Should Voting be Mandatory?

As the old saying goes, “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”. We all like to complain about our politicians, the people we elect to do our bidding for public policy. Recently, President Obama complained about low voter turnout. The key question arising from this is should voting be mandatory. Conversely, is a minority (those who vote) making decisions for a large majority (those who don’t vote?)

With the presidential campaigns all but started, the choices that voters will face is daunting. should they elect a hard right republican, a centrist republican, a liberal democrat, a moderate democrat or something entirely off the proverbial grid? Millions of dollars are spent by lobbyists, political action committees, candidates and others to get certain people elected. The key question is why large blocks of people do not even exercise their right to vote?

Is the waiver a form of political protest (neither of the major parties can give me what i want so they will not participate? Is it apathy (the election is all decided so I don’t really need to vote?) Is it Is it ignorance of the issues that are confronting our states and country as a whole? This is a most puzzling question and quagmire for the establishment to confront. We need to have a broad-based electorate that is educated about the issues and is enthusiastic about exercising their right to vote.

Certain foreign countries (Australia) have mandatory voting for their citizens. Should this happen here? The issue is clear. should a disinterested person who knows nothing about the issues still be mandated to vote, or, should those who care decide the elections for all of us? the time to vote is not long at all. Absentee ballots are available thus avoiding a trip to the polling place on election day. This is fairly convenient. Should online voting be allowed? In all likelihood, 21st century technology should allow this to occur. Once again, bring in as many people into the process as possible.

Out history is full of challenges that people engaged in to get the right to vote. We had the right denied for women to vote until the 1920’s, we had Jim Crow legislation in the deep South denying blacks the right to vote until the voting rights act in the 1960’s, we fought World War II to challenge tyranny to allow people to have freedom. perhaps the greatest freedom is the right not to participate at all. This approach makes no sense, but is not surprising. Ignorance is not bliss
it is simply ignorance. If a person has a right, use it. Become part of the decision-making process. Sitting on the sidelines is not a good use of the power given to you by simply punching a ballot. Just remember to avoid “dangling chads” a major issue in a prior presidential election.

The Six-Pack Question That Could Cost Your Life?

Do I Take or Not Take the Six-Pack I Brought to the Party?

When you come to a party in the modern era, you are expected to bring a gift for the host.  Traditionally when alcohol is expected to be consumed by the host and guests, it is customary for guests to bring a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine.  But what is the appropriate social etiquette when the six-pack you brought is unopened at the end of the night? Is it acceptable to take the beer home or is that the height of rudeness?

This question came back into the spotlight recently when a woman from England stabbed a guest at her party who tried to take home the drinks that he brought to the party.  On March 15, 2015, Samantha Houlgrave of Blackburn, Lancashire was convicted of inflicting grave bodily injury for stabbing her guest with a nine-inch blade causing damage to the man’s internal organs.  She was sentenced to 10 years in prison and three years on conditional release.

We can all agree that Ms. Houlgrave overreacted to her guest taking the drinks home, but was she wrong to be upset altogether?  In 1993, William Greaves, a writer and news reporter, tried to develop a code of conduct that would establish proper drinking etiquette.  In the Daily Telegraph, he published “Greaves’ Rules” which were a set of etiquette guidelines on how one is supposed to act in an English pub.  Unfortunately, these rules do not apply to house parties.

We can try to look at the myriad of etiquette books in existence on the market to answer this question, but, as the term “myriad” implies, there are dozens of these books.  So which one to follow?  Maybe we should look at what the law says to help us see how we should handle this situation.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a gift is “a voluntary transfer of property to another made gratuitously and without consideration.”  Consideration means a thing of legal value.  According to the law, a contract requires that you give something to the other person.  The thing given is called consideration.  Consideration can be a thing worth millions of dollars such as real estate or a thing of no monetary value such as a promise to stop drinking alcohol.  A gift therefore, is some property that a person gives without expecting anything back.

The law also helps us understand when a gift has been given.  There are four ways in which a person proves in court that a gift was given.  The first is that the person must be legally able to make the gift.  If the gift-giver (known as a “donor” in the law) is a minor or has been determined to be insane or otherwise mentally incapable, then s/he cannot give a gift because that person does not have the legal capacity to do so.  Another rule is that the person must mean or have the intent to give the gift.  The final two rules are that the donor must actually deliver the property to the person s/he is giving it to and the person who is getting the property must accept it.

The last rule to review while considering this question is that once the gift is transferred to the person receiving it (known as a “donee”), then that person owns it over everyone else in the world.  In other words, once a gift has been transferred to the donee, then the gift-giver has no right to take it back. 

If we look only at the law, then the question of whether it is appropriate to take back that unopened six-pack of beer is simple.  In this example, the person giving the beer has the capacity since they were able to buy the alcohol in the first place.  Whether the beer-giver has the intent and has made the delivery is clear once s/he has given the beer to the host.  And when the host accepts the beer and puts it in a cooler or her/his kitchen or wherever, the gift is irrevocably given.

Yet the law may help inform how to handle this social situation, but does not completely decide the issue.  At my mother’s house, guests come expecting that she will try to unload food on you after the meal.  Often this means that when wine or beer is brought and unopened, then the person who brought it is expected to bring it back home.  That’s just the way my mother handles it, but I doubt that she is the only one who acts like that.  Sometimes social rules are not governed by strict adherence to the law.

Should a bringer of a six-pack of beer assume that they will not get it back or should they expect to take home any unopened bottles?  What do you think?

RACIST FRATS & ANTI-SEMITIC JUDICIAL COUNCILS

INTOLERANCE ON AMERICAN COLLEGE CAMPUSES

This morning, many Americans were shocked to learn of new evidence of racism on college campuses when a video that shows members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity singing a racist song on a bus went viral.  In response to this video, President David Boren, the former governor of Oklahoma, acted quickly to eject OU members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon from campus.  Yet, this action does not eliminate the problem since this very frat was the source of an attack on a Jewish fraternity just last year.  As a University of Oklahoma student told Newsweek today, “this certainly isn’t the first [racist incident], and it certainly isn’t the last.”  This frat is merely the most visible example of a problem that is pervading our college campuses.

Some readers may look at the location of this incident and say that it is really just a problem there, but not here.  These readers may tell themselves that I am not racist and I’m sure my local college or alma mater is not racist.  These people may say to themselves that this is a problem limited to the South, the old Confederacy or places people may think are bastions of racism.

Yet just this past week, the University of California at Los Angeles was rocked by an anti-Semitic crisis.  This past month, an eminently qualified student was applying for a position on the University’s Judicial Council, which enforces school rules and imposes punishments like expulsions or suspensions, when she was asked an unbelievable question in 2015.  Rachel Beyda was asked, “given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”

Los Angeles is not known as a historically anti-Semitic area.  In fact, it has the second highest proportion of Jewish-Americans in the entire country.  Yet, UCLA has become the latest example of what is a growing problem with anti-Semitism on American campuses. A study conducted last year discovered that 54% of Jewish students experienced anti-Semitism on their college campus in the 2013-2014 academic year.

And these experiences are not limited to Jewish students, but instead there has been an increase antagonism of other minority groups either intentionally or by unintentionally perpetuating a racist stereotype through micro-aggressions.  Another recent example from UCLA happened in the Spring of 2012, when a female UCLA student went on YouTube and publicly insulted Asian students, including a racist imitation of these students speaking.

We are failing our students.  We cannot assume that because we are in a modern age, racism does not still exist in our institutions.  The best way to fight ignorance is to learn ourselves, so let us not leave it to the new generation or just say that we are post-racial.  But instead we must commit to doing something to improve our own knowledge of other communities in our country.