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by Brent Budowsky

As the new Democratic Congress convenes, it is a good moment to remember what the Congress can be, at its best, and what politics can be, with leaders who embody a passion for idealism and justice.

Click here for Part I

by Heather Wokusch, author of The Progressives' Handbook

Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress. -- Thomas A. Edison

The Bush administration's overall record in 2006 was one of public manipulation for the benefit of crony capitalism and imperial overreach. Can the 110th Congress stop them in 2007?



What's not to love about puzzles and word games, like Scrabble, but I don't like to find them in the political arena when lives are at stake. Words, whether from our own language or other languages, are often ignored if those same words are repeated over and over until people eventually turn them off. Sorta, kinda like a parent's words to a child when they hear "pick up your room, or else." If the else never happens, after a while, the words seem not to exist and are never heard. We all have these habits. We have to turn off words we hear repeated over and over. Think of all of the advertising an average day holds for every American.

Thinking along that line, people either took Bush very seriously or they didn't take him very seriously, and many Americans believed everything he said when he invaded Iraq. But, at that time, to my amazement and shame, most Americans didn't protest that invasion. It probably had a lot to do with how our Congress treated this invasion.


Stop and think for a minute what message Saddam Hussein's execution sent to the world. Stop and think, had you seen this fiasco, would you really believe this was "democracy"? Well, guess what, thanks to George W. Bush, that's exactly the mockery he's making of democracy right here in America, too! Hmm, kangaroo courts and death by hanging, if Bush is allowed to continue to rape that self-proclaimed "G*#d-d*%$ned" piece of paper, otherwise known as the Constitution of the United States of America!!! "The hanging of Saddam Hussein was an act of barbarism that makes a mockery of President Bush's claim it was an 'important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy.' Instead, the rushed, illegal and unruly execution of a former U.S. ally after his conviction in a kangaroo court blurred the line between terrorist and terrorized as effectively as Hussein's own evil propaganda ever did." We seem to have a Hussein wannabee here at home, aka George W. Bush!


Bush Challenges Congressional Democrats To Help Control Government Spending

by Tony Peyser

This is like a guy robbing a 7-11
Whose smile is suddenly smirky
As he accuses a terrified counter clerk
Of stealing a bag of Beef Jerky.


Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna
reviewed by Thom Hartmann

I took some drugs today to help me write this review. Specifically, a xanthine-family drug called caffeine that appears in the berries of a largely equatorial bush, along with a few weaker xanthine-family alkaloids that aren't as well known but are also present in the coffee bean.

Last night before going to bed, I took another drug. Fermented from the fruit of a vine grown in the south of France, the alcohol in the glass of wine I drank altered my consciousness in a way I found pleasant, while the raw juice (wine is not heated) contains, its promoters say, some other chemicals that may be good for my heart.

Fact is, we're a society of drug-takers. Outside of Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah Witnesses (and a few other smaller mostly Christian sects), we as a society nearly all take drugs specifically to alter consciousness. We use the most addictive drug known to human kind -- five times more addictive than heroin -- in a way that earns the tobacco barons billions of profits every year. The three primary drugs of our culture -- caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol -- are ubiquitous. As are other drugs McKenna takes aim at -- sugar, chocolate, and television.

And, says Terence McKenna, they're the wrong drugs for us to be using. Or at least some of us.

In "Food of the Gods: The search for the original tree of knowledge," McKenna points out that in indigenous and aboriginal societies, it's not the "average person" who takes strong psychedelic plants to tear open what Aldous Huxley referred to as the "doors of perception" and lead us into other worlds. Instead, it's the shamans. It's not the ill person who takes the drug -- it's the healer. And using that substance, the shaman steps into the more-real-than-real world that parallels this like Plato's cave-images, to manipulate the fundamental stuff of reality or entreat the spirits who reside there to help and heal.

In fact, McKenna warns us away from some drugs, like the sip of coffee I just took. The "accepted" drugs of our culture, he points out, are the ones that enhance brain and personality function appropriate to hierarchical, male-dominated cultures. The "unacceptable" drugs -- from pot to mushrooms to peyote -- all are interwoven in egalitarian cultures.

Perhaps the most intriguing assertion McKenna makes is that human consciousness came about in its present form as the direct result of the interaction of higher primates with psychoactive plants (primarily mushrooms, in his opinion), which amped up and increased the complexity of our brains, giving these newer primates (us) an evolutionary advantage.

Calling for an "Archaic Revival" (the title of another of his books), McKenna says:

Obviously, we cannot continue to think about drug use in the same old ways. As a global society, we must find a new guiding image for our culture, one that unifies the aspirations of humanity with the needs of the planet and the individual. Analysis of the existential incompleteness within us that drives to form relationships of dependency and addiction with plants and drugs will show that at the dawn of history, we lost something precious, the absence of which has made us ill with narcissism. Only a recovery of the relationship that we evolved with nature through use of psychoactive plants before the fall into history can offer us hope of a humane and open-ended future.

"Before we commit ourselves irrevocably to the chimera of a drug-free culture purchased at the price of a complete jettisoning of the ideals of a free and democratic planetary society, we must ask hard questions. Why, as a species, are we so fascinated by altered states of consciousness? What has been their impact on our esthetic and spiritual aspirations? What have we lost by denying the legitimacy of each individual's drive to use substances to experience personally the transcendental and the sacred? My hope in answering these questions will force us to confront the consequences of denying nature's spiritual dimension, of seeing nature as nothing more than a "resource" to be fought over and plundered. Informed discussion of these issues will give no comfort to the control-obsessed, no comfort to know-nothing religious fundamentalism, no comfort to beige fascism of whatever form.

"The question of how we, as a society and as individuals, relate to psychoactive plants in the late twentieth century, raises a larger question: how, over time, have we been shaped by the shifting alliances that we have formed and broken with various members of the vegetable world as we have made our way through the maze of history?"

McKenna points to the story of the Garden of Eden -- the original drug bust, as he calls it -- and adds:

"If we do not learn from our past, this story could end with a planet toxified, its forests a memory, its biological cohesion shattered, our birth legacy a weed-choked wasteland. ... If we can recover the lost sense of nature as a living mystery, we can be confident of new perspectives on the cultural adventure that surely must lie ahead. We have the opportunity to move away from the gloomy historical nihilism that characterizes the reign of our deeply patriarchal, dominator culture. We are in a position to regain the Archaic appreciation of our near-symbiotic relationship with psychoactive plants as a wellspring of insight and coordination flowing from the vegetable world to the human world.

"The mystery of our own consciousness and powers of self-reflection is somehow linked to this channel of communication with the unseen mind that shamans insist is the spirit of the living world of nature. For shamans and shamanic cultures, exploration of this mystery has always been a credible alternative to living in a confining materialist culture. We of the industrial democracies can choose to explore these unfamiliar dimensions now, or we can wait until the advancing destruction of the living planet makes all further exploration irrelevant. ...

"Our culture, self-toxified by the poisonous by-products of technology and egocentric ideology, is the unhappy inheritor of the dominator attitude that alteration of consciousness by the use of plants or substances is somehow wrong, onanistic, and perversely antisocial. ...[S]uppression of shamanic gnosis, with its reliance and insistence on ecstatic dissolution of the ego, has robbed us of life's meaning and made us enemies of the planet, of ourselves, and our grandchildren. We are killing the planet in order to keep intact the wrongheaded assumptions of the ego-dominator cultural style.

"It is time for a change."

"Food of the Gods" is a thoroughly researched, startling inquiry into the relationship -- a necessary relationship, McKenna argues -- between humans and the plant world, particularly those plants that carry the ability to alter consciousness. He traces this relationship through dozens of cultures on several continents, over tens of thousands of years. And suggests that unless we drop our wall of denial of this relationship, and re-embrace our fellow inhabitants of this Gaian planet, we will continue along the path of conquest, war, destruction, and ultimately, our own cultural and planetary suicide.

This book is an excellent introduction to McKenna. I also found particularly fascinating his books "True Hallucinations" and his collaboration with Ralph Abraham and Rupert Sheldrake, "Trialogues at the Edge of the West." Regardless of your personal inclination to experiment with, or advocate for or against, psychoactive plants, you'll find it a fascinating and thought-provoking read that extends well beyond the realm of psychopharmacology and reaches deeply into our cultural underpinnings -- and our culture's possible futures.


Also read: "Neuroscientists find God in mushrooms," Jeremy Laurance, New Zealand Herald, July 12, 2006

Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show and a morning progressive talk show on KPOJ in Portland, Oregon. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection," "We The People," "The Edison Gene", and "What Would Jefferson Do?"

by Peter Rost, M.D., author of "The Whistleblower, Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman"

An adviser to Iraq's prime minister said "an official who supervised the execution" is believed to have recorded Saddam Hussein's execution on a cell phone camera and has been arrested. Two guards who were recorded on the unofficial video taunting Mr. Hussein were also arrested.

Wednesday, 03 January 2007 08:57

BuzzFlash Mailbag for January 3, 2007


Want to join the conversation? Share your thoughts with other Mailbag readers by clicking here

Subject: Parallels

In light of the idiot-in-chief's arrogant decision to augment US troops in Baghdad as a response to the electorate's demand that the war in Iraq come to an end, consider this:

"Neither threats nor warnings will prevent me from going my way. I follow the path assigned to me by Providence with the instinctive sureness of a sleepwalker." -- Adolf Hitler, 14 March 1936, Munich, shortly after invading the Rhineland in violation of the Treaty of Versailles and defying the League of nations

Matt Carmody
Cornwall, NY

Wednesday, 03 January 2007 06:58

Paul Rogat Loeb: Gerald Ford's Failure of Nerve

By Paul Rogat Loeb

Compared with Nixon and the Republicans who followed him, Gerald Ford looks like the embodiment of Main Street decency and prudence. Ford's judgment seems even better when we learn that he told Bob Woodward that the Iraq war was "a big mistake," concluding, "I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security." Ford's words should give strength to all of us who've questioned the war and were attacked as unpatriotic in the process. They reflect well on his common-sense willingness to acknowledge discomforting truths. But because he'd told Woodward to keep the interview private until after his death, they don't represent courage, but in fact a failure of nerve.

by Danny Schechter

Annual Media Awards Recognize the Best of the Brave -- who are the media heroes of 2006? The News Dissector shares his; who are yours?

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