Katherine McCabe / Gavel Media

Behind the Bench: Episode 1, 'Breaking the Ice'

Welcome to The Gavel's new podcast series, Behind the Bench. Here you'll find commentary on hot-button issues, updates on campus happenings, and interviews with BC community members. This year's hosts include Gavel sophomores Gabby Levitt and Meghan Keefe. Follow us on Spotify for easy access to each episode!

*Gavel bang*

Meghan: Hey guys, I'm Megan Keefe!

Gabby: And I'm Gabby Levitt!

Meghan: And this is Behind the Bench. Welcome to the first episode of the BC Gavel podcast. 

Gabby: We are the progressive voice of Boston College, a student newspaper, now bringing our voice to you every other Friday on the BC Gavel Spotify. 

Meghan: We are so excited to bring this new project to you guys. We'll be bringing you guys three different segments, all pertaining to current events, Gavel articles, campus happenings. 

Gabby: That's right. This week, we'll be discussing the UN COP26, our Gavel hat tip featuring our very own Corbin, and a campus guide to hockey on the Heights. 


Meghan: So COP26 stands for the 26th conference of parties. It's a United Nations global warming conference in Glasgow, Scotland taking place from November 1st to November 12th, probably when you're listening to this. There state leaders and diplomats from over 100 countries are meeting to essentially just decrease greenhouse gas emissions—very rapidly. 

Meghan: If this takes place every year though, like I think it does, I've heard it does, why, um, why would this one be so important? 

Gabby: So this is the 26th conference. It does happen every single year, but it's the most important because climate change is happening now, you know, it's in our backyards and we need to tackle it so urgently to avoid the most catastrophic consequences. Experts, the leading climate experts of the world, have been advocating for years to make a dramatic shift from fossil fuel consumption to limit global warming, specifically 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but we're not there. We're having to work to that. So that's what we need to accomplish at this conference.

Meghan: I did, I did see something about that. It's so scary, but it's like we have to drop 50% by 2030 for us to escape the hardest impacts of climate change. But our gas emissions percentage is rising. And it's just so frustrating that we can hold these conferences every year. And I'm sure it's a lot easier for me to say, but I just, I wonder why nothing is really happening.

Gabby: Yeah. Incredibly infuriating, to say the least. Like I said the leading climate experts of the world, they've known how urgent this climate crisis is. Specifically recent reports by the IPCC, which stands for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released data in 2018 and this past summer that said, essentially. if we continue business as usual, we are absolutely screwed.

Meghan: I mean, at this point, I feel like every degree counts and I mean, any warming above 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, it's like long-lasting, or honestly, even irreversible.

Gabby: Exactly.

Meghan: Like I think we've, we've come to a point where we already know that.

Gabby: Yeah, you risk losing entire ecosystems and biodiversity... species extinction.

Meghan: We've already, you were sort of saying, we’ve already warmed the earth by 1.1 degrees Celsius.

Gabby: Literally today, this morning, November 9th, a new report came out, released from COP 26, saying that the most optimistic climate scenario now indicates that we would have 1.8 degrees of warming. 

Meghan: But what I'm hearing though from what you're saying is like the issue isn't like lack of science or tech, or honestly, even solutions, but a lack of political will. Really a complex dynamic of international climate cooperations that require significant compromise and dedication. I mean, yeah, agreements like the Paris Climate Accords, they're not legally binding, but they’re just [up to] every country's own volition, like there's no referee or enforcement mechanism. 

Gabby: Exactly. It's really complex. So situations that we saw, like Trump withdrawing from the Paris agreement, completely jeopardized international climate cooperation. So now Joe Biden, he attended the first two days of the COP, he's essentially in overdrive attempting to repair the international credibility and reconcile the aftermath of Trump's environmental policy—did a lot of damage—but during his two days, he pledged to be a better partner to vulnerable countries and expressed confidence in US domestic environmental policy of getting back on track.

Meghan: I think I heard Joe Biden actually called out Russia and China's presidents for not attending the COP. And he called it a big mistake. Countries like that of US and China are only exacerbating difficulties in climate cooperation, despite literally everything that's at stake. It's so difficult for these countries to just put their sh*t aside.

Gabby: The failure to cooperate pretty much comes from disagreeing over who bears responsibility for the climate crisis. So, at the COP right now, they've been asking questions like who's responsible for climate change? Who's historically emitted the most greenhouse gases? That would be the United States. Who is currently emitting the most greenhouse gases? That would be China, hence tensions. Who is fiscally responsible for assisting developing nations in adaptation? Who should do what to prevent the crisis from getting worse? And when it comes down to it, all of these things require financial dedication. 

Meghan: And I do think though, a lot of progress was made during Biden's time at the COP and if you want more from each day, just go to the COP26 website. They have more updates than what we give you as we're a few days behind when this comes out. 

Gabby: Yes, it's a great resource. If you want to learn more, definitely check that out. But while all of these historic pledges are being made inside the walls, there are youth activists actively protesting outside.

Meghan: It does make people wonder what can we do to help and well, yeah, we all have to be conscious of our impact. It really should fall to those in power. 

Gabby: Well, by the time this is posted, this may or may not have taken place yet, but the Climate Justice at Boston College is planning an off-campus demonstration named “Fight for our Future” in the Boston Commons at 3 PM, November 12th, for a call to climate action, all Greater Boston Area students are invited. It's going to be an awesome demonstration.

Gabby: Here to expand on both climate change and his recent hat tip article published on The Gavel website is Corbin Bernal. Corbin, how are you doing?

Corbin: It’s been a busy week, but I'm excited to be here and talk about my article titled “The Myth of the Democrat Majority.” I think everything going on recently with the Infrastructure Deal, with the Build Back Better plan, a reconciliation bill that Biden's trying to pass through, there's just been a lot of talk about it, especially from, um, you know, the perspective of Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema and other Democrats. And I think it's a really important bill and one that could be really beneficial to the country, so I thought I would write a little article about it.

Gabby: The two bills that you mentioned in your article are the infrastructure bill and a social spending bill. Can you explain a little more why they need to be passed together? 

Corbin: Right. So I think the infrastructure bill got a lot of bipartisan support, so there really wasn't a question on whether that would be passed. But the reconciliation bill is seen as pretty divisive by the Republicans and some moderate Democrats have really watered down that bill over the past few months. So I think it's really important that both get passed at the same time only because, you know, there is a worry that if one is passed before the other—namely the infrastructure bill—that the moderate Dems that supported the Build Back Better plan early on and some congressional Republicans wouldn't vote for the reconciliation bill, and they would hold the infrastructure package as kind of a leverage for that. Just a couple of days ago, the infrastructure bill was passed before the reconciliation bill. So it'll be interesting to see kind of what continues with the reconciliation bill over the coming days.

Gabby: So who are the senators that we're talking about? 

Corbin: Yeah, so mainly it was Joe Manchin and Kiersten Sinema. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kiersten Sinema of Arizona, my home state. Those two were kind of at the center of a lot of the news articles that have come out over the past few months, namely their kind of opposition to the reconciliation bill as kind of a bottom-line value. And so they kind of, when it was first announced that 3.5 trillion came out right out of the gates and said, you know, we need this down, you know, a considerable amount. And so with the kind of the plan that Biden put in place, and a lot of the Democratic Party that was supportive of it, these two kinds of challenging that and really wanted to cut some things from the bill. 

A lot of what Sinema and Manchin have been saying is we just need to decrease the value, decrease the value, and that's kind of what the media is reporting. But I think one thing I would like to see more, and I think one that would be more beneficial to the kind of people that watch the news regularly, is talk about what is actually in the bill. There are a lot of terrific things like the child tax credit, universal free pre-K, free community college, uh, housing and rental assistance, lower drug prices, expanding Medicare and Medicaid, climate change funding in the billions of dollars, and just kind of more funding for welfare programs, which I think would all be great.

The one, I think, critique I have of the media is they're not really challenging Manchin and Sinema on what they want cut out. They're really just giving them a pass saying, "okay, they want to decrease" and kind of leaving it at that. Rather, I think it would be much, much more beneficial to be like, okay “this is the dollar value, what do you want taken out of it?” So then they have to defend their positions and explain why they want certain things taken out and why they want certain things left in. And I think that, um, would provide people even besides like them knowing what's in the bill. I think it would provide people a better sense of why this is a problem and why I think we need to be more aware of it.

Gabby: Yeah. We're talking a lot about what they, how they're saying no, but not exactly why and challenging that. 

Meghan: Yeah And you also talk about Joe Manchin’s connection to the pharmaceutical industry, and also Sinema’s, as it's interesting that they're both connected to it. 

Corbin: Yes. So over the past few months, I think it was in quarter three of this year Manchin and Sinema, were the two senators who received the most funding from the pharmaceutical industry. More specifically, Manchin’s daughter actually is the CEO of, um, Mylan or Mylan, which is a pharmaceutical company that is in the news for raising the price of epi-pens by over 500% in her time in office, which has increased corporate profits, as you can probably imagine. So a lot of what Manchin, um, behind the scenes is getting funding from the pharmaceutical industries, and keeping in mind his daughter's interests. So he's really been at the forefront of kind of cutting out some of this Medicare expansion that was really, like, lobbied intensely by Bernie Sanders and some other senators to kind of get that out of there, you know, for personal reasons, whether it be his own money or his daughter's money, or to help out the people who support and fund him.

Gabby: Yeah, I believe Joe Manchin also has ties to the coal industry. Seems like a conflict of interest, no?

Corbin: Yeah, no. I mean the stuff about the coal industry, he and his family, they own one of the largest coal manufacturers in West Virginia. He holds close to between $1 and 5 million worth of private stock, his son runs the company. So when you talk about climate change initiatives, there's also a huge conflict of interest there, and a lot of the stuff that he's tried to take out directly would affect his family's coal business. And I think there's been news articles that he's said, like, West Virginia is doing well with climate change initiatives, and I think on a national level, they're in the bottom five of states with that, and the coal industry is definitely one of the leading reasons for that. 

Gabby: Yeah. I mean, when it comes down to it, I'm like, why do they have so much power to control this? 

Meghan: It's interesting that you say Joe Manchin’s a conservative in a Democratic seat. Do you mind expanding on that? Because I feel like those are some contrasting words. 

Corbin: I think when you look at what Joe Manchin fights for in his political positions, whether that'd be fiscally or socially, if you really take the party affiliation next to his name out of it, and if you just looked at the positions themselves, they're traditionally conservative. He wants to cut back social spending. He wants to decrease aid to welfare programs, to housing and rental assistance, wants to take out tax credits for schooling, universal pre-K. And those are, I think to me should be, you know, fundamental beliefs and viewpoints of liberals and leftists, and kind of the left side of the political aisle. And if that's kind of stuff that he wants to take out along with, you know, financial incentives for coal industries and pharmaceuticals, which we traditionally see on the right, I think a lot of what he's doing just traditionally is kind of a more conservative viewpoint on stuff. And I think if you look at world politics and, like, world ideologies, I think the American political spectrum is skewed more to the right where those positions here might be viewed as centrist or maybe moderate Dem. But I think if you take it on like a world account, it's definitely more of a traditional conservative/moderate conservative, I think. But I think that that is in part to kind of the American political climate, I think right now.

Gabby: Definitely. So while we're talking about, you know, bipartisanship across the aisle, can you give us a summary of the Senate filibuster? You know, we have the house, we have the Senate, we have the White House. So like what’s happening, what’s the hold-up?

Corbin: The filibuster is, is one thing that, it's just interesting. Um, so the filibuster was not in the Constitution. It was not introduced until 1917, and it's a rule that says two-thirds of the Senate has to agree to bring a bill to the floor. If two-thirds of the Senate doesn't agree to that, then what the filibuster allows us any senator can kind of stand up there and debate or give a long speech. And I think we've seen it in the past, have stories of certain senators giving, you know, 24, 25, 26-hour filibusters, um, and that effectively kills the bill, ends debate, and kind of ends all hope of that being passed in the future. That was changed in 1975 to just three-fifths, so it brought it from like 67 to 60. And especially with the slim majority/the 5- 50 tie that we have now, there really is no hope for the Dems to get past the filibuster, unless they get rid of it. 

Funny enough history, it was implemented in 1917. It was used very, very rarely up until the civil rights and Jim Crow era, where a lot of Southern Democrats took advantage of it to delay and kill civil rights bills, bills that ended segregation, so it has a really troubling history. And on top of that, it's a rule in the Senate, not a constitutional thing. So it's very, very easy to get rid of, but I think we have a lot of traditional people in the Senate that want to keep tradition rather than recognize that, you know, it would be a lot better to get rid of this for a number of reasons and not even just political, but kind of just the makeup of the Senate.

I think this is an argument for another time, but the Senate isn't entirely democratic in terms of the representation and how much power they have. I think back at the end of the Trump presidency, the Dems, even in the minority had, I think, a certain number of millions of more people than they represented, but we're still in the minority. So I think just a bunch of those factors contribute to kind of how insane the filibuster really is and something that I think needs to be changed. 

Gabby: Yeah, definitely. Do you have any other final thoughts on this piece? Really well written, you're clearly very knowledgeable on the issue. 

Corbin: Thank you. Yeah. I think that the main thing that I want people to take away from this is, is I wish the media would take more time to talk about specifically what's in the bill because I think if you take a look, there are some really, really good programs and really, really good things that could be implemented that would help a lot of people post-pandemic. Kind of just increasing talks about income inequality, workers' rights that we've seen in strikes across the country recently. I think there's a lot of really good things in there. And I think knowing what certain people want to take out of it, rather than kind of giving them that pass of just decreasing the value, is something I think should be talked about more. And I, and I get, you know, people have busy lives, so I think the media reporting on that would make it a little easier, but it's just, yeah, it's just interesting all around. I hope it gets passed and not watered down even more than it already is, cause it would provide very, very much needed aid and relief to a lot of people who need it.

Meghan: Ladies and gentlemen, hockey is back. Our season is kicked off and we've been doing pretty well. Did I cry when we could finally see our team play at Conte for the first time? That is between me and all of you, because yes, I did. In all fairness, though, we do have a really good team and, you know, how could I not be moved to tears? If you haven't been to a hockey game yet, I do really encourage you to—it's always so fun. And you might even learn the rules. I do suggest learning the rules a little bit, or at least like, don't pretend like, to know the rules like I did. I thought I knew what icing was because I thought, "Okay, when you hear icing, don't you think, oh, I'm going to spray the other team with ice from my skate." Yeah. Well, I know it’s not that. I can't really tell you what it is, but I know what it isn't.

Gabby: Yeah, I don't really know the rules yet, but it's really fun to watch. Coming from Texas. I've been to very limited hockey games in my life, and let me tell you the surprise that I had when I realized that it was three periods. I've never been to a game with only three periods. 

Meghan: I am really excited for the rest of this year, though. Things are looking really great for this. 

Gabby: I agree. I feel like we've had some nail biters recently. I mean, from what I understand of what's going on. Who do you think are the ones to watch?

Meghan: I’ve heard and seen great things about sophomore forward Nikita Esterenko and Colby Ambrosio. Senior forward Mark McLaughlin's also doing awesome and Eric Dop has been killing it on goal, but honestly, I could have said anyone's name on the team. It seems like a really great roster this year. But oh, on a different note, senior defenseman, Jack St. Ivany. Well, he's been doing great on the ice, but I’m a little bit more interested about somebody off the ice, specifically the beach. It's come to my attention that St. Ivany is beach volleyball buddies with Josh Richards. 

Gabby: I want to know how much Instagram stalking you had to do to find this Meghan.

Meghan: I didn’t! It was shown to me, the picture was shown.

Gabby: This was for research purposes. 

Meghan: Yes, it was shown to me, I did not find it. For those of you who don't know, Josh Richards became famous for posting thirst trap videos on Tik Tok, but now he hosts the BFFs podcast with Barstool president Dave Portnoy. That's a huge jump, but he still also probably posts thirst traps. What brought you two together? Why beach volleyball? There’s so many questions.

Gabby: Very far from ice hockey, like literally opposite. But can we actually talk about the culture shock I got from going to these first few hockey games. I mean, given I'm more well-versed in sand volleyball than I am hockey. But I'm very much not from here (hook 'em horns), so I was pretty surprised when I saw that sweatshirt and leggings seemed to be what people were wearing. So different from the football game attire. Also, do I need to invest in a hockey jersey? This is just very different than what I'm used to seeing. 

Meghan: Well, I mean, okay. If you feel like you're able to get the super expensive bookstore hockey jerseys, I would do it. I think it's fun. It's cute. It's classic. If you don't feel like going that route though, you know, sweatshirts, leggings, sweatshirts with jeans, it's, it's honestly whatever feels best to you, you know, whatever your prerogative is. And it sounds weird that we even have to talk about what to wear to a hockey game

Gabby: Hey, this is foreign to me. 

Meghan: It is. Yeah, I feel like BC or, you know, college football culture—that's a weighty statement—but, you know, when you dress up for games, it is a lot of, you know, "What am I wearing? Like how color coordinated? (a mini fashion show) Ketchup and Mustard? What does my outfit have to be?" And I mean, if you're worried about your outfit, don't be, it is so much more chill. Um, I'm definitely more stressed about my outfit on football game day. You know what? I also have to take his time to do, um, submit a personal request to whoever runs the BC Hockey TikTok.

First thing I'll say, love the account. Love with content. You're doing great, please. For the love of God, jump on the trend where all the players say their guilty pleasure songs. I want to know it also, that could be a really good Gavel Groove playlist

Gabby: For the people who are not familiar with the Gavel Groove, it's a Spotify playlist created by creative members of the Gavel, and it always has a theme, usually around a month season, or special event. We’ve recently had a Marathon Monday darty playlist and an Autumn-themed one go up. 

Meghan: Speaking of music, although when we're talking about this we’ll still have to wait a little bit. When the first episode of Behind the Bench gets posted, it will be the same day that RED TAYLORS VERSION comes out. We planned this, we didn't, but we almost could have. Taylor's going to have some streaming competition. I'll tell you that much. 

Gabby: Did you see that Taylor is releasing a 10-minute All Too Well Taylor's Version short film? It's 13 minutes long. 

Meghan: Oh, I did. 

Gabby: Oh my God. 

Meghan: Um, rest in peace, Jake Gyllenhaal. When Dylan O'Brian gets to play you in a movie. You're done. You're done. 

Gabby: I'm going to be needing at least three to five business days to recover. I'm sure my professors will understand, you know. They have to.

Meghan: They have to, they're going to be recovering as well. While we take these few days to recover, we really hope you enjoyed Behind the Bench, the reboot of the Gavel podcast. We'll be coming out with new episodes every other Friday. So while you're waiting, check out the actual Gavel.

Gabby: Yeah, stay up to date on everything happening on campus, the rest of the world, and everything in between. If you want more information about COP26 or Corbin's article, head to the Gavel website! Until next time I'm Gabby.

Meghan: I'm Megan and you've been..

Both: Behind the Bench.

*Gavel bang*

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Environmental Studies and Political Science major. Texas girl that loves listening to Taylor Swift on long walks.

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Lover of brunch and the O.C. Cannot spell the word defeiently to save my life.