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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Tax Reform Legislation

September 27th, 2017

Congress is to consider Tax Reform Legislation Today.The following is a good review of the difficulties ahead

Tax Reform Legislation

Washington Examiner

September 20, 2017

Republicans are split on a strategy for moving tax reform legislation through Congress, one week before they are supposed to release a document outlining their plan to overhaul the tax code. In other words, Republicans not only don’t have consensus on the content of a tax plan, they also haven’t agreed on how to go about legislating one.

Some Senate Republicans on Tuesday mulled the idea of writing a budget that would allow them to pursue tax changes that lost significant revenue, weighing the possibility of a $1.5 trillion net tax cut over 10 years.

That approach would allow them to bypass the filibuster through budget reconciliation, the legislative procedure that allows bills to clear the Senate with only 51 votes.

 

But because of rules preventing reconciliation from adding to long-term deficits, the strategy likely would require that at least some tax provisions would have to be temporary.

 

House Republicans have staked out a different route. The House Budget Committee has advanced a budget that would require the tax plan to be revenue-neutral, meaning the reform would have to raise as much revenue as would be lost from tax cuts, after accounting for any economic growth generated by the improved tax code. In the House GOP version, the tax reform could be permanent.

 

The Senate and House budgets would have to be reconciled in conference. Then the tax-writing committees would draft legislation to meet the parameters spelled out in the budget. If those documents diverge significantly, the two chambers might have to sort out not just differences in details, but also the entire approach. And before either chamber approves its budget, it must allay concerns among some members that the process could move in a direction they don’t like.

 

In the House, conservative members of the Freedom Caucus have asked for assurances that the tax reform effort won’t drift off course, as they believe the attempt to pass healthcare legislation through reconciliation has.

 

Some of the same pressures apply in the Senate.

 

On Tuesday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., a member of the budget committee, said he wanted to hear from the “Big Six” congressional and administration Republicans working on tax reform.

“I’d rather hold off on the budget and reconciliation until we understand a little bit more exactly what the tax proposal is going to look like,” Johnson told reporters.The outline to be released next week is expected to include some targets for rates, but not much other detail.

Georgia Rep. David Perdue, another member of the Budget Committee, said his preference was not to proceed through the budget process. “I would rather us not have to do it with reconciliation, I don’t like reconciliation,” he said.

 

In the Senate, some Republicans expressed a desire to pursue a simple, less ambitious tax plan, rather than the comprehensive rewrite of the tax code favored by House Republican leaders. Speaking at a tax reform hearing in the Finance Committee, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., downplayed the need for sorting through the details necessary to make the tax reform numbers add up. Instead, he said, Congress should simply lower business and individual tax rates, eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax and the estate tax, and bring back earnings corporations have overseas, “and call it good and not go into all these other details.””It sure would save us a lot of time,” Roberts said.

 

Yet the fast-moving developments in the Senate on Tuesday were enough to draw criticism from outside fiscal hawks.

“Senators should ask themselves whether they are going to take the easy road and pursue unpaid-for tax cuts that worsen our dangerous national debt, or use this once in a generation opportunity to pass fiscally responsible, pro-growth tax reform,” said Maya MacGuineas, head of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Maxwell Perkins, A Great 20th Century Literary Editor

September 27th, 2017

My friend, Dan Garshman told me that September 20th was the birthday of Maxwell Perkins, the most famous American editor. He discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe. His fellow editors at Scribner wanted to sign more experienced writers thinking they were a sure thing, but Perkins looked for new talent, and he struck gold.

Perkins became the model for a new kind of editor. He did much more than clean up a book for publication; he looked for a writer he believed in who still had a lot of work to do, and then nurtured the book until it reached its final form. He suggested changes to the plot, he came up with book titles, and was a friend to the writers he published.

Perkins was not good at spelling and punctuation, and he was a very slow reader. His gift lay in spotting talent, particularly in writers who didn’t have reputations yet. He was also talented at getting those writers to respond to criticism of their work. He said that Fitzgerald was very sensitive to criticism, that “he could accept it, but as his editor you had to be sure of everything you suggested.” Hemingway was a perfectionist, and claimed to have written parts of A Farewell to Arms over 50 times. Perkins said, “Before an author destroys the natural qualities of his writing — that’s when an editor has to step in. But not a moment sooner.”

But his biggest challenge by far was Thomas Wolfe, who was a chronic over-writer who struggled to delete a page. Wolfe would write his novel Of Time and the River (1935) standing up, using the top of a refrigerator as a desk (he was 6’6’’), and then he would throw each page into a box without editing or looking at it. Perkins had to go through the mess of papers and put the pages in order, based on his best guess. Over time, they became estranged. In 2016, the movie Genius came out dramatizing their relationship, with Colin Firth as Perkins and Jude Law as Thomas Wolfe.

Later in his career, he also published Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling and Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country. Despite his huge success, he was a modest, idiosyncratic character who liked to stay out of the limelight. The way he thought about editing contrasts with how people thought of him. He was famous for having discovered so many important writers, but he thought editors shouldn’t draw attention to themselves for the work they did on other people’s books. He said: “An editor does not add to a book. At best he serves as a handmaiden to an author. […] An editor at most releases energy. He creates nothing.”

An Unusual, But Fitting Ending

September 13th, 2017

Antimatter/ Carl Anderson

Physicists began speculating in the late 19th century that there may exist particles and matter that are exact opposites of the matter that surrounds us, mirror-image anti-atoms and perhaps even whole anti-solar systems where matter and antimatter might meet and annihilate one another. But in 1932, American physicist Carl Anderson discovered the first physical evidence that antimatter was more than just an idea.

Anderson was photographing and tracking the passage of cosmic rays through a cloud chamber, a cylindrical container filled with dense water vapor, lit from the outside, and built with a viewing window for observers. When individual particles passed through the sides of the container and into the saturated air, they would leave spiderweb tracks of condensation, like the vapor trails of miniscule airplanes, each type of particle forming a uniquely shaped trail. Anderson noticed a curious pattern – a trail like that of an electron, with an exactly identical, but opposite curve – an electron’s mirror image and evidence of an anti-electron. Anderson named the antimatter particle the positron and won a Nobel Prize for his discovery four years later.

Around 1940, biochemist and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov took up the newly discovered particle, using it as the basis for his fictional “positronic brain,” a structure made of platinum and iridium and his means for imparting humanlike consciousness to the robots in his story collection I, Robot.

The fictional uses of antimatter and the positronic brain have since spread throughout literature and popular entertainment, from the writing of Robert Heinlein to the classic British television series Doctor Who to propulsion systems and the sentient android, Data, in the American science fiction series Star Trek – even to Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, the sequel to his wildly popular DaVinci Code, in which the Illuminati intend to destroy Vatican City using the explosive power of a canister of pure antimatter.
NB: Perhaps this is the way our universe will end, i.e. a sudden flood of positrons from a nearby mirror universe, meeting up with all our negative electrons, which will blow blow up both of them. Certainly a neat way to end everything. See my short story: “What in the World Matters.”

Trump and the Democrats: What a Mess!

September 12th, 2017

Washington Examiner
September 11,2017
Republicans getting trumped by internal divide not the president
By Susan Ferrechio

The accepted spin on last week’s Oval Office showdown between Republicans and President Trump is that Trump handed Democrats a major political victory. But Republican internal divisions, not Trump, gave Democrats the bargaining power in the debate over how long to suspend the nation’s borrowing limit, and it will continue to give Democrats the upper hand as Republicans try to move their faltering agenda in the weeks ahead

The Republican plan to pass tax reform, a possible infrastructure bill, and implement federal spending reforms all face internal division that could end up stalling the GOP agenda and leaving President Trump with the sole option of turning to Democrats to get anything done.

The first test could come as early as the next few weeks, when House Republicans hope to begin consideration of the fiscal 2018 budget, which will serve as the legislative vehicle for tax reform, now the GOP’s No. 1 goal.

Even last week, GOP leaders weren’t sure whether they had enough support within their own party to pass a budget. They spent the August recess trying to shore up support for the proposal, but there is opposition from conservatives who are demanding more stringent spending reforms, while moderates say the plan cuts too much.

“We still have some work to do, but we are encouraged by the results we were getting over the recess,” House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., said. “We are hoping to be able to get the budget done in the next couple of weeks.”

As the GOP agenda falters, Democrats are leveraging their power by remaining unified and threatening to withhold their bloc of votes to help the fractured GOP get things done.

The strategy worked for Democrats last week when they convened in an Oval Office meeting Sept. 6 with GOP leaders and Trump to discuss a deal to suspend the nation’s borrowing limit and provide hurricane disaster relief money.

Democrats wanted to limit the debt ceiling increase to three months in order to give them more time to negotiate a deal to pass an immigration reform bill known as the Dream Act.

Republicans wanted an 18-month debt limit suspension, but they lack the votes to pass it in the House or the Senate without Democratic support.

Many conservatives refuse to back a debt ceiling increase unless it includes significant federal spending reform.

Trump realized the only immediate deal possible was with the Democrats.

“Here, the currency of the realm is the vote,” Pelosi said later. “You have the votes, no discussion necessary. You don’t have the votes, three months.”

The Republicans, she added, “don’t have the votes; that is why we have three months.”

Emboldened Democrats say they now want a standalone bill on the DREAM Act in exchange for their vote for a debt ceiling increase in December.

Pelosi said Trump has signaled to them that he would sign the bill, which would legalize young people who came to the United States illegally as children.

Pelosi acknowledged that it would probably require Democrats agreeing to additional border security funding, but she said that would not include funding for a southern border wall, which was a top priority for Trump during his 2016 campaign.

Pelosi said she has discussed “border enforcement” with Trump, “but it does not include a wall.”

The potential coalition between Trump and Democrats on immigration reform threatens to leave Republicans in the dust as they struggle pass tax reform and other important legislative items.

Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, a senior member of the largest conservative faction, the Republican Study Committee, said the party has never been fully unified on anything.

“We are an independent group,” Flores said. “We all have various lines of reasoning for the way we think about policies.”

Dan Holler, a spokesman for the conservative Heritage Action, said Republican leaders have caused division within the party by straying too far from campaign promises including reducing government spending and repealing Obamacare.

“The division certainly gave Democrats an opportunity to swoop in,” Holler said. “But it was all preceded by this unwillingness to pursue campaign promises or conservative policy agendas.”

The GOP split was never more evident than on Friday, when dozens of House Republicans, including some Texans, voted against the leadership-endorsed Hurricane aid and debt ceiling package.

Republican opponents said they couldn’t back a suspension of the debt ceiling without spending reforms. They also called for offsets for the $15.4 billion in disaster relief, which will now add to the debt.

“As much as I want to help Texas, I can’t vote for something that is a blank check on the debt,” Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said. “The same Texans who are now in distress are going to, when they get back on their feet, be part of the group paying this money back.”

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Washington Examiner
Op Ed: 9/11/2017
“If, as a voter, you think what we need is more Republicans in Washington to cut a deal with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, then I guess Donald Trump’s your guy.”

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas spoke those words in Manchester, N.H., in January 2016. The events of last week prove that Cruz was at least partly right.

The senator was not alone in arguing that Trump, as president, would be quick to cut deals with the political opposition at his own allies’ expense. After all, he was a businessman first, and not omitted to a specific ideological program.

To be fair to Trump, he seems mostly to have listened to and leaned on conservatives when making policy during his first seven months in office. And it took several months before he actually agreed to surrender to Democratic demands as he now has, by rolling hurricane relief and a short-term debt ceiling increase into one must-pass package. The consequences of Trump working with Democrats in this case are not too serious. Uncle Sam can keep borrowing, at least for a few more months, without any tradeoffs or limitations.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was as conciliatory as possible on Thursday when he spoke at a news conference about Trump’s unexpected betrayal. The president, he said, had been looking for a bipartisan moment at a time of crisis, and this seemed like a good one.

Ryan, who overcame his personal reservations to work with Trump during the 2016 election, will surely continue to work with him despite such a snub. But it has never been more important for Trump to remember who his friends are. Not all Republicans will be so good-natured as their Speaker, and the success or failure of Trump’s presidency depends on their cooperation.

Democratic leaders such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are willing to work with Trump now and then when they can belittle him by obliging him to do their bidding. It means they strategically outwit congressional Republicans and turn the tables in Washington so that they get to set the agenda once again. But no matter how much Trump works with them, Democrats are not interested in helping him achieve any of his legislative goals.

Their sole goal in 2018 is to win the midterm elections by running on the idea that Trump is the villain. This is their right as an opposition party. They are silly and vain, indulging the conceit that they are “the resistance,” a popular movement fighting a quasi-Hitlerian dictatorship, when in truth they are just an out-of-touch political party that can’t handle election defeat. But as silly and vain as the Democrats are, they are right in recognizing that they have nothing to gain from working with Trump.

This is why many in the House and Senate Democratic caucuses already publicly denounce him as a white supremacist, and not only find fault with his response to the violence in Charlottesville, but actually argue that he is responsible for what happened there.

Schumer, Pelosi, and the Democrats worked against Trump on his executive and judicial nominations, on his regulatory repeal efforts, and on healthcare reform. And after the Harvey bill has become law, they will work against him on tax reform and whatever comes after that. If they win the House back in 2018 they will have to fight hard to resist pressure to allow Trump to be impeached. They may not resist all that hard.

In the meantime, Trump has just snubbed the very congressional Republicans whose support he needs in order to win all the battles he will have to fight in the future.

Congress is a co-equal branch of government with the presidency, albeit a branch in which no single person holds all the power. Trump has big plans on healthcare, tax reform, and immigration reform (including both his wall and the future of those who came to the country illegally as children) to name just a few. He’s going to need the help and sympathy of the congressional Republican leadership to make any of them reality.

If he really thinks he can make a better deal with Democrats and get anything done after that, Trump is in for a very rude awakening.

Mattis Speech At West Point Graduation: 2017

September 2nd, 2017

Every American should read this!

Speech of the Secretary of Defense to the West Point Graduating Class of 2017

These soon to be second lieutenants who have trained and studied for four years to be combat leaders were not impressed with Barack Hussein Obama. But they were very pleased this year with the Secretary of Defense remarks.

From Mad Dog Mattis, a speech that will never be shown on CNN or MSNBC. What the private said to the tank sergeant sums up what happens every day in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever our fighting forces deploy.

Here’s the speech, as prepared:

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: what a day…It is a great honor to be here today at West Point, one of the foundational keystones of our nation, and to join you on behalf of our commander-in-chief, President Trump, to pay his respects, and the respects of the American people, to the Military Academy’s class of 2017.

I would never have imagined when I joined the military at age 18 that I’d be standing here, nor can you anticipate where you’ll be many years from now.

By the time this class was in first grade classrooms in every state in our union, our country had been thrust into a war by maniacs who thought by hurting us they could scare us. Well we don’t scare, and nothing better represents America’s awesome determination to defend herself than this graduating class.

Every one of you could have opted out. You’d grown up seeing the war on ‘round-the-clock news. There was no draft. Colleges across this land would have moved heaven and earth to recruit you for schools that would never make such demands on you as West Point, starting with Beast Barracks, an aptly named introduction to the long gray line, creating American soldiers who are at their best when times are at their worst…

Today in honoring you graduates, in celebrating your achievements and giving thanks for your commitment, we can see clearly your role in our world.

You graduate the same week that saw the murder of 22 innocent young lives. Manchester’s tragic loss underscores the purpose for your years of study and training at this elite school.

For today you join the ranks of those whose mission it is to guard freedom and to protect the innocent from such terror.

We must never permit murderers to define our time or warp our sense of the normal.

This is not normal and each of you cadets graduating today are reinforcing our ranks, bringing fresh vigor, renewing our sense of urgency and enhancing the Army’s lethality needed to prove our enemies wrong. you will drive home a
salient truth: that free men and women will volunteer to fight, ethically and fiercely, to defend our experiment that we call, simply, “America.”

You graduates, commissioned today, will carry the hopes of our country on your young shoulders.

You now join the ranks of an army at war. Volunteers all, we are so very proud of you cadets, for taking the place you have earned in the unbroken line of patriots who have come before.

Your oath of office connects you to the line of soldiers stretching back to the founding of our country…and in the larger sense, it grows from ancient, even timeless roots, reflecting the tone and commitment of youth long ago who believed freedom is worth defending.

In terms of serving something larger than yourself, yours is the same oath that was taken by the young men of ancient Athens. They pledged to “fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city…to revere and obey the city’s laws and do [their] best to incite a like respect” in others, and to pass on their city-state as “far greater and more beautiful” than they had received it.

In that sense, it is fitting the cadet cover you wear today, for the last time, features the helmet of the Greek goddess Athena, echoing respect of civic duty found in a democracy, and of a nation, in President Lincoln’s words, of the people, by the people, for the people.

After four years at West Point, you understand what it means to live up to an oath; you understand the commitment that comes with signing a blank check to the American people, payable with your life.

My fine young soldiers, a few miles northwest of Washington at Antietam battlefield cemetery is a statue of a Union soldier standing at rest, and overlooking his comrades’ graves. It is inscribed with the words, “not for
themselves, but for their country.”

How simple that thought. So long as our nation breeds patriots like you, defenders who look past the hot political rhetoric of our day and rally to our flag, that Army tradition of serving our country will never die.

To a high and remarkable degree, the American people respect you. We in the Department of Defense recognize that there are a lot of passions running about in this country, as there ought to be in a vibrant republic.

But for those privileged to wear the cloth of our nation, to serve in the United States Army, you stand the ramparts, unapologetic, apolitical, defending our experiment in self-governance…you hold the line.

You hold the line…faithful to duty…confronting our nation’s foes with implacable will, knowing if there’s a hill to climb, waiting won’t make it smaller.

You hold the line…true to honor…living by a moral code regardless of who is watching, knowing that honor is what we give ourselves for a life of meaning.

You hold the line…loyal to country and Constitution, defending our fundamental freedoms, knowing from your challenging years here on the Hudson that loyalty only counts where there are a hundred reasons not to be.

Behind me, across Lusk Reservoir, stands a memorial dedicated to the American soldier. On it are inscribed the words: “the lives and destinies of valiant Americans are entrusted to your care and leadership.”

You have been sharpened through one of the finest educational opportunities in America, given to you by the American people via General Caslen’s superb faculty, who expect admirable leadership by example as soldier leaders.

My view of a great leader is the player-coach. We need coaches, men and women who know themselves, who take responsibility for themselves, coaching their soldiers to the top of their game.

Every soldier in your platoon will know your name the day you step in front of them.

Your responsibility is to know them. Learn their hopes and dreams. Teach them the difference between a mistake and a lack of discipline. If your troops make mistakes, look in the mirror and figure out how to coach them better.

And while we never tolerate a lack of discipline, we must not create a zero-defect environment, because that would suffocate initiative and aggressiveness, the two attributes most vital to battlefield success.

In leading soldiers, you will have what F. Scott Fitzgerald called, “riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.” So recognize you should never permit your passion for excellence to neutralize your compassion for the soldiers you serve, and who will follow you into harm’s way.

Remember that when the chips are down, it will be the spirits of your often rambunctious soldiers that will provide the reservoir of courage you will need to draw upon.

Rest assured that nothing you will face will be worse than Shiloh. Nothing can faze the U.S. Army when our soldiers believe in themselves.

The chips were down in the freezing cold days before Christmas, 1944, when the Nazi army was on the attack in the Ardennes.

A sergeant in a retreating tank spotted a fellow American digging a foxhole. The GI, Private First Class Martin, looked up and said to the sergeant in the tank, “are you looking for a safe place?”

“Yeah,” answered the tanker.

“Well, buddy,” the private said with a drawl, “just pull your vehicle behind me…I’m the 82nd Airborne, and this is as far as the bastards are going.”

On the battlefield, no one wins on their own. Teams win battles, and if you can win the trust and affection of your soldiers, they will win all the battles for you.

If you wish to be a credit to our nation, you must carry West Point’s ethos everywhere you go and practice every day the integrity that builds your character.

When destiny taps you on the shoulder and thrusts you into a situation that’s tough beyond words…

…when you’re sick and you’ve been three days without sleep…

…when you’ve lost some of your beloved troops and the veneer of civilization wears thin, by having lived a disciplined life, you’ll be able to reach inside and find
the strength your country is counting on.
You are privileged to be embarking on this journey. You will learn things about yourself that others will never know.

We can see the storm clouds gathering. Our enemies are watching. They are calculating and hoping America’s military will turn cynical. That we will lose our selfless spirit.

They hope our country no longer produces young people willing to shoulder the patriot’s burden, to willingly face danger and discomfort. By your commitment you will prove the enemy wrong.

We are not made of cotton candy.

You are a U.S. soldier, and you hold the line.

The class of 2017 now joins an Army that left bloody footprints at Valley Forge…an army that defeated the Nazis’ last gasp at Bastogne…

Your class will be remembered for an Army football team that took to the field of friendly strife and beat Navy…but you will also be remembered for the history you are about to write, and when you turn over your troops to their next commander, they will be as good or better than you received them.

I may not have had the pleasure of knowing each of you personally, but I have very high expectations of you…

Your country has very high expectations of you…

And we are confident you will not let us down because while we may not know you personally, we do know your character, West Point character.

So…fight for our ideals and sacred things …incite in others respect and love for our country and our fellow Americans…and leave this country greater and more beautiful than you inherited it, for that is the duty of every generation.

To the families here today, I can only say: apples don’t fall far from the tree. Thank you for the men and women you raised to become U.S. soldiers.

Thank you too, General Caslen and your team, who coached these members of the Long Gray Line. They will write the Army’s story, and in so doing will carry your spirits into our nation’s history.

For duty, for honor, for country…hold the line.

Congratulations, class of 2017, and may God bless America.


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