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.
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.
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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I think reading in the morning is a good habit to cultivate. So many humans have become so accustomed to mindlessly scrolling through digital feeds of information simply waiting for a moment of high emotion to propagate to a pseudo-network of others for validation, it is juvenile and demeaning. Taking moments for yourself to read on one subject or to merely write out your own thoughts can help focus a person’s mind and orient themselves for the day.
I challenge everyone to resist the urge to look at your phone in the morning and set aside time to read a traditional, paper-bound book and/or journal your thoughts on paper. You may be surprised at the results.
Current books of focus:
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
The Proud Highway by Hunter S. Thompson
A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, and The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote
It’s hard to believe it’s already August, time sneaks up on you like that. It feels just last week I signed my employment contract with the Questa del Rio News but it was actually seven months ago.
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.
There was a brief time when I was contemplating a career in law. Indeed it was one of my motivations for relocating from Questa to Albuquerque in 2017. I had a vision in my head of becoming a defense attorney and advocating for Americans who lack the financial stability to ideally utilize our legal system. This brain worm infected my mind effectively enough to move me to New Mexico’s largest city and research how one gets accepted into the University of New Mexico’s law school. I bought the book LSAT for Dummies, attended a class about the feared admission test at UNM’s Continuing Education department, and was Googling financial assistance for prospective law students.
I think the singular test prep course at UNM was my first hurdle and what placed the first seeds of doubt in my mind regarding this potential career choice. The course was taught, not by a professor, but a lawyer (if my memory is serving me well he was a defense attorney for Bernalillo County’s Public Defender office). He may have been the most dry, uninspiring, and boring teacher under which I learned. The course was just one afternoon but his monotone voice was constantly lulling me to sleep. Perhaps it was the subject matter. If you can find me a teacher who can make test prep into an exciting learning opportunity then you should probably hire that person for your own entrepreneurial endeavors. The course took my mind from the idealistic vision I had crafted for myself back into the practical mechanisms of student life two years after I had completed my tenure as an undergraduate and it reminded me of the tedium that plagues American educational institutions. After that course I was less enthusiastic about returning to school.
For the next three years I would create a dichotomy in my mind dominated by a crossroads displaying my idealized versions of two career paths: one as a law student and one as a writer. In retrospect it was a rather silly conundrum since I was wasting time I could have been spending on either one of the two career choices. My advice to anyone placing such a dichotomous decision on themselves is to literally flip a coin. Whatever the outcome of the coin toss, you will know which choice resonates more with your desires after the reveal.
Today I like to think I’m developing a sharper eye for opportunities. I’ve moved back to the Questa area beneath the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for a specific deal on my housing that I would be an idiot to let pass by and I’m now working what might be a dream job to my high school self. In general life seems to be okay for me right now. I suppose my goal in writing this is to encourage anyone reading this who has yet to find some semblance of purpose to try setting up a long-term goal no matter what it is and aim at that for the time being. Changing your aims in the future is always a possibility but I think simply having something at which to aim your life is a good start creating a purpose for yourself.
Now I guess I just have one more thing to say.
As an ongoing effort to adopt a more positive mindset I have been cutting some metaphorical fat from my media consumption. The following video is an interview which I think may help anyone who is looking to develop some self-discipline and create an aim in life.
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.