Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.

Being too safe? Don’t be sorry
Jan08

Being too safe? Don’t be sorry

When parents tell you to do things like make sure the windows in your house are locked or to hide valuables under the seat when leaving them in the car, their suggestions often elicit a chuckle or an eye roll. The abundant amount of concern feels unnecessary and even seems to verge on paranoia at times. But after being welcomed back from the holiday break to find my house had been broken into, I realized just how valuable all of that “overprotective” advice really is. The old adage just might be true. You really can’t ever be too careful. While the intruder spent quite a bit of energy forcing his or her way through our back door, leaving its frame ripped from the wall, they left with nothing to show for it, all thanks to my roommate listening to her parents’ advice. In spite of teasing from friends and from me about being overly paranoid, she loaded up our flat screen television the morning before we left for the month-long break after her dad suggested it would be a smart idea to bring it home. We all scoffed at how silly it was. Who would come in and take it? But when I realized someone had been in our house during our absence, my response was how thankful I was that she hadn’t listened to us. I don’t know where our TV would be right now if she had, but I’m pretty certain it wouldn’t be sitting in our living room feeding our appetites for the mindless programming we’ve come to love so much. There’s a level of invincibility when you’re young and in college that causes us to throw caution to the wind because we don’t think certain things will actually happen to us. We go about our days, wrapped up in our classes and social lives with little thought to much else. Most of the time, that works out just fine, but every once in a while, you realize caution isn’t such a drag. Because of caution I’ll be watching Downton Abbey, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and The Bachelor this week from the comfort of my couch. And for that, I am eternally...

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Colorado has ‘Rocky Mountain High’
Dec06

Colorado has ‘Rocky Mountain High’

On election night, Colorado made quite a splash as the number of votes for legalizing marijuana reached a record high. The new law in Colorado allows citizens 21 years of age and older to carry up to one ounce of the substance with them for recreational use. While Amendment 64 may allow the population to explore new heights, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper warned that state law is not higher than federal law. “The voters have spoken, and we have to respect their will,” he said in a statement. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.” Even though the drug was made legal at the state level, Hickenlooper anticipates a long legal road ahead. The argument stems from a dispute older than the Civil War – states’ rights. As reported in the Denver Post, the governor, attempting to weed through the controversy, wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking for a clear federal response on the issue “as soon as possible.” According to the law, Colorado citizens may indulge in marijuana usage; however, if they are traveling on an interstate, which is federally owned property, a federal officer may arrest them. What are the ramifications of such irresponsible legislation? Many in favor of the law argue that it is used for medicinal purposes. So why not keep the law as it was and only allow doctors to prescribe it in a legitimate case? There are plenty of less addictive substances that are not allowed to be sold over the counter in American pharmacies. Still others would say, “People are going to find a way to use illegal substances anyway.” But to that, simple logic says, “If we make it legal, even more people would do it.” Do we really want a society in which American citizens are driving and working under the influence of marijuana? This is utterly absurd. What about children of parents who are proponents of the legislation? What kind of example are they being shown? Who’s to say the parents who had clouded enough judgment to vote for such a law would not let their kids have a puff or two at home? This could lead to a spike in the number of dropout students, making the standard of life in states that adopt this kind of policy diminish greatly. Crime rates could rise dramatically. With customers of age being able to purchase the drug, it could fall into the hands of minors. Something else to consider is...

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Unappreciated sacrifice
Dec06

Unappreciated sacrifice

They’re all around you. At the grocery store, at your church, you can find them anywhere. They can be young or old, a man or a woman, a father or a daughter. Veterans are our heroes and the reason our nation has enjoyed and realized the fullness of independence. As the old saying goes, the cost of freedom isn’t free. Since the time that George Washington and his soldiers sailed the Potomac to fight for our posterity, millions of brave warriors have died. The countless sacrifices made, pile so high that a simple thank you is the least one can offer to a veteran. However, as generations have come and gone, so has the nation’s respect for its heroes. Rather than be grateful, we are greedy; rather than placing our hand over our heart, we focus our attention on political agendas. This shouldn’t be. We should take the time to show appreciation to the men and women who care enough about us to risk their lives. There are several ways we can do that. If you see men or women with veterans attire or head wear on, take the time to approach, ask them about their day, and then thank them for their service. Sometimes nursing homes or independent living centers will host Veterans Day events and invite the public to attend. If you see an advertisement for such an event in your area, you can spend an hour of your day to talk with an older hero. Many of us have veterans in our families. Whether it is a cousin who fought in Iraq or a grandfather who endured the Korean War, chances are you know a soldier. Take the time to write or give them a call. It can be anytime, but with intentions of sending a simple message—”We care about you.” To the average person, such communication may seem trivial, but to the veteran it makes a world of difference. These warriors have been through serious struggles, and, often, scars from battle don’t heal in a lifetime. Contact from a family member provides an extra ounce of strength to endure the emotional and psychological bullets still flying their way. Currently you can send care packages to soldiers fighting the war on terrorism. Websites such as operationgratitude.com and herobox.org provide ways for citizens to send care packages to military men and women. These sites also provide ways for donations to be made to the soldiers’ families. Imagine the joy fathers or mothers must feel while Skyping with their children to see them embracing a new stuffed animal. When thanking our veterans, it’s the little things that count....

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Fiscal cliff looms high
Dec06

Fiscal cliff looms high

Financial meltdown, debt ceiling crisis, and now fiscal cliff. Since the recession, a number of creatively named spending and budget hiccups have befallen the U.S. government. The most recent crisis is the fiscal cliff. The term was created earlier this year to describe a set of foreboding tax hikes and government spending cuts that will occur at the end of this year. Like any major political issue, there are several different opinions on the severity of the fiscal cliff. Some pundits have claimed that tax burden on businesses and families will surely cause a recession, and others believe that the supposed sheer drop of the cliff will actually turn out to be a gentle slope and will cause no adverse effects. The last surplus the U.S. government had was back in 2001. Ever since then, the government has been running at a deficit. This constant shortfall has caused the national debt to rise from $6 trillion in 2001 to its current level of $16 trillion. To put this amount into perspective, consider the Gross Domestic Product for the U.S. was $15 trillion in 2011. At the beginning of his first term, George W. Bush offered significant cuts to payroll, estate and income taxes. During his term, he also started two wars, but did not raise taxes to pay for them. The recession and the economic stimulus packages only worsened the debt. The Bush era tax cuts, which were extended by Obama in 2010 are set to run out at the beginning of 2013. This is expected to raise government tax revenue by $536 billion dollars. According to the New York Times, this would cause an average increase of $3,400 in taxes per family, and the median household would face a $2,000 increase. One fear of the leaders in government is that the increase on capital gains will cause many investors to pull their money out before the end of December. It is unlikely that the minor crisis of the fiscal cliff will cause a recession. The current uncertainty of the government is what is really responsible for any negative effects on the market. It is a shame that Congress has waited so long to take care of the situation. The threat behind the fiscal cliff is not an impending recession. CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett, has compared the fiscal cliff to economic setback similar to Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Katrina. Recessions are not predicted until it is much too late to do anything about them. The elected officials of the government are smart enough to know they do not want to be held responsible for a recession, so...

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Awkward holiday questions

“Pass the sweet potatoes, dear. Speaking of, is there a special man in your life?” As irrelevant as one’s love life is to tasty Christmas side dishes, these conversations are unfortunately unavoidable for a college student with a prying family during the holiday season. When leaves on the trees start to turn brown, curiosity begins to stir in the minds of extended family members, and the need to bring a significant other to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner grows more urgent. Everyone has experienced that awkward family meal, where more tension is in the air than yummy scents from the steaming piles of food on the table. While Grandma slices the turkey, one might feel the urge to fabricate a precautionary and fictitious story of an imagined engagement, straight A’s and plenty of savings in the bank. All of this is absolutely false, but seemingly necessary when a barrage of personal questions follows the green bean casserole. As each dish passes around the table, the danger of being discovered single increases. “So who is the lucky guy?” usually comes with the first course of supper. “Single and ready to mingle” doesn’t satisfy the grandparents, aunts and uncles or cousins. Instead, to answer this one, a prepared script comes in handy because making a name up on the spot might be hazardous. “Fill Glass” can deceive the old folks only so many times, regardless of how deceptively clever it seemed at first. Why am I not dating anyone? Grandma, if I knew the answer to that, we could both live happily ever after. “When do you plan on getting married? I’d like to see some great-grand kids one of these days,” may come next if the conversation grows exceedingly risky. Suddenly, the food begins to taste even better, and one might decide to shovel macaroni and cheese with a muffled, “Sorry, my mouth is full,” to avoid the inquiry. After the unavoidable romantic advice comes the mashed potatoes with a heaping helping of “What have you been learning in college?” Since I have been taking a relentless series of final exams, all the information is still fumbling around in my brain-dead mind, making it almost impossible to choose just one thing. “I don’t know,” is the natural yet forbidden reply. A collegiate scholar needs a much more intelligent answer. Instead, “the importance of higher education” or “the value of money” usually passes as adequate responses. The next course: dessert with a side of “What are you doing after college?” Of all the awkward questions, this one takes the cake —or the pie, depending on which your family prefers during the festive...

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UN meddles at polls

After much controversy in Texas over voter identification laws and accusations of voter suppression, Texas officials learned that a group made of members from other nations from the Organization for Security and Cooperation would be coming to monitor American polling stations. The announcement angered Attorney General Greg Abbot. He sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlining his concerns. Abbot was adamant that Texas law be upheld. “If the OSCE wishes to visit Texas during election season, we welcome the opportunity to educate its representatives about the state’s electoral process. But OSCE is not above the law, and its representatives must at all times comply with Texas law …,” Abbot wrote. According to his letter, what sparked Abbot’s concern was a request in a communication to Clinton from the United Nations that the organization not to be “restrained in their activities.” Many Americans saw the activity as an attempt to make sure Texas and other states were abiding by voter laws. Abbot also wrote, “In addition to my desire to defend and enforce Texas election laws, I am also concerned that an unnecessary political agenda may have infected OSCE’s election monitoring activities.” He was bold enough to infer some politicians were conspiring against Texas. Abbot did not object to the visitors’ presence in the state as long as they were there to learn. “While Texas may welcome visitors from any nation or international organization who wish to learn more about the steps the state has taken to protect the integrity of state elections…,” Abbot said. He explicitly stated that they must abide by Texas law. Many Americans were outraged that representatives from foreign countries who may have witnessed few, if any, peaceful elections in their lifetime would be helping to watch for voter fraud. It is one thing for people to observe so they can help create a better system in their own nation, but to give them the responsibility that comes with the word “monitor” is simply wrong. In an interview with Fox News, Abbot said Texas law mandates that unauthorized persons who come within 100 feet of a polling station would be subject to arrest. He made clear that the state’s aim was to uphold its laws’ and it would prosecute lawbreakers. According to Fox News, Nuri Elabbar came to the United States with poll watchers from more than 60 countries. “It’s very difficult to transfer this system as it is to any other country. This system is built according to trust and this trust needs a lot of procedures and a lot of education for other countries to adopt it,” Elabbar told Fox. Ironically,...

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