Sunday, July 09, 2006


Did I mention I’m traveling into the heart of the Amazon rainforest in less than two weeks?

Last March, I was in St. Louis, taking care of my sister through a particularly awful patch with her then-chemo treatment. (At some point in history a bunch of doctors sat around trying to brainstorm cancer cures and they all collectively said, “Hey, I know! Let’s try base metals!”) – At the time she was being infused with straight platinum. Apart from being the most expensive piece of bling in St. Louis – it had some pretty horrific side effects.

I was, more than anything, trying to give my sister something to distract her from what she was going through. A friend of mine had given me a copy of the March issue of National Geographic Adventure with an article by Kira Salak, entitled, Peru: Hell and Back. It was, to me, a rather harrowing tale of her journey into the heart of the Amazon rainforest and a series of Shamanic ceremonies involving the drinking of a medicine called Ayahuasca, that has been used for thousands of years in the healing of a number of illnesses – among them, cancer.

I thought her reading about some journalist going into the rainforest and the subsequent harrowing and profound internal journey was a good choice – it had mysticism, ancient ceremonial magic, barfing – the stuff of a good episode of Buffy. My sister read the article.

A couple days later, she says, “Would you want to go and do this?”

“It scares the living daylights out of me . . . But if you want to do that, I’d do it.”

She proceeded to order a few books on the subject; we talked about it more and more, and then one day she says, “I think I want to do this.”


“Yeah. Really.”

“You know it’s probably not a cure.”

“I know that. But it’s the fucking AMAZON! How cool would that be?”

So, keeping an open mind, and not about to deny my sister anything when she’s been handed a truly ugly medical diagnosis – I started investigating. I should probably mention that other than a few vacations to Puerto Vallarta over the years, I have not been anywhere since I went off by myself to live briefly in London when I was twenty one. I don’t get out much.

I first contacted one of the sites profiled in the National Geographic Adventure article. I explained our situation and they said that they didn’t feel that it would be good for her to travel to their particular retreat as they were not set up for medical emergencies.

Meanwhile, my sister had been taken off that particular chemo due to the extreme side effects she was experiencing and had been put on another kind that was in pill form. She started to improve. A lot. She then reaffirmed her interest in going to Peru and talked to her oncologists. They said they would not interfere with any personal healing journey she wanted to take. Okay, now at the time it didn’t occur to us to talk to her OTHER doctors. Oncologists are wonderful people, but they are also dealing with people with terminal illnesses, so they are more than likely to say, “You want to go shark diving? Great! Go for it!” But armed with the blessing of the oncologists, I embarked again on finding a way to do Sis’s Big Adventure. I hit pay dirt. I found an organization that is administratively run through the UK, but the location itself is in the heart of the jungle with the indigenous tribe of Indians that have been doing this for centuries. We would be provided with an interpreter guide and all the amenities that jungle living with no electricity or hot water can provide. They were very knowledgeable about many forms of cancer and had a different approach than the other organization that was, while aware of her possible limitations, making it possible for her to go. Their knowledge of western medications and treatments was extremely vast. They weren’t going to take any chances and said that she might get there and not be able to actually drink the healing medicine, but that the ceremonies themselves had been profoundly helpful to many who were ill.

I’m a native Californian, and therefore have an open mind. I think there’s an awful lot we don’t know about. Sooooooo, I put the deposit down and bought the tickets for sis, my friend (the one who showed me the article to begin with) and myself.

And no. Manpants would not be joining us. This was just us gals.

Well, part of the journey involves shots. Vaccinations. One can’t just waltz into Peru without their Yellow Fever vaccination. Or tetanus, or hepatitis, or typhoid, or diphtheria for that matter. So sis goes to get her shots and is informed that at least two of them are live vaccines. Live vaccines are very bad for people with shot immune systems from chemo. Very bad. Sis can no longer go. Her adventure, her idea, the tickets are bought – and nope.

She had a great attitude about it however and the next CT results were even better than the ones before – which reaffirmed that whatever it is that she’s doing is working; macrobiotic eating, Fiji water, voodoo, pill chemo – a combo of all the above, who knows - so why mess with success? She was fine about not being able to go, but firm about wanting my friend and I to continue on with the journey.

So we are. We’re leaving July 22nd. We fly into Lima, then fly from there to Iquitos, then hike and boat into the camp where we will be for 10 days of hiking; educational treks learning about the flora and fauna of that part of the rainforest; learning about the ancient culture of an Indian tribe that is in danger of becoming extinct; boating on the Amazon river and participating in nightly ceremonies of a unique and ancient healing art that goes back quite possibly as far as the cave paintings of Chauvet and Lascaux.

It’s very exciting, scary, nerve wracking, exciting and scary. AND I’m going to get to see the Amazon rainforest in person – not just a Jeff Corwin experience. (Animal Planet viewers will get the reference.) Since the Rainforest may be here all of another 15 minutes at the rate we’re going environmentally – I am pretty grateful for the opportunity.

I will, of course be recording everything in a journal and willing to share all when I return.

Did I mention it’ all very exciting and scary?

Friday, July 07, 2006


Will someone tell me why this is news? Not just a tidbit in the Bondage Files of the SF Gate (where this particular excerpt comes from), but chatted about on NPR (I heard it this morning), reported by Associated Press and other usually somewhat sane, news reporting agencies. And not just the U.S. national news, but apparently it is huge news in Russia. Have we humans gotten to the point that we are so screwed up with respect to affection, let alone sex, that an adult performing that age old gesture of picking up a child and kissing or doing a raspberry on the stomach of said child is now an act of inappropriate affection/potential pedophilia and that we must, must, must find out the motivation for that action? Where reporters, rather than ask the opinion of a leader about the recent testing of missiles in N. Korea, ask him instead about his motivation for picking up and kissing a child. I give you the article:

Putin Explains Kissing Child's Stomach
Thursday, July 6, 2006
(07-06) 11:45 PDT MOSCOW, Russia (AP) --

In between answering questions about North Korea's missiles, Iran's nuclear program and relations with the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin answered what was for many observers a more burning question: What compelled him to kiss the bare stomach of a young boy in a Kremlin courtyard?

Footage of the June 28 incident was broadcast on all Russian television stations, quickly became fodder for Internet chat rooms and topped the Moscow tabloids the day after. The question was one of the most popular among the thousands e-mailed in for the Web chat, hosted by the British Broadcasting Corp. and Russian search engine

In the footage, Putin, 53, is shown walking up to a small crowd of tourists in a Kremlin courtyard and crouching down in front of the boy, who appears to be five or six years old. As the Russian president talks with Nikita for several seconds, he tugs at the boy's shirt before finally lifting it up and kissing him on his bare stomach.

"He seemed to me very independent, very serious, but at the same time a boy is always vulnerable. He was very sweet. I'll be honest, I felt an urge to squeeze him like a kitten and that led to the gesture that I made, there was nothing behind it really," he said, smiling.

Okay. Now, we were all very disappointed in the lapse in moral behavior of our former president over the whole Monica thing – just ‘cause it was really dumb – however with respect to his political savvy, his record with increased riches to the U.S. Coffers and improved environmental policies, not to mention the respect held for him (and still held for him) by our allies (who, incidentally, didn’t understand what the big deal was – it was just sex with another consenting adult and had nothing to do with running the country.) Despite that fact, the extreme right in our country, hell, even that drug addict Rush and that morning-after-the-rough-trade-night-before-cocktail-dress-worn-to-morning-interviews Ann Coulter, STILL like to throw out that lapse in judgment as being equivalent to blowing up the Federal Reserve and turning over military secrets to the enemy. Or leaking the name of a CIA operative to the press.

Were we always this screwed up by extreme fundamentalist philosophy and the resulting dirty, hysterical minds that are a byproduct of that philosophy that we live without any hope at all of being a nation evolved in any sort of rationale at all, and as a result, doomed to act out in really weird and inappropriate manners because some of us have so repressed ourselves that we become freaks that act out in bizarre and sometimes harmful ways? Are we a nation that is so repressed by that fundamentalist ideology that issues like the banning of gay marriage take supreme importance over that of correcting the poverty and illiteracy rate of our fellow citizens? Apparently, yup.

And yet I hear that certain areas of the Mid West have taken up swinging again as a way to deal with marital boredom.

Definition for Swinging: To exchange sex partners. Used especially of married couples.

Okay. To each, his and her own. Not my thing. Supposedly Orange County, California is also a hotbed of swinging. Funny – both the Mid West and Orange County are also hotbeds of conservative Republican values. What did I say about repressed people? Makes sense they all voted to ban gay marriage – I’m sure their active imaginations and obsessions with what others are doing in the privacy of their own homes are directly related to their own actions and bizarre desires.

There was an episode of Battlestar Galactica that dealt with this fanaticism over sex and affection. In case you haven’t tuned in to the incredibly savvy and entertaining remake of the dismal 1970’s series (this is actually a remake I will champion), the humans are at war against the Cylons (allegorical fundamentalist terrorists) and at one point, a military tribunal is held to question officers about any knowledge regarding a Cylon agent’s infiltration into their midst. The tribunal is held by an independent prosecutor (shades of Kenneth Starr) who quickly turns the questioning to inexplicable inquiries about the sexual relationship between an officer and that officer’s superior. Nicely written, nicely acted, and in the end, the commander steps forward and tells the independent prosecutor with appropriate disgust, “You have lost your way. This tribunal is over.” Ah, the stuff of fantasies. Too bad we can’t be so evolved and responsible here.

Fundamentalism; be it Christian, Muslim, Mormon, Jewish – it has little or nothing to do with the original philosophies of those religions that the fundamentalist version is loosely based upon and it is important we make the distinction. There are oodles of Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Jews, Buddhists, etc. that embrace the original philosophies of their faiths that all basically boil down to the same thing – let’s all be nice to each other, shall we?

I just wish the fundamentalists wouldn’t spread that nonsense and sick-making weirdness – particularly in the area of a basic human need, which they seem to need to turn into some bizarre carnival nightmare freak-show – to the rest of us to the point that the national wire service feels it crucially important to report about the possible motivations of a leader for picking up a child and kissing – or blowing a rasberry on (can’t tell from the picture) – the stomach of a child. GROW UP PEOPLE.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

THIS JUST IN - and I'm proud of him.

Doug's apology


By Doug McIntyre

Host, McIntyre in the Morning

Talk Radio 790 KABC

There’s nothing harder in public life than admitting you’re wrong. By the way, admitting you’re wrong can be even tougher in private life. If you don’t believe me, just ask Bill Clinton or Charlie Sheen. But when you go out on the limb in public, it’s out there where everyone can see it, or in my case, hear it.

So, I’m saying today, I was wrong to have voted for George W. Bush. In historic terms, I believe George W. Bush is the worst two-term President in the history of the country. Worse than Grant. I also believe a case can be made that he’s the worst President, period.

In 2000, I was a McCain guy. I wasn’t sure about the Texas Governor. He had name recognition and a lot of money behind him, but other than that? What? Still, I was sick of all the Clinton shenanigans and the thought of President Gore was… unthinkable. So, GWB became my guy.

For the first few months he was just flubbing along like most new Presidents, no great shakes, but no disasters either. He cut taxes and I like tax cuts.

Then September 11th happened. September 11th changed everything for me, like it did for so many of you. After September 11th, all the intramural idiocy of American politics stopped being funny. We had been attacked by a vicious and determined enemy and it was time for all of us to row in the same direction.

And we did for the blink of an eye. I believed the President when he said we were going to hunt down Bin Laden and all those responsible for the 9-11 murders. I believed President Bush when he said we would go after the terrorists and the nations that harbored them.

I supported the President when he sent our troops into Afghanistan, after all, that’s where the Taliban was, that’s where al-Qaida trained the killers, that’s where Bin Laden was.

And I cheered when we quickly toppled the Taliban government, but winced when we let Bin Laden escape from Tora-Bora.

Then, the talk turned to Iraq and I winced again.

I thought the connection to 9-11 was sketchy at best. But Colin Powell impressed me at the UN, and Tony Blair was in, and after all, he was a Clinton guy, not a Bush guy, so I thought the case had to be strong. I was worried though, because I had read the Wolfowitz paper, “The Project for the New American Century.” It’s been around since ‘92, and it raised alarm bells because it was based on a theory, “Democratizing the Middle East” and I prefer pragmatism over theory. I was worried because Iraq was being justified on a radical new basis, “pre-emptive war.” Any time we do something without historical precedent I get nervous.

But the President shifted the argument to WMDs and the urgent threat of Iraq getting atomic weapons. The debate turned to Saddam passing nukes on to terror groups. After 9-11, the risk was too great. As the President said, “The next smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud.” At least that’s what I thought at the time.

I grew up in New York and watched them build the World Trade Center. I worked with a guy, Frank O’Brien, who put the elevators in both towers. I lost a very close friend on September 11th. 103 floor, tower one, Cantor Fitzgerald. Tim Coughlin was his name. If we had to take out Iraq to make sure something like that, or worse, never happened again, so be it. I knew the consequences. We have a soldier in our house. None of this was theoretical in my house.

But in the months and years since shock and awe I have been shocked repeatedly by a consistent litany of excuses, alibis, double-talk, inaccuracies, bogus predictions, and flat out lies. I have watched as the President and his administration changed the goals, redefined the reasons for going into Iraq, and fumbled the good will of the world and the focus necessary to catch the real killers of September 11th.

I have watched the President say the commanders on the ground will make the battlefield decisions, and the war won’t be run from Washington. Yet, politics has consistently determined what the troops can and can’t do on the ground and any commander who did not go along with the administration was sacked, and in some cases, maligned.

I watched and tried to justify the looting in Iraq after the fall of Saddam. I watched and tried to justify the dismantling of the entire Iraqi army. I tired to explain the complexities of building a functional new Iraqi army. I urged patience when no WMDs were found. Then the Vice President told us we were in the “waning days of the insurgency.” And I started wincing again. The President says we have to stay the course but what if it’s the wrong course?

It was the wrong course. All of it was wrong. We are not on the road to victory. We’re about to slink home with our tail between our legs, leaving civil war in Iraq and a nuclear armed Iran in our wake. Bali was bombed. Madrid was bombed. London was bombed. And Bin Laden is still making tapes. It’s unspeakable. The liberal media didn’t create this reality, bad policy did.

Most historians believe it takes 30-50 years before we get a reasonably accurate take on a President’s place in history. So, maybe 50 years from now Iraq will be a peaceful member of the brotherhood of nations and George W. Bush will be celebrated as a visionary genius.

But we don’t live fifty years in the future. We live now. We have to make public policy decisions now. We have to live with the consequences of the votes we cast and the leaders we chose now.

After five years of carefully watching George W. Bush I’ve reached the conclusion he’s either grossly incompetent, or a hand puppet for a gaggle of detached theorists with their own private view of how the world works. Or both.

Presidential failures. James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Jimmy Carter, Warren Harding-— the competition is fierce for the worst of the worst. Still, the damage this President has done is enormous. It will take decades to undo, and that’s assuming we do everything right from now on. His mistakes have global implications, while the other failed Presidents mostly authored domestic embarrassments.

And speaking of domestic embarrassments, let’s talk for a minute about President Bush’s domestic record. Yes, he cut taxes. But tax cuts combined with reckless spending and borrowing is criminal mismanagement of the public’s money. We’re drunk at the mall with our great grandchildren’s credit cards. Whatever happened to the party of fiscal responsibility?

Bush created a giant new entitlement, the prescription drug plan. He lied to his own party to get it passed. He lied to the country about its true cost. It was written by and for the pharmaceutical industry. It helps nobody except the multinationals that lobbied for it. So much for smaller government. In fact, virtually every tentacle of government has grown exponentially under Bush. Unless, of course, it was an agency to look after the public interest, or environmental protection, and/or worker’s rights.

I’ve talked so often about the border issue, I won’t bore you with a rehash. It’s enough to say this President has been a catastrophe for the wages of working people; he’s debased the work ethic itself. “Jobs Americans won’t do!” He doesn’t believe in the sovereign borders of the country he’s sworn to protect and defend. And his devotion to cheap labor for his corporate benefactors, along with his worship of multinational trade deals, makes an utter mockery of homeland security in a post 9-11 world. The President’s January 7th, 2004 speech on immigration, his first trial balloon on his guest worker scheme, was a deal breaker for me. I couldn’t and didn’t vote for him in 2004. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Katrina, Harriet Myers, The Dubai Port Deal, skyrocketing gas prices, shrinking wages for working people, staggering debt, astronomical foreign debt, outsourcing, open borders, contempt for the opinion of the American people, the war on science, media manipulation, faith based initives, a cavalier attitude toward fundamental freedoms-- this President has run the most arrogant and out-of-touch administration in my lifetime, perhaps, in any American’s lifetime.

You can make a case that Abraham Lincoln did what he had to do, the public be damned. If you roll the dice on your gut and you’re right, history remembers you well. But, when your gut led you from one business failure to another, when your gut told you to trade Sammy Sosa to the White Sox, and you use the same gut to send our sons and daughters to fight and die in a distraction from the real war on terror, then history will and should be unapologetic in its condemnation.

None of this, by the way, should be interpreted as an endorsement of the opposition party. The Democrats are equally bankrupt. This is the second crime of our age. Again, historically speaking, its times like these when America needs a vibrant opposition to check the power of a run-amuck majority party. It requires it. It doesn’t work without one. Like the high and low tides keep the oceans alive, a healthy, positive opposition offers a path back to the center where all healthy societies live.

Tragically, the Democrats have allowed crackpots, leftists and demagogic cowards to snipe from the sidelines while taking no responsibility for anything. In fairness, I don’t believe a Democrat president would have gone into Iraq. Unfortunately, I don’t know if President Gore would have gone into Afghanistan. And that’s one of the many problems with the Democrats.

The two party system has always been clumsy and imperfect, but it has only collapsed once, in the 1850s, and the result was civil war.

I believe, as I have said countless times, the two party system is on the brink of a second collapse. It’s currently running on spin, anger, revenge, and pots and pots and pots of money.

We’re being governed by paper-mache patriots; brightly painted red, white and blue, but hollow to the core. Both parties have mastered the cynical arts of media manipulation and fund raising. They’ve learned the lessons of Watergate and burn the tapes. They have learned to divide the nation for their own gain. They have demonstrated the willingness to exploit any tragedy for personal advantage. The contempt they have for the American people is without parallel.

This is painful to say, and I’m sure for many of you, painful to read. But it’s impossible to heal the country until we’re willing to acknowledge the truth no matter how painful. We have to wean ourselves off sugar coated partisan lies.

With a belated tip of the cap to Ralph Nader, the system is broken, so broken, it’s almost inevitable it pukes up the Al Gores and George W. Bushes. Where are the Trumans and the Eisenhowers? Where are the men and women of vision and accomplishment? Why do we have to settle for recycled hacks and malleable ciphers? Greatness is always rare, but is basic competence and simple honesty too much to ask?

It may be decades before we have the full picture of how paranoid and contemptuous this administration has been. And I am open to the possibility that I’m all wet about everything I’ve just said. But I’m putting it out there, because I have to call it as I see it, and this is how I see it today. I don’t say any of this lightly. I’ve thought about this for months and months. But eventually, the weight of evidence takes on a gravitational force of its own.

I believe that George W. Bush has taken us down a terrible road. I don’t believe the Democrats are offering an alternative. That means we’re on our own to save this magnificent country. The United States of America is a gift to the world, but it has been badly abused and it’s rightful owners, We the People, had better step up to the plate and reclaim it before the damage becomes irreparable.

So, accept my apology for allowing partisanship to blind me to an obvious truth; our President is incapable of the tasks he is charged with. I almost feel sorry for him. He is clearly in over his head. Yet, he doesn’t generate the sympathy Warren Harding earned. Harding, a spectacular mediocrity, had the self-knowledge to tell any and all he shouldn’t be President. George W. Bush continues to act the part, but at this point whose buying the act?

Does this make me a waffler? A flip-flopper? Maybe, although I prefer to call it realism. And, for those of you who never supported Bush, its also fair to accuse me of kicking Bush while he’s down. After all, you were kicking him while he was up.

You were right, I was wrong.