Saturday, January 13, 2018

Richmond: Inauguration Day 2018.

As I said in a Facebook post, it has been a wonderful and inspirational day here in Richmond as our friend, Ralph Northam was sworn in as Governor, along with Mark Herring who is in his second term as Attorney General, and Justin Fairfax takes office as Lt. Governor (and the second black to be elected to statewide office in America - former Governor Doug Wilder was the first). In the early days of the nation, Virginia provided leadership and inspiration for the founding of the nation and so-called American ideals.  Yes, the Commonwealth was stained by slavery and later by the Jim Crow era and many lest than honorable aspects.  I like to believe that Virginia has turned a corner and is forging a path back to the values of its glory days, if you will.  In the 2017 Virginia elections, Virginians elected a statewide slate of Democrats and resoundingly rejected Trumpism and the reverse Robin Hood agenda proposed by GOP candidate Ed Gillespie and still espoused by Congressional Republicans.   Ralph Northam's inaugural address was, in my view, brilliant and sets the tone for Virginia to recapture it's leadership role that it once had in the founding days of the nation.  Most importantly, it calls for a return to a moral code utterly lost in the current White House administration and among evangelical Christians and others who support the vile occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Here is the speech in its entirety (some would say it's a politician's speech, but knowing Ralph, he means every word):
Mr. Speaker, Lt. Governor Fairfax, Attorney General Herring, members of the General Assembly, justices of the Supreme Court, Judge Tyler, honored guests, Pam, Aubrey, and Wes, my fellow Virginians.
I am truly humbled that you have taken the time to be with us on such a special day for our commonwealth.
Today we carry out the peaceful transition of power.  Americans invented this ritual.It dates to our earliest days as a country.  It makes us American. And at this hour, more than 1.3 million Americans protect this right.  They serve in our armed forces overseas and right here at home.
They put their lives on the line to protect our way of life and we should always be grateful for their sacrifice.  Please join me in thanking them for their service.  If you ask the men and women who serve why they stepped forward, the answer is often the same:I volunteered.  Because it was my duty. Virginians understand that. Because our commonwealth was founded on public service.
But the way ahead hasn’t always been smooth.  In a church on a hill 15 blocks from here, Virginia’s first elected governor helped launch the American Revolution when he cried, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
But at the bottom of that same hill, one of the country’s largest slave-trading markets was coming to life.  A place where Virginians would sell men, women, and children for profit.
Our history is complex in Virginia.  It includes good things, and bad. But no other place on earth can claim it. This unique heritage endows us with a responsibility to shape the future — to leave this place better than we found it. That’s the Virginia way.
It’s a model that Governor Terry McAuliffe and his wife Dorothy have followed these past four years. Virginia is better off today because of them, and Pam and I are proud to have been their partners. Two hundred thousand new jobs. $20 billion in capital investment. Voting rights restored for 173,000 Virginians. 10 million more school breakfasts served to children who need them. First state in the nation to functionally end homelessness among veterans.
That’s a record to be proud of, and I am ready to build upon it! The McAuliffe administration has been about putting the needs of the people you serve first. Those values defined my upbringing from the earliest days I can remember.
My mother taught children who were learning English as their second language how to read. She worked in health care, nursing sick people back to health on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. She volunteered with the hospice, comforting people in their final hours. She taught me that, no matter who we are or where we come from, we are all equal in the beginning – and the end. 
My father, who grew up on a farm on the Eastern Shore, served in the Navy during World War II, a member of America’s greatest generation. He became a commonwealth’s attorney and a judge just as his father had before him.
Before my brother joined the Navy and I joined the Army, my father always encouraged us to play sports. I think he knew we would learn the importance of teamwork and the fundamental truth that success isn’t about one person’s individual contributions, it’s about the team.
Watching the things my parents did, for our family and for our community, taught me a lot growing up. But the greatest lesson I learned came from watching how they did those things. Their humble and steady service to the people around them taught me what strength looks like. It taught me that you don’t have to be loud to lead.
I was blessed to grow up on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and to call it my home. As a kid I spent hours behind our house, crabbing and fishing on the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. To this day that is where I find peace.
When I was just old enough to take to the water myself, my dad helped me build a rowboat and launch it, with strict instructions: stay close to home. As I grew and became more comfortable, I began to take longer trips away from the shore, until I was ready to head out into the open water. I remember standing with my father as I prepared to embark, and like all good dads, he knew I was nervous even before I did. He said, Ralph, remember — when you get out there, you can always trust your compass.
If things get dark or foggy, if you can’t find your way — keep your eye on the compass.It’ll always bring you home safely. He was right about that compass. As I got older and took various jobs on the water, working on a deep sea fishing boat and as the captain of a ferry to Tangier Island, I came to trust that compass to guide me when the way ahead was not clear.
My dad’s advice stayed with me when I reached the Virginia Military Institute and was given a different kind of compass, in the simple words of the VMI honor code: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do.” Those words have stuck with me all these years because they’re so clear. They have become a kind of moral compass for me. They always call me back home safely.
Virginia and this country need that more than ever these days. It can be hard to find our way in a time when there’s so much shouting, when nasty, shallow tweets take the place of honest debate, and when scoring political points gets in the way of dealing with real problems.
If you’ve felt that way, I want you to listen to me right now: We are bigger than this.We all have a moral compass deep in our hearts. And it’s time to summon it again, because we have a lot of work to do.
We’re going in the wrong direction on health care in Virginia and America. More people need coverage, not less. It is past time for us to step forward together and expand Medicaid to nearly 400,000 Virginians who need access to care.
We should also resolve together today to refrain from any effort to curtail a woman’s constitutional right to make her own decisions about her health. 
If we are going to build a healthier Virginia for everyone, we must address the public health crisis of gun violence. Gunshots kill more people in Virginia every year than car accidents, but if you walk into the right gun show, it’s easier to get a firearm than it is to rent a car. I am ready to work with you to make Virginia safer by passing smart reforms that keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.
We have to acknowledge that the incredible economic progress we have made in Virginia has been uneven.  As technology companies and skyscrapers rise in many regions, other parts of Virginia are watching blue collar jobs move out while the opioid crisis moves in.And those challenges are not limited to rural areas. In far too many places in Virginia, your ZIP code determines not just how well you will do, but how long you will live.
Here in our capital city, a child born 2 miles that way can expect to live to about age 63.But a child born 5 miles in that direction can expect to live 20 years longer. You don’t have to be a doctor to know that something’s wrong.
The solutions to these problems are not easy. But we do know what they are. The way ahead starts with access to quality health care and public education for every Virginian, no matter whom they are or where they live. It depends on smart interventions in the case of addiction or mental health challenges and a focused economic development strategy that connects the right people with the right skills and the right jobs.
As governor, I will approach these challenges with the same skills I learned as a doctor. Over the years I have taken care of thousands of children. Never once have they or their families asked me if I'm a Democrat or a Republican, nor have I asked them.
Each patient is a person in front of you, who’s sick. A child who needs your help, and who deserves every opportunity to thrive. Doctors are taught that we have a responsibility to do everything we can to make them better.
A good doctor trusts science and brings no pre-conceived notions to the examining table. A good doctor listens first, to what a patient is saying and not saying. A good doctor understands that a symptom may have a hidden cause. The pain in a child’s belly could be an ulcer, for example. Or it could be from hunger because the pantry at home is bare and the last time she ate was at school lunch yesterday.
We learn quickly that the problems patients are having are usually more complex than the symptoms we can see on the surface. And getting them back to health means devoting the time and resources it takes to alleviate those root causes.
As governor, I will draw on these lessons. I will remember that Virginians didn’t send us here to be Democrats or Republicans – they sent us here to solve problems. I will remember that no one has a monopoly on good ideas.
The path to progress is marked by honest give and take among people who truly want to make life better for those around them. I will remember that treating symptoms of problems may be easy in the short-run, but getting to the root of the problem and solving it from the bottom up is always more effective in the long-run.
When we make decisions, we’ll apply this test. • Does this action do the most good for the most Virginians?• Have we been transparent with the public about what we are doing and why we are doing it?• And finally, is there a better way forward that we haven’t yet considered?
The guiding principle of this administration will be simple: we will work together to make our commonwealth work better for all Virginians, no matter who they are or where they’re from.  We cannot rest until every family and every community has the same access to opportunity that others do.
Here are my personal commitments to you.• I will always tell the truth.• I will strive every day to maintain the trust you placed in me on Election Day.• I will always put Virginia’s interests first.• I will work with anyone whose policies help Virginia. And when they do not, I will oppose them.• I will visit every city and county while I’m governor, and every public college and university.• I will continue to personally care for patients at RAM, Virginia’s Remote Area Medical clinic — and keep pushing to cover more and more Virginians.• I will be there personally to welcome Virginia National Guardsmen and women when they return home from overseas.• And my door will always be open to you.
Here’s the last commitment I make to you. And it’s the most important. It comes from an experience that has shaped the way I practice medicine and public service.
Shortly after I left the Army and began practicing as a child neurologist, I met a young couple whose son was living with severe autism. I examined the little boy, and his case was tough. So I explained to his mother that nothing I could do would alter her son’s condition or improve his quality of life. Well, more than a decade later, a woman approached me in the grocery store. She reminded me that I had seen her son years ago, and that she and her family chose not to return for a follow-up.
She asked me if I knew why they had not returned, and I confessed to her that I did not, and that I hadn’t really thought much about it. She looked me in the eye and said, “Dr. Northam, when you said you couldn’t help us, you took away our hope.”
I can still hear her words to this day. When I told her that I was unable to help her son, I diagnosed the problem correctly. But I missed the opportunity to provide the one thing her family still needed the most: And that was hope.
From that moment on, I have recognized the incredible power of hope and my responsibility to preserve it in the people I serve. Hope is not just a source of comfort for the afflicted – it is a wellspring of energy to fight for a better tomorrow, no matter the odds.
I am committed as your governor to fight every day for the hope that tomorrow brings - for all of us, not just some of us. Because it can be. If we work together, tomorrow can be better for the nearly 400,000 Virginians who are one illness or accident away from bankruptcy because they have no insurance.
Tomorrow can be better for the families in rural communities who are praying for new jobs so their children don’t have to move away to build happy lives.
Tomorrow can be better for the children who are sitting in crowded and crumbling schools across this state, tired and distracted from too little food and too much violence in their communities.
Tomorrow can be better for the men and women who depend on clean air and water for their livelihood and for the children who will inherit the environment we pass on to them.
Tomorrow can be better for people who too often face discrimination, harassment or violence because of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
If we work together today, tomorrow will be better for all of the Virginians who have placed their trust in us to fight for them every day.
This country is once again looking to Virginia to lead the way. Let us lead with humility and optimism, telling the truth, learning from history and removing every obstacle to progress for all Virginians. Let us rely on the compass we all carry to show us the way ahead.
I ask you to join me. Let’s get to work. Thank you so much.

Inaugural Ceremony on the steps of the Virginia Capitol designed by Thomas Jefferson

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Real "Shithole" is in the White House

Like I suspect many other Americans, I continue to be shocked and appalled by the crassness, vulgarity and open racism and homophobia that defines the current occupant of the White House.  Indeed, despite the airs he attempts to put on, he strikes me in essence as trailer park trash with money.  No wonder he's been less than well received by old New York money.  Now, with the entire world condemning his description of Hati and the entire continent of Africa as "shitholes," Der Trumpenführer and weak kneed Republicans who are afraid to condemn his foul language has given Democrats a gift that will go on giving in the run up to the 2018 midterms.  How better to motivate blacks to get out and vote that to make it clear that Republicans hate them?  A column in the New York Times looks at Trump undisguised racism and documents that it is not something new.  Here are highlights:
When it comes to President Trump and race, there is a predictable cycle. He makes a remark that seems racist, and people engage in an extended debate about whether he is personally racist. His critics say he is. His defenders argue for an interpretation in which race plays a secondary role (such as: Haiti really is a worse place to live than Norway).
It’s time to end this cycle.
No one except Trump can know what Trump’s private thoughts or motivations are. But the public record and his behavior are now abundantly clear. Donald Trump treats black people and Latinos differently than he treats white people.
And that makes him a racist.
Is it possible to defend some of his racially charged statements by pointing out that something other than race might explain them? Sure. Is it possible that he doesn’t think of himself as a racist who views white people as superior to nonwhite people? Yes.
But the definition of a racist — the textbook definition, as Paul Ryan might say — is someone who treats some people better than others because of their race. Trump fits that definition many times over:
Trump’s real-estate company was sued twice by the federal government in the 1970s for discouraging the renting of apartments to African-Americans and preferring white tenants, such as “Jews and executives.”
• In 1989, Trump took out ads in New York newspapers urging the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Central Park; he continued to argue that they were guilty as late as October 2016, more than 10 years after DNA evidence had exonerated them.
He spent years claiming that the nation’s first black president was born not in the United States but in Africa, an outright lie that Trump still has not acknowledged as such.
• He began his 2016 presidential campaign by disparaging Mexican immigrants as criminals and “rapists.”
• He has retweeted white nationalists without apology.
• He frequently criticizes prominent African-Americans for being unpatriotic, ungrateful and disrespectful.
He called some of those who marched alongside white supremacists in Charlottesville last August “very fine people.”

For more on this topic, read my colleague Nick Kristof wrestling with the topic during the 2016 campaign: “Here we have a man who for more than four decades has been repeatedly associated with racial discrimination or bigoted comments about minorities,” he wrote. “While any one episode may be ambiguous, what emerges over more than four decades is a narrative arc, a consistent pattern — and I don’t see what else to call it but racism.”

Pro-LGBT Bills Mark Start of Virginia General Assembly

The husband and I are in Richmond, Virginia for the inauguration of Ralph Northam as Governor, Mark Herring as Attorney General, and Justin Fairfax as Lt. Governor. Meanwhile, the General Assembly has begun and this is a stark change from prior years: no anti-LGBT bills have been introduced while numerous pro-LGBT bill have been filed.  Perhaps the near evenly split House of Delegates and the savaging Republicans experienced at the polls last November have changed some attitudes.  A piece in GayRVA looks at the welcomed phenomenon which will hopefully be the prelude to passage of long lacking non-discrimination protections.  Here are excerpts (it's a lengthy piece that deserves a full read.):
It’s General Assembly time, traditionally a busy season for GayRVA. However, searches through Virginia’s Legislative Information System (LIS) have revealed a curious thing; unlike previous years, including this past year — which brought us bills attempting to deny transgender people the right to use the bathroom in public and allow faith-based organizations to discriminate against married same-sex couples — this year’s crop of bills and resolutions dealing with LGBTQ issues are all on the right side of issues that affect our community.
[R]ight now it appears that 27 bills and resolutions relating to LGBTQ issues have been filed in the Senate and House Of Delegates. These mainly fall into three categories.
Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to current hate crime statutes. There are four bills that have been introduced in the House (HB 10, 32, 266, and 718) and one in the Senate (SB 112) that add sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as gender and disability in most cases, to the categories of victims whose intentional targeting in a crime will result in a higher sentence for the perpetrator.
Prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This is a big one. Virginia is one of six states in which state employees are the only people in the state protected from being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Of course, in that respect, we are still doing better than the 16 states with no employment-based protections at all for LGBTQ workers. But that’s thin comfort for a trans woman who can’t get a job at KFC due to her gender identity. There are other ways in which discrimination on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is also currently permitted under the law — for example, as it stands, those who are denied housing on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity have no legal recourse.
Del. Mark Levine’s HB 401 is the big one here — it prohibits “discrimination in employment, public accommodation, public contracting, apprenticeship programs, housing, banking, and insurance on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.” This is a broad, sweeping piece of legislation that tackles all facets of a problem that some other bills only address small parts of.
Removal of sex-based classifications in laws relating to marriage and parenting. Several bills have been introduced that will amend with gender-neutral terms a variety of laws that currently describe couples as being made up of one man and one woman. These are basically procedural in nature; they simply recognize in legal language the reality that already exists in our state. However, their passage is important in making clear Virginia’s commitment to recognizing and welcoming same-sex couples. Situations these bills deal with include the property rights of married, ahem, people (HB 410), assisted conception (HB 411), adoption (HB 413), and even marriage-related criminal laws (HB 412), which, yes, have to be made applicable to same-sex couples too.
There are a few other noteworthy issues our legislators have chosen to focus on this year. Bills to ban conversion therapy, aka “ex-gay” therapy, have been introduced in both the House and Senate. 47th District Delegate Patrick A. Hope’s HB 363 prohibits health care providers and counselors from engaging in what the bill calls “sexual orientation change efforts” with anyone under the age of 18.
Bills and resolutions proposing the repeal of the Marshall-Newman Amendment, the 2006 state Constitutional amendment defining marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman,” have been introduced in both the House and Senate. HB 414, introduced by 53rd District Delegate Marcus Simon, and SB 603, introduced by 30th District Senator Adam Ebbin, both seek to repeal prohibitions against same-sex marriages that still remain encoded into law, despite the fact that the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges made such prohibitions invalid.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, January 11, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

Inter-American Human Rights Court Backs Same-Sex Marriage

While the Trump/Pence regime and its Christofascists base continue their war on LGBT Americans and their civil rights, a major ruling has been handed down which could lead to same sex marriage being legalized across South America and parts of the Caribbean.  The ruling was addressed to Costa Rica, but the precedent should trigger a domino effect across the region.  The usual suspects - self-enriching scamvangelis, the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, and hypocrisy-filled evangelicals will lament the ruling which is another defeat of their efforts to impose their hate and fear based religious beliefs on society and civil governments.  The Court specifically stated that domestic partnerships and similar arrangements short of marriage were not sufficient. The BBC has details on the ruling and the fallout it will trigger.  Here are highlights:
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ruled that same-sex marriages should be recognised.  The court's rulings apply to countries which have signed the American Convention on Human Rights.
Some of the signatories already recognise same-sex marriages while others recognise same-sex civil unions.
But others, such as Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Paraguay and Peru do not recognise either and will be expected to change their laws.
The court was established by the regional body, the Organization of American States (OAS), and signatories to the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights are bound by its rulings.
The ruling comes as a number of Latin American countries have changed or are debating changing their laws to allow same-sex couples to marry.
The judges said that governments "must recognise and guarantee all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same sex".  They also said that it was inadmissible and discriminatory for a separate legal provision to be established just for same-sex marriages.
The judges demanded that governments "guarantee access to all existing forms of domestic legal systems, including the right to marriage, in order to ensure the protection of all the rights of families formed by same-sex couples without discrimination".
Recognising the difficulty in passing such laws in countries where there is strong opposition to same-sex marriage, they recommended that governments pass temporary decrees until new legislation was brought in.
The judges issued the ruling in response to a motion brought by Costa Rica.  The Central American government asked the court to give its opinion on whether it had an obligation to extend property rights to same-sex couples. The court ruled that it did.
The Costa Rican government also wanted to know whether it should allow transgender people to change their name on their identity documents. Again, the court ruled that it should.  Costa Rica's Vice-President Ana Helena Chacón welcomed the court's ruling, saying it would be adopted "in its totality".

Trump Has Moved a Step Closer to Implosion

Amazon emailed me to confirm that I will receive my copy of "Fire & Fury" tomorrow, just in time for take it to Richmond as the husband and I head to Richmond for the inauguration of the Democrat slate that won in November and symbolize the rejection of Donald Trump and Trumpism by a majority of Virginians. As a political junkie and blogger, I may find fewer surprises in the book than some, but nonetheless, it should make for some entertaining reading provided that one can put aside the frightening reality that, in my opinion, a madman inhabits the White House. As a piece in New York Magazine notes, the book may not trigger Trump's downfall, but the expose it comprises has heightened the realization of more Americans that he is unfit for office even as he attacks the free press and libel laws that make public figures open to being the target of editorials and the like unless demonstrably factually false (if Trump doesn't want to be the target of many in the media, he should ceased his self-promotion years ago and never run for public office).  Most importantly, the book may push Trump towards thinking twice before a 2020 run.  Here are highlights:
Is there a chance in hell that this book will at long last be the catalyst for Trump’s demise? After all the other turning points that failed to fell Trump, from his ridicule of John McCain’s war record to the Access Hollywood tape to his pat on the head for neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, it would be foolhardy to say it will. But it may be a not-insignificant step on this president’s path to implosion.
First, it’s important to know what Fire and Fury will not accomplish.
It is not going to shake the loyalty of a single member of the Trump base, which, like it or not, accounts for roughly a third of Americans and the overwhelming majority of one of the nation’s two major political parties. Nor is it going to spur a revolt among Republicans in Congress. . . . It remains a liberal wet dream that a GOP-controlled Congress would impeach Trump, or that members of his Cabinet would invoke the 25th Amendment to yank him out of the White House. (The notion of Ben Carson standing in judgment on anyone’s mental health may be clinically insane in its own right.)
The only way Trump leaves office absent a Democratic sweep in the 2018 midterms is if he does so of his own volition: poisoning himself with his binges of Big Macs and Diet Coke; making a deal to head off pending indictments of himself, his son, or son-in-law; or breaking down mentally to the point where he is so unhappy, angry, and unmoored that he’d rather declare victory and take his marbles home to Mar-a-Lago. Fire and Fury has moved the latter process along. . . . it suggests that Wolff has quite successfully gaslighted him.
Let me add one other point I never thought I’d make: a modest defense of Michael Wolff. I am one of many journalists who have been the target of insults and scurrilous speculation in a Wolff piece at some point or another. It’s entirely consistent with his career that he’s gotten some things wrong in this book. But not that many things wrong, and not the big things; the book confirms what many others have reported about this White House . . .
Wolff’s re-creations of scenes are no more or less plausible than Woodward’s, and Wolff should not be faulted for favoring direct editorialization over Woodward’s technique of encoding his judgments in subtext. People are reading and buying Fire and Fury because the story rings true. It would also be highly entertaining, as pure and utter farce, if only the fate of America and perhaps the world were not at stake.
The sudden fall of Steve Bannon has been entertaining in its own way, but in terms of the political equation in America right now it will have zero effect. Bannon didn’t create the angry Trump base and its signature cause of white nationalism. It grew out of Sarah Palin’s incendiary campaign on the 2008 GOP ticket and the tea-party insurrection, violent reactions to the prospect and then the reality of America’s first African-American president.
No sooner had Bannon stepped down, after all, than Joe Arpaio, as grotesque a representative of Trumpism as Roy Moore, announced his candidacy for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring anti-Trump conservative Jeff Flake, in Arizona. Arpaio and his followers could care less about Bannon or who is running Breitbart.
If anything, Bannon’s absence may leave Trump more vulnerable to the rages of his base. As long as the two were seemingly in touch — as they continued to be after Bannon was ousted from the White House — the crazies could assume they were being heard in the Oval Office. No more. . . . . Be assured the base’s abuse of the White House’s so-called “liberal Dems” (an interesting way to categorize a list of names transparently scapegoated for their Jewishness, not their liberalism) has only just begun.
 One can only hope that the circular firing squad in the White House intensifies.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

New GOP Tax Withholding Could Leave Taxpayer's Owing Money for 2018

Behind the scenes a battle is going on where Republicans are pressuring the IRS to withhold as little as possible from taxpayers' pay checks to fulfill the claims that the tax cut benefits more than the very wealthy.  The problem is that such a move would leave many taxpayers finding out a year from now that either (i) they will get little or no refund, or (ii) they owe money, with many not having the funds to pay the taxes due.  Of course, all Republicans care about is giving a false picture until the 2018 midterms have passed and then it will be a case of "tough sh*t" for those who find themselves owing money a year from now.  A piece in Politico looks at the subterfuge being pushed by Republicans.  Here are highlights:
The IRS is facing its first big challenge implementing the new tax law: deciding how much in taxes to withhold from millions of Americans’ paychecks.
The agency is under pressure to take as little as possible so people will see big increases in their take-home pay ahead of this year’s midterm elections.
But that would come at a cost: smaller or even nonexistent refunds next year, though millions rely on them to plug holes in their family budgets. Democrats are already accusing the Trump administration of plotting "phantom windfalls" ahead of the November contest that will come back to haunt taxpayers next tax season.
“We oppose any attempts by the administration to systematically under-withhold income taxes during the 2018 tax year, knowing that in 2019 taxpayers may find they owe taxes when they were expecting a refund,” Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Richard Neal, the top Democrats on congressional tax committees, wrote to acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter.
“You’re going to start seeing a lot more money in your paycheck,” Trump said Monday during a speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation. The IRS did not respond to a request for comment.
There is a history of politicians trying to manipulate withholding, through obscure tables issued by the IRS, with an eye toward providing a short-term boost to the economy. President George H.W. Bush tried it ahead of the 1992 election, and the 1986 tax overhaul attempted, unsuccessfully, to quash refunds altogether.
Most of the new tax law took effect Jan. 1 because Republicans want it to boost growth before voters head to the polls this fall.
As Wyden and Neal pointed out, bigger paychecks now could mean a nasty surprise in 2019. Some accustomed to receiving annual refunds could potentially find themselves suddenly in arrears to the IRS.
“This is not something you want to fool the American taxpayer about — you don’t want to have them feeling good because they’re getting a big bump in take-home pay only to be surprised next year,” said Larry Gibbs, a former IRS commissioner.
“People ought to be able to understand what is being withheld from their paycheck and what that means — not just in terms of a bump in take-home pay, but also whether they’re still going to get a refund,” he said.
Taxpayers have long prized their tax refunds. The share receiving money back from the IRS at tax time has been firmly lodged at 70 percent or more since the 1960s, despite complaints from experts that it amounts to giving the government an interest-free loan.

So what should taxpayers do who receive larger paychecks?  Probably start setting much of it aside to make sure they don't find themselves in a huge mess come April 15, 2019.   Interest and penalties can quickly run up one's bill to the IRS.   As for Republicans, this effort is part of their campaign of lies and deceit, something that is the norm in today's Republican Party. 

Why Republicans Wanted to Hide the Fusion GPS Transcript

Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley - self prostitutes for Trump?  

The previous post looked at Senator Diane Feinstein's release of the Fusion GPS trnascript to the dismay of Republicans who disingenuously claimed its release would harm the investigation as a way of trying to throw up a smoke screen to distract the public from what the transcript reveals, none of which is good for Der Trumpenführer and his sycophants.  Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin who has put nation - and basic morality - ahead of her party has a column that neatly lays out what Lindsey Graham and others prostituting themselves to Trump wanted to hide from the American public.  Here are highlights from her column:

You can understand why the Republicans were furiously trying to suppress the transcript, which contains no classified information.

  • First, it makes clear that Steele was engaged because of his expertise and contacts. He was not told to find anything in particular, but just to research the totality of Trump’s involvement in Russia.
  • Second, according to Simpson, Trump was doing business all over the former Soviet states of Georgia and Azerbaijan. Interestingly, Trump repeatedly denied having financial ties in Russia itself but never publicly denied operations in states in which Russians exercised substantial influence.
  • Third, in investigating Trump’s finances they found his properties were not as highly valued as he suggested and, in the case of several golf courses, weren’t making money.
  • Fourth, Steele took it upon himself to report his finding to the FBI because he believed there was a “crime in progress” and matter of national security. He later relayed to Simpson that the FBI already had information from a campaign source.
  • Fifth, Trump lied about not knowing who Felix Sater is. Simpson testified, “This was something he didn’t want to talk about and testified under oath he wouldn’t know Felix if he ran into him in the street. That was not true. He knew him well and, in fact, continued to associate with him long after he learned of Felix’s organized crime ties. So, you know, that tells you something about somebody.” We do not know if Sater was in fact tied to organized crime.
  • Sixth, Simpson called it a reasonable “interpretation” that the Trump Tower meeting was designed by Russian officials to reach out to and cooperate with the Trump team.
  • Seventh, far from interfering in the election to benefit Hillary Clinton, the FBI did not publicly disclose during the campaign the wealth of information it was learning about Trump and Russia.
What stands out most from an initial perusal of the transcript is the professionalism and seriousness of Fusion GPS and Steele. By attempting to suppress a candid look into the dossier (really a series of memos, Simpson explains), Republicans once again are caught acting like Trump henchmen, trying to play down the investigation into Russia, not unearth and air what they learn.

I'd love to know what "kompromat" Trump and/or the Russians have on Graham. 

Fusion GPS Hearing Transcript Contains Bombshells

Senator Diane Feinstein stating why she released the Fusion GPS transcript "to set the record straight."

Republicans have been increasing the volume of their attacks on the FBI, Robert Mueller's Russiagate investigation, and the dossier prepared by MI-6 agent Christopher Steele and, as modern day Republicans are wont to do, lying about the facts and twisting statements to the point where they are no longer recognizable.  Indeed, Senators Grassley and Graham, a/k/a the Palmetto Queen, even have tried to seek to have Steele criminally prosecuted on a fairy tale theory.  Fed up with all of it and frustrated by Republican refusal to release the transcript of the the (10) hour Senate Intelligence Committee testimony of the principals of Fusion GPS, the original employer of Steele - and the bombshells contained therein - Senator Diane Feinstein released the entire 312 page transcript on her office website.  The full transcript can be found here.  As both Politico and the Washington Post are reporting, the transcript undermines many of the Republican's talking points and perhaps most explosively suggest that someone in the Trump campaign may have been the first to talk to the FBI and trigger the beginning of its investigation - even before a drunken George Papadopoulos ran his mouth to Australian intelligence officials who likewise contacted the FBI. First, these highlights from the Washington Post:
The head of the research firm behind a dossier of allegations against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump told congressional investigators that someone inside Trump’s network had also provided the FBI with information during the 2016 campaign, according to a newly released transcript, a claim quickly disputed by people close to the investigation into Russian interference in the election.
Glenn R. Simpson, a founder of the research firm Fusion GPS, spoke to investigators with the Senate Judiciary Committee for 10 hours in August. As the partisan fight over Russian interference in the 2016 election has intensified, Simpson has urged that his testimony be released, and a copy of the transcript was made public Tuesday.
It was released by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.
 Feinstein said she released the transcript to set the record straight. “The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice,’’ she said.
Steele first reached out to the FBI with his concerns in early July 2016, according to people familiar with the matter. When they re-interviewed him in early October, agents made it clear, according to Simpson’s testimony released Tuesday, that they believed some of what Steele had told them.
“My understanding was that they believed Chris at this point — that they believed Chris might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization,” Simpson said. . . . . adding that his understanding was the source was someone who had volunteered information to the FBI or, in his words, “someone like us who decided to pick up the phone and report something.”
Again, Republicans would have their sheep like supporters believe that the Steele dossier was what launched the FBI investigation of Trump in 2016.  This transcript shows that that story line is a lie.  The Politico piece goes further.  Here are some excerpts:
Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, whose firm commissioned a controversial dossier alleging secret ties between President Donald Trump and the Kremlin, told congressional investigators in August that the FBI found the dossier credible because an unnamed "human source" associated with Trump had offered the bureau corroborating information.
In a 312-page transcript of Simpson's August 2017 interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Simpson's attorney also said it was dangerous to discuss the dossier's sources because its public release last year had already led to murder.
"Somebody's already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier and no harm should come to anybody related to this honest work," said the lawyer, Joshua Levy. . . . . It's unclear to whom Levy was referring. He didn't respond immediately to a request for comment. But Britain's Telegraph newspaper reported last year about a former KGB chief who was mysteriously killed around the same time amid questions about his relationship to dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British spy contracted by Fusion.
Simpson also said Steele initiated communication with the FBI in July 2016 with "someone that he said he knew."At the time, Simpson said, Steele was told that his information tracked with what they had heard from a source from the "Trump organization.” It was unclear whether he might have been referring to Trump’s business or his presidential campaign. Simpson said he wouldn't share the identity of that source for "security" reasons.

Expect the Republican lies to continue.  As for Grassley and Graham, one has to wonder how they have decided to prostitute themselves to Trump and/or indirectly Vladimir Putin.  As previously indicated, some believe that either Trump or the Russians have "kompromat" on Graham.