Presidency Beyond Recognition in Comparison to its Founding Days…

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Giovanni LoPiccolo

President Trump “certainly believes he has the power” to fire special counsel Robert Mueller III, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during a press conference on April 10th, 2018 (reported by CNN). This is yet another one of the Trump’s Administration’s methods in trying to undermine the legitimacy and importance of Robert Mueller, and his investigation into money-laundering and possible Trump-Russia collusion during the 2016 election. It is no alternative fact that President’s can fire special counsels, as they can do so by ordering the Attorney General to (in this case, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation – smart move, Jeff).

If the President of the United States fires an investigator who is investigating the possibility of money laundering, collusion, bribery, or even treason, that is a big signal. Obviously, he is trying to hide something from being revealed. Right now, Donald Trump is just ever so closely inching towards doing just that. He has continuously barraged the Justice Department on Twitter, and has berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions on numerous occasions.

He is obstructing justice without blatantly crossing the line. We now have an executive branch with the ability to stop investigations of itself, an executive branch that can go to war without an approving Congressional declaration, and a White House that can undermine justice and simultaneously hide within the drapes of executive privilege.

Can the Presidency be controlled? Or is the nation barreling towards an authoritarian government where its elected body of representatives can’t keep up with their original constitutional duties of checks and balances? This current moment in American history will be remembered and referred to as a crossroads of its destiny. Will we allow such a demagogue undermine our republic, our democratic values, and our justice system?

I believe that with the Presidency of Donald Trump, we need more regulations on who can run for President. If we can’t change the Constitution via amendments, then we can turn to our states to legislate and craft specific requirements on how you can get on the national ballot and earn that state’s electoral votes. Of course, these are just suggestions, they are opinions.

1. First, whoever is running for President and Vice President should release his or her tax returns. Maryland was the first state to require this, by passing a law in early March 2018 that requires Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates to show their tax returns. Donald Trump hasn’t paid taxes in about 18 years, yet he complains some companies (Amazon) don’t pay enough in taxes, and passed a corporate tax cut… he finessed all of you who bought into that scheme.

2. Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates must take a mental health exam from three different, independent, doctors (not your personal physician), and be deemed stable and sane to be on the ballot. Remember when Donald Trump claimed that a woman like Hillary Clinton would be too emotional to be President? That’s pretty interesting because almost everyday I get a CNN alert about something stupid Trump says or does, complaining about something or someone.

3. Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates must have held political office for at least four years to be on the national ballot. Teenagers need tens of hours of driving practice to get their drivers licenses. Most careers today require you have a high school diploma. Why is it that to hold the highest office in the United States, all you need is to be 35, a naturalized citizen, and have to have lived 14 years in the country?

One of the biggest battles between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in 2016 was who had more experience? Both have been in government for decades, yet did different things. They were both qualified in their own right, yet here we have a TV reality star billionaire representing the 99%. Just doesn’t make sense. So, spend some time in lower levels of government, get your hands dirty, work with the people. Get a taste of what its like to lead, and we’ll see if you’re ready to move up in the chain.

4. Give Congress back its power of war/peace-making, and when to use nuclear weapons. Recently, Bernie Sanders introduced a bill called the War Powers Resolution to rein in the Presidency, and get out of the war in Yemen. It didn’t pass. The fear of letting Congress decide when to go to war is that there’s too many people to make a swift and quick decision. It would take more than an hour to get 535 members on Capitol Hill, not enough time to respond to an incoming nuclear warhead.

One solution could give that power of nuclear bomb usage and war-making to the Armed Services Committee of the Senate. The Senate Armed Services Committee has fourteen members, composed of senators from both political parties. Within the fourteen member committee are seven subcommittees, smaller groups tasked with more specific agendas; such as the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Subcommittee on Personnel, and Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. One potential subcommittee could be the Subcommittee of Nuclear Action/Response, whose sole responsibility is when, where, and how to use nuclear weapons.

 

 

We should be aware by now that the Electoral College, which was a system to prevent the election of demagogues, has failed. We should be aware by now that the US has gotten itself into a myriad of crises and military conflicts that are lasting years, because of Presidents’ choices. We should be aware by now that if a man with significant wealth, and a talent in appealing to your anger/frustration, can become the world’s most powerful leader. A man that can wipe his own, dirtied, slate clean…

 

 

Sources:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-president-tax-returns-20180305-story.html
https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/10/politics/robert-mueller-donald-trump-white-house/index.html
You can read more about the Senate Committees here:
https://www.senate.gov/general/committee_membership/committee_memberships_SSAS.htm

 

 

 

 

 

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2nd Amendment – “Relic of the 18th Century…” – Says Retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens. Repeal It.

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Giovanni LoPiccolo

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired from the nation’s highest court in 2010, recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, which was published on March 27th, calling for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment. This is perhaps the most controversial topic in America, and even more interesting to note that former Justice Stevens is a lifelong Republican.

The year is 1789, and the Constitution of the United States replaces the Articles of Confederation. The closely knit alliance of states had now become a true nation with a proper central government; a single military, headed by a President, led by a two-housed Congress, and kept in check by a Supreme Court. Just a few years prior, from 1786 to 1787, farmers were able to hold the state of Massachusetts hostage; dubbed Shays Rebellion.

Prior to the implementation of the Constitution, the United States had no unitary armed forces. Each state had their own militias, as allowed by the very weak and state-centered Articles of Confederation. Farmers who turned into protestors didn’t want the state to enforce the collection of taxes and took matters into their own hands. This was just one of the last straws for the constitutional framers, who have come to realization that the current system wasn’t working.

Then comes the Constitution, and with it, the Bill of Rights. The second, being the right to bear arms. This comes just years after the American Revolution. The fear of England’s vengeance lingered in the mind of every American… being once again oppressed by a non-democratic, totalitarian, authoritarian figure. That was over two hundred years ago, and that fear has been dead for a long time.

Guns can be used for hunting. Guns can be used to defend your property. But in no world should citizens have guns meant to maim and kill human beings. That is something we must address, as for just mentioning the repeal of the 2nd Amendment would cause a disastrous infighting in the United States, between conservatives and liberals. We are not at risk of being oppressed or having every single right taken away by the federal government. We are not at risk of being ruled by a totalitarian dictator. We are not at risk of losing our right to vote. And our states are not at risk of losing their already self-delegated autonomy.

The United States Congress isn’t coming after you, or after your right to vote, your right to protest peacefully, your right to freedom of religion, or your right of freedom of the press, etc. (That does not mean that there aren’t any flaws with our current system). The federal government is too busy giving us what we need to survive and thrive; running water, electricity, roads, hospitals for the sick, housing for the homeless, schools for our children, and so on. We all pay taxes, together, to use that money for all of our benefit. And before the Constitution, it was different, very different.

Political scholar Joseph Zimmerman wrote a book called Contemporary American Federalism, and details in its chapter 2 – Establishment of the Federal System, “…Congress was handicapped in carrying out its responsibilities by five major defects in the articles [Articles of Confederation] that made Congress largely an advisory body. First, Congress lacked the power to levy taxes and was dependent for revenue on funds supplied to the treasury by the states…

A federal government without any real power could not even collect taxes to ensure the establishment of necessities, so could you imagine if we were still in that system? We can’t remain engaged in a system built out of fear of what could happen. We need a system that is built on what the people need. We, the people, need protection from homicidal people’s ability to obtaining an assault rifle. We, the people, need to live in a country where we aren’t afraid to send our kids to school because of the possibility of a mass shooting. We don’t need guns to protect ourselves from the federal government, we aren’t their enemy. We put our leaders into office, and we hold them accountable. This obsession with guns must come to an end.

So, what direction do we go in now? Could the 2nd Amendment be repealed? Well, the way to repeal an amendment is to implement another constitutional amendment overriding it. The way to get a constitutional amendment is for two-thirds of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the Senate to pass it. Then, three-fourths of the states have to affirm it. So, instead of going to the comments sections of every social media platform and attacking one another on this issue, we get our leaders to start it up. If we really want to make change, let’s get our representatives in Congress to vote on such a resolution. If it somehow gets through Congress, each state should hold a referendum on whether to affirm or reject the proposal. That way, we can truly determine if this is what America wants and needs.

 

 

Sources:
https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/27/politics/john-paul-stevens-second-amendment/index.html
Zimmerman, Joseph Francis, 1928 – Contemporary American Federalism : the growth of national power / Joseph F. Zimmerman

 

 

Catalan ex-President Puigdemont’s detention in Germany is answered by mass protests in Barcelona

Carles Puigdemont was detained by German police yesterday while crossing from Denmark on his way back to Belgium. On Friday the Spanish government reactivated an international arrest warrant for Puigdemont. Spain sent a request to the Finnish authorities to detain Puigdemont, who was on a visit to promote the Catalan independence cause. However, the request was written in Spanish and there was a delay while authorities in Madrid had it translated into English. In the meantime, Puigdemont left the country.

The Catalan ex-President had been living near Brussles in self-imposed exile after a Spanish judge had issued a national arrest warrant. Puigdemont is wanted on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds after being highly involved in the October referendum which vies for the quest for Catalan independence from Spain.

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Puigdemont spent the night in a prison in the north German town of Neumünster and will appear before a German judge on Monday. His court appearance, however, will be a formality to confirm his identity. German judges will have to assess if there is an equivalent to the Spanish charges in German law, which is known as “dual criminality”. The extradition procedure lasts about two months. If it formally begins, then a judge will decide whether Puigdemont will be kept in custody. The charges he faces in Spain could result in up to 30 years in prison.

After the news of his detention, protests broke out across Catalonia on Sunday. At least 98 people were injured in clashes with police and six arrests were made. In central Barcelona, protesters chanted “Freedom for the political prisoners” and “This Europe is shameful!” as they headed to the offices of the European Commission and the German consulate.Spanish news agency Efe estimated crowds of 55,000 in the centre of the city. Smaller demonstrations were held in Girona, where Puigdemont once served as mayor, Tarragona and Lleida. Some protesters also formed road blocks in various locations.

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Fire in Russian shopping center over 60 people

At least 64 people have died in a fire which started in a shopping and entertainment complex in the Siberian city of Kemerovo. Many of the victims are children, as school holidays had just started, while ten people are still listed as “missing”. The building’s shops, cinema and bowling alley were packed at the time of the incident. Videos posted on social media showed people jumping from windows to escape the flames.

It is still unknown what started the fire, but authorities have already launched an investigation. “According to preliminary information, the roof collapsed in two cinemas,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement. Four people have been detained for questioning, including the head of the company that manages the shopping centre, according to the Investigative Committee. The owner of the Winter Cherry complex is among those being held.

 

 

 

Italy: Impossible to Govern?

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Giovanni LoPiccolo

Holding a national election on March 4th, the Republic of Italy still does not have a government. Currently being led by Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of the Democratic Party, the election failed to yield any party to reach the 40% threshold necessary to form a government. This is the same land that once was home to a Republic and Empire which stood for 500 plus years, so what’s happening?

Since the end of World War II, Italy has had over sixty governments. That’s just not healthy. No government has had the time to properly settle and let its programs take effect, and give substantial results. The closest to that happening was actually from the currently leading party; Partito Democratico, Democratic Party, which its programs have been helping the economy recover slowly.

The biggest parties in Italy are the following:

  • 5 Stelle – Five Star Movement: Populist party with no allegiances to a specific side of the political spectrum, second place in March 4th election. Led by Luigi Di Maio. (Mainly compose of left-wing/progressive candidates and politicians).
  • Lega Nord – Northern League (or the League as its been called recently): Right wing party led by Matteo Salvini, and garnered the most votes of any party in the March 4th election, roughly 37%.
  • Forza Italia – Go Italy: Center-right wing party led by former Prime Minister, and tax fraud convict, Silvio Berlusconi.
  • Partito Democratico (PD)- Democratic Party: Once led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, a center-left party (they resemble corporate/establishment Democrats here in the US).

This election was one filled with pure anger at the establishment system in Italy, both at Berlusconi’s party and the PD. Over the past few years, due to European Union mandates, Italy has seen an enormous influx of migrants from Northern Africa, and it has become the most contentious issue. Mix that with poverty and unemployment in the southern regions of the country, resentment towards unproductive politicians, and decades of political stalemate, it gives us an equally displeasing result.

5 Star doesn’t want to make a coalition government with other parties to form a government, nor does PD. Berlusconi has a coalition with the League, but it isn’t enough to have a majority. So, if the Italians want a functioning government, 5 Star would have to make a coalition with either the League or PD. Now, the League has had its instances of racism, so the populist 5 Star shouldn’t really make a deal with them. The PD claims that the 5 Star is not suitable to lead, yet they are so close to governing. It’s a big mess, and makes one wonder how could they fix this.

This is possibly one of the biggest downsides to a multi-party system government. You have too many bickering ideologies and people who think they are right and their method is what will lead to a prosperous government. As we’ve seen in Germany, it took Chancellor Angela Merkel six months to form a coalition to begin governing. Yes, in the US, our two parties are corrupt and shut out a lot of differing voices, but at least we have a government that can easily be replaced if it isn’t working out well (every four years).

If the Italian parties can’t form a coalition, one of the last solutions is to call for another election. That would most likely split the vote even more and cause people not to vote out of sheer anger with the system. What can be done?

Italy is known for corruption, sadly enough, and many of the politicians who are corrupt blame the problems on the EU. That includes Brussels (the EU capital) and Germany (since Germany has the strongest economy in Europe and basically is its de facto leader in the bloc). But, maybe, the EU should be making more decisions for Italy. The European Union leadership is not flawless in any regard, they need to look at each member state differently and place regulations and mandates according to their current situation. Perhaps encourage neighboring nations to take in more refugees, instead of having Italy take on the most.

We suddenly run into the argument that “Well, Italy is a sovereign nation and shouldn’t give up its sovereignty.” Yes, it shouldn’t. However, let’s not forget that for the past sixty years that country has not shown any significant progress, is drowning in debt (132% of its GDP, according to Eurostat), and is saddled with corruption. The idea of the European Union was to form a community based on progress through teamwork and enfranchising all nations of Europe, and that comes with a cost. Being a part of a community means looking out for one another, and that goes for a continental community as well.

 

We know that with every issue there isn’t just one reason to why it happened in the first place. Letting Europe make more decisions for Italy isn’t going to magically give it a functioning government. As mentioned above, the PD’s programs and policies have been leading to the economy growing, slowly but surely. The debt is still climbing, being the second most indebted country in Europe, after Greece.

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Multi-party systems are better for democracies, they give us more choices, but the proportional system currently being used in Italy isn’t working. Nobody is willing to work together because of their preconceived notions of one another (the PD and 5 Star). Like in the US, we’ve run into the issue of people thinking that this way is the only way. 5 Star will need the PD if it wants to create a better Italy, they’re the closest parties on the political spectrum. Like here in the US, our Democratic Party is broken into two wings, yet when standing together can do some pretty good things. Things like; passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010, preventing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, enacting the Dodd-Frank banking regulations after the Great Recession, and so forth. These are the small building blocks we need to make it even better. Single-payer and a progressive taxation system could come next, once Trump is gone.

The point is 5 Star is going to have to work with PD if it wants to begin laying groundwork for its agenda. The PD’s slow recovery programs and 5 Star’s progressive plans can yield good results for the Italian people. Patience is key. You don’t see Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren demanding the Democratic Party follow their every word, no, they still spread their messages of being progressive yet also work with the tools they have in front of them.

 

Sources:
Graph: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-43247500

 

 

 

Garbage pollution in Pacific Ocean becomes 3x larger than France

According to a three-year study published in Scientific Reports Friday, the patch known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is about 1.6 million square kilometers in size — up to 16 times bigger than previous estimates.

According to NOAA’s Marine Debris Program:

“The debris is continuously mixed by wind and wave action and widely dispersed both over huge surface areas and throughout the top portion of the water column. It is possible to sail through the “garbage patch” area and see very little or no debris on the water’s surface. It is also difficult to estimate the size of these “patches,” because the borders and content constantly change with ocean currents and winds. Regardless of the exact size, mass, and location of the “garbage patch,” manmade debris does not belong in our oceans and waterways and must be addressed.”

The massive pile of swirling trash, located between California and Hawaii, was found to have had the highest concentration of plastic ever recorded in one area.


Ghost nets, or discarded fishing nets, make up almost half the 80,000 metric tons of garbage floating at sea, and the researchers believe that around 20% of the total volume of trash is debris from the Japanese tsunami in 2011.

The study utilized two aircraft surveys and 30 vessels to cross the debris field, and the team was made up with international scientists, university’s and the Ocean Cleanup Project.


Along with nets to survey and collect trash, researchers also used two six-meter-wide devices to help measure medium to large-sized objects. An aircraft was also equipped with advanced sensors to be able to collect 3D scans of the ocean garbage. They ended up collecting a total of 1.2 million plastic samples and scanned more than 300 square kilometers of ocean surface.



The bulk of the pile is made up of larger objects while only 8% of the mass is microplastics, or pieces smaller than 5 millimeters in size.

“We were surprised by the amount of large plastic objects we encountered,” Chief Scientist Julia Reisser said in a statement.

“We used to think most of the debris consists of small fragments, but this new analysis shines a new light on the scope of the debris.


In the Fall of 2017, groups of environmentalists called on the United Nations to declare the Great Pacific Garbage Patch a country, called “The Trash Isles,” complete with its own passport and currency, called debris.

They reached out to nearly 200,000 people to become citizens, including celebrities Their first citizen to take the offer was former US vice president and environmentalist Al Gore.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was first discovered in 1997 by oceanographer Charles Moore when he sailed home to Southern California after finishing the Transpacific Yacht Race, from California to Hawaii.

“I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic,” wrote Moore about his discovery in Natural History.

“In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.”

Three dead in southern France terrorist attack

A man who took hostages at a supermarket in the French town of Trèbes has been shot by police after a standoff that lasted three hours. According to government sources, the suspect is now dead after also taking part in a couple other incidents today. In Carcassone, a town 15 minutes away from Trèbes, he is believed to have hijacked a car, killing one passenger and injuring the driver. He also shot and wounded a policeman who was jogging with colleagues in Carcassonne. The suspect is then believed to have driven to Trèbes, where he took hostages in the Super-U supermarket in the small town.

Reports say the gunman, believed to be Moroccan, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. He is said to have been heavily armed and demanding the release of Salah Abdeslam, the most important surviving suspect in the 13 November 2015 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people. It is also believed that the suspect was known to French intelligence services and that his mother is now at the scene.

A security source explained that most employees and customers at the supermarket had “managed to flee”. Hundreds of police officers have been deployed to the area and the vicinity has since been cordoned off. Counter-terrorism prosecutors are leading the investigation but few details have been provided.