Monday, September 30, 2019

So like a compass in a snowstorm, I found a dive bar (shocking, I know) and the drunky couple next to me is (lovingly but unprovoked) whisper-singing old Oasis songs to each other and it makes me think, maybe that’s what life should be, you know?But then I also think, Oasis??! Really? Maybe what’s important in life is to find ways to connect to other humans without vanity, but also maybe what’s really important is to only ever connect with other humans who understand that Oasis really only ever had two good albums and even then, “good” is debatable. #truelove


My occasional hobby of sneaking into really fancy places using nothing but my white privilege proves to once again have zero consequences. Funny how that works. Unrelated: anybody want to buy some really fancy flatware?


I think I got off the bus in the wrong place ... this does not look like a college campus ... oh well, guess I’m walking. Good thing I wore shoes today.


Look at this ocean I found! Did anybody even know this was here?!


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Ag-Gag Body Camera


So called “Ag-Gag” laws have been passed in 8 states and a full HALF of the states in the United States have at some point attempted to pass Ag-Gag laws.

So what are Ag-Gag laws? Well I am glad you asked (because I actually know the answer to this one)!

The US 9th Circuit Court has described Ag-Gag laws as those laws which seek to criminalize the recording of the “conduct of an agricultural production facility’s operations.”

So what the hell is that about? Well I am glad you asked!

Basically these are laws designed to keep activists (henceforth referred to as DIRTY HIPPIES) from sneaking into agricultural production facilities and recording the goings on and then disseminating those recordings.

“But,” you ask, “what are the DIRTY HIPPIES doing breaking into dairies? Are they high or something? Is this a PSA about not smoking THE POT, because if it is then I have bad news for you because I am stoned like right now.”

Well no, that is not it at all.

“So what is it about then, man?” You ask this while gazing transfixed down at your hands.

Basically Ag-Gag laws exist …

“Hey,” you say, interrupting me quite rudely, “have you ever really looked at your own hands? Like really LOOKED at them?”

So Ag-Gag laws exist because …

“Really looked at them, I’m saying???”

This BTW is what you’re actually like when you’re high. Anyway, Ag-Gag laws exist so that the general public does not ever SEE the conditions in which livestock animals are bred, raised, and slaughtered.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you actually saw what a chicken farm looked like? The answer of course is that you haven’t seen one, because there are laws against anyone showing you one.

My family’s background is in agriculture and I grew up in a predominately agriculture focused region, so I know all of this. I’ve always known all of this. I’ve seen downer cows (these are cows that either due to damage, disease, or defect lose the ability to stand up) and I know what happens to them (they are slaughtered, but that was usually going to happen anyway) and so I am familiar with some of the cruelty that is built into our food systems. I think about it just about any time I eat meat. And I am no vegan.

It only recently occurred to me that not everyone is me (though some of you could be trying a little harder) and so you might at this very moment be sitting down to a nice big steak with a side of scrambled eggs and a nice tall glass of milk and you MIGHT NOT EVEN KNOW that that food is made of ANIMALS!

“Animals???” You ask, still looking at your hands.

Yes, animals.

Realistically, I think that people low-key know that the large scale factory farming of meat has cruelty built into it, but I also think that people choose not to care because they do not know the scope of the cruelty, which means that people are not actually making informed decisions. And of course the reason they’re not making informed decisions is because there have been laws passed that make it illegal to inform them.

I don’t think that is great and I can’t think of another area in our civic life where such a thing would be true (except maybe Vietnam in the mid to late 1960s). Now I’m not a DIRTY HIPPIE and I’m not saying that factory farming is EVIL or anything (the cruelty has been ratcheted up because it creates efficiency in order to meet the demands of the marketplace), but I do think that the general population is being prevented from understanding this issue because of Ag-Gag laws. Don’t you want to know the real costs of things?

“No,” you say, suddenly looking up from your hands, “because you’re a DIRTY HIPPIE!” And then you pull out your badge because you’re A COP! “You’re under arrest!” You shout at me.

But you can’t arrest me because I am writing this in Arizona, which does not have any Ag-Gag laws.

“You think you’re so smart, don’t you?” You ask while pulling off your stoner disguise and revealing your uniform underneath, “Well you didn’t take into account that I’m no by-the-book cop, I’m the prototypical rules-are-made-to-be-broken kind of Hollywood movie cop that has totally fucked up the modern police officer’s conception of what it means to be police officer!”

Then you push me to the ground and start kicking me and you’re shouting, “Dirty Harry movies completely brain fucked my entire profession!”

Just before I pass out from your kicks to my face, I notice that you’re wearing a body camera and so maybe maybe maybe, some good will one day come of all this mess.

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Friday, June 7, 2019

I’m at an RV show! Because there’s not a lot to do in Arizona in the summer. And yes, I am hanging out in the shower.


Stop, Drop, and Cover


You know how everyone makes fun of Mitch McConnell because he looks like a turtle? Well I am not in favor of that. I think it is not right to make fun of him. He is not funny. He is however, a treacherous and treasonous cancer on this country and author Christopher R. Browning recently referred to him as “the gravedigger or American democracy”. McConnell has probably done more damage to America than the actual fucking KGB did during its 37 years of existence.

But that's not what I want to talk to you about. Sorry. I somehow managed to start on a tangent. What I want to talk to you about is actually Bert the Turtle. OH! That’s what happened: Bert the Turtle is a turtle, Mitch McConnell is a turtle and so my brain just went from there. Now it makes sense. Anyway, fucl Mitch McConnell and now let’s proceed to Bert the Turtle.

In 1951 the US Federal Civil Defense Administration released a nine minute black and white film to American schools that focused on how to survive an atomic blast. If you know about this at all, you know about it because it’s where the phrase “duck and cover” came from. There was even a little song.

Well Bert the Turtle is a turtle and he’s just turtle-ing along (on his hind legs like a human, as turtles all tend to do when no one is looking) and suddenly a fucking terrorist monkey lowers a fucking stick of dynamite down next to Bert’s head. Well I guess that despite the well-known centuries-long blood feud between monkeys and turtles, this particular dipshit monkey didn’t know that turtles can RETRACT THEIR APPENDAGES inside their famously dynamite-proof shells, which is exactly what Bert does just before the fuckwad monkey detonates himself exactly like Mitch McConnell did to his sense of patriotism in order to make room in his heart for one of Donald Trump’s fucking horcruxes.

Anyway, when the smoke clears Bert is fine and the monkey is as dead as good faith parliamentary procedure is in the United States Senate.

As the film goes on it features actual humans and even school children demonstrating how to duck and cover. In each sequence there is a FLASH OF LIGHT as an atomic bomb goes off and then whomever is in the frame drops to the ground and curls up into a ball of hides under a desk or a picnic blanket.

By the time I became aware the Cold War was going on, we’d already entered the glasnost & perestroika era. I lived a childhood free of the fear that had my parents had been indoctrinated with. They lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis after all. On the other hand, I always kind of liked Mikhail Gorbachev, he seemed like a cartoon beaver. I certainly wasn’t afraid he was going to bomb the living shit out of everyone I’d ever met.

That, however, is the interesting part. See, even though I was not afraid of Gorbachev (even remotely as much as I am afraid of Mitch McConnell), in the 1980s he controlled somewhere north of 55,000 nuclear weapons including the largest yield ever developed, the 50+ megaton “Tsar Bomba” weapon. During the period of time when I was not afraid of thermonuclear annihilation, it was very much within the realm of possibility that I would die as a result of thermonuclear annihilation. At the very least it was technically POSSIBLE, which is to say that it was within our ability as humans.

And so we laughed at old Bert the Turtle. “Oh Bert,” we would say mockingly, “you dumb dumb stupid idiot turtle dummy. Just accept the sweet inevitability of death why don’t you?”

That’s how we all talked on my elementary school playground.

But Bert knew something we didn’t. Bert was a creature of his time and his time was 1951. When America dropped the first atomic bomb on the unsuspecting population of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the resulting yield was clocked at about 15 kilotons.

Now 15 kilotons is nothing to sneeze at. That’s 15,000 TONS of dynamite. It killed an estimated 200,000 people. It was no laughing matter. Before and after pictures make it look like the city was scraped from the face of the Earth with the edge of a blade.

Three days later, Nagasaki was bombed. A big round implosion-type bomb named “Fat Man” free fell through the air for 43 seconds before detonating almost two miles off target. The blast radius was so wide however, that it didn’t matter that they missed. It killed about 80,000 people.

At that moment, as Fat Man dropped free of the B-29 bomber floating above Nagasaki, it was the only functional atomic bomb left in the world. The United States initially built three bombs. One was detonated as a test in the Jornada del Muerto desert of New Mexico. One was dropped on Hiroshima. After the third bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, there were literally no more. In what was possibly the boldest bluff in the history of the world, the United States acted like it TOTALLY had a bunch more of these things.

And in fairness, pretty soon after that they did have a whole bunch more. Turns out it is not that hard to build an atomic bomb once you already have the material and the manpower and the knowhow and the money and the desire to do so. And the US had all of those things.

The Soviets had a lot of those things too, but they didn’t detonate a bomb of their own until August of 1949.

That bomb was called “First Lightning” and it had a 22 megaton yield, so it was bigger and more destructive than the bombs that America had dropped, but it was not bigger by orders of magnitude. It was not unthinkably bigger. It was big and terrible and the most destructive thing in the history of human existence on the planet Earth, but what it wasn’t, was the end of the world. In fact, when the US dispatched researchers to Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the war, they discovered that the bombs had not even been as destructive as they’d initially believed.

Yes, that means that there was a moment when a team of Americans with clipboards were standing on the surface-of-the-moon blast zone that had once downtown Hiroshima and writing in their notes, “Need to make the bombs bigger.” They researchers discovered that in the midst of all of destruction and carnage and unspeakable horror, a surprising amount of life had survived. People in basements, people under water, even people who were simply lying down on the ground had survived.

So this gets back to the difference between Bert the Turtle in 1951 and me in the 1980s. The bombs of the 1940s and 1950s were of a type and size that - while powerful and god-awful-terrible - were strictly speaking, survivable in a lot of scenarios. That is to say, a child inside a single story brick or cinder block school building a few miles from the hypocenter of the blast could, if immediately upon seeing the flash, drop to the ground below a heavy wood and metal desk and maybe maybe maybe survive. “Duck and cover” was not actually nihilistically laughable advice in 1951.

But 30 years later in Reagan's America, we had every right to laugh. By then America had developed the B83 hydrogen bomb which offered 1.2 megatons of destruction at the push of a button. Whereas the Hiroshima bomb was equivalent to 15,000 tons of dynamite, the B83 clocked in at 1,200,000 tons of dynamite. Just to be clear: that is 15 thousand vs. 1 million 200 thousand.

By the time my friends and I were laughing at dumb old Bert the Turtle, mankind had very easily transitioned from having three bombs that destroyed cities to tens of thousands of bombs that destroyed species.

That is the important part. The real history is not - as we are so often taught it, when we are taught it at all - that humanity went from being simply really good at killing, to suddenly jumping the shark in the sky above Hiroshima in 1945 by suddenly becoming capable of utterly extinguishing itself entirely.

It didn’t happen that way.

We built three bombs. We dropped two of them on other humans. Then we carefully surveyed the destroyed landscapes, the sagging melted flesh of the survivors, the skin of the women whose kimono patterns were burned onto their bodies, the children whose eyelids had been seared from their faces, the blackened remains of bodies incinerated by light, and then we said, “We’re gonna need some bigger bombs.”

The decision to build the fourth bomb was even more important than the decision to build the first.

In 1951, when Bert the Turtle was turtle-ing along, minding his own business and trying to avoid monkey assassins, the Soviet Union had 5 atomic bombs. Five. A decade later they had more than 1,500. And America always had more than the Soviets did. By the time I was a kid, there were more than 70,000 bombs in the world. No amount of duck and cover can save you from that.

So the lesson - and now I remember why I was thinking about Mitch McConnell! - is that sometimes we don’t notice the BIG CHANGE. The point of no return isn’t always where we think it is. We did not develop the actual ability to destroy the world and the entire human race in 1945 or even 1951. It was on some random day sometime in the mid-1950s as the US and the Soviet Union raced to crank out bomb after bomb after bomb. One bomb, one city. One bomb, two cities, and on and on and on and suddenly we have one bomb for every city and two bombs for every city and on and on and somewhere in there we reached critical madness.

The day we developed the ability to actually annihilate ourselves went completely unnoticed.

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Thursday, June 6, 2019

Pinkos.


Did you know that in the early 20th Century three states passed laws that margarine had to be pink?

Margarine is an artificial butter substitute and it is white when extruded from the factory. It is dyed yellow to more closely resemble butter (which itself is often dyed yellow to more closely resemble what you think butter looks like).

The milk and butter lobby (“BIG BUTTER”, as I and I alone refer to them) got laws passed in 32 states that regulated and restricted the dying of margarine (read: not yellow). Only South Dakota, Vermont, and New Hampshire required that it be pink because obviously their state legislatures were filled with old timey Tammany Hall types who were as hilarious as they were sadistic.

Eventually the Supreme Court got involved and in their famous case, “I Can’t Believe It’s a Supreme Court Caliber Case v. Can You Even Fucking Believe This Is a Supreme Court Case” ruled that BIG BUTTER needed to stop wasting the Supreme Court’s MFing time.

Despite the SCOTUS ruling, the state of Wisconsin kept its anti-margarine dying laws on the books until 1967 because … let me check my notes. Oh yes .... because no one actually gives a shit what color the margarine is in Wisconsin. Like literally, I bet that after the Supreme Court ruling there was a meeting at the FBI that went something like this:


INT. J EDGAR HOOVER’S OFFICE. DAY.

FBI AGENT
So we have been hearing rumors that Wisconsin still doesn’t have yellow margarine, despite the Supreme Court ruling. Should we send some people up there to …

J. EDGAR HOOVER
Get the fuck out of my office.

FBI AGENT
But I just …

J. EDGAR HOOVER
No, seriously. Fuck you.

FBI AGENT
But the Supreme Court …

J. EDGAR HOOVER
My next meeting after this is about actual fucking Soviet spies. KGB assassins and shit. And you’re bringing me this broke ass, weak tea non-yellow margarine bullshit? And anyway, isn’t Wisconsin in Canada? How gives a seagull’s fuck in winter about Canadian butter. Are you embarrassed right now you asshole? Because you should be.

FBI AGENT
I’m … going to go now.

J. EDGAR HOOVER
Goddam right you are! Jerk.

END SCENE

I don’t have transcripts to prove any of that is true, but I have put in a FOIA request, just in case.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The 6th Sense is Actually Proprioception


Recently the movie Glass hit theaters and while I personally do not watch M. Night Shyamalan movies because, with the possible exception of The Sixth Sense, they are not — you know — good, I did for a brief moment, when I heard that there was film called “Glass”, entertain the charming and wistful notion that it might be a documentary about the history of glass.

Boil me up some fake movie theater butter because THAT is something I would pay to go see!

I can already hear you shouting, “Now wait just one minute sir, Signs was a damn good movie!”

But here’s the thing: No. No it was not.

As I recall, there is a scene in that movie when Joaquin Phoenix beats an alien to death with a baseball bat. That’s dumb.

Also, if I recall correctly, that scene is shot in such a way that you only see the beating of the alien with a baseball bat in the reflection on a TV. You know why it is shot that way??? Because the premise of the scene is dumb. And the movie KNOWS IT! That is why it is shot that way. It’s like that scene in the second Matrix movie when Laurence Fishburne is fighting somebody on the top of a moving semi truck and for some reason he does a handstand on the edge of the trailer in the middle of the fight and the logical next shot would be a wide shot so the audience can see what is happening, but instead they go to a super tight shot on his face because everyone involved with the making of that movie understood that the premise of the entire moment was so unbelievably stupid that is was basically insulting to the audience.

Anyway.

Glass has a fascinating history and while I am not going to even attempt to explicate here all of the ways in which you should find it interesting, I will just share this one nugget of ensorcelling glass-related information:

Beginning in the 13th Century, the water-treading, lagoon-locked city-state of Venice (in what is now the nation of Italy) sequestered all of its glass production and its glass makers and their families on the island of Murano, about a mile outside of the city. This was done to prevent the spread of the technology of glass blowing. Much like gunpowder, silk, and pasta (which is Chinese), glass production was once a closely guarded secret. Glass makers were not allowed to leave the island without permission from the government and if they did, they could be killed.

It’s like if the Manhattan Project was taking place on Ellis Island so New York City could keep a watchful eye over it.

Are you telling me that you would not be interested in watching a documentary about that? Because I sure as hell would. See? Glass is interesting! And I have not even told you yet about Depression Glass! But I will save that for another time.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Necessitous Men.



Ever since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) made white people’s brains liquify into steaming pools of shrieking acid a few months ago by suggesting that America return to a pre-Reagan-presidency tax structure, I have been thinking about my man Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR).

Since this is the internet, I feel compelled to mention that I think racism is bad and that Japanese internment was unacceptable. As time goes on, I think this will be up there with slavery and the genocide of Native Americans as one of the worst things the United States has ever done on its own soil.

However, that is not why I have been thinking about FDR. I have been thinking about him because of something he didn’t do, or rather, failed to do.

On Tuesday January 11th, 1944, FDR gave his State of the Union Address (but it wasn’t called that then) and he proposed an American Second Bill of Rights. He believed that the original Bill of Rights had in many ways, “proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.” Sometimes this Second Bill of Rights is referred to as an ‘economic bill of rights’.

FDR said, “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”

BTW, “necessitous” is an adjective meaning “(of a person) lacking the necessities of life; needy.” Even I had to look that one up and I’ve often been accused of a sesquipedalian loquaciousness.

Basically he was saying that you won’t have a free country very long if people can’t afford to live. Here, and in a great deal of his policies, you see notion that politics and economics are inextricably linked in an input/output fashion. If you input massive wealth inequality, you output dictatorship. If you input economic egalitarianism, you output democracy.

I don’t believe this thinking of this sort is common anymore and I think that it would be generous to even refer to it as “rare”. Thinking of this sort is essentially nonexistent.

Now it is lucky for me that no one reads this blog, otherwise a wandering BernieBro would pop up in the comments and wail, “THAT IS WHAT BERNIE HAS BEEN SAYING FOR ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS EVEN THOUGH I JUST LEARNED WHO BERNIE WAS THREE YEARS AGO!”

I like Bernie, I have always liked Bernie, I’ve liked Bernie since I learned who he was in the 1990s when he was working on health insurance reform with … (wait for it!) … Hillary Clinton. However, what I’m saying here is that neither Bernie nor anyone else is making the argument that anti-democratic political movements are a direct result of economic inequality. To make this theory even simpler, we’ll just call it: Garbage-In/Garbage-Out. If our thinking can dispense with notions of dignity and equality (though I value those things and believe they are important) and narrow down to the simple notion that the battle against wealth inequality is a battle that is objectively in everyone’s self interest, I think we would get a whole lot further.  

I recently did a Quija Board call with FDR and he said that I am presenting this information correctly.

Here are some of the things FDR proposed for the Second Bill of Rights:

The RIGHT to a job.
The RIGHT to earn enough money to afford decent food, clothing, shelter, and recreation.
The RIGHT of every farmers to a fair income.
The RIGHT of businesses “large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad”
The RIGHT of every family to a decent home.
The RIGHT to “adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health”
The RIGHT to “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment”
The RIGHT to a good education.

For context, this was the American President who was arguably the most popular during his lifetime, in the midsts of the largest and most expensive war that had ever taken place in the history of the world, suggesting not only that we should do these things, but that they are so arguably necessary that they rise above the realm of simple policy and should instead be enshrined as inalienable rights. I can count on one hand the politicos I think even have the mxie to say something like that out loud. And FDR said it a State of the Union address.

The past is a wild place that is almost always unlike how we think of it, because we often only think of it the way we have been taught to by people who were not there.

FDR went on to say, “America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.”

Sadly, FDR - who was not a well man - died about 15 months after this speech. The spirit of many of these rights were rolled into various government programs and legislation (like the Employment Act of 1946 or LBJ’s Great Society project), but no one after Roosevelt had the verve and, frankly, the batshit-crazy determination to make the American Second Bill of Rights happen.

It is my personal opinion that the last 40 years of American political thought has been a disastrous failure of imagination. I personally lay blame for this at the feet of Ronald Reagan and his facile and puerile sense of what patriotism means, but other people might have other culprits to blame.

I’ll say this though, I think we need a second American Bill of Rights and I think there is great value and utility in framing that discussion as one that was started 70 years ago by the only President we’ve ever elected four times.

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Monday, June 3, 2019

Well, I did not get the job I interviewed for in Las Vegas, so that’s a bummer. Given my advancing age, that was probably my last shot to be a showgirl.


The Rental Bees of America.


You probably don’t know it, but right now we are at about the height of bee rental season.

(I wish that as a writer I had the Hemingway-esque ability to simply stop writing this very second and leave that sentenced to dangle out there in the breeze. For sale: my sense of brevity, never used.)

The busiest time for gainfully employed rental bees is February and March because that is when almond trees in California need to be pollinated and that is such a herculean endeavor that it requires the work of about half the rental bees in the United States. No other crop is quite as dependent on migratory bee labor as almonds, though virtually all crops grown in America are dependent on our airborne pollinators to one degree or another.

Just to be clear, yes, we are talking about bees the insects and stars of the 2007 Dreamworks Animation hit Bee Movie. Now that we have that cleared up, you are likely wondering, “But don’t bees just … pollinate stuff, naturally? Isn’t that just something that they WANT to do? And are we … actually paying them? How do you even pay a bee? The Cash App? I mean, where would they even keep money? It’s not like they have pockets …”

So that is a lot of questions. Let’s try to get them answered for you.

First, if bees use the Cash App, they have kept that a secret. Second, while bees do not have pockets, they do have very sticky legs and if they were into passing fiat currency back and forth between them, that is probably how they would hang onto it. Third, yes you are correct that bees do naturally want to fly around from flower to flower, but they do not do that in order to pollinate them, they do that because they are collecting nectar and pollen to take back to their hive, the fact that some plants get pollinated in the process is 100% an accident. Bees are not pollinators because they’re doing anybody a favor, bees are pollinators because they have sticky legs.

This next part is going to be slightly larger in scope and not about bees: we have been culturally programmed to think that there is a natural world and a human-made world. The human-made world is, by way of example, Manhattan. Concrete, steel, glass, subways, asphalt, buildings that block out the sun, really good bagels, etc. The natural world is, say, Nebraska. Fields of green, amber grain waving in the wind, tall stalks of corn, terrible bagels, etc.

However, before people got to Nebraska, it did not look anything like that. Just because organic things are growing out of dirt does not mean that something “natural” is going on; we have engineered that land to within an inch of its life and occasionally even closer. The cornfields of Nebraska are exactly as human-made as anything in Manhattan. The simple presence of plants does not a natural world make.

Now let’s zoom up up up into the air high above Nebraska and let’s point our noses out west and glide over the wide dry Colorado Basin, we look down at the Great Salt Lake glittering in the rocky country below us, we zip up above Nevada, sail over the tall Sierra Nevada Mountains capped in white blankets of snow, and now we begin to descend down into the long tan center of California where only about 800,000 acres of trees produce 84% of the almonds in the world. As we drift down out of the air, our feet touch down in an almond orchard. Lines of relatively short, compact trees are planted in perfectly straight rows almost always 21 or 22 feet apart.

Standing in this orchard, admiring the precise spacing of the trees and the rows, you are reminded of the long and straight and gridded streets and avenues of Midtown Manhattan. Cities are also a thing humans have learned to grow, but we do not confuse them with the natural world.

In a good year, a pound of almonds can sell for as much as $4.00 and in a good year the almond industry is worth about 22 billion dollars. The entire NFL is only worth about 13 billion dollars.

Almond production is big business and it all depends on our busy little friends the bees. Understanding now that these orchards are just as planned and controlled as city streets, it would be folly for the farmers to rely on the size and enthusiasm of the local bee population to get all these trees pollinated. In fact, honey bees are the best commercial pollinators out there and they aren’t even native to the western hemisphere. Enter the rental bee.

One of the best place to raise bees on a commercial scale is Florida, this is largely due to the climate and because bees just love Epcot Center. Farmers all over the country will pay to rent bee hives (apple farmers in Pennsylvania, pumpkin farmers in Illinois and Michigan, etc), but every year the main event is almond pollination season out in California. Every winter hundreds of semi-trailer trucks in Florida are loaded up with boxes of bees (one box is a hive) and then a madcap insect Cannonball Run ensues as long-haul truckers haul ass out to the west coast. It generally takes two hives of bees to pollinate an acre of almonds. One hive contains around 16,000 bees. A standard semi-truck can transport 450 hives. That is about 7,200,000 bees per truckload.

Again, for effect: SEVEN MILLION TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND BEES! Take a moment to imagine what that sounds like.

The boxes of bees are generally unloaded at night and quickly placed into the orchards before sunrise because bees don’t like to fly at night. In the morning the first of the forager bees will begin to cautiously buzz out of their boxes and sniff around and pretty soon they discover that at the end of their harrowing cross country roadtrip, they have arrived in the promised land; more nectar and pollen surrounds them than the colony could ever need. The bees buzz out on their collection runs and in the process accidentally pollinate nearly a million acres of almond trees, keeping about 100,000 people employed and, late in the summer, the almond growers of California will harvest somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.2 billion pounds of shelled almonds.

But it isn’t just about almonds. Rental bees are used to pollinated grapes, tomatoes, onions, cotton, eggplant, zucchini, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, elderberries, boysenberries, oranges, nectarines, pears, pomegranates, peaches, plums, apricots, avocados, alfalfa, apples, sunflowers, fennel, carrots, limes, watermelons, carroway, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, cashews, and celery, just to name a few.

Bees are very busy and very very important to everyone and everything we do because we can’t do much if we are starving to death.

In 2018, US beekeepers reported that up to 40% of their bees had died in the year prior, an increase of more than 30% over the year prior. For more than a decade American bees have been dying at rates that challenge the continued sustainability of the bee population. This is a condition referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The bees do not so much die, as loose their ability to find their way back to the hive and then they die essentially of exposure. Without the worker bees, the queen can’t survive and reproduce and the colony simply dies out.

There is ferocious international argument about what causes CCD, though most European agencies are comfortable pointing to neonicotinoid insecticides and have actually ban them across the entire EU. At this moment there is no such ban in the US, or in China where Colony Collapse Disorder has been so severe in some rural areas that it has become cheaper to pay human day labors to apply pollen using brushes than it is to rent a colony of honey bees. That is not a joke.

The rental bees of America will likely stay busy as long as there are enough of them to keep shipping around the country by the truckload. They can also be mailed through the Postal Service, though if you showed up at your local post office with 7,200,000 honey bees, the USPS would just load them up on a semi-truck anyway. On the off chance you ever need honey bees delivered overnight, the Postal Service will ship them by air, but only a queen and up to 8 of her attendant bees. In that way, ironically, flight becomes not a viable means of travel for the humble workaday rental bee.

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