3 Pieces of News to Start 2022

Who would like to begin 2022 with some speculation on humanity’s next large-scale war? Me neither but we got it anyway.

Russia is flexing it’s muscles again with a warning to a couple of its neighbors against joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (N.A.T.O.).

“It is quite obvious that the ascension of Finland and Sweden to NATO would have serious military and political consequences that would require an adequate response from Russia,” said a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, not revealing exactly what action Russia would take in response.

The N.A.T.O. is primarily a military alliance between the United States and several western European nations and it was created as a bulwark against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Finland and Sweden officially hold a stance of neutrality on the world stage but Sweden has increased it own defense spending since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine back in 2014. I’m sure eastern Europe remembers an aggressive Russia all too well.

A moment of silence.

Microsoft sun-setting online services for multiple XBOX 360 Halo games marking the end of an era.

The “golden age of Halo” might be when Bungie Studios still held the reins of the iconic video game franchise. Perhaps Microsoft was waiting for the release of the XBOX One X/S consoles to finally move on from its classic Halo games.

All Halo games that have housed online services on XBOX 360 will be shutting down come January 13, 2022.

Anthony James Devetis, GAMERANT, 2022

Fans of the franchise will still able to get their fix of classic Halo through the anthology entitled The Master Chief Collection.

Cannabis industry hindered by incongruity.

New Mexico’s fledgling cannabis industry is being impeded by the federal prohibition of the plant that continues to plague the nation with needless authoritarianism. The Village of Questa governing council is currently attempting to attract cannabis entrepreneurs to its tiny northern New Mexico area but stipulations attached to federal funding is hindering the prospects of one such entrepreneur, Michael Nezi of Roots & Herbs Farms.

The prohibition against cannabis by the U.S. government is an embarrassment to the nation, nothing more than a power-grab by police forces run amok that disproportionately affects historically impoverished citizens and residents. I’m surprised more conservative-leaning Americans are not jumping at this easy opportunity to denounce “big government” in favor of entrepreneurship.

Cannabis Business & Prohibition

Incongruity between national laws and state laws.

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

New Mexico is set to become the latest state to legalize cannabis for adult, recreational use next year in April and entrepreneurs are already gearing up for business. However, barriers continue to inhibit full economic exploitation of this incredibly versatile plant. One such entrepreneur in Questa, New Mexico, is being forced to relocate his proposed cannabis factory to neighboring Taos because his initial location is dependent on federal funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (E.D.A.) and cannot support a cannabis business. One would think that conservative-leaning politicos would jump on this as a classic example of excessive government regulations interfering with one’s entrepreneurial freedom. It would be a talking point with which I’m in agreement.

The legalization of cannabis in New Mexico pushed the duty of regulating legal cannabis onto individual municipalities in the state which I believe is congruent with the original concept for American democratic-republicanism. Regional “laboratories for democracy” may be the best way to ensure a sense of representation for different populations just as long as the over-arching national government presents a clear set of basic civil rights for lower governing bodies to follow. Federal cannabis prohibition defies this ideal by enforcing an authoritarian edict on regional governments.

The beginning of the twenty-first century has seen cannabis regulations slowly relax over the decades and Americans are now privy to a growing cannabis market across the nation. According to statistics from <www.flowhub.com>, the overall cannabis industry is worth approximately $61 billion, 68% of Americans are now in support of cannabis legalization, and 12% of Americans are “active cannabis users.” This super-majority support for cannabis legalization would be beneficial in a nation with a functioning democratic system. Alas, Americans are trapped within a psuedo-democracy corrupted by oligarchy.

What is Good and what is Evil?

The line between good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1973

How can a person protect himself from the evil within himself? I believe evil is forestalled with focused and diligent self-reflection and improvement – questioning what you think you know, delaying judgment of others, assuming with whomever you speak that they know something that you do not know, and recognizing humanity wherever you find it and in whomever you find it. Regardless of how much evil you witness around you, you can still make the world a better place by setting the example within yourself. Raise your own standards and show others how to love.
How does one show love (even to a complete stranger)?

Patience, gratitude, honesty, and mercy.

The Election of 2016: a Potential Catalyst for New American Populism

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

Looking back on the United States presidential election of 2016, I can theorize about how a political novice like Donald Trump won the election and how his rhetoric resonated with lower-class Americans. Trump used simplistic language in his speeches, providing little details regarding public policy and appealed to an instinctive anger against an economic system that rewards the most ruthless among us while punishing the most empathetic. Empty promises to create more American jobs, disregarding the interconnected nature of the globalized 21st century economy, appeals to low-income and (formally) uneducated voters who care first and foremost about what can be done for them in the short-term. President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 is a reflection of several institutional failures in America, first and foremost the failure of our educational institutions in their mission to teach critical thinking skills as well as historical contexts for our most pressing political issues.

The blame for our institutional failures lay at both ends of our proverbial political spectrum: the so-called Left-wing and Right-wing. Judging by the corporate media pundits who dominate our television stations and air waves, the Left-wing seems to consist of pathological desires to force more equitable outcomes out of our economic system while disregarding the irony of authoritative measures for supposedly populace outcomes, and the Right-wing seemingly consists of a dogmatic rejection of any populist, Keynesian policy which has proven its effectiveness in every other industrialized nation preferring a rigid alliance with private interests at the expense of public interests.

American news networks have also failed Americans as they have created a political environment in which partisan laborers for one or another of our political duopoly simply shout and demean each other while not actually listening to each other, seemingly incapable of any nuanced critique of each other’s ideas. A lack of nuance in news media can be just as dangerous as government propaganda because it breeds ideological converts rather than thinkers and analysts.

American educational institutions focus on stylistic and superficial job preparation rather than long-term, skills-based career building and philosophical study. Collegiate scholars today seem more concerned with earning the “right” degree for the sake of making a living rather than expanding their understanding of history and the world and earning the confidence to challenge existing power structures. Students of political science in particular seem more concerned with starting a career with the political party of their choice rather than building new paradigms for social organization.

The election of 2016 presented Americans with two negative options: a candidate representing a status quo already failing most Americans and a candidate representing a pseudo-populist reform with late-capitalism pulling the strings – the same old shit or a new brand of shit sprayed with a bottle of CK One cologne.

Whereas half of American voters do not even participate in our elections every four to eight years, I think this corruption-induced apathy presents an opportunity for alternative political candidates and parties. We have already seen an outspoken socialist win and retain a municipal seat in Seattle, Washington, one of the U.S.A.’s major cities. Populists, reformers, liberals, and socialists need to capitalize on this opportunity to subvert the corrupt duopoly of our two largest political parties and build coalitions across the nation, capturing local seats and building local bases of power that actually resonate with Americans. I think President Joe Biden has proved himself to be just as ineffectual as President Trump at manifesting the will of the people. I suggest new leadership is needed in America, leadership that is neither red nor blue.

Abortion Under The Gavel Again

Cover photo credit: <https://reproductiverights.org/case/scotus-mississippi-abortion-ban/>.

Abortion rights are once again at the Supreme Court of the United States. Oral arguments were presented on Wednesday (12/1) over the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center. If the SCOTUS rules in favor of the state of Mississippi, upholding its Gestational Age Act, a new precedent will be set for individual states to set new restrictions on the female healthcare procedure with 15 weeks as the new cut off date to obtain said procedure (the current cut off date is 24 weeks). Whereas several more conservative states have interests in enacting similar laws within there their own jurisdictions, a ruling from the SCOTUS in favor of Mississippi would effectively kick the issue back to the states. The silver lining for the more liberal states would be that they could enact their own protections for abortion services within their jurisdictions but there would still be a burden on lower class women in conservative areas; obviously if you’re in a lower economic class you cannot travel as easily as if you were more financially stable.

I think that if the SCOTUS rules in favor of Mississippi in Mississippi v. Jackson Women’s Health Center it will further damage what credibility the court holds. The right to an abortion was cemented in 1973 with Roe v. Wade and affirmed in 1992 with Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The Chief Justice of the SCOTUS at the time of Roe v. Wade was Warren Burger, a life-long political scientist and lawyer who helped secure his home state for then-Republican presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower back during the Republican presidential convention of 1952. Warren Burger was nominated to the SCOTUS by President Richard Nixon in 1969 whom apparently agreed with Burger’s more strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Burger would later vote with the majority in Roe v. Wade as well as lead a unanimous court against President Nixon in United States v. Nixon.

The Chief Justice at the time of Planned Parenthood v. Casey was William Rehnquist, an American lawyer who also believed in a more strict interpretation of the Constitution emphasizing the 10th Amendment, reserving powers not explicitly given to the federal government to the respective states. Rehnquist opposed both decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Abortion rights have survived two conservative chief justices and has been established law in the United States for 48 years now, enough time to envelope two generations of Americans. The SCOTUS was designed to create a relatively stable system of law throughout these states while resisting shaky whims of populations, it was not meant to be a political body as are the U.S. Congress and the office of the Presidency. If the current conservative majority on the SCOTUS rule in favor of Mississippi, I fear that the court will become more political and divisive with justices reversing whatever rulings their personal politics dictate at the time.

The rhetoric against abortion is a religious pseudo-argument, a remnant of archaic thinking that limits critical thinking skills and ties humanity to superstitious traditions masquerading as wisdom. Religious pseudo-arguments have no place in what is supposed to be a secular government. The argument in favor of abortion as a legitimate medical procedure is an empirical, libertarian argument advocating for individual liberty placing one’s autonomy over their physical body above nebulous ideas of the “sanctity of life.” Arbiters of the law need to root their argumentation and discourse in practical aspects of the physical world rather than in vague and hypothetical religious concepts.

There is also the subject of equality between males and females to consider: like most mammals female humans bare more of a burden in child rearing simply because they are the ones to physically give birth to the child. This phenomenon of evolution gears mammals towards family groups for survival in nature. However, modern human societies are relatively insulated from the harsh realities of nature and our technology and understanding of science have almost guaranteed the survival of our young (at least in developed, wealthy countries). The tight-knit, closed family groups which humans relied upon for survival in our early history are arguably less necessary. Whether or not this speculation of our social evolution is a net positive or a net negative for our morals is a subjective debate which I will not advance upon further but it is undeniable that our modern medical tools and practices around reproduction have elevated human females in our social positions by giving them more control over the ability to reproduce.

Oral arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as captured by CSPAN.

Book Review: “The Tender Bar” by JR Moehringer

I felt a strange connection with JR Moehringer while reading his story even if it was just the moments he wanted me to see.

Last week, I saw a trailer for an upcoming movie called The Tender Bar. Something clicked in me with the story and, after seeing that it was based on a memoir, I bought the memoir from Amazon the next day.

I flew through the book in a week.

It’s a true story about an east coast boy growing up without a father. While he has a strong connection with his single mother, he also yearns to learn what it means to be a good man and searches for father figures around him. The book is called The Tender Bar because the author forges a connection with a specific bar in his Long Island home-town where he’s drawn to the men who congregate there including his Uncle Charlie. The coming-of-age story culminates when the author writes of a transformative scene with his father, looking into the mirror after the near-violent altercation the author exclaims to himself, “my father is not a good man but I am not my father.”

The Tender Bar is a touching story of a young man struggling to discover the secret to manliness, the secret ultimately coming from the one place he never thought to look when he was a child.

The movie adaptation will be released through Amazon this December. Directed by George Clooney and written by JR Moehringer and William Monahan.

El-Prado-in-Fall

A nice day out.

Autumn leaves fall from their trees, guided by winds of fate and atmospheric pressure changes, and I obsessively count each leaf through a window analogizing each leaf as one of my many failures falling from the absurdly high expectations in my mind. Autumn colors are beautiful but depressing since all I can think of is the metaphor of death as the land slowly succumbs to winter’s bite. Yet there is also comfort in the act of surviving the winter because it is a reminder of the resilience of humans, a reminder of the best of the human spirit for endurance and progress.

52, 53, 54, . . .

I’m staring out the window now simply counting the falling leaves.

56, 57, 58, . . .

The bell above the entry door jingles and my eyes avert from the window to a beautiful woman who just walked into Elevation Coffee.

A selfie in Elevation.

A glimpse into my mind as I sat at a Taos coffee shop enjoying a day off work.

Good & Evil (or a Lack of Self-awareness)?

The line between good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1973

How can a person protect himself from the evil within himself?

I believe evil is forestalled with focused and diligent self-reflection and improvement – questioning what you think you know, delaying judgment of others, assuming with whomever you speak that they know something which you do not, and recognizing humanity wherever you find it and in whomever you find it. Regardless of how much evil you witness around you, you can still make the world a better place by setting the example within yourself. Raise your own standards and show others how to love.

How does one show love (even to a complete stranger)?

Patience, gratitude, honesty, and mercy.

It takes courage to pursue justice and it takes temperance to acquire wisdom.

Remember the past, look towards the future, and exercise kindness.

Iconoclastic Self-improvement

. . . While the Negro should not be deprived by unfair means of the franchise, political agitation alone will not save him, and that back of the ballot he must have property, industry, skill, economy, intelligence, and character, and that no race without these elements could permanently succeed.

Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery, 1901

If a man like Booker T. Washington, who was born a literal slave, can lift himself out of the horror of institutional bondage then build his own character through a stoic dedication to hard work and self-improvement to eventually start a college in the heart of the South, any 21st century American with all of the technological and social privilege that time has granted us can rise to higher aims.

Whistleblowing or Hornblowing?

Frances Haugen, the former data engineer for Facebook who disclosed internal documents from the social media giant to the United States Securities & Exchange Commission and the Wall Street Journal, says that current algorithmic standards on social media harms young people.

I don’t think I’m alone in my expression of the colloquialism, “duh!”

It’s been known for some time excessive time spent on digital social media platforms actually increases depression in teenagers as well as further pushes unrealistic body images onto young girls. Did we really need a “whistleblower” to get us all hyped up about these facts? What Miss Haugen is doing is not so much whistleblowing as it is just calling out the elephant in the room. If Miss Haugen was actually revealing something dangerous to the status quo, would she really be called before Congress for discussion? Or would she be marked for prosecution and driven into hiding in a foreign embassy, awaiting the protection of any institution willing to shelter enemies of an empire?

*cough-Julian Assange-cough*

Perhaps the reason why our officials in the United States Congress are so eager to prop up Frances Haugen as a hero is because the ruling oligarchy want to seize social media’s power over political discourse as Glenn Greenwald so eloquently put in his commentary on the matter. One question that each American citizen should be asking is, when did these technology giants become the gate-keepers to political speech? Here’s another novel concept particularly for these younger generations: perhaps we are all spending a little too much time in digital environments and not enough time in the real world spending real time with other people in the physical space (do not throw the pandemic at me – our issues around too much screen time began prior to this pandemic). How about we actually make efforts to understand each other by talking things out rather than hitting the “block” button every time we’re exposed to a different opinion?