Daily Archives: May 3, 2009

"Are war casualties morally equivalent to abortion deaths?"

Cathy Lynn Grossman at USA Today asks, in relation to the backlash against Mary Ann Glendon, whether war casualties are equivalent to aborted babies.

I didn’t read both her columns on the subject, nor the many comments, but here’s my response to this very important question:

It depends.

But who is morally culpable?

In the case of an abortion, the abortionist and staff, and the woman, are directly culpable for the act of abortion. If abortion is legal, then the politicians who made it legal are engaging in proximate material cooperation by creating a social situation that permits abortion. They engage in even further proximate material cooperation by voting in favor of taxpayer funding of abortion.

It is ridiculous for a politician legalizing and funding abortion to turn and around claim that he or she does not want abortions to occur.

If a parent gives a kid a pack of condoms and a blank check written out to an escort service and says, “We’re leaving you alone in the house for the night, and we won’t be back till sometime next week. We’d rather you not hire a hooker while we’re gone, but we won’t punish you if you do,” isn’t the parent facilitating the sin?

So how can legislators claim they’re *not* facilitating abortions by legalizing and funding them?

The case is slightly different for war.

If a war is unjust, and it is definitely unjust, then all the casualties of that war are morally equivalent to aborted babies. The politicians who voted in favor of that war may be just as culpable of the victims of war as the ones who voted for legalized abortion were guilty of the dead babies *if* they knew it was unjust. If they sincerely believed the war was just, if they applied the criteria to the best of their ability and read the evidence, then they have the freedom of conscience to make that call. If they chose to ignore data to justify their position, that’s a different story.

Now, let’s say the war *is* justified. Let’s say it’s an otherwise just war, voted on justly by the legislature, but there are *civilian* casualties (At first, when I read this title, I was extrapolating the word “civilian,” and realized it isn’t actually there).

The intentional death of civilians in wartime is always mortally sinful.

That is to say, you don’t bomb civilian targets. We’ve heard in every war since World War II, at lesat, about how “the nature of this war is different.” In World War II, it was the broad scope of the war and the potentially endless conflict if somethign drastinc wasn’t done (even though both Germany and Japan lost more becaues they were running out of resources).

In the “War on Terror,” the excuse is that terrorists are a “differnet kind of enemy.” In both cases, people try to justify the killing of innocent civilians, but this is impossible.

Now, obviously, if a civilian happens to be inside a legitimate military target, there’s no way of knowing that–indeed, it’s more than likely there is a civilian or two involved in any target. Or if a civilian is hit in the crossfire, that’s another story.

That’s why we used have rules of war: armies met on designated battlefields and fought outside of towns in order to prevent the deaths of innocent civilians.

But here’s the thing: if a president votes for an unjust war, and makes the decision deceptively, that doesn’t necessarily mean that his ambassador to a different country is somehow complicit in the war. Now, we can get into all sorts of extrapolations here, but I won’t.

Just the point that those who bear culpability are those who a) voted for the war, b) encouraged the president and legislators to vote for the war, and c) to a lesser extent, those who, by sins of omission, didn’t stop the president and legislators from voting.

If the war is just, and innocent civilians are being bombed, then the question is “who knew what and when.” If the president knows and accepts it, he’s guilty.

Certainly the soldiers who actually klil the civilians are guilty, as are the officers who give the orders (if they’re direct).

But is a person who advises the president in a completely different capacity guilty of a war he pursued without consulting her ? Especially if the war itself is just but the issue is other civilian casualties?

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The Anchoress hits the nail on the head with CGI films

Discussing why she had no interest in seeing Wolverine, Elizabeth Scalia assesses the situation this way:

Instead of using a (relatively) small amount of CGI to enhance a story, too many filmmakers seem to use CGI to try to distract an audience from a weak story line or vapid dialogue, and it gets overwhelming. Instead of punching up the script, they overuse the special effects, and the end result is loud, often visually stunning and as satisfying as cold gruel.

When I consider the action movies I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in the last few years -enough to want to see the film again- it comes down to Iron Man, a film which managed to give precedence to character, plot and dialogue over special effects, and then used those effects brilliantly but unintrusively; the story was never overshadowed, nor was Robert Downey’s terrific performance.

I am not a very “visual” person, for obvious reasons. While my vision is technically better than “20/20” with glasses (how often in real life do you sit in a dark room and look at bright letters on a screen and try to distinguish them? . . . Oh . . . wait. . . never mind . . . ), it takes me a lot of effort to “process” what I’m seeing.

I see Allie going through it now, a year after her eye surgery, as she’s still getting used to her new vision and struggling to do her vision therapy.

I like story. It’s one of the main reasons I’ve always preferred fiction to sports. I like sound, and I like story, and I like my visuals to a minimum. I like golf, cause there’s not much to look at.

When George Lucas upgraded the original Star Wars trilogy the first time in the mid-90s, it was cool. He fixed a lot of the earlier cheesy special effects with CGI, gave more believable numbers of ships to the space battles, etc. Though, at the same time, 50 storm troopers chasing Luke & friends where there used to be 5 kind of took away from the believability.

But when Phantom Menace came out ten years ago(!), it was a different story. Suddenly, there were these weird-looking cartoonish droids. Ewoks were acceptable because they at least looked like real creatures, but Jar Jar Binks was just unnatural (there’s some theory, which I think I’ve blogged about before, about how much “realism” the human mind can take in an unreal thing before it starts to feel uncomfortable, and then a new level of realism is hit where the mind accepts it again).

Suddenly, Jedi could do things we’d never seen Obi-Wan, Luke, Yoda or Vader or Palpatine do in the “previous” movies (though we’d seen Jedi do in games). Attack of the Clones, while having a better story, was even more a blur. It was hard to tell what was going on half the time, for all the flashes of lasers and lightsabers and people jumping around and thousands of battle droids and clone troopers battling for our attention.

Attack of the Clones, compared to Empire Strikes Back, was the theatrical equivalent of the Novus Ordo versus the Tridentine Mass: a three ring circus of sensory overload (did I mention that I hate circuses?). And we wonder why we see so many stories about autistic kids going into rages at Mass. One encounters a fair deal of Asperger and Autism in traditionalist circles, and this, I believe, is one of the reasons.

To the extent that I can distinguish the story, I don’t mind the Star Wars prequels that much. In fact, I think that’s why I like them better than a lot of adult fans. I tend to ignore visual data as it is. So, while I felt it was a waste of my money to see the films in the theatre, I did enjoy the films’ stories, and I enjoyed them a lot better on home video, when I could focus on the dialogue without the THX Sound driving it out.

I don’t think the X-Men films were too CGI-ridden, but, then again, I “watched” them at home on DVD, while multitasking (as I u sually watch films). I did get totally confused by the scene in X-Men 3 where Professor X dies. I was like, “Wait?! What? They killed of Patrick Stewart??”

So I had to rewind a few times and figure out exactly what happened.

That also raises an intersting thing about CGI itself, and two films closer to my heart. In the wave of comic book and fantasy adaptations facilitated by the CGI revolution, we see a weird combination of “realism” and CGI special effects that sometimes works more effectively than others.

I’m not a big fan of Stephen Sommers’ prevoius films (interesting she mentions Van Helsing), but I’m trying to be optimistic about G.I. Joe. Some fans are mad about the apparent “super suits” a concept used in the “Sigma Six” line/theme a few years back. On the one hand, my comment on that is: “What’s less realistic? Having the Joes wear super suits, or having the Joes running around in a blaze of gunfire and not getting hit, while wearing brightly colored pajamas?”

But it seems, from the long trailer that just came out, that the Super Suits are just as much about “how much can we do with CGI?” as they are about adding an important detail to the story. Isn’t it enough to have the Joes wear some powered armor, without having them falling from thousands of feet in teh air, barrelling through building walls or crushing cars in their “super suits”?
Is this a military movie or a super hero movie?

And Transformers: when Transformers was announced ca. 2002, they did some preliminary CGI models based upon the then-current toyline. The models looked pretty good. Fans cheered. Many fans have done 3D CGI models of “classic” TF looks. But the movie producers said that the classic “boxy” bodies mixed with fairly human faces didn’t mix well on the CGI screen.

I mean how do we know what a sentient transforming giant robot would “really” look like, anyway?

It’s more like they just wanted to create the most strange-looking designs they could, to flex their CGI muscles. Of course, as seems mandatory with CGI, the designs they came up with look like a cross between something from Alien, Jurassic Park and Toy Story.

Again, I am non-visual enough to ignore this stuff on DVD, but it definitely deters me from interest in seeing these films on the “big screen.”

"I would rather be evil and better."

This is one of the reasons the Lewis Crusade exists.

Anyone who’s read the blog from the beginning, knows me, and/or has read my feature article in American Life League’s Celebrate Life a few years back should know this.

When our daughter Gianna was born, different people told us about the “other” Gianna (besides the Saint), Gianna Jessen. We read the book Gianna, her life story. We were both moved by it. Around the time, I had learned something that, to me, was disgusting, the realization of my lifelong fears about where our society was headed.

Someone was starting a “stem cell bank” for research into genetic disorders, including Marfan syndrome. Researchers were telling people with Marfan syndrome and other genetic disorders where the genes were known, to use in vitro fertilization instead of natural conception. The resulting embryos are “screened” for the known genetic defect. The “defective” embryos are “donated” to the “stem cell banks” for research. The “healthy” embryos are then “used” by the parents.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the “healthy” child the parents so desperately strive for will actually be “healthy.”

It just means that, had we not been staunch pro-life Catholics (we probably woudln’t have had kids at all, but bear with me), we would have given Alexandra up to a “stem cell bank.” She’d have been dissected in someone’s Petri dish by now.

Think about that.

So, here’s this guy who’s taken up Christopher Reeve’s mantle: some guy named Claude Gerstle has declared himself the Accidental Advocate. He’s a medical doctor who was paralyzed (Can’t he do something with an MD while paralyzed besides whine? Can’t he consult? Teach? Do reserach?). He’s made a movie to show how horrible his “plight” is and how desperately he needs to have human embryos dissected in the hopes of getting some kind of “miracle” cure.

(Even though he’s likely rich enough to fly to some foreign country and get one of the perfectly safe and ethical adult stem cell treatments they’re already doing).

So, this review of his movie quotes some doctor–who likely has a stake in the film himself–saying there’s a “devastating” scene where a priest from the National Catholic Bioethics Center tells this Gerstle guy that to get a cure from embryonic stem cells would be to participate in evil.

Gerstle responds, “I would rather be evil and better.”

For Mitalipov, a leading stem cell researcher at Oregon Health and Sciences University, the scene is disheartening because the film examines the issue from a patient’s point of view.

“He had a patient in front of him and still wouldn’t shift his philosophical position. It shows how such arguments can really slow progress,” said Mitalipov.

What should having a patient in front of him have to do with his principles??

One of the things I can’t stand about liberals is that “sad cases” only work on their side.

When they said Bush only did “tax cuts for the rich,” I’d explain how much Bush’s tax cuts and credits helped my struggling family. Then they’d accuse me of whining or complaining.

We’re supposed to feel sorry for this guy who says he’s willing to commit evil to get a cure. We weren’t supposed to feel sorry for Terri Schiavo being murdered by her adulterous husband.

No one cares that Alexandra wouldn’t have existed if we’d followed the secularists’ “advice”. They call us “cruel” for allowing her to live at all.