Tangents and Tirades
A Germophobe’s Worst Nightmare: Flu Season
by Joe Kulesza ’22
Dating back to ancient Mesopotamia, human civilizations have wrestled with great existential questions which are part of the human condition.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, in his novel Crime and Punishment, critiques the ideas of rationalism and utilitarianism through the main character, Raskolnikov, who struggles with an inner conflict fueled by his nihilistic view of the world.
And philosopher Soren Kierkegaard writes about constructing meaning in a seemingly meaningless and finite world through placing faith in things that transgress the material world.
Rivaling in salience to these topics of purpose, freedom, and mortality comes another set of great questions that relate not to the aforementioned subjects, but to flu season.
Every fall, not an existential crisis, but a sanitary crisis, takes hold of germaphobes, as the advent of flu season provokes the perennial fears of dirty door knobs, people coughing in public, and running low on hand sanitizer or Clorox wipes.
Being a germaphobe in college is an even more perilous endeavor, as several thousand students live in close proximity to one another.
The contrary to this fear of germs or uncovered coughs in public is the prospect that one’s immune system will prevail.
Common convention holds that not washing hands is doing the body a favor, as a lack of hand washing acts essentially as a vaccine does, bolstering immunity against pathogens.
This is a tempting philosophy, but is one that should be avoided. Immunity from exposure to germs does in fact act similarly to a vaccine, but like a vaccine, exposing oneself to germs is only exposure to specific types and variants of germs.
Like all living organisms, germs evolve, and can do so rather quickly. With this said, the germs that someone is exposed to one day can differ from other variants they could encounter the next.
Additionally, while exposure to germs is similar to a vaccine, it is not a vaccine itself, as germs in vaccines have been altered to promote a certain immune response. The germs on a door knob have not.
While asking people to entirely convert to germaphobes is an unrealistic demand, it is in everyone’s best interest to be one for at least a few months, and now is not a bad time to start.
Manchin and Sinema: Disrupting the Democratic Agenda
by Gabriel Capella ’25
When Joe Biden won his bid for the presidency in November of 2020 and the Democratic Party retained control of the House of Representatives, Democrats still had one more obstacle preventing them from full control of Washington: the highly competitive Senate races. The Senate elections were so close that in the state of Georgia, they went to a runoff. Ultimately, both Democrats won their Georgia runoff races, marking a 50-50 divide in the Senate. Immediately after these results, political analysts across the country predicted that while Democrats technically had control of the upper chamber of Congress, the Democratic Party would be almost unable to pass their long-desired big pieces of legislation because of obstruction from the two moderate senators of their caucus: Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
Those analysts’ predictions have been exactly right in recent weeks.
These two senators are the cause of Democrats’ struggle to pass their $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, more commonly known as the Build Back Better Act. Reconciliation is a Senate procedural rule that allows for budget legislation to be passed evading a filibuster. The Senate is allowed to utilize this process only twice a year, and Democrats have only one more chance at it as the 2021 American Rescue Plan passed through reconciliation.
Just a month ago, Manchin reinstated his opposition to the Build Back Better Act when he said: “I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending.” Senators Sinema and Manchin’s number one reason to oppose the bill is its high cost. They worry that additional government spending will cause inflation in the economy. However, although the price tag of this bill may appear sky-high at first, the federal government does not have to immediately write a check to pay for it. In fact, the legislation was enacted so that we could pay for it over a period of 10 years.
It appears illogical that these two senators continue to obstruct this bill, especially considering the majority support that it holds in public opinion among voters. Ultimately, their lack of support shows discord among the Democratic Party and proves that there is little room for reconciliation among leaders of the same party. What this means for the future of the Build Back Better Bill is yet to be determined, but it does not bode well for the state of the country’s recovery.
The State of the Supreme Court
The State of the Supreme Court
Should We Reconsider the Way We Structure the Court?
by Gabriel Capella ’25
The idea of putting term limits to Supreme Court Justices has long generated debate in American politics, with liberals being the ones pushing for such change. This has been the case especially since the death of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September of 2020. This event opened the door for another conservative appointment to the Supreme Court as Republicans controlled both the White House and the Senate at the time of her passing; President Trump was able to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy.
The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace Justice Ginsburg in the Supreme Court was arguably one of the most opposed replacements in American history given its proximity to a presidential election. Liberals argued that since the process of electing a new president had already begun, the people had the right to choose what president would make an appointment to fill the vacancy. Essentially, they wanted to wait for the results of the election hoping for a Democratic win, which would mean a liberal appointment to the SCOTUS.
On the other hand, conservatives knew they had to take advantage of this opportunity: confirming a conservative Justice would give them a 6-3 majority in the Court. If they achieved this, their strong majority would have the potential to last for decades. So, they acted quickly, very quickly: President Trump appointed Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court, and in a matter of weeks she was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate.
This stable conservative majority in the Supreme Court has mobilized Democrats to make a push for a fundamental change: they propose either putting term limits to Justices or expanding the bench of the Court (number of Justices). This proposal is something they want to achieve while Joe Biden is President and Chuck Schumer is Senate Majority Leader, as it would open the door for liberal appointments/confirmations to the Supreme Court.
However, putting term limits to Supreme Court Justices would mean fundamentally changing the Court, which is extremely difficult to achieve. When the Founding Fathers were writing the Constitution, under Article III, Section 1, they included: “The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court…The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour.” These last two words, “good behavior,” have long been interpreted by scholars as meaning a lifetime tenure for Supreme Court Justices. If the Constitution, being the highest law of the land, says that Supreme Court Justices shall serve for life, how do Democrats plan to change this and put term limits to Justices? The only legal work-around is a Constitutional Amendment (addition or alteration to the Constitution), which, in order to be ratified, would need the approval of 2/3 of each house of Congress and ¾ of the states.
The likelihood of this happening is extremely low, as every single Republican in Congress will likely oppose such an Amendment and less than ¾ of states will approve of it. However, there is a second option for Democrats: expanding the number of Supreme Court Justices. This option would be slightly less difficult than the first one for Democrats to accomplish. Legal scholars have almost reached consensus on the constitutionality of Congress increasing or decreasing the number of Justices. However, in order to do this, both the House and the Senate need to pass the legislation. Given the Senate’s Filibuster rules, a bill expanding the Supreme Court bench would have no chance of passing.
This debate, if analyzed from the most nonpartisan angle possible, is absurd. However, the Supreme Court holds an immense amount of power over the laws of the United States: it often decides whether something is constitutional. Historically, the Court has made crucial decisions that have impacted social issues, the economy, and even the result of a presidential election. This has led politicians to politicize the Supreme Court, which, in the eyes of the Founding Fathers, was supposed to be the body of government free from political intervention. Unfortunately for liberals, the SCOTUS will retain a strong conservative majority until one of the conservative Justices retires or passes away.