Geocachers Get a Break; Teresa Heinz Gets No Love; John Edwards Gets a Pass

Putting an e-mail address at the end of any piece one writes for CounterPunch obviously invites a lot of feedback. Depending on whose ox I’ve gored, the count runs from twenty to about 300 responses. Usually the scorecard runs about 80% attaboys; about 10% uncivil stuff you wouldn’t want to print in a fine family newsmag like CP; and the rest are reasoned rebuttals ­ the favorites of a perverse sort like me. I’m always willing to respond to an articulate appeal.

Geocaching: A Second Look

As a result of many lucid rejoinders from dozens of geocachers (I did note they are techno-literate, if not techno-junkies — got to drop that word “fetishists,” as they really don’t like that!), I’ve found out more about who geocachers are and what they are about and I’ve softened my stance; though thankfully I did not know about the three caches in the Opal Creek Wilderness when I wrote about the other offending one.

But what could be wrong with people getting out and exercising on our public lands, no matter what the motivation? Simple hiking is a lost healthy pleasure these days. And what could be wrong with a group that, while hiking, encourages a policy of Cache In; Trash Out? Just a couple things: Wilderness and other eco-sensitive areas. (The Sacred Nature argument alas is completely dismissed by these folks.)

Geocaches are not allowed in designated Wilderness. Why? Well, ALL technologies are off-limits there — from mountain bikes, to wheel-barrows, to high-tech items. And, nothing is to be taken from or left in the Wilderness. This ethic is under assault from many angles, mostly commercial in nature and most are far greater threats than geocaching.

A major element of Wilderness is what one attaboy respondent called “the disconnect.” When hiking/camping in a Wilderness Area, one becomes but another warm-blooded mammal, nothing more. Wilderness is a great leveler. You are on your own. Nature treats all the same. That disconnect with the modern, anthropocentric reality of much of the rest of the planet is what most folks are seeking when they visit these lands. Even cell phones get in the way of the disconnect. (Yes, someone also took me to task for opposing cell phone use in Wilderness. I once saw a guy buy a cell phone off a rafter in a different party just to silence it.) Most importantly, that disconnect is also what makes life for the species there so much different than just it being a large, outdoor zoo.

Earth First! co-founder Howie Wolke noted that “It’s not really Wilderness unless there’s something there that can eat you.” That level of disconnect is rarely attainable anywhere anymore — outside the big wild areas of Montana and Alaska. Regardless, we can and must be vigilant on encroachments into typical Wilderness areas in the Lower 48 states.

Given that geocaches are not allowed in Wilderness and that conscientious geocachers have no problem with this (some have settled on Virtual Caches), what really remains to be done is this:

1)  identify and remove ALL caches in Wilderness Areas (perhaps a team of geocachers could take this on);

2) before placing a cache on Multiple Use areas of Public Lands, be sure to consult with the local Rangers as to other concerns about sensitive species, Cultural Sites, etc. The posted Geocaching Rules state that the landowner should be contacted first, but from the responses I got from Wilderness Rangers, it appears that this hasn’t been happening with Public Lands;

3)  no drive up caches. And, certainly no Off Road Vehicle (ORV) caches.

If folks are out there exercising and hauling off trash left by other, less considerate recreationists, I’m all for it.


Heinz and the Election Loss

Responses to my piece on who is Teresa Heinz and where is John Edwards were quite telling. I did not receive a single missive about her though my writing had twelve paragraphs on Maria Teresa Thierstein Simões-Ferreira Heinz. No one stepped up to rebut or defend her role as Non-Profit Professional-in-Chief. No one had anything to say about Heinz’s campaign gaffe. Nor did anyone from the ABB Campaign challenge my assertion that immediately after Heinz’s statement about Laura Bush’s never having had a “real job,” hubby suffered an easily definable major drop in the polls ­ two weeks before Election Day. Perhaps the Campaign’s own internal polling confirms that of TIME and others who noted the reaction and they’d prefer to remain silent?

ABB entered the campaign with 48% of the public disapproving of the current Imperium. All he had to do was gain two percent. Not only failing to oppose the invasion and occupation of Iraq; running on a platform of I’ll “hunt them down and kill them,” coupled with the prospect of an arrogant, clueless heiress as first lady negated any chance of picking up that 2%. Heinz is the billionaire who told a black crowd, “I’m an African-American,” inanely playing on her role as a child of the colonial ruling class in Mozambique. She also famously told a group of New Mexico citizens; Hispanics whose families were living there long before there was a USA, “I am an immigrant, too.”

No wonder she gets no love or defense from readers, much less defense from the ABB campaign.


John Edwards’ Focus

But the final three paragraphs on the whereabouts of ABB’s running mate John Edwards unleashed a stream of bile, mostly along the lines of “you SOB. His wife has cancer and he’s focused on that.”

Ah, but that was partly my point. You see, I already had a copy of Edwards’ schedule since the election when I wrote the piece. I was hoping that it would prompt readers to find out what he’s actually been doing themselves.

Well, let me spell it out. A schedule is usually a good indicator of focus. Here’s the Breck Girl’s own take on what he’s been up to since the debacle:

“Since this election, I have been so focused on Elizabeth and on doing the work that I’m going to be doing here, I haven’t even made a decision about what I’m going to do,” Edwards told ABC News “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

(Of course, no mention of how he tried desperately to beg off the ABC appearance because he has “been so focused on Elizabeth.”)

“Focus on Elizabeth?” Since the election, Edwards has been making the rounds of the pundit shows and giving speeches to Democratic Party insiders. Some of the stops on his schedule: 12/14 Charlie Rose Show; 12/19 Larry King; 2/5 New Hampshire speech (must be the oncology clinics there); 2/20 that Stephanopoulos show on ABC. Coming up; a 2/26 Florida Democrat Dinner speech; 3/4 Kansas Democrat Speech.

And somehow during all this focusing, the superior multi-tasker somehow was able to form his own nonprofit think tank at the University of North Carolina. He was recently named Director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.

He also has his website up and running and is clearly running for president ­ a position I’ll give him the inside track on given that he is now able to conduct all this politicking under the radar as no one wants to question his “focus” and then be on the receiving end of invective like this from one incisive respondent:

“Hey guess what. Don’t know if you heard but his wife has breast cancer and is quite ill. He already lost a son, and right now he’s caring for his wife. Gee, what a loser, huh. You insensitive, ignorant fuck. You toss around the breck shit like the clever nothing writer you are. But you’re no man, you’re a fuckin punk. If you need proof let’s meet up, asshole.”

Was Elizabeth Edwards’ Cancer a “Life Choice?”

Another who also took me to task for “being insensitive,” also made a major point that merits notice:

“After their son died, Elizabeth decided to have more children. I believe she is about 55, and has a 6 year old and a 4 year old? That means she gave birth at 49 and 51.  This is not impossible, but is unusual. There has been no public comment on the subject, but it is at least possible she might have used hormones (fertility “treatments”) to improve her chance of getting pregnant.

Although the medical and pharmaceutical profession have been pushing hormones for women for 30+ years, they only recently have acknowledged the association (if not causation) with various forms of cancer. My own theory is that they take a small “growth,” which might not otherwise turn into anything until a woman is in her 70s or 80s, and they cause it to reproduce, so the woman ends up with deadly (breast, ovarian, uterine) cancer at a relatively young age. I imagine both John and Elizabeth Edwards are now dealing with not only her illness, but also the possibility that one of their life choices could have caused this.”

Wow! If so, the famed trial lawyer should indeed abandon the presidential race and really focus on Elizabeth and the many other women who bought into this Big Pharma-driven hormone fertility treatment for aging moms and file a class action lawsuit while he still can, i.e. before his fellow Democrats knuckle under on yet another bedrock issue.

MICHAEL DONNELLY lives in what used to be the moist side of Oregon. He can be reached at

MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at