Wednesday, August 29, 2012

True Gentlemen: Ross Douthat

Although the New York Times has discredited itself by hosting the intemperate Paul Krugman on its opinion pages, the editors truly redeem their paper by the inclusion of Ross Douthat. He alone is willing to stand up for the principle that has made this country great: the rule of The Better Sort.

And The Better Sort, in this election, is Mitt Romney.

We did not need a speech to tell us this, of course. Almost every facet of Romney’s biography and personality fits the stereotypes of the old Main Line/Saint Grottlesex world. There’s the combination of great wealth and private frugality, the ruthless business acumen paired with the quiet works of charity, the personal probity joined to the clear discomfort with ideological fervor. And then there are the verbal tics – his description of Paul Ryan’s budget as “marvelous,” say, or his reference to athletes as being “in sport” – that suggest that Romney would be entirely at home in the works of John P. Marquand or Louis Auchincloss.
Did any of those references make sense to you? Congratulations. Though you are no doubt possessed of a Yankee modesty that would keep you from boasting about your breeding and erudition, you are fit to rule. If not, I suggest that you retreat to Saint Grottlesex for a prep year.

But remember, it's not for himself alone that Romney's doing this. Take his wife's word for it. Douthat does!
But when she pivoted, took ownership of her husband’s throwback qualities and used them to plead his case, her address felt impressive, credible and true. The opening was populist in the style of almost every American political speech today, but the second half was more unusual: It acknowledged her husband’s good fortune, emphasized how hard he would work on behalf of average Americans rather than what he has in common with them, and portrayed the Republican nominee for president, ultimately, as a man forrather than of the people. Her best line evoked generations of reticent, public-spirited Brahmins: “Mitt does not like to talk about how he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point.”
In the final analysis, it doesn't matter if the particular utterances Romney makes are true. Only a churl would insist on verifying the truthfulness of a campaign's rhetorical pillars when the far more reliable (and polite) recourse to pedigree is available.
You don’t have to love him, the more effective parts of her speech implied, or relate to him, or even always necessarily agree with him. But you can trust him with the presidency, because he’s suited to public service, and he was born and raised and trained to do this job.
This Douthat is going places. I've but one complaint: while he clearly possesses the kind of sexual repression required of a true gentleman, but he should really stop commenting on a lady's weight, even if she behaves like a brazen hussy.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rules of Civility: Evenhandedness

There is nothing less polite than a one-sided political discussion. Civility demands that more than one perspective be included in any discussion. Of course, there's also nothing less polite than an anarchic free-for-all of ideas. Civility thus also demands that no more than two perspectives be included in any discussion. And finally, there is nothing less polite than an unbalanced discussion, where one perspective is judged lacking based on detachment from evidence or rationality. Therefore, it is imperative that both sides be accorded equal deference.

In the society of learned gentlemen who nobly lead us, the task of expressing political ideas is carried by the parties, and, it is our collective good fortune that they are two in number. No more and no less. This provides a simple way to tell, without fail, if a political discussion is balanced. Does it include the opinions of members of each party without favor or scrutiny.

Paul Krugman is a man of intelligence, and summarizes the rules of political discourse quite aptly:
What he’s doing – and what the whole Beltway media crowd has done – is to slot Ryan into a role someone is supposed to be playing in their political play, that of the thoughtful, serious conservative wonk.
 So far, so good. Elsewhere, however, he crudely mocks our most noble gentlemen of learning, "professional centrists,"as
people whose whole pose is one of standing between the extremes of both parties, and calling for a bipartisan solution.
This kind of thinking leads to solutions where everyone wins and, more importantly, no one has to feel bad about themselves. Of course, Krugman also views this kind of gentlemanly discourse as a problem, which reflects the fact that, despite his intellect and erudition, he is deeply uncouth.

I mention Krugman not to reward his insolence with attention, but to alert readers to his breaches of decorum, particularly with regard to Congressman Paul Ryan, whose policy proposals could, I suppose, be evaluated in terms of their substantive content and likely consequences, but are far more politely discussed as positions equally meritorious to all others (all others, of course, being of necessity a category of one).

Krugman is leading the pack with his impolite scrutiny of the Path to Prosperity, having the gall to suggest that Ryan is being deliberately deceptive and that some number of persons, including people who have never interviewed Paul Ryan, might suffer.

I could do this in detail, but you can learn everything you need to know by understanding two numbers: $4.6 trillion and 14 million.
Of these, $4.6 trillion is the size of the mystery meat in the budget. Ryan proposes tax cuts that would cost $4.6 trillion over the next decade relative to current policy — that is, relative even to making the Bush tax cuts permanent — but claims that his plan is revenue neutral, because he would make up the revenue loss by closing loopholes. For example, he would … well, actually, he refuses to name a single example of a loophole he wants to close.
So the budget is a fraud. No, it’s not “imperfect”, it’s not a bit shaky on the numbers; it’s completely based on almost $5 trillion dollars of alleged revenue that are pure fabrication.
On the other side, 14 million is the minimum number of people who would lose health insurance due to Medicaid cuts — the Urban Institute, working off the very similar plan Ryan unveiled last year, puts it at between 14 and 27 million people losing Medicaid.
That’s a lot of people — and a lot of suffering. And again, bear in mind that none of this would be done to reduce the deficit — it would be done to make room for those $4.6 trillion in tax cuts, and in particular a tax cut of $240,000 a year to the average member of the one percent..
But Obama is very rude for pointing any of this out.
I can state my unequivocal agreement with that last sentence Krugman wrote, so there may be hope for him yet. Unfortunately, his incivil example is encouraging others.

Charlie Pierce:

Once in Congress, however, he has been transformed into an intellectual giant despite the fact that, every time he comes up with another "budget," actual economists get a look at it and determine, yet again, that between "What We Should Do" and "Great Things That Will Happen When We Do" is a wilderness of dreamy nonsense, wishful thinking, and an asterisk the size of Lake Huron

For shame, Charles. I shudder to think we both hail from Worcester County!

Gin and Tacos:

Yet the most alarming aspect of Mitt Romney's "bold" decision to cave to the big GOP money and shackle himself to the anchor that is Paul Ryan is the repeated references to his new partner's considerable intellectual gifts. Given that we now live in a world in which shows about Honey Boo Boo and married couples with 19 children are on something with the gall to call itself "The Learning Channel", it makes sense that Paul Ryan would qualify as an "intellectual". But it is a Book of Revelations-level warning sign of the misguided Moderation Worship among the bobbleheads of the Beltway media that in their desperation to say something good about the cargo cult of nihilists that is the modern GOP, they have decided that Paul Ryan is a deeply intellectual man of ideas and principles – a leading thinker of his day.
I do not know this "Honey Boo Boo," but I know I don't like where this is going:
Whatever the psychology, there is not enough alarm at the fact that our media have decided that the quiet, weasely, dead-eyed weirdo who likes to write manifestos (!!!) of his Darwinist view of the world must be, by virtue of his lack of car salesman / televangelist bluster, a genuine, bona fide Intellectual. If he's not politician handsome or articulate, surely he must be brilliant; to conclude otherwise would be to admit that his ancestors' money got him elected. Somewhere in Janesville, Wisconsin an equivalent man without wealth and means looks at Ryan on the TV during his night shift at Shoney's and laments, "That could have been me."
If this keeps up, we may not only forfeit the wonders of our wonderfully organized system of political discourse, but we may find that young gentlemen of learning abandon the noble pursuit of political journalism, leaving the rest of us to figure things out for ourselves.

Fortunately, Mark Halperin knows the value of polite discourse.  When Mitt Romney makes jokes that pander to a subset of low-information voters who believe that Barack Obama is not an American citizen, it is precisely the same thing as Barack Obama making a joke that ridicules those low-information voters. Thank goodness Halperin isn't afraid to say so, without fear of vicious mockery.  Sometimes politeness needs courageous defenders.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

True Gentlemen: Eric Holder and the Justice Department

Many people have grievances against our Attorney General, and he's certainly made some enemies along the way. But he must be commended for the decision of his Justice Department not to prosecute officers of MF Global over the shift of a billion dollars of account holders' money onto the firm's own ledgers, whence it vanished into the ether.

But a $6.3 billion wager on the European sovereign debt proved fatal. The size of the bet was enough to wipe out the firm many times over, and as questions about Europe’s health grew, a run on MF Global ensued. In the panic, the firm tapped customer money to stay afloat, which scuttled a last-minute deal to save the firm. Mr. Corzine resigned just days after the firm filed for bankruptcy (Azam Ahmed and Ben Protess, NYT "Dealbook"--the source of all quotes unless otherwise noted)

Many uncouth ruffians have suggested that such actions constitute theft and fraud, and questioned the lack of vigor in punishing the apparent offenders. 
I mean, if 10 bucks disappears from the till in my local, the people investigating the theft are generally curious as to whether or not it ends up in the bartender's wallet. And, given enough time and dedication, they will find that out (Pierce).
One Matt Taibbi has even gone so far as to suggest in the most vile and obscene terms possible that decisions not to prosecute our noble bankers constitutes a failure of manliness on Holder's part. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Holder's associates, assuredly following the gentlemanly example of their superior (as good citizens ought!), have decided that the money was lost by mistake. 
After 10 months of stitching together evidence on the firm’s demise, criminal investigators are concluding that chaos and porous risk controls at the firm, rather than fraud, allowed the money to disappear, according to people involved in the case.
The honorable gents at MF global assure us that this transfer of funds was an honest mistake, and the honor system compels us to accept their explanation without question. Indeed, if we start demanding explanations or imputing motives to the principals in these unfortunate incidents, where might we (and these fine gentlemen) end up

One thing prevents me from offering a full and unqualified endorsement of Holder. It is, of couse, quite impolite to point out errors made by others, particularly when doing so makes an esteemed gentleman like John Corzine appear a bumbling imbecile whose incompetence is exceeded only by his delusions of expertise.
As the firm’s leader, Mr. Corzine was upbeat about its future, writing an e-mail to employees in January 2011: “Let’s be an example of how to do it right and play a leadership role in restoring confidence in our industry.”
One hopes that Mr. Corzine succeeds in his 
bid to rebuild his image and engage his passion for trading... weighing whether to start a hedge fund, according to people with knowledge of his plans.
It will certainly be an uphill battle for him, a without loose billions of his customers' money, as in his present state of affairs
[h]e is currently trading with his family’s wealth.
Certainly, the blow to Corzine's reputation is severe and would otherwise merit my scorn, but as an offense against manners it certainly pales in comparison to the direct attacks against our beloved honor system, the very basis of our civilization. Three cheers for Eric Holder, never mind what Charlie Pierce says.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Paul Ryan Isn't Trying to Hurt You Ingrates, He's Trying to Help

The Rude Pundit has certainly lived up to his name, accusing the honorable Congressman Paul Ryan of hypocrisy, on the tenuous grounds that he condemns government social programs as
a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency
while his biography shows that he drew on social security survivor's benefits to complete his education and inherited a family fortune built primarily from government highway contracts.

The Ryan Incorporated Central webpage on the company's history says, "By the 1940's the Company had become a full-service grading contractor serving both private industrial and public transportation customers, including some of the original work at what would become O'Hare Airport."
But on the website for Ryan Incorporated Southern, headquartered in Florida (there are various divisions of Ryan and, yes, still from the company founded by his great-grandfather that's run by Ryan's cousins), it's a bit more explicit: "The Ryan workload from 1910 until the rural interstate Highway System was completed 60 years later, was mostly Highway construction."
And whose money built the interstate highway system? That'd be ours.

In other words, you know how Barack Obama talked about how your business didn't build the roads that allow you to do business? Well, if you are in the Midwest, chances are that Paul Ryan's family did build some of the roads. And they got to be amazingly successful because the federal government gave them six decades of contracts and millions upon millions of dollars to build them.

This ruffian, in his class-envy besotted mind sees a contradiction between Ryan's present policies and his life story, suggesting the gentleman from Janesville would impose suffering on others that he would be unwilling to endure himself. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As readers of the New Yorker well know,

Ryan’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all died before their sixtieth birthdays.
The cause? Certainly not diet; medical science has established that it is perfectly healthy if one's

“veins run with cheese, bratwurst and a little Spotted Cow, Leinies and some Miller,”
No, the cause was decades of reliance on government! Paul Ryan knows firsthand the tragic health consequences of a sedentary life in Big Government's Hammock. Why, it made his own dad drop dead of a heart attack.

Paul Ryan has the courage to make sure that no more lives will ever be destroyed by government-supported prosperity, and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mitt Romney Will Not Be Out-Mannered

Knowing how sensitive young Mr. Ryan is to criticism or substantive analysis of his budget plans, Romney appears to be taking a fatherly approach. Rather than subject his ward to months of tough questions from impudent reporters or Joe Biden, indications are that he will run as quickly as possible away from Ryan's sole claim to political expertise.

The children truly are our future and it is gratifying to see a member of the older generation recognize his obligations to the younger.

Well Played, Mr. President

If rumors are to be believed, and this blog's view is that, depending on the honor and social stature of the teller, they are, President Obama has taken a significant step above the scalawaggery of the campaign season, setting a profound example of gentlemanly conduct.

As his opponent tapped young Congressman Ryan as his running mate, announcing the intention to cut Social Security and Medicare in order to relieve the burdens of taxation on our nation's heroic billionaires as a core platform of his campaign, the President appears ready to nominate the august Erskine Bowles, proponent of cutting Social Security and Medicare, to head the Treasury Department.

It is a rare gentleman in public life with the courtesy and good manners to agree to advance his opponent's agenda ahead of an election, sparing all parties the awkward humiliations of appealing to the public.

Kudos, Mr. President. If compromise is the grandest of virtues, then Grand Compromise is grander still.

One might even call it "legacy material."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

It's Uncouth to Make Fun of Exorcisms

One of the most distasteful parts of the campaign season is known euphemistically as "vetting," although the term hardly conveys the audacious, insolent, and impertinent manner in which some members of the news media and indeed some of our own tribunes of democracy confront potential office holders with the things that those people have said and done in the past, as though such information could have the slightest bearing on their capacity to hold office responsibly in the future.

Consider the way that the honorable Governor Piyush "Bobby" Jindal's brave actions as a university undergraduate in protecting a female companion from danger have been crudely twisted to imply that he is some sort of religious zealot. If this is the kind of character in evidence at Mother Jones, then I fear Grandmother Jones may be resting uneasily in the grave.

Although a reader of honor and good breeding should require no further convincing, let us consider in detail author Tim Murphy's depraved lust for libel, a compulsion to smear and slander that even led him to use Jindal's own words against him.

Though Jindal was suitably modest in describing his own heroic actions, I trust the reader will grasp the extent of his chivalry, courage, and wisdom.

The tale begins with Jindal escorting "Susan," a platonic-yet-intimate female friend to a Christian a capella concert following a meeting of a campus christian fellowship which Susan had departed
in a very sullen mood.
Very few young men would have the emotional intelligence to recognize that the cure for someone left cold by nondenominational evangelical Christian worship is more nondenominational evangelical Christian worship, and this decision alone should be applauded.

Yet, the uplifting sounds of the concert failed to buoy the young lady's spirits. A person of low character, raised on soap operas and romance novels might conclude that the source of Susan's displeasure was sitting right next to her, in the form of a man who was, in the regrettable words of television strumpets, "just not that into her." Young Jindal, of course, had good cause for jilting her, however difficult the decision was for him
We had succumbed to pressure from our friends and de­cided we should not be so emotionally interdependent without a deeper commitment. To be honest, my fears of a relationship and the constraints of commitment had kept us apart; our friends' objec­tions merely provided a convenient excuse.
and took the gentlemanly step of softening the blow of heartache by taking her on an outing free from any prospect of romantic requittal. Although Young Jindal was also too respectful of a lady's privacy to mention it in his recollection, Susan had also recently been diagnosed with cancer, making his decision to escort her all the more gracious and no doubt comforting to her. Thus, when Susan abruptly left the concert that evening and experienced a seizure the next day, Jindal was wise enough to correctly diagnose the cause: demonic possession.

This diagnosis was confirmed when Jindal bravely gathered together every undergraduate Christian organization leader he could find in Susan's dorm room and instructed them to wave crucifixes at her. Truly, nothing but demonic possession could account for her reaction:
She suddenly leapt up and ran for the door, despite the many hands holding her down. 
Although his ears were confronted with the most vile of utterances from this unfortunate young lady
At first, Susan responded to biblical passages with curses and profanities. Mixed in with her vile attacks were short and desperate pleas for help.
Not your typical callow undergraduate, Jindal keenly recognized that Susan's pleas for help--which one of the mental invalids at the median of our society's bell curves of intellect and common sense might have interpreted as beseeching relief from her human interlocutors--were in fact pleas to be rescued from demons. Jindal's steadfast leadership saved the day:
In the same breath that she attacked Christ, the Bible's authenticity, and everyone assembled in prayer, Susan would suddenly urge us to rescue her. It appeared as if we were observing a tremendous battle between the Susan we knew and loved and some strange evil force. But the momentum had shifted and we now sensed that victory was at hand.
Bobby Jindal is a moral and intellectual giant among men, and to use this story to suggest that he resides at the corner of Rain Man Avenue and Spanish Inquisition Parkway is positively uncouth.

I'm returning because my country needs me.

My loyal readers must accept my apology for personal and professional matters have kept me from my calling to moral instruction in public discourse. I trust that a full explanation of those matters will be unnecessary; the honor system suffices among the gentlemen of Wall Street, and thus certainly suffices for this humble blog.

I am equally certain that my readers and the public at large have noticed the uncouth tone of the presidential campaigns. I have concluded that my silence is no longer permissible. My country needs me to explain, in the parlance of our times (lamentable though it is), what is cool, what is not OK, and where one should not even consider going.