Future Proofing The Presidency

did this man not being prosecuted lead us to where we are today?

The Boston Globe has dropped its paywall to allow readers to read their very important series “Future Proofing The Presidency.” In this series the Editorial Board of the Globe examines the major flaws and weaknesses in the constitution and in our laws that allowed Donald Trump to get away with the massive corruption of his presidency.  

While it won’t be easy, this must be done or the next Trump won’t be able to be stopped. The corruption of the Trump presidency must, must be a midterm issue. We don’t have a lot of time to fix this broken system, especially with the new and corrupt voter suppression laws that have passed in so many states.

The Editorial Board starts off with a very powerful overview and then works its way into the specifics of the massive corruption:

Before the day Donald Trump moved into the White House in 2017, Americans had never had to contend with a president in such deep financial trouble — and with such determination to conceal his true finances from the public. Trump’s business empire — the one he espoused during the campaign as an example of his purported financial acumen — was nothing more than a hollow gold-plated shell. While he was dumping money into his hotels, his golf courses, and his real estate deals, they were netting him almost nothing but significant losses year after year. By the time he was running for reelection, Trump was over $400 million in debt, most of which would have been due during his second term should he have won in 2020.

And yet for nearly four years, there was effectively nothing whatsoever the public could do about it. As was the case for so many of the countless outrageous abuses of his presidency, the former president largely got away with serving a full term in which he bargained with foreign leaders, signed tax legislation, and named financial regulators, without ever coming clean about his own personal debts and the conflicts of interest and opportunities for corruption they created. While there are supposed to be laws and limits on the presidency, Trump was unrestrained, exposing just how toothless those safeguards have become and just how urgently the nation needs to reform the office of the presidency itself.

Presidents in a democratic system of government are not meant to be able to extract personal profits from government service — or hand out pardons to imprisoned buddies, pervert justice, or foment an insurrection. That’s the promise of democracy: that it will be superior to these authoritarian tendencies of tyrants and kings. When these laws and norms are violated, they should be backed up by severe consequences if that democracy is to maintain its integrity. But right now, as it stands after Trump’s four years in office, American presidents can, in fact, commit all those abuses — and suffer little more than losing their Twitter account.

Trump may not have destroyed the American presidency, but he did put the institution on a perilous path. Because while Trump himself has been sitting in Mar-a-Lago brooding over his loss to Joe Biden, all the weaknesses in our legal and constitutional system that he exploited remain, waiting for a future presidential miscreant to take advantage of them — maybe even for Trump himself, if he is reelected in 2024. That’s why Congress and the current president must act fast and impose more durable legal guardrails on the commander in chief. By passing stronger anti-corruption laws, strengthening existing norms and creating new ones, and deterring future presidents from abusing their power by making an example of Trump and holding him accountable, the country can protect itself against future — and potentially far more devastating — presidential corruption and misconduct. The nation can, and must, prevent the rise of an American tyrant.

From there the Board goes on to dissect Trump’s presidency for the corruption that was often right out in the open. From financial dealings to nepotism to a whole Administration dedicated to hiding the evidence to the rewards & punishments Trumps still doles out. 

The series concludes with arguments for the prosecution of the former president:

So now there is only one way left to restore deterrence and convey to future presidents that the rule of law applies to them. The Justice Department must abandon two centuries of tradition by indicting and prosecuting Donald Trump for his conduct in office.

That’s not a recommendation made lightly. The longstanding reluctance to prosecute former leaders is based on legitimate concerns about the justice system being used to settle political scores. But filing charges against former leaders is not a radical step, either: Foreign democracies, including South Korea, Italy, and France, routinely manage to prosecute crooked former leaders without starting down a slippery slope to authoritarianism. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France was recently found guilty of bribery, a decade after his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was convicted of corruption. France’s democracy and its image around the world remain intact.

If you have about 40 minutes, this is an excellent review of the Trump corruption and what may be in store for the country if this aberrance is not health with. I have long maintained that Gerald Ford’s refusal to prosecute Richard Nixon for his corruption led directly to the corruption of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and most certainly Trump. If the problem is not dealt with it will fester and grow.

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Health Care About To Take A Beating

Wednesday United Health Care, the big behemoth in the health insurance industry, announce that it is cracking down on emergency room visits beginning on July 1st in 34 states. This includes Iowa.  From an article in USA Today:   

UnitedHealthcare this month told its network hospitals in 34 states  that it will assess emergency room claims to determine if visits were indeed medical emergencies.

Claims that are determined not to be tied to emergencies will be subject to no coverage or limited coverage based on the patient’s insurance plan, according to the insurer’s notice sent to hospitals. As many as 1 in 10 claims could be rejected, said Tracey Lempner, spokeswoman for the Minnesota-based insurer.

Claims that are determined not to be tied to emergencies will be subject to no coverage or limited coverage based on the patient’s insurance plan, according to the insurer’s notice sent to hospitals. As many as 1 in 10 claims could be rejected, said Tracey Lempner, spokeswoman for the Minnesota-based insurer.

Claims that are determined not to be tied to emergencies will be subject to no coverage or limited coverage based on the patient’s insurance plan, according to the insurer’s notice sent to hospitals. As many as 1 in 10 claims could be rejected, said Tracey Lempner, spokeswoman for the Minnesota-based insurer.

This news was immediately condemned by American Hospital Association CEO Richard Pollack:

“Patients are not medical experts and should not be expected to self-diagnose during what they believe is a medical emergency,” Pollack said in his letter. “Threatening patients with a financial penalty for making the wrong decision could have a chilling effect on seeking emergency care.

Once again, consumers are about to take it on the chin. When it has been determined by you or your family that you need emergency care, the last thing on your mind is coverage. That is what you pay those expensive premiums for. Now UHC is throwing that concern into the mix.

But wait there is more. The ACA, commonly known as Obamacare is in it 11th year. This month the SCOTUS will be deciding on a case that will essentially determine whether Obamacare will still be considered constitutional:  

“With just three weeks left until the Supreme Court’s self-imposed deadline of June 30 for rulings in its current term, there remain dozens of cases that it must resolve, including a judgement on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

The case, California v. Texas, hinges on an argument made by Republican governors and attorneys general, and supported by the Trump administration, that after the successful GOP effort in 2017 to eliminate individual penalties for not maintaining health insurance, the entire law must be struck down.”

With the stolen SCOTUS seat where Neil Gorsuch sits plus the addition of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett the prognosis for Obamacare is not good. Dismantling Obamacare and the overturning of Roe v. Wade has been the focus of Republican court appointment policy.

They may get to celebrate soon, but millions will be left without health care. This is an incredible cruel policy, but they do not care. Health insurance rates will most likely jump big time with fewer insured people causing millions of unpaid hospital bills to force hospitals to charge much more to those who can pay.

Can the Congress step in and fix Obamacare so it meets SCOTUS objections or create a true national health care system? Very unlikely when the filibuster rule will still be the rule of the senate, thus making any law in this area subject to a 60 vote super-majority. 

This is a hell of a time to put the squeeze on health insurance. The pandemic is far from over. We continue to see hospitalizations rise in counties where vaccination rates are low. If people don’t want to protect themselves with a free vaccination, they’d better be prepared to pay.

Why can other countries create and implement national health care systems that take the worry out of being sick? In the US the political system is currently designed to favor a minority that can stop important legislation through a so called ‘filibuster.’ This allows a minority of 41 senators to block pretty much anything in a 100 seat senate chamber. Currently Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema have become the guardians of the antiquated filibuster system that allows a small minority to block the will of the people.

Most other democracies throughout the world are parliamentary systems. In a Parliament a party is elected to a majority in order to implement their party agenda. While in some cases the majority party may have to form a coalition with a minor party, the objective of the majority party is to pass and implement their agenda. 

There are no minority blocking of highly desired legislation. There is often little need to bend the agenda in search for the elusive “bipartisanship.” Think about that when you lose you health insurance or you get stuck with a giant unexpected bill or your insurance rates skyrocket.

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Al Franken’s Perfect Mitch Impression

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Iowa Republicans Ban Teaching Concepts No One Is Teaching

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The Biden Administration’s Agricultural Policies

Photo credit: Iowa Capital Dispatch

by Ralph Scharnau

Published with permission

About 20% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas. Much of the rural land is arable and asset-rich, feeding and fueling the rest of the country. Rural places also provide opportunities for outdoor recreational activities.

The nation’s unique natural heritage received landmark status when Congress approved the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) in 1970. The act provides a broad national framework for preserving our landscapes. When the federal government seeks to undertake projects that modify natural surroundings, it must inform the public and permit commentary.

The provisions of NEPA were immediately addressed following the January 20, 2021 inauguration of President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. The Biden-Harris administration officially opened a new era. Our natural environment had been repeatedly assaulted by the previous administration that gutted project public review and climate impacts and cut funding for oversight agencies. Biden moved quickly to restore environmental protections and rebuild America’s reputation as a global leader on nature preservation.

The Biden administration aims to make U.S. farming greener as part of a plan to curb planet-heating carbon emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Practices like cover cropping and rotational grazing protect the soil from erosion. Along with increased efficiency and conservation measures and more energy renewable use, the ground, air, and water become more sustainable and less subject to pollution.

Expanding the above noted programs will require farmer support and significantly increased funding. Some farmers are concerned about the added costs and logistical challenges. Besides, greener farming equipment can be prohibitively expensive. The Biden administration hopes to offset these costs with incentives and paying for them by increased taxes on giant corporations

Critics of Biden’s farming initiatives say that he needs to provide a place at the negotiating table for small diversified vegetable farmers, regenerative ranchers, and organic crop growers. Thus far he, like his predecessors, only consult with the typical Farmers and Ranchers Roundtable that primarily represents large commodity producers.

The National Farmers Union and other progressive agencies advocate policies shifting away from monoculture commodity crops and toward more small, diversified farms that minimize inputs, raise animals on pasture, and sell food directly to their communities. All of this means reducing emissions and building soil that can hold carbon while increasing biodiversity.

Farm policy also has racial dimensions. After the Civil War, rural Black communities spread across the South and West, cultivating a variety of crops. By 1920 there were nearly a million Black farmers, with about a quarter of them landowners.

Jim Crow laws drove Black land-owning farmers to the brink of extinction. White backlash set in, and the Ku Klux Klan used fire bombs and armed intimidation to force Black farmers from their homes. Scores fled to cities in the North and West, where they established Black towns. These Black enclaves became flourishing centers of work, trade, commerce, and culture with operations ranging from banks to gift emporiums, and from law offices to blacksmith shops. Yet, even today Blacks and other people of color continue to face private and public instances of systemic racism.

There is a political divide on farm policies Republicans would spend less and cite the spectre of a radical/leftist/socialist philosophy while Democrats note the dangers posed by climate change and the necessity to take action to mitigate the devastating consequences of increasingly powerful and destructive weather events.

Natural areas provide food and clean air and water, providing a buffer against the worst impacts of climate change like severe drought and heavy rain.

Ralph Scharnau
June 3, 2021

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Howard Dean And Michael Steele Agree Republicans Don’t Care About Democracy

Former DNC chair Howard Dean and former RNC chair Michael Steele

Real talk about the Republican party. Watch the full video below from The Beat with Ari Melber.

Highlights:

Howard Dean: “We are watching something that we haven’t seen for a long time in this country but it happens in many democracies and it’s the weak point of democracies – when one side figures out how to use democracy to undermine democracy. So what these folks are doing is essentially what Hitler did, it’s what Victor Orban did in Hungary;  it’s what Kaczynski  is doing in Poland. Democracy dies because you no longer care about democracy. The Republicans have no commitment to democracy at this point – there are very few that do – Adam Kinzinger is standing up and Liz Cheney stood up for what is right but most of them are running around subservient to someone who never cared about democracy and that is Donald Trump. So this next few years is going to determine whether the United States survives as the cradle of democracy.

Michael Steele: “What do you think comes next? Where do we go from here? If you won’t shut up Trump saying he’s going to be reinstated in August.. kicking out Liz Cheney… What do you think comes next? This is a set up for something and we need to be prepared for whatever that something is. ”

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What A Week From Progress Iowa

Check out What a Week! by Progress Iowa

Happy Pride Month! This year, Pride is especially important as the LGBTQ community has had to face the wrath of Iowa Republicans and their attempted legislation. LGBTQ Iowans deserve to feel accepted in their own state.

Click here to listen to this week’s episode of What A Week produced by Progress Iowa and part of the Potluck Media Network.

Pride Month began on Tuesday to recognize the rights of the LGBTQ community and the resilience and strength it took to have these rights recognized. In honor of Pride Month, several Iowa organizations released an Iowa LGBTQ Media Guide to provide accurate information and encourage appropriate representation of the LGBTQ community.

Stimulus checks have been proven to significantly reduce hardships, according to the Census Bureau. The two most recent checks aligned with food shortages falling by 42 percent and anxiety and depression even falling by more than 20 percent. This is significant as all of the Representatives and Senators from Iowa, except for Rep. Cindy Axne, voted against the most recent check.

The Tulsa Race Massacre occurred 100 years ago, when the wealthiest Black community in the US was burned to the ground and many Black Americans were murdered. This tragedy shows the reality we live in, with systematic racism being especially prevalent, as this massacre has been hidden from history.

Efforts to expand vaccination rates are underway as many sports teams and companies are offering free tickets, drinks, and more to vaccinated individuals. President Biden also announced this week that if the U.S. reached the goal of 70% of adults being vaccinated by July 4, Anheuser-Busch will give a free drink to all individuals over 21-years-old.

Gov. Reynolds disappointed Iowans once again as she refused to create incentives, such as a lottery, to increase vaccination rates. This refusal to take action against COVID-19 has become a strong pattern in the Reynolds administration.

Stay tuned for more next week, and if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the What A Week podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you listen.

To celebrate Pride Month, we would greatly appreciate if you could support great organizations in Iowa including One Iowa and Iowa Safe Schools.

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Reynolds Continues Stink-o Leadership

About all that Kim Reynolds has done during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis in Iowa has been to grab opportunities to advance her name while actually doing little in the way of helping Iowans crawl out from under the weight of the pandemic.

Her early decisions to force Iowa meat packing plants to remain open with little mitigation of conditions that were helping to spread the disease helped put Iowa in the upper echelon of deaths per population in the US. Her slow response to deaths in old age homes also contributed to that sad statistic.

She has used funds from the federal government meant to be spent to battle the virus instead to pay staff and upgrade an IT system. This was later pointed out by State Auditor Rob Sand to be an illegal use of the funds. The state had to return the money.

As reported by TV station KTIV:  

DES MOINES, Iowa (KTIV) – Gov. Kim Reynolds has directed the Department of Management to return $21 million to Iowa’s Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Back in October, Iowa’s auditor warned that the governor’s decision to spend $21 million in federal pandemic relief funds on a new executive branch software system would not be allowed and should be abandoned.

State Auditor Rob Sand said that using the federal money to pay for Workday was an inappropriate use under the law. In a letter sent to the director of the Iowa Department of Management, Sand advised that the millions of dollars used for the system was not allowed under CARES Act expenditure requirements.

Fast forward to today and we find the Governor once again being cited by the State Auditor for questionable use of state funds. In this case Reynolds has been cited by Rob Sand for using state funds to promote herself. From the Iowa Capitol Dispatch:  

The governor’s “Step Up, Stop The Spread” media campaign, which was announced in November 2020, was part of an effort to encourage Iowans to do their part in slowing the spread of the virus.

According to Sand’s report, Reynolds spent more than $500,000 in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. Specifically, money from the act’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Enhancing Detection supplement were used for the campaign, with $152,585 of the total spent on television, radio and internet advertisements.

In questioning the legality of that expenditure, Sand cited a state law that says statewide elected officials “shall not permit the expenditure of public moneys under the control of the statewide elected official for the purpose of any paid advertisement or promotion bearing the written name, likeness, or voice of the statewide elected official.”

The law goes on to say that any official who willfully violates the statute “shall be subject to a civil penalty of an amount up to the amount of moneys used to fund the communication,” with the penalty paid by the official’s political candidate’s committee.

To go along with that the state of Iowa is falling far short of goals set by the governor for percent of population vaccinated. This should be of little surprise considering that Reynolds has spent much of the past year pretending the corona virus was not a big deal. Now when she wants to feather her cap with gaudy vaccination numbers, many Iowans still think that the virus is not serious or is a hoax. You reap what you sow, Governor.

At a time when leadership and ideas are desperately needed, Reynolds refuses to adapt any programs that have shown to be successful in other states. As pointed out by startinglineiowa:  

With vaccination rates stalling and demand plummeting in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds told reporters yesterday she doesn’t plan to offer incentives for getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

That means no lottery, no giveaways, no cash payments.

Reynolds said pop-up clinics at sporting events and the Des Moines farmer’s market are enough to catch those who haven’t yet taken advantage of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re still doing everything we can,” she said at an event yesterday. “We are working with every venue we can.”

Pop-up clinics at sporting events and Des Moines farmer’s markets? She just doesn’t get it does she? She is out of touch with Iowa, but in touch with the Trump wing of the Republican Party that could care less about you or your family or the concept of following laws. For Iowa’s sake she must be replaced as soon as possible.

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Sunday Funday: Remembering D-Day Edition

WW2 – D-Day. Invasion of Normandy [Real Footage in Colour] (4.5 minutes)

There is not much I can say to add to the solemnity of this day. Most of the brave soldiers that stormed Omaha Beach that day have passed on. All they left us was a legacy of democracy and the end of the worst monster who ever walked the world stage. For that we thank you very much. Let us all strive to be worthy of that legacy.

Yes we will include some D-Day and WW2 questions today.

A)  The Us Army Corp of Engineers proposed building a 6 mile, 20 foot high, $6 billion seawall within 5 years to protect what coastal city?

B) Here we go again. Every presidential year states start changing first primary or caucus dates to precede Iowa or Vermont. Which state has already taken that step for 2024?

C) Everybody else versus the Prime Minister. In Israel, all opposition parties formed a coalition in order to remove what long standing Prime Minister?

D) In a surprise turnabout, what country has updated its two child policy (that was once a one child policy) to a 3 child policy?

E) President Biden commemorated war dead at Arlington National Cemetery. To whom did the land for Arlington Cemetery once belong?

F) How many troops from the Allies (US, Britain & Canada) invaded Europe on June 6, 1944?

G) Facebook has suspended Donald Trump until 2023 for what reason?

H) In a special election in New Mexico to replace Interior Secretary Deb Haaland the Democrat won by 25%. What reason was given for Republicans not showing up?

I) Democrats in the Texas House walked out of a late session in order to stop the passage of what bill by the Texas House?

J) What Iowa based company is offering a $10 gift card to those who get a corona virus vaccine?

K) To deflect a full force defense by the Nazis on D-Day, the Allies created a fake invasion plan that was headed up by what highly feared American General?

L) What meat packing giant with plants in Iowa was shut down after ransomware attacks on the company?

M) A study by The Washington Post showed what major warehousing company had injury rates far above industry norms?

N) What blogger abandoned his blog less than a month into the effort?

O) How soon after the D-Day invasion did the War end in Europe?

P) The President and First Lady celebrated the First Lady’s birthday with a bike ride in Delaware. How old is the First Lady?

Q) Vice President Kamala Harris was tasked by the President to lead the Administraion’s effort on what critical issue?

R) What city was the focus of media last Monday as commemorations of a century old massacre of black citizens took place?

S) The FDA recommends NOT eating cicadas if you are allergic to what other type of food?

T) Where is the National D-Day Memorial?

The largest meatpacker in the world was shut down by an attack from a Russian group of cyber hackers.

So, turns out it wasn’t Biden coming for conservatives’ burgers – it was Putin. – Wallis Weaver

Answers:

A) Miami Florida. Climate Change, folks

B) Nevada has moved up its primary date before all other contests

C) Bibi Netanyahu

D) China

E) Confederate General Robert E. Lee. 

F) 153,000 (73,000 Americans)

G) Because he is a public risk

H) Stories of election irregularities made them believe their votes wouldn’t be counted

I) Voter suppression bills

J) Hy-Vee

K) George Patton

L) JBS

M) Amazon

N) Donald Trump

O) less than a year (May 8, 1945)

P) just turned 70

Q) Voting Rights

R) Tulsa Oklahoma

S) Seafood

T) Bedford, Virginia. The spot was selected because this community suffered the highest losses on D-Day in proportion to its populace.

As bad as attacking the Capitol was, pretending it didn’t happen, and doing nothing about it, that’s far worse. – Jeremy Newberger

A reminder that Obamacare is on the Supreme Court cases to be decided this month:

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Reminder: Scott County – Three More Days To Sign Petition To Elect Auditor

This is a reminder that residents of Scott County have until 4:30 PM on Tuesday to sign petitions to force a special election to replace the retiring Roxanna Moritz as Scott County Auditor.  

From an email from the Johnson County Democrats:

Action alert from Johnson County Dems

## Republican Cronyism in Scott County, and How To Stop It

Our friends in Scott County need our help.

An elected Democrat has held the office of Scott County Auditor for many decades. (I’m not exaggerating – this has been true since at least 1977.) After the current Democratic auditor Roxanna Moritz announced that she would resign her office earlier this year, it was clear that a Democrat would be elected to take her place.

Enter the Scott County Board of Supervisors, which is currently 3R – 2D. They convened to decide on how Moritz’s seat would be filled. Can you guess what they decided to do?

From Laura Belin’s report in Bleeding Heartland:

Scott County’s three Republican supervisors voted on May 25 to appoint Kerri Tompkins as the county’s new auditor, having considered no other candidates for the position, and giving members of the public no opportunity to comment.

…The three Republicans on the five-member board did not solicit applications for the vacancy or interview candidates. Rather, they decided to appoint Tompkins in a backroom deal, possibly violating Iowa’s open records law in the process.

They’re trying to shove one of their friends into the seat because they know they can’t win a special election. We know what Republicans do when they control voting systems: they disenfranchise as many Democrats as they can, and they implement every single barrier to voting that their handlers at the Heritage Foundation tell them to set up.

Scott County is the third-largest county in the state in terms of population; it’s no mystery why Republicans want one of their cronies to be handling elections over there when Kim Reynolds is on the ballot again next year.

The only way that Scott County voters can force a special election is to gather over 10,000 signatures by petition quickly. The Scott County Democrats are in the middle of just such a petition drive right now, and they need all the help they can get to pull it off.

If you have friends, relatives, or Democratic-sympathetic connections in Scott County, please direct them to the general petition drive signup link here. 

Please spread the word about the effort on social media. If you’re in Scott County often (or just want to drive up to help out this weekend), please sign up and help them gather signatures!

One final note: our IDP Chair, Ross Wilburn, will be joining one of the petition signing events in Davenport this Sunday (June 6th). You can sign up for that event by clicking here.

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