The United States has had a long, varied approach to the crisis in Syria. Red lines have been drawn and ignored, missile strikes became commonplace, troops entered the region. Now it appears that we are leaving Syria. Contradictions and failed promises marked our time there. But even with the country’s chaotic recent past, it is unwise for the U.S. to leave Syria under Russian influence and the leadership of Bashar al-Assad.
On December 22, the government underwent what turned out to be a 35-day shutdown, the longest in American history. At the center of the problem was a dispute over funding for a border wall. Eager to keep his promises in the 2016 primaries, and doubtful that the incoming Democratic majority in the House of Representatives would support his goals, President Trump insisted that Congress include $5.7 billion in funding for a wall in the new spending bill. Democrats refused to grant any money for the project and Trump refused to sign any bill without such funds, leading to a stalemate. Although a stopgap bill passed on January 25 reopened the government for three weeks, it merely bought time for negotiations and did nothing to resolve the fundamental impasse. With a new shutdown looming, Congress crafted a new compromise bill that would keep the government open, grant $1.3 billion for fencing on the border, and limit the number of people the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) can detain. Although he was reluctant to support legislation that gave him only a fraction of what he wanted, Trump ultimately decided, last Thursday, that he would sign the bill. Simultaneously, he revealed his intent to declare a national emergency so he could try to use his executive powers in order to build the wall.
In the two weeks since Meatless Mondays started, there has been a smorgasbord of arguments for and against: It was an executive decision that in no way represents student preferences. But it can really help to reduce the campus’s environmental footprint. Meat is an important part of a healthy diet. No, meat increases your risk of chronic diseases. Supporting small, local livestock farms is a good thing. But animals have rights too. And so on and so forth. Here is an unappealing argument that is rarely offered: perhaps we don’t even have a right to eat meat.
The electronic cigarette company Juul Labs states its mission as seeking to “improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes.” Unlike cigarettes, their products have not yet been shown to cause cancer, yet they still contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance. Even though the company markets a healthier alternative for adult smokers, the most troubling usage is in a much younger demographic. According to the Food and Drug Administration and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five high schoolers vaped in September 2018, a 78 percent increase from 2017. Shortly after these warnings, Juul Labs announced that it would suspend the sales of most flavored pods (for smoking e-cigarettes) in more than 90,000 retail stores in the United States except for mint, menthol, and tobacco.
Thomas Jefferson and the Comte de Buffon had fundamentally different understandings of the natural world, a discord that stemmed from Buffon’s “individualism,” that is, what Jefferson saw as a hesitancy to categorically classify species. Such an epistemology, Jefferson argued, threatened to return the scientific community to the days of Aristotle and Pliny. It would undo the order that modern science had worked so diligently to instill in our understanding of the natural world. A belief in the importance of such an order was crucial to Jefferson’s very character. A man of science, he devoted much of his life to discovery, categorization, and systemization.
While everyone was preparing for the Super Bowl, the latest news about athletes and their controversial statements slid under many Americans’ radar. Daniel Radcliffe—or, as many people know him, Harry Potter—tweeted at Tom Brady to take the MAGA hat out of his locker. He was capitalizing on something that happened more than two years ago. Before the 2016 election, then-candidate Donald Trump had sent the hat to Brady. Since the quarterback’s relation to Trump is old news, I found this to be a cheap comment from Radcliffe. It’s also yet another example of people’s many recent objections to political expression by athletes.
You must find Philadelphia much changed, Mr. Jefferson.”
“More changed than I could have imagined, Mr. Hamilton. Not the city itself—all cities swallow everything … that’s no surprise to me; that’s why I abhor them. But I have been, as you know, in revolutionary France, where the streets are filled with the sounds of liberty and brotherhood and the overthrow of ancient tyrannies of Europe. And to return from there to this, our cradle of revolution, and find the dinner-table chatter is all of money and banks and authorities is — an unwelcome surprise.”
The Alexander Hamilton Institute’s eleventh annual colloquium, “Hamilton v. Jefferson: On History, Freedom, and Republican Government,” took place recently in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was an extraordinary educational event.
AHI undergraduate fellows and other Hamilton College students traveled there on Thursday, November 15 for the two-day conference, where they heard prominent Jefferson and Hamilton scholars debate these two very different founders’ legacies and contributions to American history.
In the buildup to the midterm elections, nothing garnered more attention than the much-ballyhooed “blue wave” being sold by many politicos. It was hard to tell whether they truly believed this prediction or it was a tactical move, a self-fulfilling prophecy, as if the more they talked it up, the more the masses would get on board and make it a reality. As human nature would lead us to expect after any competition that lacks a definite winner and loser, both sides rushed to claim victory. They also applauded the high voter turnout rate. Unfortunately, this phenomenon often has an effect opposite to the outcome they are trying to elicit -- overinterpreting the strength of one or the other party’s performance after the election will discourage turnout the next time.
Coming into the school year, I was only somewhat aware of the immigration and refugee crisis spreading all over Europe. It was not until my Introduction to Public Policy class that I really got a grasp of the surrounding issues. The class focuses on immigration and refugee policy. A major group project in it is a policy brief on the immigration and refugee practices of a country of our choice. Many are part of the European Union (EU), which has an open borders policy. Open borders across Europe were enacted in 1985 as part of the Schengen Agreement, which did away with border checks. By now, 26 European countries have open borders. Although the idea was good in theory, EU countries could not have predicted its outcome in the years to come.
Last week, Florida voted to restore voting rights to as many as 1.4 million people with felony records, a number which includes 500,000 African-Americans. According to the New York Times, Amendment 4 passed with more than the required 60 percent threshold (and 766, 200 signatures were needed to place it on the ballot). Thus, an overwhelming share of voters supported it. The amendment restores voting rights to felons who have completed their prison sentences, parole, and probation, except for those convicted of murder or sexual assault. In fact, many people said it was the proposed amendment that prompted them to vote. Most Floridians who voted for the amendment were from Democratic counties, but a considerable amount of support came from Republican-leaning counties.
This week, Americans go to the polls to decide the composition of the next Congress. President Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton two years ago generated a surge of political engagement on both sides. Because this political fervor continues, the 2018 election has been perhaps the most highly anticipated midterm of our lifetimes.