Albuquerque Passes Clean & Green Retail Ordinance on a 5-3 vote.

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

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Inside the Vincent E. Griego Chambers prior to the start of the city council meeting.

The Albuquerque City Council met with a full house of spectators last night, forty-one of those people signed up to speak publicly in front of the Council on a specific item agenda.  Councilor Cynthia Borrego was absent from the meeting which brought the quorum down to 8 from the full 9-member council.  The spotlight was on the Clean & Green Ordinance, a local measure to “pressure businesses (Councilor Pat Davis)” into transitioning to more environmentally-friendly consumer containers.

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The Clean & Green Ordinance as listed on the council meeting agenda.

The ordinance was amended to a phased-in ban to take effect on 1/1/2020, rather than an immediate ban as a temporary reprieve for local businesses from the extra costs of transitioning away from cheap plastics.  In the meantime until January of 2020, plastic grocery bags and plastic straws will be available upon request of individual customers.  The ordinance was also amended to add a charge of ten cents onto customers asking for plastic bags as a way to encourage consumers to start transitioning to reusable containers.

Opposition to the ordinance came from the restaurant industry, specifically the New Mexico Restaurant Association, arguing that the current cost of transitioning from plastics would be to great on business owners and that consumer prices would inevitably increase as a consequence.  A counter-point to that argument was made by private citizens in favor of the ordinance, that the cost is already artificially low and that consumers should be paying more for the luxury of take-home containers.  A representative from the New Mexico Recycling Association also made an appearance to speak on behalf of the ordinance.

The proponents of the ordinance focused their arguments on the environmental impacts of plastic trash and claimed responsibility on governments to force the hand of businesses for the sake of the planet.  The counter-point to that argument focused on individual liberty and government over-reach, the responsibility of clean environments should be on individuals and businesses making better choices willingly rather than out of necessity.

The three Councilors who voted against the ordinance in the final vote were Councilors Brad Winter, Trudy Jones, and Don Harris.

Trust me, I’m a writer.

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

“Journalism is not supposed to be propaganda from politicians.  Journalism is supposed to hold politicians accountable for what they say (Ana Kasparian, The Young Turks, 2019).”

How can a news organization today (particularly a new organization) gain the trust of the public given the current over-saturation of the market?  I think the key is transparency for themselves, each reporter/editor/producer must be willing to put their name in front of the public eye and stand up for their work in the face of criticism.  Make sure that any one of your readers/viewers/listeners can approach you with questions if they so desire and accept criticism with grace; do not let praise inflate your ego.  This is also just good advice in general – be honest with yourself about what you’re doing, try to be self-aware in what you do, and maintain an over-arching vision to guide your work.

It’s impossible to be completely objective simply because most humans orient themselves around their subjective feelings rather than logic and their objective surroundings but that doesn’t mean that we can not strive for objectivity for its own sake.  Every human has the capacity for logical reasoning through critical thinking and discourse, it’s what makes our species so powerful in nature – we can come together around common goals and manipulate our environment in ways other animals can not.  However; this attribute is a double-edged sword for, if we remain too long in one group with the same ideas in circulation over and over and over again, our minds become dull from ease and the group weakens with fatigue.  To maintain a competitive edge, a group of humans must always be inviting to a variety of ideas, individuals must be willing to challenge themselves to sharpen their arguments.  Echo chambers are dangerous.

This is exactly what modern media has become: an ecosystem of echo chambers.  People on the political Right-wing have their own sources, people on the political Left-wing have their own sources, and more moderately-minded people don’t know where to go for sources so they try to read multiple sources from both sides of the spectrum (if they don’t opt out of politics altogether) all the while animosity for everyone else increases and politics becomes more and more tribal.  Modernity is supposed to be more civilized than tribalism.

I think I’m digressing, let’s go back to the topic of modern news media.  I think the key to success in news media is transparency which is why I want to list what I think is important to discuss when it comes to political engagement, government functions, and such:

  • the role of a government relative to the society it presides over,
  • hearing from a variety of perspectives regardless of popularity,
  • clarifying differences between perspectives and taking care to NOT miss-represent one’s ideas.

I believe these to be important facets of news media – a result of my own beliefs in individualism, free speech, pluralism, government and corporate transparency, and democratic-republicanism.  My goal with my writing (both my personal writing and professional writing) is to promote inquiry into how our societies operate, encourage more people to ask questions that some people in positions of power may not want to answer.  I’ve written in the past about my belief in writing skills and their importance to civilization and I stand by that belief today.

New Mexico Relaxes Criminality of Cannabis, Maintains Control of Distribution

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 406 into law this week, the new law institutes several measures into effect this year regarding the criminality of cannabis as well as its distribution.

“. . . local school boards and the governing bodies of charter schools shall authorize by rule the possession, storage and administration of medical cannabis by parents and legal guardians, or by designated school personnel, to qualified students for use in school settings . . . (NM SB406, page 1).”

The state will implement cannabis into schools for medical use under strict supervision and only to designated students.

The new will also amend the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act (the successful bill that legalized medicinal cannabis) to widen it’s umbrella for who can qualify as a cannabis patient/producer in the state, an individual cannabis patient/producer must still be licenced with the state’s Department of Health.

“. . . EXEMPTION FROM CRIMINAL AND CIVIL PENALTIESFOR THE MEDICAL USE OF CANNABIS. –

A.  A qualified patient or a qualified patient’sprimary caregiver shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner for the possession of or the medical use of cannabis if the quantity of cannabis does not exceed an adequate supply; provided that a qualified patient or the qualified patient’s primary caregiver may possess that qualified patient’s harvest of cannabis.

B.  A reciprocal participant shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner for the possession of or the medical use of cannabis if the quantity of cannabis does not exceed the limit identified by department rule.

C.  The following conduct is lawful and shall not constitute grounds for detention, search or arrest of a person or for a violation of probation or parole, and cannabis products that relate to the conduct are not contraband or subject to seizure or forfeiture pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act or the Forfeiture Act:

  1. a qualified patient or primary caregiver possessing or transporting not more than an adequate supply or a reciprocal participant possessing or transporting not more than the limit identified by department rule;
  2. a qualified patient or primary caregiver purchasing or obtaining not more than an adequate supply from a lawful source or a reciprocal participant purchasing or obtaining not more than the limit identified by department rule;
  3. a qualified patient using or being under the influence of cannabis; provided that the qualified patient is acting consistent with law;
  4. a qualified patient or primary caregiver transferring, without financial consideration, to a qualified patient or primary caregiver not more than two ounces of cannabis; or
  5. with respect to cannabis cultivated under a personal production license, a qualified patient or primary caregiver possessing, planting, cultivating, harvesting, drying, manufacturing or transporting cannabis plants or cannabis products as allowed by department rule; provided that a qualified patient or primary caregiver who possesses a personal production license shall not manufacture cannabis products using an oil extractor solvent that is stored under pressure unless the qualified patient or primary caregiver holds a separate license from the department permitting the person to manufacture cannabis products using an oil extractor solvent that is under pressure (NM SB406, pages 14-16).”

Individuals under 18 years of age can qualify for the medical cannabis program but it must go through the parents/guardian.

SB406 was sponsored by Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino, a long-time advocate for cannabis as a medicinal and commerical product in the state legislature.

 

US AG’s Full Letter to Congressional Leaders on Mueller Report

MinWage Legislation Advancing in NM House Committees

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

House Bill 31, or the “Phased-In Minimum Wage Bill,” received a “Do Pass” recommendation from the House Labor, Veterans, And Military Affairs Committee and was referred to the Commerce & Economic Development Committee where it currently resides.

 

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Screen Capture from <https://www.nmlegis.gov/Legislation/Legislation?chamber=H&legType=B&legNo=31&year=19>.

 

The final committee vote in HLVMAC was 6 in favor and 3 against – the three members who voted against the bill are NM Representative Rachel Black (District 51), NM Representative David Gallegos (District 61), and NM Representative Tim Lewis (District 60).

NM Representative Antonio Maestas is the chairman the Commerce & Economic Development Committee, he has not yet scheduled House Bill 31 for a committee vote.

Government Shutdowns are Epitome of Dysfunction

Cover Image Source: <https://theprogressivecynic.com/2013/08/02/avoiding-the-traps-of-compulsive-partisanship-and-compulsive-non-partisanship/>.

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

Should we expect another gov’t shutdown in February?

The funding lapse in the United States government has been temporarily resolved ending the 35-day shutdown.  President Donald Trump has explained publicly that this deal would give back-pay to furloughed federal employees but he is also NOT giving up his fight for his border wall.

How long will this temporary reprieve last?  3 weeks.  The national Congress will need to spar over funding again come February 15.

The U.S./Mexico border wall was a big campaign promise for President Trump back in 2016 and he has repeated the applause line at several rallies since his 2016 victory.  Considering the president’s stand-offish nature that we’ve seen in media appearances, I expect him to stick to that campaign promise to protect his own pride.  Although, it’s ironic that this gov’t shutdown is over border security because border security-law enforcement agents including T.S.A. agents and air traffic controllers are among the federal employees that were working without pay.

“While most government shutdowns are of relatively short duration, they all result in the disruption to government services and increased costs to the government – and thus taxpayers – due to lost labor.  According to the financial rating agency Standard & Poor’s, the 16-day shutdown from October 1, to October 17, 2013, had ‘taken $24 billion out of the economy,’ and ‘shaved at least 0.6 percent off annualized fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth’ (Tom Murse, <https://www.thoughtco.com/government-shutdown-history-3368274>, 2019).”

Should we start expecting a gov’t shutdown under every new president? 

President Trump’s gov’t shutdown was about border security and a proposed border wall that some conservatives are claiming will be an effective tactic against illegal immigration.  The question of a border wall’s actual effectiveness is another discussion.

Back in 2013, there was a gov’t shutdown perpetuated by the Republican Party (who then controlled the U.S. House of Representatives) in which Republicans demanded a repeal of President Barack Obama’s arguably signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (controversely nick-named “Obamacare.”)

Back in 1995, there was a gov’t shudown over apparently grim economic forecasts.  Then House Republicans expressed concerned about the Clinton Administration’s budget effects on the national deficit.

Are gov’t shutdowns becoming more and more common as partisan tensions continue to heat up?  As we move forward, is each subsequent Congress going to have its own battle over the national budget?  That doesn’t sound like it will go well with lower class American workers who are being squeezed every year with low wages and a lack of consistent healthcare coverage.

The solution is more home-rule.

I think a solution to extreme polarization in the national government is for citizens to reconnect with each other at the lower government levels.  Federal elected officials are at historic low approval ratings which means the American public largely does not trust its national leaders.  However; voter turn-out is also plummeting in local elections.  This is bad news across the board.  Regardless of our outlook on our federal leaders, Americans need to remain involved in our home communities.  If we’re unhappy with our federal leaders then we should be able to turn to our respective states and localities to pick up the slack.  That is exactly what was originally intended with our democratic-republican, federalist system of government – multiple governments acting as checks on each other’s power.

The Age of Memes

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

“Have you ever thought about what it means to be a god?  It means you give up your mortal existence to become a meme: something that lives forever in people’s minds.  You barely have your own identity anymore.  Instead, you’re a thousand aspects of what people need you to be.  And everyone wants something different of you.  Nothing is fixed, nothing is stable (Neil Gaiman, American Gods, 2001).”

Humans are very visual with communication often using images to supplement the narrative power of written words.  “A picture is worth a thousand words,” says the old phrase and pictures dominate the modern world of digital communications.

The news industry is undergoing a transformation through digital communications and I think the most successful news organizations to come out on top of that transformation will be the organizations that are fully embracing the web, not the organizations that are trying to keep one foot online and the other foot in physical print.  As much as I hate to admit it, printed paper is becoming less and less practical and digital platforms are becoming more and more relevant as web culture is slowly expanding through its various influencers, conquering the media landscape.  Mobile phones, touch-screen music players, and tablets are the new remote controls of our society.

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Image Source: <https://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/news/2416558/instant-messaging-to-overtake-email-as-biggest-digital-communication-platform>.

The ability to search for specific information has become just as important as knowing information and that is a powerful thing for the average person with no defining, exceptional skills.  Technology is an amazing equalizer that not only improves your own life but your ability to help others.  Of course, technology also has a dystopian element.  The so-called gatekeepers – the internet service providers, the search engines, and the speech platforms – now hold immense influence over the decisions of individual people.  I think the solution to that is more market choices for consumers as well as effective anti-monopoly laws from governments, but that leads us into a more specific political discussion.

There is no doubt that technology has improved lives for people all over the globe and internet access is a huge part of connecting people with products and services beneficial to altruistic endeavors.  Even comedians are utilizing the Web to spread short messages for quick laughs – “memes” as they have been coined.  Imagine how a person from the pre-industrial age would spread his idea to a million eyes and ears across just his own country let alone the world.  Today, one just has to post on Twitter and, if enough people see it and share it, instant pseudo-celebrity status (for about five minutes).

 

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Image Source: <http://www.vmagroup.com/digital-communications/>.

 

A computer (including a smart phone, a digital tablet, etc.) is a powerful tool.  It should be used to a society’s benefit rather than to dumb down a populace but perhaps I’m writing optimistically.