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Looking for some common sense? Read on…

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Immanuel Kant

Edward Feser, increasingly emerging as one of the sanest and clearest minds of our age, treats us this week to a superb – well, in fact it was last week – review of a new book on the pitfalls left for us in the philosophical landscape by that revered German, Immanuel Kant. Those pitfalls of course continue to be dug deeper and deeper by the many who have fallen into them over the past two centuries – and they just keep digging. Feser and his subject are screaming at them to stop.

Feser observes:

Postmodernist scepticism and triumphalist scientism might seem to have little in common. But as neither doctrine ever tires of reminding us, appearances can be deceiving. Among the things they share is scorn for philosophy’s traditional claim to provide objective knowledge of a kind distinct from empirical science: in short, metaphysics. Yet to justify that scorn would require taking an extra-scientific cognitive standpoint and showing from it either that science alone gets hold of reality – as scientism claims – or that not even science does so – as postmodernism alleges. And such a standpoint is precisely a metaphysical one. Thus, as Étienne Gilson wrote, does philosophy always bury its undertakers.

 

Raymond Tallis tosses a new shovelful of dirt onto them with each addition to his impressive oeuvre. It only helps that he is a polymath, not an academic philosopher. Formally trained in medicine, he is well informed about science, and thus not intimidated by it, as too many academic philosophers are. Not least among his other virtues is the unacademic elegance of his prose.

Feser is sharp and his critique is utterly relevant to our time. He is clearly grateful that a man like Tallis, with his scientific and polymath background, from an atheistic and Darwinian perspective, can see as clearly as he does, the inconsistencies of the postmodern and scientist positions.

He observes how a clear examination of these positions leave us in a situation in which

The notion of a mind-independent reality thus seems to vanish entirely. Common sense thinks of cognition as a window onto the external world. Kant appears to have inadvertently transformed it into a mirror.

Nor is such a view merely a historical relic. Postmodernism is essentially a relativist variation on Kantian epistemology, though that is not a connection Tallis draws in this book. What he does note is that Kant’s idealism has taken on a scientific guise in the physicist John Wheeler’s proposal that quantum mechanics shows the world to depend on the observer. As Tallis argues, the problems that faced Kant’s version remain for this reformulation. If quantum phenomena are among the physical causes that led to us, they can hardly depend on us. Incoherence tarted up in the language of physics is still incoherence.

This review is a long and rewarding one. Out of fairness to the TLS Garvan Hill can only give you these briefest of extracts. If you want a really refreshing vision of a world in which common sense might once again reign, read it all.

 

Book Details

Raymond Tallis

LOGOS

The mystery of how we make sense of the world

256pp. Agenda Publishing. £25 (US $30).

978 1 78821 087 4

Read No we Kant via the TLS app (£), library, or good newsagents – if you hurry.

July 17th – Feast of the Carmeltie Martyrs of Compiegne

Do we think this could not happen in our time? Think again – and not just of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia or Maoist China. Think Melbourne in the State of Victoria, Australia.

Séamus Sweeney

I have posted the climactic scene of Poulenc’s opera, “Dialogues of the Carmelites”, not once but twice

Today, three days after Bastille Day, is the feast day of the Martyrs of Compiegne. Here is a piece by Stephanie Mann that tells their story:

Their trial, held in a courtroom crowded with other defendants, was quick. Accused of hiding arms for counter-revolutionary forces, the Prioress held up a crucifix, proclaiming it contained the only arms they had ever kept. Authorities had found an altar cloth decorated with a fleur-de-lis, so they were accused of supporting Louis XVI and the monarchy. One of the nuns answered that “If that is a crime, we are all guilty of it; you can never tear out of our hearts the attachment for Louis XVI and his family. Your laws cannot prohibit feeling; they cannot extend their empire to the affections of the soul; God alone…

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Journalism today – the best of times, the worst of times

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You might say, paraphrasing Dickens, it is the best of times and it is the worst of times.

Freedom of expression, the freedom to speak your mind and let your voice be heard is one of the great goods in the firmament of good things available to the human race. We have never had greater potential to enjoy this freedom – airwaves open, the facility which social media platforms gives us. There is nothing stopping anyone who wants to put his or her thoughts out there for public consumption if they have the flare and inclination to do so. Well, almost nothing.

And yet, something terrible has gone wrong. Abuse of that most precious of treasures given to mankind, truth itself, is one thing. But the abuse of each other through that freedom is even worse. We are doing untold damage to the very fabric of culture and our civilization. Citizen journalism liberates us. It also can and does enslave us to our own viciousness.

Journalism is a rather inexact term. Looked at in its simplest historical manifestation, it is a service to society, a very necessary one. Try this definition: it is a service providing a daily report to a population on events of interest, and/or consequence, going on around them, but about which, without that reporting, they would know little or nothing.

Under that umbrella a huge variety of activity goes on. Controversy or some other elemental thing – humour, love, anger – has to be in the daily mix which draws us to read, listen to or watch news and commentary on news. There is nothing wrong with that. Probably the first news story ever printed was objected to by someone somewhere. Isn’t one of the definitions of news “that which somebody, somewhere, wants to suppress”? These elemental things are part of the life-blood of journalism.

Broadly there are two divisions. There is straight news reporting of the facts and there is commentary on those facts and their supposed implications.

All of this activity, until recently, was subject to what we knew as editorial scrutiny. Such scrutiny followed principles and there were standards which justice demanded and charity suggested, and which society generally expected.

From the very start, the provision of this service, like many others offered to society, operated in a marketplace and market forces influenced the form and content in response to the cultural character and interests of targeted readerships. That’s how we got the broadsheets, the tabloids, or as some would say, the “quality” press and the “gutter” press. For the most part, the partnership worked well.

But that model now looks shattered. It is almost as though the French Revolution has eventually upturned the fourth estate as it had done to the first, second and third estates in 1789. The hegemony of what we call “legacy” media is now a diminished thing. The media marketplace is in turmoil and a kind of anarchy is now let loose upon the world in the shape of the internet and the wild untamed flood of information, misinformation, and unrestrained personal abuse it has unleashed. The instruments for communication now at our disposal are fast becoming weapons of destruction. Watch a few episodes of Charlie Brooker’s  Black Mirror and you will at the very least feel a little uneasy.

But that is not our only problem. Even if we managed to use well the freedom which our advanced technology gives us, we still have another issue to face. What else has happened that is threatening our well-being? It is that the service journalism should be offering us has collapsed into partisan politics. How and why did this happen?

American commentator and academic, Victor Davis Hanson, in an American context, says:

There still exists a physical media in the sense of airing current events. But it is not journalism as we once understood the disinterested reporting of the news. Journalism is now dead. The media lives on.

Reporters today believe that their coverage serves higher agendas of social justice, identity politics, “equality” and diversity. To the degree a news account is expanded or ignored, praised or blasted, depends on its supposed utility to the effort to fundamentally transform the country into something unlike its founding.

To some degree what has happened, and what is corrosive, is that the polarisation which is making our political life so worrying, is also doing the same for our journalism. In a Marxist sense everything has now become political. Everything is filtered through a political spectrum and must be seen to be correct by the only measure for correctness which is acceptable, political correctness. It is a new totalitarianism.

Actors are no longer artists, they are politicians. Celebrities are no longer happy to be celebrated for what they do. They are campaigners in some political cause. Business corporations don’t just do business anymore. They legitimately make their voices heard in economic matters but that is not enough, they insist on exercising real power in determining social policies. Academia is now, for the most part, irredeemably Marxist in its thinking. Journalism is mired in the same ideology. All this is a gross abuse of power and influence. There is no important issue in the politics of our time about which big money and big egos will not now weigh in with their considerable power to have their say – and in many cases subvert the democratically expressed will of the people. They do this openly and shamelessly as though it were their right. Who knows what they do behind closed doors? Journalists, equally shamelessly, collude with all this.

These are all elites with power, unelected, but using that power to effect social change regardless of the will of the people. This is profoundly and worryingly undemocratic. Those outside these Gnostic elites are the new plebs, now being denigrated as populists, the enemies of progress. Elitists view the “ordinary” people as, well, Hilary Clinton said it all, “deplorables”. Ordinary people do not know, cannot know of themselves, what is good for them, what is right or what is wrong. They need to be looked after by those who really know what true progress is.

The fears of these elites are like the fears of the patricians of ancient Rome in the face of the demands of the plebeians, or the Gnostics of the early Christian era for whom simple faith was not sufficient; their special exclusive knowledge was necessary for salvation. The fears of these elites are like the fears of those who opposed universal male franchise in the 19th century, or those who opposed the vote for women in the early twentieth. Now we have them again. Each age seems to have to deal with this virus.

Journalists and journalism should stand apart from these elites, critiquing their rationale – or lack of rationale, for that lack is at the heart of the problem. Roland Barthes, in a different context, wrote of the dangers of received wisdom being accepted uncritically and being built into the foundations of our culture and our civilization: “If we collect all such knowledge, all such vulgarisms, we create a monster, and this monster is ideology.”

Series three of Stranger Things premiers this month. It is a fable which may have more to say about this monster than we think. The purity and innocence of the young heroines and heroes of this fable confront the monstrosity threatening Hawkins, Indiana. When journalism as a profession restores its integrity and its commitment to its historic mission, it may do the same.

 

Storm in the ancient city of Kilkenny

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My weekly newsletter from Screenit.com this week told me that among the crop of new movies just released is one entitled The Dead Don’t Die. In its very brief snapshot of what the film is about it says: “Comedy/Horror: Residents of a small town must contend with a zombie outbreak.” My God, I said to myself, “That was quick. They’ve already made a movie about Friar Tom Ford’s shocking sermon to the people of Kilkenny.” Well, sorry. I know Kilkenny is not a small town. It is one of Ireland’s oldest and most beautiful cities, for a short time the seat of its parliament.

Closer examination of the new release of course assured me that this movie was not about Friar Tom, or the remarks he made about the state of our bodies after the death of grace in our souls, when afflicted by that sin which we appropriately call “mortal”. You probably have some hazy recollection of what all Christians once learned in their catechisms. The people who walked out of Fr. Tom’s church in disgust at his remarks may have forgotten that.

It struck me as a bit strange to recall that Dolores Riordan and the Cranberries had a worldwide hit a few decades ago when they said exactly the same thing about another kind of sinful activity indulged in and causing the mayhem that all sin causes in any country. Zombies was what they called those who surrendered the life of their souls to Irish Republican Army. Perhaps had Friar Tom set his words to music he might have been more effective in getting his point across. As it is he now just has everyone falling over backwards in outrage and his friends and superiors apologizing for him. He included a range of what Catholic moral teaching describes as objectively sinful behavior. One feels, of course, that his real sin was to include gay activity among these.

The gay thing is, of course, impossible to talk about now – unless you are praising the lifestyle to the skies. What is it anyway? I once wrote something by way of explanation of the Catholic Church’s teaching that it did not condemn as sinful the condition of being gay in one’s sexual orientation. A friend of mine contradicted me, explaining that in contemporary usage – I’m not an expert in the area – “being gay” was in fact a description of one who was homo-sexually active. What the Catholic Church holds, he explained to me is that homosexual orientation is not in any way sinful, so much so that it is perfectly compatible with a virtuoso and sanctified life – which was the point I was trying to make. He thought I was not being helpful by confusing the two.

Friar Ford, as he admitted himself, is something of a fan of the zombie movie genre. To his cost, he let his enthusiasm for the metaphor he saw in them go just a little bit too far. But really, was it that shocking. Literary souls like using metaphors to explain their ideas. He saw it as a way of bringing home to us all the grossness and horror of that sin which we call “mortal”, that sin which kills the life our soul. Christ called some of those of his own time who were willfully in a similar state, “whited sepulchers” – which as an image is not far from zombie. Of course his hearers were offended and outraged also. Indeed, they ended up crucifying him for his offensiveness.

There is now much ado about the latest iteration of Catholic teaching on the gender and identity issue. It clearly explains the traditional Catholic view that men and women are created with fixed gender and sexual roles. Some are complaining that it does not address the work of biologists and psychologists who grapple with the exceptional cases which give rise to confusion of identity. The Church is not a Scientific Institute. It is a moral teacher and has to offer moral guidance to every soul on the planet. It is aware of and respects the responsible work being done by scientists, psychologists and psychiatrists in this field. Indeed it uses their findings to clarify its own moral teaching as faith and reason demands. However, it is the bizarre ramblings of the LGBT theorists that have made it necessary to offer this statement of moral teaching to poor bewildered humanity at this time.

At the root of all the confusion, of course is the poison inflicted on society and our civilization by the neo-Marxist definitions of our nature which spawned the sexual revolution. Sexual sin no longer exists. Pharmaceutical development and technological development – although they have brought great goods to mankind have combined together to poison our vision of what it is to be truly human. Together they have led us to a place where sexual abuse, promiscuity, abortion, pornography are corrupting individual human beings in their millions. As a consequence they are corrupting our society by destroying the family. That dual corruption, unless it is arrested, will end in utter chaos. If a bit of outrage in a Kilkenny Friary helps bring us back to our sense of what is really right and wrong, I can live with a bit of outrage.

More on the shifting sands of the media world

If readers pay for your news, you’re one of the lucky ones

By Mathew Ingram

Columbia Journalism Review

Every year, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, which is based at Oxford University in the UK, comes out with its Digital News Report, a survey of global trends and attitudes towards online news. Depending on your position in the media industry, it can be either good news or bad news. According to the latest edition, which came out Wednesday morning, if you’re a prosperous digital giant with a well-established subscription program, then you are probably in great shape, thanks to the growth of digital and mobile consumption of the news. If you’re a small publisher that still relies predominantly on print and your subscription plan still isn’t lucrative, however, the report is probably going to cause nightmares. As Facebook and Google continue to vacuum up the lion’s share of digital advertising around the globe, the landscape is looking increasingly barren for any publisher that isn’t already a market leader. (Google helps fund the Reuters report.)

One of the big headlines from the study is that, despite the efforts of news publishers to pivot away from advertising revenue and focus more on subscriptions and membership plans, there has only been a tiny increase in the number of people who pay for online news in any form in the past year, and the bulk of what little growth did occur came primarily in Nordic countries like Norway and Sweden. In the US, the so-called “Trump bump,” which led many news consumers to sign up for subscriptions to newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post, seems to have slowed into a virtual flat line. The number of people who paid for news in the US jumped sharply in 2017, the Reuters report says, but it currently remains relatively “stable” (i.e. it isn’t growing) at 16 percent of the population.

On a related note, the study found that even in countries where fairly large numbers of news consumers pay for their news, the vast majority of those consumers only have a single subscription. As the report points out, this phenomenon—which turns subscription revenue into a scarce resource that virtually every other news outlet is also fighting for—suggests that there is a “winner take all” aspect to online news. That might benefit the Times or the Post, or newspapers like The Guardian in the UK, but as those outlets grow stronger, their smaller competitors could find it even more difficult to sign up new subscribers, no matter how good their coverage is. Some media analysts believe there is a distinct possibility that this could create a polarized market, where the big get bigger and the small get smaller, and those in the middle either dramatically change their models or die out.

The Reuters study also suggests that news publishers aren’t just competing with other news outlets for subscribers. As more and more consumers—particularly younger ones, the kind the news industry is most interested in attracting—are looking to streaming services like Netflix and Spotify to serve their entertainment needs, there is a risk that even in markets where people don’t mind paying for news, a form of “subscription fatigue” may be developing. In this environment, “publishers may struggle to substantially increase the market for high-priced single-title subscriptions,” the Reuters report says. And publishers who are doing everything they can to sign up as many readers as possible could be exacerbating this problem by hitting consumers with paywalls more frequently. Reuters says that, in the US, about half of those surveyed said they now hit a pay barrier at least once a week.

If you’re desperate for a little good news, the study found that while trust in the news in general is down 2 percentage points to 42 percent across all countries, and less than half of those surveyed said they trust the news sources they use regularly, there are signs that these low levels of trust are helping move people towards more reputable sources of news. Across all of the countries surveyed, more than 25 percent said that they have started relying on more reputable sources, and in the US about 40 percent of those surveyed said they were doing the same (The study says the interpretation of “reputable” was left to respondents to determine.) How this particular statistic is likely to affect your media business depends on whether you are one of the reputable sources people are heading towards, or one of the not-so-reputable sources that readers are busy heading away from.

Here’s more on the state of digital news:

• Print’s long decline: The Reuters report isn’t the only significant survey of digital media trends to come out this week. Mary Meeker is a veteran technology analyst who recently left the VC fund Kleiner Perkins to start her own fund, and she releases a 300-plus page overview of the internet market every year that companies and investors routinely scan for details. Nieman Lab founder Josh Benton scans the Meeker report every year for data on the state of print advertising, and every year the data gets worse.

• Active avoiders: Damian Radcliffe of the site What’s New In Publishing has picked out what he believes are the five essential charts from the Reuters media report that publishers need to pay attention to, including the fact that almost a third of those surveyed for the report say that they “actively avoid the news.” That’s up by 3 percentage points from when Reuters asked the same question last year. How can publishers convince more readers to subscribe to their sites if a significant proportion are no longer interested in news at all?

• Congress cares: The backdrop to the Reuters study is, of course, the dominance of digital giants like Google and Facebook, which Congress is currently holding hearings into, with a view towards possible antitrust action against either one or both. During Tuesday’s hearings, the media got a shout out from several congressmen, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman David Cicilline, who asked: “If online news publishers can’t survive, then who can?”

• The youngs: Not everyone was depressed by the Reuters study. Mark Little, a former Irish TV Correspondent who founded the social-media verification service Storyful and now has a news curation startup called Kinzen, says there are encouraging signs that younger news consumers are more interested in reputable sources, share less fake news and are more interested in paying for news than older consumers.

The great divide

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The world seems to be irreconcilably divided into two diametrically opposed realms of feeling and fear. These worlds do not talk to each other, they talk at each other. There is the realm of those who feel The Shame And Peril Of Living In A No-Abortion State and those who in equal measure feel The Shame And Peril Of Living In An Abortion State.  The measure of difference between those two sound bites is the word “No” but the measure of difference between the sentiments expressed is as an abyss.

The first is a tweet signaling another volley of rifle-fire, in the form of a blog post, at the down-but-not-out opposing army. It is totally devoid of the slightest suggestion that there is any point in listening to what they might have to say in defence of their case against “an abortion State”. These are two forces at war, and it is not pretty.

The measure of shame and peril felt on each side may be relatively equal, but the measure of power exercised by one side of the divide over the other is not.

In a recent Irish Times article Gavin Boyne drew attention to the way in which the most extreme advocates of abortion had now captured the engines of social and health policy in Ireland and were molding them into their own image and serving the culture of death. But not only are they doing so in Ireland. They are seeking to work their way around the globe in pursuit of their goal.

The chairwoman of a U.N. commission, in the face of objections from more than one member state, recently forced the adoption of a measure that implicitly promotes abortion. Who is this woman? She is Irish ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, who is recognised within the U.N. as a woman who has dedicated her life to using the Organisation to promote abortion around the world – which is probably why the government of the world’s newest Abortion State has appointed her as its ambassador there.

Controversy erupted a few months ago at the annual conference of the Commission on the Status of Women, when Byrne Nason, ignoring objections by two countries, forced the adoption of a document that promises “universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services” for citizens of member states. In the language of this war, that means only one thing.

The hearing on whether to adopt the “agreed conclusion,” which involves “a set of concrete recommendations for governments, intergovernmental bodies and other institutions,” came after weeks of negotiations. It was held at the U.N. headquarters in New York late on the evening of March 22, after translators had gone home. When Byrne Nason asked exhausted delegates whether any country had an objection, diplomats from both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain spoke, citing a slew of language dealing with sexuality and the family that “disregards important red lines” for them.

The delegate from Bahrain claimed that during the negotiation process he was “bullied and harassed” by high-ranking U.N. officials and senior Commission members, “in terms of threatening me to go back to my capital, talk to my royal family to pull me out of the negotiation.” Again, language says it all. Islamophobia anyone?

The Muslim countries objected to “multiple references to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights”.  But Byrne Nason was having none of it. “I hear no objection. It is so decided,” the ambassador responded as she banged her gavel.  The Bahraini and Saudi Arabian diplomats protested, but to no avail.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” a U.N. expert who advises member states on legal issues told National Review. The source characterized Byrne Nason as the “primary villain” in the situation who has “clearly dedicated her life and her work to advancing the abortion agenda at the U.N.”

A diplomat involved in the negotiation who requested anonymity from the National Review writer to speak on the record called it a “very frustrating session.” “This has never been the way” such negotiations work, the diplomat said. “Everybody needs to be on board.” If even one country rejects the document, the diplomat added, it “automatically means that there’s no agreement.”

The document in question promised, among other things, to “ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights”

United States was not a member of the Commission but did participate in negotiations about the measure. Their team was dismayed that “the clear views of many delegations were not taken into account,” U.S. Ambassador for U.N. Management and Reform Cherith Norman Chalet said in a statement delivered at the March 22 hearing. The U.S. also took issue with the language on “comprehensive education and sexual and reproductive health information.”

The Holy See, Guatemala, Comoros, Bahrain, Belarus, Cameroon, Djibouti, Libya, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Gambia, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe joined the U.S. in expressing concerns about the parts of the document dealing with abortion and neglect of the family, and with the faulty process that led to the document’s adoption.

The unfortunate reality is that some of these countries are still in the early stages of development and have poor records when it comes to dealing with social inequality, economic progress, women’s rights, and more. This firstly allows the wise men and woman in control at the U.N. to denigrate all their values, and secondly, gives an opportunity to the neo-colonial Abortion States to package their very progressivist  policies into their development programmes.

Elroy off the leash

I like this – for its freshness. Why do more people who have interesting things to say, or might have, not take this line?

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This is from the Daily Telegraph:

London, 7.15pm, a warm evening on the Southbank. James Ellroy, the man known as the Demon Dog of American crime fiction, writer of The Black Dahlia and LA Confidential, is having his photograph taken with an English bull terrier called Brian. Smartly dressed in a blazer, leaning his loose-limbed 6’4” frame down into the shot, the novelist is affable and smiling. One hour later, at a question-and-answer session in the plush surroundings of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, he’s off the leash.

A fan has dared to embark upon a speech that seems to be leading towards a question about the current president of the USA, and Ellroy is on him fast. “Don’t even start…” he menaces. “Stop right there.” There’s some nervous laughter. “This is not a Trump question,” the punter protests. “Shut up!” Ellroy snaps. “Back off! I don’t answer any questions pertaining to contemporary politics, or America today, under any circumstances.” He sits back, still snarling. “First f—ing question.”

The Sleeping Beauty’s heartbeat counts for nothing anymore

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Thou shat do as I say, Georgia, or else…

Irony of ironies, Disney has gone over to the Dark Side and joined the forces of the abortion industry. The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday (May 30) that the corporation’s chief executive has warned the US state of Georgia that its  film and TV productions are likely to abandon the state if its controversial abortion bill becomes law.

Bob Iger said it would be “very difficult” for the entertainment giant to continue working in the state if the so-called “heartbeat bill”, which outlaws terminations from as early as six weeks, comes into force.

The Walt Disney Company has shot some of its biggest films in the US state, including Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame.

Speaking to Reuters, Iger said: “If it becomes law, it’ll be very difficult.

“I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard.

“Right now we are watching it very carefully.”

Is that Big Brother, Mr. Iger? It appears that corporate America is becoming more and more daring daring every day in the way that it is playing fast and loose with democratic institutions.

Surely there is a glaring misuse of power here – when a multi-billion industrial baron can step in on an issue like this and decree “Thou shalt not do this” – or we will make you pay dearly? It is probably not personal on Iger’s part – and I am giving him the benefit of the doubt here. He knows that the ideological forces that have captivated the minds and hearts of his prima-dona workforce will make life and business difficult for him if he does not subvert the democratic institutions which they despise.

 

Ordinary people have a right to ask why a powerful empire like Hollywood has a right to force them to do what they think is wrong.  Why should their conscientious defence of the right to life of a human being be sacrificed to a big business which deems that terminating a beating human heart it is morally justifiable?

 

 

Trilogues – have we reason to be suspicious?

 

Trilogues

A helpful briefing from THE WEEK:

Trilogues, as the name suggests, are informal meetings in which a few key players from each of the EU’s three main institutions – MEPs from the relevant parliamentary committee, officials from the Council and the EC – hammer out a deal on a given policy. Ever since the 2009 Lisbon Treaty stressed the need for speedy decisions, they’ve become, as the EU Observer puts it, “the main engine in the sausage factory that churns out EU laws in Brussels”. The timing of trilogues isn’t known to most MEPs, let alone the public; no minutes are taken; no one knows which of Brussels’s countless lobby groups may have brought pressure to bear. Yet deals made in them are often presented to the EP on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis, thus shortcircuiting the democratic legislative process and making mock of the transparency the parliament was meant to bring to it. Not that transparency is top of the list of MEP concerns. Last year a journalistic investigation exposed a host of dodgy MEP expenses claims; yet MEPs voted

down a subsequent EC proposal to force them to keep their receipts, and have their expenditures audited and made public. The European Court of Justice later upheld the MEPs’ right to keep their spending secret.

The problem at the heart of the European project

This analysis by David Thunder really hits the nail on the head. This points to the roots of Brexit. Battle for soul of Europe is only beginning

via @IrishTimes.

EU leaders undoubtedly breathed a collective sigh of relief as they surveyed the composition of the new EU parliament: although nationalist and Eurosceptical parties have made significant gains, the balance of power remains firmly on the side of more or less establishment-friendly parties. The dreaded populist upset has not materialised.

Pro-integration parties have enough votes to form a majority coalition in the EU parliament. This means that the EU can more or less trundle along as it is, at least for the time being.

Nonetheless, the steady gains of nationalist parties, led by Nigel Farage in the UK, Marine Le Pen in France and Matteo Salvini in Italy, cannot be easily dismissed, particularly given that France has given more seats to Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Rally) than any other party, representing a major setback for France’s pro-EU centrists led by Emmanuel Macron.

The gradual consolidation of nationalist and Eurosceptical parties, even if it does not reach a commanding position, is indicative of a brewing storm over the soul of Europe, over what the European Union really stands for. The current fracturing of European politics is symptomatic of a tension that has been latent in the European Union since its inception, between two very different visions of European integration.

Read the full article here.