Saturday, June 04, 2005

Leftist Lunacy V: a "clump of cells" sure is causing a lot of trouble

For those interested in reading the article I reference, the link is:

“And the hits just keep comin’,” as Kevin Bacon said in Mystic River. No sooner do I write a column asking about the limits of selfishness, but I read that there are no limits, as gloriously expounded in Jonathan Alter’s stem-cell column in this week’s edition of Newsweek.

Now I know that if I send the man e-mail, he’ll probably just ignore it, so I’m going to take him to task in this space, instead.

Alter starts off by saying that he is a “cancer survivor with an adult-stem cell transplant under [his] belt,” which makes me immediately question why he’s pushing so hard for embryonic research, but, as we know, the Left has said far more disjointed things. Let’s skip ahead.

The crux of Alter’s piece is that the new dividing lines are “pro-cure” and “anti-cure”, and that politicians who are “anti-cure” (i.e., against embryonic stem-cell research) will begin to pay a heavy political price, and that the issue has already “swung some votes to the Democrats.” He goes onto the say that President Bush has been “conned” into seeing this issue as “morally complex”, but to everyone else “it’s simple enough—reproductive cloning (to create Frankensteins)—no; embryonic stem-cell research (to cure diseases)—yes.” The only ones who don’t get this are,

Bush bitter-enders and the pope [who] are in the perverse position of valuing the life of an ailing human being less than that of a tiny clump of cells no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.

But this marks the end of real rhetoric, because then Alter dives into these gems:

--That, to be really consistent, the President should shut down IVF clinics—“fat chance.”
--That “publicity from this [a potential filibuster by Senator Brownback R-KA] drama will drive support for federal research higher.”
--And, that we on the “anti-cure” side are “extreme.” (Oh there’s a new one; call someone on the right extreme!)

All of this will “inevitably lead to backpedaling and compromise and the victory of a broad-based ‘pro-cure’ movement.”

In the words of Love Story, “where do I begin?”

Let’s start at the beginning. He freely admits that adult stem cells are what saved his life, not ill-gotten embryonic ones. Adult and cord-blood cells have yielded results; embryonic ones have not. You may yell, “that’s because we’re not funding it!” But we are, and so is the rest of the world—where are the miraculous cures?

It really begs the question—why are we arguing the point at all? Why not send embryonic stem-cell research money to the research that has proven to work? Doesn’t that make sense? Cures without the ethical dilemma, which segues beautifully into my next, and biggest, beef with Alter’s piece—his crass handling of the ethical dimensions. Oh, that we were all as intelligent as the great Mr. Alter so we could see these manifestly clear distinctions!

The problem with Alter and his ilk lies in his telling remark about “a clump of cells.” In Alter’s world, the cells and the ailing human are pitted against each other, much as in the abortion debate. “Neither can live while the other survives,” to quote Harry Potter. The “pro-cure” movement is so bent on saving people, no matter what, that they will destroy this nascent life.

But we on the “pro-life” or “anti-cure” side see it differently. We want to save them both, to give them both the chance for life. There is a reason the Catholic Church is against IVF, and it is vividly seen in Alter’s flagitious writing—the Church respects life so greatly that it does not condone any actions that lead to it being devalued, as Alter has so crassly done. IVF, birth control, abortion—all of these are connected. Life is so precious, so wonderful, that it must be guarded and protected and cherished, not used as a scientific plaything. The very Pope that Alter mocks is the Pope that calls for both the embryo and the cancer patient to “have life, and have it more abundantly.” He will not pit one against the other, for to him, as to God, they are equal. There is an inherent dignity in them both.

Yet Alter and the “pro-cure” side would have us engage in a horrific Hobson’s choice, where the most vulnerable are used to save the ailing. It is to pit two vulnerable sides against each other, to enter into Hobbes’ state of nature. Alter’s side forgets the peril and leaps headlong into the pit without a thought.

We must not buy into the seductive amorality Alter argues. For the Left, who is so deliciously “nuanced” on every other issue, here they claim moral clarity is a given. It’s amazing. But Alter’s position only more chillingly crystallizes the Left’s views of human life: “it’s only a clump of cells”, infanticide on demand, doing anything to save our bodies and protect our “choice.” It’s only the “anti-cure” side that even gives a thought to saving our souls.

We all have to die, and when we do, “there will be a reckoning.” What, I wonder, will Alter argue then?

Questions, comments?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Review of "Mystic River"

I realize that I usually review movies after they’ve been run in the theaters, not when they’ve gone to the DVD market, but this movie is an exception. “Mystic River”, Clint Eastwood’s 2003 offering to the Oscar race, is a poignant, searing emotional drama of Shakesperean proportions that deserves some sort of review/reaction after seeing it for the first time.

I’m sure many of my readers will be familiar with the movie, its plot, and the acclaim, but for those who are not, a brief summary is order. The movie won two Oscars—a Best Actor nod for Sean Penn, and a Best Supporting Actor trophy for Tim Robbins. Mr. Eastwood does work that is matched (or surpassed) by his peerless Million Dollar Baby, which I have reviewed elsewhere on this site. But Mystic River is, in a sense, a “sibling” film to the 2004 Best Picture winner; they deal with many of the same themes—the depth of love and family, loss, and how tragedy can transform a person, or, in the case of Mystic River, a family and a community.

The movie tells the story of three friends, growing up in working-class Boston: Jimmy (Sean Penn), Sean (Kevin Bacon), and Dave (Tim Robbins). One watershed day when they were children, Dave was abducted by two men posing as police officers and was sexually assaulted and abused for four days before he found a way to escape. The experience changed him, and the boys’ friendship, indelibly. Only some thirty years later, when Jimmy’s beautiful 19-year old daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum, who does lovely work in her brief scenes), is murdered, do the men reunite: Sean as the Boston police officer assigned to the case, and Dave as one of the suspects in her brutal murder.

I’ve read many amateur reviews that say this movie is nothing more than a glorified Law and Order episode. Those people have, sadly, missed the searing power of this drama. Sean Penn does the best work of his career in this role as a driven-to-the-brink father who is mourning the loss of his favorite daughter. This role pushes him further and further into the dark side of human nature, and to watch Mr. Penn devour this role is incredible. He totally becomes Jimmy Markum, in all his rich complexities. It is one of the best roles in any movie, ever, by an actor. His performance will leave you stunned and shaken. He is matched by Tim Robbins, who gives the character of Dave an interesting duality; he is immature, yet threatening, guileless yet calculating. His scenes with his wife Celeste (played to perfection by Marcia Gay Harden) are chilling in the sense of tension and fear between them. Kevin Bacon, along with his police detective partner, Whitey (Lawrence Fishburne) also turn in solid performances, as does Laura Linney, playing Annabeth Markum, and who has a rather startling Lady MacBeth moment in the last act of the film, which she attacks with relish and focus.

Eastwood, as usual, directs his actors with sensitivity and style, and the cinematography is stark and incredibly realistic and raw, as befits the working-class setting and people of the film. The dialogue is well-written and tightly scripted, as is the story, and all of the characters exude a realistic sense of the grittiness and hardscrabble quality of their lives. The tender relationship between Katie and Jimmy is remarkably well-done for only one short scene, and will make anyone who has the inestimable experience of a close father-daughter relationship cry as Jimmy so poignantly and actively mourns the death of the daughter he credits with saving his life when he was released from prison.

Mystic River is an incredibly vivid, emotional ride through the life of one community that is violently rocked with tragedy and seethes with passionate undercurrents. It really is hard to describe exactly how powerful this drama is; all I really have to say is that this movie sticks with you and makes you appreciate your family, if you are lucky enough to have a close family.

*** 1/2

Questions, comments?

The Limits of Selfishness--the unheard voices of the stem cell debate

“In all this discussion, something has gotten lost. That something is the truth.”
--A Time To Kill

I’m pretty sure all of us, by now, have seen Nancy Reagan, or Michael J. Fox, or even Boomer Esiason, on the TV screen or newspaper page advocating for stem cell research. Not just any stem cell research, but embryonic stem cell research. This, they tell us, is the only type of research that can save themselves or their loved ones from a highly undesirable and painful fate. They are certain that their cure lies in the mysteries of these cells. And, since their lives have been so touched, so irrevocably shifted, by trauma, that we believe them. We are compassionate people, at heart. We want to ease their pain, stop their suffering, prevent their decline. And to do it, all they—all we—have to do is consent to destroy these nascent nubs of life, these “clumps of cells” that have been abandones from IVF tries. If we “destroy” them, then all of the scientific world will open for us, and we will have “no more death or mourning, wailing or pain” (Rev. 21:4).

This is the subtle trap. This is where the “truth gets lost”. It gets lost in the teary-eeyes rhetoric of those TV spokesmen and they dare us to deny them the life-saving treatments. We cannot judge them, the suffering. We would do the same, in their place.

And yet. And yet…

No. Not all. I am sure of this, because I would not. There is a limit to my selfishness. I will not kill another to save myself. It’s a Faustian bargain I will not make. I will not sacrifice these tiny buds of life to save my own. It is an abomination.

I need new organs; some of you reading this know I am listed for a transplant. My ‘need’ is great. But I will not kill another to save myself. My mother and I share the same blood type, but I will not commit matricide to save myself. It would only condemn me. I wouldn’t save myself at all. Is what the stem-cell advocates hawk so different? “It’s just a clump of cells”, we hear. Yes—aren’t we all? Isn’t that the essential composition of the human self? Yet we do not kill children and adults for their parts. It’s an abhorrent notion. But we would do it to the least of these? To the most defenseless? It simply does not wash. Man, in all his glorious forms, is made in the image of God. We are beholden to protect it always. We must always err on the side of life!

But we must not pit lives against others. We must not say that the need of Michael J. Fox, or others, is so great that we must kill the most guileless among us. It is a crime against ourselves, and against God. My selfishness does not extend that far. I will not kill another to save myself.

Do not allow misguided compassion to sway you; do not believe that Nancy Reagan and Company is the single voice of the afflicted. For there is another voice that says, “my selfishness has limits—and this is it. I will not kill another to have myself.” Don’t forget that voice. For it holds much truth in its position.

There are other ways, life-preserving ways. Cord blood, adult stem cells—these have already shown much progress and much hope, something the embryonic lines have never yielded. We must follow the ways that are moral, that are right, that could yield answers without such a destructive toll. We are judged on how we treat the weak. We are supposed to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, not just the ones on TV.

I will not allow others to die to save myself. It is self-preservation gone perverse, selfishness magnified 100 fold.

Remember this, when you hear this debate. Remember the limits of selfishness, and think of what it means for us as a society. Don’t but into the media hype blindly. Consider the other side. And then weigh them carefully. It is hard to tell people, “no, we will not do this, even to save you.” But we must, for there must be a limit to science—and our misguided compassion.

Comments, questions?

The Passion of the Judiciary--Compromise? More like delaying the inevitable...

I know I’m not the only one upset about the judicial “kumbaya compromise.” The internet and blogosphere is crawling with dissent. But I feel more frustrated than anything else, because even after 11 years, Republicans still don’t know how to run a majority.

This should have been simple. If the Dems filibuster, you pull the trigger. It’s not that hard. Whose vote do you lose? Certainly not the base, who is, if nothing else, vociferous in their support of the ‘nuclear option’. Maybe you lose a few moderates here and there, but I think you’d gain a few more. It’s fifty-fifty at best. But it’s so frustrating to those of us who full-throatedly support the party, thinking that it’s going to support certain things, and then it just dissipates as soon as the election is over. Obstructionism won John Thune his seat, and we’re afraid to do what we’re constitutionally allowed to do? Give me a break. Can we please have a real, up or down vote on these nominees? Forget Democrat and Republican—it’s what you do. If a nominee survives committee, you vote on them. I don’t care who’s in the Oval Office, it’s courtesy. And all this hogwash about how G.W. had better “consult with the Senate” about future nominees is just that—hogwash. The President doesn’t have to vet his nominees before he nominates them, and he certainly doesn’t have to get Mr. Reid’s approval. We have a 10 seat margin; for the love of God, can we please use it??? Please?? Where’s the leadership? Get the ducks in a row and have the vote. This shouldn’t be this hard.

I’m sorry that this is a bit of a rant, but I’m frustrated. All this does is delay the option until we’ve got a Supreme Court vacancy, which we know will happen about the end of June. Knowing that the Court is taking a very ideologically heavy docket for the Fall session, G.W. would be well-advised to nominate a conservative for associate and either Scalia or Thomas to the Chief Justice post. Do we honestly think that Reid and Co. will take the nomination of Scalia or Thomas lightly? I think not. And all we’ll have to do is bust open the filibuster like we should’ve done today or last night. And we will have to do it—if we don’t stop this nonsense for a Supreme Court vacancy, then I’m going to lose it. And I think a good portion of the base would, too. If it doesn’t happen, then I’m not quite sure where our party leadership is, and that’s a scary thing.

I will say I’m glad that Brown, Owens, and Pryor (a good Catholic, as well) are going to receive votes and be appointed to the benches. That’s great—they deserve it. But I think they deserved it regardless, and the other nominees did too. This isn’t fair to them; what explanation will Frist and Co. give? But I do give Sen. Frist props for saying that this deal isn’t making him totally happy, and I certainly am glad to hear Senators DeWine and Graham say they reserve the right to support the ‘nuclear option.’

I guess we shall have to see. But I’m not happy with the “kumbaya compromise.” And a lot of the base ain’t, either.

Questions, comments?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Review of "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith"

WARNING! This review will contain spoilers. Please refrain from reading it until you have seen the movie if you want a ‘pure’ viewing experience.

The Force is back in action—and in balance.

I won’t say that I was as harsh a critic of the other prequels as some, but they did lack some of the luster of the original trilogy, even with souped-up special effects. But I digress. Episode III is a worthy successor to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.

Episode III completes the six part cycle, and reminds me of a line from the musical Jekyll and Hyde: “There’s such a fine line / between a good man / and a bad.” In this film, we truly see how thin and permeable that line is, and how tempting it can be to sacrifice principle, duty, honor, and even love in pursuit of something greater—power.

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) are fighting in the last battles of the Clone Wars against Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and General Grievous (part-droid, part-man….some strange hybrid with a spray-nozzle face and a hacking cough, like he was a chain smoker in a former life), who have captured the Supreme Chancellor (a seductive, poisonous Ian MacDirmid). Anakin rescues the Chancellor after killing Dooku, bemoaning, “it is not the Jedi way” to kill an unarmed prisoner. The Chancellor, however, says that Dooku was “too dangerous to live” and that Anakin did the right thing.

Anakin returns to Courusant with the Chancellor and meets his secret wife, Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), who tells him that she is pregnant. His facial expression in this moment perfectly captures the sense of joy and fear, as he and his wife both know that this will be their undoing. Padme plans to go to Naboo to have the child, and together the couple can hide there and raise their family.

Alas, things do not follow Padme’s idyllic, dreamy path. Anakin begins to have dreams of Padme dying in childbirth. Tormented, he goes to Yoda, who tells him that he must “train himself to let go of everything he fears to lose.” He finds this answer unacceptable, and when the Chancellor suggests that he might have a solution, Anakin is all ears. So the stage is set for his final downfall, in turns of Shakespearean proportions.

The film is simply astounding to look at—it is alive with color, rich in texture and energy. The effects do not overwhelm the actors, but complement them and turn the world Lucas has imagined for them into a vibrant reality. It is said that 80% of the film is CGI generated—I would believe it. But it’s very difficult to see, a testament to the fine work done at Industrial Light and Magic. The fiery, lava-gushing volcano planet of Mustafar (an allegory to Hell, perhaps) is the crowning set achievement of the piece.

The actors do a better job, this time out, as if they have finally adjusted to their characters and the stilted speech Lucas gives his actors. Portman and MacGregor do remarkably better work; Portman elegantly and painfully portraying a woman who is in love with a man bent on his own destruction, and MacGregor as a teacher and pseudo-father who must destroy the person closest to him on earth in order to save him. “You were the chosen one!” Obi-Wan screams as he and Anakin finish their battle on Mustafar, among the hellish landscape, the lava oozing around them, the entire galaxy falling apart. MacGregor’s anguish is clearly demonstrated, and he does a fine job in his role.

McDirmid, as the Emperor, has some of the most speakable lines in the movie; I think Lucas pulled out the stops here and actually wrote good lines. His seduction of Anakin is intelligent, discreet, and total. “I am the only one who can help you save Padme,” he tells the young Jedi, and Anakin is so seduced that he will do anything, even kill younglings in the Jedi Temple, to learn the secrets of the Dark Side that could save his wife. But in the end, it is his transformation to the Sith that kills her. Christensen does a good job playing a young man tormented by thoughts of losing the only thing he loves and his desire to be taken seriously as a Jedi; therefore, it is no surprise that when the Emperor offers him that respect and power, he takes it, kneeling before him in half-light of the Chancellor’s office and taking the name Darth Vader.

I only had two problems with the film (other than the dialogue, which always drives me mad!). The first is that Lucas doesn’t seem to know when to hold a moment for his audience. This movie is, by far, the most poignant and tragic of all the Star Wars films. There are plenty of opportunities for emotion. For example, when Padme’s funeral procession is winding through the streets of Naboo, we see a close-up of her face, which pans down into a close-up of the necklace Anakin gave Padme so long ago on Tatooine, when they first met. It’s a heartbreaking shot, and if Lucas would have stayed on it for just a few more seconds, I’m sure the whole audience would’ve been a puddle. But Lucas jerks us away before we can really give ourselves over to the emotional power of the scene. This happens several times in the movie, especially in the second act; another good example is when Obi-Wan and Yoda are watching the security hologram of Anakin killing the younglings. After about two seconds, Obi-Wan says “I can’t watch anymore.” That’s all well and good, but a few more seconds and Lucas would’ve really snagged the audience. It’s almost as if he’s purposely eschewing the pathos the movie could elicit, and I’m not sure why he does that.

The second thing is the use of James Earl Jones’s voice once Anakin is inside the Vader suit (and I will say that, technically, this scene, juxtaposed beautifully with a tormented Padme in childbirth, is excellent). We know that inside the suit is Hayden Christensen, a.k.a. twenty-four year old Anakin. We’re not expecting Jones’s deep baritone and it’s a bit of a disconnect. The other thing is that Anakin goes a bit berserk upon hearing he killed his wife, and lets out a “Nooooooo!” It’s probably just me, but I found that moment to be very odd in Jones’s voice—I almost wish a hybrid of Jones and Christensen could’ve been reached. But to me, the voice was jarring whenever the lines referred to Padme, or to his grief upon hearing of her death. This is not what we’re used to hearing from Vader.

The film is well-paced, beautifully shot, and has good character development and a streamlined plot, which is not something I could say for I and II. Here, you are never sitting in the theater thinking, “Where in the world is this going?” The story really moves, and moves well.

The plot questions I raised in my previous post (see below) weren’t really rectified. Yoda says “until the time is right, disappear we will.” And it’s said in the movie that Obi-Wan is sent to Tatooine to watch out for Luke until “the time is right.” But there are still a lot of unresolved plot holes, which I won’t cover again here.

Overall, Episode III is a romp, a wild ride through classic Star Wars (light saber battles) and Shakesperean tragedy. It is a fitting end to the ground-breaking series and completes the circle back to the original trilogy in thrilling and tragic fashion.



Some of you have asked where I found my Episode III script; the link’s below, and it’s pretty accurate. Some of the lines have been removed in the final cut, but that’s to be expected.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Lefist Lunacy IV--the abortion debate, part 3,000,000

I’m going to go through a recent editorial I read in the Dispatch by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jane Eisner, who is a definite chip off the liberal block. The editorial revolved around the recent case of a 13 year old girl in the custody of the State of Florida since 1998 wanting an abortion. Eisner’s remarks are first—I’ll follow.

**The governor, remember, is Jeb Bush, brother of the president and relentless champion of what he calls “the sanctity of life.” He argues that state law prevents his administration from consenting to the abortion, no matter what the circumstance.

The court rules that state law does no such thing, and Bush backs down, an uncharacteristic move for a politician who led the fight to intervene in the case of poor Teri Schiavo and has, on another occasion, sought to appoint a guardian for the fetus of a severely retarded rape victim.**

I’ll leave you to make your own comments about the current state of the Floridian judiciary. I’m sure when Ms. Eisner talks about “poor Terri Schiavo” she’s not referring to the fact that that “poor” woman was brutally starved to death by court order, while her parents and family tried desperately to save her life, a life that still had value and worth. I’m pretty sure that’s not her point, but I’ll let it go at this. And can you imagine! Appointing a guardian for a child! The outrage!

**This sorrowful tale raises a basic question for those who, like Jeb Bush, believe that government should intervene to prevent the termination of pregnancy: will there ever be a time or circumstance when an abortion is permitted?**

Um, short answer? No. Mr. Bush is Catholic; last time I checked, the Church was pretty clear on this.

**If not for a 13-year-old girl with no family and no home, then when? If not for a severely retarded rape victim, then when?**

Answer’s still never---life is life, Ms. Eisner.

**If the answer is never (me: and it is!), end of discussion, then the fetus’ right to be born always supersedes the mother’s right to determine her fate, and the search for common ground on this vexing issue will always be frustrated.**

Um, damn right, lady. Because, see, one side thinks that the fetus is a child, who has rights just like the mother. And in most cases, the mother’s “right to determine her fate” was given up when she had sex. I know, I know, I can hear the screaming now—that’s not fair! Yeah, well life ain’t fair. Too bad. If a woman doesn’t want a child, then she can take appropriate measures to make sure that doesn’t happen before the child shows up. Once the child’s there, you can’t kill him! I’m sorry, but we’re civilized human beings; we just don’t kill a child because his presence is inconvenient (at least not in America; in Holland and Britain, there are horrific tales of this very thing occurring—‘wrongful birth’ suits are becoming increasingly more common). Oh wait—that’s what happened to “poor Terri Schiavo”, isn’t it?

**I write from the perspective of someone who has long contended that both sides in the abortion debate share blame for the polarization. The pro-choice movement’s stubborn reluctance to acknowledge the humanity of the fetus and to argue exclusively for a woman’s reproductive rights have been just as damaging as pro-lifers’ insistence that tampering with biology amounts to murder.**

OK, let’s see here. If the pro-choice movement has been wrong to acknowledge the “humanity of the fetus”, then what’s the argument? The reason it’s not acknowledged by that side is because anyone with half a brain knows that if the fetus is really a person (WHICH IT IS), then you can’t kill it, because you’re killing a person, and in America, that’s a crime. So it’s not “reluctance”, Ms. Eisner—it’s a conscious rhetorical decision on the part of the Left! If they say that the fetus is a child, then their case is gone. Pure and simple. There’s no way that any logical person will say that the innocent child’s life should be ended because a woman ‘chooses’ it to be so. I’m sorry. And, Ms. Eisner, biology creates life—that’s part of it. So when you tamper with reproduction, guess what? You’re killing the child. You are denying that child life. You are taking it from him. I think that’s called murder, in some parts of this country.

**Truth is, most Americans recognize that abortion resides in that difficult space where dueling moralities compete. I’ve spoken with people who are personally opposed to abortion but reluctant to legislate away the rights of others. I’ve spoken to others who are instinctively or politically pro-choice—until they land in a situation in which they could choose abortion, and find they just can’t.**

People who are “personally opposed to abortion but reluctant to legislate away the rights of others” are called sissies, or RINOs. And those people who “just can’t” choose abortion when faced with it are finally having their inner Jiminy Cricket come knocking on their hearts. Government is about making the tough calls. No one seems to think that legislating against murder is somehow “legislating away the rights of others”—it’s good public policy. And yet, within the womb, which should be the safest, most protective place on Earth, it’s OK.

**This ambivalence, reflect in poll after poll, isn’t the result of moral relativism or a “culture of death,” as some have implied. It’s an outgrowth of those supreme American traits of pragmatism and tolerance that have always been in contest with a more fundamentalist mentality and, happily, very often have prevailed.**

Oh, let us bow before the god of polls! You know, I bet in the 1850s, a poll of the Southern states would have revealed a strong pro-slavery bias. And, Ms. Eisner, I don’t think you are in the least bit qualified to take on JPII and Benedict XVI, or Mother Teresa (a woman, no less!), all three of whom who vehemently disagree with your assertions about moral relativism. But who are they? Oh, they’re Catholics, and we Catholics sure are nuts when it comes to protecting babies. It’s just crazy!

**Pragmatism requires judgment; tolerance calls for compassion. If the state of Florida—or any other government—can order a 13-year-old in its care to carry a fetus to term against her wishes, utilizing the absurd argument that she is too young to decide on her own but not too young to become a mother, then why talk about compassion and judgment in public discourse and government policy?

And I thought those values were common features of all our faith traditions.**

Oh, here we are: the twin gods of polls and tolerance—the Creed of the secular Left! Methinks the lady doth protest too much. The State tells us all sorts of things we can’t do—smoke, drink and drive, not wear a seatbelt in a car, kill someone for the hell of it. I think it’s well within the State’s right to tell a child in its care that it cannot have an abortion. And who said she had to be the mother? I would think they would give the child up for adoption. And compassion and judgment are two things SORELY missing from the abortion debate—no compassion for the tiny, innocent life that did NOTHING wrong, and no sound judgment that perhaps the on-demand massacre of our most vulnerable citizens is wrong. Judgment and compassion are missing, indeed.

**…We are once again reminded of why a woman’s right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy must have some protection in the laws of this land. It should not be a right without a commensurate responsibility. It should not be abused.

But it cannot be relinquished. Not if that means a homeless girl’s future will be dictated by a bunch of men who fashion themselves as protectors of life but never, ever have to bear the consequences.**

Wow, you can just feel the venom flowing off that type, can’t you? Would this be different if Gov. Bush was a woman? Somehow I doubt it.

The facts are that this ‘right’ is the way out of responsibility. It takes away a woman’s responsibility to her child. It takes away the fact that if a woman CHOOSES to have sex (and that is, after all, the penultimate choice) she does not have to bear the responsibility of that act. She can just ‘get rid of it’. She can kill her child. As Mother Teresa said, “it is a pity that a child must die so you may live as you wish.”

A great pity, indeed. And one that will not be resolved whilst Leftist Lunacy such as this is allowed to prevail.

Disturbances In the Force--Questions and plot holes in the Star Wars saga

NOTE: I have read the script for Episode III and will be sharing plot points in this piece. If you’d rather not know, read this later.

There is a disturbance in the Force. And it’s not a minor one. (NOTE: If you don’t care for Star Wars, this would be a good time to move on to one of my other posts. J )

OK, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic. I didn’t used to be a big Star Wars fan, but Episode III has me all excited—I even bought the complete first trilogy on DVD in the nifty boxed set (a great buy, by the way), and I’ve had Episodes I and II for awhile now. So, in order to properly prepare for the onslaught of III, I’ve watched the last five movies, in sequence (I, II, IV, V, and VI). I’ve noticed some discrepancies, both large and small, and if anyone can shed some light on them, send answers to

In no particular order, here are my beefs:

1. In Episode VI, Luke and Leia have a lovely exchange about Padme while on Endor, Luke asking his sister, “Do you remember your mother?” Leia answers that she doesn’t really remember her, but she remembers “feelings”, mainly that her mother was “beautiful and kind, but sad.”

OK. I’ve read the Episode III script, and Padme dies within minutes of giving birth to the twins. There’s no way Leia could remember her mother, especially what she looked like. BIG plot hole, Mr. Lucas. I think this would’ve been easy to fix, too: have Leia and Padme escape to Alderaan, and have Padme die there when Leia’s a few months older. At least then there’d be some sense that this was plausible. But as it is, there’s no way that the dialogue in VI matches the reality of III. I read on the web today that the reason Leia remembers is because ‘The Force’ is so strong with her. Uh, no. I don’t think so.

2. In Epsiode V, Obi-Wan makes references to himself that lead you to believe (or assume) that he was Yoda’s padawan learner. Fair enough, and plausible, within the context of the first trilogy. Then Episode I shows up, and we’ve got Qui-Gon! What’s with that? And we know that Yoda’s padawan learner was Count Dooku (Episode II), and that Dooku taught Qui-Gon. So what’s the deal? Why did Lucas create a character that is so obviously in conflict with established plot? I suppose it’s possible that Yoda became Obi-Wan’s teacher after Qui-Gon died, but even that doesn’t work because in Episode II, Obi-Wan is a Jedi Master and has his own padawan, Anakin. So I’m not sure exactly what Qui-Gon’s function is, because he could have just as easily been a fellow Jedi with Obi-Wan, and not necessarily his teacher, but then I guess that would mess up the whole deathbed promise Qui-Gon extracted from Obi-wan re: Anakin’s training. I don’t know. All I know is that this plot point bothers me.
3. THE DROIDS!! This is something that really gets me going. In Episode IV, we see the droids bought by Uncle Owen, who has never seen them before. C3PO makes comments to the effect that he’s never been on such a strange planet. Obi-Wan has never seen them, commenting “I’ve never owned a droid” upon hearing of R2’s declaration that he has a message for him. And, again, in the context of the first trilogy, that works. Then we see Episode I, where C3PO is created by Anakin to live with them on Tatooine! And R2 ends up there, as well, as Padme’s droid. Obviously, the droids have not only been to Tatooine, but spent a significant amount of time there, and C3PO even ended up living on Lars’ farm, with Beru and Owen (so, Owen should know him, twenty-odd years later).

Now, upon reading the Episode III script, we see that C3PO’s memory is wiped, but not R2’s. The assumption I’ve read from online sites is that R2 would know to be quiet better than C3PO. But still! That’s a pretty shoddy way out, if you ask me, and I don’t think it’s entirely plausible. C3PO was much too smart, and R2 was enough of a smartass that he would have ‘beeped’ something to 3PO upon his comment that this was an odd planet and he’d never been there. Also, Uncle Owen doesn’t even recognize him in IV! Neither does Kenobi! While I suppose they could be lying to protect Luke, I find that a weak point. The droids are one thing that really, really bugs me.

4. Vader is supposed to be very ‘strong’ with the Force, and yet is unable to feel the presence of his own daughter, or his son, at least in Episode IV and Episode V, when he’s standing right next to Leia while Han is encased in carbonite. That’s very odd. If he’s so strong with the Force, shouldn’t he know where his kids are, at least when he’s torturing one of them (Leia in IV)? That seems rather odd, but then again, we’re never exactly sure as to what the Force really is, or what it entails, so I guess it could be anything. I suppose the Dark Side could have clouded his vision—but still, wouldn’t he have known he was torturing his own daughter?!

5. What about the prophecy that Anakin is supposed to defeat the Dark Side and bring balance to the Force? Does he do that at the end of VI? Is the prophecy really only fulfilled in Luke? Sort of unclear.

6. And why does Luke need to face Vader anyway?

7. Why does Obi-Wan end up with Luke on Tatooine? Shouldn’t Vader or the Emperor sense that? And how come they can’t sense Yoda on Dagobah? I read on the Internet today that the reason Yoda chose Dagobah is because it has a strong “Dark Side” presence, but still….that’s kind of a cop-out, isn’t it?

8. And how come Obi-Wan doesn’t remember Leia? In Episode V, he says that Luke is “their last hope”, and Yoda says, “No, there is another” (Leia). Now, again, in the context of the first trilogy, that works. But Obi-Wan is with Padme as she gives birth to the twins. He sees them both. There’s no way to reconcile these points.

9. And why does Luke still have the Skywalker name, anyway? Shouldn’t they have changed it? That’s a pretty distinctive last name, if you ask me.

10. What’s the deal with Palpatine—why does he go over to the Sith, anyway? What’s his whole story?

11. And finally—what exactly is the philosophy of Star Wars? It can’t be “war is bad”, because the first trilogy is all about a war fought to restore the Republic. It’s not really ‘pro’ Democracy, because in the first trilogy Lucas is very clearly showing us how Democracy can be manipulated. But it’s not pro-Dictatorship, either (see II). And it’s not really pro-monarchy, even though Naboo is one. Yet the Queen is elected, while Naboo’s Senator is appointed…strange. Lucas clearly doesn’t love capitalism (hence the evil ‘Trade Federation’) or Republicans (Nate Gunray? Anyone?). Any thoughts on this last point would be good.