At least six Afghan children, including a baby, have died after an inflatable boat carrying refugees sank in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey, Turkish media have said. The Turkish coastguard recovered the bodies of the drowned children and were still looking for two other refugees reported missing, the official Anadolu news agency said…
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By Mac Regan
Democracy is at risk when we fail to fulfill basic citizenship responsibilities.
Consider the evidence.
Approximately 40% of eligible voters didn’t vote in the 2016 President Election. Even fewer voted in the last round of Congressional elections.
Only immigrants receive formal citizenship training and are required to pass a test that the majority of our citizens would fail.
The vast majority of citizens don’t communicate with their Congressional representatives. Most cannot even name their representative.
Engaged and informed citizens are a necessary condition for effective democracy.
It’s time for a Bill of Responsibilities to re-establish the requirements of citizenship. During his first 100 days, Trump should form a non-partisan panel of citizens (who would be compensated for their work) to develop a citizen Bill of Responsibilities before the end of 2017.
This panel should, at a minimum, provide four sets of recommendations to the President, Congress, and all citizens, that:
- Require eligible voters to vote in presidential and congressional elections. Other countries do this. We should too.
- Develop common voter rules that will simplify voter registration and voting, provide adequate anti-fraud protections, and unify disparate state by state approaches
- Identify primary and secondary school curricula additions that ensure all high school graduates understand citizen responsibilities, engage early on in policy debates, and develop the critical thinking skills to make informed voting choices.
- Provide a system of rewards and penalties to encourage citizens to fulfill their responsibilities. Citizenship should be earned. This type of citizen-driven project has immense importance. It can be a foundation for increased public trust in the Trump administration (perhaps turning protesters into focused reformers) and serve notice to Congress that “we the people” demand a more representative, inclusive, and accountable democracy. Congressional representatives would oppose these recommendations at their own peril.
However, in a representative democracy, citizens are only half of the equation.
Elected representatives also need to do their jobs.
Congressional approval levels are at their lowest levels in memory.
Most agree it’s time to “drain the swamp.” Trump must demand these game changing reforms:
Get special interest money out of elections and re-elections. In the first 100 days, form a non-partisan citizen task force to develop options to eliminate campaign contributions from businesses, unions, super PACs or any other organization while limiting contributions by individuals. Canada puts strict limits on campaign contributions while providing generous public funding for candidates. We can do the same.
Reduce partisan gerrymandering. Establish state-by-state non-partisan reviews of voting districts and restore fair representation and competitive congressional elections
Redefine the mission of political parties. Parties need to stand for something other than winning elections at any cost. They will better serve our democracy if they develop and articulate realistic, affordable and clearly differentiated platforms.
Establish congressional term limits. Ensure congressional accountability. Establish national goals with two-way citizen input. Enact a congressional compensation system to attract talented representatives. Provide market-based compensation to reduce the incentive to take outside money.
A Historic Opportunity
President Trump has had a rocky start.
However, as someone who has bucked convention throughout his campaign, he is in a unique position to reform a system that is badly out of step with the needs of its citizens.
Empowering citizen-driven, non-partisan reviews of the responsibilities of citizens and elected representatives will be the most viewed reality television of our time.
These debates and ensuing reforms are necessary to the successful evolution of America’s system of constitutional values, democracy and capitalism.
There is much at stake. This is Trump’s (and America’s) opportunity.
Mac Regan is the author of Global Citizen Patriots.
Cover Photo Credit: Tim Evanson/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)Post Views: 789
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Sometimes it can be pretty dangerous to look around in the parts of Twitter that don’t like the sunshine.
You know what I’m talking about: the hordes of the mentally undead who troll around and live in an alternative universe where facts don’t matter and the search for truth is futile.
But a few weeks ago, I found a Tweet chain that really does a good job in summing up why Donald Trump has become the presumptive Republican nominee for President.
Here it is in all its nutty glory:
Nothing pisses me off more on Twitter than people saying Snopes do your own research form your own conclusions Snopes is 2 liberal people
— ✯Trump 45th POTUS✯ (@realTrump4POTUS) April 24, 2016
@realTrump4POTUS Snopes is agenda driven. Of course, they are going to run interference for the communists.
— Who is John Galt? (@Dagny_Galt) April 24, 2016
@realTrump4POTUS Its so easy to find knowledge. I just think most people dont want to search.
— A&O (@LancastrianRed) April 24, 2016
Ah yes @LancastrianRed, it is so easy to find knowledge nowadays. And luckily, I do like to search for it, unlike you.
It turns out that many in the right-wing nut-o-sphere have been bashing Snopes for years, claiming that it is little more than a left-wing blog.
But this is not at all the truth. Snopes is run by two of the most non-partisan people you can find.
Founded in 1995 by Barbara and David Mikkelson, Snopes fact checks things that circulate around the Internet to help the general public decipher between fact and fiction. The website preforms a very important duty and has a sterling record according to many outside fact checkers.
One of those outside fact checkers, the properly named FactCheck.org looked into Snopes in 2009 to see whether it all added up. At the time, many conservatives were making claims that Snopes was a liberal tool.
But FactCheck could not find any evidence of liberal bias.
In fact, the Mikkelsons were found to be two of the most politically balanced people out there. David is a former Republican turned independent, while Barbara is a Canadian who can’t vote in US elections.
There is just no truth to the idea that Snopes has a political agenda. The only agenda it truly has is to inform their readers and to fight to discover the truth. That is called journalism and is the only thing that keeps our society from devolving into a PR run puffery state.
Of course, there is little hope that people that deny Snopes will be able to believe this fact check either.
That is why people like Donald Trump are able to rise: large swaths of America live in their own fact bubbles. And that is a serious problem that this election will surely not fix.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.Post Views: 758
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By Kyle Jones
This past Monday, the Parliament of Catalonia approved a resolution formally calling for the creation of a Catalonian state independent from Spain.
Separatist MPs representing the Together for Yes (JPS) coalition and the anti-austerity Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), used their majority to pass legislation pledging a “disconnection from the Spanish state” in favor of the “beginning of the process toward the creation of an independent Catalan state in the form of a republic” as reported by the Guardian.
The measure passed in the parliament by a vote of 72-63. The measure calls for the creation of a framework for the formal independence of Catalonia by the year 2017.
On Wednesday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy harshly criticized the separatist movement saying that the measure was an attack on Spanish Sovereignty and Democracy.
“We’re talking about the defense of an entire country,” Rajoy said. “They are trying to liquidate the unity of a nation with more than five centuries of history.”
The Spanish Government has called upon the Constitutional Court to suspend the separatist resolution while the measure is being studied, and has warned Catalonian leadership not to take any further steps towards secession according to the Associated Press.
The resolution passed by the Catalonian Parliament on Monday exempts regional officials from having to obey the Constitutional Court or other Spanish institutions. The measure also authorizes MPs to begin drafting a Catalan constitution as well as creating tax-collecting and social security systems within the region.
According to Spanish law; however, Catalan leadership who disregard a possible court order against the resolution could face charges of disobedience, punishable by removal from office for up to two years and heavy fines.
The issue of Catalan independence is hardly new. The modern Catalan Separatist movement was formed following the repression of Catalan culture and language during the regime of General Francisco Franco.
Catalonia enjoys the greatest level of self-governance that it has enjoyed since backing the Bourbon dynasty came to power three centuries ago, according to John Hopkins University.
Catalonia is one of the wealthiest regions in Spain, representing nearly a fifth of Spain’s economic output. Initial polls show that the majority of Catalan’s support a referendum on independence, but are divided on the viability of an independent Catalan state.
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