Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ephemera Links Gone

Don't know what happened, but the links to other ephemera just disappeared somehow on their own. It will take some time to fix, and the Bear is very busy right now. He will fix things as soon as he get to it.

Sorry for the inconvenience. Seems like an odd thing to happen.

Here they are for the time being

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Things Are Not as Bad as You Think - They're a Lot Worse

Introduction: Why the "We've Had Bad Popes Before" Argument Fails

Amusing Ourselves to Death
This is one of the Bear's best, in his opinion. It is an essay about how we now have access to far more news than we need, about far more problems than we can fix. The ephemerist's paradox is that the more he writes, the more he contributes to this problem. And what problem is this? "Low information-action ratio." 

This indirectly addresses the frequently-heard argument, "oh, we've had bad popes before, so don't worry about it." This is not correct. It does not consider the continual and immediate flow of heterodoxy into a West that is now implacably anti-Christian, and a Church that has been critically undermined by heresy under color of authority. 

The stream of time flows much faster today than it did in the 14th century. Francis is not the only problem. Events move so quickly that we are literally witnessing the collapse of the Church before our very eyes. The torrent of events threatens to wash away everything.

The sooner we recognize this, the better. Maybe it was God's punishment on the passengers of the Titanic. But those passengers realistically assessed their danger and figured out what to do. The Bear is not going down smoking a cigar on the sloping deck of the fantail listening to Nearer My God to Thee because the Cunard Line engineer said the ship was unsinkable. 

We're growing weary and confused. That's good. If we are not, we don't understand the situation. The greatest adventure of our age is creating a new paradigm that is Catholic, yet figures out what to do with the cuckoo in Peter's nest. Fortunately, we know exactly what the Church is, and should look like. No one can take that away from us. This is the treasure we must pass on to the next generation.

Faith is one thing. Ignoring the indisputable evidence you are seeing with your own eyes is another. We are in huge trouble. The Bear can neither pietistically invoke "the wrath of God," nor downplay the wreckage. We are in trouble, and for an obvious reason. The Church is controlled by men who are more of the Left than Christ. Men who have hacked themselves away from the Vine and replanted themselves in the muck of secular priorities and human approval.

This is the new normal. We need to deal with it forthrightly and courageously.

A Low Information-Action Ratio

Cardinal Daneels admitted to a "mafia" against Pope Benedict XVI, which ultimately led to Jorge Bergoglio's election as Pope. One bit of information from a year ago; another is the last scandal you read this morning.

Oh dear, what does one do with such information? Is that old bear, Pope Benedict really still the Pope? Do we wake up to find Bobby in the shower, and the entire Francis Pontificate a dream? After all, would a real pope travel to Sweden to celebrate heresiarch Martin Luther and his destruction of the Christian West? (It's a serious question. Would General MacArthur have traveled to Japan in the middle of WWII to celebrate the Emperor? Would he not have been court-martialed and shot for treason?)

Neil Postman (1931-2003) was one of the greatest social commentators ever, and wrote the greatest book about our age. It is called Amused to Death.

A High Information-Action Ratio

Imagine you are in a mid-nineteenth century small American town, somewhere between the Ohio river and the Rockies. Let's call it Tumbleweed. A storm comes along and knocks down the church steeple. Everyone knows, of course, and the men get to work putting it back up, while the women bring them lemonade and cookies. The repair is well within the scope of the town's abilities.

A week later, word spreads that the schoolmarm showed up at the schoolroom a little tipsy. The ladies of the town quietly take the matter in hand.

The Johnson family's crop was blighted. No one makes a big thing about it, but foodstuffs are quietly gathered and they are provided for.

In each of these examples, the town receives no more information about problems than they themselves can address. They enjoy a high information-action ratio. In other words, they can act on the all the information they receive. They do not receive information they cannot act upon. They feel a measure of control over their world that we can't even imagine.

The Telegraph

One day, men come with tall poles and big wooden spools of wire. A stranger sets up some sort of clackity-clack device in the railroad station. Somebody recognizes it. "It's the telegraph! The news comes over those wires they're settin' up. It's all done with clicks of that thing-a-ma-jig, but that there man knows what it's sayin'."

In short order, the train delivers a huge, heavy crate. Townspeople gather around in excitement as the wood is pried apart to reveal a printing press. "We're gonna have us a newspaper!" exclaims the same man who knew about the telegraph. (He must be a city slicker.)

"A newspaper," another man scoffs, winking at his fellows. "What happens in Tumbleweed worth puttin' in a newspaper?" His jibe is rewarded by laughter.

"Go ahead, laugh," says Mr. Know-It-All. "But this here newspaper is going to have stories from all over the country, the world, even. And it'll all come right down those telegraph wires. Think of it! We're not going to be stuck here in Tumbleweed knowing just the small dealings of our town. If a ship sinks, we'll know about it. If there's a new King of England, we'll know that too. Disasters! Wars! Controversies! However often that fellow decides to print his newspaper, that's how often we'll know about everything! Imagine, the whole world is coming to Tumbleweed!"

One of the first stories carried by the telegraph and printed in the newspaper was an outbreak of yellow fever in New Orleans that killed thousands.

Brave New World

The telegraph slithered into the garden of Tumbleweed and whispered to the people: you shall know like God. Now the townspeople's heads were filled with problems about which they could do nothing. Postman wrote in the age of television. How quaint, compared to our internet-fueled day where consumers of news are themselves producers, and editorial comment is provided by anyone with access to wifi.

In his forward, Postman compares Orwell's vision of the future, 1984, to Huxley's Brave New World. It makes for fascinating reading, but slightly off-point for the Bear's purposes. Suffice it to say that Postman wrote this: "'In 1984,' Huxley added, 'people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.' In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us."

What do we love? The Church. Could our very love of what is holy contribute to our ruin? Wouldn't that be positively satanic!

A low-information action ratio refers to the helplessness of people faced with unlimited, decontextualized information. The relationship between information and action has become so attenuated, what's left is a feeling of helplessness. The problem isn't the steeple on the church, it's the Church.

We try to satisfy our disquiet with more information, or -- and this is new -- tailoring our information sources to only those we find agreeable. Neither way contributes to getting to the ultimate truth, nor still yet doing something about it ("action") which is the real issue.

Postman doesn't offer a solution, to the Bear's recollection, but it has been awhile since he read Amused to Death. He'll do that soon.

Low Information-Action Ratio in Ecclesiastical Politics

If it is not obvious by now, the Bear is saying we suffer from a low information-action ratio when it comes to ecclesiastical politics. What if we really knew why Pope Benedict XVI stepped down? Or what sketchy Cardinals were involved in a "mafia?" Or what exactly the German bishops were up to? Is there anything we could do with that information?

If the engine light comes on in your car, the action is clear and doable: take it in. But sifting through a glut of information to obtain timely, actionable intelligence about the Church that you and your neighbors can handle -- like Tumbleweed's church steeple being knocked down? No. It is an impossible fantasy. We read, and we create more information. No wonder we fret so!

And supply is just part of the problem with our limitless appetite for information. What about "action?" We never really get to the bottom of anything. And if we ever were to get near it, we would be distracted by the next scandal, some other juicy tidbit to engage, enrage or enthrall us. And if we were somehow finally able to master it all (impossible, of course), what could we do, practically speaking? Nothing. We would have only made our low information-action ratio worse.

That's not our fault. That is just the nature of the information machine we have created as it interacts with the human brain. Our brains were designed to use information that they sip, as it were. When we hook up our brains to a fire hose of data, far beyond their power to do anything about, the Bear shall let you guess the result. Confusion, fear, anger and ultimately paralysis is probably the best we can expect.

Whatever it is, it is probably not going to be the most peaceful place for prayer and reflection, but, rather, an occasion for pride and wrath.

The telegraph lines are singing right into our heads these days, and we sit, our jaws lax, as we know too much, but can do nothing about it. As always, that old serpent who seemed to promise us so much turned out to be a cheat.

The "take away" from this little essay is that Postman was onto something, the Bear thinks. Feeling helpless isn't pleasant, and we don't always make things better when we try to do something about that. Feeling helpless is inevitable in the internet age, just as it was, to a lesser extent in Postman's television age, or even when the telegraph insinuated itself into the innocent town of Tumbleweed. 

There is no apparent answer to the modern problem of the low information-action ratio. Just another trap to be aware of in the information age.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Bearmageddon Now Featured

Please note that if you ever need a laugh, and it is one of the days when the Bear just isn't coming through for you, you can always find the Bearmageddon link in the sidebar. As the Bear might have written at WXYZ, "See Bearmageddon for all your Bear humor needs."

Articles include:

  • How to avoid Bear online dating scams
  • Bears taken off endangered species list; all other animals placed on it

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bear on the Big Debate

Hillary in makeup for tonight's debate.

Here you go: a Bear's take on the big debate.

Summary: Mom vs. Your Favorite Entertaining Uncle.

Your Favorite Entertaining Uncle - we'll call him Donald - came by tonight. He's supposedly got lots of money, and is full of stories. Mom - we'll call her Mom - is very composed, has an answer for everything.  Oh, and the next-door-neighbor - we'll call him Lester - who mom is having an affair with, and doesn't care much who knows it, came by, too. Mom sat on his lap while they both put down Uncle Donald.

Uncle Donald cracks you up. You like his style. The situation was so ridiculously unfair, you sort of felt sorry for him, but he's not the type to take any nonsense from anyone. Being a businessman, he sees things mainly in those terms, of course. He does tend to repeat himself, but when you look back and forth between Uncle Donald and Mom, you think you'd feel better with Uncle Donald if the Zombiepocalypse happened.

You could tell Mom was playing fast and loose with the truth. She really made some low blows about Uncle Donald being Racist and Sexist, and maybe Phobophobic or whatever. But then she bragged about taking the high road.

Okay, if you are a liberal Democrat, Clinton is obviously your candidate.

Other than that, Trump looked energetic, tough, and unflappable, On points, Clinton won - she's the better debater. But to the extent the grossly biased moderator allows for any conclusion, the Bear thinks Trump made the better impression.

No one had a seizure, and no one had a foaming at the mouth tantrum. In that regard, the debate was disappointing. Let's go to random points that are already fleeting from the Bear's 450 gm. ursine brain.

The moderator was a disgrace. We've seen bias before, of course, but nothing like this.

"Secretary Clinton, during the last six years of the Obama administration, the economy has made a miraculous recovery thanks to Democrat policies. Real income is up 750%. How will your administration maintain this amazing recovery?"

"Mr. Trump, the topic is race. Why do you hate black people?"

  • Race: We learned how hurt the birther issue made poor l'il Barack. Well, boo-hoo. Do you think people go around Russia saying how Putin cries himself to sleep over something? Not more than once. Clinton called Trump a racist, but she literally called everybody a racist. Especially cops. Cops are so freaking unbelievably sheet-wearing racist that she is going to send in Federal Racial Harmony Counselors with MSWs to teach racist cops in Charlotte and other places how to police without being so racist. And now for an aside...

Is the criminal justice system racist? The Bear is aware of one factor where race is significant. The race of the victim pretty much decides who gets tried for the death penalty. The Bear defended both white (more) and black fewer) defendants in death penalty cases. Every victim was white. Kill an attractive white woman, and they bring you to trial already strapped to the gurney with lines in both arms.

But, all things being equal, even in the Copperhead country of Southern Illinois, the Bear never noticed black people being treated any more unfairly than anyone else. Not, at any rate, at the trial end of the pipeline. He did want as many black people on the jury as possible; and the prosecutor wanted to get rid of them all. Consider that a dirty little secret, and make of it what you will.

You really want to know who is racist in the criminal justice system? Until just a few years ago, the feds. White guy with a gram of blow, and a black guy with a gram of crack (same thing in rock form) - the feds used to hammer the crack defendants. Who were all black. 

Now it's rednecks who are getting hammered on meth. If you have a prior drug offense, and are rolled up in a meth conspiracy by the feds, you're looking at 20 years statutory minimum if the feds file for it (and they do). Then there are "mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines" depending on the inflated amount they put on you. You will plead guilty and dime out your buddies ("it's okay; everybody does it") and get a bit off for acceptance of responsibility, a third off for cooperating (if the prosecutor feels like it a year down the road), etc. and it's not quite as horrible. Even though the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are no longer mandatory (Bear rolls eyes) they are still an abomination before the Lord.

Clinton said she was against those, but the Bear seriously doubts it. They are an institution in the fed system.

The Bear acknowledges that both cops and blacks have a unique experience with one another on the street. But "racism" isn't the real story.

  • Clinton said Trump likes beauty pageants, and "likes hanging around them." So he's a dirty old man, too. Seriously? That's what we're devoting precious airtime too? (Although the Bear concedes she knows more about that sort of thing than he does.)
  • Clinton is sorry for the whole email thing and accepts responsibility. Then she talked about cybersecurity with a straight face. Trump said he would release his tax records if she released the 33,000 emails she deleted. I'm sorry and accept full responsibility, but I still had all my people plead the fifth.
  • Clinton is going to bomb ISIS until all territory is retaken. Trump said he would "hammer" ISIS. Look. You don't take and hold ground with airplanes. That's what 11 Bravos are for. Bombing campaigns are over-rated. Still, let's agree which Arabs are the bad guys and coordinate with the Russians before we start WWIII because some pilot thought he saw a missile being fired from a Russian fighter. Do not - repeat do not - send U.S. troops into the Middle East ever again. The Romans spent seven centuries in that quagmire, and look where they are today.
  • Trump wants to blow out of the water Iranian boats that taunt our flag in the khalija al-arabia (the proper name for the so-called "Persian Gulf"). It would be a tremendous morale boost to our sailors, and the Bear likes our chances with the Fifth Fleet.
  • NATO: Trump unenthusiastic, says we pay 73% of the defense of the 28 member nations. Mom scolded him for scaring the Japanese. (Are they in NATO? The Turks are, so why not?) He wants rich countries we protect to pony up (did somebody say "pony?").
  • Trump wants to tax goods coming into the country. Makes sense. And nobody drag out Smoot-Hawley.
  • Trump got in a good dig talking about all the places he had been, while Clinton had stayed home in a coma. This generated the stupidest canned reply of the night (and boy, was this "Hillary! Stays fresh in the can!" night) - "I prepared for this debate. And, um, I'm prepared to be President." What? Does the woman even know what a non sequitur is?
  • Hillary had a fire-engine red pantsuit. All she needed was a pitchfork. It almost made the Bear have a seizure. Her face was pulled back like that woman from Brazil.
  • Temperament: Trump adopted the issue, which was smart. He insisted he had a better temperament than Clinton, and the Bear believed him. Maybe it's confirmation bias, but the Bear's sensitive nose was picking up the scent of benzos right through the television screen every time he watched Clinton. (And the Bear has been given every tranquilizer known to man, mostly administered IM if you catch his drift.)
  • "You Got a Mouth on You, Girl!" Clinton was nasty and personal. Trump was mostly gentlemanly, but tough. She was going for the low-hanging fruit, while Trump insisted on setting the record straight.
  • Clinton actually stood there and accused Trump of not releasing his tax records on account of a series of speculations, then finished by saying "it must be something horrible." Wow. Hillary impressed the Bear as someone who has no scruples whatsoever, and would do anything to go down in history as the first woman president.
  • Clinton pimped her book Looking Forward to Tomorrow, or whatever, which the Bear thought was sort of tacky. Sell your book on your own time, not in your content. (The Bear reminds his readers the Catholic Psychological Thriller Judging Angels Which Is Really Finished Now is set for a Christmas release.)
  • Trump is all about building business through Reaganomics. Clinton is just pushing the same old Democrat line: raise the minimum wage, tax the wealthy, oh, and the feds are going to help your family with the tough choices you have to make balancing a career and your one child. 
  • And Clinton claimed Trump said women should be paid equally only if they do they same work as a man. Does this make sense to humans? She objected to that. Clinton's handlers also thought "Trumped Up Trickle Down" would be a crowd pleaser. Ouch. Humans are not natural showmen, are they?
The Bear must insist that Clinton's allegations of Russia hacking the DNC are unsubstantiated and outrageous!!!

Trump is rough, and doesn't come off as knowledgable, but the Bear likes his instincts. Maybe it's time for a president who is not a professional politician. The Bear is fairly certain that presidents get a lot of help, and can't do anything really stupid.

Let the Bear rephrase that...