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.

Episode 67 is LIVE!

After the 2 week break Don and Offie kick it off with conversation around the History Channel show ‘Alone’, the common understanding of The Green New Deal and what it actually is the Washington State recreational cannabis industry and new expansions being discussed, being a moderate is not a bad thing, The Democratic Candidates that made the cut for the next debates and their views on things like guns taxes and UBI and of course health insurance and why medicare for all might not actually benefit you. Rep. Thalibs planned trip to the Westbank and the controversy around it, as well as why the Israel issue can be confusing. In SPORTS fantasy rosters are broken down, Clowney is in town, and the boys make their week one projections.

Episodes about the Green New Deal:
Episode 49
Episode 50
Episode 54

Episodes about Health Care:
Episode 53
Episode 56

Episode about Ilhan Omar & The “anti-bigotry resolution”

Episode 52

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Audio Blog: The Dehumanization of the Opposition.

Donavan came back STRONG this week and threw down our latest blog post in an AUDIO FORM to ease your media consumption. Being read by the author is sounds the way it is meant. Coming in at a cool 9 minutes, this audio blog is PERFECT for a quick drive to work or while doing the dishes. Check it out now and let us know what you think!
https://soundcloud.com/user-433586172/the-dehumanization-of-the-opposition
 
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The Dehumanization of The Opposition

The intense partisan divide in this country along political lines is frequently discussed, and attributed to various different causes. Especially in the case of the recent El Paso shooting, the cause is often stated to be The President, the NRA, any number of different groups or individuals and can change depending on the issue at hand. While many people were thrust into thoughts of legislation and reform after the El Paso shooting, I was lost in thoughts of division and how exactly we got here.
I’ll just be honest right now, the president didn’t cause the El Paso shooting. No one but the shooter was at the cause of that. But it’s the shifting of narratives and overly bold language that so greatly muddies the waters of truth and allows people to so easily feel secure in their arguments. That security is further solidified by the instant dismissal of other views and opinions through use of over simplification and claims that the other side is essentially shilling for their cause.
It’s this insane rhetoric, I believe, that has gotten us to this place of such drastic division. Some common examples that are shared are that pro-lifers want to take away women’s right to choose and that pro-choicers are baby killers; or that 2nd amendment advocates are just worried about their guns and not the safety of others and that gun control advocates just want to take everyone’s guns away. None of these things are completely true and the longer we block ourselves from even considering that there is a real person with real opinions on the other end of that argument, we are doomed to this culture of division and dismissal and will be lost in a world of vetos and filibusters.
In reality, those that are pro-life, generally consider abortion to be murder. Regardless of the legitimacy anyone feels in that argument, for many it is a manner of morals and for some a moral cornerstone that abortion is wrong because it is murder. Those that are pro-choice genuinely feel that it is a woman’s right to make whatever decision they want with their body and it should be fettered by no one, especially a man. Do you really think either of those groups of people are going to easily change their mind? The answer is no.
In reality, 2nd amendment advocates have a plethora of reasons that gun ownership is vital to a well functioning society and that any infringement would be detrimental to the ability of the public to keep their government in check, as is their constitutional duty. Those that are gun control advocates (however educated or uneducated on guns) are scared. They are scared for their lives and the lives of their children and for whatever reason, however they arrived at this conclusion, believe that moderation of access to firearms will solve that problem. It is unreasonable to believe that either of these groups would change their minds easily.
Until we as a society and as a country are able to take a step back and recognize and respect that the person we are arguing with, be it on the internet or in real life, is an actual person, not just a walking talk point to make you upset. The same way you don’t want to be forced into anything, those that don’t agree with you don’t want to be forced either. With the way our media and social media is running, we are teaching our youth to hold extreme ideological positions with little to no evidence and no desire to receive any, because all that matters is owning the libs or punching nazis.
Well what you think are liberals are actually progressives, a small faction of a once great Democratic Party that, in my opinion, will lead to the destruction of the party if left unchecked. And what you are calling nazis are actually far right idiots and white supremecists, an equally small faction amongst a once great Republican Party that, in my opinion, left unchecked by leadership and executive will ruin the fragile image the party has with the next generation.
If we cannot even care to understand the differences that separate us into those worth listening to and those who should be ignored, then we stand no chance of identifying that which draws us together and provides us the hope to compromise for the good of this great country. Far left Marxist ideals and Far Right nationalism have nothing legitimate to offer this country and should be ignored. Those who lie between have at least some semblance of hope or new ideas that stand to possibly benefit the world and country we live in, and they should be understood for their value before simply being dismissed on the count of opposition to your own ideals.
It is this intensely partisan outlook that places people like Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin in the real of the far right in the opinion of modern media. And the hatred for their perceived views, not even their actual views, are enough to deter most people from even googling their name to hear the words out of the persons own mouth. We have discussed time and time again the vital lessons that people like Dr. Peterson stand to teach us. Lessons that, if ignored, doom us to make the same mistakes of other countries in the past in the form of Marxism or Fascism. It is the ignorance of these lessons that place us in danger of repeating history, for we have chosen not to learn from it.

Episode 66

After a killer guest host, Don and Offie get back to business and dive deep into how nihilism can influence your life and the world around you, the immigration raids that happened in Mississippi last week from several food packaging plants, the morality of raids of this manner and legality of employing illegal immigrants. And then a look at the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, deconstruct the varying factors that could cause shootings like this as well as the many possible solutions (viable and non viable) to the immense issue of mass shootings in america, and those that may be considered by Congress upon their return. In SPORTS Zeke maintains his holdout and TB12 gets paid.

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Episode 65 is LIVE! Guest- Isaiah Brooks

This week Don and Offie are joined by super special guest Isaiah Brooks and with his help the democratic debates are deconstructed (kind of). the odd difficulty of actually WATCHING Possible Instagram censorship lingers, 2AM is challenging the will of the people, Colin breaks down Latino weddings, feelings of pride for friends turning their lives around the purpose of political debates and relevance of the timing, the arguments for and against a UBI, the lies of Jay Inslee and Kamala Harris are innumerable and Harris is called out by Tulsi Gabbard in the midst of fighting Biden, the ways that racism is and is not ingrained in this country in regards to social structure, policing and police brutality, housing and education, how different locations and cultures can change relationships with law enforcement, does flint have clean water?, why Medicare for all WILL cost the middle class more in taxes, why mental health is just as important as physical health and preventative medicine should gather more attention, and in SPORTS!! Zeke is STILL holding out and Mike Thomas goes from $1.6 mil a season to $1 mil a game.

In Episode 61 we talked about the first round of debates

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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.