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.

Good & Evil (or a Lack of Self-awareness)?

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 which you do not, 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.

It takes courage to pursue justice and it takes temperance to acquire wisdom.

Remember the past, look towards the future, and exercise kindness.

Whistleblowing or Hornblowing?

Frances Haugen, the former data engineer for Facebook who disclosed internal documents from the social media giant to the United States Securities & Exchange Commission and the Wall Street Journal, says that current algorithmic standards on social media harms young people.

I don’t think I’m alone in my expression of the colloquialism, “duh!”

It’s been known for some time excessive time spent on digital social media platforms actually increases depression in teenagers as well as further pushes unrealistic body images onto young girls. Did we really need a “whistleblower” to get us all hyped up about these facts? What Miss Haugen is doing is not so much whistleblowing as it is just calling out the elephant in the room. If Miss Haugen was actually revealing something dangerous to the status quo, would she really be called before Congress for discussion? Or would she be marked for prosecution and driven into hiding in a foreign embassy, awaiting the protection of any institution willing to shelter enemies of an empire?

*cough-Julian Assange-cough*

Perhaps the reason why our officials in the United States Congress are so eager to prop up Frances Haugen as a hero is because the ruling oligarchy want to seize social media’s power over political discourse as Glenn Greenwald so eloquently put in his commentary on the matter. One question that each American citizen should be asking is, when did these technology giants become the gate-keepers to political speech? Here’s another novel concept particularly for these younger generations: perhaps we are all spending a little too much time in digital environments and not enough time in the real world spending real time with other people in the physical space (do not throw the pandemic at me – our issues around too much screen time began prior to this pandemic). How about we actually make efforts to understand each other by talking things out rather than hitting the “block” button every time we’re exposed to a different opinion?

Voting (and not voting) is a form of leverage.

Nine members of the Democratic Party expressed sentiments in the form of a written letter to the Speaker of the House against lower drug pricing in the $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill currently making its way through the United States Congress.

The justification for maintaining current drug pricing is supposedly to maintain our innovation in industry which surpasses that of the European market. A concerned citizen could look at who is providing big donations to those nine representatives.

“The statements of US government officials and industry representatives imply that the US market is paying for the development of most new drugs. There is ample evidence that domestic profits in several countries that have price or profit control cover research and development expenditures. For example, in Canada, domestic sales on average are about 10 times the research and development costs. In the United Kingdom, the pharmaceutical industry invests more of its revenues from domestic sales in research and development than do companies in the United States. Statements by US government officials and industry representatives also imply that the United States is becoming a dominant source of innovation because of its lack of drug price regulation. From a purely theoretical standpoint, these statements are troubling because they imply a country-specific source of innovation. The industry is private, however, not government owned, and operates in a worldwide market. It is also doubtful that pure price considerations would affect where a drug was developed, and more strategic considerations such as the availability of drug-specific research resources and infrastructure in a particular country may be a more important consideration.”

American Journal of Public Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866602/, accessed 9/28/2021.

I hope the voters in the constituencies of each of those representatives who signed that letter remember this budget battle.

U.S. Representative Scott Peters (CA, District 52)

U.S. Representatives Kurt Schrader (OR, District 5)

U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice (NY, District 4)

U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy (FL, District 7)

U.S. Representative Lou Correa (CA, District 46)

U.S. Representative Marilyn Strickland (WA, District 10)

U.S. Representative Frank Mrvan (IN, District 1)

U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer (NJ, District 5)

U.S. Representative Tony Cardenas (CA, District 29)

A Globalized Economy and Drugged Shrimp

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

Three years into the administration of President Donald Trump and the economy is “booming” (at least for bankers, investment firms, and corporate business).  Rural communities are still struggling to maintain some independence in the modern world but at least Wall Street is thriving off of consolidation and exploitation.  The state of contemporary working classes all over the globe is enough to induce a state of depression but at least business classes and service industries are making us all fat and content with modern luxuries.  There are even some British shrimp that are getting high off of human excesses, the drug war has gone international and is now affecting our water ways.  Tricky Dick would be proud.

And while some communities scrape up some money to implement idealistic policies such as plastic bag bans and carbon taxes (the “liberal agenda” at work), the rest of us are working our butts off to keep our bank accounts just above poverty levels, all for a slim chance to “make it big” and join the ranks of the fabulously wealthy “one percent” (the American Dream, am I right?).

This new world of constant connections and interdependence has its advantages but the transition has been tough for us millennials as we struggle to forge our own destinies amidst endless distractions and, as social services continue to be cut from government budgets in an effort to “reign in spending” in the name of “fiscal responsibility,” it seems like the purpose of government itself comes more and more into question.  I suppose we can always get another bullshit job after another serving fried food to fat Americans and getting drunk on our craft beers.

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

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

img_20190415_170013005
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.

img_20190415_165001625
The Clean & Green Ordinance as listed on the council meeting agenda.

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

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

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

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

Trust me, I’m a writer.

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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