Mélange 7/1/17

  1. Cardinal Pell
  2. Giving the Devil his due
  3. As the French used to say, not a serious man
  4. “The very best leeches”
  5. SPLC take-down
  6. Fair-weather fan

If all you write is Potpourri, get a Thesaurus.


If I take the time to write something, I usually go ahead and publish it. But my thoughts on Cardinal George Pell, voluntarily returning to Australia from the Vatican to fight decades-old abuse charges, whipsawed, and I decided to scrap what I first wrote (a stirring defense and its introduction by folks from down under), scrap what I added “on the other hand” (Andrew Sullivan rehearses evidence against the Cardinal), and do what we’re all supposed to do in the Anglophone legal traditions: presume innocence but withhold judgment until the evidence is all in.

Terry Mattingly looks at the awkward position of the Vatican.

I can’t not care about the outcome. For good or ill, Christianity as a whole tends to rise or fall in plausibility and public esteem in correlation with good or bad behavior by its most visible representatives, which where I live are the Evangelicals and the Catholic Church.


Justice Gorsuch’s appointment is President Trump’s greatest accomplishment to date. His early decisions have solidified a three-justice conservative bloc. A resurgent conservative wing exposes the high court’s directionless middle, occupied by Justice Kennedy and to a lesser extent Chief Justice Roberts.

Justice Gorsuch’s noteworthy debut will prompt an even fiercer fight over the next vacancy, almost certain to occur during President Trump’s term. In replacing Scalia, Justice Gorsuch may not have changed the balance of the Court on the most divisive constitutional issues. But his commitment to the original Constitution sets the stage for a noisy confirmation battle.

(Sai Prakash and John Yoo) Neil Gorsuch does not suffice to stir within my soul warm fuzzies for The Golden Golem of Greatness, but does suffice for a tepid “give the devil his due.”

Speaking of giving the devil his due, today is the anniversary of Thomas More’s show trial. Here’s one of my favorite scenes from A Man for All Seasons, including a suitably creepy set-up featuring one of the greatest creepy character actors ever, the late John Hurt, as Rich:



The difficulties the Republicans have faced were inevitable. They are divided; they don’t have the will or the base. The party is undergoing a populist realignment, with party donors, think-tankers and ideologues seeing things more or less one way, and the Trump base, including many Democrats, seeing them another. The long-stable ground under Republican senators has been shifting, and they’re not sure where or how to stand. The president, philosophically unmoored and operating without a firm grasp of the legislation he promotes, is little help. He has impulses and sentiments but is not, as the French used to say, a serious man. He just wants a deal and a win, and there’s something almost refreshing in this, in the lack of tangled and complicated personal and political motives. It makes so much possible.

Is it fair that both parties must fix a problem created by one party? No. But it would be wise and would work.

Here is a thing that would help: a little humility from the Democrats, and a little humanity.

It would be powerful if a Democratic senator would go on the Sunday shows this weekend and say something like this: “Republicans have proved they can’t make progress. They’re failing in their efforts, and I’m not sad about it, because their bill is a bad one. But I’m not going to lie to you, ObamaCare has big flaws—always did. It was an imperfect piece of legislation and it’s done some things my party said wouldn’t happen, such as lost coverage and hiked deductibles. The American people know this because they live with it. The answer is to do what we should have done in the past, and that is joining with Republicans to hammer out changes that will make things better, that we all can live with, at least for now. We’ll make it better only by working together. I’m asking to work with them.”

(Peggy Noonan) Noonan here seems to be swimming against the stream of her Wall Street Journal colleagues, who seem to feel that if the GOP doesn’t pass the current Bill, Chuck Schumer will become Master of the Universe.


Michael Brendan Dougherty is a bit more colorful than Noonan about Trump’s lack of philosophical mooring:

Donald Trump doesn’t care about health-care policy. He has no sense that millions of American will bitterly call out his name whenever they encounter one of the many indignities that the American health-care and health-insurance system visits upon them. Republicans could send him a bill that institutes single payer and he’d sign it just as quickly as he’d sign whatever they do send him. They could institute massive subsidies for building medical centers that revolve around leech therapy. “We’re going to find the best leeches,” Trump would say at the signing. He doesn’t care about anything beyond the grin and claiming credit for doing something great.

(Trump Should Get Off His Phone and Start Lying to My Face)


There are many reasons to criticize the modern SPLC, which has sadly fallen from a group that once fought Klansmen and Nazis to protect rights down to the level of a shrill, doctrinaire, orthodox-leftist flailing denouncer of miscellaneous petty thoughtcrime. It is no longer to be trusted or taken seriously. If you want your money to support people protecting the powerless from violent bigotry rather than funding the sophomoric assembly of tendentious enemies lists, you should donate elsewhere.

(Popehat) Yes, this quote is out of context — the context being a frivolous suit against Guidestar, a relatively powerless Defendant which credulously relied on SPLC’s tendentious identification of hate groups — but the lack of context does not distort its meaning. I agree that it was dubious to sue Guidestar without suing SPLC, but SPLC needs well-aimed criticism more than does Liberty Counsel, the Plaintiff (which gets even harsher treatment in the blog).


A neocon, Charles Krauthammer isn’t really my cup of tea, but when I saw that the photo on this column was of Max Scherzer, who shut down the Cubs the other night in the first non-World Series game I’ve watched in a long time, I decided it was worth reading. Even neocons can have worthy opinions about baseball.

I’m glad I did. Krauthammer’s overarching observation surprised me as a likely factor in my becoming a “fair weather fan” some decades ago. I only watch if my guys have been winning; the pain of watching my guys lose is greater than the pleasure if they win, so I’m looking for the reasonable expectation of a win.

* * * * *

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.