Texas GOP congressman censured by party for sensible votes on gay rights, gun control

Way back when I was managing editor at a weekly newspaper in Boston, the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) – the national group for LGBT folk (and supportive others) in the GOP – set up a local chapter in Massachusetts.

In that heavily Democratic state, they faced much opposition.

The Log Cabin sales pitch was simple: yes, the Republican Party is, overall, very anti-gay. But to have an organization of openly gay Republicans could eventually turn that tide because 1) members of the GOP would see they have family and friends who are conservative and gay, and 2) Log Cabin clubs and members could be a force for change by showing that you can be conservative AND supportive of gay right AND still be elected (and re-elected) in conservative districts.

Nearly 50 years later, it’s not going well:

The Republican Party of Texas voted Saturday to censure U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, over his recent votes that split with the party.

The State Republican Executive Committee passed the censure resolution 57-5, with one member abstaining. It needed a three-fifths majority to pass.

The move allows the party, which is otherwise required to remain neutral in intraparty contests, to set aside that rule for Gonzales’ next primary.

The last — and only — time the state party censured one of its own like this was in 2018, when the offender was then-state House Speaker Joe Straus. He was also a moderate from San Antonio.

Gonzales did not appear at the SREC meeting but addressed the issue after an unrelated news conference Thursday in San Antonio. He specifically defended his vote for the bipartisan gun law that passed last year after the Uvalde school shooting in his district. He said that if the vote were held again today, “I would vote twice on it if I could.”

“The reality is I’ve taken almost 1,400 votes, and the bulk of those have been with the Republican Party,” Gonzales said.

I really bought the LCR sales pitch hook, line and sinker.

Our newspaper ran supportive profiles of them. I wrote a couple of editorials early on supporting their efforts which, considering the way the GOP was constituted in Massachusetts at the time, seemed likely to succeed in a state where most Republicans (Govs. Will Weld and Paul Cellucci, etc.) were not of the virulently crazy variety.

Boy, was I wrong. Even in Massachusetts currently, the state where LGBT rights are the nearest of any state to being a statewide non-issue, the GOP has turned hard right.

As for the Log Cabin folks, they simply ignore the fact that their party is, on LGBT issues, walking down a path that would be familiar to Jews in Germany in the late 1930s.

Not only has their party not gotten increasingly supportive on LGBT issues, the GOP is actually censuring members who vote positively on even the most anodyne LGBT legislation.

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas).

Rachel Maddow’s Ultra podcast is well-done and riveting. It’s also turned out to be very depressing

I’ve been listening, somewhat belatedly, to Rachel Maddow’s eight-part Ultra podcast, which Rolling Stone described like this in an Oct. 3, 2002, article:

For a historical podcast, Rachel Maddow’s new project could hardly be more timely. As the seditious conspiracy trial seeking to hold the Oath Keepers accountable for their role in the Jan. 6 insurrection ramps up in Washington, D.C., Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra explores a World War II-era prosecution known as the Great Sedition Trial of 1944.

The prosecution – and determined amateur sleuths in the general public — exposed a Nazi-backed plot that connected sitting members of Congress — many of them tied to the original, nativist America First movement — and militias and street thugs who wanted to overthrow the republic and install a fascist, authoritarian regime.

It’s quite riveting. But as I have made my way through episode 5 (“Shut it down”) I’ve had to stop listening because I can tell it’s going to be too depressing in the end because all the clues are there that not a single elected right-wing Republican member of Congress is going to be held accountable for colluding with German spies.

Which brings us to this NPR Fresh Aire interview with Maddow from December of 2022:

GROSS: So you describe the (eventual Ultra) sedition trial as turning into bedlam. There’s so many, like, outrageous things that happened. Like, during the period when potential jurors are questioned before they’re chosen to be jurors, the defense asks some incredible questions, including things like, are you Jewish or do you have a relative who is? Do you read Jewish publications? What does Jew mean? What does international bankers mean? What’s meant by Mongolian Jews? And do you think Jesus was a Jew? And there were no Jews, no African-Americans on the jury, but at least three German Americans. It’s amazing that the judge let this kind of questioning happen and that there were no Jews, but there were three German Americans.

MADDOW: Yeah. This is flummoxing in some ways. I mean, defense counsel can propose all sorts of crazy things to be asked to potential jurors, but it’s up to the judge to decide what actually gets asked. And for Judge Eicher to have allowed some of these questions specifically designed to keep Jews off the jury, and also to sort of push-pull the jury on being disinclined toward any Jewish perspective, is a remarkable thing. And indeed, there were no Jewish people on the jury.

I feel like one of the things that might explain why bedlam broke out and why the trial was so out of control and why things like that happened with selecting the jury pool, it may have had something to do with the fact that Judge Eicher was very inexperienced. He was in his mid-60s by the time the trial was happening, but he’d only been on the bench for two years. He had been a congressman from Iowa. He’d been on – I think – the SEC, had had some other government jobs. He’d had a sort of distinguished career and was well-regarded, but he was not experienced as a judge. When he was put in charge of this trial with, you know, 28 incredibly rowdy, incredibly disruptive and in many cases incredibly eccentric defendants, almost as many defense lawyers, the highest profile case in the country on incredibly inflammatory charges, it was going to be a challenge for any judge, but for somebody who didn’t really know what he was doing yet, he was very clearly overmatched from day one of that trial.

GROSS: And you say that the defense tried to prevent the trial, tried to postpone the trial, tried to have a mistrial declared, and they kept doing that, like, over and over. The trial came to a kind of a dramatic conclusion because the judge went home one night after the trial had been going on for months, had dinner, and then died in his sleep. So what happened after that?

MADDOW: It was a crazy moment. I mean, the trial never got less chaotic from the very beginning. And you can see it in the newspaper coverage at the time that there’s reporters who are planning on being in the courtroom every day, who are planning – you know, and they’re recording with great detail everything that happens. And then the news coverage sort of dwindles over time because nobody can follow what’s going on, and the case is so chaotic and the courtroom is so uncomfortable and it’s so out of control. Judge Eicher’s seven months into the trial when the prosecution, which goes first in a criminal trial, they weren’t even halfway through their presentation seven months into it already. He felt ill one day in the courtroom, went home and died in his sleep that night.

The defendants were given the option that they could allow another judge to come in and pick up where the trial left off, and the defendants did not want to do that. They wanted to start all over again from day one. And of course, they did, because I think the bedlam and chaos in the courtroom was to their benefit at this point. The Justice Department then had to decide whether they were going to do that, whether they were going to start over from day one or whether they were just going to dismiss the charges and let it go. And they let that decision linger for quite a long time, and one of the things that happened in the interim, while it was still possible they could restart the trial, is that the prosecutor asked leave from the court to go to Germany.

A U.S. Army captain who was part of the Nuremberg prosecutions contacted this prosecutor, John Rogge, at the Justice Department and said, hey, you know, we’re interrogating these Nazi leaders here, and all of your sedition defendants’ names keep coming up when we’re interrogating these Nazis about who they were working with in the United States and what they were trying to do. You ought to see this evidence. And Rogge went to Germany to collect that evidence and then brought it back to the Justice Department and – for them to inform their decision as to whether or not to proceed with the case.

GROSS: And they proceeded with the case.

MADDOW: They did not proceed with the case, which is a remarkable…

GROSS: They did not proceed.

MADDOW: No. They allowed the mistrial to be the end of the story. And Rogge’s report from Germany, with all the evidence that was collected from German officials confirming the central charges of the sedition case – that these Americans had been receiving support from Germany, that they were working in cahoots with the German government to try to overthrow the U.S. government and install fascism here – he brought all this evidence back including the names of 24 members of the House and Senate who had been involved in the propaganda part of this operation.

He brought it all back. He gave it to the attorney general. The attorney general brought it straight to the White House, by then occupied by Harry Truman. And Harry Truman said, this report will never see the light of day. This is not a report that will be made to the American people. This will not be given to the court. This will – this is over. This is done. This cannot come out.

After a commercial break, Terri Gross brings it back to the question of prosecutions – or lack, thereof:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Let’s get back to my interview with Rachel Maddow. Her new podcast series, “Ultra,” is about plots from ultra-right groups to overthrow the U.S. government in the years leading up to World War II.

So none of the congressmen who were colluding with Hitler’s Germany ever got indicted. Is that right?

MADDOW: That’s right. And it’s a good question as to why not.

GROSS: Yeah, why not?

MADDOW: (Laughter) Well, I mean, Viereck himself, who was the German agent, was charged. And in his individual trial and, again, in the evidence that was brought forward against him in the sedition trial, the government laid out what he was doing with these members of Congress including paying them to do this work that had been assigned to him by the Hitler government. So they had the evidence of it. The Justice Department did bring in a couple of members of Congress to testify to the grand jury. They did indict one congressional staffer. They had a lot of evidence about members of Congress having been part of this plot, and they chose not to indict the members. And there isn’t an explanation from that that I think all parties would admit to.

But my view, having sort of marinated in this research for the past year or more, is that the Justice Department just did not want to incur more ire and more wrath from the members of Congress who were already giving them such a hard time for this case. Members of Congress knew they were implicated. They knew what they had done. And they did everything they could to try to get this prosecution blown up from getting, first, one and then the second prosecutor in the case fired by political pressure.

They – in one case, one of the members of Congress who was brought in to testify to the grand jury and who had his congressional staffer indicted, he tried to get the sedition law taken off the books. So it would result in the American justice system no longer having that available as a charge to bring against people who did these things. They really did everything they could to make life miserable for the Justice Department in pursuing this and in so doing, protected themselves, I believe, from being charged when the evidence existed that would have justified a charge.

GROSS: So the legal system never held anybody accountable for this sedition and for the violence that these ultra-right-wing groups were behind, and the congressmen weren’t held accountable. Did the people hold the colluders accountable?

MADDOW: Yes, in almost every instance. And this was a surprise to me and a really interesting part of the research. This, as a prosecution, didn’t work. But the Justice Department’s investigation was of interest to the public. It was done at the same time that there was a lot of journalistic and even activist investigation of these matters. There was really good investigative reporting both in book form and in magazine-and-newspaper journalism done about these scandals at the time. There were activist groups who infiltrated some of these violent ultra-right groups and then publicized their findings about what those groups were doing. They not only brought it to law enforcement; they brought it to the press and made sure that people knew what was happening.

And the result from the public was that almost all the members of Congress who were implicated in this, including some who were seen as presidential timber, some of whom were among the most popular and powerful members of Congress, of their – household names – almost to a one, they were voted out as soon as they came back up before the voters, either voted out in primaries or voted out in general elections including huge figures at the time like Gerald Nye from North Dakota and Burton Wheeler from Montana and Hamilton Fish from New York.

And all of these very powerful, very famous members were thrown out on their ear because constituents and, in some cases, their political parties recognized that – recognized what they’d been doing to help the Nazis. It was a form of political accountability that worked even when criminal accountability fell short.

I think Maddow gives way too much weight here to the idea of public shaming as some form of accountability.

The lessons learned then by the Nazi collaborators in Congress – much like what we see happening thus far with the members of Congress who helped the Jan. 6 rioters try to overthrow our government – were that, yes, you can commit treason or take part in a seditious conspiracy, and the government won’t prosecute you because doing to will be seen as harmful to the fabric of America cohesion.

I will likely finish listening to Maddow’s podcast at some point because she’s quite good and it’s very well done.

But for now I have to take a break to get used to the fact that it’s happened before and Republicans got away with it, just as it’s appearing that the members of Congress who aided and abetted the Jan. 6 rioters will likely get away with it.

Rep. Hamilton Fish III surrounded by reporters at a barber shop on September 19, 1939. Fish had just returned from a trip to Nazi Germany.

Right-wing noise machine upset about signing of Respect for Marriage Act

The Christian Post (a “non-denominational” conservative evangelical publication) has an article up titled: “Respect for Marriage Act: Will it lead to the Supreme Court striking down gay marriage?”

A conservative law firm has speculated that if the so-called Respect for Marriage Act is signed into law by President Joe Biden, it could actually lead to the United States Supreme Court overturning its earlier ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

In a statement released Monday, the Liberty Counsel commented on Congress’ recently passed bill legalizing same-sex marriage, thus codifying the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Liberty Counsel argued that the bill’s passage “can actually create the perfect scenario to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 5-4 opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges regarding same-sex marriage.”

The conservative law firm noted that thanks to changes in the roster of the Supreme Court, the nation’s highest court is more conservative than it was in 2015.

Additionally, the group cited the 2013 case of United States v. Windsor, which ruled in part that, in general, “the states, not the federal government, have the right to regulate marriage.”

Lastly, Liberty Counsel noted that one objection to overturning Obergefell is the issue of same-sex couples who had gotten marriage licenses, and what might happen to those licenses. However, noted the group, the bill would actually secure the fate of marriage licenses.

“As a result of RFMA, when Obergefell is overturned, those who obtained licenses will be ‘grandfathered’ in and the licenses will remain valid,” explained the group.

This thinking pre-supposes that a majority of SCOTUS justices would have been at all concerned about, prior to this week’s signing of the Respect for Marriage Act, existing LGBT marriage licenses when deciding whether to overturn precedents establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

I seriously doubt this possibility would have given pause to any of the right-wing justices, who are likely to overturn Obergefell in any case. With at least two of the justices — Clarence Thomas and Samual Alito — being so angry and cruel that the ability to essentially negate existing same-sex marriages would have been seen as a feature and not a bug. Amy Coney Barrett might not be as angry as Alito and Thomas, but she does come from a religious cult that is so right-wing that she is likely to dogmatically see ending same-sex marriage as her religious duty, and therefore above any considerations about fairness and equality.

I don’t think we can count on Kavanaugh and Gorsuch to be anything other than the FedSoc extremists they are.

My guess is that the overturning of the constitutional right to same-sex marriage is still, and always has been, a foregone conclusion with this court. The right-wing noise machine will try to paint the Respect for Marriage law just signed by President Biden as a necessary precursor to the overturning of Obergefell. Nonsense.

If anything, the overturning of Obergefell will be the proof we need that the Respect for Marriage Act was a masterful bit of legislating by the Democrats (and a tiny handful of Republicans) on Capitol Hill.

On another topic, I am old enough to remember when, as a journalist in Boston, I used to sit in the Democrat-controlled Massachusetts state Legislature and listed to members of both parties in both houses debate that state’s gay rights bill.

Even many Democrats would pile-on with the most anti-gay right-wing arguments about pedophilia, bestiality and the like. It was awful to witness and depressing to think that even many so-called progressives were so filled with anti-gay hatred.

Even among those Democrats who supported us, there was a reticence to talk about these issues in public. They might support us when some tough votes were tallied, but don’t expect them to advocate in public on these issues.

Compare that with this week (see pic below) when you had the President, Vice-President (and their spouses), along with the leaders of the House and Senate (both Democrats), along with some openly gay elected and appointed officials and even a smattering of Republicans, on-hand with big wide smiles of the official signing ceremony of the Respect for Marriage Act.

We have come a very long way. And that, in itself, is reason to celebrate.

President Biden signing the Respect for Marriage Act.

A picture worth a thousand words

The police officer heroes of Jan. 6 were receiving the Congressional Gold Medal Dec. 6 in Washington. Former Officer Michael Fanone, who nearly lost his life in the Trump-inspired attempt to overthrow the government, was heckled during the event by some of his fellow police officers.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, the liberal boogeyman, and Fanone shared a moment. (see pic).

Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone.

Why is a rogue’s gallery of MAGA Republicans reportedly supporting a federal marriage equality bill?

The fact that there is a piece of pro-gay legislation that is allegedly attracting the support of Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) makes me suspicious.

Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, said he expects there will be enough support from his party to pass a marriage equality bill this month.

Democrats have not yet attracted the 10 Republican senators they need to pass the bill in the evenly divided chamber, but negotiators are making progress, Tillis said.

The legislative push to codify same-sex marriages comes after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the high court reconsider the decision establishing a marriage right. Polling shows adult Americans strongly favor marriage equality, potentially giving Democrats a wedge issue if Republicans block the measure.

Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine are leading the talks, which now center on an amendment addressing religious liberties. Tillis said he and some of his GOP colleagues are generally supportive of what’s currently being discussed.

“We’ve made progress with the drafting,” he added. “I think we’ve addressed a lot of the religious freedom questions that some had and we think we’re going to move it this month.”

Asked if he thinks there would be at least 10 Republican supporters, Tillis responded, “yes.”

But Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, one of the few Republicans who have endorsed the bill, expressed caution. “I don’t know yet,” he said Tuesday evening. “We have a meeting tomorrow with some of us to talk about it, but it’s still uncertain.”

I’ll wait to see what’s in the “religious liberty” part of this to see what Democrats are giving away in exchange for the support of such a weird collection of MAGA Republicans.

Or perhaps the Republicans all have LGB or T loved ones.

But something is definitely up behind the scenes to account for these strange bedfellows.

Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), left, and Susan Collins (R-ME) are spear-heading an effort to codify same-sex marriage rights into law before the Supreme Court has a chance to overturn its previous key gay rights decisions.

Jobs starting to move back to U.S. from overseas

A report from the Reshoring Initiative, a U.S. organization dedicated to encouraging and tracking the number of overseas jobs that move back to the U.S., says the country is on track to return nearly 350,000 jobs this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

COVID and its related supply chain problems are big factors. But the Biden administration has also been successfully pushing laws that will increase the pace of job returns:

To be sure, globalization has been a tailwind for investors and large companies for much of the past 30 years, particularly U.S. firms. Increased trade across borders boosted profits and productivity and allowed countries to focus on the goods and services they were best equipped to produce. Globalization has also provided multinational companies with new customers and new pools of low-cost labor.

But the Covid-19 pandemic, which snarled supply chains worldwide, pushed many executives to think about bringing their business closer to home. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which upended commodities markets, is another motivator. So is the possibility of a conflict between China and Taiwan, which produces the chips used in smartphones, personal computers and cars.

The U.S. government is also luring companies back. The Chips and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, both passed this month, provide tax breaks and other incentives for building and investing in manufacturing centers for goods such as semiconductors, electric vehicles and pharmaceuticals.

Investors’ increased focus on carbon emissions also has bolstered the need for closer-to-home supply chains. Carbon pricing mechanisms and taxes recently implemented in the European Union and elsewhere will further reduce the appeal of extensive cross-border supply chains, Barclays economists wrote in a recent note to clients.

Barclays found that large S&P 500 companies are recruiting more in their home countries and slowing cross-border M&A activity.

“Globalization is in retreat,” the firm’s U.K.-based economists Christian Keller and Akash Utsav wrote.

I love how the WSJ only mentions “pools of low-cost labor” as a reason for jobs going overseas originally. If you’re spending all that money to ship your goods all the way from China and Indonesia to America, where do you think the biggest source of savings is going to be? It’s been the use of low-paid workers in countries where labor, safety and environmental laws are weak.

Anyway, thanks Biden for delivering on your jobs incentives promises!

You can read the rest of the WSJ article at this link.

Click graphic for more info.

Thanks to Inflation Reduction Act, even publicly owned power companies will now have incentives to invest in clean energy

I did not know that my home state of Nebraska is the only state in the union in which 100 percent of electricity is provided not by Wall Street corporations (Investor-Owned Utilities or IOUs), but rather by publicly owned utilities.

It’s been that way since Nebraska ran the last IOU out of the state in 1949, thanks primarily to the state’s forward-thinking US Sen. George Norris. (A short history of how this happened can be found at this link.)

However, one drawback to all of this is that incentives by the U.S. government for power companies to invest in clean energy come in the form of tax credits. This has created problems, as the American Public Power Association (APPA) wrote in this June 2022 report:

Since the 1970s, Congress has used federal tax incentives to encourage certain forms of energy investments in the United States. In more recent years, Congress has expanded and extended such incentives to promote non-emitting energy resources to address climate change. Arguably, tax expenditures are the single most powerful federal tool used to incentivize wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear power development in the United States.

However, most of these incentives do not work for public power utilities, which are, as units of state and local government, exempt from federal taxation. The American Public Power Association (APPA) believes that if Congress has market-wide policy objectives, such as addressing climate change, then tax-based energy incentives should be drafted to accommodate tax-exempt entities, including public power utilities. Congress is considering making such tax credits “refundable” beyond an owner’s tax liability and public power utilities should qualify for these credits. In addition, because this approach is novel, APPA strongly encourages Congress to enlist public power representatives in drafting such proposals to avoid unintended consequences.

Well, Congress apparently listened because the IRA takes away this roadblock to public power utilities being able to access these clean energy incentives, as noted by Ryan Cooper in his article for TAP:

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has all kinds of goodies in it: tax credits for homeowners and businesses to install rooftop solar or upgrade their appliances, credits for electric vehicles, money for clean-energy research, and much more.

But there are two provisions that have largely flown under the radar in the discussion of the bill. These are “direct pay” and “transferability,” which will be two of the biggest drivers of emissions reductions in the power utility sector over the next decade. Moreover, the first provision marks a quiet break with decades of American policy orthodoxy, and a lesson in the value of public power.

Let me first review some history. There have been two major kinds of clean-energy tax credits: an investment tax credit (ITC) for installing new clean-power generators, first passed in the 1970s, and a production tax credit (PTC), first passed in the 1990s, for actually producing it. They worked just like you’d think: allowing a deduction from one’s taxes for clean-energy investment or production. And to be fair, these credits actually have driven considerable investment in clean power and therefore lower emissions.

But there were problems. Public power utilities pay no taxes. No taxes. No incentives. Because public power companies and co-ops provide nearly a quarter of American power generation, this created a large roadblock to decarbonizing the electricity sector.

Direct pay in the IRA, by contrast, now means these non-tax-paying entities can receive the credit as a cash payment—basically turning the ITC and PTC into a grant for them. It’s similar to the Earned Income Tax Credit for individuals, in which the working poor receive a “tax refund” even though they may not pay anything in federal income tax.

The new ITC base rate is 6 percent, while the PTC is 2.6 cents per kilowatt-hour produced (though you can only claim one). However, if a producer complies with wage and apprenticeship requirements, both credits are multiplied by a factor of five—a very strong motivation indeed to provide good jobs.

The more I learn about the Inflation Reduction Act, the more I love it. (Despite its drawbacks.)

You can read the rest of the TAP article at this link.

The FBI has always been used in a “political” way

The “problem” conservatives scream about is that, now that the FBI has been used to go after the kinds of criminals who usually set the agency’s agenda, the GOP is upset that the FBI has become a “political tool.” What a load of horseshit and shame on the New York Times whenever it gives unquestioning column inches to this kind of smokescreen from conservatives.

John Ganz over at Unpopular Front is, as usual, blunt and on-the-mark:

It’s time to stop fucking around. All of the savvy political wisdom of the preceding years got us here: with a half-lunatic trying to shake down the country to call off his followers. Trump doesn’t care about precedents: as soon as he’s able, he will use whatever tool he’s able to use against his opponents. This is why his supporters like him. They openly say so. The first time around, he didn’t really know how to wield the power of the state or the most violent core of his supporters, but most likely he will will learn. The Federal oath of office begins, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” If that means anybody in the history of the country, that must mean Trump. He cannot be allowed to hide behind his supporters or try to use them to manipulate the U.S. government. Is it possible that this will lead to bad outcomes? Sure, anything is possible. But treating Trump like he’s got special powers has lead us here.

“But, John, are you saying we should use the Justice Department politically? With the express purpose of getting rid of someone you don’t like.” Kind of! As Trump’s intellectual defenders love to remind us, there’s ultimately no neutral administration of justice, everything is political, and when you get the state apparatus in your hands you use it beat up on your enemies and help out your friends. So, in part, these are their rules. (If you start talking about how you are gonna apply the thought of Carl Schmitt when you administer the state, I may start to get the sense you are my enemy.)

Also, let’s not play innocent. Historically speaking, the F.B.I. has always been used “politically:” it was used against Reds, Nazis, Reds again, the KKK, civil rights leaders, black power leaders, Nazis again etc. A lot of this was abusive and terrible and you know where my political sympathies lie, but this was because the political establishment implicitly or explicitly viewed these groups as threats to the United States itself. In many cases, they were not. (Yeah, yeah, I know what you are gonna say, “but J. Edgar Hoover, blah, blah, blah”—The fact is that Hoover lasted so long because powerful people thought he was useful and mostly right.) But here is a case where the real deal has come along: a bonafide domestic threat to the constitution. People these days are willing to call everything from annoying college students to crummy D.E.I. consultants “totalitarian threats to democracy” or whatever, but when a big, fat threat to democracy is standing right there, suddenly everyone is like, “Well…it’s a little complicated, isn’t it?” No, it really isn’t. And, in this case, we don’t have to break the law or do anything underhanded: just actually try to uphold the law for a change and stop playing little political games around it.

I’m still amazed how often I still see a MSM reporter write, without any follow-up information whatsoever, that this is “the first time” that a search warrant has been served on a former president “at his private residence,” no less. (Mar-A-Lago is Trump’s home in the same ways Chicago’s Lexington Hotel was Al Capone’s home.)

Let’s never forget: Nixon would have been in jail had Ford not pardoned him. That is the only reason this is the first time a president might be arrested and prosecuted for serious crimes. It could have happened, and likely would have happened, to another Republican president. And then there is the gargantuan matter that Trump marks the first time a sitting president came perilously close to overthrowing the government. Trump makes Nixon look like a shoplifter in the presence of a hard core criminal.

These things are all self-evident. You know them. I know them. Everyone sane knows them. Yet somehow the Republicans have people in the MSM in Washington bamboozled into thinking that going after Trump is bad because it might antagonize his followers, many of whom believed that JFK. Jr. was about to make a surprise appearance in the place in Dallas in Dealey Plaza. Even more of them believe that the Clintons and George Soros run an international pedophile ring. And even more than that believe Tucker Carlson.

We’re not prosecuting Trump because those people might be antagonized? Nuts.

Anyway, John Ganz is very good and you can read the rest of it at this link.

How did the GOP get from ignoring climate change to actively opposing efforts to combat it?

The always excellent Elizabeth Kolbert at The New Yorker has an article in today’s issue that examines how the Republican Party — along with the worst Democrats on Capitol Hill — went from benign neglect on the environment to actively opposing any efforts to ameliorate what will end up being the defining issue for humanity:

How did caring about a drowned or desiccated future come to be a partisan issue? Perhaps the simplest answer is money. A report put out two years ago by the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis noted, “In the 2000s, several bipartisan climate bills were circulating in the Senate.” Then, in 2010, the Supreme Court, in the Citizens United decision, ruled that corporations and wealthy donors could, effectively, pour unlimited amounts of cash into electioneering. Fossil-fuel companies quickly figured out how to funnel money through front groups, which used it to reward the industry’s friends and to punish its enemies. After Citizens United, according to the report, “bipartisan activity on comprehensive climate legislation collapsed.”

When it comes to direct contributions, the top recipient of fossil-fuel money in Congress this election cycle has been Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia. Manchin killed off earlier iterations of the climate bill, and inserted into this version most of its worst provisions, including a mandate that the federal government auction millions of acres for oil and gas drilling. Among the top twenty recipients of oil and gas money are three other Democrats: Senator Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, and Representatives Henry Cuellar and Lizzie Fletcher, of Texas. The rest are Republicans.

Even money, though, seems an insufficient explanation. The G.O.P.’s opposition to action on climate change has transcended crass calculation to become an article of faith. Several red states, including Texas and Louisiana, have taken steps to penalize financial firms that say they are reducing their investments in fossil fuels, even though these steps are likely to cost the states’ taxpayers money. As the I.R.A. was headed toward a vote, the Wall Street Journal reported that congressional Republicans were pressuring fossil-fuel companies to take a stronger stand against the bill. G.O.P. lawmakers, according to the Journal, had “become frustrated” by the oil companies’ support for some measures to combat climate change, and so they took to lobbying the lobbyists.

If you’ve been paying attention at all, some of this will be old news. But I like seeing subjects I already know much about presented in well-researched articles. In environmental journalism, Kolbert is a superstar.

You can read the entire article at this link.

Below is a listing from OpenSecrets.org of the top 2022 recipients in Congress of oil/gay corporate contributions.

Stock buyback tax in the Inflation Reduction Act is a game changer

One of the less-heralded but nonetheless important features of the Democrats’ just-passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) on its way for President Biden’s signature is the tax on stock buybacks.

As far back as 2014, even pro-business publications like the Harvard Business Review were sounding the alarm about the buybacks:

Five years after the official end of the Great Recession, corporate profits are high, and the stock market is booming. Yet most Americans are not sharing in the recovery. While the top 0.1% of income recipients—which include most of the highest-ranking corporate executives—reap almost all the income gains, good jobs keep disappearing, and new employment opportunities tend to be insecure and underpaid. Corporate profitability is not translating into widespread economic prosperity.

The allocation of corporate profits to stock buybacks deserves much of the blame. Consider the 449 companies in the S&P 500 index that were publicly listed from 2003 through 2012. During that period those companies used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings. That left very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees.

The buyback wave has gotten so big, in fact, that even shareholders—the presumed beneficiaries of all this corporate largesse—are getting worried. “It concerns us that, in the wake of the financial crisis, many companies have shied away from investing in the future growth of their companies,” Laurence Fink, the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, wrote in an open letter to corporate America in March. “Too many companies have cut capital expenditure and even increased debt to boost dividends and increase share buybacks.”

Why are such massive resources being devoted to stock repurchases? Corporate executives give several reasons, which I will discuss later. But none of them has close to the explanatory power of this simple truth: Stock-based instruments make up the majority of their pay, and in the short term buybacks drive up stock prices. In 2012 the 500 highest-paid executives named in proxy statements of U.S. public companies received, on average, $30.3 million each; 42% of their compensation came from stock options and 41% from stock awards. By increasing the demand for a company’s shares, open-market buybacks automatically lift its stock price, even if only temporarily, and can enable the company to hit quarterly earnings per share (EPS) targets.

As a result, the very people we rely on to make investments in the productive capabilities that will increase our shared prosperity are instead devoting most of their companies’ profits to uses that will increase their own prosperity—with unsurprising results.

So two of the key takeaways here are that corporate leaders could buy back company stocks, which has the dual purposes of shielding corporate profits from the IRS — “hey, we only had X amounts of profits this year because we used so much cash on stock buybacks.” All while simultaneously increasing their own pay because they are paid in stock and buybacks artificially increase their company’s stock price. (While actually doing nothing to make the company, its products, or its lower-level employees any better off.)

It’s gotten so much worse since that 2014 article was written

Fast forward to last week and the passage of the IRA.

As New Republic writer Timothy Noah explains:

Stock buybacks hit a record $882 billion last year, and they may reach $1 trillion this year. The biggest corporations spend the most on buybacks. Thus Apple lavished $91 billion over the previous four quarters, according to The Wall Street Journal; Alphabet (Google), $55 billion; Meta (Facebook), $53 billion; Microsoft, $33 billion; and Bank of America, $21 billion.

But even with corporate profits at record highs, earnings can no longer meet the voracious demand for buybacks. So a growing proportion of buybacks—one recent estimate put it as high as 56 percent— are now “leveraged buybacks” paid for with corporate debt. Corporations are going into hock so they can shower more cash on shareholders and their top executives.

The proposed excise tax on buybacks is only 1 percent, so its initial effect on this drunken binge will be minimal. Indeed, in the short term it will likely create an uptick in buybacks as some corporations accelerate buybacks to avoid the tax’s implementation in 2023. The initial proposal by Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Ron Wyden of Oregon—Brown is the Banking Committee chairman, while Wyden leads the Finance Committee—was for a 2 percent tax on buybacks, which would have been better. Five or 10 percent would be better still.

In coming years, it can and probably will be increased. But the excise tax’s creation establishes a beachhead. In coming years, it can and probably will be increased. In the meantime, it isn’t a bad revenue-raiser. According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, this itty-bitty 1 percent tax will raise $74 billion over the next decade. If the outlook for the stock market improves, it will raise more. And if the excise tax is increased in the coming years, it will raise even more than that. So please join me in welcoming this new provision to the tax code. Its debut is long overdue.

Another reason we have to back campaigns such as the 50+2 effort trying to increase the U.S. Senate majority from 50 to 52 so as to counter the influence of Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema, who both blocked Wall Steet reforms in the IRA that would be true game-changers for reigning in the excesses of corporate America — and slowing down climate change.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi celebrates by showing off the official final tally in the House for the successful passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, for which not a single Republican voted.