Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Pope Francis: A Conjecture

The central facts of the current Catholic crisis appear clear. By the time Francis became Pope, it was well known in Vatican circles that Cardinal McCarrick had engaged in extensive homosexual activity with young adult seminarians. The previous Pope had, on that account, restricted McCarrick's activities in a variety of ways, details of which are still controversial. When Francis became Pope whatever restrictions had been imposed were lifted and McCarrick became one of the Pope's chief advisers. Then ...
On July 19, The New York Times published an article based on the story of a man named James, whose last name was withheld. A New Jersey man whose uncle had known McCarrick since high school, James alleged that McCarrick had sexually abused him beginning at age 11. ... On July 27, 2018, Pope Francis ordered McCarrick to observe 'a life of prayer and penance in seclusion' and accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals.

The obvious puzzle is how to explain this pattern of events. I offer the following conjectures:

1. Pope Francis, like many moderns, does not regard homosexual activity as morally different from heterosexual activity. His view is in that respect inconsistent with current Catholic doctrine and he has prudently concealed it.

2. Pope Francis believes that requiring clerical celibacy is a mistake. This view is inconsistent with current policy but not, as I understand the matter, with theological doctrine.
3. Pope Francis strongly disapproves of adult men having sex with children.

All three of these positions fit modern progressive attitudes, which which Francis seems largely in sympathy. They also explain his behavior. So long as McCarrick's offenses were limited to consensual sex with adults they appeared to Francis as insufficiently serious to justify restricting the activities of a talented priest with views on the church close to those of the Pope. Only when evidence of sex with a minor appeared did that change.

I am not a Catholic, am evaluating the situation from the outside. Readers with more information or insight are invited to comment.


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Win One, Lose One

My prediction of the election outcome was wrong—it turned out about as the polls predicted. On the other hand, I got my preferred outcome, with the House controlled by one party, the Senate by the other, making it less likely that Congress would do things.

The one negative outcome was the defeat of Dana Rohrabacher. Fifty years ago he was a young libertarian troubador and babe magnet and a friend of mine. I have a verse from one of his songs at the beginning of my first book.

But he's seventy-one, so perhaps due for a rest.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Who Do I Expect To Win?

I expect that the polls will turn out to be wrong—but I do not know in which direction. Politics has changed enough in the past two years so that rules for predicting outcomes based on past experience, such as those for identifying likely voters, can no longer be trusted. 

If the polls are wrong in one direction, the Republicans hold the House and increase their majority in the Senate. If they are wrong in the other direction, they lose the house by a substantial margin, probably lose the Senate as well. We will have to wait and see.

Who Do I Want to Win?

It is the natural question to ask on the night before the election. The emotional answer is that I want the Republicans to do better than the polls predict. Humans naturally see the world as us vs them and while Trump doesn't fit very well in my picture of us, the Democrats are pretty clearly them. 

My rational answer, as before the previous election, is that I prefer a divided government, since things the government does are likely to make the world worse, not better. The polls suggest that the Democrats will end up in control of the House, the Republicans of the Senate. That means nothing will happen unless both sides agree to it, which at the moment does not seem likely. So it is probably the least bad outcome.

But I can't help remembering the story of someone explaining American politics to a group of visiting Russians:
In America, there are two parties, the evil party and the stupid party. I am a proud member of the stupid party. Once in a while, the two parties get together to do something that is both evil and stupid.

We call that bipartisanship.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Speaking Trips Next Year

I currently have plans to be on the east coast twice,  to speak at the annual ISFL get together in D.C. on January 19th and at Saint Vincent college in LaTrobe, PA, on March 13th. I don't think either event is open to outside guests, although I don't actually know. The reason for this post is that, since I am going to be flying across the country anyway, I could give a talk somewhere else in the area a day before or after at relatively little cost for either myself or my hosts. 

It occurred to me that there might be readers of my blog who would be interested in organizing something.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

I Need Another Cover

Some years back, I put up a contest here for a cover for the third edition of The Machinery of Freedom, and ended up with what I think is the best cover I've ever had. I am now just about to self-publish another book, Legal Systems Very Different from Ours, and it too needs a cover. The central idea of the book is that all human societies face about the same problems, they solve them in an interesting variety of different ways and they are all grownups, so all their solutions deserve to be taken seriously. I am not trying to find the best legal system, simply to understand a lot of real world legal systems and see what can be learned from them, including the problems raised by the different solutions and how they might be dealt with.

Part of the reason getting a cover that way worked last time was that there were a lot of readers of my blog who were familiar with the book. That will be less true this time. A late draft is webbed, however, for anyone curious.

My only cover idea so far is the title plus the names of the different legal systems scattered somehow over the page; this is an example of how that might be done. But I have no expertise in graphic arts, so was hoping that one of my readers could offer either a better version of that idea or a better idea. 

The prize last time it was a signed copy of each of my books. I would be happy to do that again—or negotiate other terms.