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.
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. https://www.cfr.org/blog/2020-election-numbers
. . . 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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The Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire in northern New Mexico is near full containment with efforts moving into recovery phases. Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham criticized the United States Forest Service in a press release, pushing for accountability from the federal agency.
It’s a word that is used often by reporters and pundits on a righteous mission for the truth but is also overlooked by the public. How does one hold a government accountable? What does it even mean?
The word is so often used in the context of journalism that the example given in Merriam-Webster references public officials.
“An obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.”
It’s a concept that is somewhat contrary to human nature on account of the fact that most humans hate to admit when we are wrong. However; it is absolutely necessary in a supposed age of reason, an era of human history that is supposedly defined by our capacity for rational, empiricist, and deductive reasoning.
With this unfortunate fact of human nature in mind, to hold someone accountable means to call out the person when they do something wrong – wrong meaning an error in judgement that leads to an unpleasant event, saying something that is not true, holding one’s self to a different standard than that of peers, etc. Calling out inconsistencies, hypocrisies, and plain lies is the duty of reporters, journalists, and pundits in a supposedly free country that respects a free press.
How doe we hold a government accountable for its words and actions?
We keep open records (available to the public) and constantly remind our leaders (be they elected or appointed) that they have a duty to fulfill to the body politic.
Governor Lujan-Grisham calling out the U.S. Forest Service alleging out-dated prescribed burn plans is a good thing. In response to Governor Lujan-Grisham, the U.S. government not only approved federal aid to assist in fighting the wildfires on federal land in New Mexico but paused all prescribed burns pending a 90-day review. This is exactly the purpose of a free press, the bully pulpit, using influence in public spaces of discourse to apply rhetorical pressure on greater organizations.
It is important that the public (meaning all of us) maintain pressure on governments (municipal, state, and national) in order to keep them honest, performing tasks that benefit our society overall and not just individuals looking to make a profit. I think the bully pulpit and the willingness to apply force (including not acting when expected to act) is the only way to keep a government accountable to its people. All forms of politics rely on fear and leverage to force a stronger organization to act. This is the unfortunate reality of human relations.
I am honestly desensitized to news stories like this because I have read too many of these headlines. No population that tolerates this kind of public violence every year, every month, sometimes every day, should be considered “civilized.” Will our politicians do anything about this gun violence? Probably not? Will a majority of Americans continue voting for these politicians? Probably.
There is no question that the United States of America has an issue with guns. Just by numbers alone: there are approximately 329.5 million people in the U.S. (U.S. Census, 2020)3 and the number of firearms is estimated to be over 400 million between military, police, civilians (American Gun Facts, 2022) with approximately 98% of those firearms in civilian hands.4 The simple fact that this country is saturated with firearms leads to the inevitable outcome of more crimes involving firearms.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 sets a national standard for the purchase of firearms – rifles can be purchased at 18 years of age while handguns can be purchases at 21 years of age (Shirin Ali, The Hill, 2022).5 An amending piece of legislation in 1993, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, federally mandated background checks from licensed firearm dealers. However, regulations (including age restrictions) vary between states (which seems to contradict the age restriction set in the Gun Control Act of 1968). Some states have a lower age limit on handguns, some states have no limits on firearm possession. Considering the age limit for alcohol purchases is set at 21 years of age I think the age limit on firearm purchases should at least match that for alcohol purchases since alcohol consumption has a tendency to make one more violent by impairing judgment and unleashing inhibitions. There also must be a consistent standard for firearm purchases and possession enforced by the national government.
This year’s spring season started rough for New Mexico. Two wildfires (one of which partially started from a controlled burn conducted by the U.S. Forestry Service) have since merged into what is not the largest wildfire in the continental United States. More than two thousand firefighters and personnel are working to contain the fire which is currently being reported at 40% containment. Hundreds of people have evacuated their homes throughout San Miguel County and Mora County with no timeline as of yet for when they will be able to return.
When this fire is adequately contained I would like to see my fellow citizens in New Mexico push our state government to hold the U.S. Department of Agriculture at least partially accountable for this wildfire. Perhaps some investigations from the NM Attorney General into why the Forestry Service for the Santa Fe National Forest was conducting a controlled burn during the dryest and windiest time of year. Perhaps some investigations into the the Forestry Services criteria for conducting controlled burns.
The word “politics” is rooted in the Greek word “politika” meaning “affairs of the cities.” I think this root definition is important to remember because it is a reminder that any kind of political organization must begin locally and communally. Politics starts with your relationships with your neighbors, your mailmen, your store clerks, your food servers, your teachers, your kids’ teachers, your co-workers, your bosses, your employees, etc. Maintaining positive (or at least neutral) relationships with the people within close proximity to us is how we maintain empathy for other people and build a healthy democratic society. News organizations can make communication within a community easier but they cannot replace individual initiatives. There must be incentives for individuals to get out and forge connections with others.
I think there are aspects of American societies that can be re-organized to be more efficient in application. Decentralization is the key to efficiency. One aspect of our infrastructure that we can start to re-structure is our food sources. Specifically, making our food distribution systems as locally sourced as possible with intentions to reduce travel times. Community gardens can be a decent first step to localization as well as encouraging more people to grow their own household food whenever possible.
I like to revisit my own values periodically with the intention to maintain a fluid idea of who I am as a person. Here is a list of philosophical values which I hold fundamental in my mind (at 31-years-old):
Equality of opportunity
I have developed a distaste for political labels such as “conservative” and “liberal” although I still have a romanticist fondness for the term “liberal.” It might be better to explain one’s beliefs in detail and let other people place you into whatever boxes they’ve created in their own minds. I suppose one important thing to know me is that I have no patience to play insipid social games with other people, I prefer to be direct and tell you whatever is on my mind. I don’t care how you think I should speak/behave/react, I will live out my one life to my preferences and no one else’s. I write more for myself than anybody else, not to please anybody but to release my punditry to the world in my own effort to make it a little less shitty than it was when I was born. Interviewing people is how I keep myself in tune with other people despite my inherently poor social skills. I feel like reporting news is what I was born to do on this planet and I hope that I help to educate the public regardless of the publication to which I am contributing.
The liberal is out and the conservative is in! This tiny village in the southern Rocky Mountains that has been desperate to re-invent itself after Corporate America bent it over and fucked it just elected a new mayor bent on keeping out the one industry that might be able to shock the village awake. The village has been on life support for four years and the conservative, anti-drug Mayor-elect is bent on creating his own Stepford village of an America that barely even existed.
The cannabis industry in America can be analogized to a steam locomotive in the late 19th century barreling through the wild west of superstition and tradition leaving a civilized order in its wake. And the churches and anti-drug coalitions are the native Americans.
John Ortega‘s naïve attitude towards recreational drug use blinds him from the economic opportunities that the growing cannabis industry can offer the Village of Questa. Questa, like much of small-town America, remains in the grip of a religious influence that thrives off stoking fears of alternative methods and mindsets, changing demographics, and shifts in human migration in which anti-drug sentiments are rooted. Hopefully Mayor-elect Ortega will prioritize Questa’s economic needs over any personal apprehensions toward the cannabis plant. The Mayor-elect and the incoming Village Councilor will be sworn into their respective offices come April.
In a time of high-priced commodities, real estate, and just about everything else municipalities need any source of revenue onto which the they can get their greedy, capitalist claws if they are to fulfill a semblance of their duty to the public they serve. Regardless of whichever archaic, supposedly all-powerful entity you pray for, we all speak the language of financial exchanges. The fact is that cannabis can bring in money for many communities throughout small-town America struggling to survive in a global marketplace.
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.