Archive for September, 2005

How Mushrooms Can Save the World

There’s a funny thing about mushrooms. They are addictive. But I am not talking about addictive as in drugs. What I am talking about is how fascinating a hobby they become, to where people can hardly wait to go to into the woods and look for them, cook them, talk about them, and generally share a fascination
with others about them.sunset at Sunset Hill
Now Paul Stamets, who published his first book with us many years ago about psilocybe mushrooms, has written a groundbreaking book. One that credits mushrooms with many miracles from curing cancer to getting rid of termites in your house. More than that, he says that mushrooms and fungi can actually save our planet from ourselves. There are mushrooms that can eat toxic waste, for example. It is a fascinating work that I can barely do justice to, but I predict it will make people take a new look at the science and hobby of mycology.
sunset at Sunset Hill

I first met Paul Stamets in 1972 at the First Annual Teonanacatl conference at Fort Warden State Park near Pt. Angeles, Washington. He was a hirsute and very earnest Evergreen College Student, who probably already knew more about psilocybe mushrooms than almost anybody in the world. He was the first person I had ever heard to pronounce the word as Sill-o-si-bee. It took me awhile to figure out he was saying psilocybe.

I had just published my own first book, a tiny little guide called the Magic Mushroom Handbook. Despite a little contempt for my humble venture, we became friends, and before too long I had published his first book Psilocybe Mushrooms & Their Allies. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we ended up publishing a real masterpiece. The book is now out-of-print and individual copies are worth quite a bit.

Later on, Paul self-published the Mushroom Cultivator with co-author Jeff Chilton, a book that we have sold many thousands of throughout the years and remains the bible for cultivation. Paul has also written a couple of other books published by Ten Speed Press, which is the publisher of this new one.

The book Mycelium Running boasts a foreword by his longtime friend, Dr. Andrew Weill, and has already become a sensation in the mushroom world. We have it featured on our website if you would like to read it yourself. I encourage it.

Congratulations, Paul, for creating this wonderful book. To order it Click Here.

Is Bush Drinking? Happy Times Are Here Again.

According to the National Enquirer the pressure of the last few months has been too much for our president, and George W. Bush is hitting the bottle again. Laura even caught him throwing back a shot of whiskey.
sunset at Sunset Hill
I’ll find it more interesting when he starts snorting coke again.

How can we even know the truth anymore?

Salon Magazine has an interview with George Clooney, producer of the new movie Good Night and Good Luck, which is about Edward R. Murrow and the McCarthy Era. Clooney is pretty astute politically, actually, and makes some good points about the state of political discourse today:

“if you’re a conservative person you turn on Fox News, and if you’re a liberal you listen to National Public Radio; you find yourself going to the place that plays to what your political and social agenda or beliefs are. The unfortunate thing with that is that it means that people are starting with completely different facts.”

Last week I was reading HorsesAss.Org, one of my favorite blogs and somebody in the comments made a remark about people spitting on Vietnam Vets.

Well, I couldn’t let this one pass. There never was an actual case of protesters spitting on Vietnam vets. This is one of those urban myths that people like to believe, and by believing it they have made it real.

The Boston Globe ran an article last year on this very subject. This urban myth has been investigated dozens of times and none of the supposed incidents have ever been documented. It’s just something that never happened.

And another good article in Slate Magazine.

But try to tell that to the believers. When I posted my comment several people all of a sudden jumped all over me, accusing me of trying to change history. They spouted the “fact” that there were thousands of people saying this happened. It challenged their core beliefs so much that they just couldn’t deal with it. Some people even claim it happened to them, although not a single person could actually say where it happened and when.

The Free Republic had a posting about this news in which the case for it never happening was carefully laid out. Well, the Free Republic is a pretty scary website, and it’s not really a “Free” place unless you have the extreme beliefs that they have. All kinds of threats were made against the author of this article. These guys were mortally offended that anybody would challenge their beliefs. They have too much at stake to let their beliefs get challenged.

If you are interested in really opening a can of worms, try googling “Did Saddam really gas the Kurds?” I don’t claim to know the truth about this, probably nobody really does except the people who were there. But there is a good case to be made that it was actually the Iranians, not the Iraqis who did this foul deed. Or more likely, the Kurds found themselves in the middle of a battle where both the Iraqis and Iranians were gassing each other. Saddam will soon be on trial for doing this, so maybe we will find out one way or the other, but I wouldn’t bet on it!!

A Special Fundraiser for Senator Maria Cantwell

sunset at Sunset HillPhoto courtesy of Steve Shonberger
I attended a fundraiser today for Senator Maria Cantwell. Her special guests were US Senator Charles Schumer of New York (we call him Chuck) and US Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois. Both men are on the judiciary panel and the main topic of discussion was the Supreme Court nomination of John Roberts. It was an informal setting with the participants sitting in easy chairs on the stage, while we ate quiche. How liberal of us.

Schumer discussed how little they were able to find out about how John Roberts thinks. For example he was asked about his pro bono work for the homeless and gay rights. He said he did the work because they asked. So he was asked if he would have worked against those cases if he had been asked first, and he said yes. That obviously did nothing to say what kind of man he is, other than he works for whoever asks.

Both Senators said they had been approached by Conservative Republicans on the panel who are uneasy about Roberts, too. They would like to be sure that he is against Roe V. Wade, for example, but they were also unable to divine his true beliefs, if he has any.

Schumer seemed to indicate he would vote for him, mostly because he had no other choice. It could have been worse. They promised that the next appointment would be the real battlefield. He indicated that if Bush chooses somebody extremely conservative that there would probably be a filibuster, and that there has never been a successful filibuster against a Supreme Court nominee.

Schumer, who is in charge of the Senate Campaign Committee stressed how important it is to re-elect Senator Cantwell. We need to gain seats in the next election. Losing them would be disastrous, since we are already down to 45 seats.

Senator Cantwell has been put in charge of the Democrats’ energy policies in the next session. She has also gained a lot of attention lately for her battles against Enron, defending the Snohomish Public Utilities against having to pay the overcharges they incurred when Enron was raping the country.

She also led the campaign against drilling in the Arctic. That battle is not over yet, as the funds have yet to be approved. She promised she would be in there fighting against that issue, too.

All in all, especially with the current state of the administration, things are looking good for Senator Maria. Her handpicked Republican opponent, Mike McGavick, doesn’t seem to be making the progress he expected. Some people think he is getting cold feet.

Many of us wish she had had the guts to vote against initial authorization of the War on Iraq, as Senator Murray did, but I think that was asking a lot of a freshman senator. The topic never came up, but I would bet she regrets that vote and will be more independent next time.

Thank you, Senator Cantwell!

We are proud and happy to receive a letter from Senator Maria Cantwell commemorating the Anniversary of our 33rd Year in Business!

It’s been a long slog. Two of my employees have actually been with us for 25 years, Debbie Murray and Jane Spreine. I couldn’t have done it without them. I also want to acknowledge our rookie employee, Karen Nelson, who has only been with us for 12 years!

I guess once you get a good job you don’t want to leave.

Senator Patty Murray

While researching my column on Senator Maria Cantwell a few weeks ago, I came upon a blogger complaining about living in Washington State. The link escapes me now, sorry, but the guy was saying how miserable it is to live in Seattle. He was complaining about the weather, and the fact that Senator Patty Murray is supposedly the dumbest US Senator in the country. I think he also said something about the monorail.

It was obvious the guy knew not what he was taking about with any of his points. I won’t say anything about the weather, because as far as I am concerned if people want to believe we have bad weather here, that is fine with me. Keep them believing it, I say as I watch another beautiful sunset over Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

But I do have something to say about Patty Murray.

When I first met Patty Murray 25 years ago, she was campaign manager for State Senator Donn Charnley, a great liberal legislator for many years from the Shoreline area of North King County. She seemed to me like a mousy little woman and I didn’t pay much attention to her. Later she ran successfully for the local School Board, going door to door with her small child in tow. I still wasn’t that impressed with this 5 foot tall, earnest woman, even as she won her election.

Much to my surprise she ran for State Senator a few years later, while i was her Democratic District Chair, and easily won the Democratic primary and then the election, and even then I was incredulous.

It was only when my new State Senator Ray Moore (I moved to Ballard in 1987) of the 36th District told me how impressed with her he was that I started to pay attention. Moore, who I greatly admired, predicted great things for her.

Shortly after that US Senator Brock Adams had a sex scandal of sorts when an intern accused him of drugging and raping her. Like most Democrats, I could not believe it or didn’t want to, especially since Brock made such a great liberal Senator. He had been Secretary of Transportation under Carter after a distinguished career in Congress. We were in denial that he could have done something so stupid. (We’ll talk about Mike Lowry at another time).

So anyway, the next thing I knew was that Patty Murray, a lowly state senator from Shoreline, announced she was running for the US Senate in the Democratic primary. It seemed like a crazy stunt at the time, but amazingly Brock decided against running again, and the next thing we knew Patty was the nominee of the Democratic Party. Then she went on to defeat that TV guy from Channel 4, Rod Chandler I think was his name, and became US Senator. He underestimated her, too.

When President Bush declared war on Iraq, Senator Patty was one of the few senators in the country to have the courage to vote against it. It seemed like a foolish thing for her to be doing, since she was up for re-election and the country was so gungho to invade Iraq. (I bet right now Maria Cantwell wishes she had been that foolish.) Once again, Senator Patty proved to have more political prescience than any of us. Even after a careless speech she had made about Osama Bin Laden, and even with the full force of the national Republican Party and their President opposing her, she swept to re-election easily with over 60% of the vote.

As far as I am concerned, if the Republicans want to continually underestimate Patty Murray, they can be my guest. I have done the same thing myself many times. At this point I wouldn’t even take a bet against her being President some day.

Anyone underestimating the ability of Senator Patty Murray would probably also believe that it rains all of the time in Seattle.

What Can We Expect from Leaders Who Hate Government?

Most modern Republicans hate government. That’s a fact you need to know in order to understand what is happening under this Republican administration.

It is difficult for Republicans to get good, well-qualified, intelligent candidates to run for office these days for that very reason. When I first moved to the Northwest we had some great Republican leaders: Dan Evans, Mark Hatfield, Joel Pritchard, Wayne Morse (who became a Dem), and many others. Those were the days when a Republican could get elected in Seattle. The situation has changed, but not because we won’t elect a Republican, but because they don’t run qualified people anymore. Or more precisely, because the Republican Party is controlled by rightwing fanatics who would never allow an intelligent Republican to be nominated.

Most of the qualified Republicans, and there might actually be some, would rather work in business and make lots of money. Because there is no prestige in being a politician in the Republican Party, they have turned to hacks and losers to be their politicians. I can name a multitude of Republican candidates and officials who are outright failures in life and have no business holding office.

Locally, we had Randy Tate and Rick White, who were one-term Congressmen and were totally unqualified. Look at the recent candidates for governor the Republicans have run: John Carlson who is a talk show host with no experience of holding a real job. Dino Rossi was a fair-to-middling real estate salesman.

The best example of all is George W. Bush. This man has been a failure at everything he has done. His one business opportunity as an oilman resulted in bankruptcy and left his stockholders holding the bag, while he cashed out ahead of time. He became the owner of a baseball team by borrowing money from his rich friends. He couldn’t even be bothered showing up for his military service. Not having anything else to do, he became Governor of Texas, a state where the Governor has little real power….except to execute convicts.

The only reason he is President is because he was the son of another President, and he had rich and influential friends. Does anybody think G.W. Bush would be President now if his father was poor, or black?

The people he has appointed to office have mostly been failures. There are a few qualified people I suppose, Condi Rice perhaps. His best appointment was Colin Powell, who is long gone. Don’t talk to me about Rumsfeld and Cheney, who chose himself to be Vice President and de facto President.

Until the Republicans start to respect the power and authority of government and get some good qualified leaders, we will continue to see people like Mike Brown in positions of authority, men who are totally unqualified to hold any job, much less a position of responsibility in the government. We now have an Environmental Protection Agency full of people who hate the environment, an Education Agency headed by people who believe the agency should be abolished, and so on. It goes on throughout this Republican government.

Four years after 9/11, it appears that Osama achieved his objectives

On this Fourth Anniversary of September 11, 2001, I am thinking about how things were that day. The whole nation was in shock. But more than that, we were united.

After work I sat on my porch looking out over the Puget Sound. It was deathly quiet. The birds were the only sound. No airplanes, no helicopters, no trains, hardly any traffic at all. Despite the depression there was a kind of peacefulness. It is never that quiet in the city, but all over the country that day was silent. When a jet fighter did finally fly over my house it was a shock, but also I felt kind of a patriotism that I rarely feel.

I also thought about how united we were. No longer were we Democrats and Republicans, pot smokers and those who weren’t. We were all flying the flag, not just the crazy rightwingers. When Attorney General Ashcroft announced a few days later that he was transferring his troops from enforcing the hopeless Drug War to fighting terrorism, that seemed to bear out my feeling. We liberals and pot smokers weren’t the enemy anymore, and even he seemed to realize that.

Well, that feeling surely didn’t last long. A few months later the government raided headshops all over the country, put Tommy Chong in prison, and marched inexorably to war to Iraq, one of the few Muslim countries that was not run under Islamic Law. Those who disagreed with the direction of the government were called traitors, and the Republicans used that feeling to run all over the Democrats in the next several elections.

So yes, I am sad about 9/11. I am sad that an opportunity to unite this country was thrown away, and now we are in more of a mess than ever.

The sad fact is that Osama achieved his objectives. Because of what he did, and what George W. Bush did in response, this country now is deeply in debt, more divided than ever, shorn of many of our basic legal rights, stuck in a hopeless war, and unable to deal with our own problems at home. That is the legacy of 9/11.

The Nakedness of G.W. Bush Finally Revealed

New Orleans is a jewel of a city. Or at least it was.

There is no place else like it. Many in the South considered it a cancer in their midst actually. The high life, the gays, the blacks, not to mention all the licentiousness. And it was fiercely liberal and Democratic. Not to mention that many people speak French there, too! Omigod! A recent survey showed it to be one of the most liberal cities in the nation, more than Seattle even, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the Republicans throughout the years.

Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath so far has been one of the most incredible events to ever hit this nation, and it has hit the Bush administration particularly hard, although they will never suffer as much as the poor people living there.

Up to now Bush has seemed to be coated with teflon. All the outrageous things he and his minions have done to the people of this country seemingly left him unscathed. But now it is all coming home to roost…finally.

It is truly amazing all the ways that this hurricane has shown us that Bush has no clothes:

His rhetoric about how well people are doing financially for one. Up till now it has been easy even for liberals to not be aware how truly poor so many people in this country are. Fully 30% of the citizens of New Orleans were living in poverty. Most of them are black. These were the people who were left behind when the more prosperous citizens were able to evacuate. Tell them how the tax cuts made their lives better.

There is the whole anti-science ethos of the administration, including the conviction that global warming doesn’t exist. Incredibly, Haley Barbour, now the governor of the great state of Mississippi, was the man most responsible for convincing the administration to back out of the Kyoto Treaty. There is no way of knowing for sure how global warming effected the situation, but it is not inconceivable that changing weather led to the profusion of disastrous hurricanes that are now common. It is known that the warming of the Gulf of Mexico led to the hurricane increasing in power just before it hit the Gulf Coast.

The administration has been steadily cutting funds for infrastructure. FEMA which is supposed to help people in disastrous situations has switched its focus almost entirely to worrying about terrorism. Everybody knew that New Orleans was a disaster in the making, but the administration chose to ignore the warnings entirely and actually has been cutting the funds in order to support the war in Iraq. In this case, the gamble finally did not pay off.

The Louisiana National Guard is in Iraq and not even available to help Louisiana, which is after all it’s original purpose.

To me the most disgusting event of all was the way Fox News in particular seemed to focus on the looting of the stores in New Orleans. It was almost as if they were trying to paint all these poor black folks with a brush, saying that they deserved what they got. That if they were poor, they deserved it. All the original news reports talked about was the “looting” and it was up to CNN and the networks to notice what a disaster was happening right under our noses.

The resulting hysteria even affected the response. Aid workers, police and the National Guard were afraid to come in without guns. They needed guns to protect themselves from people desperately in need of help? It was an absurd and tragic situation created by Fox News and the other news sources.

If you think I’m angry, check out how Goldy at HorsesAss.Org is feeling after watching some Fox video.