Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who I'm Voting For And Why

Alright, I've decided who I'm voting for. At least, I've decided for now. I suppose there's a chance I might change my mind in the next week and a half, but I think I'm pretty set.

There are three big things John McCain has going for him in my opinion. First, he's pro-life, and that matters a lot in a Presidential election. Being pro-choice means you either haven't asked the relevant question (when does life begin) or you've come to a wrong answer. So that's big. Second, he embraced a plan that uses the bailout to help people keep their homes. I know it means "rewarding" banks for bad business practices, but I'd rather have that and allow people to keep their homes than punish banks and let people get foreclosed on. Third, I really don't like Obama.

And there's a lot of things I don't like about Obama. First and foremost, I don't believe a word he says. He promised to take public financing because it helped distinguish him from Clinton, then he rejected public financing. He (and McCain is guilty of this too, but that's not an excuse) routinely lies about McCain's positions. He's making all sorts of promises that don't add up. His whole campaign strategy is one of lobbing blame. This is a man who, throughout his career, and throughout this campaign has shown himself to be a mere politician, someone who can look really good while sacrificing his integrity. I don't see the man as a leader, I see him as a party lap-dog, and if you look at his record I think that's a pretty accurate picture.

The second thing I really don't like about Obama is that, when he's trying to point out his more moderate views, he invariably moves towards the center on something I'm more liberal on. His health care policy, although slightly better than McCain, is so far from where it should be that it actually detracts from my view of Obama. His environmental policies also leave a lot to be desired.

The third major detraction for Obama is that I don't think he'll handle the Iraq war as well as McCain. When we supported Afghanistan against Russia during the cold war, and then pulled out all our support when the war was over, it led, a generation later, to the Taliban. I have a very real fear that Obama's policies in Iraq are going to lead to similar problems a generation from now. I have the same fear with McCain, but it's significantly muted, since it's easier to see how he would work to address some of the key issues in Iraq. I do, however, think Obama will be better at fixing the U.S. image abroad. Of course, next to the war on terror, that's minimal.
And yet, despite all of these detractions, I'm planning to vote for Obama. It might seem crazy, but it all crystallized for me with three events:

First, I had a conversation with my friend Joel. After seeing McCain's bailout/mortgage plan, I didn't know if there was a way I could justify voting for Obama. Joel put this question to me: Don't middle-class tax cuts and health care do it for you?

And I answered that they didn't. But as I thought about it, they didn't do it for me because they were too Republican. First, the health care plan is crap. It'll cover slightly more people than McCain's plan, while costing about the same. And, though you shouldn't routinely let the good be the enemy of the perfect, I'm extremely afraid that any health care plan that passes now will eliminate any momentum we've got towards a universal single-payer system. So Obama's plan actually worries me. But it worries me because it isn't liberal enough.

The second part of that question, the middle-class tax cuts, are almost equally worrisome. We've got the largest national debt ever, we're in the middle of a war, and we've quickly slipped into an enormous recession. The last thing we should be doing is giving anybody tax cuts. I dislike McCain's plan to continue the Bush tax cuts even more than I dislike Obama's plan (at least Obama is sticking it to the wealthy!), but ultimately neither of them makes any sense. The best way to cut down national debt is to only spend money you've got, and the best way to do that is to keep a solid tax base. The best way to fund a war is with your own country's money, not borrowed funds, and obviously the best way to do that is to keep taxes at a sustainable level. And the best way to pull the country out of an economic crisis is to create well-paying jobs. And the best way to create well-paying jobs is for the government to hire people. Private industry creates jobs when it is conducive to industry. The government can create jobs when it is conducive to workers. But the only way to do that is to tax the citizenry, so you have something to pay the workers with. In our current situation, tax cuts just don't make sense.

As I thought about these things, it occurred to me once again that I don't believe Obama. He's proposed a tax plan, but I honestly don't believe it's going to happen. The part where he raises taxes for the wealthy might, but I don't think the tax cuts will. First off, he's proposed all sorts of new spending, and he'll have to fund that somehow. Second, the Republicans are going to turn around and nail the Democrats on the federal deficit, just like they did with Clinton. Third, he'll quickly find that he's not going to be able to trim the war budget like he wants to. I just don't see the tax cuts happening. And let's be honest, it's a lot easier to get Congress to spend money they don't have than it is to get them to agree to take less in the first place.

I also believe - or at least hope - that Obama's health care plan won't end up looking like he says, and that the actual manifestation will turn out to be more oriented towards a single-payer system. A Democratic Congress will hopefully move Obama's proposal in that direction, and I think he'd be happy to follow his party. I guess really, to be perfectly honest, an Obama presidency probably means that in actuality we'll have a Reid/Pelosi administration. And I'm more okay with that (at least with the Reid part...).

So in a strange way, the fact that I don't believe Obama, and the fact that I don't see him as a leader, are cutting in his favor here.
The second thing that cut Obama's way was the Supreme Court. I sent around an e-mail asking people who they thought would be named to the SCOTUS when Stevens invariably steps down this coming summer (maybe 1 more term?). Zhubin pointed out that it would likely be a more moderate justice in the Roberts mold, but on the other side of the spectrum. That thought is comforting to me because I'm a big fan of moderate, principled judges. Part of the reason I voted for Bush was because we were looking at replacing conservative judges, and I'd rather keep a balance on the court. Now we're looking at replacing liberal judges (with the two most liberal, Stevens and Ginsburg, set as the two most likely to retire). Even if Obama is able to get a very liberal pick through, there's still a good chance they'll be more moderate than the ones stepping down, and so the balance should remain.
The final thing that pushed me into voting for Obama happened during the last debate. I almost turned the debate off after about an hour, but I still didn't know who I was voting for at that point. I figured I should stick it out, just in case something came up that would help me make up my mind. Sure enough, the very last question was the one that did it; Schieffer's question was about education.

Education has always been one of my biggest issues. I'm a firm believer in public education. I'm a product of a public schools, K-12. A large chunk of my family works in education. An even bigger chunk of them are students. I plan on putting my kids through public schools. I had to pay for college and law school on my own. Education issues have always been at the forefront of my life.

McCain's answer left me cold to him. He talked about competition and vouchers and a vague sense of education being an important issue, with little that was concrete, and nothing that was directed to those involved in education. Obama's answer, although not perfect, highlighted some of the ways he proposed to improve education, and really demonstrated an understanding of what is important to a flourishing school system. Obama talked about early childhood, attracting better teachers (that means money people!), getting parents involved (best course for success), and helping students afford college (Themselves. Because students have to pay their own way a lot more frequently than many of my private college/law school folks realize).

For some reason, on this issue, I believed Obama. It might have been because he wasn't overly concrete with his plans, and instead of speaking about what he was going to do he talked more about his approach. Whatever the case, it struck me that Obama had really gotten this one right.
Obama has missed on some biggies (he should have embraced the same plan McCain did for the bailout/mortgage situation; he should have a better environmental policy; he should be pro-life), and his leadership is lacking. In the end, I think he'll do little harm (SCOTUS stays balanced, taxes won't be reduced) and, for the most part, little good (health care plan, environmental policies both are insufficient). But he also offers a chance for some significant improvement in education, and this time around, for me at least, that's the winning combination.

We've come a long, long way together,
Through the hard times and the good
I have to celebrate you baby
I have to praise you like I should


Nate said...

I feel like I got to see a bit of the inner workings of your mind here, and while they are not the same thought processes I pursued on these issues, they have led you to some of the same conclusions.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Interesting... it hadn't really occurred to me that inferior thought processes could result in the same conclusions. ;-)

Jeff said...

Just out of curiosity, why is being pro-life important in a Presidential election? Seems to me that if there's one branch of government that has the least influence over abortion policy, it's the executive...

Luka said...

Very interesting. I'm with you on the supreme court things. Though, new justices may be more liberal than you think. If democrats can win a few Senate seats, they could break 60, theoretically. I must say I hope Pelosi loses her leadership role. I have disagreed with her almost as much as Bush. I'm also hoping Obama has some good picks for his cabinet. With McCain's choice of VP, I wouldn't put cabinit selection past him. I see Palin as purely a choice to help get elected, and almost useless in running the country. I'd be surprised if she could find Afghanistan on a map.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Jeff -

Abortion is important in a presidential election for two primary reasons (and a host of smaller ones that I won't mention): 1. Veto power. Congress passess periodic abortion issues (both pro-life and pro-choice), but never by a margin that could override a veto, so really the President has the legislative power with regard to abortion, and 2. Court appointments. Those are huge. Especially on major social issues like abortion.

Nate said...

Well Matt,

as a lowly medical student I would in no way expect you to mentally "stoop" to my level, however, you can take comfort that I have somehow muddled my way to the same conclusions as you. It probably took me longer and I probably dont fully understand it, but hey, I have learned to live with my limitations.

patric said...

oh thank god, i think your grandmother would have disowned you if your mother didn't for voting mccain. :-)

Matthew B. Novak said...

She wouldn't disown me for that. She might be disappointed with my vote, but that's not disowning level. That's say, "Oh Matthew" as she shakes her head and makes me jell-o level.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Nate -

I'm actually curious what your reasons are. I admit mine are probably beyond the norm, but I think there's some insight to them. Right? So what are your big reasons?

Nate said...

I wish I had more time to go into it all, but here are a few thoughts. I will freely admit that as a liberal I am more receptive to Obama's message, and have been from the beginning. Thats not to say that I blindly follow, au contraire, I have actually paid a great deal of attention to both campaigns, doing my best to sift through all the requisite BS our politics so readily accumulate.

Let me go ahead and lay out what my biggest concerns are. Healthcare, education, the war, the environment/alternative energy, and the economy.

When it comes to healthcare you and I both favor a single payer system, and while neither candidate is proposing anything like that, I do feel that Obamas plan is better than McCains, but more importantly, with democrats in power we are much more likely to see a move towards a better healthcare system.

Likewise, I think that democrats, and Obama specifically, place more value on education, McCain has not impressed me with anything he has said on the topic. Our educational system is in a shameful state and there is really no excuse. There is only so much the government can do though, a lot of the blame sits squarely on the shoulders of parents.

The War. I have been against it from the start, its been a colossal waste of money, lives, and has tarnished America's image. Obama has promised to end it as soon as possible, and yes I recognize that we cant just pull away willy nilly, but McCain would keep us over there much longer, and in so doing would cost us additional lives, billions, and drag out a war that should never have been initiated to begin with. What America needs is more diplomacy, and that is where Obama towers over McRage. I went to hear Obama speak here at UC sometime last year, and I was really impressed with his message about restoring America's image in the world. As someone who travels abroad as often as I can, I have a firsthand knowledge of the fall of our approval with foreigners, and I actually believe it matters. Uncle Ben had it right all along, "with great power comes great responsability".

The environment. Its good to hear both sides talking about our need to invest in alternative energy and start taking a more serious stance on the environment. I feel that the Republicans are late comers to the cause though and they are not absolved from their history of neglecting this area in the past. I have been a huge proponent of clean renewable alternative energy sources since the moment I first learned of them in gradeschool, its sad how long we have known of them and how little we have done to develope them. Our dependance on oil needs to end, its a limited resource, and its use is detrimental to the environment.

The economy. While neither party is blameless here, I do believe that the Bush administration and traditional Republican policies are responsable for, if not perpetrating, then allowing this current economic crisis to reach the point it has. Deregulation and greed are not a winning combination, thats a no-brainer. I believe that Obama has a better plan to help the economy recover, he has been preaching change, and I would like to see him follow through on it. And Obama is not a socialist, though frankly I wouldnt mind if he was. There is a lot of good ideas in socialism and I think countries such as Denmark show us that they can be pursued without becoming the USSR.

I know that the campaign is all just words, but if you cant hope, then what do you have?

Kendrick Novak said...

Education is mentions. I do want to point out that as an educator I have studied education a little bit. Besides No Child Left Behind and Clinton's Goals 2000 legislation, education primarily is set up to be run by the state. Besides broad overviews of the legislation, it is solely up to the state to figure out to enact it. Meaning, a lot of the blame could be also put on the individual states for not creating better education systems. That is not to say the federal government has not provided nearly enough money for the states to run their programs.

Just something else to think about.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Kendrick -

Although education is primarily an issue left to the states, a good number of states (or local communities, depending on the state's approach) have failed spectacularly with education. One of the common themes I heard in law school was that allowing the states to run their own programs (in lots of areas, not just education) was good because then each state could experiment with something different, and we could see what worked best. It was widely called the "states as laboratories" theory. It's a wonderful theory, but only works in practice if states copy the more successful systems. Unfortunately, with regard to education, that really hasn't happened so well. We grew up in a really good system (more high school graduates per capita in MN than anywhere else in the US), so it's hard to imagine the bad, but there are some frightfully bad systems out there.

If everyone copied MN, we'd be good. But that's not going to happen. So that's where a federal approach to help bring everything up to a minimum standard, to have certain programs and approaches, seems appropriate. Encouraging states to behave a certain way by offering them money is probably the best way to go.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Nate -

On health care, doesn't it concern you that Obama's plan will undercut movement towards universal health care? It's not a reason to vote McCain, but I'm just wondering if that gives you pause?

On the foriegn policy: aren't you afraid of the consequences a generation from now if we get out of Iraq the way Obama is proposing? I didn't support the war from the start either, but that's the reality now. Whether or not you supported back then is irrelevant. And, realistically, McCain would end the war as soon as possible too; the difference between the candidates just comes in where they define "possible". Second, McCain would be a lot more diplomatic than Bush too. We're not talking about another Bush here. Third, though Obama might bring up our international image some, 1. So would McCain, after we've had Bush, 2. What's the real consequence of that? and 3. As someone who lived abroad immediately following 9/11, I'm acutely aware that even then other countries didn't like our foreign policy. We had their sympathy, but not their support. That's just part of America's role in the world; they love us when we're saving them, they hate us when we're not.

Environmentally, though some Republicans are late comers, McCain isn't really. He's been on board with global warming for a long time. Democrats get bought by energy companies just like Republicans do, and Obama has even mentioned hydrogen fuel cells for crying out loud. You know why? Because that wouldn't go over well with his big contributors in the auto business. Obama's environmental policy is bought and paid for just like McCain's. Neither really cares.

The economy - I think Obama will be better here, but again, you're really looking backwards. Who cares who's responsible for the crisis (and it really is pretty much an even split of both parties, since the Democrats went for deregulation here too). What's relevant is what will fix the problem. Yeah, I don't think McCain's economic approach is any good; I'm in favor of tax and spend. But why in the world are you looking backwards? You're voting for who will fix problems now, not somehow voting retroactively against those who would cause the problems. You don't get to undo Bush with this vote. Be a responsible voter: focus forward.

Nate said...

Alright, so maybe I have been guilty of looking back some, but that doesnt change the fact that I believe Obama is the better of the two candidates. I am sick and tired of McCain claiming to be a "Maverick". He is as much of a Maverick as worker bee drone. And as for his judgement, the only major decision he has had to make so far in his campaign is who to choose as his running mate, and even though the whole slogan of his campaign is "Country First", he went and picked the least qualified individual in the history of our solar system. I understand the political reasons for the pick, fire up the conservatives and whatnot, but there is no freaking way anyone would agree that she was the best pick for our nation. So much for "Country First". And yes, I have a huge problem with Sarah Palin, because McCain is a old and feeble man with a history of health problems and it is a legitimate concern that she could end up running the country. I concede that McCain himself would not be a disasterous president, but he is a Republican most of the time, and I havent forgiven Republicans yet for inflicting Bush on us.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Oh Nate... Republicans didn't inflict Bush on us. Middle-of-the-road voters and Bill Clinton inflicted Bush on us. (There'll be a post about the Clinton part of that statement soon).

I agree, Palin was a horrible pick. It demonstrated McCain has a desire to be an outsider or a maverick more than he desires to be right.

I don't think McCain is going to die in office. He's relatively healthy for someone his age, and he'll have the best doctors looking after him. Given that Obama has a history of smoking and drug use and the KKK has a history of irrational violence, I'd say the two candidates are equally likely to die in office. But between Biden and Palin... no question. I was rooting for Biden from the start of the Democratic process.

But I'm still left wondering - what is it about Obama that you like? So far I've only got reasons why you don't like McCain.

aaron said...

Wow, I would think that a man with your knowledge and up bringing would not veer away from your first point. Abortion. After all, if you cannot get life right and right to live, how in the world can you get anything else correct? You are about to vote for a man who as a state senator voted to allow born, unwanted babies to left in a cold dark room to die.... not quite the man I want to have his hands on the pulse of this great country.
Secondly, although Palin was not the best choice, and McCain probably had no choice in choosing her, she does have leadership experience. That goes a long way in my book, especially if she is going to reside in Washington. After all, she is not tainted by the politics of DC. You are too young to remember the great President Reagan, but he had no experience with foreign travel much less policy and did a great job.
I think you need to rethink your decision. Do base you vote on education. After all, a president has very little control over such matters- those are decided by congress and veto overrides.
My 2 cents worth, after all, I am just a teacher with 8+ years of schooling.

aaron said...

I must agree with Matt on the fact that Republicans did not inflict Bush on us. Last I checked this was a democracy and we - the people voted him in. Not once, but twice... Just because you do not like republicans, do not blame them for W. It was The People who were upset at Clinton and voted for Georgie, and then, being content with his job, voted him in again!

Matthew B. Novak said...

Aaron -

Regarding the abortion issue, I'm going to take an excerpt from a conversation I've been having over on facebook:

"The crux of my argument is that the President's role in how many abortions there will be is extremely nebulous, in that it is intrinsicly tied to what congress and courts do, and that whether a candidate is pro-life or pro-choice is not really correlative to the effect they will have on abortion.

So, for example, Bush was very pro-life, but he really didn't do anything to reduce abortions. He maintained the status quo judicially, and he signed a bill outlawing partial birth abortions, but that bill was generated out of congress, not from the oval office. I see Obama and McCain as largely the same on abortion, in that neither of them will really have an effect on reducing or increasing the number that happen."

So yeah, Obama supported that bill in the Illinois Senate, but that doesn't mean that he'll ever even get an opportunity to take that kind of position on abortion. I'm trying to look realistically at the situation, and realistically neither candidate will bring major change on that issue. So though that certainly weighed into my vote (and heavily) it wasn't enough to carry me over to the Republican side of the line this time around.

As for Palin - it's not her lack of experience that frightens me. Clinton didn't have international experience either but he did a good job. There are plenty of other things about Palin that should be concerning.

And on education... see my response to Kendrick. That's largely left up to the states (so, for the record, is a lot of abortion policy), but the states have been doing a spectactularly bad job, and a federal initiative that gets them all pointing in the right direction is certainly called for. Plus the federal government has a lot of say when it comes to things like student loans for college.

Kendrick Novak said...

On education and having a the federal government screw it up.

Brainerd High School has a 99% graduation rate and sends at least 80% of its students to college (those stats may not be 200% accurate but last I heard they were close). According to No Child Left Behind it is a failing public school. The law enacted by the Federal government is actually hurting the good states. Plus, everyone in education knows that standards and standardized testing just shows the economics and where poor and rich people live.

If the federal government really wanted to help they wouldn't set standards but higher more teachers, give more money, and have higher standards for the teachers, that way the states that aren't as good as MN can be without imposing the teachers to bend over backwards for something that is not working.

AGJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AGJ said...

Oh Matthew, Matthew. You are starting to contradict yourself.

First you say that abortion is an important issue in a presidential race due to the premise of veto power. Then you turn around and tear into Bush for not doing enough to minimize abortion... but yet wasn't it his executive role, as you stated, to veto any legislative action on abortion? His main action on abortion was appointing justices that are of a more conservative, pro-Life bent.

Second, Kendrick correctly stated that education primarily is run by the state (or at least it should be). However, with legislation such as NCLB, and the federal gov't holding the purse strings, the states are hardly in control over how we set up our educational system.

By the way those of you that believe Bush put NCLB into play, you need to remember that it was the great Liberal from Massachusetts Teddy "I crashed my car and killed a girl" Kennedy that introduced this bill. However, as you stated earlier Matt, Bush did have the veto power...

As for setting up Universal Healthcare that is run through the halls of Government, that scares me. There are very, very few programs that are government run that operate efficiently or even run without going into the red (NCLB, SSI, etc). Good old deficit spending... that has worked well for us every time.

I would like to go back to your initial argument in the posting. You state that being pro-choice means you either haven't asked the relevant question (you have posed the wrong question though) or you've come to the wrong answer.

A man that can make decisions as Obama has on these most important issues to America's future has no business being the leader of the free world. That sort of question is "above his pay grade". Slimy answer from a slimy politician that hails from one of the most corrupt political machines since Croker's NY machine.

Matt you very eloquently state your views and provide strong arguments for them, I just don't agree that your arguments and views align with your conclusion.

Matthew B. Novak said...

First off, No Child Left Behind hasn't been funded like it needs to be, so a condemnation of that program isn't necessarily appropriate. Second, there's no reason the federal government couldn't come up with a better program. I don't like the idea of uniformly enforcing standardized tests or anything like that, but I do like the idea of the federal government laying out money to states who shape their education system in certain ways (such that it attracts the best teachers, and things like that).

ARJ - (Aaron still, or one of the other sibs? I don't know middle names...) As to your point about government inefficiency: I recently had this conversation too. There's simply no reason that government has to be inefficient, it's just circumstance that we've got ineffecient programs. As proof, I ask you to compare our big but somewhat efficient government to those governments in smaller, impovershed nations. We're still more efficient. Small does not equal better. Or heck, look within our own government at different federal agencies, and you'll see discrepencies in efficiency and responsibility. That's a clear indicator that you can be more or less efficient no matter what your size is. So the solution isn't "don't have government programs" or "leave it to private industry" (which, as we're seeing in the economy now, is a very bad idea), the solution is hightened accountability to increase efficiency.

Finally, on abortion... Yeah, I agree that his abortion position is grounds for questioning Obama's judgment, but there are good reasons to question McCain's judgment too, for example his death penalty position, his war position, his economic views, etc. We're dealing with two far from perfect choices here. That's sort of the whole premise of my post.

In that case, the question becomes, "realistically, what is best?". Since it is very unlikely that Obama will be overturning the conservative majority on the court, it's very unlikely that he'll be doing any damage to the pro-life position. Sure, he might veto any pro-life bills that come out of Congress, but it is very unlikely that any of those bills would come out of this congress. Which means he won't be vetoing any legislation that I favor anyway. Given the McCain wouldn't get a chance to put his stamp on any pro-life legislation, and that he himself is more or less pro-choice (not entirely, but he's not really pro-life either), I have trouble seeing the way he'd decrease abortions. Potentially with a strong conservative majority on the Supreme Court, but since we're talking about the most liberal justices getting replaced anyway, we're already going to be moving in a more moderate direction with Obama, and I think balance on the court is very important, given some of the other issues that conservative justices support (like capital punishment).

So even though Obama has screwed up on a major issue, in the next 4 years I don't see him doing any significant damage to the pro-life cause. It's all about looking realistically at what the next 4 years brings. And, like I said at the end of my post, realistically Obama will do little harm, and little good, but offers the chance for big improvement in education (by loosening purse strings to get teachers better pay (and thus attract the best teachers) and helping people pay for college.).

Nate said...


Bush is Republican and he is the candidate that the party put forward as someone they felt worthy of being president. I know that he won the election, but had he never been nominated as the Republican candidate to begin with, he would never have been president, thus, the Republicans are responsible for him and his actions, in my eyes.

As someone in the medical field I find your faith in the profession refreshing, but the reality is that advanced age has no cure and McCain is sitting squarely in the high risk category and it is extremely possible that he could die while in office, or at the very least suffer from serious health problems which could impair him and would directly interfere with the running of the country (good thing Palin is ready to step right up!). And as for citing Obama's history of drug use as something to be overly concerned about in regards to his health, he is not a current user, and its pretty clear that he hasnt sustained any permanent damage (associated with heavy abuse of drugs) and furthermore its unlikely that he will resume using them during his tenure in office. Though it could happen I guess. And as for the KKK taking him out, another possibility, but last I checked security on the president was pretty tight. I would trust the secret service to do a better job protecting him or McCain, certainly more than I would trust any doctor to keep McCain safe from the ravages of age related chronic illness. So, I will disagree with you on this, the candidates are not equally likely to die in office.

But you asked why I liked Obama. Ok, I like his message, I believe he is an intelligent and passionate man who legitimately has America's welfare as his driving motivation. He is not the most experienced person (yet), but no one is born with experience and I believe he demonstrates the capacity to lead, to rise to the challenge and become a great president. One of the things I look for in a president is someone who demonstrates intelligence, someone well educated who has the faculties to understand complex situations and make tough decisions. Heck, if I had any say in the matter I would impose a mandatory IQ test on anyone aspiring to a political office, with clear cut offs. Not that IQ is the best, or only means of determining intelligence, but I at least feel that it should be one of the factors in the equation. It should certainly be more than the popularity contest it currently is. There are probably a lot of people who would call me an elitist, but as far as I am concerned, there are worse names you could call me.

Eric Michael Peterson said...

Fatboy Slim... great song, I will read this all (the comments) and post more later... I am sure Pat is happy about your change of heart though.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Eric - It's not a change of heart if I was undecided.

Nate - But we live in a representative democracy, so even the "the republicans" put Bush forward through the primary system, it was really just the electorate that executed the process. So you can't blame "Republicans" but rather should blame "voters". The electorate nominated the guy and then confirmed him (twice) in the presidential election. To blame a nebulous political party doesn't do justice to the fact that the electorate has the power. Plus, if the Democrats had nominated anyone not horribly offensive in '04 Bush wouldn't have won again.

As for Obama's message... he tells anyone whatever they want to hear. You like that? You like that he'll make a promise and then break it without hesitation and tell people that's the honorable thing to do? And as for those other aspects, doesn't McCain possess those as well? I want specifics. Specifically what do you like about Obama. In what concrete, realistic ways do you see him being better?

So far all I've got is actuarial table science on why you've got reason to fear Palin becoming president. That's not much of a reason to vote for Obama.

Nate said...

Alright, so I shouldnt blame a "nebulous political party" for Bush, in exchange I will be blame the voters, those same voters who still belong to that same nebulous political party and are now supporting McCain. If I had no better reason I would vote Obama just to not be voting the same way that they are. I do have better reasons though.
I thought that my last post expressed the fact that one of the main things I find attractive (non-sexual) is Obama's intelligence. That is a legitimate preference, and no, McCain is not Obama's equal. Part of the natural aging process is decreased mental acuity, and McCain's cognitive function is on the decline. This is a judgement that I am making based on my exposure to them, which I will admit consists primarily of the 3 debates and stories run by CNN, but thats what I have to go on. Whether you agree with me or not, it is my judgement and what I base my decisions on.
Yes, I do recognize the fact that Obama is a politician, and as such his actions and words are influenced by the shifting political winds, but that does not negate the fact that he is the better choice of the two. As I have said previously, one of the things I like about Obama is his focus on education, I know you agree with me here so there is no need to go into it any further. I have my doubts about him as well, but less so than with McCain, like I said right from the beginning, I am a liberal, and as such I align myself with Obama under a common philosophy. McCain might not be more of the same, but he is closer to it than Obama is.

superscalifragilisticexpealidocious said...

"Afghanistan against Russia during the cold war, and then pulled out all our support when the war was over, it led, a generation later, to the Taliban"

Yeah, sadly this part of your actual blog is the only thing that stuck out to me because I am reading "A Thousand Splendid Suns" right now and it is about Afghanistan and all the stuff that has gone on over there and it's quite interesting.

other than that, All your words cluttered my head to much to get full meaning out of them at this time of night but that's okay.
I don't really know who I would vote for if I could.

By the way the "No Child Left Behind" program, I don't think that has done anything for our schools or education. Pointless and a waste of whatever money was being spent on it....

AGJ said...

Alright, I must step in again before heading to bed.

I find it interesting that many of the Obama supporters have come to support him using two different channels. The first of the examples is in regards to Sarah Palin. Paraphrasing: "I won't vote for McCain because he will die according to my timetables and then Palin will be President. God forbid we have an less experienced person the White House! So I am going to vote for Barry. He has experienced an awful lot during the campaign season." Without combing over every detail: Yes, Governor Palin's resume is a bit thin, but so is Barry's. Not only is his thin, but very, very questionable. Okay, so it is a push when we compare Barry to Sarah. That would be fine if we were comparing apples to apples, but we are not. Top of the ticket vs. the bottom...

Besides, do you really want to exercise your most important freedom on the premise of who is older/more likely to die? If that is the case, then you better start consulting Matt Damon, he is an expert on the issue...

The other example relies on Scary Barry's rhetoric. Without reprieve, supporters of Barry exclaim "he is so intelligent", "he shows such great leadership", I just love his stance on education".

Really? This is the reason you are supporting the man? In regards to these few statements, explain to me how he has shown any of these qualities in the past. When has he lead ANYTHING (besides the Motor Voter and Acorn suits, but I am sure you do not want to bring those up. Nor does the media who has sat on both stories for 2 years now...). This man is the epitome of a follower. He has showcased not one example of leadership outside of the realm of rhetoric. He has shown his ability to surround himself with the most questionable of people. But I don't think that is a plank he is standing on as of late. Almost impossible as he through those on that plank under the bus...

How about his intelligence? What proof do you have this man is intelligent? Because of the way he talks? Because of the way he carries himself? He, nor his affiliations ever released any substantive information on this man from his years in High School, nothing from his time at Harvard, and not even the smallest morsel from his time at Columbia. We have never caught a glimpse of one of his theses (does he have more than one?). So how could he pass your "IQ" test if he will not release any of this information.

As for education, this man has voted for a few pieces of legislation regarding education during his tenure in the Illinois State Senate. (He may have voted present, I have not delved that deep. - it seems to be a habit, though.) As for the state of Chicago's & Illinois' educational system, they are still left lacking. But they should not worry, Barack did such great deeds as a US Senator for education, the people of Illinois and the rest of the US should rest peaceably tonight knowing that he will continue his legacy in this issue.

As for me, I am not comfortable with this man. I will admit that I am not anybody special, but I am a teacher that actually looks at the issues and use my principles to judge the candidates.

My principles are my measuring stick and this Scary Barry just does not meet the requirements to run a Popsicle stand effectively.

It is above his pay grade.

Eric Michael Peterson said...

3 things.
Nate; The choice of Palin was somewhat of a pr move, but I challenge you to try and identify a more qualified REPUBLICAN FEMALE candidate who is viable. In my fairly extensive studies I have been through the numbers, there are about 30 Women in the US who are qualified to be a VP and only about half of those are Republican... So in all honestly Palin was not chosen out of left field in the political sense although not many Americans really knew who she was prior to her selection.

Aaron; I do not know you so I will try to be nice, but in reading your two or three posts I really just peg you as an angry Republican, I am sorry but that is really the image you are projecting. In response to your posts though, you claim that this is a democracy and "We" voted Bush into office... I would like to remind you of a few problems with that claim, we actually voted Gore into office, after all he won the popular vote (meaning more REAL people voted for him than Bush) so there is strike one for you. Strike two can come from an earlier election, in '92 Nader pulled in close to 20% of the popular vote... but received ZERO electoral votes... that’s right, 1/5th of the country voted for a man and in our electoral system that actually got him NO representation. I am not saying we do not have a democracy, I am just saying that the system is not as clear as you, or I, would hope. Moral of this story, do not make claims that “We” voted someone into office unless it is actually the case.

Matt; NCLB is balls... it just is. Even with EXCELLENT funding it still would not work to resolve many of the inequities in education. KC was 100% on the money when he said that all it really does is work to identify which school districts have rich and poor, or white and non white students. Blame whoever you want; NCLB is a shining example of failed federal regulation.

patric said...

anyone who thinks any political party is going to introduce legislation about abortion that would fundamentally change how it's dealt with is delusional. the republicans have been in charge of congress since 1996 until 2006, with a republican president from 200-2008. what did they exactly do about abortion? nothing.
reagan and bush senior also had 12 years between them, and nothing was done.
if they actually put the issue to an actual vote, through legislation or a constitutional amendment, then the issue would be over. so what would they scare people with then?

oh yeah, gay marriage. which, interestingly enough, you don't see a lot of action on either.

thank god for morals.

i don't care about pro-life or pro-choice. it does nothing to affect my life. and, how many of these "pro-life" candidates are all for war and the death penalty? is it really pro-life or pro-birth. give the kid a life worth living. health care, education, opportunity. life isn't just one moment.

Nate said...


you vote your conscience and I will vote mine. Eric is right, you come off as an angry Republican, whereas I am very aware that I come off as an unapologetic liberal, so chances are fairly slim that we will see eye to eye on too many things.


You may be correct that there were few eligible Republican women for McCain to choose from, but why on earth should he be forced to choose a woman who is unqualified, just for the sake of choosing a woman?! It wasnt a choice made with the best interest of the country in mind, it was a publicity stunt.


that whole bit about giving the kid a life worth living, well put.

Eric Michael Peterson said...

Nate, I agree it did not have to be a woman, but it should make you think about the state of our nation that we do not have any particularly qualified woman to run for VP, or president for that matter... I know this is unrelated but it just seems kind of sad to me.

Eric Michael Peterson said...

To follow up my last post when I say qualified I also mean viable, that means their public and private life, and everything that entails, needs to stand up to a reasonably high level of scrutiny which makes a LOT of qualified people, men and woman alike, not at all viable.

AGJ said...

First off, I am not Aaron. He should not bear the ridicule that follows my statements. My name is Alex (in case you don't know, it means "Brave Protector"... I hope to live up to that).

First off, I thank God for the "choice" that my wife (not once, but twice) made. For that decision has led me to the situation I am in now, feeding my youngest. If she made the "choice" to kill my youngest, then I would be comfortably in bed sleeping (if I was Pro-Abortion). Again, I thank God that he has not only blessed my family not once, but twice with children.

As for being angry, you are correct (I would say right, but you might get that confused as well). I am angry about many things.

I am angry that we as a nation are in the state we are. I am angry that people do not understand that we are not a democracy, but a representative democracy. Meaning we elect people to make decisions in our stead (in laymen's terms).

I am angry that after 8 years of Bush's term we are right where we were when he took office. We are in a recession (SMarket 8-9k+ vs SMarket 8-9k), we are involved in an unpopular war (okay, Clinton's ended before he left office), Bin Laden is presumably still alive and well, and it looks as though another liberal will take office. Please correct me if I am wrong.

However, I am not only correct, I am angry. Just as a few of you have noticed. I am not Al Franken angry, no one should be that nuts. At least not that nuts and run for office (endorsed by a major political party).

I am angry at the people that have lived off of welfare for the past 16+ years (during some of the most lucrative times and lowest unemployment rates) and are now the squeakiest wheel about not finding a job.

I am angry that certain people took advantage of the less fortunate just to advance their stock portfolios and/or their political ambitions. See FMae, FMac, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Enron Officials, Henry Paulson, Goldman Sachs, and a host of others.

I am angry at the fact the house I built with my blood, sweat, and tears (yes, it was me & my family) is worth less than the price I built it for.

I am angry that we are still in not one, but two wars that were supposed to be over months after they started. I am angry that my friends are to tour Iraq not for the second, but the third time.

I am angry at the Federal Gov't that enacts legislation that requires schools to meet "minimum requirements" and "Special Ed needs" but does not specify nor fund these initiatives. The largest department in my High School is Special Ed at 10 licensed teachers accounting for no less than 5% of the populous. The next department in regards to # of teachers is Math and Science at 6 teachers. Really? Why are we pushing STEM and IDEA then? If we do not have the FTE available, how are we able to address these concerns? The Federal Gov' makes a lot of promises, but does not follow through. As my Dad says: Don't write checks your ass can't cash.

I am angry at the fact that I have to choose between the lesser of two evils in every election (Presidential) that I have been able to vote in.

I am angry at the fact that I (as well as my wife) have been called a racist because I won't vote Obama by people that are now voting for the first time in their adult lives (voting because he is black and it is someone they can relate to).

I am angry at people that say that I am throwing my vote away because I will not vote for one of the two major party candidates. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it eric.

Again, in reference to eric, I will state: I am angry at people that do not understand a Representative Democracy. In regards to your statement that "We" (and I am assuming you mean the people) voted Gore into office, you are correct. We, the people of Minnesota voted for Gore in the Electoral College. There were a number of states that voted Gore into office via the Electoral College. However, we were set up as a loose collection of states (by the GrandMasters of the Constitution) and subsequently the Electoral College was framed. And, Subsequentlly 200+ years later, Bush was elected.

I am also Angry at the fact that Al Gore stalked GW around the stage leading to his (GW's) win in the end. If it were not for this stupid act, we would be in a vastly different debate.

I am also angry at those of you in the DFL did not support Hillary Clinton. I know what to expect from the Clinton machine. At least they are more middle ground (like McCain). Now I am left with voting for a RINO or a Socialist. Joseph Heller should have penned his novel 47 years later on this subject.

Those of you that peg me as angry, you are correct. But Republican, I am not. I do not follow their ideals lockstep. I am not unapologetically anything outside of sticking to my own ideals.

As I stated before, I have my own principles and those principles are my measuring stick.

If you want to know those, please email me, I will gladly indulge this info. If not, then be happy in your conclusions of me as and Angry Republican (or as my students put it, as a "dirty republican").

Matthew B. Novak said...

Oh boy... where to begin? First, to everyone, I expect this to stay polite. Eric, your angry Republican thing comes dangerously close to just being insulting (as opposed to legitimate criticism), so watch it there. Also, you do know Aaron. Also, generally speaking, it's probably easier to put the angry tag on the Democrats, given they're the ones reacting against the institution.

Ok, that said, I'll start with Alex -

First off, on education, I think Obama will be significantly better, and he's highlighted some key areas (specific early-childhood education, better funding, and help with college loans). I don't know that his "present" votes in Illinois are relevant to that discussion, nor do I think passing responsibility for the Illinois school system to him is really appropriate.

That all said, I think you've got a good point on the experience issue. My criticism of Palin has nothing to do with her experience, and I think Nate should reassess that part of his criticism given his support of Obama and the fact that so many good leaders (Clinton, Reagan) had little experience before they took office.

I also think your criticism of Obama's intelligence is fair in so far that we can't fully assess his intelligence; I honestly don't know that he's smarter than McCain either, and I'm sure McCain would meet whatever minimum Nate set out if he were to have that kind of litmus test. But I think you went a bit overboard in your criticism, and I don't think it's really fair to look all the way back and say "we don't know what he did in college", etc. Because there are big areas of McCain's life that I know little about, and to base our assessment on such minutiate is troubling to me. For the most part we know that Obama is an intelligent fellow, and I think the proper way to judge the candidates is on the realistic effect their policies will have.

I'd also suggest that a little less hyperbole might help you make your points more effectively. But all-in-all, I think you raise some fair points.

[I see now that you put up another response too... since I think I'll address some of the issues in other responses, I'll just let this response stand as complete and not respond to your latest comment. At least not yet.]

Matthew B. Novak said...

Nate -

You've suggested that Obama is more intelligent than McCain, but if intelligence is really your main criteria, then why not write in some Mensa member? I wasn't looking for general qualifications when I asked for specific reasons you support Obama, I was looking for the way that will translate into policies. I get that you're on board with me on education, but outside of that, what're your reasons for preferring Obama?

Second, I'd suggest you try to work on the "unapologetic liberal" thing... just like asking Aaron to tone down the hyperbole, this is something that could really help you come across more clearly. The reason I've kept challenging you is because you're coming across so unapologetic. I feel like you're saying "I like Obama better and I don't need a reason", and that's just as disturbing as the opposite. You're smart enough to see why.

Finally, you've suggested twice now that McCain's age is playing into your vote, both on his "likely to die" status and on his "diminished mental faculty" status. Frankly, you're starting to sound a little bit prejudiced against the old. What if, all other things being equal, the Dems were running the old one and Republicans the young guy? That'll probably happen in the not-too-distant future, so you might want to re-assess on this point. Take the long view, and don't embrace any justification now that you might end up regretting in the future (this is my point to people who support Obama's private financing too. Though Obama is able to raise funds from the middle class, generally speaking private funding greatly benefits the wealthy and corporations, and that's not something we want to be embracing).

Matthew B. Novak said...

Patric -

I don't think it's fair to say the Republicans have done nothing about abortion. The partial-birth abortion ban is pretty significant. But for the most part, at least right now, neither party looks willing to take a fundamental, sweeping approach to the abortion issue. That's a big part of why it didn't swing me over to McCain; realistically there'll be little difference between the two candidates.

But I do think you should care about pro-life vs. pro-choice, and I'm a little concerned that you don't. You're right to say that pro-life isn't just about abortion, it's about quality of life too, but you've got to be careful not to make it an either-or game. Because you can be pro-life and also pro-quality of life. They aren't mutually exclusive. You also want to be careful to gaurd against the kind of restatement that Nate added to your position, that basically says life is only worth living if it's a certain quality. 1. Because that ignores the inherent goodness of life, and 2. That's a damning line to draw. To say some people's lives aren't worth living is about as rotten a thing as you can do.

I also want to say that your "it doesn't affect me" principle is troubling. That's the same logic that kept people from working against slavery, that allowed Hitler to take power and kill so many Jews, and the examples are really endless. We have an obligation to care about others, and to use the political process for the benefit of those less fortunate than ourselves, not just for our own improvement. I would take the position that if you're voting for Obama because he's going to lower your taxes, then you're doing it for the wrong reason. If you're voting for Obama because he'll lower taxes for the less fortunate, then you're on to something.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Eric -

Careful on your statements. The angry republican thing is borderline. Also, you do know who Alex is (and Aaron too). So careful about your assumptions too. I'm also with Alex on the "we voted him in" thing. Not just because the shape of our system, or because a majority did vote for Bush the second time, but because the electorate is responsible for our government. On a fundamental level, We, The People, are responsible for our government, and to pass off responsibility to one group or party or whatever does a disservice to Democracy, whatever the form.

As for NCLB; I'm not defending it in any way. I think it would work better with funding, but when I talk about federal educaiton programs, I'm not talking about anything like NCLB. What I actually picture is much closer to the way the government doles out money for highways. For example, the federal government said "if your state law says drinking age is 21, then you get a lot more money for highways." So of course, the states all made it 21. With regard to education it would be more like, "if you require your teachers to have certifications X,Y,& Z, then you get money" or "if you offer these discounts to college students you get money" or "if you have continuing education classes for teachers that accomplish goals 1,2,& 3, then you get money". That way it gets all of the states pointed in the right direction, but still leaves them with significant discretion.

Nate said...


Thank you for explaining your position more fully, I am actually angry about many of the same things that you are, so I can sympathize with your rancor. Furthermore, I would like to apologize on behalf liberals that you or your wife should be falsely labeled as racists, that is a horrible insult to level at someone, and though racism has popped up its ugly head this election season, to arbitrarily accuse someone of it for not supporting Obama is ludicrous and offensive.


My disapproval of Palin is not based not only on her lack of experience, but also on her poor judgement. I find it infuriating that she would look you in the eye and tell you that she honestly believes she is qualified to run the nation. Come on, "know thyself" woman! If I was shadowing a surgeon in the ED and he offered to let me lead on an emergency fasciotomy to save someones life from necrotizing fasciitis, then I know damned well that I am nowhere near prepared to do that. As a second year medical student I have an ever expanding body of knowledge, but zero experience and it would be wrong for me to accept that offer and takes someones life into my inept hands. Thats how I feel about Palin, she should know her own limitations well enough to have declined the position, until a future day when she has earned it. I see Obama as a surgical resident, someone who has been doing rounds for some time now, and his choice of Biden as his running mate is equivalent to having a steady handed attending on hand to give him small pointers and encouragement and he wields the scalpel.
It may be true that I come off as overly harsh on the elderly, but I do feel I am bringing up legitimate concerns. Frankly, I hope that McCain does remain healthy and vigorous, especially if he wins this election, but its irresponsible to not at least consider the consequences if anything unfortunate should befall McCain.

On some levels I feel that Obama is the better candidate, and on other others I feel that he is "less disagreeable" than the alternative. If Kucinich had any shot at this thing I would vote for him in an instant, but I feel that I would be wasting my vote since I do prefer Obama to McCain.

Kendrick Novak said...


Thanks for explaining the views on federal government and education. That would increase education so much more (standards for teachers adn subsequent money) than NCLB (which only gives money to those schools performing, which then schools start to lose money because once you hit 90%-100% you can't increase any more, very little, or very slowly).

Also, Hey Alex and Aaron. I didn't realize it was you guys. How's it going.

Eric Michael Peterson said...

Along with KC I didn't realize who I was talking to either, until my wife informed me.

As an aside I am sorry for calling you an angry Republican. It was a flash judgment that I made hastily late last night. I am sorry. Along that line though I am not a Democrat or a Republican.

Also I am sorry if I improperly addressed one of my comments. I was, simply put, angry at the assessment that "we" put him into office. And I meant, strictly speaking, that the popular vote did not put him into office. So in some regard I feel that the electorate system that we put together so long ago failed us a little bit in the 2000 election.

I suppose that the “we” issue here is only an issue depending on how you define we… we the electorate your right, we the people, then no.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Nate -

Your distaste of Palin's judgement again seems all tied up in her experience. You just don't like her particular assessment that she's qualified to run the country. That goes right back to experience.

Even if your elderly criticisms are well founded (and I'm not conceeding that they are), I sincerely doubt they'd carry the day if the parties were reversed. Be honest... that's true, isn't it?

Matthew B. Novak said...

Eric -

"W the electorate, you're right, we the people, then no."

I still disagree with you. Regardless of the format, regardless of popular vote, regardless of any other factor, we, the people, are responsible for our government. Voters and non-voters alike are responsible for the outcome of elections, and should be held responsible. People who say "don't blame me, I voted for the other guy" or things like that really irk me.

Plus, we're all responsible for engaging in the public discourse and convincing their fellow citizens. So everyone - we, the people - are responsible for the outcomes. We are our own government, and there's no passing the buck.

Nate said...


Its not just lack of experience that makes Palin such an unsavory candidate, frankly, I hope she never gains any further executive experience.

Look, Bush has oodles of experience now, and he is as unfit to be president today as he was when first he ran for the position. Experience isnt everything. Palin's whole "hockey mom" who gets where Joe the plumber is coming from is really reminiscent of the drinking Buddy Bush, as far as I am concerned being average is not a quality that should be elevated to the oval office. The kicker for me is her sense of entitlement, the fact that she honestly believes she deserves to be VP, and if anything should befall McCain, president!

Let me put this into perspective for you. I believe that its important for a person to know there own strengths and weakness's. I know that I suck at math and would never make it as a world class astrophysicist, though I find the field fascinating. If I studied long and hard enough I could probably gain enough competency to work in the field (experience), but I would never be one of the best and the brightest, and certainly would not become president of the astrophysics society.

As far as going after McCain for being old harder than I would if the tables were switched and it was an old Democrat running, I think that has much more to do with Palin than it has to do with strictly party affiliation. If McCain had selected a more capable VP then I would not be as concerned with his health. Win or lose, I sure hope McCain stays healthy!

Eric Michael Peterson said...

Matt; you and I will have to agree to disagree. People who say I voted for the other guy really irk me as well, but if a majority of the people can say I voted for the other guy then I see a flaw in the system.

Off of the topic of the Electoral College I do agree with your 100% on the issue of abortion, the other week in church the priest gave a great homily about how Catholics have a responsibility to vote on a large number of issues, larger than just prolife/prochoice. The priest’s argument was that it was our responsibility to gauge the importance of any number of issues in any given election cycle. In this year’s cycle the prolife argument does not seem to matter as much. In 2004 I voted Bush because I wanted the seats that were up in the Court to go more conservative. In 2008 I am not as concerned.

AGJ; I understand your frustrations with a lot of things, you talk about your house not being worth what you put into it and I sympathize. I too am angry about the economic crisis that now leaves less than a half dozen lenders in the country available to my wife and me to consolidate our student loans with (and as of my last check into it only 1 of those lenders is actually reasonable about their terms). Not quite the same anger but they stem from the same problem.

Also I agree whole heartedly with your assessment that we are stuck voting for the lesser of two evils. I felt that way in '04 and I feel that way in '08.

On Election Day I will be voting for Obama not because I am a Democrat, not because I can identify with the man, and most certainly not because I feel he is the most fit to run the country. I am voting for him because over the last 2 years I have watched John McCain self destruct on himself. He was the shining beacon of hope in my mind for this country, but over the last 6 months I have just felt that he has fallen so far, far enough to let Obama pass him in my point of view.

Yes I will vote for a man that I do not believe to be capable of running our country the best, I am voting for the lesser of two evils as I see it.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Eric -

My point wasn't whether or not there's a flaw in the system; I see arguments both for and against the electoral college. My point was that we have to own our government, and that includes the results of every election, no matter the system that led to those results. We all know the ground rules going into the game, and if someone you don't like gets elected then your response has to be "I didn't do enough to achieve a different result". We are all responsible for every result.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Oh, I also think it's funny because I've been hearing a handful of Democrats this year talk about how wonderful the electoral college is because it should help the election break Obama's way this time around. It's funny the way people can change their tune on this sort of thing.

patric said...

why should i care about abortion? i'm not having an abortion. i don't have a girlfriend, and when i did, it certainly wasn't a concern.

someone else having an abortion easily has as much impact on my life as two guys getting married.

if we really wanted to get rid of abortion, why is the only way to legislate it? my grandmother always said of abortion, "they did it before, but it wasn't healthy. the mother died just as often as the fetus."

i think abortion is actually a symptom of a different problem - unwanted pregnancies. if there weren't any unwanted pregnancies, whether through abstinence or birth control, then there wouldn't be any abortions.

i will never allow pro-life /choice be a defining issue for me. should there ever actually be a constitutional amendment banning abortion, that i could vote for. but a candidate who might vote on some legislation that deals with some lawyer-speak detail about something having to do with a certain part of how abortion may or may not be carried out... bah.

and if you really want to equate the fact that i don't care about one particular issue with nazi germany, go for it, but it doesn't really work.

Eric Michael Peterson said...

"We all know the ground rules going into the game". I think you would be surprised at how few people even know what the electoral college is.

Mike said...

Been following the discussion with some interest for a while, and haven't commented because I didn't really have anything to add (not having strong feelings either way). But I do have to take exception with one statement: "If a majority of the people can say I voted for the other guy then I see a flaw in the system." I would agree with you if you weren't referring to Gore-Bush in 2000. But since that appears to be the focus, I feel compelled to point out that, though more people voted for Bush than Gore, neither had a majority. Bush wasn't the first person to become president after losing the popular vote (that would be Rutherford B. Hayes, which is admittedly not the greatest of company) and he probably won't be the last. I like the Electoral College in principle, but I won't necessarily argue that by design it can't be improved.

Either way, I gotta agree with Matt: even with the Electoral College being what it is, We the People are still ultimately responsible for our government.

Quinn said...

I've been watching this conversation for a while, too. I've not the legal mind (or one inclined to debate the way you do) to joust with you fellows, but I'd like to opine that since WE the people are responsible for voting whomever into whatever office, there must be a system set up to give ALL people fair and unbiased views of the candidates. If not unbiased views, the ability to access equally biased views of each.

I think that the average person (Joe?) doesn't do enough research about this decision they're about to make. Too many are narrow voters as a result.

WE, the people, works, but I think it's a pipe dream until enough people are thinking it out, debating it out, like y'all are here.

I try to listen to all sorts of reports, from NPR, to Catholic news services, to you guys here, and much more. I feel that come 11/4, I'll be well prepared...even if I'm still wavering now.

Anonymous said...

Matthew Matthew Matthew -
The liberal world of law and DC have gotten to you. Life IS the most precious gift - having a friend's child born at 29 weeks just makes it illogical for abortion to be allowed into the 8th month. The very fact he would support tax dollars in contributing to this atrocity ills me. Let our intellect nor our society's worship of money not get in the way of moral responsibilities.
Balance of power is important - an all dem house, judicial system (don't kid yourself its not bipartisan), AND presidency is going to cost us all not only in our pocketbook but in the moral standing in heaven. And YES, that still matters.

Anonymous said...

Let our intellect nor our society's worship of money not get in the way of moral responsibilities.

was suppose to read:

Let not our intellect or our society's worship of money get in the way of moral responsibilities.

and they say proof reading is overrated. :)

Matthew B. Novak said...

Anon -

I'm not quite sure what you're getting at with the 8th month thing. I don't think abortion should be legal at all, much less into the 8th month. Even the most expansive bill being promoted by pro-choice advocates (FOCA) doesn't allow abortion in the 8th month.

As for whether the liberal world of law/D.C. has gotten to me... first, I've always been pretty liberal fiscally. And on abortion I'm very pro-life. I'm also in favor of addressing the causes of abortion, as well as outlawing the symptom, so in that sense I guess I'm liberal, but in no way to I advocate legality of abortion. Second, I don't think the world of law can really be accurately described as liberal. There are liberals and conservatives in law, just like there are everywhere else.

Finally, I'm not sure what court you're considering when you say that it isn't bipartisan, but right now the Supreme Court has what is generally thought of as a 5/4 split in favor of conservatives. I'm not sure who you'd suggest is a liberal in conservative's clothing.

I've been considering putting up a post about just how abortion played into this decision. Because it did. It just wasn't enough to carry the day, and with good reason, because neither candidate is really going to do much on the abortion issue. If McCain were going to affect real change, then maybe that would have been enough to get me over there.

Nate said...

I am gonna have to weigh in on this one. Life. Life is precious and should be protected at all costs(can you tell I am in training to be a Doctor?). That being said, I believe that new life should be something that arises under optimal conditions, by which I mean it should be brought about by those who are committed and prepared to do their best to see that the new life form is cared for, loved, and given a chance to thrive, or failing all that, is at the very least WANTED. I feel that it should be our goal to make every pregnancy a wanted pregnancy, and while I am a believer in people bearing the consequences of their actions, I think that it is not in the best interest of the potential child, the irresponsible and/or unwilling mother, or even society as a whole for every ill-conceived conception, pun intended, to develop into a new life form.

Its curious to note that more than 1/3 of all conceptions are naturally aborted, most by mothers who never realize they were pregnant to begin with. The mechanism for these abortions is largely unknown, but many times it has to do with the fact that the fetus is not developing quite right, or the environment is not perfectely suited for life at that time, so the mother's body scraps the project so it can start over again and maybe get it right the next time. Tell me, are these natural abortions wrong?

I know it comes down to a game of line drawing, but why shouldnt we use our minds and free will to make the same decisions that the human body makes subconsciously? Dont get me wrong, the moment that a child is born, it is a free living entity and needs to be protected at all costs, but when it is little more than a potential life form completely dependent on the mother for sustenance of every kind, if you cant tell the mothers body not to terminate it, then neither should you tell her mind not to. In both situations the environment is evaluated and determined to be inappropriate for new life.

I think the real focus of the whole "life" debate should shift to absolute prevention of unwanted conceptions to begin with. Abstinence, contraceptives, sterilization, whether temporary or permanent, all these things are within reach.

Look, life is complex, and anytime you boil an issue down to a single, fundamental, binary choice, you are losing focus of the whole picture and all the area in between. Let me give you an example from biology.

Many of you out there might believe that being male or female, physiologically (NOT talking about gender roles or sexuality here), is a clear cut and simple differentiation that can be made about any given individual human. Would you be shocked to learn such is not the case?
Surprise! Though rare, there are PLENTY of documented cases of human beings who dont quite fall into either category. Without delving too deeply into the underlying mechanics, it has to do with hormone ratios during critical development stages, chromosomal imbalance and other such related concepts, and the results are a whole spectrum of "in between" sexes. This is seen not only in physiological manifestations such as unique combo genitals and body hair growth patterns, but also in the psyche of the individuals and their expression of traditional male or female genders.

If there is one thing that I have learned since coming to medical school, it is that NOTHING is black and white, and often as naught, its that tricky gray area that requires the most attention.

Therefore I say, let us shift the focus away from "abortion is murder " and prevent all abortions out-right by preventing all unwanted pregnancies, but until that day comes, abortion cannot be completely banned without carefully and thoughtfully evaluating the circumstances under which it is sought. Counseling is always the first step, mothers should know the enormity of the decision they are making and careful evaluation should be made every time.

And when it comes to abortions that are performed to save the mothers life, I wont budge an inch on this one, the mothers life always comes first. Period. This carries over to my stance on the death penalty, which is that it is wrong.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Nate -

Oh, so much material. But I'm just going to direct you to a post I put up a long time ago.

No one is going to disagree that we need to address the unwanted part of unwanted pregnancies (or at least you'll find very few people who disagree on that point). But that's not mutually exclusive with outlawing abortion. So to say "we should focus on making sure that all pregnancies that occur are wanted," is not also to say "therefore we shouldn't outlaw abortion". If you want to argue that abortion shouldn't be outlawed, you've got to make the argument that the fetus' life is less valuable than the mother's desire to be free from carrying the pregnancy to term. Period. That's all there is to it. Adoption allows the mother to be free from caring for the child post-birth, so the only relevant thing that's gained by abortion is the ability to be free from carrying the pregnancy to term. I just don't see that as a superior claim than the right to life.

But go read my post on when life starts. Let me know what you think. My views have nuanced some since then, so I can add more to the discussion if you want, but that's a good starting point.

Matthew B. Novak said...

And for Anonymous, I hope that comment clears up any linger doubt they might have had about my pro-life status.

Also, to Anon - when you brought eternal ramifications into the quesiton of our political support (suggesting that heaven might be on the line with a single vote) you raised a very interesting question. I will agree that a vote is a moral decision, and, while I don't think a wrong vote could be a grave enough sin to keep one from heaven, I do think that a particular vote can be sinful or not. However whether or not it is sinful is completely contingent on whether or not it is a vote consistent with your conscience, not some external factor. This is pretty much what the Catholic Church teaches - that we're obligated to weigh all the factors and vote our conscience - and that's certainly what I'm doing here. Our consciences might come to different conclusions, and you are more than welcome to try to persuade me to your view (in fact, I encourage it), but it isn't appropriate to suggest that whether a vote is sinful or not rests on some external factor.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Patric -

You should care about abortion for all sorts of reasons. The "it doesn't affect me" argument is exactly what led to the earlier cited examples. It sticks, whether you acknowledge it or not. But primarily, you should care because you have an obligation to care. Our humanity calls us to be concerned about the plight of others. In abortion, whether you're focused on the mother or the fetus, someone is in a bad situation, and therefore you should care about it. You'll probably never be homeless, but you probably care about the candidate's approach to poverty. You'll probably never visit Iraq, but you probably care about each candidate's stance on the war. We are called to care about these things by our very nature. For you to just say "I don't care" is, quite frankly, frightening.

patric said...

if it frightens you that i don't care..


you can't talk me into caring. it just doesn't matter to me. sorry it bothers you, but it doesn't bother me. and it doesn't bother me that it bothers you.

Matthew B. Novak said...

This is the same Patric who was thinking of running for office, right? You might want to be careful how far you take the "I don't care about anyone but myself" bit.

Nate said...


I have not read your treatise on abortion, 1. because the link you provided is broken, and 2. because I really dont have time to get into a big debate on this this issue right now, though I wouldnt be opposed to doing so in the future. The thing is that I have a number of very large exams looming this week and next, so a more responsible use of my time is studying for them.

I think its a fairly safe bet to say that you are pretty firm on this issue, and I can guarantee you that I am every bit as secure in my own beliefs, so while I do not expect to influence or change you on this, you should extend that same courtesy to me and realize that while I respect your position I will not be swayed by anything you say, no matter how eloquently you may say it.

It sounds to me like you want to get into a game of line drawing, but that doesnt interest me, and furthermore I feel my post on the topic really stands up to most any criticism you could level against it, so there is no need for me to say any more on the topic.

I am probably gonna drop out of posting for awhile, its been a great distraction this past week or so, but I really need to focus on these exams now. Thank you for harboring an environment conducive to the discussions we have been having, its been pleasant. I feel like I stepped out of my usual role of questioner and opened up a bit, responding to your challenges has helped me consolidate my thoughts and examine the reasons behind some of the beliefs I hold, as well as get a glimpse at how some other people are responding to the same stimuli in different, yet justified ways. Its been enriching! peace out.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Nate -

I totally understand about bowing out for a time. Please check out that post when you get a chance, even if it's after your exams. I'll get a working link up here soon.

That all said, I do want to address the issue of being secure in our positions. Because, although I subscribe very firmly to the views I hold, I am always open to new ideas and the possibility that my mind may be changed. I'm always willing to listen, to see where I'm wrong, and to correspondingly change, to eliminate that error. And I always assume that I will be able to engage in fruitful discussion with others, whether they are ultimately convinced or not. I expect intellectual honesty, and a part of that is willingness to honestly listen and consider what the other side is saying. I think your approach, the "I can't change your mind/you can't change mine" is completely inconsistent with an intellectually honest approach. If you can't ever be swayed, then, quite frankly, that means you've got a closed mind.

So, I invite you to, when you have a chance, engage me in the abortion discussion. I think you'd be pleasantly surprised. But I ask that if you do so, you bring an honestly open mind to the conversation. I'm not asking you to abandon your convictions, just to listen with a critical eye to where you may improve your views. You'll get nothing less with me, and you'll get a lot more out of the discussion with that approach.

Quinn said...

At the risk of coming off as a blind follower of the Catholic faith, I believe that any and all pregnancies are a miracle and caused by God.

I also think that life starts at fertilization, a process which even a widely used medical textbook calls a miracle.

Since miracles are the work of God and none other, birth is a work of God and there must be a reason, every single time. We can question the instances in which birth or fertilization occurs, but who are we to question God's plan for us?

And yes, we do need to be concerned with our fellow humans and be open to hearing any and all sides of an argument. The second lifelong learning ends, so do we. I think it's fantastically plucky to go out and state that no one can change our mind on a certain issue, but I will hazzard to say that the person is really just putting on a front.

aaron said...

I have not finished reading all of the posts here because you argument for natural abortion stopped me in mid sentence. I get that you are saying 1/3 of all pregnancies are natural ended. So, why is it wrong for humans to it?????
To actually stand behind an argument that "it will probably happen any way" is a cowardly way. I know a few people in my life who are living with cancer. They will battle the disease (for a long time I hope) but eventually the cancer will win and one way or the other claim their life.... so why don't I just save them the suffering and cost and end their life now??? HOW INSANE!!!!!
These statements make me think that you and Jack Kavorkian would have made great friends. After all, most lives are ended by nature, so why do we as humans not take it into our own hands?
It is my belief and most of the living world that one person ends another's life its called MURDER. That is why we as humans should not perform or support abortion.

Nate said...


I guess I have to respond to some of the things being said here, study break!

Lest you think me closed minded, allow me to affirm that I am very open to discussions with people who have different viewpoints and different ideas than my own, and learning from them. That has been my approach to life and I do much of my learning from listening to the perspectives of other people. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who says I am not a learner.

That being said, I will qualify the comment I made earlier about "not being swayed" which has apparently been misunderstood by those reading what I wrote. What I was attempting to convey is that, I do not haphazardly hold fast to an idea. If I am willing to defend a position I hold, its because I have already put a great deal of thought into it, I have already considered many angles, and while I welcome your unique insight, it will not significantly alter my outlook. That is to say, I am not going into such a discussion "blind" and sticking to my guns on obstinacy alone, its NOT the first time I have considered your side of the argument. Thats not to say that it wont be productive, or that your input will not help me nuance my own views, I merely meant that you are not going to swing me 180 on this. For you to imply that it is a breach of intellectual honesty on my part is frankly a bit insulting, I find it to be more a question of intellectual integrity.

Look, I respect your position, and there are many people who I admire who agree with you on this, so I look forward to a future time when we can debate it.


Stayed tuned for a future date when Matt and I go toe to toe in an "intellectually honest" discussion of abortion, and if you want to have any voice in the debate I would encourage you to look beyond the strict dogmatic position of the Catholic Church and find your own reasons and your own voice on the matter. Obviously your faith will play a role in shaping your beliefs, but surely you have some original thoughts of your own, or was your whole spiel about life-long learning merely a fashionable sound bite?

Look, you dont know me, but I invite you to get to know me, and then hopefully you will come to appreciate that I really do listen to other peoples point of view, and even when I disagree with them I can still respect where they are coming from. I dont jump to conclusions and am not hasty about making judgements. My views are not set in concrete and I am always willing to hear new arguments and add to my knowledge, because learning is growth, and growth is life. However, its important to have a foundation upon which to stand, and a foundation is carefully constructed and not easily, nor fundamentally shifted once set in place. I think it would be a pretty safe bet to say that your foundation is your Catholic faith, and there are a specific set of beliefs that come with the territory, i.e. your pro-life stance. Many of my relatives are Catholic, a shining example of which is my cousin Matt who runs this show, but I am not. Religion doesnt come into this debate for me (I am a Christian and if you want to go more into my specific religious views we can do that as well).

I know you dont agree with me on this point, but I do not believe that fertilization is a miracle, and I dont know what medical texts you have been reading which back your claim. Religion aside on this matter (my viewpoint not yours, so just listen and disagree) fertilization is a fairly common, and statistically probable phenomena which has the potential to lead to a new life.

Question for you about this, if every fertilization is a miracle, does that imply that every copulation resulting in a fertilization event is holy? What of the many embryos that dont make it past the blastocyte phase due to natural causes? Is every sperm sacred? Is menstruation murder? If fertilization is such a miracle, the surely meiosis is as well and every sperm and egg should result in a child? These are a few questions I would ask you to think about and reply to.


Rage is not the most productive way to disagree with someone, nor is calling them a coward or shouting that they are insane. I dont agree with you, but I certainly dont think you are insane. I find it curious that I am the one labeled as someone unwilling to learn when there are those with opposing viewpoints whose response to me and my differing ideology is to imply mental instability. You are a shining example of temperance.

Jumping to the conclusion that I would "pal around with" Dr. Kavorkian is a cheap and fruitless strategy which frankly reeks of fundamentalism and intolerance. Pay attention, I do NOT equate an embryo with a human life. It has the potential to become a life, but until such a time as it is fully developed or passes a critical threshhold, it is merely a collection of cells that could be grown in any suitable sustenance providing media. A human being suffering cancer, or otherwise, is an entirely different story and therein lies our disagreement.

I think that as people with contrasting viewpoints it should be our goal to understand each other, and even if we ultimately disagree, its important to be tolerant and co-exist. And so, I respectfully disagree with you on this and probably on many other issues as well, but I do not think it reflects on your mental state or intelligence.

Barzelay said...

I see that I am a latecomer to this, and I only want to comment on one thing you say.

"Being pro-choice means you either haven't asked the relevant question (when does life begin) or you've come to a wrong answer."

I'm pro-choice, but I agree with what you're saying. I don't think anyone can make a serious argument that life does not begin at conception. But starting with the premise that life begins at conception does not automatically lead to the conclusion that we shouldn't end pregnancies. Or, if you don't like the euphemism of "ending pregnancies," I'm comfortable saying, "kill unborn babies," without it changing my opinion on the matter.

Too many people come to the conclusion that human lives begin at conception and then skip the rest of the argument. Why does that mean we can't abort fetuses? There are so many other circumstances in which we can conceive of it being just to kill other humans, and even some in which it would be just to kill innocent people. So these questions must be asked: Even given that the fertilization of a human egg with a human sperm is the moment at which a new human life begins, and without invoking any Christian dogma,

1) How can you distinguish abortion from eating meat?

2) How can you distinguish abortion from just war?

3) If abortion is wrong, why should it be illegal?

4) If abortion should be illegal because it is wrong, why shouldn't all other "sins" or wrongs be illegal?

4) If abortion should be illegal, why should we allow it when the mother's health is in danger, or when she has been raped, or when the fetus will have serious mental or physical problems?

I'm not saying these questions don't have very sensible answers. Some of them do. But I can't conceive of any serious, consistent pro-life ideology that can provide satisfying (to me) answers to each.

That said, the one problematic question for my ideology is this one: if it is okay to end the life of a fetus, and it is okay to end the life of, say, a cow, why is it not okay to end the life of a newborn baby.

In any case, my whole point is that you gave two options: not considered the question, or came up with the wrong answer. There is at least one more: came up with the right answer, but it led to the(in your view) wrong conclusion.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Barzelay -

Thanks for joining in. You raise some excellent points there, which I think can largely be answered. I'm not going to delve into it now, but it seems like a whole-hearted abortion discussion is on the not-too-distant horizon on this blog, and I'll do my best to tackle what you propose here. I want to make sure this doesn't get short shrift, and so it'll have to wait until a better time.

I'll also say that my line that left only two options was really just a nice turn of phrase (and you've gotta give me that, right?), and that my actual view is more nuanced, including a discussion not of when "life" begins but of when and why it is worth protecting life.

So basically: thanks for the post, I'll answer you sometime in the future. That's probably the least satisfying response you could get, but that's how it's gotta be for now.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Nate -

Two quick things. First, I know you're a bright guy, and that you've thought about other sides of issues and all of that. And I don't think of you as close-minded. But even in this comment where you clarified what you were saying you included the line, "while I welcome your unique insight, it will not significantly alter my outlook."

The problem isn't that you won't listen, because you will. The problem is that you won't listen fairly. Or at least, that's how your statements are making it seem. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that in an abortion discussion I were to come up with something you hadn't thought of, or put something in such a way that you just didn't have a response. If that were to happen, ideally, you'd change your position, or at least shift significantly (not immediately, but after more reflection on the issues). But you've already precluded that possibility. You might conceed a point or two, maybe you'll nuance your views a bit, but you're saying there's ultimately no chance of changing your mind. And that seems really unfair. No one expects to change your mind, but it's important to know that someone else could have a significant effect on your thinking, because otherwise there's little reason to enter the discussion in the first place.

Second, Aaron certainly went a little overboard in his criticism. But his point wasn't wrong. You pointed to "natural abortion" and used that as a way of challenging the claim that medical abortion was wrong. Aaron's point, more or less, was that the intervention of a person's act into the equation is a hugely relevant factor. Nature isn't wrong or right, it isn't moral or immoral. It just is. If someone dies of cancer, that's not moral or immoral, and if a fetus naturally aborts that's not moral or immoral. Because the very concept of morality relies on free will and the ability to cause an effect by choice. So ultimately your challenge to consider natural abortion is no response to a question of morality. That was Aaron's point.

I guess, as a final point, your statement about a collection of cells needing to pass a threshold to be a human life... I'll once again direct you to the abortion treatise (when you get the chance). Spend a good long time reading that, really thinking about it, and weighing it all out. Pray about it too, if that's your thing (I don't know... are you religious at all? Strange that I don't know that...).

Quinn said...

Nate -

Glad for your response. You, like everyone else on here, are a thoughtful person and I really do enjoy your insights.

As for my position. It's not as though I can't think for myself; I do. I just happen to agree wholeheartedly with the Catholic Church's position.

I think anyone's entitled to their own opinion, even if I don't agree with it, so I think you and I can agree on that. I think it's fine that you don't take a strictly religious approach to the abortion issue.

As for conception being a miracle. I stand by that and to your question about copulation: no, it's not necessarily holy. Should pregnancy occur, then yes, it was a holy occasion and a miracle has happened. As to the textbook I mentioned, it's The Developing Human, Clinically Oriented Embryology, 6th Edition, Moore, Persaud, Saunders, 1998.

Matt's essentially covered all other points I would have made. I wonder if aside from his last post and mine if I've covered everything I meant to. It's late out here on the left coast, so I'll have to blame it on fatigue if I've erred.

Nate, I look forward to some good open dialogue on this blog in the future. I don't chime in often, as you faithful readers can attest, but I love following along.

AGJ said...

Interesting that Matt's original posting was a CHOICE between Obama & McCain. His CHOICE was (at that point in time) Obama.

However, the political debate has completely boiled down to one issue: CHOICE.

Are you Pro-CHOICE, or Pro-Life. 30+ years later we are still arguing a case that, in all actuality, had no business being addressed at the federal level. A case (at the time) was argued to help "save" lives.

It was sought to help mothers that were pregnant due to rape, incest, etc. It was argued that it would not be used as a convenient way to side-step responsibility. FF 30 years and the original argument is but a footnote. Now it is a "woman's right", it is now argued the convenience of the child's possible life (Oh how valiant you are).

Here is the crux of the situation at hand: Modern Science can no longer back the Pro-Choice movement (although it makes many feeble attempts); and Modern Society lacks the morals to back the Pro-Life movement (although it does try to justify their beliefs).

Instead of starting at the beginning (conception) try arguing this issue from the rear-view mirror. In other words, when does death occur (according to modern science) in an "acceptable" human life? I know that this argument has been used numerous times before, but it is still worth mentioning.

Matt, you know that I would HATE to dissuade you from you recent conviction. However, most political debates that are dragged out long enough come to this issue. Is this not the most pressing issue (not just of our time... but arguably of all time) in this election? What does it boil down to?


Fundamentalist (oooooooooh... scary.....) Christianity vs. Humanistic (insert anything here).

On another note...

if the Buccaneers are referred to as the bucs, the Jaguars are referred to as the jags, the Patriots are referred to as the pats...

then what about the Titans?

Matthew B. Novak said...

Check out what I wrote a couple years ago:

It was more a joke than anything else, but there's some truth to that notion. Abortion is the biggest issue in politics.

But it is by no means the only issue, and to make your choice based on a single issue, without accounting for others, is irresponsible, whether you're a secularist or religious. Heck, the Catholic Church says we're obligated to weigh all the issues and vote our conscience. The issues are going to have different weights for each person, though I would suggest that no issue should have such weight that it could trump all others.

As for this post serving as proof... I dunno. I just think the abortion thing is easy and interesting to talk about, and that's why it's so prevalent.

And the correct answer is the Tis.

Nate said...


quick response. I guess what you are waiting to hear is that "yes, in the face of incontrovertible evidence, some argument you may present to which I have no responding argument, some wild card that trumps all that went before, then yes it will force me to do some serious reconsidering". I am a fair person, and if this eventuality where to arise then of course it will impact me appropriately.

As to my personal religious beliefs, they are the following. I Believe in God, that he set in motion the forces which resulted in the universe as we know it (evolution). Jesus Christ is his son, and he came to earth to die for our sins, and that heaven and hell are the two destinations for human souls when their time on earth ends.

I do not claim to belong to any assembly, denomination or church, my relationship with God is a direct one with no one intervening. I recognize that there are certainly people whom God uses as teachers, but I must always sift through their messages with my own understanding of God. I believe that God's greatest gift to humanity is our brains, and he fully expects us to make use of them. Science is not incompatible with religion, I think science is a testament to the power of God, I believe that knowledge is pure and it actually gives God honor when we increase our knowledge and understanding of nature and the laws he put in place to govern it. There is more to say on this (of course) but I feel like that should give you taste of where I am coming from.

Also, at this time I feel the need to remind everyone here that, in my defense of abortion I am not trying to make them available to every promiscuous woman who has the sudden impulse to get one because they dont want to give up alcohol for 9 months. Au contraire, my argument is that you cannot make abortions illegal outright because there are legitimate circumstances under which they can be justly carried out. I will go into this more at a future date, but such instances as incest rape should Never result in a child. There is a gray area with abortion, as there is with every issue, and you cannot make it into a black and white choice.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Here's a fun little challenge for you Nate:

If God's greatest gift is our brains, are more intelligent people more holy? And all the related questions...

Mr. Jurek's corner said...

I must first apologize for my jumping to conclusions and lashing out at you. I do not know you, or where you stand on most issues. However, I was quite ruffled by thought that man and nature are equal.
As mentioned many times here, I too believe that conception is a miracle, as are many other everyday occurances in our world.
With that being said, I believe that God allows things to happen for reasons that as mere humans do not understand. We are humans and he has granted up free will, or choice if you will. This in turn leads to many mistakes and wrong doings.
Just a small note on your last post qoute "but such instances as incest rape should Never result in a child" you have forgotten your basics of the bible. For the book of Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve were created and populated the earth. Noah and his family did it again after the flood. Not sure how this could have happen otherwise?? Have you read about Lot at Sodom and Gomorrah? He was told to leave the cities with his children and wife. As they were leaving, his wife looked back and was turned to a pillar of salt. He and his daughters survived. While hiding in a cave, 2 different nights his daughters seduced him. Then both became pregnant with his child. Both of the boys became leaders.
Now, I am not saying that incest is right, or acceptable as the bible preaches against it many times. But I do need to state again that God has a way of turning things into great positives.

Your question about the difference between eating meat and a abortion is simple. God creates man, in hopes that we would love, worship and have a relationship with him. He rules over him and his time on earth. God created animals and plants for man. This means to name, raise, protect and yes, even eat. Need more? Read 1 Samual vs. 14
Secondly, abortion is taking the life of a human that does not have choice, say, or other defense. That is one way to determine between abortion and war.
Third, I do not think the issue is that "abortion should be illegal because it is wrong". I think the argument is that it should be illegal because it is murder.
And last, I am not sure abortion should be allowed at all. Not sure where this is coming from.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Mr. Jurek -

I don't think you're gonna win Barzelay over by citing the Bible. He's one of the most outspoken atheists I know of. I also think that, in addition to the sound religious reasons you lay out, there are plenty of non-religious reasons that can be given in support of the pro-life position.

AGJ said...

Matthew, I never stated that Abortion was the only issue to vote on. I simply stated that this debate has boiled down to one issue (as many hotly contested political debates between rival parties do).

As I stated before, the decision in Roe v Wade should never have reached the Supreme Court. It should be a State issue, such as Gay Marriage (a misnomer). Although I greatly disagree with Abortion, I believe that it should be handled at a state level. As should Public Education. I strongly believe in a loose collection of states as well as the electoral college, whatever the outcome.

I will reword my earlier comment. Modern Science can no longer Scientifically support the argument for Pro-Choice. It is ending a life. Modern Society can no longer support the Pro-Life argument as it has increasingly lost a common moral base. I think I got that correct (but I am sure that I will be corrected).

As for Aaron's comment on the biblical stance "you shall not kill", he is correct if he is referring to the Catholic 10 Commandments (C5). However, he is wrong if he is basing this argument on the Original Jewish 10 Commandments (or Protestant 10C) that states "Thou shalt not murder" (C6).

As for Barzelay's 1) How can you distinguish abortion from eating meat? That is akin to asking: How to you distinguish a tackle from crashing home plate? Both result in similar consequences (the transformation of an organic substance; two bodies colliding). However, the arguments are laid out in different planes.

As for 2) How can you distinguish abortion from just war?
Abortion intentionally ends an innocent life; "just war" relies in the eye of the beholder.

In regards to 3) and 4), these are issues of morality and, again should be left to the Society to determine the collective answer. Again, it should be answered at the state level (according to the Federalist Papers).

Another note Matt: Tis? Interesting.

I will leave with a question posed to me by a student:
If a quiz is quizzical, what then is a Test?

Matthew B. Novak said...

I don't think abortion should be a state issue. I think there should be a gauranteed right to life, expanded to fetus' at the time of conception, found in the Constitution.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Oh, and yes, the Ti's. Pronounced like "Tie".

Actually, as further proof, I offer the fac that Thailand is often translated as "Land of Titans".

AGJ said...

I will consider the argument of Guaranteed Right to Life...
As for Thailand, doesn't it hearken back to the early native peoples that commonly wore bands of loose thread around their necks... hence Land of Ties?

Matthew B. Novak said...

Well they were really really big pieces of thread, hence "Land of 'Tie-tans'."

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your abortion debate and noted with interest that no females have weighed-in. Bit of background on me - I'm married, childless as a matter of choice, have never been pregnant, am an adoptee whose birth mother was an unwed teenager, and I believe in a higher power. I agree with Barzelay that the topic of abortion must be addressed without invoking Christian dogma. I also agree with his position that “too many people come to the conclusion that human lives begin at conception and then skip the rest of the argument.”

Life may begin at conception, but is not considered sustainable without a host (aka woman) until 26 weeks gestation (normal gestation is 37-42 weeks). Although the survival rate for extreme preemies (23-25 weeks gestation) starts at about 30% and improves with each week, the disability rate does not. About 50% of those born at 23-25 weeks develop at least one moderate to severe disability. Very few infants survive birth at 22 weeks' gestation, and most are offered "comfort care" instead of intensive care. The Academy of Pediatrics supports the decision to not resuscitate infants born at less than 23 weeks gestation.

Until such time a human life (aka infant or fetus) can be sustained independent from its host, it remains the host’s choice whether or not to have a medical procedure to terminate. Yes, abortion is a MEDICAL PROCEDURE. And the decision whether or not to have a medical procedure is the choice of the individual, not their family’s, society’s and MOST certainly, not our government’s. Conservative politicians understand the dangerous precedent overturning Roe vs. Wade would set. Otherwise, why didn’t the Republican-controlled White House and Congress make a serious effort to change our laws in 2000-2006? The real responsibility of our lawmakers is to address agj’s question of ‘when is death acceptable?’ Miscarriages are often referred to as spontaneous abortions when they occur before 20 weeks of gestation. I respectfully submit that with regard to unborn humans, the acceptable time of death (aka abortion) is up to 20 weeks gestation.

Personally, I do not believe in abortion, so I take appropriate measures to not become pregnant. I view my lifestyle as MY personal choice, and MY responsibility to manage. This is the bottom-line argument for most pro-choice supporters. We are not necessary pro-abortion, but are adamant about a woman's right to chose. Since the majority of the posters here appear to be legal and medical students, I am very interested to learn of your positions regarding my argument – without Christian dogma (honoring our country’s foundation of secularity of government and freedom of religious exercise.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Anon -

You're right to note the lack of female commenters on this post. Probably more a question of the blog's readership than anything else. To that end, I thank you for your comment and encourage you to stick around and provide your perspective on the things we discuss on this blog.

As for your specific points: I'll be putting up a more full-fledged abortion post where I lay out my view on the subject, probably sometime before the end of the year. I'll do my best in that to address some of the points that you make. Suffice it to say, for now, that my view is certainly distinct from yours, in that I think that we should protect life from the point of conception. I also take some issue with what seems to be your view that because abortion is a medical procedure it is acceptable. Just a quick point on this: you draw the line at 20 weeks. Up to 20 weeks, abortion is acceptable, afterward it is not. But isn't abortion a medical procedure whether before or after 20 weeks? And if that's the case, whether abortion is a medical procedure or not must be completely irrelevant to the discussion of whether or not it should be legal, correct?

Again, thanks for your comments. I hope you stick around here; more voices makes for a better and more insightful discussion.

Rob K said...

As the father of two adopted boys. I cannot and will not vote for anyone with a pro choice stance. To me it goes to show what is truly in ones heart. This is a personal choice of mine coming from a very personal experience.

As far as those who have unwanted pregnancies. I know of thousands of people like us who travel thousands of miles to give needy children a home. Why don't they adopt domesically? Look up the current laws in the US and see how punitive they are to the adopting parents.

As far as abortion not affecting you. I for one am glad that the two women who gave birth to those boys made the choice they did. I would never have had the joy that I have gotten from my two sons. You may have had two less nephews, cousins, grand children and there would have been two less people in this world that love you the way these two do. Don't take this personally this is just to show that abortion may affect us more than we could ever imagine.