An Opinion on Impeachment

Written by: Colin Offenbacker

The House of Representatives have begun what could and probably will end in articles of impeachment toward President Donald J. Trump for committing “high crimes and misdemeanors”. He (Trump) officially joins the ranks of other U.S. Presidents who have had to deal with the imposition of that great political phantom known as impeachment. Given the amount of Presidents the United States of America has seen since its inception, the percentage of Presidents who have dealt with impeachment in some fashion is relatively small, at about 16%. If that percentage doesn’t give it away, its safe to say that this group of Presidents include more than just the two we remember from contemporary history.

Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton are the two names that most media outlets recall when examining previous attempts at Congressional impeachment, reaching back through history occasionally to bring up Andrew Johnson who was impeached, but not removed from office back in 1868. Their are however more cases of impeachment that are never really talked about. James Buchanan in 1860, John Tyler in 1843 and even another contemporary name which is probably familiar to many people these days, George W. Bush. Unlike the former, the impeachment attempts on the ladder Presidents never made their way to full Senatorial court like hearings due to either failing to meet the Congressional voting threshold required to initiate the official impeachment process, or simply failing to even get out of committee and onto the House floor for the voting process all together.

President George W. Bush in fact had 35 articles of impeachment drafted against him in 2008, all pertaining to his involvement in and around what lead to and ultimately became the conflict we now refer to as “The War in Iraq”. Though the Resolution (H.Res. 1258 (110th): Impeaching George W. Bush, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors) was referred to committee at the time, it failed to go any further and simply disappeared into the historical archives, which can now be found online, and might I add, is a very compelling read.

Considering all the political bluster coming from “The Hill” on how this particular impeachment is being handled, Republicans screaming about a failure in process and how the Democrats are holding hearings behind closed doors, it is important to remember our time in Civics 101. The United States Constitution, Article I, Section II, states, “The House of Representatives shall chuse (choose) their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.” And yes, that is literally the extent of it, at least as to it’s involvement with the House. It does layout a few more guidelines for the moment it gets pushed up into the Senate but as of right now, were at step one, the House. That singular statement, boiled down to realistic terms, means that the House can run impeachment anyway the House chooses to run their impeachment. Since Representative Nancy Pelosi was elected as Speaker of the House by the members of the House, impeachment can be done whichever way she chooses. Regardless of who says what about how Speaker Pelosi is running the impeachment, it’s simply her prerogative to do it how ever she sees fit. If any member of congress decides that they don’t like it, it is up to them to form a coalition of members and propose a Constitutional Amendment. Simply complaining about it without taking any form of action comes off as nothing more than a political temper tantrum, a “woe is me” form of pandering to an ill informed voting block. Frankly, I find it rather pathetic.

Without getting into all the ins and outs of this particular attempt at impeachment, it’s so called validity, and it’s possible outcomes in the Senate if and when it does make it’s way there, there is one factor I want to focus on here and now. A factor that has bothered my since the word impeachment first crossed the threshold from governmental process into popularized vernacular. For example, when Congressperson (I say ‘person’ because she is a member of ‘the squad’ and I don’t want to assume her gender identity) Rashida Tlaib recounted a conversation she had after winner her Congressional seat and being sworn in to office, in which she said “And when your son looks at you and says, ‘Mama, look, you won. Bullies don’t win,’ and I said, ‘Baby, they don’t’ – because we’re gonna go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker.” Impeach the motherfucker…? Really? Is that what you’re going to tell you son? I don’t mean to purposefully pick on a member of “the squad” so much as to illustrate a point. That point being, the use of the term impeachment in its very present context was popularized in malice. Malice that has been palpable since before President Trump was even sworn into office. It is this malice, I believe, that has truly done the most damage. Blinded by rage and an unyielding call to somehow, one way or the other remove a President from office (deservedly so or not) the congress has neglected to do their own civil duty. The job we literally pay them to do. Regardless of what they themselves might think, no congress member was elected to impeach the President. They were elected to represent their constituents on the federal level. Yes, that might include bringing an impeachment view reflective of their constituents but it is also to do the job of legislating on their behalf.

Remember about 5 seconds ago when we had a massive immigration crisis? Remember the kids being locked in cages as the government walked the tightrope between following legal precedent and violating human rights? As impeachment rolls on and heats up, the U.S. Congress has yet to address the problematic 1997 Flores Agreement which caused the “kids in cages” problem to begin with. They have failed to address the undeniable problems in our immigration system in general in fact. They’re has been zero discussion outside of the Presidential nominees addressing, overpriced college costs and why that might be, much less how to approach a fix. No talk of how to address the national debt, something that could literally sink our entire economy overnight given the right circumstances. No talk on the cost of housing and how to approach that. Some of our biggest cities are crumbling, California is on fire and homelessness has grown out of control. The list of domestic issues going seriously undiscussed is so long it pains me to even think of how many their might actually be.

Globally the story isn’t much different. Russia is still more or less at war with Ukraine and have begun cementing their influence in the middle east. Iran has begun fueling centrifuges, and has resumed uranium enrichment at their facility in Fordow. China is running active concentration camps, they’re suppressing a call for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong not to mention Tibet and the other nation states it has systematically just absorbed into its communist ranks, their belt and road initiative is still paving the way for them to become a national global economic oligarch. And let us not forget the Kim regime in North Korea is still a thing. That is just to name a few situations the United States Congress should be, at the very least, discussing. But no, all eyes and ears are solely focused on, to steal a line from Rep. Tlaib, impeaching the motherfucker.

Whether or not the current impeachment inquiry manifests into actual articles of impeachment, passes a House vote and goes on to a Senate trial seems almost inconsequential when balanced on scale with the “issues” of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly believe in getting to the bottom of this “Ukrainian Affair” I just wish the Congress could walk and chew gum at the same time. But then again, that’s just the opinion of one guy. But then again, maybe it isn’t.

Gravity In the Back-Country

Written By: Colin Offenbacker

Lately on the podcast you’ve probably heard me talk a lot about being out, or at the very least wanting to be out in the woods. Whether I’m talking about an upcoming back-country hunt or even an overnight backpacking trip somewhere deep in the Olympic Mountains, there is something buried within me that is simply yearning for it. Only quite recently have I become even slightly aware as to why this is. At first I thought that it might have been the allure of crossing into lands that in all likelihood haven’t seen the footsteps of more than a handful of humans in decades and possibly even centuries, but as much as I wanted that to be true, it’s probably only a small aspect of it. I tried to pass it off in more practical matters too, by claiming that perhaps it was the idea of filling my freezer with wild game so as to help offset my family’s involvement with factory farming. That too has a thread of true to it but definitely isn’t the main cause. Maybe it’s the challenge that comes from climbing up a step slope in an attempt to conquer this peak or that peak? Maybe it’s just the simple idea of cutting myself off from all external societal input? The truth of the matter is that it’s all at once, a mix of all of those ideas, and at the same time something so much bigger.

The term spiritual gets thrown around pretty loosely in todays day and age, so I am very reluctant to try and use it in this context, but the shear gravity that a person feels while in a place so devoid of human presence is palpable. It’s a very difficult feeling to explain, mostly because it’s unlike any other feeling that most people experience. The closest feeling that I can even slightly relate it to is the feeling that I used to get while I was out at sea for weeks on end. It would start to come on the first time you realize that there is no land as far as the eye could see. After a couple of days living and working aboard-ship with nothing to see but water, water and more water, that feeling would concrete itself in my mind and soon the world just looked different. Life, in its most raw and generalized form just felt different. It feels smaller. Not in a claustrophobic way by any means, perhaps it would be better described in terms of focus and import. On a ship, when it and its crew are out to sea, with nothing around for miles, if not hundreds of miles, the smallest menial thing feels more significant. To use the term I brought up earlier, they have more gravity. Something as seemingly insignificant as doing maintenance checks on a fire-hose or scrubbing and swabbing the decks take on a whole new meaning. This is probably due to the fact that when you’re “out there” the idea that even though you might have all of this modern technology around you, just in case the worst should happen, it never changes the fact that at the end of the day, it’s really only you and the rest of your shipboard family floating in the middle of a watery desert, alone. It’s part of the reason ship crews are so tight-knit. There is an inevitable reliance on one-another that’s just built in to the system. Even with this system of shared reliance in place, one can’t help but feel like an insignificant grain of sand listlessly drifting across an impossibly expansive desert. It is this one aspect in truth that is similar to the feeling I get when I’m in the back-country. Being out in that literal middle-of-nowhere, alone or with one other person, is very similar to being out at sea for me, only, it has more of that same inexplicable “gravity” to it for reasons that will hopefully become more apparent to not only you as we work our way through this piece, but also to me as I am more or less “thinking aloud” as I write this.

After an 8 hour drive on state and county highways, yet another hour or so on bone rattling forest service roads and a few hours hike up the side of a mountain I found myself pitching a tent alongside my brother on the spine of a small mountain. As we both arrived and began our hike up a supposed 2.5 mile trail, which as it turned out was more of a 3.5 mile trail, we took note of the suns position in the sky. It was just verging on the edge of early evening, but it still being the tail end of summer we thought that we’d have enough light to make it to our planned campsite just below the summit before dark. Being the safety minded individuals my brother and I are, we strapped on headlamps on just in case, verified our GPS positions on our phones and went over our planned ascension route for what was probably the tenth time and began our way up, hoping against hope that we’d make it to the top just in time to catch the sunset. If it hadn’t been for that aforementioned extra mile we would have made that sunset, never the less we were able to make it to the top and set camp just before the dying light of dusk was replaced by the darkness of night. It however wasn’t until our camp was set, bedrolls laid and camp-stoves out that that all too familiar, yet indescribable feeling began to set in. As a matter of fact I can recall the exact moment I truly began to feel like that proverbial grain of sand in the desert. I was sitting on a small collapsible stool, watching over the water on my camp stove in the spotlight of my headlamp, as it slowly come to a boil. As soon as it came up to temp, the bubbles of air turbulently rolling to the surface, I switched off the flame and quickly poured it into my bag of dehydrated beef stroganoff. I zipped it tight so as to let the water permeate my future dinner and just sat back to wait. That is when “the silence” hit me. Silence, or in at least what passes for silence in this living breathing world, is a weird thing. The almost complete lack of any kind of wind that night added to the overall strangeness in the void of societal noise. There were no planes, no trains and no automobiles. There were no hums from refrigerators or ticking of clocks. The sounds of our breaths were about the loudest noises to be heard. As our meals reached there proper soaking time, the silence was replaced by the revelry of two people laughing and joking about the days travels and the sounds of tall metallic spoons scrapping against bags of hot tasty mushy goodness. As we ate, we marveled at the spectacular display of stars in the sky and before I realized it, it was as though nothing else in the world existed other than what has happening right there at that very moment on top of that mountain. Those dehydrated meals were some of the best cuisine either of us had ever tasted and the small cup of hot cocoa I had made for dessert was again, the greatest cocoa I’d ever had. In reality I know without a doubt in my mind that neither of those things were really that great, but sitting atop a mountain, in a part of the state I’d never been to, it was that “gravity” of the entire situation that made them truly great.

As the next morning came we were up well before sunrise and again by headlamp light only, we prepared our breakfast and once again reviewed the maps, set GPS points in our phones and headed out to get into what we hunters call, a glassing spot. A glassing spot for those of you who might not be familiar with the term, is simply a nice high spot in the landscape, an overlook if you will. It’s a spot that situates you to best be able to see as much land as possible. As the sun rose and cast its warm light across the landscape it was only then that I got to take in the full breadth of where we really were. Absolutely nothing but just the most beautiful country was stretched out before me. Miles upon miles of country was before my eyes and I had one job to do. Look though a set of binoculars and do my best to examine every square foot of it over and over again all in hopes of catching a glimpse of some wildlife. Preferably, I would have liked to catch a glimpse of some black bears considering that they were meant to be my quarry for the trip, but in all honesty seeing any kind of wildlife would have been great. There is something, for lack of a better term, magical about seeing true wildlife in their natural state just doing whatever it is that they do. There is something akin to biological voyeurism at play when it comes to watching nature just kind of do its thing, and that too, feeds into that feeling one gets when out in the back-country. So there I sat, on the top of a rocky mountain top with nothing better to do than sit and literally watch the world go by.

When a person sits in what equates to a state of self-induced seclusion, there isn’t much to do while endlessly scanning the landscape but ponder the nature of things like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Again, it’s an impossible thing to try to describe other than to just say that almost nothing else in life really matters. All of life’s stresses seem to just disappear, as if they were never there to begin with. Work, family, friends, bills, obligations… POLITICS, it’s all just gone. The only things that seem to matter is the gear thats either in your pack or back at camp. It’s during this period of time that serious thinking and self examination can be done in earnest. It seemingly happens whether you want it to or not. I mean let’s face it, there’s not much else to do really unless of course, I or my brother were to spot something worth taking a closer look at, that however is an entirely different conversation all together and I won’t bore you all with the details of the actual hunting aspects of the trip, that’s just not what this is about. No, this is about trying to describe the indescribable. It’s the same feeling I always get in the back-country, whether I’ve got a rifle in the hand or not. It’s a feeling of being somehow detached from our regular lives. You go to a place in your mind that you’ve been before. You think clearer than ever before. There is a small part of you that feels as if you’re on an alien planet, smelling things you’re not used to smelling. Simple things taste better as if you’re sense of taste has been cranked passed 10 to 11. There is life all around you, yet you feel as alone as you could be. It’s a strange thing to feel all at once exhilarated and relaxed. Every little thing you do, every step you take is more meaningful because, let face it, there is absolutely no room for a broken bone or sprained ankle. Maybe it’s part of that survival aspect that helps to boost all of your senses that makes mediocre things feel and taste so good. There are probably a million and a half things that go into building that oh so addictive feeling I get when I head out into the back-country. But for those of you whom might need a break from this thing we call life in our modern civilized society try dipping your toe into the waters of nature. Learn as much as you can, and slowly build up to a grand adventure into the wilderness, maybe then, you can experience the same difficulty I have when trying to explain what by all accounts cannot be explained, only experienced.

Opinion: Iran and The West

Written by: Colin Offenbacker
The Islamic Republic of Iran and the modernized western nations have been on a collision course since the Iranian Revolution. Picture two massive ships sailing towards each other on the high seas. Each ship knows that their courses will meet in a dramatic and devastation collision but neither chooses to take the initiative to alter course and avoid disaster. There is a term for situations like this in the nautical world, C.B.D.R. constant bearing, decreasing range. It’s a high stakes game of chicken. This is and has been the geopolitical situation for decades, but why? Is it a matter of culture…ideology? Or perhaps it’s one of control and autonomy. Whatever the prescribed reason at the time, regime change always seems to be the sought after end-goal from the western powers. This is something that has sat in the back of my mind since the United States pulled out of the so called Iran Nuclear Deal, and especially since the Trump administration began to collect hawkish foreign policy advisor’s, like that of John Bolton. Even if it’s not publicly announced as the overall goal, this question of “what do we do about Iran” is constantly posed by the commentariat and talk heads on media networks. Whether the chosen catalyst is regional stability, supporting liberal democracy, standing up to human rights abuses or slowing nuclear proliferation, the path to these endgame’s all end at regime change. The justification for regime change, changes and shifts over time and is generally based on some contemporary series of international incidents that happen from time to time between Iran and one of the other world powers. After one of these series of incidents, the only answer offered up by western powers always ends with a requirement for a total cultural shift from the top down. For a nation whose government operates, essentially as an authoritarian theocracy, the proverbial solution of cutting the head off of the snake tends to be the reoccurring fix du jure. As the world becomes more and more connected thanks to the modern state of media and information sharing, the world’s appetite for standard regime change, as it has been carried out in the past, has dwindled and vast public support for it has disappeared.

To bring things into a present day geopolitical framing, we as modernized western nations have changed the way we carry out regime change. Perhaps it’s an attempt at learning from the mistakes of our past and the 15 years of armed conflicts, but we now have shifted away from the typical occupational boots on the ground, air strikes and covert operations, to that of economic warfare through the process known as economic sanctions. Sanctions are an interesting leveraging technique on the geopolitical stage. They allow for a bottom up approach to regime change by essentially chocking off a nations ability to do business abroad. Generally speaking sanctions are applied to governments and individuals operating at an official governmental level, but can be adapted to meet just about any level of financial coercion required to meet the level of desired pressure on a particular government. If you imagine a classic trade blockade like those of the American Revolutionary War era you wouldn’t be far from the truth of a modern-day economic sanction campaign. Unfortunately a full blown sanction campaign effects a lot more than the targeted governments. Almost all modern nations, whether ideologically more aligned with the west or not, are far from economically self-sufficient and rely on international trade to maintain fiscal solvency. Of course every nation is different, but imagine that you run a small country that doesn’t have a military powerful enough to hold it’s own on the world stage. Your nation makes a decent profit, largely by shipping commodities abroad, and without that income you cannot meet the budget requirements to “pay your bills”. Now imagine a militarily powerful foreign entity shows up, tells you that they don’t like they way you’re running things and that you must change your ways. Until you capitulate, they will not allow you to sell your goods to other nations. You cannot stand up to their military might so you must capitulate. Unless you have a strong alliance powerful friends to aid you in your struggle, you’re powerless to stand up for yourself. So you either capitulate and your nation changes to meet foreign demands, or you don’t. If you decide not to, you’ve got a new problem on your hands. Your nation now must find away to “make it though” the economically crippling period of foreign sanctions. While your economy begins to collapse, the first people to “feel” the effects of a sanctions war will be the citizens of your nation. They will very soon grow tired of your nations failing economy and before you know it THEY are demanding you go so that they can be relived of the effects of the sanctions. This is a basic example of how an economic sanctions campaign can be run to institute a bottom up form of regime change.
To tie our example to the current situation with the nation of Iran, let’s take a look at the latest series of events that has landed Iran deep in economic warfare with the United States while the wider western world stands back and holds it’s breath. Since our current situation stems from the so called Iranian Nuclear Deal we’ll start there:

May 8, 2018: The United States withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal put in place under the administration of President Barrack Obama.

May 21, 2018: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo relays the demands required by the United States that the Iranian government must meet before reentering into any kind negotiations.

August 7, 2018: The administration of President Trump reimposes sanctions on Iran which were originally lifted as part of the original nuclear deal.

November 5, 2018: The so called maximum pressure campaign on Iran begins adding another round of economic sanctions.

April 8, 2019: The US designates the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization & Iran retaliates by labeling the US military terrorists as well.

May 2, 2019: The Trump administration ends the waiver program which allowed other countries to import Iranian oil and threatens that any nation do business with Iran will be subject to US sanctions.

May 5, 2019: The US send the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to the Persian Gulf in response to Iranian aggression in the area.

May 8, 2019: The Trump administration imposes additional sanctions on Iranian metal industries.

May 13, 2019: Four oil tankers are attacked in the Strait of Hormuz, the US blames Iran.

May 24, 2019: The Trump administration sends an additional 1,500 troops and other “defense capabilities” to bases in the Middle East.

June 13, 2019: Two more oil tankers are attacked in the Gulf of Oman. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blames Iran. US officials release a video that shows Iran’s involvement. Iran denies it.

June 17, 2019: Iran says it is 10 days away from surpassing the limits set by the nuclear deal on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. The US announces it is sending another 1,000 troops to the Middle East.

June 20, 2019: Iranian forces shoot down a US military drone.

June 21, 2019: Trump announces on twitter that he called off a planned air strike against Iran the night before, a strike that was intended as a retaliatory measure against Iran for the drone that was shot down.

June 24, 2019: Trump imposes more sanctions on senior Iranian officials, including their “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

July 1, 2019: Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif said Iran has breached the limits on the amount of low-enriched uranium it could stockpile under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal and will continue enriching it unless European nations help ease some of the US sanctions.

July 3, 2019: Iran confirmed its threat to increase uranium enrichment. The Iranian Supreme Leader Rouhani says: “Our enrichment rate is not going to be 3.67 percent anymore, it’s going to be as much as we want it to be.”

July 19, 2019: Iranian troops repel onto a British flagged cargo vessel via helicopter, seizing the ship and imprisoning it’s crew.

Now that we’re more-or-less up to date on our recent history with Iran, what does this time line of events spell out for the future? The short answer is that nobody but Iran really knows. In my humble opinion, the United States will NOT enter into an armed conflict with Iran unless seriously and blatantly attacked first. Simply put, I don’t believe the citizens of this country could sign off on yet another foreign war. I do however think that this economic warfare is an attempt at overthrowing the current Iranian regime, a goal that I see as righteous actually. The current Iranian regime has been a blight on the world stage since the days of the Iranian revolution, especially as far as human rights are concerned. This new age of economic warfare on the other hand, I just can’t square it away. Without being a nation officially at war with another nation, I don’t see the idea of crippling a foreign nations economy, which in turn devastates the nations civilian population, essentially using them as expendable pawns in a game of geopolitical chess, as anything but an immoral and unethical act of coercion. I don’t like saying that because even I feel like something has to be done about Iran, without any form of intervention whether it be diplomatic or otherwise, because if left totally unchecked we could be dealing with another nuclear regime like that of North Korea.

This conversation of “what to do about Iran” is one that needs to be hashed out and talked through at great length, by many people, and hopefully we’ll soon be talking about it on the podcast to so capture all the nuance the topic deserves. Until then, articles like this one will just have to do.

The Journey to find Balance

Written by: Colin Offenbacker

After consulting with each other throughout the week, Don and I have decided to take this weekend off from recording the show, so this will be a week without a traditional Salt of the Streets Podcast. Over the last couple months we have been a little sporadic when it comes to our release of content, but have no fear, this is not a sign the podcast is falling off or anything like that. Simply put, Don and I have both had some pretty major changes to our lives and we are trying to figure out how best to balance the heavy workload of the podcast with work and family life.

We’ve talked about it on multiple occasions so it shouldn’t be news to anyone at this point that Don has become a Father for the first time recently. That of course comes with a multiplicity of new responsibilities, in both his life as an individual and the life of his family at large. It is news to absolutely no one that parenthood forces drastic changes onto a person, and while he in no way seeks sympathy for these things that effect the majority of people around the world, they do necessitate a change never the less. It amazes me to no end that as far as those major changes to his life are concerned, Don’s supportive friendship has been my steadfast rock while I’ve been adjusting to major changes in my life as well. Whether it’s hammering out blog posts, social media posts, planning and coordinating some of our biggest topics, listening and taking diligent notes on multiple days of eight plus hour long Congressional testimony and of course the recording of a 30 minute livestream sports special by himself, Don’s commitment to truth, his co-host, his friends and his family hasn’t wavered.

Don isn’t the only person in our little Salt of the Streets family whose life has gone through some drastic changes. While I wouldn’t even attempt to scale the difference between the changes in Don’s life and my own, since it would be like comparing apples to oranges, I have recently gone through a rather abrupt career change that has caused me to drastically change my entire lifestyle, which in turn effects how I make the podcast work on my end.

To begin with, the idea of a total and abrupt career change at the age of 30 is something that many people in our generation undertake, however, it’s a concept more or less foreign to a lot of our progenitors. An ad-read that I’ve heard recently on a podcast comes to mind, “The days of working the same job for the same company for 40 years and retiring with a pension and the proverbial gold watch are long gone…” and it’s situations like the one I’m in now that make that ad-read really hit home. I believe it was an ad for or, websites devoted to teaching new skill-sets in order to make people more marketable or more proficient at whatever it is their looking to do/are already doing in hopes of gaining the skill based knowledge required to advance or solidify your marketability in a chosen line of work. Whatever the reason, people in our generation seem to pop around from job to job, company to company more than any other generation before us, and I, it appears was no different. In truth, I subscribed to one of those websites above, paid a little money, got some training and some knowledge in a field I had no previous experience in and it has now paid for itself multiple times over. I only bring this up because I wanted to show that my current situation is something that I’ve worked hard to achieve, and now that I have achieved what I sought, I’ve been forced to adapt my lifestyle to meet the requirements demanded by the path I have chosen. I don’t know if I’ll do it forever but I do know that if the podcast ever caught fire and I was forced to make a choice between my current career and doing the podcast full-time, I’d happily leave my job to see just how far Salt of the Streets could take us.

With any major change in life, whether it’s a new child entering into the world, embarking on a new career path or any number of things, finding a way to continue doing what really makes you happy and fulfilled can be challenging, especially while trying to keep up with the added duties and responsibilities that these things can bring to the table. But it is imperative that a way be found and a be balance struck. It is in fact wholly unhealthy to consciously or unconsciously deprive yourself of joy. I know very well how easy it is to let your new found burden of responsibility weight you down. Even to the point that the seemly simple thought of trying to find the time to do anything fun or relaxing seems impossibly out of reach, but their is always a way. It takes a focused and intended effort, but the payoff is not only worth it in the end, it’s often more fulfilling then it used to be before your added responsibilities had taken hold. I’ll be the first to admit, that for my part, I continue to struggle to find that balance, though I make a conscious effort each and every day. Whether that takes the form of a mandatory 30 minutes of reading, recreational podcast listening, video game playing, fiction writing or even sitting down for an episode of Rick & Morty, I now make the time. Regardless of how many extra hours I have to put in at the office, no matter how much video editing I have waiting for me at home, I take that 30 minutes everyday to try and relax my mind and body.

Don and I are constantly trying to figure how to best balance out our lives and our podcast and at this point it means taking the occasional weekend off from recording. We take those days to spend time with our families, our friends and sometimes just some quality “me” time, all in the hopes that when we return the following weekend we’ll both be fully recharged and able to bring the best quality content we can muster. As we both go forth into the future, Salt of the Streets will always be part of our lives and we’ll always continue our endless efforts to bridge that gap between people and information. On these weeks without a podcast, remember that our efforts to speak truthfully and informatively continue on social media so be sure to follow us.
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See you all very soon.

The “Situation”: A Two Pronged Problem Facing American Politics

Written By: Colin Offenbacker

It’s Thursday and after the “slow” news week that we’ve all had, after the historically devastating experience of watching the great Notre Dame Cathedral burn, after the public release of the long awaited Mueller report, I wanted to write about something jubilant. I wanted to right something uplifting. Unfortunately, I fear that I cannot provide that this evening. Tonight I am more focused on a particularly long term situation. I use the word “situation” deliberately, and this is because I still haven’t quite figured out if it’s necessarily a good or bad situation, right now I’m only comfortable calling it a situation, simple, neutral.

Buried beneath the surface of this week’s headlines runs a long-term subplot in our nations politics. Some say that it’s beginning starts as far back as the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the era of the “New Deal”. Some point to President Reagan’s administration as the point of it’s true beginning. Some even say that it wasn’t until the years of President Obama that this situation truly started.

But what am I talking about here? What is this “situation” that I keep referring to?

I am of course referring to the situation unfolding in The People’s House of government. The Congress of the United States; and, it’s relationship with the Executive branch.

I believe the problem is two fold. These problems are at once both completely separate and simultaneously co-dependent at this point. Problem one is that the future of the Democratic Party’s ideology rests in the hands of people whom do not seem to grasp the true gravity of their situation. Problem two is that the relationship between the U.S. Congress and the White House has formed an almost monarchical bond. With the suit clad King of the Western World sitting atop the throne in the Oval Office dictating policy I the name of “the party” all while the good loyal party members serving their leader, all in the name of good old fashioned partisanship.

Problem 1:

I’ve spoken on the podcast in the past on how I feel the Democratic party leadership has “lost control” of either it’s party or of it’s party’s message. I would like to take this time to say that I don’t stand by those statements anymore. I made those statements while I was still thinking this entire situation through and though I am still thinking my way through it, I feel like I can better grasp the situation, at least better than I did then. Regardless of how exactly we got here, the Democratic party I feel, finds itself at a crossroads ideologically and which turn the party takes next is solely dependent on who’s captaining the ship when it comes time to make a turn.

The main problem stems from the party leadership. People like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the Senate technically hold the reigns of leadership at the moment and have for a while now, though it remains to be seen whether they can hold on to that power in the long term. If history is any indicator, this problem I see will be nothing but a flash in the pan and normalcy will return in due time. But these are strange and interesting times we live in and they seem to be surprising us day in and day out. In today’s political climate, tomorrows forecast is about as reliable as a sundial at midnight. While the unreliability is not resigned to the Democratic Party alone (the Republican Party is no saint in this realm either) it is their ideology that seems to be the most heavily in flux, and without a solid ideology the party’s values are stuck in limbo.

I am in no way a political partisan, though I will state that I find myself more drawn to the values of the Republican Party (commonly referred to as “the right” side of politics) in many ways over those in the current Democratic Party (commonly referred to as “the left”). The simple fact is that the Democratic Parties “values” in today’s political climate are so scattered I’m not sure I could even explain what they truly are. There was once a day in which you could safely say things like “the Democrats fight for the rights of free speech and free expression, they care about the working class and the downtrodden” or “if the Republicans are the heart of our republic, the Democrats are the soul of the republic” but I don’t think I can say that these days. If I were to say that the current status of the Democratic Party is one of “political correctness on steroids” I fear the ladder rings truer than the former. This is not to say that this is their only message, it’s more a sign of the overall state of the party and their lack of any kind of uniform message or ideology.

This lack of a solid platform can be seen in the 15 plus candidates running primary campaigns in an effort to challenge President Trump in the upcoming 2020 election. Think of it like a power vacuum, but instead of “political power” it’s the void left by the lack of a hardened baseline ideology that is currently being filled by a more extreme ideology. Worst yet is that these new voices speaking to this new ideology are becoming more popular. Is the Democratic party going populist to counter the populist movement that some point to as the reason President Trump got elected? This question is way I’m so focused on the 2020 primary races right now. I whole heatedly believe that whomever wins the Democratic primary will ultimately control the shaping of a new Democratic Party ideology. Combine that with the populism being drummed up by the more Democratic Socialist branch, however small a branch it is, and we could see the birth of a mainstream political party that is fully committed to the ideology of socialism and it’s policies in the United States. The problem that Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer face is being forced to either stand against this new wave of left wing populism and risk loosing power in the process, or fall in lock step enough to maintain their power in hopes of regaining control of their party’s ideological direction, if that would even be possible.

The big question will be, again, who? Who will take President Trump on in 2020? Is it someone who can divorce themselves from the newly adopted socialistic far left ideology but still maintain enough popular support to beat out President Trump in the election? At this point only time will tell, but given the multiplicity of candidates taking the field and the general far left ideological platforms they’re presenting, the only chance I see of the Democrats taking a victory over President Trump at this point is by fully committing to their Democratic Socialist Zar Burnie Sanders whose left wing populism might stand the best chance of winning them the day. Though, a dark day it would be.

Problem 2:

The unholy union that both political parties share with the Executive Branch is unnerving at best and despicable at worst. It seems more and more that in politics these days loyalties lay first and foremost with “the party” and secondly to the people they are sworn to represent. I think this can best be examined by looking at two things. First, with how much of it’s own governmental power and control the United States Congress has systematically handed over to the Executive Branch. Secondly, in examining how they have also removed the built in speed bumps and road blocks built into the House and Senate rules on majority votes in order to squeeze legislation through their end so that they can fast track it to the desk of the President. Both political parties are guilty of these devastating missteps so there is plenty of blame to go around, but in a world where “the party” and the overall power of “the party” is all that matters, removing those road blocks seems like a good idea, until the party falls out of favor that is. The problem with unitary control is that it only works if your party is in power and stays in power, a loss of such power opens the door to political disaster.

This form of divorce from responsibility is dangerous in countless ways, whether it be in the from of The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) giving the executive the powers of military force under the espouses of national defense or something as seemingly benign as increased legislative power through the use of executive order or executive action. All of which are a way to funnel power out of the Congress and into the hands of the executive, something you wouldn’t worry too much about if you can get reelected and maintain your party’s power standing.

I think we can look at the current state of the Republican Party to see this process in action today. Though the Republican leadership, concentrated heavily in the Senate, have had to deal with a President whom isn’t a true and faithful party member, they’ve still been able to do the hard work the party desires, often times seemly using the President as their blunt tool to clear the way for their agenda. Look to the federal court judgeship’s, tax cuts, the supposed slashing of various regulations and removal of the individual mandate in regards to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for examples. They’ve so far been able to weather the storm of the Trump Presidency, all while Senator Mitch McConnell and other higher ranking Republicans still maintain overall control and direction of their party, relatively speaking when compared to the current state of the Democratic Party. Come 2020, if the power of governmental control at the executive level falls into the hands of the Democrats, the overall power of their party would go with it and they would once again be relegated to the relatively powerless minority with little ability to check the power of their political opposition.

As the overall size and scope of the Federal Government grows, and Congress continue to put there power into the hands of the executive in hopes of tapping into that unitary wellspring of power, the long-term health of the Republic gets shoved aside and replaced with short term political gains. We’ve seen it play out right in front of us over the past 10 years plain as day. Can’t get a party to-do item passed through the Congress, just send it on up to the executive, they’ll take care of it, well they may not exactly take care of it, but they’ll sign something and give us the political win we need to maintain power. This dangerous precedent has already been set, and I fear it is here to stay.

Final Thought:

In closing I think it should come as no surprise that I am overall left with a distasteful view of the current state of our nations politics. I fear that if the election events of 2020 play out in a particular way, we could be left with an irreversible and impossible situation. If it comes down to a second term with President Trump or someone from the newly emboldened Democratic Party with seriously Socialistic tendencies, what would we really be looking at? There is still a lot of time between now and then so I maintain hope, given the absolute worst case scenario, I still have hope that the United States will remain united and one way or the other we will see these strange times through to the end.

A Recent Rediscovering of the Emerald City

Written by: Colin Offenbacker

In the wake of the most loaded news week to hit our feeds, TV screens and computer screens in recent memory, I’ve strangely found myself at a loss as to what to write for my blog post this week. So I have fallen back to safety of writing about something I can relate to personally. I’ve mentioned it a time or two on the podcast but a couple of weeks ago I spent a long weekend in the city of Seattle, where I spent time at a live podcast recording of the Meateater podcast with my brother and then turned around and attended an event they call “Emerald City Comic-Con” with my wife. In other words I went from hanging with a crowd of camo wearing hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts to surrounding myself with people dressed up in every comic book, video game and pop culture characters under the sun, a lot of which seemed to have questionable levels of personal hygiene. Talk about polar opposite demographics.

To start my adventure for the weekend, I began as I also do with a full day at work, after working a nice 9 hour day I grabbed my prepped go-bag and headed to the ferry boat and before I knew it I was in the great cultural melting pot of the Pacific Northwest, the Emerald City herself, Seattle. There is a lot that I love about Seattle, there local politics doesn’t make that list, but as far as just about everything else…I’m a fan. I was meeting my brother there to attend a live podcast recording of a show that we both love, the Meateater podcast.

At it’s core it’s a hunting podcast, hosted by a man named Steven Rinella, it is also a very popular show on Netflix and a large hunting and fishing news/online magazine. The show was at the Moore theater, one of Seattle’s historical theaters. As my brother and I approached the marquee proudly advertising the evenings event, we noticed that the line wrapped around the corner of the block. Without thought or hesitation we walked down the line of mostly camo-clad, burly-beard sporting attendees only to find that the line wrapped around yet another block corner. There was something about that crowd that just seemed out of place in the leftist Utopian city of Seattle. I mean Seattle is home to a very outdoorsie population who often sport the top of the line outdoor gear from Patagonia, Columbia, North Face or Mountain Hardware, but these people attending this show were hunters and anglers. These were people who don’t just disappear for a weekend in the woods with a backpack on the shoulders, these were people who do that but generally speaking would also be carrying a rifle, shotgun or bow with them while they do it. They would also be heading into the woods with the mindset of tracking, killing and bringing an animal back with them. Two very different types of outdoor adventurers.

After finally finding the end of the line, we struck up some light conversation with the people in front of us and soon with the people that followed behind us in line. Most seemed to be blue collar working people, both men and women, who themselves talked about feeling out of place in a city like Seattle. Though I’m sure there had to be some local people there, some had come from across state lines just to attend this podcast recording. As the line slowly but evenly crawled forward as people passed through the front security checkpoint a group of costume clad cos-players walked by, obviously here to attend the comic book convention happening that same weekend. If Don or my wife was with me I’m sure they could have recognized the other characters walking down the street across from our line, but the only one I could recognize was a semi-overweight man dressed in a skin tight Wolverine costume from the Marvel comics, movies, video games and TV shows. And just like that my two worlds collided, though, ever so slightly. I could hear slight chuckles and saw head nods towards the passing cos-players as people struggled to understand what they were seeing across the street. I don’t blame them for immediately turning to humor when suddenly faced with something these hunters and fishers just couldn’t comprehend, but I did bring me to the reality that these types of interactions between two totally different interest groups happen all the time. I myself can feel just at home in either of these groups, but it was interesting to see it in person like that. Again, I harbor no ill will toward my fellow camo clad woodland warriors but the duality was palpable, it wasn’t but 30 seconds earlier that these same people were talking about how out of place THEY felt in the city, and the speed at which they projected the same exact feeling towards others in a place they weren’t even from felt strange.

The actual show itself was great, I don’t want to get into all the details because I want to use some of the topics covered in it on the podcast over the next couple of weeks, especially since it was surprisingly political, for a hunting podcast at least. After the show my brother and I parted ways, he left to catch the ferry boat so he could head home for the night while I walked the few blocks to my hotel for some much needed rest, rest I didn’t get.

After living a decent amount of time in New York City, spending time in my local city of Seattle felt good. I remember waking up early after a sleepless night alone in my hotel room a block away from the cities convention center feeling strangely energized. I got dressed in a fitted tee-shirt, slim fitting khaki jeans and my favorite blue suede shoes and headed to a coffee shop on the corner across the street from my hotel for a quick spot of breakfast, and believe it or not it wasn’t even a Starbucks. I got an iced black coffee and a croissant, sat at a little table out on the porch, popped in my headphones and began one of my favorite city past-times, people watching. Like I said, my hotel was a block away from the convention center which was where the comic-con was being held all weekend so the people watching was better than average. Costume clad con goers in every costume imaginable streamed endlessly just below my chosen breakfast spot, I was a wash in a river of glorious geekdom and it was fascinating.

I knew that my wife was on her way over and I didn’t feel like going back to my hotel room so after finishing my breakfast I decided to crank the tunes and just stroll around the city to continue my people watching. I walked blocks and blocks and still found myself drowning in a sea of con goers. It just never seemed to end. Every hotel I walked by, out would come a group of costumed con goers. Marvel character, DC characters, video game and anime characters, just endless amounts of endless variety, hundreds, thousands, all of them everyday normal people like you or I deciding to drop reality for a day or two and walk the streets of Seattle as their fictional alias.

Once I finally met up with my wife, we too entered into the strange yet comforting world of “the con”, mind you we were one of the non-costume sporting crowd, which there were a great number of by the way, and we had a great time too. Even if your not a die hard comic fan, it’s an experience that is hard to rival. After spending the day at the convention, we left with more merchandise than I’d care to share but more importantly with some great memories.

Reflecting on that weekend, now being a couple weeks removed, really made me think about the nature of our city. It is such a strange place when you really stop to think about it. It stands apart from my other familiar city, New York, in so many ways but I think it’s in the simple diversity that it really shines on it’s own. From hemp fest to Jordan Peterson, from Steven Rinella’s Meateater to Emerald City comic-con, every time I go there I get a different vibe, the entire demographic of the city seems to shift and change depending on what big even is happening that day. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve never actually lived there, but I still can’t get a solid read on “what” kind of city Seattle really is, but then again maybe that is Seattle. The true melting pot of the great Pacific Northwest.

The Bird House: Culture War 101

Blog Post Written By: Colin Offenbacker

Hey everyone, Colin here from Salt of the Streets. When I recorded my last blog post I was in somewhat of a weird head space and I was struggling to understand a lot of what was happening in the country, in the world and even what I was trying to do with these blog posts. It’s been a couple of weeks since then and after some off-mic beers with Don, some conversation and a hell of a lot of thinking I’m feeling like I’m in a better head space this time around. That being said, I spoke last time about not knowing exactly what I was doing with these blog posts. I had gone from a more structured informational pieces to more of an off the cuff personal post, and now, after all this time spinning my wheels and trying to see which direction I wanted to go, I’ve decided to continue on doing what I’ve been doing lately, except now I’m doing it consciously, with a deliberate direction, showcasing my own thoughts and opinions on stories and situations that I feel strongly about. With that preamble out of the way, welcome to my audio blog, a place that, from here on out, I’m going to be referring to as, “The Bird House”, it’s a place where I, @BigBirdOffie (on both instagram and twitter I might add), can invite you in to listen, learn and share ideas about those things I’m most passionate about. And in this first, but not really first episode of The Bird House, we’re going to be talking about a subject I’ve been enamored and yet strangely fascinated with over the past couple years, today is Culture War 101. So come on in, make yourself comfortable and lets have a discussion.

Have you ever heard the phrase; politics is downstream from culture, or perhaps you’ve heard it the opposite way, that culture is downstream from politics. When you really stop to think about it, I feel like it really depends on your outlook toward the government and how it intermingles with our society at large. Does out politics govern our culture, or does our culture govern our politics? Maybe it goes both ways. Maybe it ebbs and floods like the tides. It is that struggle between who’s downstream of whom, and whether politics should lead culture or vise-versa that I see as the greater frame work that makes up what I call the culture war. Now it’s not that “I” call it the culture war, that’s a term that has been around for as long as I’ve been paying attention, but it’s that ebbing and flowing of societal power and control that I see as the culture war. The entire concept of the Culture War is something that’s about as subjective as any of the idea-debates playing out on the various battle grounds of said culture war. Some even see it as a modern day version of a civil war, I don’t think I’d ever go that far, but I can see “some” similarities and commonalities when I compare them to some of the social changes and events that lead up to our historical civil war, but at the end of the day, I just don’t see the events of the early 1860’s ever playing out in any recognizable fashion in our modern age, we’re just not the same people, were not the same society that we were even a couple generations ago, greater still than those in the ladder half of the 1800’s. No, our culture war is being fought over the concept and the validity of something called intersectionality.

And what is intersectionality?

The short answer is that intersectionality is a perspective, and more to the point, a perspective on so called social justice. It’s a way to view the world and society as a whole based off of a certain amount of characteristics a person has. Characteristics such as race, sexual orientation, gender identification, ethnicity, religion, age, occupation, income status, family status, geographic location, immigration status, language and that’s just naming a few.

The longer answer is a that the entire concept of intersectionality was created by, if not created then first pushed as in ideology by a women named Kimberle Crenshaw back in 1989. She is touted as the first person to use the word intersectionality, which she used in a paper for the University of Chicago Legal Forum entitled “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” In 2016, Crenshaw released a TED talk in which, over the course of just under 19 minutes, she breaks down where the idea came from.

While listening to her give this TED talk, one could be forgiven for being convinced that the idea of intersectionality is a great idea, as she describes the case she studied before coming up with the term she coined. In short, back in 1976 a discrimination lawsuit had been brought to a courtroom in which Emma DeGraffenreid and several other black women sued the General Motors company over the idea that the company segregated it’s workforce by race and gender. Men did one set of jobs, women did another set of jobs, but the catch was that the men were all black and the women were all white. This left the group of black women aggrieved, rightly so, but the case was tossed out by the judge for having no basis in discrimination. Now don’t get me wrong for what I’m about to say here, the type of segregation taking place in this suit was 100% terrible and would in no way be okay in our modern day workforce. But without knowing all the details of that particular case I would have to assume that do to the era and the ridiculous racial problems still heavily present at the time, the fact that the suit was tossed out seems to me like a judicial loop-hole at the time. They hired black people and they hired women, how could they be called discriminatory? Looking at it today, I can safely say that they were absolutely sexist and racist for not hiring these women. But when you take that same thinking and apply it to the modern western world, I just don’t see that same situation working out the way it did then, whether viewed through the lens of intersectionality or not, that was just plain wrong.

Either way, this is how Crenshaw came up with this idea of intersectionality. If the judge at the time could have seen there struggle as not just African-Americans, and not just Women, but as African-American women, then he would have not tossed out the case. He would have seen that the oppression that the women were being discriminated under was due to the fact that these women were caught between the intersection of gender and race discrimination. Frankly I just see it as good old fashioned racism and sexism, travesties that ran rampant during this time period. Now, intersectionality, if applied to a systemically oppressive authority could possibly have it’s benefits played out correctly, assuming that the systematic oppression is REAL, but in todays modern age, where the vast majority of discrimination is based on merit and not hatred or systematic oppression, intersectionality simply doesn’t work. In fact it’s totally counter productive, it’s regressive, not progressive.

The massive problem that intersectionality presents in todays world, and unfortunately it’s one of, if not the core principles of the ideology, is the fact that the whole ideology is based off of oppression and segregation. Though it isn’t stated in the TED talk by Crenshaw, the real world ramifications of this ideology has proven time and time again that this is indeed the case. There are many problems with intersectional thinking, but other than the fact that it forces people into various groups and then judges them based off of how much historic oppression that group has received over a period of time, is the fact that it’s simply un-American, and beyond that, it completely and utterly immoral. The thought that you can group people like ALL Straight White Male’s (these are people who are at the intersection of heterosexuality, white privilege and male dominance, also known as the patriarchy) examine there historical oppression, which in this case; white people are counted as oppressors and don’t rank on the scale of oppression, heterosexuals is the historical normalized status, again not oppressed, and male…did I mention the patriarchy already, I feel like that sums that up enough. After all these factors are weighed against every other group of socially marginalized groups that suffer from xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, classism, sexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism, the straight white male is left at the bottom of the oppression scale.

On the other hand, A trans-women person of color, after running the math stacks rather high on the scale and must be propped up to make up for the systemic and historical oppression people like she has suffered over the years… Yeah, no I’m not kidding, this is actually a thing. This type of thinking really exists out there, and in a far greater number than we’d like to think. Now it doesn’t always get that crazy. Lets take a much simpler example. The hetero-normative, cis-gendered African-American male, stands below an African-American women of the same make up, do to the fact that women have historically been oppressed by men.

Again, there are so many problems with intersectionality, it’s impossible to capture all of them here right now, but I will note one other major problem that faces intersectionality. It’s a problem pointed out by none other than the New York Times, back in October I believe, when they put out an article, not an op-ed but an actual detailed article describing the problem that the intersectionalists were facing with the Jewish population of the country. They pointed out that the Jewish population of New York City was experiencing a massive surge in anti-Semitic hate crimes, something that would help sky rocket the Jews higher up the oppression hierarchy, but they pointed out a problem. You see, even though the Jews are about one of the most historically oppressed people on history, they are rather successful these days and there’s the fact that they kind of, well…they look white. Now the article did a very fine job in calling out the fact that there might be a slight problem with the intersectional narrative being pushed if the Jews don’t have a place under this intersectional umbrella, but when you take a step back and stop comparing the suffering of the Jews to others, you might be able to see how flat out racist it is to just lump all Jews together and judge them on an oppression scale.

The simple fact is, intersectionality is totally and completely wrong. If you cannot view an individual by the content of there character, and not by the color of there skin, sexual orientation, immigration status, so on and so forth, then your wrong, your just plain wrong. Americans don’t believe that type of crap, at least we don’t believe it anymore. Yes, we all have ancestral skeletons in our closets, but news flash, I am not my father, I am not my grandfather, or his father and neither are you. You have freewill, you have the freedom of thought and expression and you live in the freest country during the freest time in human history and it is up to us to realize that and act on that. Do not let the hatred of days gone by effect our present or our future. We are the only ones that can create the future we want, all we have to do is…do it, this is how we’ll win the Culture War.