a year. Let’s get rid of those, too. If we reduced our stockpile of nuclear weapons from 1,968 to 1,050, then, according to the New York Times, we could save $19 billion.

      Let’s stop there for cuts I think you and I could agree on.

      We’ve saved $1.474 trillion. The 2012 budget deficit is $1.327 trillion.

      That means we’re lookin’ pretty with a surplus of $147 billion used JUST to pay down the debt AND keep all social welfare programs at their current levels AND not raise taxes by one penny.

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    4. Okay, I did not say a religious individual cannot own/operate their own adoption agency. They just can't let their religious views encroach on business policy. That's how I feel about hospitals, as well. A Catholic can own a hospital, but cannot enforce his/her religious beliefs at the cost of the safety of its patients. That makes the hospital USELESS. And yes, this applies to all religions, Southern Baptists included.

      "Medicare and Medicaid made an estimated $47 billion in improper payments in 2009. Let’s fix that, okay? A little bit of reform – but nothing that would cut the core of the program that I know you care so much about. So $47 billion…. Actually, let’s pretend we can’t even get rid of all the improper payments. Let’s call it a savings of $25 billion. And Social Security was falling behind in 2008 as far as checking to see that Americans on disability were still disabled – with improper payments coming in at $11 billion. Let’s pretend it takes a billion to get them caught up, and they can only catch half. So $5 billion in savings? "

      It's fair to investigate and pull benefits from people committing FRAUD, but to just cut the system as a whole and expect only the right people to be experiencing the effects is just silly. Fine, set up an internal investigations service to combat fraud, but don't let it cost too much or the benefit will be lost.

      "We spend $500 million a year on business subsidies through the National Institute of Standards and Technology, so let’s dump those. We could save $70 million just requiring federal employees to fly coach on domestic flights when they have to do government business. We could save $215 million eliminating the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, but it’s only that volume every four years, so let’s call it a yearly savings of $54 million. "

      I have no idea what NIST is, so I can't comment on that. Make everyone fly coach like the plebs, that's cool. But the Presidential Election Campaign Fund is there to even the playing field somewhat for liberals because we do not get the corporate backing that conservatives get (since we are for the rights of the people, not corporations) Since we cannot argue that money doesn't influence politics, we can't cut this and let the Democrats and others who are not individually rich and pandering to corporations and well-funded special interest groups suffer.

      "Oh, I remember what else I wanted to throw on the pile! $2.7 billion for state homeland security grants (this lets small town police departments buy unnecessary armored vehicles for their operations in the name of ‘fighting homegrown terrorism’ – like there’s a lot of that in a town of 2000). "

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    5. Cut it. Cut the prisons at the same time. Use the money set aside for non-violent offenders to fund rehabilitation programs and after-school programs to keep kids from getting into crime in the first place.

      "Suspend federal land purchases – that’s $200 million a year, right away. All of foreign aid – that’s another $42.1 billion… that’s not counting the aid we give to Iraq/Afghanistan for humanitarian assistance (which would be another $11.2 billion if you wanted, but I imagine you don’t). "

      I can't support these cuts. Most federal land purchases are for parks, national forests and preserves, all of which we NEED. I also want humanitarian aid to continue everywhere it is needed. What is foreign aid if it's not humanitarian?

      "Amtrak’s been a black hole for money… if we privatize it, then we could save $1.9 billion. Earmarks are estimated to cost AT LEAST $14 billion a year. Let’s get rid of those, too. If we reduced our stockpile of nuclear weapons from 1,968 to 1,050, then, according to the New York Times, we could save $19 billion. "

      Here we REALLY disagree. I think we should take it over fully and expand it to make better public transportation between the states. I like the way public transit wrks in Europe, and it would help reduce our dependence on fuel if there were REAL public transportation option besides our cruddy bus systems. Earmarks is a very general and broad term. Each individual state is using that money for public works that are needed there. If they're fixing bridges, building parks in low-income neighborhoods, building homeless shelters, funding important research or supplementing their medical programs, I want that money to stay put. If they're funding tax cuts, by all means, cut them. But this has to weighed on a case-by-case basis.

      And yes, reduce our nuclear weapon cache. Reduce it by half, at least.

      Wow, we're actually having a bi-partisan discussion on cutting and preserving programs. It's amazing that this can never happen in Congress :(

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    6. As for the adoption/kids in the system situation, I really haven't seen much to make me believe there's any really good solution. I mean, a lot of kids end up older in the system because crackhead/meth-head/alcoholic mom cleaned herself up enough t have the baby and convince CPS that she's going to be a good mom and that her substance abuse is behind her. Then, she falls off the wagon, the kid is older, and now no one wants them. Everyone wants a baby. Worse, there are so many people who would love to take the babies from drug-addicted moms, but they won't because they're too afraid of getting their hearts broken when mom cleans herself up and takes the kid back 5 months later (as is her right.) So how do we fix it? I don't think taking away the mom's rights sooner is a good solution, but the kids are getting screwed in their current state. The whole thing sucks.

      I think that we need to put more money into great group homes where children come as a permanent solution, rather than a temporary one. That way the kids can have some stability in life, large sibling groups can be guaranteed to stay together, and we can focus on getting those kids the help they need. They should be provided with counseling, good education and tutoring, and special programs so that they don't become another problem in the system, but rather grow up to be good little tax payers. :)

      We still need a hybrid system, where some kids go out to foster families, but we apparently need more oversight since some people use these poor kids as a paycheck, and don't treat them as members of their families. I agree with you that there are some WONDERFUL foster families, but there are also some pedophiles who give the good parents in the foster system a bad name.

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    7. “A Catholic can own a hospital, but cannot enforce his/her religious beliefs at the cost of the safety of its patients.”

      I don’t see a big safety issue with not covering contraception in your health insurance plan. If a plan didn’t offer dental, I wouldn’t see that as a ‘safety’ issue, even though a whole lot of diseases get their start (or at least show symptoms) in the mouth.

      “set up an internal investigations service to combat fraud, but don't let it cost too much or the benefit will be lost.”

      Haha, and the reason I made it cost a billion in my example was that I didn’t want to be accused of letting it cost too little, and be accused of lowballing it to pad my figures.

      ” But the Presidential Election Campaign Fund is there to even the playing field somewhat for liberals because we do not get the corporate backing that conservatives get”

      Barack Obama raised over $700 million in private donations in the 2008 election. John McCain’s the one that used the Presidential Election Campaign Fund to get up to $360 million ($84 million from Federal funds). Explain to me again why it’s the LIBERALS that need all the help?

      ”since we are for the rights of the people, not corporations”

      *eyeroll*

      “Use the money set aside for non-violent offenders to fund rehabilitation programs and after-school programs to keep kids from getting into crime in the first place.”

      This is why it’s hard to have a conversation with liberals about cutting the deficit and the debt. They always want to take the savings and spend it immediately on other programs, rather than using it to close the deficit gap (usually the reason we have the conversation about cutting programs in the first place).

      ” Most federal land purchases are for parks, national forests and preserves, all of which we NEED”

      Don’t look it up. Tell me how many acres the federal government owns in parks, national forests, and preserves. Tell me how much of that is NEED based. Tell me why. Then we can get into this further. It’s not even the biggest fish, but I am curious.

      ”What is foreign aid if it's not humanitarian?”

      2010

      Israeli military aid: $2.8 billion.
      Egyptian military aid: $1.3 billion.
      Pakistani military aid: $913 million.
      Jordanian military aid: $304 million.
      Colombian military aid: $186 million.
      Russian military aid: $127 million.
      Mexican military aid: $96 million.

      All told, we spend $15 billion on military aid alone.

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    8. Oh, and to pick a program that goes under ‘economic aid,’ look to Colombia, where we pay farmers not to grow drugs, and pay to fight the drug lords (some reports say the drug lords, because of Colombian political corruption, receive most of this aid).

      ”I like the way public transit wrks in Europe, and it would help reduce our dependence on fuel if there were REAL public transportation option besides our cruddy bus systems.”

      So it’s somehow better to expand a business that’s already running at a $1 billion deficit and expand it, at greater cost to the taxpayer, then subsidize it further, at an even greater cost. You railed against subsidies for companies that don’t deserve it earlier… THEY DON’T DESERVE IT. In every year – EVERY YEAR – since 1971, Amtrak has lost money.

      ”If they're funding tax cuts, by all means, cut them”

      I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again. Tax cuts don’t ‘cost’ anything. They reduce the budget with which you have to work, but they don’t ‘cost’ a nickel.

      ” Wow, we're actually having a bi-partisan discussion on cutting and preserving programs. It's amazing that this can never happen in Congress :(“

      I know, right? And I feel like the points on which we disagree are over the little things. Federal lands, Amtrak, and earmarks? Heck, that’s maybe $16.2 billion all told… which, in the scheme of what we’re talking about saving, is really nothing. I’d still like to figure out a deal with it… I really hate Amtrak… and earmarks. The Federal land purchases are dumb, but $200 million a year is a rounding issue in the scheme of things.

      ” I think that we need to put more money into great group homes where children come as a permanent solution, rather than a temporary one. That way the kids can have some stability in life, large sibling groups can be guaranteed to stay together, and we can focus on getting those kids the help they need. They should be provided with counseling, good education and tutoring, and special programs so that they don't become another problem in the system, but rather grow up to be good little tax payers. :)”

      Government-funded boarding schools? Heck, with that system, it might be better for you to give your kids up… they’ll get a better overall experience than they would at a normal public school. Same mediocre education, though.

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  5. Okay, I did not bring up contraception here. This one's an abortion issue. It happened right here in Phoenix at St. Joe's. A woman came in with a life threatening condition, needed an abortion so that she could have treatment to save her life. The nun who signed off on the abortion and treatment was excommunicated and the hospital's Catholic status was revoked. THAT time the situation came out well, but what if the nun was unwilling to risk the wrath of the high holy asshats? That woman would've died, leaving behind three little boys because her life isn't worth as much as a non-viable fetus' in the eyes of a lot of old white men with power. It's not an ethical way to run a hospital, and it should be illegal to let your dogma come before the safety of your patients.

    As for the contraception issue, they don't have to offer it. Their insurance does. And they don't have to pay a dime more for it. The insurance companies WANT women on birth control (it saves them money) so they'll offer it for the same price. There is no reason not to let women have their contraception covered.

    You cannot argue that liberals get more money from individuals and conservatives get FAR more from corporations and special interest groups. It's just a fact. Just because Obama was a rockstar fundraiser in '08 doesn't mean we shouldn't keep it around. Maybe make it only accessible to a candidate if there's a large difference in funding? and then only accessible to the one with less money? I just heard on NPR how we are paying for ridiculous things for previous presidents like their cell phone bills and rent. This policy was started because one of our former presidents had become destitute and this was considered a disgrace to the nation to let our former president be penniless. I agree that we can't let them go without, but the proposed change was to only pay for their expenses if they make less than $400K per year. I like that change. With all the paid speaking engagements and book deals and such that our former presidents now enjoy, I think we could make that policy change and then stop all payments :)

    "This is why it’s hard to have a conversation with liberals about cutting the deficit and the debt. They always want to take the savings and spend it immediately on other programs, rather than using it to close the deficit gap (usually the reason we have the conversation about cutting programs in the first place). "

    Yes, shocker. We want to improve our society rather than letting it stand at it's current crappy levels of criminal distopia for the poor. Seriously, those programs are an investment toward less future incarceration. Rehab programs keep people from going back to drugs and a life of dependence. Criminal rehabilitation means that people can truly pay their debt to society and get on with making a life for themselves, rather than leaving them no choice but to go back to crime.
    ” Most federal land purchases are for parks, national forests and preserves, all of which we NEED”

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  6. "Don’t look it up. Tell me how many acres the federal government owns in parks, national forests, and preserves. Tell me how much of that is NEED based. Tell me why. Then we can get into this further. It’s not even the biggest fish, but I am curious."

    We need to preserve our forests, streams, lakes and wild places because we need to not have every inch of this nation paved over for another Walmart parking lot! Trees and vegetation are good for air quality, for tourism and recreation, to keep property values high (places next to national park land or across from a neighborhood park or preserve are worth more!) It is not good for the morale of the people to let their natural treasures remain unprotected. And yes, corporations and land developers will take advantage and ruin these if they're allowed to. I have no idea how much land the US and state governments are protecting, but I can tell you now that the UK wishes they'd preserved more.

    "All told, we spend $15 billion on military aid alone."

    Lame. We need to only give foreign military aid to get rid of dictators and stop genocides.

    "Oh, and to pick a program that goes under ‘economic aid,’ look to Colombia, where we pay farmers not to grow drugs, and pay to fight the drug lords (some reports say the drug lords, because of Colombian political corruption, receive most of this aid). "

    I can see where the idea here was to reduce the amount of drugs in the US, but meth filled any void that might have happened here. I think the solution here is to legalize pot, shrooms and peyote, tax the shit out of them, and use the revenue to fund REAL drug rehab and prevention programs (as in, keep people off of heroin, meth, coke and perscription drugs) so that we won't feel the need to pay Colombia.

    As for Amtrak, as a company it clearly does not work. But we NEED better public transportation in this country. I think it'll be cheaper to expand on an existing system than to build a new one from scratch. I'd like to see a bullet train between San Diego or LA and Phoenix, and I think it would pay for itself eventually.

    I disagree with your statement about taxes. It does cost us money to allow people to benefit from a system they never have to pay into. It's important to make sure that the upper classes benefit the lower ones, and that corporations pay into the society that supports them. It's cyclical, and a fundamental disagreement between us.

    "Government-funded boarding schools? Heck, with that system, it might be better for you to give your kids up… they’ll get a better overall experience than they would at a normal public school. Same mediocre education, though."

    If we can take care of these kids for a generation, provide them with education (including comprehensive sex ed,) contraceptives and access to safe and legal abortion, there will be fewer and fewer of them. It will get cheaper and cheaper as there are fewer of them going to prison, fewer of them doing meth, and fewer of them bringing more unwanted children into the world.

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    1. “It happened right here in Phoenix at St. Joe's. A woman came in with a life threatening condition, needed an abortion so that she could have treatment to save her life. The nun who signed off on the abortion and treatment was excommunicated and the hospital's Catholic status was revoked.”

      The nun was disciplined because, as I’ve said, the Catholics are theologically very strict about the abortion issue. Catholic teaching dictates that a pregnancy can’t be ended, even if it’s to save the life of the mother. “You can’t do evil to bring about good,” as the medical ethics director for the Diocese said. I still think she should have done it, but I’m not Catholic anymore, and there are consequences to breaking laws (even Church ones)… I’m sure the sister realized that. She probably thought it was worth the chance to save the woman’s life. She’s back in good standing, now.

      ”what if the nun was unwilling to risk the wrath of the high holy asshats”

      The position of the Church is the position of God on earth, if you buy into that theology, so she’s really risking the wrath of God. Regardless… she’d be following her own moral beliefs, which I would expect of anyone in the position to make that decision.

      Even if it was a public hospital, you still might find people unwilling to go ahead with an abortion. How do you ‘prevent’ that?

      “It's not an ethical way to run a hospital, and it should be illegal to let your dogma come before the safety of your patients.”

      Say you’re a doctor, and your patient, a 97 year old with cancer, wants to end his life in the security of the hospital. Could you help him, ethically? How about if he’s 23 and he’s got the flu? I would. I think that’s ethical. A lot of people don’t. How do we prevent people from acting on their ethics? How do we decide the ‘right’ ethics?

      “As for the contraception issue, they don't have to offer it. Their insurance does. And they don't have to pay a dime more for it.”

      You’re not listening to me. If Plan A, without contraception coverage, and Plan B, with abortion coverage, both cost exactly the same, the Church will ALWAYS opt for Plan A, even if it’s the same price. They don’t want to pay for a plan where that coverage is included, and ethically, I don’t think they should have to.

      “You cannot argue that liberals get more money from individuals and conservatives get FAR more from corporations and special interest groups. It's just a fact”

      Does this fact have sources?

      ” Maybe make it only accessible to a candidate if there's a large difference in funding? and then only accessible to the one with less money?”

      Then you’ve got John McCain blowing $80 million in taxpayer dollars because he couldn’t raise it on his own. Awesome. Add to that, where do you draw the line? Should Ron Paul get cash to run a third-party race? How about your husband? Should we give him a grant to run for office if he wants it?

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    2. ”I just heard on NPR how we are paying for ridiculous things for previous presidents like their cell phone bills and rent. This policy was started because one of our former presidents had become destitute”

      Truman, yeah. Well, not destitute, but certainly not keeping with the standards of our prior executives. His autobiography sold pretty well (despite being atrociously organized), but after the money for that ran out, he would’ve been broke. The pension’s set at Executive I (what a department head gets at Treasury), so now, $191,300. A former president’s widow gets $20,000 a year. He/She gets a staff budget of $150K for the first three years, and $96,000 for the years thereafter, and Secret Service protection for 10 years after leaving office. But that isn’t funded from the Election Fund. I wasn’t even going to touch that, though you’re right, that should come down as well.

      “We want to improve our society rather than letting it stand at it's current crappy levels of criminal dystopia for the poor”

      And this characterization isn’t helpful either. Conservatives care about improving the society; they just don’t think it needs to come at the hands of government.

      “We need to preserve our forests, streams, lakes and wild places because we need to not have every inch of this nation paved …. It is not good for the morale of the people to let their natural treasures remain unprotected…corporations and land developers will take advantage and ruin these if they're allowed to. I have no idea how much land the US and state governments are protecting, but I can tell you now that the UK wishes they'd preserved more.”

      27%. More than a quarter of this country is ‘protected federal land.’ And protected marine area? 67%. That’s ridiculous. Ridiculous. What interest is served by the government holding this land, and expanding it every year? None.

      ” I'd like to see a bullet train between San Diego or LA and Phoenix, and I think it would pay for itself eventually”

      It would pay for itself if we used real market prices, and charged people that. But that’s not what you’re talking about. Public transit – pardon, subsidized public transit – is a black hole. Now, it’s fine if you want to pay for it (or if AZ and CA want to work together to pay for it, instead of the whole country, as would be my preference), but don’t pretend it’ll be flush with cash.

      “It does cost us money to allow people to benefit from a system they never have to pay into.”

      The top 10% pay 71% of federal income taxes. They’re paying into the system. The reason we continually have this argument is that I think that’s too much, and you think it’s too little.

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