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.

Nuclear Tech for the Arabs, not the Persians

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

Reuters reports on “six secret authorizations” from the United States Energy Secretary Rick Perry regarding the sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

Screenshot_2019-04-06 U S approved secret nuclear power work for Saudi Arabia
SOURCE: Timothy Gardner, 3/27/2019, <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudi-nuclear/us-approved-secret-nuclear-power-work-for-saudi-arabia-idUSKCN1R82MG>.

I’m not going to go into any details about how Saudi Arabia is an excessively authoritarian, theocratic monarchy that oppresses its people on a daily basis because anyone who pays attention to the news already understands that unfortunate situation (unless you’re also a power-hungry authoritarian who salivates over the kind of oppression that the House of Saud delivers daily). What frustrates me is the hypocrisy in American foreign policy. Why are so many power brokers so against the idea of our government making some peace with the government of Iran citing justifications like, “it’s a sponsor of terrorism,” or “it doesn’t align with American values,” but then those same psuedo-moralists will not make a sound when we deal with a government that does just that (state-sponsored terrorism). Can we at least have some consistency in our government policies? If we can’t deal with Iran because they are too authoritarian and they sponsor terrorism around the globe, then why the fuck are we dealing with the Saudis?

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IMAGE SOURCE: <https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-08-05/saudi-arabia-is-starting-to-stockpile-oil-again>.

I suppose it’s all about those Arabian oil fields and, since the Arabs don’t like the Persians, the U.S. will continue to suck that big Arabian penis until the oil runs out.

Illegal Immigration – a National Security Issue or a Humanitarian Issue?

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

The need to “secure our borders” is usually a hot topic for political campaigns. Unfortunately, fear too often accompanies the rhetoric around the topic. Too many politicians see the issue of immigration as simply a way to inflate their own egos by talking shit about foreigners as well as appeal to the very real human instinct to fear the unknown. The fear is understandable, it can be scary to think about people from a different country and culture coming into your own country – your own state – with values and customs that you don’t understand especially if the strangers are described using the harshest of words. There is an element of risk in meeting new people and its scary on an individual level as well as a collective level.

The great American cliche involves a “land of opportunity” and for many people over the past two centuries it was true. The United States experienced a surge of immigration from Europe and Asia through the latter 19th century into the 20th century during which time American citizens heard similar zenophobic rhetoric as we hear today and immigrants experienced similar prejudice because of rhetoric crafted to fuel fear. As with most groups of humans, some immigrants do not follow the laws of their new countries and they get punished by the respective justice systems as they are found out, but most immigrants have a very strong incentive to act as law-abiding residents, most immigrants are risking a lot in their own lives (sometimes life itself) to find a new place to call home and experience the same dignity through hard and meaningful work for which every human strives.

The liberalization of international trade as well as the stagnation of wages over the past few decades have created a situation across the globe in which large populations of humans are competing with other large populations of humans across vast regions for jobs just to supply themselves with basic necessities – laissez faire capitalism on a global scale. It is unrealistic and unsustainable over the long-term because large groups of humans throughout developing countries and even some of the developed world are now at the mercy of the bottom lines of a few mega corporations (corporations with more economic clout and political capital than some small countries). I’m imagining a future comprising of the combined nightmares of Upton Sinclair, George Orwell, and Philip K. Dick.

In order to combat this dystopian vision of humanity’s future where corporate executives have enough individual wealth and power to make the feudal lords of old salivate and government officials are basically prostitutes for private interests, I believe we need to renew an old conversation: what is the purpose of a government, what is an individual’s responsibility toward public interests, and what does a “social contract” entail? Immigration trends are responses to global economic trends, simply closing our borders to immigrants and refugees is not going to solve the root issue of economic inflation and stagnant wages.

City Councilor Draws Mid-sized Crowd at Weck’s on Louisiana Blvd. @ Montgomery

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

Albuquerque City Councilor Diane Gibson organizes a regular event in her district to meet with city residents (posted on the city website).  The meet-up this morning was a very cordial one of a couple dozen or so concerned citizens albeit the majority of attendees were senior citizens.

I was not disappointed about who was in attendance but rather about who was not in attendance; only a handful of faces in the crowd looked younger than 40.  It baffles me that most individuals from my own generation have no interest in prospecting their local political processes.  Although cynicism is understandable, it is not excusable.  Regardless of the overwhelming burden of political activism on an individual, it is still necessary to at least attempt to understand the issues happening around you and make an effort to exert your influence (no matter how small it may be) on the people elected/appointed to represent you.  Governments do not stop operating simply because you choose to bury your head in the sand.  In fact, averting your eyes from government processes will only ease the temptation toward corruption on government officials, a temptation that pulls on every human in a position of power.

The group discussion began with the possibility of a land bank for the City of Albuquerque, basically a method for the city to identify vacant lots and run-down structures to acquire and flip for productivity.  There was a majority support for this idea as a main concern throughout the meet-up was blight and property values.  I asked Councilor Gibson about this so-called land bank being used to identify vacant lots and dilapidated structures to be transformed into new public parks, she said public parks could be a possibility but the main focus was on acquiring old and vacant homes to flip on the housing market.  I also asked Councilor Gibson about how the Council could improve the city buses, she replied that she would like to see a larger fleet of buses to reduce wait times at bus stops.  Councilor Gibson joked that she would probably be long dead before we saw more bridges constructed across the Rio Grande so a larger fleet of buses is the next best thing to reduce traffic on the roads; she said that she is a ardent supporter of public transit.  The meeting ended with a vibrant discussion on how the city can “go green” regarding his consumption and energy use, it seems to be an issue on a lot of residents’ minds which is hopeful for the future.

It’s Monday so be sure to set a new goal for the new week and try and be a better than person than you were last week.  We all have our “bad days” but, if we tackle life just a little bit at a time, we can get through anything.

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Counter-Productive Opposition to New Mexico’s HB31

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

Yesterday, New Mexico’s House Commerce & Economic Development Committee discussed House Bill 31, the “Phased-In Minimum Wage Bill” and a lot of people traveled to the capital to express their opinions in-person to the committee (there were plenty of people for it as well as against it).

A curious citizen can view the recorded committee session here.

The restaurant industry sounds the like the most vocal demographic in opposition to HB31 and much of the criticism against the bill seems to be focused on the fact that the merging of the serving wage with the minimum wage will likely mean less tips for restaurant servers.  The loss of high earnings of tips for a successful restaurant server is an understandable fear but I think this fear misses the point of the bill.  The purpose of the bill is to create a living wage for all employees.

As of 2016, there are approximately 7.6 million individuals in the nation classed as “working poor” (working but still living below the poverty line), according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Why should anyone be living in poverty while they are working full-time or near full-time?

A tip is not a mandated exchange from a customer to a server, it is a voluntary gift supposedly based on the merit of the server’s work and attitude toward the customer.  It’s true that an employer in the restaurant industry is required by New Mexico law to make up the difference in a lack of tips to bring a server’s earnings up to the minimum wage level, but then why have two different minimum wages at all?  Why not dispense with the server’s wage entirely?  I’m confused about the double standard.

Why is it acceptable for a restaurant owner to outsource the burden of waiter/server pay to the consumers? 

 

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.

 

screenshot_2019-01-29 legislation - new mexico legislature
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.

A Shifting Pendulum in American Politics

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

The Democratic Party is moving further to the political Left, embracing more collectivist modes of ideology and doubling down on their identitarian activism.  Today’s typical “Progressive” is now a caricature of my generation (Generation Y, the millennial generation) and it’s embarrassing; from screaming at Republican senators in the nation’s capital, to banging on the door of the Supreme Court of the United States after the confirmation of a new conservative-leaning Justice, to forcefully shutting down academic events hosting conservative speakers, it is apparent that Leftists (not liberals) are becoming more radicalized in this strange post-truth era.

How did we get here?

I think it started with internet connections and the World Wide Web which dramatically increased access to information for the general public.  Greater access combined with more diversity is a double-edged sword in media because, with more choices of programs, confirmation bias becomes more prevalent; individuals will naturally gravitate toward programs that confirm what they already believe.  This is why it is so important to make an effort to seek out points of view alternate to your own.  The American public is currently experiencing the negative, balkanizing effects of confirmation bias.

What’s the solution? 

I think the solution to our wide-spread confirmation bias ironically involves the very tools that encouraged this virus of the mind, although it also requires a change in mindset in each individual.  We need to consider different sources, the motivations behind particular narratives, and power bases behind specific media companies.  The ideological leanings of a journalist or commentator affects their news coverage as does the primary financing of an organization.  In short, we need to be more skeptical.

Skepticism requires curiosity and acting on curiosity requires initiative.  Journalist Tim Pool points out one the most stark differences between the political Left and Right today: the Left generally has no qualms with alienating individuals whom disagree with their mainstream narratives while the Right is constantly seeking out disagreements for the sake of discourse – the Left pushes people away with their dislike for nuance while the Right is actively recruiting people.  This new inclusiveness on the Right will likely lead to a new conservative movement among younger Americans.  We’re already seeing rising conservative media outlets catapulting young and energetic talking heads to national fame – figures like Ben Shapiro, Tomi Lahren, Roaming Millennial, and Dave Rubin are immensely popular with young people partly because they don’t condescend young people about how “oppressed” they are by forces beyond one’s control.  A general narrative on the Right is one of an individualistic spirit of exploration and invention endemic in American history.

Liberalism was once the champion of individualism and personal liberty but liberalism has been corrupted by its own hubris.  Leftists coming to dominate the fields of entertainment became obsessed with the appearance of diversity while ignoring diversity’s most important facet: the intellect.  Now, the intellectually lazy neo-liberals are being beaten in the marketplace of ideas by their Right-wing counterparts who still see value in showcasing diverse opinions regardless of appearances and communicating across ideologies.  If the Left wants to have a fighting chance in this new media landscape of individualism and curiosity, I think they need to rediscover liberalism and the intellectual traditions of Western civilization – from Hammurabi’s Code, to the oratory of Pericles, to the revelations of the Enlightenment, to the rational populism of Presidents Roosevelt.