If You Don’t Know Who The Patsy At The Table Is, Dear Trumpkins…

...it’s you:

Again and again, President-elect Donald Trump presented himself as the coal miners’ candidate. During the campaign, he promised to bring coal back into the economy, and jobs back into struggling Appalachian towns.

But now some in coal country are worried that instead of helping, Trump’s first actions will deprive miners — and their widows and children — of the compensation they can receive if they are disabled by respiratory problems linked to breathing coal mine dust.

That’s because buried in the Affordable Care Act are three sentences that made it much easier to access these benefits. If Trump repeals Obamacare — as he vowed to do before the election — and does not keep that section on the books, the miners will be back to where they were in 2009, when it was exceedingly difficult to be awarded compensation for “black lung” disease.

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This is by no means a done deal, given that at least some coal-country legislators (Joe Manchin, for one) have declared their support for retaining this in whatever comes out of the health care catastrophe the GOP is determined to commit.  But McConnell is, as usual, mum on the matter, and if I were a coal mining family depending on the pittance they do get (top payment for a miner with three dependents: $1,289/month), I’d be getting ready not for hard times — they’re already here — but worse.

[update: obligatory post soundtrack]

The key change the ACA implemented in black lung cases was to shift the burden of proof: instead of a miner having to prove that the work caused the disease, under the new rules,

If a miner has spent 15 years or more underground and can prove respiratory disability, then it is presumed to be black lung related to mine work, unless the company can prove otherwise.

This wasn’t a case of free money all around. As reporter Eric Boodman writes,  “In 2009, 19 percent of claims for black lung benefits were successful; in 2015, that percentage had jumped to 28.” That’s a big jump — but hardly evidence that the black lung compensation process is a wild government grab of beleaguered coal company assets.

Those companies hate the rule, with a spokesman telling Boodman that it’s created “a supplemental pension program” rather than the compensation for occupational disease, which is as fine a bit of high priced turd polishing as I’ve seen in a while.

TL:DR?  Think of this as Mencken’s rule in action:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Trump voters in coal country — West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky — were promised their country back.

What will they receive?

The shaft, deeper and darker than any hole miners have dug in the hunt for what will continue to kill them where they stand.

Image: Léonard Defrance, Coal Mining, before 1805.



If His Lips Move, He’s Lying…part [n]

Donald Trump has yet to meet with the prime minister of the United Kingdom — arguably the closest ally of the United States.  He has found time to meet with representatives of Britain’s Lets-Play-Footsie-With-Fascists UKIP party including its well-dressed proto-fascist leader, Nigel Farange.

In that meeting Hair Führer focused on what really matters in the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Offshore wind farms in Scotland [h/t TPM]:

[Andy] Wigmore, who coordinated the communications effort for the push for Britain to leave the European Union, told The Express and the New York Times that Trump asked them to oppose new wind farms….

Wigmore told The Express that Trump “is dismayed that his beloved Scotland has become over-run with ugly wind farms which he believes are a blight on the stunning landscape.”

Rich guy doesn’t like looking at windmills. Rich guy manages to grasp real power. Rich guy starts f**king with other nations’ energy policy, land use decisions and the rest because…he can.

Welcome to the post policy presidency.  Trump has no idea what energy mix makes sense and he doesn’t care.  Just doesn’t like looking at turbines.  So lose the buggers, amirite!

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Apparently, Trump’s intervention appears to have worked, sort of:

Wigmore said that Trump “did suggest that we should campaign on it” and that the conversation “spurred us in and we will be going for it,” according to the New York Times.

Going for it, in this case, meaning that a party and a leadership roundly loathed in Scotland will argle bargle pwfft or something.  But gotta stroke the ferret-heedit shitgibbon, and talk is cheap.

The lagniappe, utterly unsurprisingly, is that the default position of the Trump crowd to any challenge is to lie:

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied to the New York Times that Trump discussed wind farms during his meeting with Farage. When the Times told Hicks that Wigmore gave an account of the wind farm discussion, Hicks did not respond with further comment, according to the Times.

With every passing day it becomes yet more clear that there is no way that Donald Trump can handle the presidency.  With each passing day his presidency draws closer.

WASF.

Image:  Paul Gauguin, The Queen’s Mill, Østervold Park1885.



Friday’s Breaking News is Now Irreparably Broken

Michael Isikoff* has committed an act of actual journalism:

Exclusive: FBI still does not have warrant to review new Abedin emails linked to Clinton probe

When FBI Director James Comey wrote his bombshell letter to Congress on Friday about newly discovered emails that were potentially “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, agents had not yet been able to review any of the material, because the bureau had not yet gotten a search warrant to read them, three government officials who have been briefed on the probe told Yahoo News.

At the time Comey wrote the letter, “he had no idea what was in the content of the emails,” one of the officials said, referring to recently discovered emails that were found on the laptop of disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Weiner is under investigation for allegedly sending illicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl.

As of Saturday night, the FBI had still not gotten approval from the Justice Department for a warrant that would allow agency officials to read any of the newly discovered Abedin emails, and are therefore still in the dark about whether they include any classified material that the bureau has not already seen.

“We do not have a warrant,” a senior law enforcement official said. “Discussions are under way [between the FBI and the Justice Department] as to the best way to move forward.”

Oooopsie!

* Also, NY Times, if someone else reports something out before you, you’re supposed to give them credit…



There’s Never Just One…

This, via TPM:

A 41-year-old lawyer has accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of groping her in 1999 when she was a young foundation fellow in Washington, D.C., National Law Journal reported Thursday.

The lawyer, Moira Smith, said that Thomas repeatedly touched her rear multiple times as he pleaded for her to sit next to him at a dinner party hosted by the head of her scholarship program. The alleged incident occurred, Smith said, when just the two of them were alone near the table she was setting for the party.

corisca_and_the_satyr_by_artemisia_gentileschi

It’s been clear since her testimony (at least to me) that Anita Hill was a truthful and courageous witness to Clarence Thomas’s craptastitude, and hence his unfitness to be a Supreme Court justice.  There were rumors at the time that there were more women, with more stories.  But they never testified.  So Thomas survived on the “he-said; she-said; who knows?” defense.

But if there’s anything the intervening decades have taught us, it’s that powerful men who use their positions to impose their sexual demands on women don’t stop at just one.  See, of course, Mr. Donald Trump.

And now this.  Thomas is blanket denying, of course:

“This claim is preposterous and it never happened,” Thomas said in a statement to National Law Journal.

That’ll keep him securely in place, until and unless the next woman comes forward, and the next, and the next…

My bet?

Well, there’s never just one.  But keeping Thomas in his seat is so important to so many of the worst people in the country that I would be utterly unsurprised if (a) Moira Smith gets hit by a world of hurt and (b) anyone else who might have knowledge of any misdeeds by Trump receiving that message loud and clear.

We’ll see.

Image: Artemisia Gentileschi, Corisca and the Satyr, betw. 1630 and 1635.



Early Morning Open Thread: Bad Houseguests & Generally Shifty Fellas

It’s natural human decency to offer the spare room to a bare acquaintance escaping (he tells you) a dangerous stalker, but after months of bearing with his deficiencies as a house guest — not to mention the extremely noisy and often unsavory ‘friends’ he invites over without so much as a by-your-leave — one might grow tired of the disruptions…

There were other rumors, but Buzzfeed has a good report debunking the most lurid.

The kerfuffle gave the social-media snarkers a happy interlude, though…


Read more



A Prediction for the SCOTUS and the next GOP trifecta

Let’s assume that Hillary Clinton appoints at least one new net liberal to the Supreme Court during her term in office. In that scenario, the minimal composition would be five center left jurists, one idiosyncratic moderate conservative, one corporate conservative who has a fascination with “sovereign dignitude” and a pair of justices who think Lochner should be good law. The following scenario also works if any of the last four is replaced by another center left judge.

Let us assume that to get to that point it is fairly like that the Senate will go nuclear and abolish the filibuster as McCain indicated (and since walked back) that the Republicans consider a left of center Supreme Court majority to be fundamentally illegitimate even if it resulted from Democrats winning a lot of presidential elections in a generation or more.

Let us assume that at some point in the future there is a GOP trifecta. Let us also assume that a significant chunk of the future GOP’s base will be made up of people who strongly desire either an economically or culturally reactionary court.

With those assumptions, the following prediction is very easy to make.

When there is a GOP trifecta in Washington and a liberal leaning Supreme Court, the Supreme Court will see an increased number of justices equal to the difference between liberal and reactionary justices plus one.



A President Trump’s Foreign Policy Preview: For Sale, To the Highest Bidder

This is just a quick pointer to the essential read of the day.  If Kurt Eichenwald’s brutal, beautiful story on the Trump Organization’s seemingly limitless overseas conflicts of interest with US policy doesn’t become the dominant campaign story for the day and much longer, then, again, we’ll know who and what our media are.

One of the best minor pleasures of this deeply important piece is the way Eichenwald brutally dismisses the false equivalence crap that so many in the press promise us doesn’t exist.  A sample:

The Trump Organization is not like the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the charitable enterprise that has been the subject of intense scrutiny about possible conflicts for the Democratic presidential nominee. There are allegations that Hillary Clinton bestowed benefits on contributors to the foundation in some sort of “pay to play” scandal when she was secretary of state, but that makes no sense because there was no “pay.” Money contributed to the foundation was publicly disclosed and went to charitable efforts, such as fighting neglected tropical diseases that infect as many as a billion people. The financials audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global independent accounting company, and the foundation’s tax filings show that about 90 percent of the money it raised went to its charitable programs. (Trump surrogates have falsely claimed that it was only 10 percent and that the rest was used as a Clinton “slush fund.”) No member of the Clinton family received any cash from the foundation, nor did it finance any political campaigns. In fact, like the Clintons, almost the entire board of directors works for free.

On the other hand, the Trump family rakes in untold millions of dollars from the Trump Organization every year.

A_Peasant_Girl_buying_an_Indulgence

Much of that comes from deals with international financiers and developers, many of whom have been tied to controversial and even illegal activities. None of Trump’s overseas contractual business relationships examined by Newsweek were revealed in his campaign’s financial filings with the Federal Election Commission, nor was the amount paid to him by his foreign partners.

That should (but probably won’t) leave a mark in a certain building on 8th Ave between 40th and 41st st.

One more sample, just to get a sense of how utterly at odds with US national interest a Trump presidency would be:

With Middle Eastern business partners and American allies turning on him, Trump lashed out. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal—the billionaire who aided Trump during his corporate bankruptcies in the 1990s by purchasing his yacht, which provided him with desperately needed cash—sent out a tweet amid the outcry in Dubai, calling the Republican candidate a “disgrace.” (Alwaleed is a prodigious tweeter and Twitter’s second largest shareholder.) Trump responded with an attack on the prince—a member of the ruling Saudi royal family—with a childish tweet, saying, “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected. #Trump2016.”

Once again, Trump’s personal and financial interests are in conflict with critical national security issues for the United States. During the Bush administration, Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital, and Washington reached a bilateral agreement to improve international standards for nuclear nonproliferation. Cooperation is particularly important for the United States because Iran—whose potential development of nuclear weapons has been a significant security issue, leading to an international agreement designed to place controls on its nuclear energy efforts—is one of the UAE’s largest trading partners, and Dubai has been a transit point for sensitive technology bound for Iran.

Given Trump’s name-calling when faced with a critical tweet from a member of the royal family in Saudi Arabia, an important ally, how would he react as president if his company’s business in the UAE collapsed? Would his decisions in the White House be based on what is best for America or on what would keep the cash from Dubai flowing to him and his family?

There’s tons more at the link — and yet Eichenwald says, correctly, that this article only scratches the surface. This is (truly) disqualifying stuff, folks. That it almost surely won’t drive Trump from the race is an indictment of him, his party, and a political process, shaped in part by a flawed media culture.  That just leaves us as a last line of defense.

You know, voters.

The common clay…

[Had to leave that hanging curve out for the Balloon Juice Jackals, right?]

Seriously. Eichenwald has done really important work here.  Go read what he’s found, then get it out to everyone you can.

Image: Marius Granet, A Peasant Girl Buying an Indulgence 1825