Category Archives: Feature

What to Expect from Trump’s First Hundred Days as President

The first hundred days of Donald Trump’s America will soon be upon us.

Despite the breakout protests and outrage following Donald Trump’s surprise victory at the polls, most people still aren’t sure what to expect of his administration.

Will he fulfill his promise of making America great again, or will the next four years be a cartoonish nightmare?

Why the First Hundred Days Matter

The first hundred days of any president’s administration are critical. Trump may be a strong example, but the opening act of a presidential term sets the stage for the years to follow.

Trump has to choose his cabinet, and decide what policies to make priorities. Which of his campaign promises, if any, will make it to the Oval Office? For Trump, whose election platform offered few details on policy, but was rich with “personality,” the first hundred days will be a furtive glimpse into the future.

The start of the first term is also when most presidents have their highest levels of support, and therefore, the most potential to pass parts of their campaign agenda.

For those who don’t know, the precedent for the first hundred days was set by FDR during a radio broadcast in 1933, where he outlined a plan to pass the New Deal during the hundred-day session of the 73rd Congress. The phrase quickly changed meaning, and became a label for the first hundred days of FDR’s first term in office, and later, the first term for any new president.

Crash Course has a more detailed explanation of the New Deal and FDR’s early days in office. Take a look for a quick history refresher:

FDR’s first hundred days were productive ones. If Trump can be even half as effective as FDR was, it should be clear why liberal voters are worried.

President Trump: What We Know So Far

To recap, the first standard by which all United States Presidents are judged, established during one of the most difficult periods in American history by this guy:

FDR set the precedent for the first hundred days during his first term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

…is now about to be applied to this guy:

Nervous yet?

Trump was so vague about his policies during the campaign that he really could do just about anything. All we have to go on is his recent “Contract with the American Voter,” released in late October.

It’s hard to make any real predictions on this yet, but some news outlets have made a stab at it anyway. NPR copied the whole contract into an article last week, and the San Francisco Chronicle published a similar article a few days ago.

The thing about government is that it’s not easy to summarize. For those who really want to know what Trump will do, the best information is still straight from his website, but some highlights are included below:

The Supreme Court, Social Justice, and Minority Activism

There are number of issues, such as the rights of the LGBT community, that Trump’s contract doesn’t address.

There are other issues, such as the Supreme Court and Obama’s executive orders, that it addresses thoroughly.

Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court is still vacant, and three more justices are past or approaching 80 years old.  While liberal justices might decide to wait a little longer to retire, if they were to die in office, it’s likely they would be replaced by conservatives.

LGBT Americans are already concerned about what Trump’s administration will do, especially when he has a Republican Congress behind him, but if the Supreme Court becomes conservative, would it really be a stretch to see same-sex marriage get the axe?

What about America’s burgeoning police state, or movements like Black Lives Matter? How many Syrian refugees, if any, will be allowed into the country? Will President Trump get his wall, and if he does, what will happen to immigrants that are already here?

Conservatives may not always care for social issues, and they may even support the rollback of the last eight years of liberalism. Hopefully, they do not let ideology take precedent over disenfranchisement and human suffering.

Regardless of political affiliation, it would seem that for social issues, if the last eight years equaled two steps forward, the next four might equal a dozen steps back.

Term Limits

“Drain the Swamp” was a big rallying point for Trump’s campaign, aimed at reducing corruption in D.C. by limiting terms in Congress and curtailing the influence of lobbyists.

This is certainly a goal that most Americans can get behind. But it’s also hard to see Trump making much progress when his cabinet is a veritable rogue’s gallery of Washington insiders.

On paper, term limits curb corruption, since fresh people are always fed into office.

New blood could also help to pass more popular legislation. It’s easy to imagine government losing touch with people, since the average congressman is around 60, while the the median age in America is 36.

But term limits might be easier said than done. Even Trump knows that term limits would require a constitutional amendment, and members of Congress likely won’t support any bill that would force them out of a job.

If Trump somehow gets his amendment passed, it might create other problems. Members of Congress will cycle more frequently, but lobbyists wouldn’t be affected by term limits, creating a big shift in the balance of political power compared to what we have now.

But lobbyists wouldn’t be completely off the hook.

Restrictions on Foreign Lobbyists

It’s important to note that it’s already illegal for candidates in federal elections to take money from foreign donors, but not necessarily for foreign lobbyists to raise money on their behalf. Trump would eliminate this loophole.

White House officials would also be banned from lobbying for foreign governments, and would not be allowed to lobby in the United States for five years after leaving government.

The revolving door between the private sector and government is no secret. US officials with ties to foreign governments can (and should) make voters nervous, and this is still without mentioning that countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are some of the more generous contributors to the D.C. machine.

While it’s hard to pick any one reason for Hillary Clinton’s defeat, alleged ties to foreign governments were definitely a sticky point for her during the election.

Clinton may not have taken foreign money for her campaign, but she did accept it for the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state, despite President Obama’s wishes. Depending on how strictly Trump’s proposals would be enforced, gray areas like this might become more black and white.

Infrastructure and Energy

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave infrastructure in the United States a D+. The society suggests an investment of $3.6 trillion to fix this problem.

To address this, Trump has proposed the American Energy and Infrastructure Act. The act would rely on partnerships with the private sector to raise $1 trillion for infrastructure projects.

Trump has yet to specify how this proposal would work. What incentive will the private sector have to invest in public works projects? How will the government pay for their share? Where will the other $2.6 trillion needed to fix our infrastructure come from?

Will a Republican Congress really authorize funds for bridges, dams, and roads?

Maybe not. But they probably will support the Keystone pipeline and increased fossil fuel production, which Trump has also proposed.

This might help keep gas prices down, but it doesn’t bode well for the environment, or for the people who don’t want leaky pipelines in their backyard. Is the possibility of cheaper energy really worth flaming drinking water?

The Immediate Horizon is Cloudy, at Best

Trump, unlike most presidents, does not have a record of policy making and statesmanship behind him. He tends to act impulsively, and breaks with tradition often; he may not even live in the White House.

One hundred days does not a president make, one week after election day is not enough time to adequately predict the future of the entire country, and no pundit, liberal or conservative, was able to see any of this coming.

The reality of the situation is that we do not fully grasp the reality of the situation. If you’re a died-in-the-wool conservative, you probably won’t complain too much. If not, you probably won’t know what to make of anything for a while.

Until we do, we can only keep watching the news, and hope for the best.

 

Daniel Durand is a writer who like politics, but admits that it’s a lot less fun lately. He can be reached at ddurand.specialprojects@gmail.com.

Starbucks And Their Not So Festive Christmas Cup

Starbucks Christmas Cups Are Back

It’s time to wave goodbye to all the trick-or-treating and get ready for the holiday season, and what better way to get into a festive mood than by sipping a nice hot cup of Starbucks?

Last week, the coffee giant launched a new, limited-edition green cup–a design that the company said, “celebrates community”.

Starbucks green "community" cup

Apparently, not everyone wanted to join the celebration–in fact, the internet went on fire the moment coffee lovers were served their new, not-so-festive cups.

But there’s another twist! Just today, Starbucks released not one, but 13 new, red, and highly-decorated Christmas cups, complete with trees, snow, and reindeer!

The question is, if the real holiday cups were red all along, why release the green cups at all?

No Stranger To Creating A Stir

In a press release, Starbucks’ chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz, said that the cup was designed to represent the company’s connection to the community. At the time, many interpreted this as a reference to the unfolding presidential election.

The election is finally over, but it was certainly tough on Americans. Between Trump and Clinton, the insipid debates, and the constant media stream, it’s still setting in for most people that Trump actually won.

But, if the new cup really was a nod to the election insanity, was coffee really the best way to address that issue?

Consumer opinion seems divided. Many think that Starbucks has skipped their holiday duties for years, never quite able to get the cup looking festive enough. Remember the craziness when last year’s cup design launched?

The Man (and Purpose) Behind the Cups

Starbucks’ tradition of rolling out festive cups began in 1997. This year, Shogo Ota was commissioned to design the new green cup.

While some were angry that the cup was not seasonal enough, others were happy that the coffee chain tried to promote peace and unity.

But did anyone actually sit down and think, independently of a press release, that the green cup might just be a teaser, and that there was another cup on the way that would be bigger, bolder and more festive? It wasn’t long before images leaked of one of the new red cups, and Starbucks workers were shown holding a cup with holly leaves, probably in a bid to calm everyone down. Why all the fuss?

Despite the community theme, to me it looks like the green cup was connected to the presidential election. Thankfully, it didn’t show support for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, or urge coffee lovers to vote for either party. Can you imagine the fallout if that had been the case?

But I guess showing community spirit was not such a bad idea. What could be better to stop all the anger and bitterness during the election than a paper green coffee cup? Pardon the sarcasm, but world peace is not going to be created by printing calming, yet disposable cups to drink our much needed wake-up beverage from.

Also, about the festive red cup–it appears that once again, negative or positive, Starbucks has gained a whole lot of free media attention. Almost like they had that part planned all along…

War on Christmas, or Passing Drama?

Some believe Starbucks is swaying from Christmas displays because they’re afraid to offend those who don’t celebrate. They seem to display snowflakes, Santa, and other holiday symbols just fine, but people are bothered by the lack of ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Goodwill Tidings,’ etc.

The “War on Christmas” has been a punditry football for years. There are dozens of Daily Show bits skewering this, from Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah alike. Will the topic ever die, or will it keep coming back year after year, like some kind of holiday zombie?

So what does this say about Americans as a whole?

On the one hand, they complain about the cups not being festive enough, and have ridiculously high standards for what is and isn’t “Christmas-y”.

On the other hand, it’s just a cup. Surely, if someone is really so offended by the design, they could simply boycott Starbucks for a while. Instead, it seems that worldwide we are trapped into a complaining mode that never follows through with action.

Say you went to buy a cup of coffee and it tasted disgusting–would you return to drink the same Joe again? So, if you really, truly, are not happy with Starbucks’ attempts to tap into the festive season, and you wanted change, why not protest by simply bypassing Starbucks until they get the message?

Americans like to use the expression, “Vote with your dollar.” Well, vote!

One cannot help but feel that the message that is given to the super coffee giant is that if you are going to print out cups that we are not happy with, we will still continue to drink out of them, as we are addicted to your coffee, and despite not being happy with the packaging, we will return regardless, as the coffee is spot-on.

Boycott or Keep Sipping

 

Starbucks may seem to have gotten everything wrong in terms of pleasing the consumer, but it doesn’t seem to have negatively effected their sales.

In fact, by creating such a controversial cup each year, all they have done is promote their sales and make sure that they will be a topic of interest.

Hell knows what Starbucks has on the design board for next year’s promo. If consumers are going to complain about cups, but carry on drinking from them, perhaps next year we can look forward to blue cups, or pink cups.

I wonder if the marketing staff behind the scenes knew exactly how the world would react to this launch. Each time we complain about the cup, Starbucks receives free publicity. Each time we blog about the cup, they are taking the internet by storm!

Starbucks CEO, take note–perhaps it’s time to listen to the needs of Christian coffee drinkers, or you may lose them to one of your many coffee competitors! Perhaps it’s time to stand together and bypass the chain once and for all, to call for a full-blown Merry Christmas and Santa picture, to stand in the streets with our Christmas red banner held high!

Or we can just be quiet, and enjoy our decaf soy mocha frappe lattes.

Intelligentsia: Berned Out

by Daniel J. Durand

Now that the Democratic and Republican nominees for president have been officially picked, and the dust has settled from the conventions, I’ve had some time to sort out my thoughts about the 2016 presidential election—or as I like to call it, “Pepsi Presents: Democracy Smackdown Royale 2016.”

TMI, Politics Edition

I feel Berned out.

My Facebook friends are probably not going to be surprised by my saying I supported Bernie Sanders during his campaign—I shared news updates pretty frequently and jumped more than a few conversations, both online and in person.

But they might be surprised to hear me say that I’m done. I’m out. I’m taking my ball and going home. I’m riding off into the sunset, the dust of the trail behind me, the wind of freedom on my cheek.

At least, for now.

See, I’ve always been pretty big into politics. I studied politics in school, and absorbed every ounce of news and information I could find. A lot of my friends come to me when they have questions about what’s going on in the world, or why things are happening, and over the years that’s made me even more diligent in finding the best information I could to share with them.

But I think it’s time to unplug for a while, and I’ll give a few reasons why.

First, take a look at this video by YouTuber Veritasium; in it, he talks about the “distraction economy,” and how the amount of information available today and how we consume it is similar to how we consume calories in a world where food is easily accessible.

Information has value, so when we have access to all the information all the time, we can’t help but to consume as much as possible. Binge-watching Netflix, surfing Facebook all day, or catching up on YouTube videos are a lot like reaching for an extra donut—you know one will taste good and satisfy a craving, but if you eat too many, you’ll get fat.

It’s pretty likely I would have experienced this feeling no matter what, but the 2016 campaign has brought it to a head. If you Google phrases like “political burnout” or “election burnout,” you get a sea of articles about people becoming so sick of the media cycle and politics during election years, that they tune out altogether—and these articles go back years, covering multiple elections and political offices.

More Like “Bernie Busted,” Not “Bernie or Bust”

But why am I Berned out, as opposed to just being burned out?

Well, the short answer is Bernie didn’t make it to the Democratic nomination, and I’m disappointed.

The long answer is, there were a lot of reasons I supported Bernie Sanders as a candidate and not Hillary Clinton or Scrooge McDuck… er, sorry, Donald Trump. Those reasons remain even after the nominees were picked, and what Bernie represented still resonates even though I can’t “Feel the Bern” anymore.

If you had asked me a year ago how I thought the 2016 campaign would go, I would have said without a doubt that it would be Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush squaring off in the general election, and that Hillary would win because of shifting voter demographics pushing America further to the left.

I found out about Bernie Sanders when he entered the race for the Democratic nomination, and I was incredibly skeptical that he would make an impact at all. A socialist from Vermont with crazy hair did not register very highly on my radar.

Then I heard him speak.

For years, I’ve been a believer in strong labor unions, a higher minimum wage, socialized medicine and education, stricter controls on banks, and Wall Street reform.

I remembered the Occupy Wall Street movement. I remembered SOPA, CISPA, ACTA, PIPA, and the fight for net neutrality. I remembered Citizen’s United.

I still remember, just like I remember driving my car to work with NPR on the radio, hearing Bernie speak for the first time. Here was a man who not only fought against the same things I wanted to fight, but had been consistently fighting them decades before I was born.

So, I did my homework. I donated to his campaign. I attended the Democratic Caucus in Boise, Idaho, which turned out to be the largest caucus in United States history—and I can tell you right now, it sure as hell wasn’t because of the Hillary Clinton supporters.

But why, now, after Bernie has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton, and she has won the nomination, can I not also throw my support behind her, and vote for her in the general election?

Why does a baseball fan love baseball?

Is it because of tangible properties, like the shape of a baseball diamond, the size of the ball, and the material the bat is made from? What about the systems the game runs on, such as the rulebook, or the scoring system, or the positions and types of players? Perhaps it’s more about the feelings the game inspires, memories of summer days, the smell of sweat or the taste of stadium hotdogs?

Hank Green of CrashCourse gave a good explanation of the concept of identity, asking how many features you can take away from Batman—his cape, his money, his martial arts prowess—before he is no longer Batman.

Green explains the concept of fungibility, that objects are interchangeable with objects of the same kind. Some objects, like twenty-dollar bills, are fungible with each other, whereas a pet corgi is not fungible with any other pet corgi.

Getting back to baseball, how many aspects of the game can be changed before baseball fans no longer love it? For that matter, how many aspects of a presidential campaign can you change before it is no longer worth my vote?

Bernie Sanders would not have gotten my vote because he is Bernie Sanders—I think he’s a sweet guy, and he seems like a genuine human being who I would love to meet one day—but because of the platform he built his campaign around, and for his credibility in standing for that platform over the course of his career.

Hillary Clinton would never have gotten my vote, because her platform has changed too often over her career. For example, I cannot believe her when she says she supports increasing the minimum wage, because she did very little to support wage increases during her six years on Walmart’s board of directors, a company that is well known for pushing its workers to welfare rather than paying them a livable wage.

When it took Bernie Sanders withholding his endorsement to get Clinton to move to a more progressive stance on many issues, and when all that is holding her to those positions is her word, I am left wanting.

To take my values, the values that Bernie just so happened to represent, and then replace Bernie with Hillary, does not convince me that my values will be represented in the White House.

To suggest that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are fungible is a farce.

The Illusion of Choice

Years ago, George Carlin did a stand-up routine about elections, and the “illusion” of choice between candidates who really represent the same businesses, lobbyists, and moneyed interests. Carlin referred to these interests collectively as the owners of the country—I don’t know if I would personally go that far, but he made a good point.

“You and I are not in the big club,” Carlin said. And I do agree with him there.

I knew I wasn’t going to vote for Hillary Clinton the minute she announced her candidacy. Even before Bernie stepped in, I knew it was going to be a major moral dilemma figuring out how I would cast my vote, or even if I would vote at all.

In my mind, the Democratic Party more or less represented my ideals, at least better than the Republicans would ever dream of doing—and I certainly would not be voting Republican. Democrats weren’t perfect, but I figured at the worst America would just have four more years of stagnation, the President making speeches while the Supreme Court gave a few more rights away to corporations and Congress blocked any and all legislation to come its way.

But I couldn’t think of voting for Clinton, who, based on her donor ties alone, looks no different to me than any Republican except for the “D” on her party affiliation. That analysis remains unchanged.

Bernie gave me a choice, a real choice. Now that he’s officially out of the running, the best anyone can say to convince me to support Hillary Clinton is that she isn’t Uncle Pennybags… I mean, Donald Trump. Which is funny, because my friends who support Trump are mainly telling me it’s because he isn’t Hillary Clinton.

To those standing for either candidate, Trump or Clinton, I respect their right to choose and support whomever they wish—but I think Carlin says it best here, too.

If this election is really the best we can do, the problems of this country are probably a lot bigger than who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

We Now Return to Your Regularly Scheduled Deprogramming

The values I believe in have not changed.

A year ago, I decided I would vote for Mr. Potato Head. I would support his platform of delicious starchy goodness, and trust that his eyes would watch over America in a way most befitting of the Commander in Crisps—I am now more convinced than ever before that Candidate Head is the best candidate to win Pepsi Presents: Democracy Smackdown Royale 2016, and he will have my vote come November.

In the meantime, I’m going to do what Veritasium suggested, and start myself on a low-information diet. Instead of following politics so closely, I’m going to catch up on my reading, go for walks, draw more, and play more Pokémon.

I don’t really care who wins the election anymore—the secret that no one wants to tell you right now is that no matter who wins in November, no one is going to be happy. Neither Trump nor Clinton will keep all their promises if elected. Either of them would do things that are questionable, or even borderline illegal.

Even Obama, who talked of scaling back the Patriot Act and the drone program started under the Bush administration, has not only utilized those dark areas of his power, but expanded them and made them stronger than ever before.

So, I’m out. I wash my hands of this. I’m taking a vacation.

However, I do have a plan for when I’m rested and ready to come back for another bowl of media soup—a plan I think everyone, whether they supported Sanders, or Clinton, or Trump, should get on board with.

See, I wasn’t the only one with strongly-held values this election. Bernie talked about his movement nonstop during his campaign, and I’m going to follow up with that movement for as long as it exists.

When I read articles that suggest fracking companies are pleased as punch over Tim Kaine’s selection as Clinton’s VP, or that wage growth has slowed to a crawl while the rich insist they’re already paying their employees too much, it tells me that there is a lot more work to be done than just voting, whether you’re Berned out, like me, or if you’re with her, or if you want to make America great again.

Donate to worthy causes. Run for political office yourself, and campaign for good people in your local offices and at the state level. Start blogging and spreading your ideals, and engage the communities you live in. Hold those in power accountable, and be ready to remove those who stand in the way of progress.

Don’t just choose the lesser of two evils; fight for even the smallest of many goods.

 

Daniel Durand is a writer based in Boise, Idaho. He can be reached at ddurand.specialprojects@gmail.com