The scramble for Africa – 21st century style

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Nearly two hundred years ago, in the aftermath of what came to be known as the Peterloo massacre, Britain’s close shave with murderous revolution and mayhem, these lines of poetry were penned by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

I met Murder on the way –

He had a mask like Castlereagh –

Very smooth he looked, yet grim;

Seven blood-hounds followed him.

On the 16th of August 1819 the huge open area around what’s now St. Peter’s Square, Manchester, played host to an outrage against over 60,000 peaceful pro-democracy and anti-poverty protesters. An estimated 18 people, including a woman and a child, died from saber cuts and trampling. Over 700 men, women and children received extremely serious injuries.

The Massacre occurred during a period of immense political tension and mass protests. Fewer than 2% of the population had the vote, and hunger was rife with the disastrous corn laws making bread unaffordable. The elites of the time had their own views of how the world should be and ordinary people could and should have no say in the matter.

Move on another 150 years or so and another elite forces its will on a people.

On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States, by a 7-2 majority, discovered a sweeping constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy and struck down abortion laws across the country. Within five years, the number of abortions in America annually climbed above a million, where it would remain for 20 years.

To be pro-life, to regard abortion as obviously a form of murder and all those millions of dead unborn as its nameless victims, is to believe that the Roe v. Wade decision was a moment of deep moral rupture in the history of the republic.

These are the words of New York Times columnist, Ross Douthat, written in another context but in any context a valid description and judgement on what America has done to itself.

We are a long way from 1819 now, but we hope that our response to murder is no less one of outrage than it was for Shelley.

Now, not satisfied with perpetrating a “deep moral rupture in the history of the republic”, the forces of “progressive individualism” in America and its Western Allies – predominantly Great Britain and the European Union, with their captive bureaucracy at the United Nations, want to spread this contagion into the Third World. Their first big target is the continent of Africa. A modern Shelley might now write;

I met Murder on the way –

He had a mask like UNFPA –

Very smooth he looked, yet grim;

Seven blood-hounds followed him.

A few years ago a conference took place in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.  This one conference attracted 11 very wealthy, and mostly western sponsors —  the UK Department for International Development, United States Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund, among them.

Any one of them could have single-handedly sponsored a conference in any part of the world. Why did 11 of these giants gather for one little conference in Nigeria. This conference was not convened out of great necessity and it was not conceived in Nigeria. Rather it was convened at the behest of what many now see as the forces of cultural imperialism. It was conceived in the hearts of powerful western social engineers who are the same people who are promoting abortion around the world.

Alongside these sponsors were also about 25 powerful organizations listed as the “corporate partners/planning committee” of the conference. These included major organizations well known in Europe and America for their single-minded radical pro-abortion and anti-life stance. These included International Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International and Ipas – an international non-profit organization with a “mission to reduce maternal deaths and injuries due to unsafe abortion and to increase women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.”

Yes, all of them gathered in Abuja to nudge and prod Nigeria toward “family planning.”

American billionaire, Melinda Gates, and other Western philanthropists are now pouring astronomical amounts of money into projects that, at their roots, will drastically reduce the fertility in Africa.   Abortion legislative proposals have been introduced throughout Africa, and stringent population control measures are being strongly proposed around the continent under the influence of these powerful Western agencies.

In response to all this, when the Gates Foundation moved from its initial mission of targeting malaria, Nigerian-born Obianuju Ekeocha wrote an open letter to Melinda Gates opposing this initiative.  Her argument was that the underlying attitude towards human sexuality and life inherent in these programmes will “undoubtedly start to erode and poison the moral sexual ethics that have been woven into our societal DNA by our faith”.

Obianuju Ekeocha is a 32-year-old Nigerian woman who for the past six years has been living and working as a biomedical scientist in Canterbury, England. Most of her family and many friends still live in Nigeria.

Ekeocha has set up an organization, Culture of Life Africa, which is now one of the front-line defences for the continent in the face of this new colonisation, this 21st century version of the old 19th century imperialist “scramble for Africa”.

Speaking at a conference in Dublin, Ireland, earlier this week, she said she was inspired to write an open letter to Melinda Gates after learning of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s move to inject $4.6 billion worth of contraceptive drugs and devices into her homeland.

The moment these huge amounts of contraceptive drugs and devices are injected into the roots of our society, she said, they will undoubtedly start to erode and poison the moral sexual ethics that have been woven into our societal DNA by our faith. Even at a glance, anyone can see that the unlimited and easy availability of contraceptives in Africa will surely increase infidelity and sexual promiscuity as sex is presented by this multi-billion dollar project as a casual pleasure sport that can indeed come with no strings – or babies – attached. Think of the exponential spread of HIV and other STDs as men and women with abundant access to contraceptives take up multiple, concurrent sex partners.

And of course there are bound to be inconsistencies and failures in the use of these drugs and devices, so health complications could result; one of which is unintended abortion. Add also other health risks such as cancer, blood clots, etc. Where Europe and America have their well-oiled health care system, Ekeocha points out, “a woman in Africa with a contraception-induced blood clot does not have access to emergency response, an ambulance or a paramedic. No, she dies.”

“I see this $4.6 billion buying us misery. I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us streets devoid of the innocent chatter of children. I see it buying us disease and untimely death. I see it buying us a retirement without the tender loving care of our children.”

What Africa does need, she continued in her letter, suggesting that The Gates Foundation could provide for these, are:

– Good healthcare systems (especially prenatal, neonatal and paediatric care).

– Food programs for young children.

– Good higher education opportunities

– Chastity programs

– Support for micro-business opportunities for women

– Fortify already established NGOs that are aimed at protecting women from sex-trafficking, prostitution, forced marriage, child labour, domestic violence, sex crimes, etc.

Addressing Melinda she says, $4.6 billion dollars can indeed be your legacy to Africa and other poor parts of the world. But let it be a legacy that leads life, love and laughter into the world in need.

“The worst part is that no one in Africa (meaning the average African woman or man) knows that Melinda is about to bequeath us her ‘legacy’ which can and most probably will stifle love and life in our continent,” she said.

With reference to that aforementioned Abuja conference Ekeocha says “Family Planning” is a term that is (or should be) self-explanatory. It should mean the planning of one’s family. ”It should be a term that by default points to married couples who have a family to plan. It should be family-centred and it should connote self-mastery and self-discipline (for every good plan should undergirded by discipline).

“Family planning should be a good, healthy, pure and beautiful concept. Couples, guided by the spirit of openness to love and life, can plan their family together while understanding that any life conceived by their union is a gift of enormous value. Family planning should be natural and healthy for both husband and wife. It should not be destructive or detrimental to the health of mind and body, as many if not most of the artificial contraception available is.”

She warns that if Nigeria and other African nations do not wake up now, “we will surely fall off a cultural cliff and suffer the destruction of marriage and family life.

“We may be poor but we have our dignity.  So let us not fail or fall for what the 21st century cultural imperialists have surreptitiously labelled “family planning” or falsely imagined to be the most ‘unmet need’ of Africa.

 

Ekeocha speaking to the United Nations and appealing for respect for Africa’s nations and their people.

Morality, media ethics and the algorithm

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At a media conference in Dublin last weekend (@cleraunmedia) there was a great deal of talk about digital and data journalism, how to use it, – with the odd nod to how to abuse it – and how it was in some ways helping refine the whole process of keeping the world better informed.

This week the Columbia Journalism Review gives us another look at the process and raises complex ethical questions about where we are being led by this development. In all this, moral issues may arise as to what might happen if we surrender ourselves too blithely to the law of algorithms. Indeed the shadow of HAL 9000 might be already hovering over us and taking control of our far from simple world.

In those two great cinematic epics from the late sixties ad early seventies, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris, the whole question of man and his machines, man as a moral being versus man as a scientific and technological being were raised. These two masterpieces, by Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky respectively, may only now be beginning to become critically relevant to our brave new world. You may remember that HAL derived its acronym from “Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer”.

The CJR raised these questions in the context of a BuzzFeed News probe earlier this year into suspicions about players fixing tennis matches. They called it “The Tennis Racket.” The piece featured an innovative use of statistical analysis to identify professional players who may have thrown matches. By analyzing win-loss records and betting odds at both the beginning and ending of a match, BuzzFeed identified cases where there was an unusually large swing (e.g. greater than 10 percent difference). If there were enough of these matches, it cast suspicion on the player.

They anonymized the data and didn’t publish the names of suspicious players. But a group of undergraduate students from Stanford University were able to infer and make public the names of players BuzzFeed had kept hidden.

The Review author, Nicholas Diakopoulos, feels the incident raises interesting questions about where to draw the line in enabling reproducibility of journalistic investigation, especially those that generate statistical indictments of individuals. “As newsrooms adapt to statistical and algorithmic techniques, new questions of media accountability and ethics are emerging.”

He notes how the news industry is rapidly adopting algorithmic approaches to production: automatically monitoring, alerting, curating, disseminating, predicting, and even writing news. This year alone The Washington Post began experimenting with automation and artificial intelligence in producing its Olympics and elections coverage, The New York Times published an anxiety-provoking real-time prediction of the 2016 presidential election results, the Associated Press is designing machine learning that can translate print-stories for broadcast, researchers in Sweden demonstrated that statistical techniques can be harnessed to draw journalists’ attention to potentially newsworthy patterns in data, and Reuters is developing techniques to automatically identify event witnesses from social media.

“While such technologies enable an ostensibly objective and factual approach to editorial decision-making, they also harbor biases that shape how they include, exclude, highlight, or make salient information to users.”

In “The Tennis Racket,” BuzzFeed decided to provide varying levels of transparency that would appeal to different levels of reader expertise. Each level of disclosure added additional nuance, so different stakeholders could access the “granularity” of information most relevant to their interests.

He then explains: “But the flip side of transparency is that, in the case of BuzzFeed, providing the source code and a detailed-enough methodology allowed students to de-anonymize the results relatively quickly and easily. The students re-scraped the data from the online source (though there was some uncertainty in identifying the exact sample used in the original story) with identities preserved, and then cross-referenced with the anonymized BuzzFeed data based on the other data fields available. This allowed them to associate a name with each of the 15 players identified in the original analysis.”

Transparency is now very high on the scale of values of the democratic world – not always adhered to without a degree of hypocrisy. The algorithm industry is well harnessed to provide tools for that. But, as this case shows, its instruments can be blunt and have a potential to perpetrate what might be injustice.

Diakopoulos points out that several prominent ethics codes employed by media organisations now emphasize transparency as a guiding norm. But transparency, he warns, is not a silver bullet for media ethics. It’s complicated.  “With so much machinery now being used in the journalistic sausage making, transparency is a pragmatic approach that facilitates the evaluation of the interpretations (algorithmic or otherwise) that underlie newswork.”

For many in the industry building computational products, Diakopoulos says, there are still concerns over algorithmic media production. We need a more accountable media system in which what he calls “these black boxes” are rendered more explainable and trustworthy.

Nicholas Diakopoulos is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland and a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Living in fear in Ireland

Footnote to this morning’s presentation at #cmc16 Cleraun Media Conference in Dublin. Philip Gallagher @cleraunmedia took his audience through some of his investigative work on crime in rural Ireland. It is a real problem.

A story on one of Ireland’s newspapers earlier this year revealed something shocking about the Irish Republic’s crime scene.

An Independent.ie analysis of homicide rates over the last decade reveals that you are almost six times more likely to be shot and killed in the 26 counties as you are in England/Wales.

And, contrary to popular belief, the gun homicide rate in the Irish Republic was more than double that of Northern Ireland for the ten years from 2005 to 2015.

The per capita rate for Scotland was 0.064 per 100,000 per annum; Northern Ireland was 0.204; and England/Wales was 0.075. Incredibly the rate in the Republic at 0.437 (see above) was more than double that of the North and almost six times the English and Welsh figures.

God’s juggler?

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Bob Dylan’s in the news. I couldn’t help thinking of him the other day when I read this:

Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphra’tes.” So the four angels were released, who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, to kill a third of mankind.

Dylan believes that. In his famous 1984 Rolling Stone interview he said, provocatively as he often is, and enigmatically as he also often is:

I believe in the Book of Revelation. The leaders of this world are eventually going to play God, if they’re not already playing God, and eventually a man will come that everybody will think is God. He’ll do things and they’ll say, “Well, only God can do those things. It must be him.”

That might remind you of something someone else said not so long ago – someone at a considerable remove from where you might expect to find Bob Dylan on the spectrum. This was what Republican Senator Rand Paul, (Kentucky) said in support of the pro life movement:

For 43 years, a few unelected men and women on the Supreme Court have played God with innocent human life.

They have invented laws that condemned to painful deaths without trial more than 61 million babies for the crime of being “inconvenient.”

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling forced abortion-on-demand down our nation’s throat.

So, one wonders about those four demon angels at the Euphrates. Have they arrived? The valley of the Euphrates, or thereabouts, is one part of the world where there are men and women playing God just now. If we add a few more from around the world – well, maybe we will not get as far as a third of mankind killed, but we are certainly on a bad road trip.

Dylan is a truly special kind of human being. He deserves the Nobel Prize. If you don’t think so listen to him again. Forget the cant about him not writing poetry and start thinking outside the box. There is no Nobel Prize for music. There should be and perhaps this is the best place to start. In terms of lyrics Dylan’s worst efforts – and there are not too many in that category – can be pretty bad. But at his best he can really fill you with awe and wonder.

If the Nobel Commitee was going to look into the world of popular culture for creative souls who have opened windows, given people things to think about which will help them better understand the human condition, they could do much worse than this – they might have chosen the Rolling Stones.

In that long interview with Rolling Stone – I hope this is not getting confusing – he showed some of the depths of his spirit. He also showed how essentially humble the man is. He was asked about all the labels he’s been burdened with over the years.

People have put various labels on you over the past several years: “He’s a born-again Christian”; “he’s an ultra-Orthodox Jew.” Are any of those labels accurate?

Not really. People call you this or they call you that…. I would never call it that, I’ve never said I’m born again. That’s just a media term. I don’t think I’ve ever been an agnostic. I’ve always thought there’s a superior power, that this is not the real world and that there’s a world to come. That no soul has died, every soul is alive, either in holiness or in flames. And there’s probably a lot of middle ground.

What is your spiritual stance, then?

Well, I don’t think that this is it, you know — this life ain’t nothin’. There’s no way you’re gonna convince me this is all there is to it. I never, ever believed that. I believe in the Book of Revelation.”

You’re a literal believer of the Bible?

Yeah. Sure, yeah. I am.

Are the Old and New Testaments equally valid?

To me.

Do you actually believe the end is at hand?

I don’t think it’s at hand. I think we’ll have at least 200 years. And the new kingdom that comes in, I mean, people can’t even imagine what it’s gonna be like. There’s a lot of people walkin’ around who think the new kingdom’s comin’ next year and that they’re gonna be right in there among the top guard. And they’re wrong. I think when it comes in, there are people who’ll be prepared for it, but if the new kingdom happened tomorrow and you were sitting there and I was sitting here, you wouldn’t even remember me.

When you meet up with Orthodox (Jewish) people, can you sit down with them and say, “Well, you should really check out Christianity”?

Well, yeah, if somebody asks me, I’ll tell ’em. But, you know, I’m not gonna just offer my opinion. I’m more about playing music, you know?

There is something very attractive about that simplicity, that mixture with faith and unpretentiousness – harking back to another famous interview with a journalist away out of his depth. Dylan ended by saying something like, “I’m just a song and dance man”, God’s juggler, as it were.

It is not that Dylan doesn’t express his views. He does, and sometimes quite strongly. It’s that he does so with a readiness to pull back from any suggestion of arrogance. His lyrics have been prophetic but he will not accept the mantle of the prophet. He detaches himself from them, he will even say that in instances he did not really know what some lines meant when he wrote them. He leaves us to read them for ourselves and work out their meaning. In that there is something of the quality which a true artist, a true genius, often touches, the quality of mystery which is essential in all great art. The Academy has done well this time round.

Global warming or global amnesia – which is the bigger threat?

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The catastrophe of our time which conventional wisdom identifies readily – even ad nauseam – is the calamity we are promised if we do not deal effectively with the causes and consequences of global climate change.  But there is an even greater catastrophe unfolding in our midst. It is nothing less than the wholesale destruction of the fabric of our civilization and it is far more threatening to the welfare of humanity than the natural changes to our climate.

Two reasons should assure us that global warming is not going to wipe out the human race. For one, that elusive force of nature, ‘political will’, seems now to be in harness to lead the charge against this threat. Secondly, human ingenuity, scientific and technological resourcefulness are all on our side to ensure that we will probably cope reasonably well with the effects of this unruly phenomenon.

Much more destructive of our fragile civilization than the climate-change denial everyone is getting so worked up about is the consignment of our wealth of human memory and tradition to the scrap-heap of history.

Surely one of the greatest malaises of our time is our failure to value our past? That failure is primarily the result of our self-inflicted ignorance. Everywhere around us we see public policy undermining that vital umbilical cord which links – or should link – successive generations of mankind down through the ages. The end result is a denial  which amounts to blindness – creating an empty black hole where there should be a vast reservoir of truth and wisdom. The consequences of such a radical denial cannot but be catastrophic.

It is not that we are unhappy to indulge our nostalgic sentiments with pastiche historical concoctions like Downton Abbey, or  the bizarre mindless faux historical narratives of Dan Brown. All this, some of it little more than vain fantasizing, without the foundation of truthful scholarship, without the training of young minds in the skills involved in the pursuit of historical truth, will at best  be nothing more than a superficial gloss. At worst it will be up there with the Wagnerian fantasies of Adolf Hitler, foundation stones for new tyrannies.

As veteran film-maker Ken Loach said recently, when asked about the popularity of British drama, such as Downton Abbey: “This rosy vision of the past…says, ‘Don’t bother your heads with what’s going on now, just wallow in fake nostalgia.’ It’s bad history, bad drama. It puts your brain to sleep.

“It’s the opposite of what a good broadcaster should do, which is stimulate and invigorate. You might as well take a Mogadon as watch it.”

What history must do – and include in that concept everything we know about archaeology and the study of historical literature and art – is unite us with the generations of men and women who have preceded us, not for a moment denying that among them we find the good, the bad and the ugly. The loss of intimacy with the minds of the past which is evident in the minds of the present must remind us of one thing. It must recall for us the hordes of barbarians who descended on the civilizations of the past – the Vandals, the Goths and the Huns on the Roman world, the Viking hordes invading the Celtic world, and in our own time, the Islamic jihadists and their destruction of the remnants of the ancient civilizations of the Middle East.

Just recently in Britain a campaign has had to be launched to prevent the removal of archaeology from the senior school curriculum. The subject is now joining art history and classical civilization in the school bin. Sir Tony Robinson, presenter of the serious television history programme, Time Team, is dismayed at the trend. “It feels like the Visigoths at the gates of Rome,” Sir Tony told the Guardian. “All these incredibly valuable and important subjects are being cast into the fire.”

At the heart of all this is a denial of the value of our knowledge of the past and of the traditions of of our ancestors. Denial of tradition is a denial of our humanity and it is at the heart of modern individualism, that ideology which is even more inimical to our common good than Communism was.

All this, in part at least, is a consequence of the neglect of history and its systematic removal from school curricula.

Dorothy Day, reflecting in the mid twentieth century on the loss of the sense of the past and the sense of their origins among young Americans, wrote, “Tradition! We scarcely know the word any more. We are afraid to be either proud of our ancestors or ashamed of them. We scorn nobility in name and in fact. We cling to a bourgeois mediocrity which would make it appear we are all Americans, made in the image and likeness of George Washington.” She regrets the loss of the sense of origin of the Irish, the Italian, the Lithuanian who have forgotten their birthplaces and “no longer listen to their mothers when they say, ‘when I was a little girl in Russia, or Hungary, or Sicily.’ They leave their faith and their folk songs and costumes and handcrafts, and try to be something which they call ‘an American’”.

G. K. Chesterton read the issue politically, interpreting the denigration of tradition as something alien in a true democratic heart. “Tradition is democracy extended through time. Tradition means giving the vote to that most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. Tradition is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who are walking about.”

The enemies of tradition have probably always existed.  Their interventions in history have, for the most part, been violent ones. But it was not until the Enlightenment that they really took on an ideological character. In the culture war which their emergence sparked, Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine were the leading protagonists. Yuval Levin in his masterful book, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Left and Right, shows how the issue of tradition, its value and relevance, became the hinge on which the future character of our society and our world was going to turn – and is still turning.

Paine was a man who clearly believed, as he wrote in Common Sense, one of the seminal texts inspiring the American Revolution, that “we have it in our power to begin the world over again.”

For Burke such an idea was a dangerous anathema, because it ignored all the essential realities of our human nature. For him history was a process of clarification through experience, and political change is among its constant features. But if ignorance of history and tradition prevail in a society then such change is at a terrible risk of being chaotic and human suffering will be the consequence.

Yuval Levin sums up: “Paine seeks to understand man apart from his social setting, while Burke thinks man is incomprehensible apart from the circumstances into which he is born—circumstances largely the making of prior generations.”

“Burke expressly denies that we can look out for the needs of the future even as we reject the lessons and achievements of the past. Access to those lessons and achievements is one of the most crucial needs of the future, as he sees it, so the present-centered vision of the revolutionaries must involve betraying the future as much as the past: ‘People will not look forward to posterity, who never  look backward to their ancestors’”

“If ‘the whole chain and continuity of the commonwealth would be broken and no one generation could link with the other,’ Burke worries, then ‘men would become little better than the flies of a summer.’”

For Burke our links to our ancestors – through our knowledge of their history and the traditions which have come down to us from them – are “capital” to which the present and the future are entitled, the accumulated knowledge and practice of our forefathers. The radicals, Burke argues, seek “to deprive men of the benefit of the collected wisdom of mankind, and to make them blind disciples of their own particular presumption.” He therefore sees himself, Levin explains, as a defender of the present, not the past, and sees the revolutionaries as a threat to present happiness as well as to future order.

The radicals of the Eighteenth century, like Paine, wanted to start the world anew. The gender-bending radicals of our day, driven by the ideology of radical individualism are going even further. They, ignoring the wealth of human experience evident in the history of mankind, want to take our very nature and fashion it in the image of their own strange fantasies.

We might borrow a thought from Burke’s contemporary and fellow alumnus of Trinity College Dublin, Oliver Goldsmith, reading the concepts of history and tradition into his word, “pride”.

“Princes and Lords may flourish, or may fade:

A breath can make them, as a breath has made;

but a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,

When once destroyed can never be supplied.”

We live dangerously when we live without the benefit of the wisdom of our forebears, despite all their flaws and failures.

Human beings never seemed less logical

The Guardian in the past few days has been writing about “draconian laws that force women from both parts of Ireland to travel to Britain to access abortion”. What is this “draconian” law in the Republic of Ireland? It is an article in the country’s Constitution, mandated by two thirds of it population, which gives the right of life to children awaiting birth in their mothers’ wombs. What is draconian about that?

 Draconian might be much more accurately applied to all those laws across the world, legislated by enlightened men and women, which have accounted for the termination – no, not the termination of pregnancies – the termination of millions of lives over the past five decades. This is all in the name of so-called “choice”. It is a perverse world which talks so much about choice but never asks about the rights and wrongs of choices. It is of course the result of a prior perversion, that which sets up the individual as God, a God whose only guide to behaviour is its own will regardless of the value behind the whim, mood or preference which is guiding that will.

If you want to illustrate the injustice of regimes which allow the termination of unwanted children just look at Sally Philips again and her sad reflection on a country which now destroys any child in the womb which seems to belong to the Downs community. Just consider these before you make up your mind on whose side you stand on this issue. This is a community which is being exterminated by in the name of choice – all done by legislatures which paradoxically pride themselves as the protectors of the rights of minorities. Human beings never seemed less logical.

We are a doomed civilization if these are the laws we are going to live by. If the Guardian and the other forces seeking to drive our culture towards a new absolutism, the absolutism of the individual will, prevail, then we are on a short road to that state of nature where all lives will be “nasty, brutish and short”.

US Millennials are “the most pro-life generation in recorded history”

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The forces of rampant individualism are currently battling  it out in Ireland with the politically unrepresented defenders of the civilization of life. At issue is the Article in the Irish Constitution which defends the life of unborn children. Meanwhile, the tide seems to be turning in the United States.

That euphemistically termed agent of megadeath, Planned Parenthood, has had a lot of public attention focused on it over the past year. David Daleiden set the ball rolling with his exposure of its practice of trading the body parts of the victims of abortion for big bucks. For his trouble, of course, they have shamelessly got their proxies to pursue him in the courts for alleged misdemeanours he may have committed in exposing them. Even if they win and send him to the lions, his exposures will not go away. The revolting record stands.

A few days ago, Ashley McGuire, a fellow of the Catholic Association, a think-tank at the forefront of the defence of human values in the United States, drew attention to a few uncomfortable realities facing Planned Parenthood. Time is not on the 100-year-old abortion giant’s side, she thinks.

Writing in The Hill, not to be confused with that other hill, Garvan Hill, she noted that while PP has no shortage of funds, it’s longer term future might not be so rosy.

The corporation is certainly flush, as a recent audit revealed that CEO Cecile Richards’ salary doubled to nearly one million dollars from a couple years ago. The half a billion dollars the corporation receives annually from the U.S. government certainly helps, as do the hundreds of thousands of abortions the chain performs annually, at a cost of up to $1,500 a pop.

And it certainly helps when the presidential candidate leading in the polls has sworn her allegiance to Planned Parenthood, even promising to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal tax dollars for most abortions directly.

One can hardly blame Planned Parenthood for thinking it’s party time.

The icing on their cake was the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Whole Women’s Health, which struck down laws passed by duly-elected lawmakers in the wake of the Gosnell horrors, laws intended to hold abortion clinics to the same basic health and safety standards as any other walk-in health clinic.

Planned Parenthood lobbied against the safety regulations, putting itself quite literally, on the other side of women’s health.

But a closer look reveals many reasons for Planned Parenthood to be deeply concerned.

For starters, there is my generation.

Millennials are the most pro-life generation in recorded history. The last two decades saw a more than 10-point drop in the percent of young voters who think that abortion should always be legal, complemented by polling which finds young people are the most likely of any age category to believe that abortion should be illegal in all cases.

Then there is the poll done by NARAL (formerly National Abortion Rights Action League) which found that young voters who self-identify as pro-life are more than twice as likely as young pro-choicers to say abortion is an important issue when voting.

And then there is abortion itself — the rates for which are at the lowest level since groups began tracking it in 1973. Even the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute was forced to acknowledge the downward trend spans “almost all states” and can’t simply be attributed to new state-level legal efforts to protect women and their babies.

And of those, there are many.

Just about every year breaks the record for the previous year’s number of state-level regulations affecting abortion practices. Those laws run the gamut, from banning late-term abortion, to requiring higher safety standards for abortion clinics, to outlawing abortions on the basis of sex or disability. These legal efforts speak volumes to what the people want — what Roe v. Wade cut down at the knees: a say in our nation’s abortions laws and more protections for women and children, not less.

Those desires were only inflamed by Planned Parenthood’s P.R. disaster when undercover footage released last year exposed a crass disregard at all levels of the corporation both for the unborn and for their mothers.

The amount of laughter heard throughout the videos as Planned Parenthood staff discuss dollar amounts and gruesome procedures is eerily unnerving. The trade of human body parts that was uncovered is still under federal congressional investigation, with lawsuits filed just last week by the Orange County District Attorney against two medical companies involved in the harvesting, transporting, and sale of body parts from Planned Parenthood’s clinics.

And then there is the inconveniently female nature of the pro-life movement, which jars with the rhetoric that opposition to abortion is somehow anti-woman. A lengthy article published on the feminist and pro-choice website Slate this week profiled the movement and its future, writing that the “future of pro-life activism is young, female, secular, and ‘feminist.’”

Indeed, the pro-life energy tracks that of other social justice movements in our nation’s history.

Over time, each of those movements swelled to the point that it became an unstoppable force, eventually piercing the nation’s conscience and stirring legislators to action. Just this year, polling found that an overwhelming majority of Americans find abortion to be “morally wrong” and that nearly 80 percent believe that our laws are capable of protecting both a mother and her unborn child

That’s bad news for Planned Parenthood.

And so they will no doubt celebrate the 100 years they have behind them, but they cannot hide from reality, which suggests that time is not on their side.

In addition to all that Ashley McGuire adverts to that might give Ms. Richards and her cohorts sleepless nights – and one wonders how they can have anything other than those anyway – there is the impending release of the the film, Gosnel, next year.

Doubtless the media will try to dampen down interest in this, as they did with the Gosnel trial itself, but one hopes that an adequate grassroots campaign will carry it through any barricades placed in its way by pro-abortion media.

T.S. Eliot reminded us that “human kind cannot bear very much reality.” Nevertheless, when the grim reality of everything surrounding the abortion industry is brought into the open light human kind cannot avoid facing it. Then, no longer being able to bear it, the shout will go up, “Enough! Stop this slaughter!”

The Clinton fifth column – what has really been going on, for a long time


The exposure of the Clinton campaign’s machinations to enlist the support of unwitting Catholics by subverting the authority of the Church continues to make waves.

Phil Lawler has noted Ross Douthat’s lengthy Tweetstorm of a few days ago —21 tweets in all—questioning whether it’s accurate to refer to the leaked emails from the Clinton campaign as evidence of “anti-Catholic” bigotry. Douthat—whom he observes is no friend of the Clintonite perspective—”makes a quick, convincing case that the reality is more complicated.”

We shouldn’t really be that surprised that his kind of thing goes on. It has been going on for two millennia. Even the Old Testament is full of it. Subvert the people, the rulers of the people, the prophets – and when you can’t subvert them imprison and kill them if you have to was always the path to religious rebellion. Every subversion of a religion accepted as the True Religion by a people begins with an internal rejection of authority. Secure such a rejection and you are on the pig’s back to full scale revolt.

The scale of what is now revealed as a result of the leaked emails should really be very helpful to all those Catholics who in their heart and head want to accept the authentic magisterium and authority of their Church. They really must go back to the simple and clear marks, which they learned to use as children, to identify  the Catholic Church – one, holy, catholic and apostolic. By extension, their aspiration to identify those same marks in themselves is the basis of their right to call themselves Caholics.

Lawler says that it’s not just that John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman at the center of the email exchanges, identifies himself as a Catholic. More important, Douthat notes, “the reality is that his vision is shared within Catholicism.” You will have no problem finding priests, religious, professors at Catholic universities—yes, and bishops—who defend the arguments that Podesta and his allies advance. So the public appearance of these emails offers (Douthat again) “a window into how the Catholic civil war is fought.” Lawler continues to itemise the process of subversion which has been going on.

 

We now know that Podesta helped to set up groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, hoping to swing Catholic opinion toward liberal positions, in opposition to clear Church teaching. Frankly that shouldn’t be too surprising; it’s been going on for at least 50 years. What’s more remarkable, really, is how smoothly staff members have moved between the US bishops’ conference and Podesta’s pet groups. Anne Hendershott supplied some details for Catholic World Report. Consider the personnel of one liberal front-group, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG):

 

 

 

Alexia Kelley worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development before she became founding director of CACG. (She later moved to the Obama White House staff.)

 

 

 

John Gehring was assistant media director for the US bishops’ conference, then became media director for CACG, then moved over to Faith in Public Life.

 

 

 

Tom Chabolla also worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, then joined the advisory board of CACG.

 

 

 

Francis X. Doyle, once the associate general secretary of the US bishops’ conference, became the treasurer-secretary of CACG.

 

 

 

Thus the CACG drew much of its leadership from within the staff of the US bishops’ conference. Presumably they held much the same views, and worked toward much the same goals, while they were employed by the American hierarchy. If they are “anti-Catholic,” then it seems “anti-Catholicism” has found sanctuary and support from our bishops. Make of that what you will.

 

Just don’t be surprised. If you are a Catholic, or an Orthodox Christian, an Anglican or a Lutheran, who believes that there has been a transmitted deposit of faith and teaching, be vigilant. The forces of modernist individualism, what they call progressivism, have no time for tradition or transmitted truth. They are not roaming around like a roaring lions – for the most part. They are treading the more subtle paths of sweetness and light – and not just in the United States.

Reacher redeemed

LEE CHILD

I haven’t read any Lee Child novels but a lot of my friends have. I post this from the Daily Telegraph by way of compliment to them. They have often seemed to be somewhat embarrassed by their enthusiasm about him and never recommended that I should read one. Perhaps they should have done. Maybe I’ll even try one now.

In the space of a few weeks there’s going to be both a new Jack Reacher film (starring Tom Cruise, out on Friday) and a new Jack Reacher book (out November 7). I doubt I’ll bother with the film; Cruise, as everyone knows, is ludicrously miscast. But I’ll definitely be reading the book.Lee Child’s thrillers are monstrously popular. They sell at the rate of a copy every 20 seconds. Admittedly not everyone’s a fan. “I can’t understand the mentality of one who is awaiting the next Lee Child,” Harold Pinter said. Sadly it’s a little too late to convert him. But for the benefit of anyone who shares the great man’s bafflement, I’ll try to explain.

I love the Jack Reacher thrillers because they remind me of childhood reading. By that, I don’t mean their language is so simple that a child could read it – although that’s certainly true. Then again, it’s also true of Ernest Hemingway, and that doesn’t make For Whom the Bell Tolls a bad book. Similarly, I don’t mean that Jack Reacher is a child’s idea of a hero – although that again is true, in the sense that he’s a big strong muscle-clad hardman who beats up the bad guys, shoots guns and invariably gets the girl.

What I mean by “childhood reading” is that the Jack Reacher books absorb me: absorb me the way books in childhood did. Remember how, when you were little, a story could swallow you whole: you fell headlong into it, like Alice falling into Wonderland. 

That doesn’t happen so much, when you grow up. Sure, you can love a book, you can admire it, you can be awed by its complexity and lyricism, you can feel enriched by its insights into the human condition. But it’s rare to be gripped so tightly that you become oblivious to all but your hunger to know what happens next.

More broadly, in fact, I’d say this is one of the main differences between childhood and adulthood. For hours on end, to the exclusion of all other thought, children can absorb themselves utterly in a single, simple pleasure: playing with Lego, painting a picture, building a dam in a stream, reading an adventure story. Adults lose that ability. We’re trapped in reality.

Ask Philip Larkin. His poem A Study of Reading Habits charts the way our attitudes to books change as we grow up. As children, we read ravenously, because books make us feel as if we are their heroes. (“It was worth ruining my eyes/ To know I could still keep cool,/ And deal out the old right hook/ To dirty dogs twice my size.” Jack Reacher fans will know that feeling.)

Novels for grown-ups, however, can be deflatingly realistic, a glum reminder of life’s disappointments. (“The dude/ Who lets the girl down before/ The hero arrives, the chap/ Who’s yellow and keeps the store/ Seem far too familiar.”) Which may be one reason so many adults lose patience with fiction. (“Get stewed:/ Books are a load of crap.”)

When you’re a child, you instinctively place your free hand over the final paragraphs of a chapter, to stop your eyes sneaking ahead and spoiling the surprise to come. I find myself doing that when I read a Jack Reacher. I can’t pay any higher compliment than that.

Clinton campaign bigoted AND hypocritical?

LifeNews today reports on the fall-out surrounding the anti-Catholic bigotry which the latest wiki leak tranche of emails reveals about the Clinton campaign. Top Clinton officials are openly mocking Catholics, calling their faith “severely backwards.”


Yesterday, Wikileaks released transcripts of an email exchange entitled “Conservative Catholicism” between Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, campaign spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri, and John Halpin, a staffer at the Clinton allied Center for American Progress.

In the email thread Halpin mocks News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch and Robert Thompson, Managing Editor of Wall Street Journal, for raising their kids Catholic.
Halpin writes about these Catholics: “They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy…”

Clinton spokesperson Palmieri agreed: “I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion. Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.”

Halpin replied: “Excellent point. They can throw around ‘Thomistic’ thought and ‘subsidiarity’ and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.”

Brian Burch, the head of the pro-life group CathlicVote, is livid and is calling on these top Clinton campaign officticalials to be fired.

“Aside from their blatant bigotry and ignorance about the philosophy and social teachings of Catholicism, does anyone notice a pattern here?” he asked. “Hillary has already called half of her opponents’ supporters ‘a basket of deplorables’ and ‘irredeemable.’ Now we get a glimpse of what her staff and friends think about Catholics in particular: They mock Catholic converts. They ridicule Catholics for raising their kids Catholic. They call our faith ‘severely backwards.’”

“Make no mistake, had Clinton staff and allies spoken this way about other groups, they would be dismissed. Just imagine if Clinton’s spokesperson was caught calling prominent Muslims or Jewish converts frauds for embracing their faith and mocking them for doing so because it was socially acceptable,” Burch continued. “This morning we called on Jennifer Palmieri to resign immediately from the Clinton campaign.”

Even evangelical leaders like Raplh Reed of Faith & Freedom Coalition, are upset.

“I am deeply troubled by the emails within the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign that show senior campaign officials smearing and ridiculing Roman Catholics and evangelicals. This is anti-Christian bigotry, pure and simple. It is sad, offensive, and un-American,” he told LifeNews.com.

“It reveals a corporate culture at the Hillary Clinton campaign that tolerated the expression of bigoted and prejudicial views of people of faith. No one should be attacked because of their deeply-held religious beliefs, much less by senior officials of someone who aspires to the presidency,” he continued.

Reed concluded: “That Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chair was included in these emails and apparently raised no objection and made no correction to those in her employ is also profoundly disturbing. I call on Mrs. Clinton to apologize for this anti-Christian bigotry and discipline or otherwise make the changes necessary to remove this stain of anti-Christian bigotry from her campaign.”