Illegal Immigration is a Fake Thing

You have, by now, almost certainly heard that the Federal Government of the United States of America has returned to the affairs of its daily business.

Huzzah.

You will hopefully remember that this impasse was caused by useless political gambling not with poker chips, but with CHIP – a program that provides healthcare to children. God bless this country and the elected professionals who run it. Eat your heart out, Muhammad Ali, this right here is a picture of greatness.

It seems as though our peculiar brand of greatness (you cannot take a dog into a restaurant because someone might get sick [or something?], but for $500 you can buy a military-designed rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition with essentially zero government oversight) is at the center of our national conversation.

The balance of freedom and security ring out in contradictory value systems from coast to coast, and the underpinnings of every mainstream conversation are founded in the concept of American Greatness. American Exceptionalism. Best Goddamn Country On Earth, I tell you what.

This premise is no more clear than in our discussion of human migration. In our discussions of migration policy and so-called “illegal immigration,” we seem to be unable to frame the issue in a realistic way. We implant our world view into the ghastly specters of murdering banditos who creep through our minds to rape our children and steal our pensions.

Super, super dangerous.

For us as Americans, expatriation is a conscious decision, one that we might make after weighing the benefits of living abroad against leaving behind everything we love. We are incapable of seeing it in any other light, and it is a fundamentally distorted worldview.

Illegal immigration is not a means for the lazy or the unworthy to circumvent legal means of coming to the US. “Illegal immigration” is a thing we invented to disguise the fact that we are confronted by a large scale refugee crisis of our own design.

Consider that the overwhelming majority of these refugees come from Latin America, specifically Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This is not necessarily a surprise, given the geographic proximity to The Land of the Free. But the reality is that these same countries have suffered for decades at the hands of our military intervention and clandestine colonialism. These are nations which have been systematically and deliberately destabilized by US interests, with effects that continue today.

During 12 years of Salvadorian civil war in the 80s and 90s, more than 75,000 civilians were killed. The overwhelming majority of these people (85%) died at the hands of by an oppressive military government (and their death squads, child soldiers, etc.) that enjoyed the support of both Carter and Reagan administrations. El Salvador at the time was a largely agrarian economy (enjoy that cup of coffee!) where 77% of the agricultural land was owned by 0.1% of the population. The war displaced more than a million people.

In the 1950s, the CIA cut its teeth in Guatemala (the Agency’s first action was to overthrow a democratically elected government at the behest of United Fruit Company – you know it today as Chiquita) and has more or less been a consistent presence there ever since. We financed genocide. We assassinated politicians. We bombed Guatemala City. You know, for bananas.

In the 1980s and 90s the CIA worked closely with Honduran intelligence officers to kidnap, torture, and assassinate opposition voices in support of the government there. Ooh and in 1954 we bombed Honduras and blamed it on Guatemala. So there’s that.

The refugee fallout from counter-democracy operations across Central and South America are direct responsibilities of the US Government and the American People it represents. Our shared responsibility for the Mexican refugee crisis is more direct.

I bet you’ve heard of the drug war in Mexico. It’s why you’ll definitely get killed if you go there, remember? The State Department said so? Since 2006 hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions have been displaced. This is, of course, a complicated problem and there are numerous contributing factors, not the least of which are domestic Mexican policies as well as external forces (like the CIA).

But at the heart of the Mexican drug war is the fact that Americans fucking love drugs. If we are not going to take meaningful steps to actually address drug use in America and the illegal drug trade it supports, then we need to take ownership of the refugee crisis that it manufactured.

This is to say nothing of the climate refugees who will increasingly be forced from ancestral homes by drought and flooding as we continue to resist action on human caused climate change. Bear in mind that this will occur within the US as well – perhaps the biggest argument for immediate action on climate change is that pretty soon all those weirdos in Florida are going to have to go someplace else.

There is a tendency in our minds to sequester humanity from the animal kingdom. We take for granted that geese and caribou will migrate in search of their basic needs, but somehow expect humankind to remain in unlivable conditions because of artificial borders imposed European colonizers. Escape from hunger, from drought, and from the only natural disaster unique to our species, war, is not only an obvious reaction to the phenomena but a fundamental human right.

The so-called “illegal immigration” problem is the predictable response to the activities of our government and our communities, whether that is the deliberate destabilization of a country’s elected government, our collective unwillingness to stop sniffing cocaine, or our demonstrated indifference to a warming climate. Welcoming and accommodating these refugees is not simply the right thing to do. It is our responsibility as the architects of their misery.

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Notes From the Trip (so far)

Dollar for dollar, new wiper blades are the best investment you can make in having a better day. If poutine is on the menu, get the poutine. At least one, you know, for the table. Numbers bigger than about 10,000 are all pretty much the same.

It is possible to stop biting your finger nails by simply deciding to do so. Your flight attendant is more annoyed than you are. Maplewood smoked bacon is delicious, and maple syrup on bacon is underrated . Maple flavored bacon should be against the law. Fish don’t make great pets. You will not be remembered, eventually.

Someone needs to be in jail for this.

Fear of not having done something is not a great reason to do that thing, although it is a powerful one. There is no traditional gift-giving occasion for which bottle rockets are an inappropriate present. All pants should have a little spandex. And while we’re talking about pants you should just buy used clothes and have them tailored. If you don’t outlive at least a few dogs, you’re not doing so hot yourself.

But you still miss them.

The Coriolis effect gets more credit than it deserves. Prince > Michael (RIP). Flint, Michigan still does not have a municipal water supply. Laziness and anxiety are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and actually if we’re honest they probably almost always go hand in hand. Pig is the second best kind of fat. If it’s on the internet, and it’s free, you are not the customer. It’s ok to knock some things before you try them.

Most people are not good or bad or righteous or evil as much as they are really just incredibly bored, and the truest show of patriotism is to go abroad and be kind. Not making a decision is a decision. Happiness and contentment are easily conflated. It’s not really all that hard to build something valuable, but it’s wildly difficult to build something that remains valuable without your daily, fingers-to-the-bone, compulsive commitment to improving that valuable thing. Some people will not, cannot, tolerate even five minutes of silence.

The kids will be fine. Probably.

A handwritten letter means more today than it ever has. You could do worse; you can do better.

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Bikini Bod Diet

Today is January 9th, so by now you have almost certainly abandoned your New Year’s Resolution. That’s fine. Those things are useless anyway. Besides, worrying about a New Year’s Resolution at this point is, like, worrying about the past, and stuff, which is pretty much antithetical to the whole point of the New Year’s Resolution concept. Right now? It’s beach body season, and I’ve got three great diets to get you trim and fit for that Speedo in the drawer.

You should know that these are cutting edge fueling techniques, and not to be approached by the faint of heart. These are not silly guidelines like the Whole 30, or the Ketogenic diet, or a cayenne and lemon juice cleanse. Those are for the diet dilettantes and philistines; my three step super diet plan is for hardcore fitness evangelists.

If you think you have what it takes to bring your future to the max, read on. For you, right now, this deal is completely free, and we only ask that you subscribe to email notifications on this blog. In the future, access to this hardcore-extreme-super-diet information will cost as much as $49 a day, so be sure to subscribe now for the best deal. Are you ready to blast cellulose and make Channing Tatum look like a softbody? Me to. Let’s do it.

1. I Don’t Know Maybe Try To Eat Better

By now you’ve probably had at least a couple dozen trips around the sun, and learned a few things along the way. Here’s the thing – you know what healthy food is. You know, fruits and vegetables, stuff like that. Maybe some salmon. You probably don’t need to count calories, or worry about carbs v. fat, to know that that the salad is better for you than the fries. Of course the fries are more delicious (they’re fried), but we’re on beach body detail right now. So just get the stupid salad. I guess that’s pretty much it.

And actually for the record this isn’t some raw diet either. You want to cook your zucchini in a little butter? Fine, great. Most of those other fancy diets can really be distilled to “you should probably eat more vegetables” anyway. What this diet lacks in dogma, it makes up for in quality of life.

2. I Guess Try Not To Eat So Much

The beauty of eating delicious food is that with every bite of that delicious food we forget, if only for a brief moment, all those feelings of sadness and shame and inadequacy that occupy our internal dialogues pretty much every waking second of every single day, and so when the first bite is gone we take another bite and it prolongs the numbness for another few seconds and is a pretty high functioning coping mechanism (if I do say so myself) up to the instant that we become full and the pendulum swings. Subsequent bites of delicious food leave us slightly more self-conscious, more shameful and inadequate (of course we continue to eat because it is more about the ritual of eating than the deliciousness of the food, and not all that different from smokers who claim the most difficult part of quitting is not knowing what to do with their hands), and fifteen minutes or so after we stop eating because we are impossibly full and the real sensation of fullness takes hold we are washed over by a newer, heavier feeling of shame and we lie on our backs and press against our belts and do not feel worthwhile, and the beauty of that once delicious food is lost and replaced by a kind of anger at ourselves, sure, but also at the food itself, which, when we’re honest, doesn’t make any fucking sense at all, but still, here we are.

He’s doing the diet wrong. The tigers are a nice touch though.

And so I get that “maybe don’t eat so much” is not necessarily helpful advice. But then maybe it is, and a small gesture of mindfulness at the inception of the meal is simply enough to simply eat less. Of course it could also add another layer of anxiety and self-doubt to the positive feedback relationship of shame and chewing and so in truth I don’t really know at all but hell maybe it’s worth a shot.

3. Just, Like, Don’t Drink So Much

I understand that your identity is pretty firmly wrapped up with being a beer aficionado, and after you watched Mad Men you picked up a healthy handle-a-week rye habit. That’s great. Booze is a helluva tool for getting through terrible wedding speeches or uncomfortable alone time with yourself. But maybe just tap the brakes for a minute and see what it’s like. And if you really need a breather from This, Here, Right Now, then just remember that MDMA has fewer calories, and less sugar and fat than that barrel aged imperial stout!

With these helpful dieting tips you can avoid the pitfalls of draconian fad diets and be well on your way to the bikini bod you know you deserve!

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We’re Not Ready for Legal Marijuana

You read the title of this post and are appalled. “Sure we are,” you say, and you point to a laundry list of well-considered arguments to validate your point. You articulate the absurdity that tobacco and alcohol are legal and weed is not, and the atrocities of the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to manufacture our current opioid crisis.

You point to the various successes of Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, where legal marijuana generates tens of millions of dollars for public education and health programs, and has led to a 98% drop in marijuana arrests. You point to the national decline in drug trafficking and a recent report by the Washington Post which describes how legal marijuana markets are driving cartels to different drugs (meth and heroin [a much cheaper alternative to Oxycodone, say], mostly).

You may even tackle the larger, more existential questions surrounding the issue, like, “how do you outlaw a plant, bro? Like, it’s a plant. It just grows.” (Of course if you go there you’re almost certainly stoned right now.) And these arguments are all pretty much on point. You’re right. Weed should be legal. The problem is that we’re not ready  yet.

There are a lot of strong arguments for legalization, and while it hasn’t quite decimated the black market like it was supposed to, it’s on the right track. The real issue comes with the lopsided enforcement of drug laws that we’ve seen since the so-called War on Drugs got started in the 80s, and the fact that it hasn’t budged.

Marijuana use occurs more or less independent of race. White folks, black folks, Latinx, pretty much everyone smokes weed in equal amounts. But according to the ACLU, blacks are about 4 times more likely to be arrested for possession than whites, and in some places, like Washington DC and Illinois, that number is closer to 10 times. These numbers haven’t budged in places where marijuana is legal. Hundreds of thousands of people are currently being held for non-violent drug offenses, and the majority of those people are minorities. While arrests for marijuana possession are down 98% in Colorado, they’re only down about 36% in Denver, where drug users are much less-white than in the rest of the state.

What we are seeing is the legal normalization of marijuana use for well-to-do white people, while poor minorities are still targeted and incarcerated for the same offenses. Right now 15% of the prison population looks forward to a future in which they will struggle to find work and living accommodations and reenter society in a meaningful way as they serve time for non-violent drug offenses. These people are disproportionately black and Latinx. At the same time, Marlboro is buying up Humboldt County and well-meaning/oblivious white people are cashing in. We cannot pretend to live in a just or egalitarian society while this is still the case.

None of this, of course, is necessarily a reason not to legalize marijuana, but any any measure to simply allow possession and sales needs to do much, much more. Legislation to legalize marijuana needs to release inmates who are being held for marijuana offenses. It needs to expunge those convictions and jail time from their records. It needs to provide job training, placement, and counseling to break the cycle of recidivism that leads 70% of nonviolent offenders to be arrested within 3 years of release.

A move toward legal marijuana needs to come with the cultural admission that it should never have been against the law in the first place, and that means making things right. It’s not enough to move forward, we need to look back at a tradition of injustice and right the wrongs where we still can.

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Hog Days of Boars

We have, here, spent some time discussing public land in the United States. This is for good reason. Public land is explicitly under attack by the Republican Party Platform, and wild places are at the center of numerous land use bills currently circulating through Congress. One need not look past the recent decimation of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments to see how effective extractive industry has been in dismantling America’s Best Idea.

Right now two bills in particular are fracturing the western conservation community – one allowing bicycles in designated Wilderness, the other closing the books on decades old wilderness study areas. This has, perhaps by design (<—conspiracy theory), caused some dissonance between conservationists who ride bikes and conservationists who don’t ride bikes, and is generally occupying a lot of peoples’ time and energy. Generally speaking this is good stuff for us to be thinking about, and we are fortunate to have the wild places to fight over in the first place. (Although I do think it would be much more productive if we all just stopped yelling for a minute).

But then there’s one threat to public land that folks don’t really seem to be talking about that much, and which may deserve some yelling. WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING ABOUT FERAL PIGS?

Seriously guys this shit is real. You know them as bacon, probably, or maybe “the thing that got Robert Baratheon”. Fans of their earlier work may remember that scene from Snatch. But the thing is, feral boars are a real thing, they’re coming, and before we dig too deep, there’s a few things you should know about them.

  • These fuckers are the size of Marshawn Lynch
  • They begin breeding at 6 months old, can have 12 piglets per litter, and two litters per year
  • Boars can each impregnate about 10 sows per year
  • Feral hogs can occupy essentially any habitat on earth, tolerate harsh winters, and happily thrive at 15,000′ above sea level
  • They are voracious omnivores and will delightedly out-compete every species of charismatic megafauna you hold dear
  • While you hunt the boars, the boars hunt you

Wild pigs present a clear and growing danger to all of the fancy endangered species, across all types of habitat. Sage Grouse, Grizzly Bears, and Lynx are all at risk for further competition and depredation, as well as the animals that people actually care about: elk. In fact the only wildlife that really stand to gain by an influx of feral swine are mountain lions and wolves.

Of course feral hogs also thrive on wild flora and agricultural crops, by tilling the earth with their tusks for plant roots or tearing bark from trees. They are indiscriminate eaters, and ruin landscapes. The US currently spends $1.5 billion annually on pig control and crop replacement, and in Japan agricultural depredation once got so bad that more than 3,000 people starved to death during what’s now known as the “Wild Boar Famine.” And this is all, of course, to say nothing of their prominence as vectors for human-communicable disease, deadly aggression, adaptability to suburban and urban environments, and ready habituation to human presence.

Basically feral hogs are kind of a bummer.

Which is why the next part is so spooky: Hogs are present in 44 states and expanding their range by about 8 miles per year. Without intervention, they will be in every county in the US by 2060. Pigs are coming, and they are going to fuck shit up. Right now the most remote, wildest landscapes in the lower 48 are in Montana and Wyoming, two of the last bastions without pig sightings. Once the boars arrive, they will be changed forever.

Do you think those docile elk in West Yellowstone are weird? Just love the Jeremiah Johnson fantasy of riding your horse through the Bob Marshall? Annoyed when squirrels eat your bird feeder? You haven’t seen anything yet (btw there are pigs in Oregon, Idaho, and North Dakota).

“Sure they’re bad,” you say. “But whatever can we do?” I’m glad you asked. Really the big thing is to STOP DRIVING THEM AROUND TO INTRODUCE TO NEW PLACES SO THAT YOU CAN PLAY GI JOE AND HUNT THEM FROM A HELICOPTER WITH NIGHT VISION. Short of that you can usually hunt them*, and pig roasts are delicious (Columbus introduced them in the West Indies so that future expeditions would have food security).

At the very least we should acknowledge that this is kind of a big deal that we’re not talking about at all. We’ve seen a few studies, a headline every year or two, and that’s really it. So let’s get it together, and maybe take a breather from bickering like Khaleesi and the Lannisters. The boars are coming. It’s real.

 

*And they’re mostly nocturnal, so you may want night vision. And they do move around a bit so if you have a line on a helicopter I guess it wouldn’t hurt.

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