30 June 2010


On days like this, I am so grateful to still be in possession of my conscience.

I received an email from a friend counseling me, "Do NOT boycott BP," because, as his logic went, "this is minus-IQ thinking. If they go under, who will pay for ten years of clean up? Right, us, the tax payer."

His solution? "I say find a BP station and fill up. After they repair my beach then go ahead and Boycott them."

This startling recommendation followed a discovery I made about a month ago that BP had hired PR flaks—er, "bloggers" to report on the progress of the cleanup effort. One of the writers, Paula Kolmar, who is obviously a fan of science fiction and fantasy, wrote the following about the clean up efforts as if she were describing the epic travails of Odysseus:

"Watching the captains weave the long black boom as seamlessly as a professional ballet troupe performs an intricate dance," Kolmar writes, was "a ballet at sea as mesmerising as any performance in a concert hall, and worthy of an audience in its own right."

In this oddly American life: one person advises to give BP — the 4th largest corporation in the world more money; while another Hemingway-to-be says the fight to contain oil gushing into the Gulf is 'a ballet at sea."

How the latter author can sleep at night mystifies me, but then, Hemingway or not, she is probably far wealthier than I.

And all she had to do to earn that cash was to check her conscience at the door.

Labels: , ,

27 June 2010


"Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it polite?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a point when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor polite, nor popular, but one must take it because his conscience tells him that it is right." —Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have just uploaded my new film about Canada called A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY. You can find it online at vimeo.com — but know that I will publish it here tomorrow as well.

Unlike many, if not most of my countrymen, Canadians rarely display the kind of angst and vitriol that we do on a daily basis here in the U.S. It's one of the things I love about Canada. But it's also a bit problematic when the G20 comes to town and Ontario Police—quickly and all-too-quietly, secure unbelievable powers—Charter of Rights and Freedoms be damned.

The Toronto Globe and Mail reported the following yesterday:

"The Ontario government was more than just heavy-handed and oppressive in giving police wide powers at the G20 Summit in Toronto – it was sneaky, too. With no forewarning, no chance of debate, no time for a court challenge, it quietly declared the downtown area within the security fence an “island of non-constitutionality,” as a civil liberties lawyer describes it. The secrecy is nearly as bad as the substance. While the state has a right to prevent violence, what right has it to pre-empt debate and challenge?"

My ultimate question for the G20 leaders is, "Why do you put your citizens through this trauma every year?" Over $1billion Canadian dollars were spent on security alone—and the actual figure for the entire G20 summit could be twice that amount. I mean, seriously, people, if securing the safety of these world leaders is going to cost so much, both in terms of dollars and the loss of civil liberties, why not move the G20 meetings to an ISLAND somewhere so we can pretend that we still live in democracies. . .you know, places where dissent is actually allowed? Or will the “islands of non-constitutionality” simply grow larger, and encompass whole cities and provinces in the future?

As my new film reflects, Canada is a land of unparalleled beauty. Though they live in the shadow of the U.S., many of us are praying that they do not emulate the pattern we have here — one of capitalism becoming more important than democracy.

As we go forward together to publicize A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY, I hope many of my Canadian friends and loved ones follow their conscience—and not be intimidated by the tactics being employed by the government surrounding the events of the G20. Health Canada has ALREADY pushed the "island" way past the border of constitutionality. . .so where will it stop?

Have courage, my Canadian brothers and sisters. STAND TALL. For if we don't demand our rights, government agencies, from Health Canada to provincial governments will usurp civil liberties permanently, as they have done in Toronto during the G20.

They have put their treasonous language in plain sight for all to see in Bills C-51, 52, C-6, and the newly introduced Bill C-36. The time to act is now. . .in the name of Mother Canada.


Labels: , , , , , ,

20 June 2010


I MISS SPEAKING TO MY DAD. There were so many times, over a thirty-year period when I would call him just to hear the sound of his voice.

Of course, I never told him that, but it is true.

My dad was a Southern gentleman: raised Baptist; a convert to Catholicism; conservative to the core. He was, without a doubt, the most ethical man I’ve ever known. He would never associate with anyone or anything he deemed ‘shady’ or unethical. And if he caught wind of one of his children doing so, there would be Hell to pay.

As the second last of seven children, my relationship to my dad seemed different. As a writer, I often challenged his notions of how the world worked — and recall some short stories and articles I wrote in high school that must have put Dad in a terrible quandary — and made him uncertain how to react.

To his credit, he never once forbade me from writing about any subject, no matter how uncomfortable it made him feel. He could have done so — and I believe I would have honored his command.

But he did not interfere, sensing that this was who I was born to be: an artist, ‘agitator,’ of sorts, a mirror for society. . .a writer.

In February 2007, I was engulfed by Generation RX. The call came on a Sunday that he was lapsing in and out of consciousness and that it wouldn’t be long before he would die. It took me about 10-12 hours to process that, as I was rather numb upon hearing the news.

During my flight from Cleveland to Boise 36 hours later, however, I had plenty of time to sort through our many years of physical separation and replayed many of the events of my childhood. The nuggets I re-discovered have been applied — successfully or not — to my life as a single Dad.

AT 35,000 FEET, I thought a lot about how affectionate I had been with my father. I sat on his lap and watched TV — far beyond the point of being a young child. By the time I was 13, I think, he FINALLY threw me off his lap. I was already taller than Dad’s 5’9” frame — and I’m pretty sure that I already weighed more than him also.

It took him months to enforce his new law for good, however, and something tells me he realized that I was the end of the line of Miller boys — and that like me, he wanted to relish every moment before I, too, was grown up and gone.

Most of my elder siblings say that my incessant, outward expressions of love for my dad simply “broke him down” over the years, and stripped away any remaining veneer of what were “appropriate” displays of emotions.

I, on the other hand, have always asserted that my poor old Dad was just worn out after five children — and by the time he got to me, his personal “Berlin Wall” had fallen.

The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but one thing seems certain: Dad realized somewhere along the line that no two children are alike — and that there is no “formula” for success.

WHEN I ARRIVED IN BOISE, my Mom led me to their bedroom, and forewarned me that Dad had not opened his eyes for nearly 24 hours. He had suffered another stroke and was unable to speak.

I got down on my knees, at eye-level with my father, who was turned on his side.

“Dad,” I said softly. “It’s Kevin. . .I am here.”

And Dad opened one eye. . .a final ‘miracle,’ of sorts.

Tears filled his one opened eye. Mine too. The Prodigal Son had returned. . . in time to see him off to the next realm.

Over the next 24 hours, I whispered to my Dad and spoke to him for hours, even though he never again opened his eyes. I told him what a good father he was; how proud I was to be his son, and more. I thanked him for allowing me to be the creative spirit I had become — even when it threatened him — and I thanked him for being the best Dad on the planet.

I told him it was okay to let go — his shift was over. . .his time here well-spent — his impact undeniable — his suffering complete.

Within a few hours, he was gone.

There is so much more I’d like to tell you about my Dad: that he played minor league baseball with the Phillies before the war, that he adored my Mom for well over a half-century; that he lived a good and productive life. But those will have to wait for another day.

Because now, I’m going to breakfast with my own sons — to make new memories — ones I pray they recall with fondness at a ripe old age.

Happy Father’s Day.

15 June 2010


First Bill C-51 & C-52, Then C-6 and NOW Bill C-36

The Canada Consumer Protection Act is back with a new name. On Wednesday, June 9th, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq introduced Bill C-36, replacing the defeated Bill C-6. Bill C-36 is a proposed “modernization” of the Consumer Protection Act which will give government inspectors and agents more powers and consequently remove rights and freedoms from individual Canadians.

If you have been following the past incarnations of Bill C-36 you know what I’m talking about. Bill C-51 and C-52 contained language and provisions that were very disturbing and allowed for actions to be taken against individuals without legal recourse and without regard to “the rule of law”.

The Stop Bill C-51 movement received mainstream media attention and demonstrated to the Conservative Government that a significant number of Canadians are not in favour of this type of draconian legislation in Canada.

Constitutional lawyer Shawn Buckley has authored discussion papers on Bill C-51, C-52 and Bill C-6 which can be found at the Natural Health Product Protection Association’s website. Shawn Buckley is currently reviewing the newly tabled Bill C-36 and will present his analysis soon.

So far we have been lucky. Bill C51 and C52 were killed when the election was called. Bill C6 was stopped by the Senate and sent back to the House of Commons for amendment. Thanks to the hard work of Canadian Health Freedom Fighters and others who value freedom of choice and individual rights, the Senate heard loud and clear that this type of legislation is unacceptable. It also helped that we had a Liberal Senate while Bill C6 was under review in the Senate. This is not the case now that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stacked the Senate by appointing more Conservative Senators. With a Conservative Majority it will be very difficult to fight Bill C36 in the Senate. The battle will have to be won in the House of Commons.

Click here to read Bill C-36

We should learn from the Fight the HST Campaign which is a very well organized and effective campaign to stop the HST in British Columbia. Bill C-36 can be defeated if enough people let the government know that they don’t support this type of regulation.

The Natural Health Products Protection Association are not merely fighting against these regulations they are promoting a better alternative. One which is balanced and respects the rights of individual freedom of choice. One which recognizes the need for effective regulation but does so within the rule of law. The Charter of Health Freedom is the legislation that will protect consumers and individual freedom of choice in health care.

Labels: , ,

09 June 2010


WHEN I WAS A TEENAGER, I wanted to be a sportwriter. It seemed natural enough, particularly because I was an athlete who ate drank and slept sports. After I won my very first award for writing as a sophomore, I was hooked—and declared to anyone who would listen that this would be my job in the future—there was no doubt about it.

I still remember the article; and it is true that the feeling of that first award has never been surpassed; not by film awards, Emmy nominations...nothing. It just so happens that I wrote about a kid named Scott Patterson, who was the leader of the Lakewood High School basketball team at the time.

“Seven minutes had elapsed since senior co-captain Scott Patterson wondered how—just how in the world—he made a 40 foot jump shot that won the championship for Lakewood,” the story began.

Scott Patterson and I were never friends, but I recall taking photographs of that game for our newspaper, The Lakewood High Times, and being in the thick of the post-game crush afterward. “Leaning against a wall in the Lakewood locker room,” I continued, “Scott was trapped—surrounded by reporters and well-wishers, each of whom could not believe what they had witnessed a few short minutes before.”

Patterson had been expected to lead the Rangers to the championship that year, based on his unbelievable shooting from the year before... but that is not what materialized in his senior year. Only once had he scored 13 points or higher. He was not the same player defensively, and kept getting beat off the dribble. Not surprisingly, Scott was down. Fame—even at the high school level—can become a cruel mistress, and Patterson's season of dreams had become a nightmare.

I AM REMINDED OF THESE HIGH SCHOOL DREAMS because of an article I read today by ESPNs Gordon Edes, one of the finest baseball writers around. It served to remind me why I am a writer—and why I wanted so desperately to become a sportswriter back then.

Before 24-hour TV sports and the hyping of sports figures as celebrities, sports encompassed something far more innocent. For athletes—and sportswriters—“the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” were only part of the story. In the off-season, most pro athletes stayed in the cities in which they played. They sold cars, worked in steel mills and sold insurance. They were part of the fabric of the entire town—not just their teams—and it was nice to know that these men were just “one of us.”

Okay, perhaps not “one of us,” but at least accessible to us.

In a masterful article written today by Edes, a few of those memories came flowing back as he wrote of Victor Martinez, the former Cleveland Indian catcher who is now with the Boston Red Sox. Last year when he was traded, Martinez was so distraught that he could not speak with reporters. He cried—and then gathered himself to face the bright lights.

Then he cried again. Those of us who knew Victor understood. He wanted to stay in Cleveland. He loved it here... and wanted to raise his family here. Inexplicably, as Cleveland teams are wont to do, the Indians traded one of the few who wanted to stay.

WHEN VICTOR MARTINEZ was drafted by the Cleveland baseball team, he did not speak a word of English. He arrived in Ohio from Venezuela and was assigned to play for the minor league Class A baseball team, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, deep in the rust belt near Youngstown, Ohio. They played ball behind a shopping mall and as the story goes, walked two miles to and from games and stayed in a dilapidated motel.

But then Patti Bixler walked into his life.

As Edes writes, Martinez “had no idea who Patti Bixler was or what she was saying when she approached four Scrappers after one of their first games,” but when she discovered that the boys were walking—and where they were staying, she said, "Go home and get the van," to her husband, Bob. "We're taking these four boys home with us."

Bob's reaction? "You're not taking four boys home with us," he said.

"Oh, yes, we are," Patti said. "Two of them will stay with us, and we'll find homes for the other two."

Patti, Bob, and their son Ryan helped teach Victor Martinez the English language and how to manage his money. . .but they taught him so much more. They showed him the love of family.

"They're like my mom and dad," Martinez told Edes last night as Victor returned to Cleveland for the first time since being traded.

“By the end of that first summer, Martinez's English had improved dramatically,” Edes writes. The next season, he was in Kinston, N.C., where he hurt his shoulder, spent two months on the disabled list and then spent the rest of the summer in Columbus, Ga. The Bixlers went to see him play in both places. They returned the next summer to Kinston, where this time he won the Carolina League batting title, and they celebrated when he returned to Ohio to play for the Indians' Double-A team in Akron.

And then came his major league debut.

"Sept. 10, 2002," Bob said Monday night.

It was a night that none of them would soon forget, for very different reasons.

Ryan Bixler was 16 at the time and in the hospital, which was nothing new for him. He had cysts on his brain and had had so many operations that it was hard to keep track. "I think this was my 12th or maybe my 13th operation," he said. "I've had 16 in all."

That day, Martinez was called up to the big leagues. That night, Martinez hit a two-run single, knocking out the Jays' starting pitcher, before making the final out of the game. Bob and Patti Bixler sought him out afterward. Patti said, 'Victor, if you would, Ryan would love for you to come to the hospital.'

"He said, 'Mom, let's go.' I said, 'Are you kidding me?"'

All of them -- Bob and Patti, Victor and Margaret -- piled into Bob's car. Victor made sure he brought along the ball he'd kept as a memento of his first big league hit and the lineup card that he'd been given by interim manager Joel Skinner.

"As soon as he got to the hospital, he sat on the bed with Ryan, and for a couple of hours they played video games," Patti said. "That's what he did for the night of his debut."

The day after Martinez was traded this past summer, Ryan called him. That night, the Red Sox were scheduled to play the Orioles in Baltimore. "If you want to leave us tickets to the game so you will have a familiar face there, we'll come," he said.
Ryan and three of his buddies hopped in a car and drove to Baltimore, six hours away. You do those things for family.”

The Edes story catapulted me back—if for but a brief time— to the days when I wanted to become a sportwriter. Even then, I guess, I knew that the best stories are human ones. . .and that the best sports has to offer has little to do with who wins and loses on the field.

I learned about life's poetry at an early age. . .and though it seems I write about injustice—sometimes far too often, my roots are easy to spot.

“Scott Patterson walked out of the locker room. His hair uncombed, his shoes untied, Scott lumbered around the corner of the gymnasium. Before he could raise his head, he was greeted by a thunderous ovation from the fans who stood applauding and cheering his name.

He couldn't help smiling.

It had been a tough season—the worst that he could could have imagined, in fact. But now, Scott beamed at the sound he had been so unaccustomed to hearing.

It was a miracle shot, in more ways than one. . .a miracle shot indeed.”

Last night, after the Red Sox defeated the Indians, Victor Martinez drove "home" to Mahoning Valley to sleep at the home of his adopted family—even though it is sixty miles away. And today, for this old sportswriter, all is well with the world.

Labels: , ,

05 June 2010


Here is a Letter to the Editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Chances are slim that they'll publish it...so here you go:


The editorial by former FDA chief Donald Kennedy (“Cows on Drugs,” PD) that you published was selectively incomplete. Kennedy discussed the widespread use of what he termed “the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics” in livestock and agriculture — and how this leads to antibiotic resistance among humans who consume meat, dairy, and other foods.

I agree with those sentiments, but Kennedy neglects to mention the other commonly accepted practice of injecting cows with another drug: a synthetic hormone known as rBGH, a recombinant bovine growth hormone. This hormone is a clear and present danger to children across the country and continues to be ignored by Kennedy and officials at FDA.

Why? Well, it's really quite simple. FDAs Michael R. Taylor, the former second-in-command at the agency, used to work as part of the legal team for Monsanto, the creator of the rBGH product called Posilac. After leaving FDA, Taylor went to the Department of Agriculture, where he quickly — and quietly helped get rBGH approved for consumer use.

It's been in the milk supply ever since.

Thus, the vast majority of the milk that parents encourage their children to drink is laced with this chemical growth hormone. . .yet not a word in Kennedy's missive addressed this very serious public health problem. According to research scientists Dr. William von Meyer, "A human drug requires two years of carcinogenic testing and extensive birth defect testing. rBGH was tested for 90 days on 30 rats at any dose before it was approved," yet there is more concern about regulating antioxidants at the FDA than this class of recombinant drugs originated by one of the world's greatest villains.

If you want to know why the breasts of so many young girls seem to be developing at younger ages, wouldn't a growth hormone in milk be a likely suspect? And should we not be concerned about the fact that cows injected with rBGH often live much shorter lives — and have a history of serious hoof and other problems? Dr. Daniel Epstein from the Univ. of Illinois certainly believes so. After studying these synthetic growth hormones for decades, Epstein said, “There are highly suggestive if not persuasive lines of evidence showing that consumption of this milk poses risks of breast and colon cancer."

Monsanto has now sold their Posilac unit. How appropriate. They already made billions off of consumers nationwide—and then passed the risk onto consumers. But before they left the rBGH market, they sued small dairy farms who wanted to label their milk as “rBGH Free.” Here in Ohio, agribusiness has been fighting to remove the same labels, and to disallow “organic” labels on milk and dairy. Consumer advocates wonder why their freedom to know which chemicals are present in the milk supply is being challenged.

And whither Michael R. Taylor, the former FDA bigwig? Ah, — the Obama administration, in their infinite wisdom, hired him as a “consultant.” If one wants petrochemicals to rule the world, Mr. Taylor is in the perfect position to "help."

The reality is, until we stop the revolving door between business and government, we will not be able to stop the abuses of insiders who craft public policy based on corporate interests. The media and the general public should drive Michael R. Taylor out of his advisory role at FDA and back to big business. From there, as I've said before, at least Taylor will know for whom he is fighting... because it certainly is not the US consumer.

Kevin P. Miller is an international award-winning writer/director from Cleveland. His latest documentary is called Generation RX.

Labels: , , , , ,