Another Public Shooting, Another Day in America

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

SOURCE: American Gun Facts, <https://americangunfacts.com/gun-ownership-statistics/>.

19 students and 2 teachers killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The gunman is 18-year-old Salvador Ramos.

“The suspect purchased two AR-15-style rifles on May 22, two days before the massacre and six days after his birthday (ABC News, 2022).”1

Acquaintances of Ramos have described him to ABC News as “a weird kid” suggesting anti-social behavior and a reputation as an outcast, a state not uncommon among younger Americans particularly males.

“The shooter was able to make entry into a classroom, barricaded himself inside that classroom, and . . . just began shooting numerous children and teachers that were in that classroom, having no regard for human life (Lt. Christopher Olivarez, Texas Department of Public Safety, 2022).”2

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.

1ABC News, <https://abc7.com/elementary-school-shooting-texas-shooter-salvador-ramos-uvalde-tx/11893076/>.

2National Public Radio, <https://www.npr.org/2022/05/25/1101175912/uvalde-texas-shooting-victims-4th-grade-classroom>.

3Data Commons, <https://datacommons.org/place/country/USA?utm_medium=explore&mprop=count&popt=Person&hl=en>.

4American Gun Facts, <https://americangunfacts.com/gun-ownership-statistics/#:~:text=See%20Owning%20Gun-,How%20Many%20Guns%20in%20America%3F,120%20firearms%20per%20100%20citizens.>.

5The Hill, <https://thehill.com/changing-america/resilience/smart-cities/3493244-the-legal-ages-for-buying-a-gun-in-the-us/>.

Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires, May 21, 2022

May 21, 2022, Daily Update, 08:00AM Acres: 308,971| Containment: 40% | Total personnel: 2,707 Start Date: Hermits Peak: April 6, 2022; Calf Canyon: April 19, 2022 | Cause: Hermits Peak: Spot fires from prescribed burn; Calf Canyon: Under investigation | Location: Located near Gallinas Canyon Fuels: Heavy mixed conifer, ponderosa pine, brush, and grass Highlights: […]

Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires, May 21, 2022

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.

Crossroads

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.

Did I successfully channel a Hunter S. Thompson-esque vibe with this photo?

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.

Why I write.

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.

Decentralization is the key to efficiency.

Dylan R.N. Crabb

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):

  • Humanism
  • Responsibility
  • Sustainability
  • Equality of opportunity
  • Democratic-republicanism

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.

I feel like reporting news is what I was born to do.

Dylan R.N. Crabb
Ryan Holiday is an author, a business owner, and the creator of the YouTube channel Daily Stoic.

3 Pieces of News to Start 2022

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

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

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

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

A moment of silence.

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

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

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

Anthony James Devetis, GAMERANT, 2022

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

Cannabis industry hindered by incongruity.

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

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

Cannabis Business & Prohibition

Incongruity between national laws and state laws.

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

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

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

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

What is Good and what is Evil?

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

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1973

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

Patience, gratitude, honesty, and mercy.

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

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abortion Under The Gavel Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: “The Tender Bar” by JR Moehringer

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

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

I flew through the book in a week.

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

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

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