I think I am beginning to overcome my fear of risk-taking. It’s important to recognize that the most difficult part of any project is the start. If you can just start something new then consistency will carry you the rest of the way.
Author Archives: drnc11
Chaos at a Crime Scene
This week has been a little crazy for me.
The Town of Red River (New Mexico) held its 41st annual Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally last weekend (Friday & Saturday). It is arguably Red River’s biggest event of the year and tens of thousands of bikers were swarming through Taos County.
At about 5:00 PM on Saturday (5/27) gun fire could be heard in Red River at 400 East Main Street and the NM State Police along with local police descended on the scene within minutes. The violence that erupted was gang-affiliated, two motorcycle gangs – the Bandidos and the Water Dogs – had escalated a conflict. Eight people were injured, three of which were killed, all were gang members.
I was in Red River a couple hours before the incident as well as a couple hours after, not during the incident. Initially I drove up there to photograph the Memorial Day event. I never expected to return hours later to cover a crime scene.
When I drove up to the town the second time, the road was blockaded by the Taos County Sheriff’s Department. Even after showing them my press badge, they told me their orders are “no one comes into town.”
I turned my truck around, back-tracked a minute down the highway, and turned into a neighborhood to the town’s immediate west. A property owner was nice enough to let me park in front of his house after I told him I was a reporter trying to get into town.
“Just hop the fence right there,” he said pointing behind his house. “The Mexicans have been doing it for years.”
I climbed over one fence and walked onto one of the back roads that run adjacent to Main Street. My editor had previously informed me of a press conference to be held at the Red River Conference Center in the center of the town so that was my destination. On the way there, near the ski lift house, four County Sheriff deputies approached me. I introduced myself, show them my press badge, and they asked me, “you coming in or heading out?”
After explaining my intentions, they discouraged me from going further saying, “you probably won’t inside the building.”
The Sheriff deputies then continued their patrol past me to the west. They were all wearing bulletproof vests and carrying large rifles.
I made it to the Convention Center, photographing the area along the way, and sending the photos to my editor. At the Center I met an independent journalist from Texas (Laura Kenna, Laura and the Party Animals, https://youtu.be/3TOaJZeVchQ) who was also there for a press conference.
The press conference was not until the following morning but we did manage to get an exclusive interview with Mayor Linda Calhoun at about 9:30 PM who wanted to reassure the town that there was no longer any immediate danger to the town, all the suspects had been apprehended. The remaining danger was over potential retaliatory attacks between the two gangs.
As I was watching the story gain more traction statewide and eventually nationwide I felt pride seeing larger news companies citing the Questa del Rio News and using photos or video I had shot in those initial moments.
Is it enough to be almost famous?
This film is fantastic.
It’s a quixotic story about a group of artists who are always chasing their passion while looking to avoid corrupting their art with modernity with different forces pushing and pulling different character in different directions all for the sake of the art. The main character of William is pursuing his passion to reveal the “soul of rock n’ roll” to his magazine readers and music fans, the character of Russell is pursuing his passion for making music while he and his band mates navigate the music business, the character of Penny just wants to follow her “free spirit” and enjoy life wherever she is, and all of them have their own ideas of “pure rock n’ roll.” Meanwhile, the character of Lester surrounds himself in nostalgia and laments what he described as a “dangerous time for rock n’ roll.” The film is set in the mid-1970’s focusing on a young journalist on tour with an upstart band across the country.
It is mainly a “coming of age” story about a writer jumping into his chosen profession head first with no training with his over-bearing mother worrying him with her worry. It’s also somewhat of a time capsule for musicians and writers.
Our recent pandemic exposed a lot of the inefficiencies in our government as well as our broader society.
Our healthcare system is too privatized and fractured to effectively respond to a broad, nation-wide crisis.
Our education system does not teach adequate media literacy skills (much less science literacy) so Americans do not know how to properly sort through sources of information throughout the media landscape. As a result of that, we have different factions of Americans who have their own go-to news sources that simply confirm their own biases. (This is also a result of the balkanization of the media ecosystem caused by the digitalization of the media but that is another conversation).
Our political system is too polarized and fractured to be effective in a nation-wide crisis because crises are politicized for partisan agendas. Also, the two political parties that control the processes and infrastructure are essentially bought off by corporate oligarchs and do not represent the average American. This is why they use marginal, “social issues” to keep Americans divided and ignorant to real issues that actually matter to our common interests.
Election 2020 numbers and an explanation for the deniers.
Joe Biden received 81,283,098 votes (51.3% of votes cast) in 2020 while incumbent President Donald Trump received 74,222,958 votes (46.8% of votes cast). That is a difference of 7,060,340 votes.
The electoral college count was 306-232.
Stories like this:
. . . And this . . . https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/11/05/usps-late-ballots-election/
. . . Become roots for sensationalist conspiracies about widespread election fraud and there people who run with them and start spiraling with their own paranoid ideas about subversions, machinations, and widespread Machiavellian schemes that are not based in facts.
I feel confident in saying that everyone denying the fact of the President Biden’s 2020 victory over his predecessor are going gout of their way to find specific articles about inefficiencies in our elections and using those articles to boost their own ideas about wide-scale, systemic fraud. It’s a classic use of selection bias.
Evidence of inefficiencies is NOT evidence of systemic fraud because inefficiencies occur ANYWHERE. Every functioning bureaucracy has inefficiencies, that is why redundant counter measures are used to catch mistakes. However, that recognition of procedural inefficiencies and the addition of redundancies as a solution challenges the world-view which involves a powerful victim narrative of working-class Americans being manipulated by an invisible and over-arching political force.
Nevermind the reality that actual election manipulation begins long before Election Day through our complex system intertwining political campaigns with private political scientists and marketers using our televised media ecosystem to barrage the American public with what is essentially paid propaganda. Less educated Americans would rather believe more excessively simplistic narratives of altered vote counts and electoral coups happening in one day.
Humans like dramatic narratives that paint them as heroes or martyrs even when the truth is much more banal. We want to look out opponents in the eyes and softly utter our last words of indignant deference, “Et tu, Brutus?”
We can’t all be Julius Caesar, we can’t all have the dramatic death under a statue of your enemy with thematic tones signaling a dying republic. The people who craft their own destinies, cementing their names into the annals of history, they are the exception rather than the rule. Most people are not coming after anyone else because most people are just trying to survive, but that gets boring for humans. So, we make up stories to justify our very existence. Eventually we want to be the characters we create.
Remember to ground yourself with practical knowledge periodically. If you spend too much time in your own mind, eventually your mind starts to eat itself from stagnation.
Why would you want to be someone else?
I would not want to be anyone else because it’s hard enough trying to figure out who you want to be.
I think most humans spend too much time thinking about what other people are thinking.
You may think it would be cool to be a famous millionaire for a day until you start thinking about what that person’s day-to-day routine may be and how that person became so successful. Many uber-successful people (“successful” in the typical way measured by financial wealth) are also very obsessive with a palette of mental issues with which they have to manage every day. If you could step into the mind of any person for a day, you would need to deal with the negatives as well as the positives.
Instead of fixating on another person’s life, focus on your own life, and take actions to improve it. Every person has their own circumstances of life to manage.
Corruption permeates throughout all levels of the United States government.
The Supreme Court of the United States has cultivated a reputation for objectivity and non-partisanship since the founding generation but a recent investigation by the New York Times may have shattered that reputation.
New York Times reporters Jo Becker and Julie Tate investigated an organization called the Supreme Court Historical Society, a non-profit dedicated to publishing educational material on the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. While this charitable organization may have started with noble intentions for public education, it has grown into an avenue for special interest group throughout the American legal community.
The charity, the Supreme Court Historical Society, is ostensibly independent of the judicial branch of government, but in reality the two are inextricably intertwined. The charity’s stated mission is straightforward: to preserve the court’s history and educate the public about the court’s importance in American life. But over the years the society has also become a vehicle for those seeking access to nine of the most reclusive and powerful people in the nation. The justices attend the society’s annual black-tie dinner soirees, where they mingle with donors and thank them for their generosity, and serve as M.C.s to more regular society-sponsored lectures or re-enactments of famous cases.
The society has raised more than $23 million over the last two decades. Because of its nonprofit status, it does not have to publicly disclose its donors — and declined when asked to do so. But The New York Times was able to identify the sources behind more than $10.7 million raised since 2003, the first year for which relevant records were available.
At least $6.4 million — or 60 percent — came from corporations, special interest groups, or lawyers and firms that argued cases before the court, according to an analysis of archived historical society newsletters and publicly available records that detail grants given to the society by foundations. Of that, at least $4.7 million came from individuals or entities in years when they had an interest in a pending federal court case on appeal or at the high court, records show.Jo Becker and Julie Tate, A Charity Tied to the Supreme Court Offers Donors Access to Justices, The New York Times (2022).
This story should be headline news everywhere but it seems everyone is too busy gossiping about who will be the next Speaker of the House.
Here are the big questions with this story:
Do American citizens have any assurances that the Supreme Court Historical Society is not trading donations for access to arguably the U.S. government’s most powerful branch and do we have any assurances that the Supreme Court is not letting these special interests affect their official decisions?
I think the answer to both of these questions is no, we do not have such assurances. I do not believe that any government official (elected or appointed) deserves any benefit of the doubt. If there is any opportunity for corruption especially when there is money involved, the assumption should be that there is corruption occurring. Citizens should be skeptical of EVERYTHING that a government official says or does and the burden of proof must be on the government regarding any suspicion of corruption.
Birds are Reptiles
Physical appearance is not always the best way to categorize nature.
When one looks at birds like this puffin, it can be hard to reconcile its cute appearance with its place in the animal kingdom. The thing is, this adorable puffin has something in common with a rattlesnake, in that it’s a reptile (Image credit: Ray Hennessy, Unsplash licence, Image Cropped).
You read that correctly, birds are reptiles. Now, I can hear you saying “but we learned that they are a different group of organisms, and that reptiles are just those scaly animals that have cold blood?” While reptiles don’t have cold blood per se, some of them DO have feathers. And can fly. In this post I hope to convince you of the fact that the puffin pictured above, and all of its avian relatives, belong with the snakes, lizards, crocodiles, and turtles in the reptile group.
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Life is horrible but we’re still here.
Walking on these streets
Walking through these trees
Always on my knees
Begging for release
Scraping by for the sake of Time
For the Time to go at least
Life does not get easier because life is not easy, no matter how much we pretend it is. The truth is that life is horrible and a part of becoming an adult is learning to deal with life, figuring out how to drive through life without falling asleep at the wheel and crashing into a billboard advertising an asinine product that nobody needs. No one is satisfied with life but we keep breathing and eating because we’re scared of what might be next. A lot of people even make up stories about what could come next to make waking up in the morning easier but no one knows what is coming next. All we can be sure of is this life, these moments right now, and yet humans always appear so sure of themselves. What do you think of that piece of irony?
Every day humans scurry about on the surface of this planet inflating the importance of every decision and stressing over every possible outcome as if we are looking up at a our god of choice and saying, “look at me, look at what I did today, I’m so fucking important!” And every day we find reasons to kill each other over which piece of land is better or whose imaginary father figure in the sky is better or whose made up group of humans is better because of this or that arbitrary genetic trait.
Every day humans seem to find a way to keep breathing in spite of the chaotic nature of the universe and THAT, I believe, is the most courageous thing about us; our courage in the face of chaos is our biggest strength as a species. In spite of all the other hungry animals on Earth, all the diseases, all the volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes, droughts, famines, extreme heat, extreme cold, in spite of all the things from this planet trying to kill us like a bad case of fleas human beings are still here. We are one stubborn group of primates who refuse to lay down quietly, we just keep breathing.
Life is horrible but humans do not have to be. Despite this chaotic universe trying to kill us at every opportunity we are still here in defiance of nature itself. I think that is beautiful.
Life is horrible but humans are still here despite that fact. We are here because of the inherent instinct to survive found in every animal despite the chaos of the universe. THAT is our light at the end of the tunnel, our saving grace, our chance at redemption. If nothing else, live out of spite.
Critical Thinking & Open-mindedness
Human history is NOT a zero-sum game.
Something that I’ve noticed particularly among my own generation is a tendency to think about aspects of human history in zero-sum terms from an ideological perspective. For example, assuming a person advocates for imperialistic colonization simply because he or she may be expressing some admiration for a specific head of state or a modern monarch. Another example would be assuming someone’s political ideology from one statement or admission regardless of how well acquainted you are with the person. This is fallacious because it ignores individual circumstances and stems from a pathological attitude towards how the world “should” be.
Understand that there is a distinction to be made between individual people and the culture or institution into which a person was born and the faults of a specific culture or institution does not rest solely on one individual. There are things we can learn from any human being from any past time period from the military tactic of George Washington to the political machinations of Adolf Hitler. The founders of the United States of America have plenty to teach students today from their courage in rebelling against the standing empire of the time to their political blind spots regarding institutionalized slavery in America. Human beings are complicated and human societies are complicated. Building a society cannot be done within one human life-time. The story of humanity is an amalgamation of all of our individual stories each as complicated as the next, each contributing something, and each with its own personalized agenda. A society is simply the building blocks that our fore-fathers and ancestors left behind.
Expressing anger towards Queen Elizabeth II for the negative consequences of imperialism and colonization makes as much sense as blaming the United States for the entire transatlantic slave trade.
Human history is a lot more complicated than the neat boxes that humans like to make for ourselves. Sometimes there is not one person we can blame for a particular social ill. Something what would be considered a social ill in one time period may not be considered such in another time period. Sometimes there are grey areas concerning ethics and morals. We can never point to one action by one person can condemn everything else that person ever did.
I think the best way to approach human history is apolitically and amorally. I don’t like to judge past humans for their actions (especially if we’re talking about a time centuries before my own) because our place of birth and upbringing play a significant role in the person be grow up to be. Many people like to believe themselves to be a good person regardless of what time period they had been born into, but the key question is how one defines “good.” Judging the past with a subconscious superiority complex is utopian thinking. Utopias are fallacious (and impossible).
This “black & white” thinking may be attributed to the rise of digital communications and social media where short writing and short attention spans usually dominate spaces due to the incentive towards emotional appeals and click statistics, exemplified by character limits for text postings. If I could name a single issue with digital discourse it would be lack of context. Most communication between human beings is non-verbal which means facial expressions and body language play a significant role in how we communicate with each other. From my experience, there is no way the full spectrum of non-verbal body language can be translated through digital channels.
One could also argue that the degradation of American news media goes as far back as the presidential election of 1960 with the first televised presidential debates but I digress.
Perhaps the digital media ecosystem created by internet connectivity has done more harm than good with the ease at which we can communicate across distances. When all you see in an argument is words on a screen or a cartoonish avatar, it subconsciously diminishes the humanity of the other person in your mind and the negative emotions are less tempered by civic decency. Unfortunately I cannot see a way to go back to pre-internet discourse. In a span of just twenty years we have developed lifestyles revolving almost entirely around this new digital infrastructure (whether we’re aware of it or not) and, short of a widespread collapse of our modern technology, I cannot see a situation where the genie goes back into the bottle. There is already a generation of Americans who have spent their entire childhood plugged into the world wide web (from tablets for toddlers to mobile phones in their adolescence).
Communications—everything from roads, to rivers, to writing and the Internet—enable groups of humans to share a consensus around the solutions to the five group problems. In short, communications allow a group to coordinate, and new communications technologies allow bigger groups to coordinate. The flip side of this is that communications technologies are disruptive. In laying the foundations for a larger scale of group coordination, they disrupt the balance of consensus. New methods of communication allow new voices—whether internal or external to the group, or both—to enter the group’s consciousness. New people—new to the group—do things differently. Suddenly, the consensus on how to solve the five problems breaks down, and the group begins to lose cohesion.Mike Martin, How the Long History of Human Violence Explains Why the Internet Causes so much Chaos, (Time, 2019).
Modern computing communications and our new digital media ecosystem may be causing another shift in consensus for humans on an unprecedented scale much like the invention of the printing press in the 15th century led to the Protestant Reformation and ultimately the Enlightenment period (which would lead to the 18th century revolutions that would help to shape the upcoming societies on the then-“New World”). Internet connections and the world wide web are the new printing press and, if history is any guide, the 21st century will be very tumultuous in the wake of the social upsets our new printing press is causing. Old ideological pathologies are resurfacing and finding refuge in secluded parts of digital media and the fractional nature of the ecosystem is balkanizing the discourse, cutting us off from the critical cross-examinations necessary for consensus and social cohesion.
What’s the solution?
I see only one solution to this fractionalization of discourse and it does not look promising. It requires increased self-awareness of individuals to recognize their media consumption as well as individual initiative to take more efforts upon themselves in reaching out beyond their innate biases and proclivities to make contact with their political opponents and ideological opposites. Government regulations or even self-regulations can help to better connect our media environments to coalesce people but it is ultimately on the individual to make the effort themselves in the long-term. Making an effort to seek out as many sources of information as possible – cross-checking, cross-examining, analyzing, and fact-checking for ourselves; reading as many books, newspapers, journal articles, anything we can get our hands on – that increased awareness for human history, human societies, and simply each other will go a long way toward progressing humans to a stronger understanding of each other. As in any strong personal relationship, communication and understanding is the key to strengthening our civic ties to each other. It’s not white people versus black people, white people versus latinos, Americans versus Mexicans or Canadians, North Americans versus Europeans, working class versus bourgeoisie, rich versus poor, or any other manufactured social division. If we all made an effort to bypass all of these superficial barriers, I believe there is nothing the human race cannot accomplish. By recognizing humanity more and working to actively bypass our tribal tendencies, we can literally unite our species into one planetary civilization and once again reach for the stars.
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