Month: March 2017

A Month in Trump’s America

Contrary to what some thought—and perhaps more hoped—the Trump administration has not imploded. The transition of power is complete, and Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States for at least four years. The month can be checked off the calendar in relief or satisfaction, but its importance in history should be reflected upon no matter the emotion one feels. Trump undeniably committed himself to swift executions of some of his staple campaign promises (the ones he did not backpedal out of as president-elect); a portion of the public unsurprisingly offered repudiation and protest in wake of these measures. From the Women’s Marches around the world that just happened to coincide with the inauguration to Shia LaBeouf’s “He Will Not Divide Us” mantra to the Berkeley fiasco to sad(!)der tweets about fake news, the first thirty days contained adequate entertainment and horror and shock and joy all at the same time.

First, Trump’s approval ratings are of particular interest. Being one of the most unpopular presidential candidates of all time does not produce healthy expectations for approval in office. In accordance with this understanding, Trump’s ratings are underwhelming. Forty percent of Americans approve of Donald Trump and his policies at this juncture, down five points from when he became Commander-in-Chief. What are the concrete reasons that these numbers are so low (historically so for both this point in the presidency and in any point of presidencies)? Mostly they come from Trump continuing to be Trump.

The most controversial aspect of the new administration thus far has been the executive order implementing a travel ban on seven Middle Eastern, predominantly Muslim nations. The order also put a halt to the acceptance of all refugees for 120 days while outlawing acceptance of Syrian refugees indefinitely. Despite being an improvement on his campaign promise of a Muslim ban, the order was impugned for its constitutionality among other flaws (an overlooked one being that other Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, that were not included in the ban happen to have business ties with Trump). A Seattle judge put a temporary ban on the order, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld this ruling. Trump took to twitter to proclaim his intent of taking these court-dwelling judges to court. Trump has since conceded pursuing further litigation to challenge his ruling, but the hold on the ban came too late for hundreds of heartbroken refugees.

While that controversy has received a successful conclusion (those against the executive order have defeated it, those for it await a revised version), the true impact of Trump’s White House on the country is not yet set in stone. Numerous secretary picks alarmed citizens and politicians of any affiliation (namely Betsy DeVos—the now Secretary of Education who had one of the worst confirmation hearings in history, has not more than a couple of hours of presence within any public school, has defended the need for guns in schools as a contingency against “grizzlies,” and has admitted to partaking in the corrupt process of machine politics willingly and happily—and Scott Pruitt—the now head of the Environmental Protection Agency who has sued the EPA over a dozen of times, openly committed to being an advocate against the EPA, and denied the overwhelming consensus among scientists that climate change is real and heavily affected by humans). The “Drain the Swamp” president has ironically constructed the wealthiest cabinet ever. He has also punished Kellyanne Conway, his former campaign manager who does…something in the White House other than illegally provide free promotion for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line following Nordstrom’s removal of the brand from their stores, with essentially a talking to.

Another concern of many is the odious expenditures required for Melania Trump to maintain her residence in her golden penthouse; the number is projected to be about $182 million if she and Barron Trump remain there for the entire year. She is also shaping up to be a far more reserved First Lady than those before her, not yet endeavoring to achieve anything (perhaps she should take more beats from Michelle Obama in a fashion similar to her rather inspired speech during the Republican National Convention). Furthermore, multiple, yet anonymous, sources from within the White House depict an administration in shambles—confusion and contradiction reign supreme while Mike Pence is alleged to be the glue keeping it all together. A more recent development that contributes to the mounting concerns of the Trump administration’s condition is National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s resignation; he had been in contact with his Russian counterpart prior to inauguration, violating laws and raising eyebrows. He lied about the event and was forced to resign, but the situation brings to the forefront the suspicion of an administration overly tied to Russia. Trump is claimed to have extensive dealings with Russia (that would be revealed through his tax records), and the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was a chairman of Exxon while the corporation collaborated with a Russian oil company. Vladimir Putin ultimately awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship, Russia’s highest award for foreign citizens.

Then there is that beautiful press conference on February 16. It was Donald J. Trump alone in a verbal wrestling match with the media for over an hour. It was in this atmosphere that Trump continued to exaggerate claims about his electoral college win (it was one of the more smaller margins) and inauguration attendance (far less than Obama’s, no matter how many times Kellyanne Conway thinks of falsehoods as “alternative facts”). He continued to admonish the media as fake news (employing probably the greatest quote of the century: “the news is fake because so much of the news is fake news,”) while positing that “Russia is a ruse.” He both commended and condemned Mike Flynn’s actions, expressed his desire for friendly reporters, brushed off a Jewish reporter’s concern over anti-Semitism, and presumed that a black reporter would be able to plan a meeting involving African-American congressional representatives because all black people must know each other.

Despite all the negative of Trump’s first month in office—which, while not falsely reported on, is overwhelmingly the focus of news media—there are some points of positivity and comfort. He carried out his campaign promise of withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership. He has chosen a relatively sane Supreme Court nominee. He signed an executive order freezing the hiring of government employees in certain areas in order to reduce taxpayer expenses (although this is criticized for actually lowering the efficiency of federal agencies, thus requiring greater expenses to hire contractors). He has demonstrated an effort to combat terrorism (the first operation he approved, however, was unacceptably risky and resulted in the death of a Seal and an eight-year-old American girl among a dozen alleged terrorists). But perhaps the most incredible testament to the anomaly that was the Trump candidacy and will be the Trump presidency is his commitment to his people. I mean not the American people in this context if only for the rejection of Trump by a majority of those people, but the diehard Trump supporters who truly believe in his message of making America great again. On January 18, Donald Trump held a political rally. Some jokingly say it was the first campaign stop of the 2020 election cycle, but Trump said neutrally, “life is a campaign.” He surrounded himself for a time with not insults from Democrats and fellow Republicans, animosity by the opposition, obligations of the oval office, or the dishonest media but the praise and applause of adoring citizens emboldened and encouraged by what Trump stands for to them. It would not be surprising to see more retreats by the President into these crowds who will hear his words and take them with rejuvenated hope and patriotism, gifting courage and boldness right back to him. Surely this empowered Trump will be willing to take on greater, riskier, and more controversial tasks. So, the first month may be over, but a long four years still wait. Here’s to knowing it will be tiringly eventful.

By: Ryan Hill

Dismantle the Electoral College

Although the election of Donald Trump is not the sole reason to doubt the abilities of the antiquated electoral system of the United States, it has greatly re-energized intense scrutiny of the College. Rightly, regardless of their motivations, many have concluded that the epitome of democracy and freedom should not abide by a system capable of muffling the will of the majority of its people. In remembrance of the radical ideals conceived and adopted by the fathers of our nation, to preserve and augment the core virtues that distinguish and empower, the nation should endeavor to see this Electoral College laid to rest.

The Electoral College was created by the Founding Fathers and codified in the Constitution, yet this fact alone does not inhibit fault in the system. The same quill that gave ink to the College determined anyone of dark complexion forty percent lesser. Furthermore, alterations to the Constitution were pioneered by the Founders themselves with the Bill of Rights. Archaically, amend means to “put right.” The Thirteenth put right slavery. The Nineteenth put right suffrage. The Twenty-eighth can put right elections.

The Founders implemented the College in order to prevent the concentrated peoples in cities from overpowering rural Americans. There were clear divides of interests between the urban American and the rural American, the Northern American and the Southern American. In an effort to balance these interests, the College was devised. As America aged, this decision seemed eerily astute. The Southern and Northern sections of “these” United States of America, catered to by sectional parties, harbored two disparate cultures and societies. The emerging urban culture of the industrialized city in the North conflicted with the westward extension of slave-based agriculture. To compensate, neither could overshadow the other in the College (although a clear horizontal divide was imminent each election). Not until Lincoln’s election in 1860, name absent from all Southern ballots, did the flaws of the College become apparent.

Today, there is no profound gash afflicting the United States of America. Farms and factories can be found in all states—service occupations, the principal job in the U.S., dominate the humblest towns and the greatest cities. No issue like slavery pervades; no polarizing force persists. If this noble facet of the College, the checking of politically parted regions, has become obsolete, should the system itself not become obsolete as well? In pursuit of inalienable freedom and in recognition of a more homogeneous America, should our presidential election not become one person, one vote?  

A far more compelling piece of evidence to support the dismantling of the Electoral College is the intrinsic unfairness of proportioning populations to votes. Essentially, some voters in America have a more weighted vote, meaning that they influence the election more. For an individual in a sprawling city in a large state, the sheer scale of the population reduces the impact of their vote. An individual in a rural hamlet in a state with low population density holds a greater vote share than the city dweller, thus affecting the election more so. The College’s compensation is to minimize the small state’s whole impact in the election while maximizing larger states’ impact. In other words, it aims to fix an unjust disparity with another unjust disparity. Every individual in a state should have a distinct say. No disparity would exist between voters, causing no disparity between states.

Further accentuating the mounting reasons to rectify the undemocratic method of electing America has endured is the understanding that voters in swing states have infinitely more power than those in cemented states. In essential swing states like Florida and Ohio, an individual voter is not silenced by a preset inclination in the state electorate. Indeed, the swing state voters are catered to by candidates and contribute more to the election simply because their state is volatile. In concrete states like California and Texas, dissenting votes are worthless. The intense political leaning of the majority of voters creates a futile atmosphere around voting against the current. What’s more, candidates are not imbued with determination to campaign in these states. The amalgamation of individual votes into the electoral system disproportionately affects the weight of a singular vote—in extreme cases, it silences them permanently.

Finally, some will argue that the Electoral College adequately and effectively maintains its original purpose today in protecting localized interests. They say that the College preserves one’s ability to vote for what is compatible with their walk of life rather than another across the Plains. Besides the aforementioned counters to this argument, one crucial clarification must be made. The Senate was instituted to pursue the interests of the state. The House of Representatives was conceived to pursue the interests of the districts within the state. They appease localized demands and wishes. The president upholds and extends and manifests and preserves and consolidates and augments national interests and demands and wishes and virtues. The president should not be elected by an anachronistic system that compensated for a long forgotten fault in America. The People—unweighted, unsilenced—should enjoy the liberty of selecting their leader in a true, just, and democratic fashion. One American, one vote.

By: Ryan Hill

Death Penalty Divided: For

The death penalty is reserved for capital punishments. These crimes include: murder, treason, and more. The “Worst of the worst.” However, despite the wide belief of it being too inhumane or costly to even be considered, there is a large portion of the public that supports it. While there are many reasons to disapprove of this punishment, there are too many positive effects to justify disbanding it completely. Instead, play it scenario by scenario. The things that should be taken into consideration while arguing for the death penalty are simple and few: closure for the victim’s family, and disapproval for the crime, and (surprisingly) a humane sentence.

While it is true that everyone processes grief with varying degrees of difference, it reassures many to know the perpetrator will be unable to repeat the crime. Kermit Alexander, a victim of multiple family member massacre, testified for this. Not only did Tiqueon Cox (the murderer) massacre his mother, sister, and two nephews, but he also attempted to escape prison as violently as possible. Escaping with as much bloodshed as possible. This easily shows how immoral and unstoppable killers can truly be. Of course, others may find that letting a man-slaughterer live is worth the risk of innocent family members. The simple thought that they might prevent the same pain weighing down another person brings the victim’s family much relief. That agony should never be felt.

Additionally, while some families may believe such a punishment brings them down lower, they are ultimately the ones most affected. The death penalty also gives more impact to the crime itself. As stated previously, a form of capital crime is rape with bodily harm. While vague, this should be punished more severely. In today’s society, many women and men are being raped daily. Many victims sustain physical damage as well as emotional. Many rapists, despite the horrendous crime, often go under-punished, if disciplined at all. By enforcing the death penalty for this crime, rape would plummet. This kind of punishment deters even the thought of such a repulsive act.

Treason is another capital crime that results in the Death Penalty, albeit a more deadly one.When someone sells or gives secret information to others it can have severe consequences. Enemy countries (such as North Korea) and terrorist organizations (for example, Isis) would do about anything to get their hands on this information, putting American citizens into harm’s way. Getting rid of the death sentence would create less of a threat for those who may wish harm against America.

Many reasons against the punishment are often from those that are uninformed or contain information from studies that are out of date. These oppositions range greatly, from morality to racial bias. Though most (if not all) of these claims can easily be counteracted.

In the case of racism, the case simply needs to be more understood. There are more cases in which the murderer of a white victim is more likely to be put on Death warrant. However, more white males are also the ones more likely to be put to death. If one does enough research they’ll find that murders will target another person of the same race over one with a different race. Of course such a statement is generalized and not applicable to every situation. Because people tend to kill their own race, both killers of white males (typically white male offenders) are the ones more often penalized.

Humanity and morality is also a widely protested subject as well. Some say “They don’t have morals, why should we?” Others protest “Killing killers won’t bring back victims”. Though, once put into life in prison without parole, what happens behind the bars? According to Kenneth E. Hartman, a prisoner serving life in prison without parole, it was “the quieter, less troublesome death penalty,” She explains that many people go crazy, as most prisons carry the sentence out in maximum security cells. According to her experiences, they don’t get programs the other criminals get. There was no point in wasting extra money on, as written, a “dead men walking.”  So, is it any more humane to subject a prisoner to a meaningless, hopeless life? Kenneth even says himself, “I have often wondered if that 15 or 20 minutes of terror found to be cruel and unusual wouldn’t be a better option.” He himself is now fighting to rid the punishment he was sentenced with altogether. If one was worried about being humane, this is not an alternative to the death sentence.

Overall, there is no reason why the death penalty should be overlooked and overruled completely. Instead, modify it. Change it. Alter it. Use the penalty to properly and effectively punish (as it was intended). Use it to discipline the ‘worst of the worst.’ Those that kill and betray, those that seem to have no morals or care for the life of others. There is no reason for America to destroy something that can be used to benefit the country. The death penalty does not just kill killers; it kills the risk of another victim being harmed by the same hands. It makes America just a little safer. In the end, that is what this country needs. For this generation, and the next.

By: Mylena Ferman

To view the opposing article, click here.

Sources below:

“Capital Offense | Nolo’s Free Dictionary of Law Terms and Legal Definitions.” Nolo.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2017. <http://www.nolo.com/dictionary/capital-offense-term.html>.  

“Crimes Punishable By Death.” Crime Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2017. <http://www.crimemuseum.org/crime-library/crimes-punishable-by-death/>.

“Is Life in Prison without Parole a Better Option Than the Death Penalty? – Death Penalty – ProCon.org.” ProConorg Headlines. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2017. <http://deathpenalty.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=001017>.

“Top 10 Pros and Cons – Death Penalty – ProCon.org.” ProConorg Headlines. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2017. <http://deathpenalty.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=002000>.

Urbina, Ian. “New Execution Method Is Used in Ohio.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 08 Dec. 2009. Web. 22 Jan. 2017. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/09/us/09ohio.html>.