Friday, March 04, 2005

Movie Update

Since my last check of movies I’ve seen and want to see I can move a grand total of four films off of my To See list:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I, Robot

Harry Potter was good. Collateral was riveting. I,Robot was OK and De-Lovely was delightful.

I have purchased or acquired four more films off the list, but haven’t yet watched them:

Bourne Supremacy
Van Helsing
The Alamo
Shark Tale

Those four go on top of my stack of 2003 films that I have purchased or acquired but have yet to watch:

Big Fish
Open Range
The Missing
In America
Winged Migration
The Fog of War
Cheaper By the Dozen

To my list of movies I still want to see I would add

Hotel Rwanda
House of Flying Daggers
Kill Bill Vol. 2
Vanity Fair

The Academy Awards were kind of ho-hum this year without a Lord of the Rings picture in the mix. I thought Aviator was going to sweep most of the awards and was really surprised when Martin Scorcece didn’t win the Best Director trophy. I was happy for Clint Eastwood, but can’t help but think something is amiss when Eastwood now has two wins under his belt while Scorcece is 0 for 5.
I want to see all of the Academy Award nominated films with the exception of Sideways which I have no interest in.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A philosophical look at abortion

In light of the Supreme Court’s narrow decision to ban executions for juveniles, some of my conservative readers have raised some good points about how the decision doesn’t square with the court’s past rulings on consent laws for juveniles seeking abortions.
If a juvenile is deemed too immature to understand the full implications of committing a capital murder (one that triggers a death sentence in some states), then how can they be deemed mature enough to have an abortion without their parents’ consent.
Perhaps on a philosophical level this is an inconsistency, but as a practical matter they don’t compare. There is no practical reason for putting a juvenile to death. It serves no purpose (other than vengeance) and no harm comes from substituting another form of punishment (i.e. incarceration). I have never said that a juvenile who commits a capital crime should escape punishment because of their immaturity.
But requiring parental consent for an abortion does have practical consequences in that some young girls will seek to end their pregnancies anyway - through illegal means - and may suffer serious injury or death as a result.

The sad fact about abortion is that it will persist no matter what our laws say. Back before Roe vs. Wade, hundreds of thousands of abortions were performed each year, and perhaps many more, under circumstances that were not safe. As a result, hundreds of women died and many more suffered serious health complications.
So what is the answer? Is this loss of life just the price we have to pay to save countless numbers of unborn children? I’m sure that is the stance taken by many well-meaning pro-lifers, but I just can’t accept that.
Does that mean that I place a higher value on the lives of the born as opposed to the lives of the unborn. Yes, it does. I would prefer that no lives were lost. I would prefer a world in which there were no unwanted pregnancies and no desperate young girls seeking the means to terminate them.

I’ve thought long and hard about how this all fits into my personal theology/philosophy. The Bible doesn’t really address abortion in any meaningful sense. I know some people pull passages out and claim this or that interpretation to back up their stance, but it is certainly not like Jesus went around preaching about abortion, gays and guns all the time, even though the religious right would have you believe that.
At the core of my philosophy is the belief that God put us here for some purpose, whatever that may be. (I think it has something to do with Love Thy Neighbor, but that’s a different topic.) So it makes no sense to me that God would allow someone to be created and then never have the opportunity to even be born so that they can fulfill that purpose.
We know when physical life begins - at conception - but is that when spiritual life begins too? Is the soul created at that instance? Is the soul present prior to conception and then somehow joined with the body at that point? I’ve always assumed that the soul must work through the body in order to interact in the physical world - thus a mentally retarded person doesn’t have a retarded soul, but a normal soul forced to work through a body with physical impediments. But what is the soul going to do with a body such as a developing fetus that doesn’t have a brain yet? Perhaps the soul needs to develop along with the body.
So what happens when that development is halted prematurely - either through abortion or miscarriage? What does a just God do with a soul that did not have a chance to fulfill its purpose? I know a lot of people like to believe that these baby souls go up to a special place in heaven to be with God and perhaps become angels or some such thing. That’s fine if they want to believe that, but the thing that makes the most sense to me can be summed up in two words - soul recycling.
I don’t mean to make light of this issue. But it would seem to me that God would give souls in that situation another chance to be born in a different body so that they too can fulfill their purpose.

This doesn’t mean that I think abortion should be no big deal. I still think it is a terrible and sad thing anytime a pregnancy is ended willingly. But neither do I see it in terms of a holocaust or a genocide as characterized by many of the more extreme folks on the far-right.
Perhaps all of the above is a lot of mumbo-jumbo meant to make me feel better about my pro-choice position. But as I have already stated, it is what makes sense to me and that is the only measure I have for coming to an understanding on this issue.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Executing juveniles is wrong

First it was the mentally retarded. Now it’s juveniles 18 and under. Those “liberals” on the Supreme Court are just taking all the fun out of state-sponsored executions.

I’ve argued before that the death penalty is a barbaric relic of our past. I don’t expect most people to agree with me in these cold, hard-hearted radical/conservative times, but you might think something as basic as not executing children would be something we could all agree on.
But apparently not:

“The four most liberal justices had already gone on record in 2002, calling it "shameful" to execute juvenile killers. Those four, joined by Anthony Kennedy, also agreed with Tuesday's decision: Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, as expected, voted to uphold the executions. They were joined by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.”

The fact that only a slim majority of the Supreme Court can agree that executing juveniles is wrong is what is shameful. I’m really disappointed in Sandra Day O’Connor. But it is par for the course for the three neanderthal conservatives - Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist.

Notice how they refer to the four justices as “liberal” when at best they should be described as moderate or middle-of-the-road. They are only “liberal” in the sense that they are to the left of the extreme radical views promoted by the neanderthal trio.

“In his dissent, Scalia decried the decision, arguing that there has been no clear trend of declining juvenile executions to justify a growing consensus against the practice.
"The court says in so many words that what our people's laws say about the issue does not, in the last analysis, matter: 'In the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty,' he wrote in a 24-page dissent.
"The court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our nation's moral standards," Scalia wrote.

So we have to wait until we have achieved a “growing consensus against the practice” before we can stop executing children. I wonder how many other heinous practices from out past would still be in effect today if the courts were filled with people like Scalia?
It’s chilling to think of the “moral standards” that Scalia must favor.

Breaking News: Constitution still in effect

A U.S. District Judge in South Carolina has just reaffirmed my faith in our judicial system and, in the process, slammed the Bush administration for their radical notion that they can detain people indefinitely without ever charging them with a crime.

Rejecting a series of arguments put forward by the government, District Court Judge Henry F. Floyd said the indefinite detention of Jose Padilla -- who the administration has said is a terrorist supporter of al Qaeda -- is illegal and that Padilla must be released from a naval brig in Charleston, S.C., within 45 days or charged with a crime.

In a strongly worded 23-page ruling, Floyd said "to do otherwise would not only offend the rule of law and violate this country's constitutional tradition, but it would also be a betrayal of this Nation's commitment to the separation of powers that safeguards our democratic values and our individual liberties."

I want to note that Judge Floyd is a Republican appointee, having been placed in his seat by none other than George W. Bush in 2003. This is not an example of liberal judicial activism, but an instance of true conservatism - the kind that this radical administration abandoned long ago.

Here is Judge Floyd throwing the "judicial activisim" taunt back at the administration where it belongs.

"Using a phrase often levied by conservatives to denigrate liberal judges, Floyd -- who was appointed by President Bush to the federal bench in 2003 -- accused the administration of engaging in "judicial activism" when it asserted in court pleadings that Bush has blanket authority under the Constitution to detain Americans on U.S. soil who are suspected of taking or planning actions against the country.

Floyd said the government presented no law supporting this contention and that just because Bush and his appointees say Padilla's detention was consistent with U.S. laws and the president's war powers, that did not make it so. "Moreover, such a statement is deeply troubling. If such a position were ever adopted by the courts, it would totally eviscerate the limits placed on Presidential authority to protect the citizenry's individual liberties."

I have to agree with Donna Newman, one of Padilla's attorneys, when she said the "court ruled that the president does not have the power to seize an American citizen on American soil and hold him indefinitely without a charge. That shouldn't be big news, but it is. . . ."

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Condi for President?

I don’t get it. What’s up with this right-wing fascination with Condoleezza Rice to the point that they are touting her as a presidential candidate in 2008?

Other than the fact that she is willing to parrot whatever foreign policy position Bush wants, what is it that they think she will offer them? She has said she is pro-choice on abortion and most of her positions on other domestic issues are unknown if she even has any.
And yet the far-right is completely enamored with her and acts like she is the only Republican who can defeat what they are certain will be a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2008.

I suppose it's a good thing that the Bush administration did not allow Rice to be put under oath during the 9/11 Commission hearings last year because it is now well documented
that she lied.

Imagine if a National Security Advisor for a Democratic administration had received a memo like this more than eight months before 9/11, and had done nothing about it. The right-wing would have gone nuts. They would have demanded that person’s head on a platter and most certainly would not consider them presidential material.

I’m not surprised that the right-wingers have a double standard for Rice. I just can’t figure this sudden infatuation and worshipful reverence for her. Just check out how the conservative sites constantly refer to her as “Dr. Rice” at every opportunity because she has a Ph.D. in political science. I mean, that’s great and all, but come on. Howard Dean actually is a Dr. with an actual degree in medicine, but you never hear these same folks referring to him as Dr. Dean.
Then there is the fact that she is 50-plus and has never been married. I can’t imagine that would go over too well with the “Family Values” crowd in the GOP if she were a Democrat.

I think this is all rather silly at this point. I don’t believe Rice will run for president in ’08 and neither will Hillary.