Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Lesson of the Burdened Bear

The Lesson of the Burdened Bear

The Hidden Messages of the Burdened Bear

The familiar "burdened Bear" was illustrated in charming storybook fashion by the Bear's talented daughter, Ragan (or "Ragsy" as Bear calls her still). Is it just a cute illustration, or might we learn something from it? (For those unfamiliar with the Bear's story - official and unofficial - it is recounted here.)

The Burden

First of all, the Bear is burdened. What all is he carrying? We're not sure, except that a saint put it on him. It is likely St. Corbinian was wise and kind, and did not overload the Bear. He was a hermit outside of Paris who made a pilgrimage to Rome. The Pope, recognizing something in the man, sent him off as the first Bishop of Munich-Freising. The local warlord and his wicked wife, Biltrudis, immediately "put out a contract" on the saint, causing him to go into hiding.

Ironically, the Bear was free, but the saint was now burdened with difficult and dangerous responsibilities. He must leave his life of solitude and bring Christianity to a warlike people.

Perhaps, for us, the burden represents our sins, much as the pack on the back of Christian in Pilgrim's Progress. The Bear himself is a fine symbol of our own Bearish passions. Ah, the ponies are so fat and plentiful. It is so hard sometimes... (There is a good reason this ephemeris is entitled "St. Corbinian's Bear" and not "St. Corbinian.")

Forgiveness and Contemplating Our Sins

We may imagine St. Corbinian's forgiveness of the Bear for killing his beloved pack animal (whose name was "Binky.") He did not harm the Bear. The day would always come when the Bear would be freed from his burden and returned to his native Woodlands. It was an instruction that caused the Bear to suffer, but did no harm. A sweet, instructive suffering with many a day trudging through the Alpine passes and across the plains to Rome, and much time to contemplate his sins.

"Contemplate your sins,"  is sometimes heard as a joke. Do we contemplate our sins with the same attention as the Bear, step by step? It is good to learn our weaknesses and humble ourselves; to recognize our near occasions of sin and avoid them. It is harder today, with so many distractions to hand, to truly know ourselves. 

And yet, it is all too easy to fall into an unhealthy shame. It is the wise Catholic who can contemplate his sins and benefit without succumbing to shame and discouragement. It would be discouraging if we had to earn our way into Heaven. But that is not the provision God has made. We can do nothing ourselves. We must cooperate with the grace we are given.

"For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death." (2 Coringhians 17:10.) This is a very wise saying.

The Goal of the Pilgrimage - Dim Perhaps at Times 

Indeed, what do we barely see at the right of the banner at the top of this ephemeris? What does that mean to you, dear reader, and the form in which it takes?

Might we imagine St. Corbinian and his Bear shrouded in early morning fog, barely able to see hand or paw before their faces? Yet the road beneath their feet was well traveled. Indeed, "all roads lead to Rome."

We are all burdened Bears, are we not? Are we overloaded by care? Savage of tongue? Cruel of heart? Do we take pride in the gifts God has loaned us? Do we rely on our own brute strength, like the Bear, or do we let Jesus share our burdens? Does this burden look light? No, but that's what we're promised, which seems odd. Have you ever wondered how a cross could be "light?" This is indeed a mystery.

It gets heavy when we think about it. About ourselves, and our weakness. One thinks of St. Paul.  Jesus called him a horse, or at any rate, some working beast. "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." (Acts 26.14.) Paul was a great one for thinking, as his letters reveal. Yet he found himself knocked off his horse, in the dirt and blind, having to trust others to lead him to a different life.

His destination was more than dim, wasn't it? He could not see it at all, yet he could hear that Voice cutting through the blindness.

Pope Benedict saw the burden of the Bear not as sin, but as his burden of office. One, it must be said, he laid down before the end of the journey, alas.

Benedict: "The Pope Who Was Really a Bear"

Pope Benedict's Coat of Arms.
Note St. Corbinian's Bear in the upper right quadrant.

Pope Benedict found special meaning in St. Corbinian's Bear, which adorns his coat of arms, and that of the Munich-Freising see.

Pope Benedict, in his autobiography, Memoirs, 1927-1977, says, "The Bear with the pack, which replaced the horse, or, more probably, St. Corbinian's mule, becoming, against his will, his pack animal, was that not, or is that not, an image of what I should be and what I am?" Source: Catholic World Report. See also, "The Pope Who was Actually a Bear," Crisis Magazine.

We can only imagine St. Corbinian thinking the very same thing as he assumed his new responsibilities among a strange people.

The Chastened Bear

Second, notice the chastened expression. The Bear is downcast. He is far from the proud apex predator. His whole body language expresses his weariness. He is strong, but the burden is heavy. More to the point, it is galling to play the part of a beast of burden! Bears eat ponies and pack mules! They do not permit themselves to be employed as such.

The Bear may indeed be wearied and chastened by his burden, yet he does not rebel against the saint. The original story does not say what the Bear thought about during all those trudging miles to Rome. Was he sorry for eating the saint's pack horse? One hopes the burden taught him something. We only really learn from our burdens and mistakes.

Experience is not what happens to you. Experience is what you learn from what happens to you.

Without making too much of it, does the color green symbolize growth? 

The Cup of Service. Or Beer.

Note the cup. He does not himself carry water. Yet he is ready to help the thirsty if he receives water from some other source. Perhaps the "living waters" of Christ? Perhaps we recall the water that flowed at the command of Moses in the desert. Or, maybe St. Corbinian just liked his beer. His abbey was one of the earliest breweries for which we have records. God does not want us to go through life without refreshment and enjoyment.

That cup, small though it be, more than balances the burden of the Bear when the draft is poured by He who turned water into wine.

(St. Benedict grudgingly allows monks about ten fluid ounces of wine per day, but deems it unsuitable for monastic life. "But whaddya gonna do?" he pretty much says in Chapter 40 of his Rule.)

Ah, the Horseshoe

The final detail to which the Bear would invite your attention is the horseshoe, hanging right in the middle of the green sack.

Undoubtedly, it came from the pack horse of which the Bear made his famous snack. Why would St. Corbinian decorate poor Bear with an image of his disgrace?

Sin is like that. It leaves its mark. Without the horseshoe, the picture would not be a true illustration of his condition. It would just be a pretty picture. After the humiliation of carrying the saint's heavy load ("He seems to have a lot of stuff for a simple hermit," the Bear is thinking) what happened to the horseshoe, do you think? What do you imagine the Bear's thoughts were when he arrived at Rome, and was released into the Woodlands?

The Bear will allow you to complete the ending of the story.

The Great Goat Breakout


Four goats broke out today. Panda led the way. You can see three others huddled against the fence. We're having a tough time keeping them in. They are remarkable escape artists, able to squeeze under the fence with little difficulty.

It's like the Steve McQueen movie, "The Great Escape" every day around here.

In other news, Red Death was chortling with glee this morning ordering some sort of "castration device" on Amazon.

Bear assumes it was for goats.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Beware Bear Conditioning

In between answering some truly madcap hate mail (always a treat, although Bear wishes they would put them in the comments where everyone could enjoy them), Red Death showed him a terrifying reminder of the dangers of 'Bear Conditioning."

Bears have long pursued a sophisticated psychological campaign to condition humans to like Bears.

Here, from 1961, is an example from Red Death's childhood.

And, of course, she married a Bear. 

It's all working out, you see, right under your can't-smell-much noses.

Postscript: The Other Tie and the Secret Show

A Tale of Two Ties

The Bear turns his great shoulders away from the eaves of the Woodlands and the problems of men and returns to the congenial sylvan depths among his friends.

The previous article began with the cutting of a tie. The story is not complete without another tale about a tie, one perhaps you may remember, but perhaps have not heard before. As the Bear returns to his more accustomed role as benevolent dictator of the Woodlands, he feels he must, like Paul Harvey, tell "the rest of the story."

Ernst Bruny: One of Bear's Most Notorious Cases

IDOC picture. Not the Ernst Bruny
Bear remembers, but prison changes
Ernst Bruny was accused of beating the son of his paramour to death with a belt. He did not have a record that the Bear recalls, but after all these years, Bear would not swear to that. Bear is absolutely certain death was not the intended outcome of his acts. Ernst was from Haiti, where punishments can apparently be physically severe. His girlfriend unwisely left her son in his care while she took a trip to Florida. Ernst went way beyond any reasonable discipline. 

While no organs were directly damaged, the accumulated beatings with a belt ruptured cell walls which leaked CPK (creatine phosphokinase) into the bloodstream. Too much CPK can destroy a person's kidneys. If you go to the ER with a suspected heart attack, they will test for CPK, which is a sign of any significant muscle damage. It can also be elevated due to a strenuous workout or crushing trauma from an MVA, or, beating with a belt over time.

The Bear does not sugar-coat anything to diminish the horror and escape your judgment, should you care to exercise it against the Bear. He does not know how many murder cases he did. Dozens. They were all horrible. And the death penalty cases are reserved for "the worst of the worst." This was one of the worst of the worst.

Does the Bear feel sorry for this defendant? No, except the in sense he feels sorry for anyone whose life assumes a doomed trajectory. No, the Bear feels sorry for the victim and his family. He has never lost a moment's sleep knowing Ernst Bruny or any of his clients are in the awful confines of Illinois' maximum security Menard Correctional Center.

And yet, his sister went to medical school, and, Bear presumes, by now has had a long career as a doctor. There is no easy answer to the human mystery. His family was superficially living the American dream of the immigrant, giving their children every advantage. The Bear does not recollect the differences in treatment, if any, from his sister. It may have been pre-reforms, when the defense lacked the money and the know-how to connect the dots from a defendant's past using expert assistance.

The mother was white and Ernst was black, which does make a difference in public perception, at least here in southern Illinois. In fact, as far as Bear knows, Ernst was the only black person in the whole county. Was that part of the news media feeding frenzy? Bear does not know. Most of the Bear's murder clients were white. He cannot recall a white-on-black case, but draws no inferences therefrom. Statistically, the race of the victim contributes more to the death penalty decision than the race of the perpetrator.

This case, however, was always going to be a death penalty case, no matter what.

It was, obviously, a sad case, but also a "heater," featured on Oprah and a Life Magazine essay by Bob Greene in the inimitable Greene style. Red Death was accosted in the grocery store for her husband's defense of Bruny. The state's attorney took to the press to announce "Jesus Christ will come again before I remove the death penalty from this case"

Bear soon countered with his own press contact that resulted in a humorous national law journal headline, "Prosecutor Gags Self." The prosecutor leaked too many details to the press and the Bear was always ready to take advantage of the virtually unknown defense right of reasonable press response. It is typical of the Bear's legitimate use of the press to psychologically condition prosecutors who were careless around him.

Red Death Performs a Service and A Change of Venue

The Bear and Red Death returned to the crime scene and left with what few decent clothes Ernst had. Red Death laundered, mended and ironed them so he would look presentable in court.

It was never just the Bear. We made a terrific team, Red Death and the Bear.

The Bear filed for a change of venue. You hardly ever win these, but prosecutors dread losing the home field advantage.

This time, the Bear did what no one else had ever done. He had an automated service call everybody in the county, not just a statistical sample He included a touch-tone poll, and allowed voice messages. (Hint: that includes the judge, the sheriff, the prosecutor, and the family of the victim, so you might want to give your judge a heads up unless you want him to tear your head off in court the next day.)

The Bear entered the change of venue hearing with large foam board charts (he always loved those for some reason), the survey findings, and a choice collection of audio clips, such as, "I think that he should be killed, chopped to pieces and his body put in a dumpster. Have a nice day." (It had been erroneously reported that the defendant had cut up the body and put the parts in a suitcase.)

The Bear made it clear it would be impossible to get a fair trial in the county. The judge agreed and changed venue to St. Clair County. That's Metro East, on the seedy Illinois side of St. Louis, which includes East St. Louis. The last place in the country the prosecutor wanted to have this trial. 

Bear was presenting at a conference in Chicago when his hotel room phone rang. The prosecutor spat out the words: "I'm offering life in prison with out parole. You have three days to give me your answer."

One must wonder if Jesus resented being used to illustrate his earlier prosecutorial resolve.

A Curiously Significant Gift

After it was all over, Ernst took off his tie in court. "I remember you liked my tie. I don't have anything else, but, here. I want you to have this."

Bear did not remember commenting on the tie, but evidently had during the small talk he always used to calm clients. After he had just pled to LWOP, the only thing Ernst Bruny had to give Bear was his tie.

The Bear has never been able, of course, to think of one of those ties without the other. It has always seemed too perfect, like the cosmic two-by-four of instruction smacking him against the side of his furry head.

The first tie was cut to symbolize the Bear's role in cutting off his first life as a death penalty prosecutor. The second tie was intact, a free gift from a person who was grateful the Bear had saved his life. It was all he had, and he thought Bear had admired it. It was such a human thing to do. No monster would ever have done that.

To the world, Ernst Bruny was (and, to the extent he is remembered, remains) a monster. Certainly, what he did was monstrous. Yet he was not a monster. He was a human being. Ernst Bruny's final gift was the free act of a human who had nothing to gain, almost nothing to give, and who had no idea how his gift rebalanced the scales of the Bear's own life by setting his gift of an intact tie against the cut tie Bear had so proudly displayed from his first death sentence as a prosecutor.

"Come! See the Monster!"

The Bear represented many human beings who had, for whatever reason, done horrible things. The facile label "monster," based on highly selective, often inaccurate, and always incomplete newspaper and television stories, did not tell the whole story. Bear felt privileged to be allowed access to this "secret show" where the garish signs screamed, "Come! See the Monster!" And, having paid his very dear dime (the secret show is never cheap, Bear can assure his readers) the Bear saw something more marvelous than even a monster.

Staring back at him from behind the bars was a human being who had done a monstrous thing.

There have been a couple of defendants where, admittedly, the Bear could just not find the human. He could name them, but won't. Where he only saw the monster, instead. He blames himself for that oversight. It is harder with some than others.

Bear gets that few are admitted to that secret show, where monsters are advertised and humans displayed. It is his belief that, since these people are humans, they are on a continuum of human behavior. Different not in kind, but in degree. Oh, how true to the Bear are the words of Christ that to hate your brother makes you a murderer.

Whether you are for or against the death penalty, the Bear does not really care. It is on its way out. Except he were privy to the secret show - and, perhaps Catholic, as well - he would be as for it as he always used to be.

His experience and conclusions are symbolized by the two ties: one an award for "cutting off" a life, to use the familiar OT term; the other entire, a free gift from a fellow human in the image of God.

And this really is his final word on the death penalty.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bear's Last Words on the Death Penalty

If you might enjoy a legal memoir, here is a brief version of the Bear's story, some of which has not been revealed. It's mainly about how a conservative prosecutor came to be a death penalty defender. And it summarizes Pope Francis' magisterial teaching, including three reservations the Bear holds, all in its own more coherent way. If you're tired of the whole thing, give it a pass. The Bear is turning off the comments light. We've already argued enough, and while he enjoyed it, he doesn't want to do it again already. He does, after all, have another dubious novel to complete.

Wherein Bear Admits his Bias, But Dishes Professional Dirt

The views of the Bear are unavoidably informed by both spiritual insights (which Bear believes are genuine; God knows) and practical considerations from years dealing with death penalty cases.

The first death penalty case the Bear ever did was as a prosecutor. He sent an evil murderer of a mom and her young teenage daughter to death row and was quite pleased with myself. He was technically "second chair," but did all the heavy lifting, including the sentencing argument for death. The defendant spat right in the Bear's furry round ear.

Afterward, the "first chair," from the Chicago AG office, one of those "city of broad shoulders" skyscraper men as big as the Bear, took scissors and cut the tie Bear was wearing. The Bear had the remnant and the sentencing order framed and displayed it in his office: a trophy of his first "kill," as was the custom.

One of his  first chair's favorite stories was how he violated a judge's order regarding a certain photograph in a murder case by "accidentally" giving the jury a good look at it anyway. The prosecutorial ethos overall in the Bear's slice of the picture was ends-justifies-the-means, although many individual state's attorneys were honorable.

But Illinois was facing a death penalty legal meltdown. 

Death Penalty Nightmare in the Land of Lincoln

During one period Illinois executed 13 and exonerated 12 innocent men from death row. Think about it: playing Russian Roulette with a bullet in every other chamber. The Bear had a front row seat for the DNA revolution.  DuPage County police and prosecutors were charged with deliberately convicting a man they knew was innocent. The infamous Commander Burge in Chicago was literally torturing confessions out of suspects. Death penalty defense lawyers were underfunded, inexperienced, overmatched and overwhelmed.

The steady accumulation of unthinkables shocked the legal system and the state government.

It was a scandal that impressed the Bear with the reality of prosecutorial and police misconduct, and the fallibility of the system. To his credit, the governor commuted everyone on death row to life in prison without parole (LWOP) and Illinois enacted a series of reforms that addressed most of the sources of wrongful conviction. The Bear was part of that process.

But he has never been a starry-eyed, bleeding heart crusader. He did want to be part of a system that was as reliable as humanly possible. He was not an abolitionist until much later. He mostly just had a strong objection to the state killing any of his clients. He had his paws full with that, and did not question the actual penalty once things were fixed.

But the Bear gets ahead of himself.

The Bear Becomes "Mr. Death Penalty"

He left the AG's office and hung out his shingle. As a new solo practitioner, the Bear committed the common mistake of doing a little of everything but mastering nothing. He realized he needed to establish himself as an expert in something. To find a niche other lawyers had overlooked. He already had one death penalty under his belt, as a prosecutor. The ABA had made it clear that "death is different," and had issued non-binding guidelines.

The Bear shopped his threadbare experience and those guidelines around the First Circuit and got appointed to one case, then another, and soon found himself "Mr. Death Penalty." Someone judges could trust not to get a case bounced back due to "ineffective assistance of counsel." (Appellate lawyers hold the trial record in their soft lily-white hands and make up all sorts of nasty things about real courtroom lawyers in every case. The Bear never had a case bounced back on his account, but Bears are slow to forgive.)

The scandal in Illinois demanded reforms. A large capital litigation fund was established to pay for the costs of death penalty cases, including lawyers. High standards were established for counsel, and a special "capital litigation bar" was established by the Illinois Supreme Court. Only the most experienced and specially trained criminal defense lawyers could do death penalty cases. That cadre amounted to less than one percent of all Illinois lawyers. It was the Bear who scrutinized and signed off on them in Fifth Appellate District in southern Illinois.

Later, until its abolition in Illinois in 2011, the Bear lived and breathed death penalty cases as one of a half dozen consulting experts on the state payroll. Ironically, it was an appendix of the hated Appellate Defender's Office.

Turning Monsters Into Persons & Shaking Rosaries at Lawyers

The basis of the Bear's strategy had always been to make people believe his client was a person. His theory was that people who only know about a case from the press, i.e. potential jurors, would see his client as a monster, not a person. Looking back, Bear realizes his powers of reasoning were groping toward a realization of the image of God without knowing it.

People will kill a monster, he thought. They will not kill a person. 

That insight proved not only an effective strategy, but over time, he learned the truth of it. It remains his firm belief that all of his clients were persons and bore the image of God. To sound much holier than he is, he saw the face of Christ even in murderers. He thinks it is a gift. If it is not, it is a delusion. God knows, Bear does not. He only knew a couple of other death penalty lawyers who believed the same.

They were both Catholic, too.

Bear doesn't think that's an accident. He remembers John O'Gara, a well-known criminal defense lawyer from Belleville, Illinois, now a judge, pulling his rosary from his pocket and shaking it at 150 criminal defense lawyers at a conference. If you don't believe believe in God, he told the astonished audience, you will never "get" the job, and it will eat you alive.

Much later, O'Gara told the press he saw the face of Christ in Chris Coleman, (link to CBS news story) the defendant in what is easily the most horrific case in which the Bear was ever (here slightly) involved. The Bear is still troubled by it and probably always will be.

Anyway, public reaction to O'Gara's statement was predictable. He was pilloried.

The Fundamental Division

The death penalty is a conservative litmus test, and, for some, a litmus test of orthodoxy. The Bear wishes others would acknowledge their bias with the same frankness as the Bear acknowledges his. It exerts a powerful emotional hold on many far out of proportion to its status as a tiny legal relic in the West.

The Bear has never understood why conservatives are so fond of the ultimate expression of the power of the state over its citizens. After all, with LWOP, an offender comes out of prison in a box, too. It isn't as though they aren't punished. 

The Bear realizes on this issue he is in the company of liberals. The difference is, they don't know any more about the realities of the death penalty than conservatives do. They have just swallowed abolition along with every other SJW cause.

The Bear may have one foot over the line, but it is an honest stand. Bears always make up their own minds, and speak as truly as they know.

The Bear  thinks the Church, as an institution existing in time under human hands, has grown in respect for the person even as the West abandoned slavery, torture, and other denials of the image of God that grants dignity to each person. The slaveholders had their proof texts, too, you know. Among the things the West has abandoned is capital punishment. It is used in only a tiny percentage of murders in a handful of U.S. states and (rarely) the federal government. It is pursued with vigor only in the Islamosphere.

ISIS is quite creative in developing crowd-pleasing methods of execution to keep the act from getting stale and decorates cities with heads on spikes.

The West at least keeps its few executions decently hidden from public view. Dickens wrote a letter to the Times complaining about the indignity of hangings before 30,000 jeering spectators. He would be pleased at our discretion.

Even so, the Bear would not care to be a cheerleader for capital punishment under today's realities.

There is no doubt that the Church has previously taught that capital punishment was acceptable. Part of the issue, then, is whether you believe the Church can ever legitimately develop her teachings. Bear does get that.

There is also no doubt the death penalty is in the Old Testament penal statutes and various other places in scripture. It was a rough-and-ready community affair suited to a culture with a small population, no prisons, and only a trace of due process. (One also finds the clear demand that adulterers be stoned.) Thus, another part of the issue is proof texting, an often dubious exercise which usually lacks context.

And yet, here are three odd things proponents of capital punishment should consider.
  1. The same God who spoke of shedding the blood of murderers so unambiguously goes out of his way to preserve the life of the first murderer, Cain, by placing a special protective mark on him.
  2. The woman caught in adultery had to be stoned to death under the law. She was caught in the very act. There was no question. The law was clear. Jesus does not directly change the law, but he saves the woman's life and lets her off with a warning.
  3. The Good Thief was forgiven during his capital punishment, and even promised a direct translation to Paradise to be with Jesus.
As we focus on a contentious issue, we should not lose sight of opportunities for mercy. In the only mock jury in which the Bear participated (he considers them a waste of time and money) the sentencing argument that worked best was a simple plea for mercy. The Bear was surprised and pleased. Of all the fancy arguments we could come up with, people had mercy in their hearts. It was almost enough to restore his faith in humans.

For a variety of reasons, then, capital punishment remains a powerful and emotionally satisfying symbol for many who can find support in Scripture and past Church teaching.

The West Is Already Abolitionist

The Bear will say this. Those who cite an absolutist he-who-sheds-the-blood-of-man-by-man-shall-his-blood-be-shed are living in a fantasy. Even if we wanted to, the modern legal system, hedged about with so many due process protections, could not possibly handle every murder case as a death penalty case. It would cost tens of billions of dollars and massive training programs in this complex specialty. It would also require mass executions.

There's a reason the vast majority of all cases are resolved by plea bargain. The system can only support so many jury trials. Everybody in the system knows this. And that is one reason we are already a virtually abolitionist West. We are already far from the OT demands and past Church practices.

And that brings us to the main problem the Bear has with those who love to argue for the death penalty. They do not know nor do they care to educate themselves on the practical issues without which any such discussion is meaningless. It is like arguing for dirigible passenger service without knowing the first thing about dirigibles, or why there is no dirigible passenger service today.

Not everything the West has decided is wise or moral. The West accepts abortion for the innocent even as it has eliminated the death penalty for the guilty. The Bear recognizes this. But we should also realize when the West gets something right. Civil rights came only after a bitter struggle that saw the federalization of national guard units to escort black children into schools.

Finally, Pope Francis: Three Reservations

Regarding the abolitionist position of Pope Francis (whose abolitionist views are magisterial, having appeared in Amoris Laetitia) the Bear has three reservations, although he agrees with abolition in the developed West.

The first is the Pope is also against life in prison without parole (LWOP). That means convicted murderers would be released back among innocent people. Abolition without LWOP is a non-starter even for this abolitionist. The Bear's "perfect record" in death penalty cases may not seem so perfect to his defendants (save one acquittal) all of whom pled guilty in return for LWOP and will come out of prison in a box.

The second applies to whatever countries, if any, still lack prisons. St. Pope John Paul II made a practical concession regarding the death penalty if it was the only way to keep dangerous murderers separated from innocent members of the community. To the extent this nuance is important today (the Bear is not an expert in third-world penology) it is a wise one that Pope Francis would seem to erase.

The third reservation relates to the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself. The Bear frequently consults the CCC and finds it quite useful. He cringes at the idea of it becoming a bloated, ever-evolving vehicle to introduce and perpetuate the hobbyhorses of a series of Popes. The vague comment that capital punishment should have "a more adequate and coherent space in the Catechism of the Catholic Church" seems a bit odd. The Bear finds the Article 5 on the Fifth Commandment quite coherent already, including its treatment of the death penalty. 

God forbid it gets cluttered up with climate change and the like.

You Know, Everybody Dies

Those reservations excepted, the Bear find Pope Francis' rationale based on the dignity of every person who bears the image of God is in line with his own personal experiences, which can be truly understood by few.

Everybody dies. Even Bears. A few still die from a dubious lethal cocktail administered by the state. Everyone else dies some other way. The Bear is confident in his informed position regarding abolition where possible.

His other concern is what a death penalty mentality does to people and the culture in which they live. He does not like the company we keep as a death penalty country. He believes that, while our culture is being deranged, overall, human beings are respected more than in times past. It seems only natural that the Church would reflect, indeed, lead such legitimate changes based on human dignity.

It's not the "seamless garment," exactly, but recognizing the Imago Dei,  however deformed, in all human relations is not a bad thing, is it? And it is a very Catholic thing. What a wonderful witness not just to life, but the Imago Dei. If we cannot see it where it is most distorted, we do not really understand the indelible image that is tied to our source and end, who can only be God.

The devil has taken good developments to evil extremes in creating ever new classes of victims to divide and undermine our country and the Christian religion. This is his perversion of the notion of the Imago Dei. The Bear is a sharp observer of human folly, as readers know. He is acutely aware of this. From the tattoo craze to euthanasia, man is busy trying recreate himself in his own image, right down to changing sexes. But that should not blind us to some real good that is still at work despite all that.

We do not need the death penalty. The only purposes it serves are retribution and incapacitation, which LWOP can do at less expense (yes, that's right) without dulling our sense of the Imago Dei.. We barely have a death penalty at all. We will not miss it. It has already snuck into a dark corner of the past, leaving only the tip of its tail in view. Cutting it off to eliminate it would be as painless as cutting a tie in celebration of it.

And it would make a worthy trophy of a West that is still inherently different from places where people are executed in great numbers and spectacular ways. That difference is Christianity.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pope Francis Demands Abolition of Death Penalty


Pope Francis issued the most unequivocal condemnation of the death penalty that the Church has yet heard. In a speech before the members of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization, he said [NON-MAGISTERIALLY - so far. CORRECTION: IT IS MAGISTERIAL, BECAUSE IT APPEARS IN AMORIS LAETITIA 83. (Thanks to Bald Eagle for pointing that out.)] the death penalty should have "a more adequate and coherent space in the Catechism of the Catholic Church" (CCC). This, according to an EWTN/CNA article dated October 11, 2017.

So, first, what does the CCC say about the death penalty and where might Pope Francis be looking to add "a more adequate and coherent space?"

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Article 5 of the CCC deals with the Fifth Commandment:
You shall not kill.
You have heard that it was said to the men of old, "You shall not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment." But I say to you that everyone is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.
CCC 2225-2262 begins with the recognition of the sacredness of human life because from the beginning it is intimately tied with God, its source and end. (Citing CDF instruction Donum Vitae, intro 5.) It continues with the Biblical witness beginning with Abel's murder in 2259 and 2260. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image." (Citing Genesis 9:5-6.) 2263 cites St. Thomas Aquinas' famous "law of double effect" to defend legitimate self-defense. 2264 reminds us that "love toward oneself  remains a fundamental principle of morality," and cites St. Thomas Aquinas again in support. 2265 says "legitimate defense cannot be only a right but a grave duty for one responsible for the lives of others."

2267 is specifically about the death penalty. It first assumes "identity and responsibility have been fully determined."

"Identity and Responsibility Have Been Fully Determined"

1. Forget Bear is an acknowledged expert in the field. Readers will know the Bear was one of the foremost authorities on the practical end of the death penalty in the state of Illinois, as both a prosecutor (People v. Nielsen) and defense counsel (too numerous to mention; but several very high-profile cases) right up to its abolition in 2011.

Of course, he does not expect his expertise in such an esoteric matter to count for anything in argument. In fact, he has learned arguing about the death penalty is a complete waste of time. Nobody has ever changed their mind on this topic (except the Bear, the more he learned). People are strangely and emotionally devoted to a punishment that is rare, abolished in several states, is arbitrarily imposed, and, according to one study, sends innocent people to death row 4% of the time.

2. An odd conservative and orthodox Litmus Test. It is a litmus test for conservatism and, for many, for Catholic orthodoxy, although the Bear would argue it is a matter of prudence, rather than salvation, and one need not see Samson bringing down the temple in a change of prudential judgment that both reflects modern realities and highlights the mercy of Christ.

3. Thinking regarding the death penalty has steadily evolved, and do you really think that's bad?. Surely, no one will argue that the widespread use of hanging for petty offenses before 30,000 jeering spectators in Dickens' day is something to which we would wish to return. Is there anyone who will argue for a return of the "draw and quarter" method of execution? The offender would be hanged, cut down barely alive, castrated, have his intestines pulled out and burned before his glazed eyes, then cut into four pieces to send throughout the realm.

So, let us at least agree that the death penalty is something that has indeed seen welcome cultural and legal evolution. In more modern times, the death penalty for non-murder crimes like rape has been eliminated by the U.S. Supreme Court, and mentally retarded defendants have been spared. Only a tiny percentage of murderers are ever put on death row, even in the states that permit it. We are already making scores of sound exceptions.

There is an interesting overview at a link to a large site called Religious Tolerance, which the Bear does not otherwise endorse. The more specific Death Penalty Information Center has better and more up-to-date data.

If you really want to argue the death penalty should be stuck in the Middle Ages or Dickensian London, be Bear's guest. But unless you are, you are confessing that our thinking has evolved. If it has evolved, it makes sense for the Church to join in that evolution. 

4. Emotionalism makes argument impossible. But it is impossible to keep people from rolling down the emotional gutter on this topic and get them back on the logical polished hardwood alley to knock down some factual bowling pins. The proof of this is that pro-death folk will frankly lead and end with emotional appeals related to specific victims, in Bear's opinion posting photos in a blatant emotional appeal as if someone against the death penalty is callously immune to sympathy for the victim and his or her families. Understandably, perhaps, the Bear finds this argument the most irritating.

Every case he did had a victim, and he knows more about each one than you do in his cases. Do you think the Bear really doesn't care about them or their families? That he is a psychopath, such as he recently discussed? His job was to keep another person alive. No guilty murderer ever left prison, unless it was in a box, at the end of the case. The sole exception was a factually innocent man acquitted by jury.

5. In this particular highly specialized topic, the Bear's expertise should count for nothing. So what if Bear saved an innocent man from death row? (And saved a lot of guilty ones from death row, too, in return for life in prison without parole, really and truly.) Big deal if he devoted the latter part of his career to it on the state payroll as one of a handful of lawyers overseeing the validity of the process in the entire state. 

Why should any of that matter?

It shouldn't. So please ignore it. Bear speaks as just another old guy drinking coffee around the table at the Hardees with his friends, railing on the basis of what he knows from a headline and a picture of a guy doing the perp walk. Please forget the mysteries of compassion he might have personally learned and the unexpected glimpses of Christ he saw in some of the worst. None of that matters, nor does the innocent man Bear snatched from overzealous prosecutors before a jury. 

6. Illinois' problem with "identity and responsibility." One of the problems Illinois faced with the death penalty was it had great difficulty with the "identity and responsibility" element of CCC 2267. The advent of DNA created a gold standard for determining factual innocence and Illinois was embarrassed to find too many innocent people on its death row. 

Furthermore, criminal chicanery among DuPage County police and prosecutors and outright torture in Cook County blacked the other eye of the state.

Illinois took major steps to ensure the "identity and responsibility" element was satisfied. 

A large fund was established upon which lawyers could draw on in death penalty cases. A few lawyers, frankly, abused it, racking up multi-million dollar defenses and getting rich as defendants went to death row anyway. (Bear economically obtained a perfect record at the very bottom of the spreadsheet.)

State Senator Barack Obama was allowed to introduce legislation (written by someone else) requiring all homicide interrogations be videotaped, which was a massive improvement. Before, interrogators would only turn on the camera when they had elicited the "I did it statement" by means fair or foul, and the video was used solely as evidence for the prosecution. Letting the jury see "how the sausage was really made" was a breakthrough and was an important element in the Bear's winning a jury trial in a death penalty case where the defendant was factually innocent.

And had confessed on video.

Less than 0.1% of Illinois lawyers were considered to have the training and experience to handle death penalty cases at the two separate levels: second chair and first chair. The Bear was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court for the screening panel. (Getting a personal phone call from the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court caused the Bear to break out into a sweat, he can tell you, until he was kindly told of the honor.)

Bear could tell you how innocent men get convicted, if is expertise counted for anything, which it doesn't. He might say eyewitness identification has been proven to be much more unreliable than people believe, especially cross-racial.

Next is false confessions. Not many, but certainly some. And nearly impossible to overcome at trial, as you might imagine. And we know exactly why those happen, both coerced-compliant and gaslighting. The direct result of bad training for most police interrogators.

Sad to say, Bear has learned police and prosecutors who just know someone is guilty can justify a little cheating to counter imagined "sleazy defense tactics," i.e. a vigorous defense. If the Bear knew what he was talking about - which he doesn't, remember - he might toss out confirmation bias.  Bad defense lawyers fit in somewhere in other states. Texas has some nightmarish tales about those.

Bear by no means takes "identity and responsibility" for granted, especially before the death penalty reforms in Illinois, or in jurisdictions that have failed to implement similar. But why should anyone listen to just ignorant Bear on these matters.

7. Responsibility. Note that the Catechism requires a determination of "responsibility." That is because one may kill, but not be responsible. The law recognizes this, too. The difficult and rare "insanity defense," defendants who are mentally retarded, or a "failed self-defense," or perhaps the old "irresitible impulse" made famous by the legal chicanery in Anatomy of a Murder.

"The Traditional Teaching of the Church Does not Exclude Resource to the Death Penalty"

Once "identity and responsibility" have been determined, the death penalty may be used, but only if non-lethal means to protect the public (the legal term, "incapacitation") are unavailable. In reality, "the cases in which the execution of a offender is absolutely necessary, 'if not practically non-existent.'" (Citing St. Pope John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, 56.)

What this means is that modern prison systems can lock up prisoners for the rest of their lives, removing them as a threat to the public. Life in Prison Without Parole (LWOP) is necessary for this to work. Illinois has it, and it means what it says. No parole. In states that may not have LWOP, the argument from the Catechism does not hold, unless prisoners are so old when they are released that they may be presumed to be no longer threats.

So, What Does Pope Francis Mean?

So, since the death penalty was, for all practical purposes, abolished from countries with an established penal system and laws to put offender away for the rest of their lives, what does "a more adequate and coherent space in the Catechism of the Catholic Church" mean?

 Quite simply, abolition.

It must be strongly confirmed that condemning a person to the death penalty is an inhumane measure that humiliates, in any way it is pursued, human dignity.”

The death penalty, he said, “is in itself contrary to the Gospel because it is voluntarily decided to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of which God only in the final analysis is the true judge and guarantor.

According to Pope Francis, it is an historical relic from a more "legalistic" era. The article goes on to make this abundantly clear. The death penalty is an historical aberration and while admitting the papal state adopted it, it was "unfortunate" and neglected "the primacy of mercy and justice."

In his speech, Pope Francis said that in past centuries, where defense measures were poor and the maturity of society “still had not met a positive development,” the death penalty seemed like a “logical consequence of the application of justice they had to follow.”

He noted that “unfortunately” even the papal state at times adopted this “extreme and inhumane means” of punishment, “neglecting the primacy of mercy and justice.”

Francis stressed that God is a Father “who always waits for the return of the son who, knowing he has erred, asks forgiveness and begins a new life.”

“No one, therefore, can have their life taken from them, nor the possibility of a moral and existential redemption that goes back in favor of the community.”

“Let us take responsibility for the past, and let us recognize that these means were dictated by a more legalistic mentality than Christian,” he said.

Today, Pope Francis said the death penalty must be abolished. He bases his argument on the dignity of the person.

Bear-digression: Gun Control & CCC 2265

Query: in the sparsely populated areas of the United States, where law enforcement response is often slow, does the father of a family have not only the right, but "a grave duty for one responsible for the lives of others?" The Catechism speaks only of those who "legitimately hold authority." Is this necessarily limited to sworn peace officers? Or does a father (or mother) "legitimately hold authority" to defend the innocent lives of their children? And, if that defense is legitimate, is it not also legitimate to use even deadly force?

And if, as likely, an invader of the family home (especially one containing children who must place all their reliance on parents for their well-being and safety) is armed with a firearm is it unreasonable for a parent with responsibility for those innocent lives, to refuse to effectively arm himself so as to make self-defense a reality? 

In other words, does a father bear not only the legitimate right, but a grave duty, to defend the lives for which he is responsible? Is there anyone who will argue that a father or mother is not responsible for the lives of their innocent children? 

And if such an argument cannot be made, and the only adequate means of "moderate" defense of themselves and those for whom they are responsible is to meet the invader on an effective basis, i.e. similarly armed, how, then might one argue from this that guns must be possessed only by home invaders and never by householders with innocent children to protect?

In the United States, most citizens can possess firearms "legitimately" as a personal right under the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution. (See Heller vs D.C.. 2002). Whatever other obstacles facing those who would confiscate firearms from the United States citizenry, there is the 2nd Amendment and controlling authority that gun ownership is a personal right. 

"Gun banning" is not only arguably impossible as a practical matter, but gun possession is a right every bit as sacred as the 1st Amendment right for the Bear to scribble his disreputable articles and novels; the 4th Amendment right that prevents police from wandering into your home at 2 a.m. without a warrant and searching for contraband; the 5th Amendment right to a speedy trial, a jury trial, and no self-incrimination; the Sixth Amendment right for a citizen accused of a crime by his government to have a lawyer to test the prosecution's case in the crucible of the adversary system; the Eighth Amendment's protection against "cruel and unusual punishment." 

Okay, the 9th and 10th Amendments may not mean anything, but the 13th abolished slavery, which is a pretty big deal, and the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.

Point being, those who after every shooting want to "ban guns" fail to realize they would have to somehow repeal the 2nd Amendment, which is every bit as sacred as the others the Bear cited. Furthermore, if possession of guns is legitimate, and the responsibility of a father to protect his innocent, helpless children does exist (and who would argue against that?), parents in areas where police cannot be counted on for an immediate response not only have a guaranteed constitutional "right" to have guns on their freehold, but a responsibility to have them and be prepared to use them in legitimate self-defense and as an exercise of their responsibility to defend helpless, innocent members of their family.

Monday, October 9, 2017

You're Officially Extinct, but Immigrants Will Replace You

Poles: Put Your Rosaries Away, Hop in the Sack, and Make Like Bunnies

UPDATE: Bear's "Modest Proposal" for "pastoral polygamy" in the comments to turn around our low TFRs (after all, Bear hears there are Catholic polygamists in Africa) is not new. It is called "an astonishingly good idea" in the clip suggested by reader "John Kennedy." Watch before or after this "astonishingly depressing" article for a little humor from one of the funniest movies of all time.

Is it time to drop the Catholic Baby Bomb? (Pastorally, of course, so it would be okay.)

You may have heard of the big Polish Rosary Rally. Perhaps you were impressed, even inspired.

The Bear was not. Not one tiny bit. Do not make a grand gesture whining about immigration when your life choices make immigration inevitable. God is not impressed with hypocrisy, and foolishness is considered evil in the wisdom literature of the Bible.

Bear would be impressed by (and heartily recommends) that instead of rosaries, all able bodied married Poles have un-contracepted sex at least once per day and make new Poles. Save the rosaries until you have four Catholic kids per Polish couple.

Now that would make Mary happy.

It's a nice fantasy but the Poles are long past the point of no return. They are, in fact, extinct already. A dead population walking.

The Baby Wars is Satan versus the West. Satan hates you. He hates your babies. He loves it when you abort them. He loves it when you contracept them. When you make that choice not to be fruitful, you are, to this degree at least, pleasing Satan, who's motto is "the fewer humans the better."

But especially Christian humans.

By golly if the Church didn't have it right all along. Old Pope Paul VI  came through with Humanae Vitae, the Church's last slap in the face to the Lord of the World. The modernists were just waiting to rip his lungs out and turned it into a dead "pastoral" letter.

Pope Paul VI never wrote another encyclical and the Church entered into its long détente with the World.

(Although, Pope Francis did come out with a curious little document called Amoris Laetitia. Guess what? For all the kvetching, he doesn't complain about overpopulation. Amoris Laetitia warns of the baby bust, right in Paragraph 42. Francis and the Bear agree on this.)

Is there a Catholic couple alive who has not been told by a priest "pastorally" that contraception is a personal choice for every couple?

One wonders what the Church will look like without the substrate of the West as the current flirtation with indifferentism and universalism results in a marriage with the World instead of just a bit of adultery.

Not the marriage feast Jesus had in mind, the Bear suspects.

Polish culture will one day exist only in museums - if the replacement population cares enough to put it on display. Chances are just as good that it will be erased in the victory celebrations, even as Confederate statues and monuments are being pulled down in our own country. It took awhile, but the final stage in any conquest is making sure the enemy is remembered only as a caricature of evil that was defeated by the heroic, indeed, perfect, victors with the purest motives.

In 1683, Jan Sobieski's Winged Hussar cavalry and other troops were part of the Holy Roman Empire's defeat of the Ottoman Turks at the gates of Vienna. The Bear doesn't like the chances for Sobieski's fame to be preserved by the replacement population in Poland. 

Here's the math of doom, which is easy even for a Bear.

The Implacable Math of the Total Fertility Rate: How We Know Poles are Extinct

It takes a Total Fertility Rate of  2.1 to maintain a population in an industrialized country. In other words, each woman must have two children: one to replace mommy and one to replace daddy. A few women must have more, to make up for children that do not survive to contribute to population maintenance, hence the 2.1. That keeps the population at the same size.

On the other end, a TFR of 1.80 is considered the point of no return. No population has ever come back from a TFR less than that. Remember that number: 1.80. The Point of No Return.

Poland is already extinct with a shameful TFR of 1.31 (1.35 in 2015 where the rest of the figures come from).

That's lower than China's. One of the lowest in the world, down there with sack-slacker, impotent Greece, and Spain. A Bear cannot explain failure to breed, and can only guess.

Italy, Austria, Romania, Switzerland, and Germany are among the countries below the point of no return. Possible eunuchs; Bear cannot say.

France and Ireland are above the point of no return, but still below replacement rate. Their populations are shrinking, but they could turn it around.

But, on the whole, Europe is extinct, and with it, the West. 

In 1994, East Germany posted the lowest TFR outside of China: 0.80. In 2015 Germany was 1.41. But still shrinking, and well below the 1.80 point of no return. In fact, there is not a single European country  that is replacing its native population, and most are already extinct.

Russia? Extinct at 1.70.

The United States? Circling the drain at 1.88, kept from extinction only by immigrants as native Americans contracept and abort their future. Australia is the same, at 1.89. Canada is well below the point of no return at 1.59.

Total Fertility Rates and Immigration

But the news is even worse. The numbers posted would be lower still without immigrants, who tend to have more babies, at least for awhile. Without large imported Muslim populations European TFRs would be even more dismal. France may not be below the point of no return, but only because it is less French.

The Bear is not a Know Nothing. He is not against immigration. He is for Western culture. He is against importing populations that will not share Western values and are unwilling to assimilate in the great American tradition of the melting pot. America used to have the right formula. To take one example, look at Hollywood.

How Immigrant Jews Built Hollywood

Louis B. Meyer was a Russian Jewish immigrant who started as a junk man in the east. He, and other Russian or Eastern European Jewish immigrants with little formal education created a whole new industry from nothing. They built Hollywood and changed America practically overnight. 

Louis B. served his mother's traditional Jewish soup recipe in MGM's cafeteria. Everyone loved it. But, other than that expression of ethnic pride, he considered himself just another American who did not celebrate "Jew Pride Month." As the joke went, "Hollywood is a place where Jews make pictures  to sell Catholic theology to a Protestant audience." 

And, there was some truth to it. Louis B. would not so much as allow a toilet to be shown in an MGM movie during the Golden Age. Indeed, the sight of one during dailies was enough to send him into one of his famous profane/sentimental tirades which often ended with a simulated heart attack. MGM was the undisputed elite studio, where the biggest stars were taught the distinctive "MGM walk," and the movies presented a bright, gleaming version of America. 

Meyer never read a story, never read a script. He would have someone tell it to him. He was so attuned to the culture of his adopted country, he could almost unfailingly know what his fellow Americans would like and what they wouldn't.

And he was born a Jew in Russia, immigrated, found and sold junk, then, by one of those great, unexplainable movements in history, joined with similar immigrants to become one of the biggest success stories of all time.

A similar, if less spectacular tale, could be told of Red Death's people from Ireland. And a million other success stories.

Melting Pot or Salad Bowl?

The Bear is for the melting pot. He is against the salad bowl. If someone started Bear Pride Month, the Bear would track him down and rip his jawbone off. Bear does not want some pandering "celebration" of his Bearness. He's a damned Bear and knows it. He's a decorated veteran of the Kaiser's army who immigrated from Germany and is as American as pony pie now. 

Will someone argue the cultural and religious identity of a Western nation is not worth protecting? That the world will be better when Sicily looks like a Tunisian colony? Bear visited Toulon and Marseilles in France when he was in the Navy. He loved them, right down to the "gut" in each. (Navy slang for the most disreputable and interesting quarter of a port city.) He visited the Algerian quarter without fear and ate couscous. 

Someone recently told him he would no longer recognize them.

The Trade-Off: "A Taste of Armageddon" vs. The American Dream

This is the deal the West is making. It is willing to become less Western - less French, less Italian, less Swedish, less British, etc. in return for keeping the lights on and the trash picked up. In other words, to have a large enough population to sustain the mechanisms and institutions of a modern state, immigration is a drug Western countries do not have a choice but to take.

The Pope says it, not just the Bear. Natives of the West have decided careers, creature comforts, technology, vacations, same-sex marriages, abortion and contraception are more important than the challenge and expense of raising children. They will soon see the result. More immigrants will be needed. The cry of the muezzin will eventually silence "offensive" church bells. (Okay, the Pope didn't say that part.)

There will be continued terrorism. It is doubtful Shias and Sunnis will forget their differences just because they are on a different land mass. "Allahu Akbar" is already the soundtrack to the news like some alien dubstep we don't care for but are willing to put up with because the consequences of complaint are sharp. The odds of any single person being the victim of some Islamic extremist with a car, or a knife, or a gun or a bomb, or an airplane are very low.


The Vegas shooter is the exception that proves the rule: a more efficient Charles Whitman, who killed only 17 from the tower at the University of Texas.

The relatively small number of terrorist casualties are acceptable. We're all living out the original Star Trek episode, "A Taste of Armageddon," where citizens are randomly required to report for execution as the result of a simulated war between two planets. 

Now, we're in a simulated peace between two civilizations that nonetheless produces casualties.

Call the Bear whatever names you want, xenophobic, racist, Nazi, sexist, whatever. He knows he's just a Bear and will always be a Bear no matter what names people call him. It beats getting shot at.

But how about this to stir the rhumba of rattlesnakes? Every couple who today is able to, but chooses not to, grow the native population by having three children or more is unwittingly signing off on an uncertain future. Oh, the Bear can sense the barometer drop and a chill upon a freshening breeze from the west. He feels a storm of abuse and defensiveness coming.

Meh. He'll weather it in his cave.

And, "native" means anyone born here who is willing to buy into the freaking American narrative, and not try to impose a different narrative. It means black, brown, Muslim or whoever, as long as they're willing to accept the risks and reap the rewards of that old-fashioned narrative we all know, even if, like all institutional narratives without exception, there's a lot of B.S. in it.

Bear admits the problem was not apparent until now, so boomers perhaps bear less responsibility.

The Millennial Abyss

But the boomer baby bust set the example for the Millennials. That generation is truly staring into the abyss.

A study of Colorado births revealed that between 2000 and 2015, birth rates in the 20-24 age range dropped 39%; 25-29 dropped 19%. (Source: Colorado Official State Web Page. ) It cites MTV's "Pregnant at 16" as one probable factor.

The Bear does understand that times are weird and tough for his kids. But it has seldom been easy to raise a big family .Kids are not useful, as in the days when they were extra hands on the family farm. They represent many sacrifices.

The Bear and Red Death had four of them, and had to be pretty darned scrappy to make it work. Bear made a name for himself as a lawyer, but not much money.

It was the most rewarding thing we ever did in 41 years of marriage. All the vacations we only heard about from friends, the little apartments we squeezed ourselves into, the ancient minivan, settling for less in career and just about everything except love - all that is forgotten. Our kids, though... they remain a daily joy.

Maybe Bear is wrong and a massive infusion of Islamic certainty will be a tonic for a culturally weary West ravaged by WWI. Maybe all the illegal Hispanic labor everyone knows our country depends on and cannot afford to stop will trigger a new Great Awaking as they help charismatic Protestant sects renew the religious landscape.

(No matter what, the future looks dim for black people, but no one has ever really given a damn about them anyway.)

The Future Belongs to the Southern Hemisphere and Islam (and Bears)

Are there any success stories? The Muslim TFR worldwide is 3.1, i.e. growing nicely. Sub-Saharan African countries have very healthy TFRs. Niger leads the world with an incredible TFR of 7.57. Most priests will soon be imports from Africa and the American Church might very well be better for it. We are already seeing the shift in our parish.

And yet many of the rich Gulf states are not at replacement level, either. Iran is extinct at 1.69. United Arab Emirates and Lebanon are also well below the point of no return. So some Muslim countries have joined the baby bust. And once they come to western countries, Muslim TFRs tend to settle around the TFR of their host country. 

The story in a nutshell: the future belongs to the Southern hemisphere and Islam, and the West is extinct. Immigration is not an option, but necessary to keep the lights on. And it all happened because you all stopped fruitfully mating as God intended for both man and Bear.

There is, a long ways off, a happy ending, though. The Bear looks forward to the day humans are in parks and zoos. You're just such darned adorable clowns when you don't have a gun in your hands.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Kicking Buddha's Gong - Bear's Detox Thoughts

Buddha's Gong
Hoagy Carmichael: "Kicked old Buddha's Gong"

There is a memorable Hoagy Carmichael song in the Humphrey Bogart movie, "To Have and Have Not," (1944) about "a poor, unfortunate colored man" who is languishing in Hong Kong because he "kicked old Buddha's gong." He is pleading for someone to lend him $50 so he can go back home. [Corrected: not Cab Calloway, who did "Kicking the Gong Around."]

The "Hong Kong Blues" clip has been added to the bottom of the piece. It's pretty entertaining.

Now, "kicking old Buddha's gong" was not some transgression at the local temple, as the Bear had always thought. 

"Kicking the gong" was slang at the time for visiting an opium den.

There are nowhere near as many opium dens around these days. And yet, opium has never been more popular. People get it - or, technically, "opioids" - from their doctors. Opioids have legitimate use for controlling pain. And yet, the molecular-level opioid receptors in your body don't distinguish recreational opium from medicinal opioids. 

Tranquilizer Darts and Hydrocodone

One of the hazards of being a Bear is the nuisance of being the frequent target of tranquilizer darts.

People can be so intolerant.

It finally got to the point where, entirely without his own fault, the Bear became habituated to the delicious darts. Which gives him some sympathy for those habituated to doctor-prescribed opioids such as hydrocodone, which is in the news lately.

Some people have pain that is chronic and just can't be cured. The only relief they can find is in prescription drugs that are fun and effective at first, but later, no more fun, much less effective, but desperately needed.

The respectable term "habituation" is used for the powerful physiological need for the drugs obtained from a doctor.

Scummy drug users without prescriptions are said to be "addicted."

Whatever the Hell difference that means inside a human - or ursine - body, the Bear could not explain.

Anyway, a federal operation like the friendly VA hospital just a few years ago was handing them out like candy, right through the mail. One could still easily find a doctor for pain management who would prescribe them, too. You do not have to go "doctor shopping" and get multiple prescriptions or abuse the medicine to become habituated. It is an inevitable result of regular long-term use even in legitimate pain management.

Habituation is said to be an epidemic these days. Call Bear cynical, but he wishes people had to buy his disreputable novel at $100 every month, or suffer unspeakable torments. He'd make a fortune. 

There's money in them thar opioid receptors.

Today, it is the rarer doctor who will put up with the hassle of monthly opioid prescriptions and risk an over-zealous federal prosecutor substituting his medical judgment for a doctor's. Even more restrictions are being contemplated. It is a very unattractive proposition for doctors.

If you're on these drugs, the gravy train is probably coming to an end, for better or worse.

This might be a good time to consider hopping off before you're kicked off.

Quitting Opioids: "You're Going to Feel a Pinch"

The Bear does not have an opinion on federal policy or prescribed use for chronic pain. Pain is pain and relief is relief and everybody must choose what pharmaceuticals they permit into their bodies. However, everyone should be aware that prescription users will become habituated over time, bound to a ferocious demon that will turn their bodies against their souls in return for relief from pain.

We all know how deals with the devil turn out in the end.

The Bear decided he did not want to live wearing invisible chains. Pain is not necessarily the worst thing in life. Even a prescription drug can have a peculiar effect, and for the Bear, the dependence involved a loss of self-respect. It was time to say goodbye to his old frenemy, Mr. Watson.

Being many days into regulated tranquilizer dart detox, the Bear has some observations for others who may be habituated to darts or prescription opioids. (In case you're imagining Bear in rehab somewhere like Robert Downey, Jr., no, he's just at Bear Manor, here in Zoar, where he always is. He' just feeling a bit under the weather.)

As the nurse says, "You're going to feel a pinch."

First of all, never be in the position to quit cold turkey, or you will discover how to live conscious of every second of your life with opioid receptors throughout your body turning the screws to the point of a constant cellular scream. You may develop a new appreciation for St. Maximillian Kolbe, the patron saint of drug addicts. You will experience Hell on earth for several days.

Second, if you make the personal decision to trade slavery for pain, know going in that even regulated detox - slowly reducing the amount of the drug over time under medical supervision - sucks a whole lot. You will be tested, unknown friend. Be prepared to suffer, and pray to learn humility and many other things from your suffering. There is just no sugar-coating this.

The first few days are the worst. You'll want to give up. Bear hopes you have loving support. Be kind to yourself. If you want to, say, gorge on chicken wings, gorge away if it helps. (Chicken wings have been proven to be slightly less addictive.) But you will probably be puking too much to gorge.

Distract yourself. Fred and Ginger movies are the best, it goes without saying, or maybe binge watch TV series. Cover yourself with a blanket and pound your head on the floor - a personal favorite. Obsessively blog, creating long, rambling manifestos. Tell yourself every minute if you have to, "I'm one minute closer to being free." Breath.

Stick to your schedule scrupulously. Don't take a dose a minute before you're supposed to, no matter what. It's an important symbolic expression of your resolve. Give control of your pills to a trusted person and let them dole your doses out. And here's a good trick. Let's say you're taking three doses of two pills each for a total of six pills per day. The first week, your doctor might have you take one pill away from one dose so you take five pills instead of six for seven days. Then, drop another pill from a different dose the second week, and so on.

The trick is, have your helper add a Tylenol to the reduced, one-pill dose so you're still taking "two pills." It's what you're used to. Give yourself every psychological edge.

Don't backslide and lose all you've suffered for. But if you do, "Pick Yourself Up," as the Jerome Kern-Dorothy Fields number from "Swing Time" (1938) says. (Does Bear have to say more about the greatest movie of all time?)

Pat yourself on the back until your arm falls off.

Be prepared.

Clear your calendar.

Tell those around you this is a going to be a Big Freaking Deal. They cannot relate. It isn't like anything else. When you want to be left alone, make sure they understand they must leave you the Hell alone. And, no, you're not interested in discussing what you're going through, and a simple "how do you feel, hon?" may trigger homicidal urges, especially if you are a Bear.

Determine in advance with your doctor your personal cocktail to help with symptoms. Benadryl, ibuprofen and, if you can get a prescription, gabapentin (Neurontin) is an amazing all-purpose wonder drug. A dash of benzo is another prescription possibility. Anyway, this helps some for Bear.

Is it wise to include a benzo, which is another addictive substance? Up to you and your doctor, but used sensibly in the short term, you're unlikely to become habituated. NOTE: Benzos such as diazepam (Valium) or its shorter-half-life brother, lorazepam (Ativan) and opioids (Vicodin, Norco, etc.) can combine unhappily - by which the Bear means the unhappy people left behind when you die - so this is not a do-it-yourself job. Your doctor should know how to help you through safely. 

Obviously, Bear has the wrong degree and license to practice medicine, so work with your doctor, who will undoubtedly be more than happy to get rid of you. But advocate for yourself, especially with your relief cocktail. Your doctor might not know (or care) more than to provide a tapering off schedule. Feel free to tell him an 800-year-old talking Bear says he needs to prescribe something to ease the discomfort. Your doctor will be very impressed.

The bastard owes you for helping you into this mess to begin with.

Most importantly, know that, while you're in for a rough time and may feel like pulling your own head off and beating annoying loved ones with it, it passes. It does end. And you will come through the ordeal stronger and wiser. But you will be saved as by fire, my dear unknown friend.

The Mystery of Suffering

No, wait. While all that is good to know, it is not the most important thing, which the Bear will now reveal.

There is a mystery in suffering. The book of Job is one of the most fascinating in the Bible. In the end, Job is never told why he suffered. But he winds up in even better shape than he was before.

If you listen to sweet suffering, it is eager to teach you things you never, ever understood before. It can be like... Bear doesn't know. Some sort of massive download of... of whatever you let it mean to you.

It is suffering that does not kill or harm, even though you may have moments you wouldn't mind being dead. So, see, it is not really that demon that is torturing you. He pretends to be your friend. Suffering is the opposite of what he offers.

It is an angel of God you can absolutely trust to give you rest and relief at the end of your education without harming a hair on your habituated head.

Is quitting doable for everyone? Bear does not presume to say, although he hopes so. He has had clients in jail tell him withdrawal from pills is harder than withdrawal from heroin. And they ought to know. Bear suspects there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Regulated detox reminds Bear of the little boy whose pup's tail was to be bobbed. He begged the vet to cut it off a bit at a time so it didn't hurt too much. Yet, the alternative takes more fortitude than the Bear believes he has anymore.

Of course, remember, personally, he's talking about tranquilizer darts.

Bear leaves with a prayer for everyone going through detox, everyone who is making that hard decision, everyone who has failed and yet may try again, and everyone who has made that deal with the devil and doesn't yet realize the cost.

Featured Post

Judging Angels Chapter 1 Read by Author

Quick commercial for free, no-strings-attached gift of a professionally produced audio book of Judging Angels, Chapter 1: Last Things, read...