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trumphoteldcThe Trump old post office hotel in DC used by foreign government officials, surrounded by protesters. (Mike Maguire)

Given Donald Trump's expansive business empire -- much of it hidden away in the details of his unreleased tax filings -- being president is enhancing his "brand" and the value of his name, which he often licenses to outside investors. Furthermore, he has said that he is not running his business while he is president, but he is reaping profits from the Trump Organization because he still owns the same share of the business as he always has. As a result, when foreign powers patronize his businesses or invest in Trump properties or naming rights, he is -- in legal theory -- violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

Paul Pillar clarifies the emoluments clause in a recent edition of the Lobe Log:

The emoluments clause is part of a broader prohibition in the Constitution (in Article I, Section 9) that bars the granting of any title of nobility and the acceptance “of any present, Office, Emolument, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Emolument may be an eighteenth-century word that is not in many active vocabularies in the twenty-first century, but the concern about the effects of flattery and favor are at least as relevant today as they were when the Constitution was written. In fact, with the current president, the concern is more relevant than ever.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times on June 12, legal action by state officials challenging Trump's flouting of the emoluments clause is now being undertaken.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017 07:36

New Coal Mine Opens, Employs Just 70 People


Miners 0614wrp optCoal miners. (Photo: Jack Corn)Is this what Donald Trump meant when he campaigned on being the "greatest jobs president that God ever created"?

The president celebrated the 70 whole jobs created by the Acosta mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, the nation's newest coal mine.

"When I ended the 'war on coal,' I said I would put our incredible miners—and that's what you are, incredible—back to work," Trump said after the mine opened last Thursday, likely forgetting that his budget slashes 40 percent, or about $1 billion, from federal job training programs.

Corsa Coal Company CEO George Dethlefsen said 400 people applied for the 70 positions available at the new mine.

Dethlefsen said the mine will help the area's struggling economy but as Quartz pointed out that's "significantly fewer than the 92 jobs created by the opening of one American supermarket on average."

Most of the coal isn't even staying in the country. According to PennLive, "as for where the coal ultimately ends up, as much as 85 percent could be exported overseas to make steel in countries such as South Korea, Turkey, Egypt and Brazil, Corsa officials say."


Kerr 0614wrp optGolden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. (Photo: Keith Allison)If the Golden State Warriors are invited to Donald Trump's White House, will they go? In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, after having won the 2016-17 National Basketball Association Championship, acknowledging the love of their fans at Oakland's Oracle Arena, and spritzing themselves with champagne, Downtown Josh Brown issued an un-sourced tweet claiming that the Warriors had made a "unanimous" decision not to go to the White House if invited. While several team members and coach Steve Kerr have been outspoken in their criticisms of Trump, it appears that no such decision was made. An early morning statement from the team read:“Today is about celebrating our championship. We have not received an invitation to the White House, but will make those decisions, when and if necessary.”

Since assuming office in January, Trump has hosted Super Bowl champion New England Patriots – albeit with several players refusing to attend for political reasons -- and Clemson University, the NCAA football champion. (In 2015, the team met with President Obama at the White House in what turned into a highly spirited, fun-filled, and glorious championship celebration.)

If the Warriors turned down an invitation to the White House, it would not be surprising.

"I have no idea what kind of president he'll be because he hasn't said anything about what he's going to do," Warrior coach Steve Kerr said shortly after the election. "We don't know. But it's tough when you want there to be some respect and dignity, and there hasn't been any. And then you walk into a room with your daughter and your wife who have basically been insulted by his comments and they're distraught. Then you walk in and see the faces of your players, most of them who have been insulted directly as minorities, it's very shocking. It really is."


naomikleinbookcover 1Now is the time to double up efforts to achieve ideals of justice. (Photo: Haymarket Books)

The title of Naomi Klein's book released today -- and available from Truthout by clicking here -- is No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. Although Klein spends the first part of her book detailing the appalling rise of Trump as an outgrowth of neoliberalism and branding trends over the past few decades, she also offers strategies for "reverse shock." This turns her theory of "the shock doctrine"-- the use of crises to advance ultra-capitalist economics and government -- on its head. What she suggests is that a shock-response strategy can also offer the opportunity for positive radical change.

As Klein exhorts in the conclusion to No Is Not Enough,

With this elevation of the basest figures to the most exalted of positions, the culture of maximum extraction, of endless grabbing and disposing, has reached some kind of breaking point. Clearly, it is the culture itself that must be confronted now, and not only policy by policy, but at the root.

Indeed, radical is defined as "of or going to the root." Klein argues that there is potentially a window of opportunity to break through "the shock doctrine" and adopt transformative progressive policies as neoliberal excesses teeter and perhaps collapse.


acha300Are the Republicans about to self-destruct on health care insurance? (Photo: CommScope)

Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration have boxed themselves into a corner on health care. Whatever they do, they will be blamed for inevitable increases in costs of health care, growing instability of health care markets, and escalating public backlash over their policies or lack thereof.

President Trump and congressional Republicans are not on the same page. Trump has found health care to be more complicated than he ever imagined, revealing his ignorance of the issues, but keeps pressuring Congress to pass a repeal and replace the ACA on an urgent basis, with little awareness of what that might entail. As he tries to assure us that the GOP’s resulting “plan” will bring access to care to everyone, at lower cost, and be “amazing,” Republicans in the Senate are coming to grips with what to do with the narrowly passed House bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which after receiving it, they vowed to start again from scratch.

Republicans have four basic choices at this point, none of them good.


TunnelFlood 0612wrp optThe Brooklyn Tunnel after Superstorm Sandy. (Photo: MTA of NYC)Climate change isn't just causing glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise and forests to set fire. It has becoming increasingly evident that Earth's rising temperatures also threatens international security.

In fact, an analysis released Friday by the Center for Climate and Security has identified 12 "epicenters," or categories, where the world's rising temperatures could trigger major global conflict.

"Any one of the climate and security epicenters can be disruptive," said Caitlin Werrell, co-president of the Center for Climate and Security and editor of the report, Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene. "Taken together, however, these epicenters can present a serious challenge to international security as we understand it."

The categories include eroding state sovereignty, low-lying nations going underwater, as well as the disruption in the global coffee trade that employs 125 million people worldwide.

Previous studies have identified how terrorist groups in certain regions are taking advantage of increasingly scarce natural resources such as water and food as a "weapon of war." Additionally, a U.S. military report from 2014 called climate change a "catalyst for conflict" and a "threat multiplier." President Obama once said that "no challenge poses a great threat than climate change, and it's an "immediate risk to our national security."


GoldCoin 0612wrp optAn American Gold Eagle coin. (Photo: Public domain)Last year it was 8 men, then down to 6, and now almost 5. 

While Americans fixate on Trump, the super-rich are absconding with our wealth, and the plague of inequality continues to grow. An analysis of 2016 data found that the poorest five deciles of the world population own about $410 billion in total wealth. As of 06/08/17, the world's richest five men owned over $400 billion in wealth. Thus, on average, each man owns nearly as much as 750 million people. 

Why Do We Let a Few People Shift Great Portions of the World's Wealth to Themselves?

Most of the super-super-rich are Americans. We the American people created the Internet, developed and funded Artificial Intelligence, and built a massive transportation infrastructure, yet we let just a few individuals take almost all the credit, along with hundreds of billions of dollars. 

Defenders of the out-of-control wealth gap insist that all is OK, because, after all, America is a 'meritocracy' in which the super-wealthy have 'earned' all they have. They heed the words of Warren Buffett: "The genius of the American economy, our emphasis on a meritocracy and a market system and a rule of law has enabled generation after generation to live better than their parents did."


Fenwick 0609wrp optFenwick Hall, College of the Holy Cross (Photo: George Rypysc III)When he was executive director during the heyday of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed appeared to enjoy talking about organizing and conducting stealth campaigns to get conservatives elected to as many political offices in as many states as possible. In an early nineties interview with Norfolk, Virginia's Virginian-Pilot, Reed said: "I want to be invisible. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night." To the Los Angeles Times, he later explained stealth as akin to "guerrilla warfare. If you reveal your location, all it does is allow your opponent to improve his artillery bearings. It's better to move quietly, with stealth, under the cover of night."

Flash forward two decades, and Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative group, Turning Point USA, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, has initiated his own version of stealth campaigns in order to try and seize power on college and university campuses across the nation; campuses he describes as "islands of totalitarianism."

In the book Time for a Turning Point, co-authored by Turning Point USA Board Member, Brent Hamachek, they indicated that he wanted to make Turning Point "the MoveOn.org of the right." As The Chronicle of Higher Education's Michael Vasquez pointed out, since its founding, Kirk has moved up in conservative ranks, boosting his own public profile, and receiving donations from high-powered, longtime GOP supporters, including Foster Friess, a major conservative Christian evangelical donor. The organization's budget went from $52,000 in 2012 to $5.5 million last year, according to Kirk's book.

According to Vasquez, Kirk has a launched a "secret counteroffensive" aimed at "getting young conservatives elected to student government" positions.

Why put so much effort and money into battles over student governance?



constitution22Will there be an amendment to the Constitution to overturn Citizens United? (Photo: Adam Theo)

Late last month, Nevada became the 19th state to call for Congress to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. This would be accomplished through a constitutional amendment process. Since the 2010 ruling, its results have been overwhelmingly evident: The decision has substantially increased the influence of corporations on elections.

This shift has occurred via shady third party organizations -- entities which are supposed to be officially unaffiliated with political campaigns. However, it is extremely difficult to prove the existence of back channels of communication, and the likelihood of candidates buying elections and engaging in campaign finance-related corruption has increased. Furthermore, the increase in unregulated money going toward "indirect" electioneering has crushed the democratic process.

Public Citizen, a national advocacy organization and think tank, greeted the May 25 passage of Nevada's support for the amendment with a celebratory news release:

With Nevada today becoming the 19th state to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, the effort to rid politics of the corrupting influence of money has reached a milestone. The movement has support from half of the 38 states needed to enact such an amendment after it is approved by two-thirds of both chambers of Congress.

True help for unemployed miners and other West Virginians would mean tackling climate change head-on, embracing renewable energy and re-training people to work in the emerging industries.  But Trump is a champion only for himself … and his golf courses and hotels.True help for unemployed miners and other West Virginians would mean tackling climate change head-on, embracing renewable energy and re-training people to work in the emerging industries. But Trump is a champion only for himself. (Photo: Matt Johnson)ROB BYERS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Earlier this spring, I was asked a question about my late father, who had been a coal miner in the 1970s and ’80s. It had to do with a familiar romantic storyline:  

Did he feel at home underground? Was it a calling that tugged at him during the layoffs, a longing to get back to the job he loved?

Short answer: No. Long answer: Hell, no.

Best I could tell as a kid, he hated it. It was back-breaking, dangerous, cold, dusty, dirty. He did it for the same reason miners do it today – because it was the best-paying job around for a man with a high-school education.

As a coal miner’s son, you might think I would be proud of all the attention miners are getting nowadays from President Trump and the media. You’d be wrong, though. Actually, I find the whole thing pretty demeaning, as the coal miner is used as a political pawn and an excuse to trash the planet.

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