Monday, October 30, 2017

The Mueller Indictments

News over the weekend broke that there were sealed indictments coming from the Mueller investigation. Today brought those indictments. Republican grandee and one-time Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, and his former business associate Rick Gates (who was also part of the campaign inner circle--and Vice Chairman of the Trump Inaugural Committee) surrendered to the FBI today on charges stemming primarily from tax evasion and money laundering. There was in these indictments, no indication of a connection between the campaign and the Russian government. According to the Washington Post, the President's tweeting indicated that he breathed a sigh of relief-- "NO COLLUSION!

And then the other shoe dropped.

Also unsealed was notification that "an unpaid foreign policy adviser" (George Papadopoulos) to the Trump Campaign had pleaded guilty (in late July!) to "... making a false statement to the FBI about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin." Does this prove anything? No. Not yet. But it is the end of the beginning. Papadopoulos plead out, and is apparently cooperating with the feds. The indictments of Manafort and Gates seem likely to be "squeeze" moves, as while Mueller is happy to take down tax evaders and money launderers, his real business is in the Oval Office.

Now, Trumpkins are of course, doing everything they can to change the subject. The connection between the Clinton campaign and the Steele Dossier seems to be the "Squirrel du Jour", with cries of Clinton campaign "collusion" now being mouthed by MAGA-nation. Interesting theory, given how much Putin hates Hillary. But never mind, it doesn't have to be true.

It will be interesting to watch how all this plays out, but I don't see how Trump survives where this is all going. He'll either be so weakened by this investigation that he is not a factor in 2020, or he'll issue blanket pardons and fire Mueller which will seal his fate. Either way, the key now is to limit damage.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday Potpourri

Sunday morning was especially sweet this week, as I lounged in bet until 0930. For some reason, the Kitten and I are very different about sleeping in. I get up early...a lot. So when I sleep in, I feel as though I have really accomplished something. She tends to sleep in, and by that I mean 0830 or so. On the days (rare) when she sleeps past that, she feels bad, as if she's wasted part of the day. I never consider sleep to be wasted time.

The interwebs are alive this morning with the frenzied reaction of the Trump Administration--led largely by a President with nothing to do because of bad golfing weather and a serious Twitter addiction--to the unfortunate leak of information that the Mueller grand jury has handed down an indictment (sealed). One can be very much anti-Trump and also anti-leaks. That's me. There has been a horrible amount of leaking during this administration--part of it attributable to people dead-set against its policies and pronouncements, part of it by self-serving members of the administration jockeying for favor, and part by clearly concerned members of the administration who fear that they've bought into a disaster. It is always difficult to know who is leaking, but the fact of the leaks remains regrettable.

As is so often the case with Trump, the "squirrel" machine is in high gear, with the President (he who leads the entire government) urging everyone to instead concentrate on the actions of the campaign of the woman he dispatched en route his current position. If there's one thing that Trump/Trumpkins are predictable on, its the "yeah, but Hillary" line that is sure to follow any bad news for Trump. Repeat after me, people: Trump is the President. Hillary is not. She will never be. He is. He must be judged in the here and now, not in comparison to a Clinton Presidency that never did nor never will happen.

The Wahoos football team was dispatched in Pittsburgh yesterday, and it seems my modest enthusiasm (as opposed to reckless homerism) was the right move with this team. They are 5-3, which is a damn sight better than last year, but they are improving--not good. Next week doesn't get any better, with Georgia Tech coming to C'ville. I'll be there, so I hope the team shows up.

Let's talk about the NFL, shall we? My interest in the NFL began to wane long before the national anthem kneeling kerfuffle, though that hasn't exactly increased my appetite. No, my disinterest stems from two things--the first is the endless celebrating of mundane accomplishments, and the second is the plain and simple poor quarterbacking. But hey--apart from that, everything looks fine.

To end the Potpourri, a short clip of something that I'm not supposed to worry very much about.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Homeward Bound

The United Lounge here at SFO is hopping this evening, with very few seats available. I have a prime one, with solid access to electrical power and a good view of the silenced TV. I am enjoying a bit of a layover before the redeye back to Baldymore (hon), seat 10C (United) which means a few extra inches of room as compared to my flight here in steerage (28C). I am not a tall man, but in a slight slouch, my knees were right up against the seat in front of me. I feel sorry for tall people in coach.

I had a busy few days in San Diego, and I've stayed on East Coast time as is my custom. It is 21:19 hrs West Coast, which means it is bed time--but the flight doesn't board for another 90 minutes, so I'll have to power through for a bit. My plan was to arrive early tomorrow morning and then drive straight home to my bed, but a rare Saturday morning meeting will have me veering southwest to DC for a few hours before finally getting the nap I will so richly deserve.

I will make four trips to Southern California between 24 October and 20 December, so the miles I burned down taking my sweetie to Europe are slowly building back up. Winter travel gets dicey, and if I can't do a non-stop, I try to go through Houston rather than Chicago or Denver. But one doesn't always get to choose.These redeyes are kind of a pain, but they go quickly because I generally get a few hours of sleep. And if I were to stay overnight in SD and get the first flight out, I would essentially spend the whole day traveling.

Wednesday--as you all know--is the first day of the Christmas Season. I will spend some of this weekend practicing my Christmas carols (I play the trumpet, sort of), and in a sop to social convention, I hold off until the first day of the Christmas Season (1 November) before posting them on Facebook. You're welcome.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Good News on the Economy

Word today of solid economic growth in the third quarter, as GDP was up 3%. This is very good news.

I got in a little social media discussion this morning with someone who brought this up and asked me how I could be so anti-Trump when "he was doing so well". I managed what I thought was a good answer, but it pales in comparison to a much better one I saw offered elsewhere on Twitter:

In other words, consistency counts.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Trump and His Policies are the Problem

In a comment yesterday, the following point was made: "If you can point to one policy, one nominee or one executive order President Trump has put forward that is NOT in keeping with MAINSTREAM conservative thought then I'd be interested in hearing about it. Even most never-Trumpers in their more honest moments will tell you their problem is with the man, NOT his policies."

I found this statement interesting for a number of reasons. First, I am not a "never-Trump", because that position was rational and sensible during the campaign. I am today, decidedly "anti-Trump".  Second, even if it were true--even if Trump had done NOTHING but things I love since coming into office--the suggestion that I should then just shut up and get onboard is ridiculous. The damage this man's behavior is doing to America's position in the world, to our internal civil discourse, to the office it self--is alone worthy of scorn. That so many are willing to give him a pass for behavior they'd (presumably) not take from a friend or loved one--strikes me as a tangible sign of the continuing damage he is doing to civil society. Third--and this one should not escape notice--he has done virtually nothing substantial since getting into office. On two fronts, he has done wonderful and marvelous things--judicial appointments and de-regulation--and he should be (and is) lauded for it. But the suggestion that there is something coherent and whole in Trumpism--that there is a policy book sitting somewhere that lays out his proposals and that he is standing by--is lunacy. The problem isn't that I disagree with his policies--it is that he doesn't have any policies to disagree with. If you don't like his view on Iran, Afghanistan, DACA, taxes, healthcare or what have you, just wait a few days, he'll change it.

For more on the this, check out Noah Rothman in Commentary yesterday, or this morning's Washington Post.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Flake and Corker: Good, Not Great

Yesterday's announcement from the Senate floor by Arizona Senator Jeff Flake (R) that he will not seek re-election in 2018 is being huzzahed from the highest mountains by many anti-Trumpists for its stinging criticism of both the President and the future of the GOP.

This, only a day after retiring Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) made some sharp comments of his own on the same subjects:

A couple of things are worth saying.

First of all, I agree with virtually everything these two men said about the President, his Presidency, and the state/direction of the GOP. Trump is a disaster, and the degree to which even his supporters point to the steadying influence of a few respected, key advisers is evidence of a general sense of his instability.

That said, these comments--as satisfying as they are to hear--are coming from men retiring from seats that were (in Flake's case) in real trouble, and in Corker's, up for grabs. This is not a sign of the strength of the anti-Trump Team within the GOP, but its weakness. Yes. Bush, McCain, Romney -- the last three GOP noms--have spoken out too recently -- but what ties them all together (save for Romney--more on this later) is that they will not face an electorate again. Real opposition to this President from within his Party---at least publicly--is non-existent. Such is the nature of politics. There is no end of the irony though, that the very nature of the continuing public support for Trump from R's in Congress--the behavior of naked political calculation--is what Trumpkins have pouted and whined about for years. They seem ok with the behavior now that it is in support of their man.

I've seen some backlash against both Corker and Flake from needlessly purist anti-Trumpers who criticize them for (in Corker's case) enabling the President's election and in Flake's, waiting until Trump was elected to speak out. If the anti-Trump movement is to have any real impact, there is no place for this kind of purity. Anyone--whether they were from the get-go anti-Trump--reluctant Trump voters, or even one-time MAGA-types--need to be welcomed with open arms.  What is important is the degree to which they continue to hold conservative principles dear, and the degree to which they now agree that Trump is damaging the country.

I heard an interesting bit on a podcast yesterday that confirms things I've seen in the news...that Mitt Romney may be considering running for the Senate from Utah. Seems a natural fit. I'd love to see him do it.

The bottom line here is that there is a serious schism in the GOP. Time will tell how bad things are and I think that time is November 2018. If the GOP gets its ass handed to it, the President's general public support from members of Congress will disappear in a New York minute.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

On the Road Again....

Perched at a large group bar table at a place called the DuClaw Brewing Company, I am ravenously hungry two hours before boarding my flight to San Diego via Denver. The serviceable menu included chicken wings (natch) and what appears to be a fine grilled chicken sandwich. Things started early this morning, with some treadmill time and a bit of TwitterSnark before the two hour drive to Bethesda MD. It was there that I was to be the lecturer for a group of curious seniors who are involved in a pretty cool program of continuing education for people of their experience. I gave them a version of the Seapower Gospel--this time with more education and less advocacy, but still with plenty of advocacy. I spoke for thirty minutes and then answered (excellent) questions for another hour. Folks were concerned about the size of the Navy, its competence, the reality of President Trump and nuclear weapons, North Korean aggression, and myriad other big picture subjects. I really love doing stuff like this, and bonus here is that there is an honorarium headed my way.

Upon leaving, I drove north to BWI airport--hoping that somewhere along the way there would be a KFC or a Popeyes so that I could indulge in a bit of fried chicken. None was to be had, so that's why I'm eating in this pre-security spot in A/B terminal. Key safety tip: I'm doing it wrong here. If you are going to be involved in a terror hit at the airport, it is almost certainly going to happen in the terminal before security. I generally minimize the time I spend in this part of the airport, but low blood sugar is calling.

I'm headed for three days of work in San Diego, something regular readers know I do regularly. There is no United Lounge here at BWI (that I know of), though there is something of a generic lounge available somewhere that I will likely pass up. I have an hour between landing and next flight in Denver, which is unlikely to afford me the opportunity for dinner--I seem to be in this same situation more than I care for, and wind up on the other end (San Diego) either ravenous or having eaten bad airline food.

These trips to SD are monthly, and my client pays the freight for coach class tickets. I wind up buying into Economy Plus on my own dime, but just for the longer portions. On the way home, I'll redeye Friday night, and the bit of extra room in economy plus makes a difference. I occasionally get bumped to first class, but not nearly as often as Tigerhawk does.

My travel rig is more in line with what readers clamor for. Whereas I usually do sneakers, warmup pants, sport coat (for business wear) and t-shirt, I am in my morning speaking get-up (khakis, button down, blazer) sans tie--which is in the bag. I just saw a fellow doing it right walk past in flip flops, plaid shorts, t-shirt, a fleece, and his suit jacket--assuming his suit pants/shirt/tie were stowed away in his bag.

I will get to SD about 9PM local time, grab the rental and drive the two miles to my hotel--where collapse occurs until early morning--when my body tells me it is 6AM but the clock claims 3. I tend to stay on East Coast time for these dashes west, with bed time coming as close to 8PM as I can.

So far, the DuClaw Brewing company is not wrapping itself in glory, as the neither the chicken wings nor the chicken sandwich have been delivered yet. I am contemplating eating a napkin. It is good that I am not traveling with anyone close to me, as most routine human interaction would be beyond my abilities right now, until I've had a few bites in my system. The Kittens are well aware of this syndrome and tend to call me on it. It is good that I have plenty of time to kill.

On one of the several televisions is a program with which I am unfamiliar. It is a talk show of some kind starring a blonde, African-American lass named "Wendy" (apparently, as this seems to be the show's name). The sound is turned down, but the close captioning is allowing me to follow along with things that are of no interest to me. Her audience appears quite happy to be there.

My waitress just came up to inform me for the second time that it would be a few minutes on the food. I informed her that this was not satisfactory.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Potpourri

In the previous instantiation of this blog, Fridays often included a post known as "Big Fat Friday Free For All" in which I solicited the thoughts of others in the comment section. It was additionally, a method of oversight for a diet then underway, and provided a means to publicly crow (or whine) as the case that week had been.

As I read the New York Times online this morning, searching for something worth writing about today, the concept of simply musing for a bit arose--mostly because nothing in the news really caught my eye. And so is born the "Sunday Potpourri" post, which will consist of brief little blog postlets, none of which are sufficiently developed to warrant their own post, but some of which might be worth thinking about.

Let's start with the pitiful performance yesterday by the University of Virginia football team, which entered the game with Boston College a 7 point favorite and then proceeded to get trounced. My Hoos are better this year than they have been recently, but I fear the runaway enthusiasm in the fan base got out in front of the headlights. I texted with the Hammer yesterday before the game that BC's victory over Louisville the week before had me concerned. I suppose I was right.

Writing this post is designed to kill two birds with one stone--the first is to provide content so that you and others will continue to come back to the site and read it when I have something interesting to say, and second to get my writing juices flowing for important work projects I have to tackle today. I was able to juice out about 700 words yesterday on a project that should come in at 2500 or so, but I'd actually hoped to finish it--or at least a draft. Will get on it when I finish this.

One of the projects I have is to put together my speech/lecture for a group of curious seniors I am talking to on Tuesday. These folks reside in a seniors community in Maryland, and have what essentially boils down to a revolving series of lecturers come and teach/educate/challenge etc. I'm going to talk with them about the role of Seapower in American national security. Some of you know that I did a Seapower speaking tour of Maryland Rotary Clubs last fall and winter, but that was more advocacy--this is likely to be largely educational. I like doing stuff like this--sorta wish I could make a living just doing it exclusively.

My guilty pleasure on Sunday mornings is reading the New York Times wedding announcements. I love reading the pomposity of it all, realizing of course that they aren't preening for me, but for each other. There were several gentlemen in their 50's today marrying ladies in their 30's....which for nonspecific reasons, I find re-assuring.

After my talk on Tuesday, I head to the airport for a flight to San Diego. I spend 3-4 days a month there on business, and my musings from the road tend to be among the more commented upon posts here, at least my posts. That's always bothered me a little, as I'll spend a long time thinking about and writing a piece on something incredibly important and political--and no one will notice--and then sit down in an airport and riff on the people walking by to great praise. My friend Todd laughs at me when I complain about this.

My Mom and Dad are in their 80's and still married, both of which are noteworthy. They celebrated their 61st Anniversary two days ago, which seems like a really, really long time until I contemplate the speed with which the last 10 years with The Kitten have passed. They thank you for your kind wishes.

Have a good Sunday.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Trump Tax Plan

As a conservative, plans for lowering taxes automatically get my attention. President Trump has a plan for reforming the tax system and lowering taxes that should be taken very seriously, although his frequent claims to having "the votes" for it in Congress are as silly as most of his claims, as there is in fact no bill yet before either body.  I reproduce it in its entirety below, and you can download it here. All in all, it is a reasonable and straightforward plan, but it has some aspects that are better than others. I've worked some comments in among text that you can see--bolded and un-italicized.

The Goals Of Donald J. Trump’s Tax Plan

Too few Americans are working, too many jobs have been shipped overseas, and too many middle class 
families cannot make ends meet. This tax plan directly meets these challenges with four simple 

1.   Tax relief for middle class Americans: In order to achieve the American dream, let people keep 
more money in their pockets and increase after-tax wages.

2.   Simplify the tax code to reduce the headaches Americans face in preparing their taxes and let 
everyone keep more of their money. 

3.   Grow the American economy by discouraging corporate inversions, adding a huge number of new 
jobs, and making America globally competitive again. While I think that lowering the corporate tax rate is a net positive, Republicans tend to overstate the impact. 

4.  Doesn’t add to our debt and deficit, which are already too large. I have yet to see an analysis of this plan that does not project at least $1T in additional debt over 10 years. 

The Trump Tax Plan Achieves These Goals

1.   If you are single and earn less than $25,000, or married and jointly earn less than $50,000, 
you will not owe any income tax. That removes nearly 75 million households – over 50% – from the 
income tax rolls. They get a new one page form to send the IRS saying, “I win,” those who would 
otherwise owe income taxes will save an average of nearly $1,000 each. I am in principle, against people not paying anything in income taxes. I realize that wage earners pay a very regressive payroll tax--but those "taxes" are not for the continuing operations of the US government; rather they are for entitlements that the payer will likely participate in to an extent greater than what they paid in--even with interest. But--I think this is a lost cause.

2.   All other Americans will get a simpler tax code with four brackets – 0%, 10%, 20% and 25%
– instead of the current seven. This new tax code eliminates the marriage penalty and the 
Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) while providing the lowest tax rate since before World War II. The elimination of tax brackets makes people think that there is a greater simplicity to the system, but when it comes down to it, when the form is filled out, we are only in one bracket at a time. So I don't get why this is such a big deal. 

3.   No business of any size, from a Fortune 500 to a mom and pop shop to a freelancer living job 
to job, will pay more than 15% of their business income in taxes. This lower rate makes corporate 
inversions unnecessary by making America’s tax rate one of the best in the world. This one provision could comprise a great deal of the taxes actually cut. Again, the theory is that businesses paying less in taxes would apply at least some part of the savings to expansion and job creation. I personally would benefit from this provision as the owner of a sole proprietor business. 

4.   No family will have to pay the death tax.  You earned and saved that money for your family, 
not the government. You paid taxes on it when you earned it. As a conservative, I love this. As a pragmatist, this would be something I trade away in negotiations to get something that benefits more Americans.

The Trump Tax Plan Is Revenue Neutral

The Trump tax cuts are fully paid for by:

1.   Reducing or eliminating most deductions and loopholes available to the very rich. This is thought to include portions of the state income tax deduction. VERY RICH here means essentially those who itemize and who live in states with an income tax. 

2.   A one-time deemed repatriation of corporate cash held overseas at a significantly discounted 
10% tax rate, followed by an end to the deferral of taxes on corporate income earned abroad.

3.   Reducing or eliminating corporate loopholes that cater to special interests, as well as 
deductions made unnecessary or redundant by the new lower tax rate on corporations and business 
income. We will also phase in a reasonable cap on the deductibility of business interest expenses.

America needs a bold, simple and achievable plan based on conservative economic principles. This 
plan does that with needed tax relief for all Americans, especially the working poor and middle 
class, pro-growth tax reform for all sizes of businesses, and fiscally responsible steps to ensure 
this plan does not add to our enormous debt and deficit.

This plan simplifies the tax code by taking nearly 50% of current filers off the income tax rolls 
entirely and reducing the number of tax brackets from seven to four for everyone else. This plan 
also reduces or eliminates loopholes used by the very rich and special interests made unnecessary 
or redundant by the new lower tax rates on individuals and companies.

The Trump Tax Plan: A Simpler Tax Code For All Americans

When the income tax was first introduced, just one percent of Americans had to pay it. It was never 
intended as a tax most Americans would pay. The Trump plan eliminates the income tax for over 73 
million households. 42 million households that currently file complex forms to determine they don’t 
owe any income taxes will now file a one page form saving them time, stress, uncertainty and an 
average of $110 in preparation costs. Over 31 million households get the same simplification and 
keep on average nearly $1,000 of their hard-earned money.

For those Americans who will still pay the income tax, the tax rates will go from the current seven 
brackets to four simpler, fairer brackets that eliminate the marriage penalty and the AMT while 
providing the lowest tax rate since before World War II:

Income Tax Rate
Long Term Cap Gains/ Dividends Rate

Single Filers                  Married Filers                Heads of Household
0%           0%                           $0 to $25,000                  $0 to $50,000              
      $0 to $37,500
10%         0%                           $25,001 to $50,000         $50,001 to $100,000         
$37,501 to $75,000
20%         15%                         $50,001 to $150,000       $100,001 to $300,000       
$75,001 to $225,000
25%         20%                         $150,001 and up             $300,001 and up               
$225,001 and up

With this huge reduction in rates, many of the current exemptions and deductions will become 
unnecessary or redundant. Those within the 10% bracket will keep all or most of their current 
deductions. Those within the 20% bracket will keep more than half of their current deductions.

Those within the 25% bracket will keep fewer deductions. Charitable giving and mortgage interest 
deductions will remain unchanged for all taxpayers.

Simplifying the tax code and cutting every American’s taxes will boost consumer spending, encourage 
savings and investment, and maximize economic growth.

Business Tax Reform To Encourage Jobs And Spur Economic Growth

Too many companies – from great American brands to innovative startups – are leaving America, 
either directly or through corporate inversions. The Democrats want to outlaw inversions, but that 
will never work. Companies leaving is not the disease, it is the symptom. Politicians in Washington 
have let America fall from the best corporate tax rate in the industrialized world in the 1980’s 
(thanks to Ronald Reagan) to the worst rate in the industrialized world. That is unacceptable. 
Under the Trump plan, America will compete with the world and win by cutting the corporate tax rate 
to 15%, taking our rate from one of the worst to one of the best.

This lower tax rate cannot be for big business alone; it needs to help the small businesses that 
are the true engine of our economy. Right now, freelancers, sole proprietors, unincorporated small 
businesses and pass-through entities are taxed at the high personal income tax rates. This 
treatment stifles small businesses. It also stifles tax reform because efforts to reduce loopholes 
and deductions available to the very rich and special interests end up hitting small businesses and 
job creators as well. The Trump plan addresses this challenge head on with a new business income 
tax rate within the personal income tax code that matches the 15% corporate tax rate to help these 
businesses, entrepreneurs and freelancers grow and prosper.

These lower rates will provide a tremendous stimulus for the economy – significant GDP growth, a 
huge number of new jobs and an increase in after-tax wages for workers. I am ready to accept that a cut in the corporate rate and taxing pass-through businesses at a lower rate could lead to growth. 

The Trump Tax Plan Ends The Unfair Death Tax

The death tax punishes families for achieving the American dream. Therefore, the Trump plan 
eliminates the death tax.

The Trump Tax Plan Is Fiscally Responsible

The Trump tax cuts are fully paid for by:

1.   Reducing or eliminating deductions and loopholes available to the very rich, starting by 
steepening the curve of the Personal Exemption Phaseout and the Pease Limitation on itemized 
deductions. The Trump plan also phases out the tax exemption on life insurance interest for 
high-income earners, ends the current tax treatment of carried interest for speculative 
partnerships that do not grow businesses or create jobs and are not risking their own capital, and 
reduces or eliminates other loopholes for the very rich and special interests. These reductions and 
eliminations will not harm the economy or hurt the middle class.

Because the Trump plan introduces a new business income rate within the personal income tax code, 
they will not harm small businesses either.

2.   A one-time deemed repatriation of corporate cash held overseas at a significantly discounted 
10% tax rate. Since we are making America’s corporate tax rate globally competitive, it is only 
fair that corporations help make that move fiscally responsible. U.S.-owned corporations have as 
much as $2.5 trillion in cash sitting overseas. Some companies have been leaving cash overseas as a 
tax maneuver. Under this plan, they can bring their cash home and put it to work in America while 
benefitting from the newly-lowered corporate tax rate that is globally competitive and no longer 
requires parking cash overseas. Other companies have cash overseas for specific business units or 
activities. They can leave that cash overseas, but they will still have to pay the one-time 
repatriation fee.

3. An end to the deferral of taxes on corporate income earned abroad. Corporations will no longer 
be allowed to defer taxes on income earned abroad, but the foreign tax credit will remain in place 
because no company should face double taxation.

4.   Reducing or eliminating some corporate loopholes that cater to special interests, as well as 
deductions made unnecessary or redundant by the new lower tax rate on corporations and business 
income. We will also phase in a reasonable cap on the deductibility of business interest expenses.


So--in general, I think this is a good plan--but it if it were to find its way into an actual bill, it would not pass. And it would not pass for the very simple reason that because they pay the most in taxes, the rich would gain most of the benefit from this proposal. And as a matter of balanced books, it likely contributes to the national debt -- so you lose liberals and debt hawks. Additionally, virtually every Senate D would vote against this plan--and so the 52 Republicans in the Senate would each become the prancing ponies they have shown themselves recently to be, and will hold the bill hostage. No. I just don't think that this will pass.  But what would? What kind of a tax reform would garner enough D support? How about this one.

1. There are currently seven income tax brackets: 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, 35, and 39.6. Ninety-seven percent of American households are in the 25% or less brackets. Cut the tax rate in these three brackets by one or two percent. Will this result in a great boon to the treasury? No--but the political benefit of being able to state that 97% of Americans will have their taxes lowered would be considerable.

2. Implement all aspects of the Trump corporate tax scheme. Relentlessly tie this to estimates of jobs that would be created as a result.

3. Tie the percentage of deductibility of state income taxes to the tax bracket--i.e. the less you make, the more you get to deduct as a percentage. To toss the base some red meat, the highest earners in the high tax states (insert "liberal professional class" here) would not be able to deduct their state income tax at all.

4. Eliminate marriage penalty and AMT--these are blots upon the tax system.

Is this a sweeping reform of the tax code? Nope. Does it deliver upon the conservative desire to lower taxes? Yep. Most importantly, it outlines an approach that has a prayer of making it through a closely divided Congress. Trump needs a win on something, and this could be it. His plan is a good one, but it simply isn't acceptable in this political atmosphere.

It occurs to me that we seem to have lost the ability to value incremental change--and an incremental change is about all we can expect.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Staggering Genius of Kevin Williamson

You should read this piece on why white underclass populism and conservatism are incompatible.  It is--as are most things Williamson writes--brilliant. Care for a bit of it?

"White people acting white have embraced the ethic of the white underclass, which is distinct from the white working class, which has the distinguishing feature of regular gainful employment. The manners of the white underclass are Trump’s — vulgar, aggressive, boastful, selfish, promiscuous, consumerist. The white working class has a very different ethic. Its members are, in the main, churchgoing, financially prudent, and married, and their manners are formal to the point of icy politeness. You’ll recognize the style if you’ve ever been around it: It’s “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” but it is the formality of soldiers and police officers — correct and polite, but not in the least bit deferential. It is a formality adopted not to acknowledge the superiority of social betters but to assert the equality of the speaker — equal to any person or situation, perfectly republican manners. It is the general social respect rooted in genuine self-respect. 

Its opposite is the sneering, leveling, drag-’em-all-down-into-the-mud anti-“elitism” of contemporary right-wing populism. Self-respect says: “I’m an American citizen, and I can walk into any room, talk to any president, prince, or potentate, because I can rise to any occasion.” Populist anti-elitism says the opposite: “I can be rude enough and denigrating enough to drag anybody down to my level.” Trump’s rhetoric — ridiculous and demeaning schoolyard nicknames, boasting about money, etc. — has always been about reducing. Trump doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to duke it out with even the modest wits at the New York Times, hence it’s “the failing New York Times.” Never mind that the New York Times isn’t actually failing and that any number of Trump-related businesses have failed so thoroughly that they’ve gone into bankruptcy; the truth doesn’t matter to the argument any more than it matters whether the fifth-grade bully actually has an actionable claim on some poor kid’s lunch money. It would never even occur to the low-minded to identify with anybody other than the bully. That’s what all that ridiculous stuff about “winning” was all about in the campaign. It is might-makes-right, i.e., the politics of chimpanzee troupes, prison yards, kindergartens, and other primitive environments. That is where the underclass ethic thrives — and how “smart people” came to be a term of abuse."

Readers may recognize the type from examples in their everyday lives. 

Paul Ryan at Al Smith Dinner

Here's a couple of minutes of Paul Ryan (who is in his second term as VP gearing up for his own run in 2020 in my alternate reality) giving the keynote at the annual Al Smith Dinner in NY. I almost typed something like "another good man dragged down by his association with Donald Trump", and then it occurred to me that Ryan's decline was self-inflicted.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

One Day, One and a Half Remarkable Speeches

Amid all the clatter of this messy and sometimes ugly time in America, two lights shone today, when two good men chose to speak. In the first, President George W. Bush delivered a ringing defense of freedom, and American engagement in and leadership of the free world. Here is the text of his remarks, and the video is below.

Bush calls out Russia and China, and democracies who seem to be retrenching from the global order--including our own. He points out that our "...discourse has been degraded by casual cruelty." Spot on. Liberals--who for eight years excoriated this man--have taken to their favored social media platforms today to point out how wonderful he is. Most of us already knew that.

The second speaker was the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States, John Kelly. In a remarkable presentation, Kelly--a retired Marine four-star and father of a Marine killed in Afghanistan--walked the White House press-room through a number of subjects that most of them probably hadn't thought about much before, or at least before the other day. He described the process of alerting next of kin when someone dies in combat. He laid out what have been the processes/procedures followed by recent Presidents, specifically whether phone calls were made or not. He described his conversations with the President about what to say in such a call--which must surely be a terribly difficult call to make. You can watch it below:

Kelly speaks here with the authority of a combat marine who has ordered men to their deaths, and he speaks here with the experience of a grieving father. It is a riveting speech--and Kelly had me in the palm of his hand for much of it--until this:

"It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred. You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That's obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life -- the dignity of life -- is sacred. That's gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well. Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. But I just thought -- the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred."

Hold on, General, back that truck up. What the member of Congress did by listening in and then blabbing to the press was indeed reprehensible, and you are to be commended for calling her out. But the rest of it? Your views on what was once "sacred"? Women? Religion? Gold Star  families?  Do you remember who it is you are Chief of Staff to? Wasn't this the man who took great pride in committing sexual assault against women?   Wasn't this the man who claimed that an entire religion "hates" the U.S.?  Wasn't this the man who said that John McCain--who endured unspeakable torture for six and a half years--when he could have accepted an earlier release--was not a hero?

I was with you General Kelly. You were telling it straight, and you did a good job of humanizing the very difficult job the President would have had in making  those calls. But the minute you began to wax poetic about the loss of the sacred in America--when you work in the next office over from the most sacrilegious man to ever hold the office, who daily cheapens our national discourse and has put the "bully" in the bully pulpit--you lost me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

UVA Football is 5-1

Final Score: UVA 20--UNC 14
Long-time blog readers know that the editorial stance here is very pro University of Virginia. In the past few years, the football team has been a bit lackluster, but this year they appear to have turned the corner. I retain my season tickets and have had the pleasure of watching alongside two men whose friendship is now entering its fourth decade. I won't be able to make the game this weekend, unfortunately. But you will be kept up to speed on their progress for the rest of the season.

The Conservative Wahoo is Back

Sketches made to help choose the blog avatar
In February I took a break from this blog, after over a year of political anguish, aggravation, disappointment, and recrimination. What I had sought to help derail--a Donald Trump presidency--was the new reality, and America was settling in to face it.

Eight months have passed, and I think we all have a sense of where things have settled out. Of course, no two of these versions match each other, but it seems clear that we've had sufficient time to measure the man and his impact, which has been as enormous as it has been inconsequential.

The plain truth is that I missed blogging. I missed writing about politics and social issues. Honestly, I missed having people pass me and say, "hey, I really liked that post you did the other day on...." I missed the thrill of driving along and having an idea pop into my head for a post (only to realize that I had no outlet for it). I'd given up politics on Facebook, and Twitter isn't great for complete thoughts, though it is where my annoying sarcasm and snark can be viewed in its full glory @ConsWahoo.

And so, I return to this labor of love. She is a cruel mistress, this blog. She demands constant attention, constant interaction. She is jealous of my other interests. Her way of showing love back to me is sometimes hurtful, cruel, and hateful. Sometimes, I give her works of great thought and passion, and they are ignored. But I love her nevertheless.

Now for a little administration. I will -- for the foreseeable future--be the only blogger to entertain you here. This leads to less content--but I'm ok with that. Next, comments are encouraged, but I will moderate them. Every single one. If I don't like its tone, it won't show up. Keep in mind, the First Amendment applies to the government restricting the speech of individuals. You have no First Amendment rights here, Bub. This is a mostly benevolent dictatorship.  Comments will be moderated at most once a day--so if you make a comment and it doesn't show up immediately, assume 1) I haven't gotten to it yet or 2) it failed the tone test.

I remain an unreconstructed critic of President Trump, and this will likely color a good deal of the writing you see here. If you are looking for cheer-leading for the Administration, look elsewhere. But I am also an unreconstructed cuck, globalist, Burkean, Friedmanesque, von Misen, Bucklean conservative. If you are looking for critiques of this President from the left--you will be disappointed. For those who say that I pay too much attention to what Trump says and not enough to what he does, I will only answer that 1) he hasn't done much and 2) what he has done that I agree with I point out. What he says (Tweets, etc) is also important because of the degree to which his example and conduct are central to the norms and values that -- along with law -- govern our political system. If you wouldn't accept his behavior from your teenage son, yet you give the President a pass, you're part of the problem.

You will also be disappointed if you look to me to be so ideological as to eschew compromise. It seems clear to me that we are where we are (up Shit's Creek) because we--the people and our representatives--have lost the capacity and the will to compromise. We return people to Congress term after term who reflect our dead-ender mentality, and so nothing gets done. When a politician suggests that there may be a real compromise to be had, where we get a little more than they do, we reject it because we're not getting everything we want.

I severed my relationship with the Republican Party when it appeared obvious that Trump would win the nomination, and I will not rejoin the Party until I am convinced that his influence has been extirpated. So if your argument amounts to "you're not supporting the Party", well then, you're arguing with the wrong guy. On the other hand, the Democratic Party is an abhorrent confederation of victimization merchants underwritten by unrestrained virtue signalers--and it is no place for me.

So here I stand--without Party, and without reservations. I look forward to our interaction, and I hope that what you read here is occasionally interesting.
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