12 February 2006


DON’T TELL MY MOM I SAID THIS, but someone once told me — in the strictest of confidence — that my mother “fell in love every month” until she met and married my Dad. Having waited until I was “mature enough” to get married — only to get divorced a few years later — I guess I can understand how even my Mom could have enjoyed years of fickle feelings before having her heart set ablaze by my Dad. It seems like human nature, especially in the context of relationships in the 21st century.

Of course, once Mom made a decision, that was that. There would be no looking back. Sixty years later, Mom and Dad, both in their 80s, remain true to their vows. . .and very much in love.

Many of our Moms and Dads — members of “the greatest generation” — have enjoyed similar longevity in matrimony. Today, however, with marriages lasting between 6-7 years on average, one must ask if the “Me Generation” is truly unable to keep a commitment. . .about anything.

This uneasy, chronic dissatisfaction is all around us. I was having dinner with a very successful, affluent, female medical doctor a few years ago when the conversation shifted to relationships. “What is it with men, “she rightly asked, “and why is it that you are all unwilling to get married?” She outlined her case against men very firmly, beginning with, “Men don’t want companionship, they want control,” before adding that “men won’t marry a powerful woman with a great career…especially if they make less money than a woman.”

“Is it REALLY that, Doctor,” I recall asking. “Is it that men are afraid of powerful women? Perhaps so. Or is it that we live in this ‘Me’ centered universe, devoid of loyalty and unconditional love? Could it be that we live in an age where few have the patience, the tolerance, or capacity to forgive — like children forgive their parents on a weekly basis — and that we are living our lives as if life is always greener on the other side of the mountain?”

She seemed perplexed, and we went on like that for hours. Maybe something resonated with her, as six months later she reported back that she had indeed found her man, and was engaged to be married.

Thus, is there anything more beautiful — or maddening — than love? We see it portrayed in movies, television, books and magazines all of the time, of course, but while they do justice to the word in an imaginary, Hollywood-kind-of-a-way, do we really know what the reality of love is?

I wonder.

Yeah, I have cried at the line (“You had me at ‘Hello’,” from the movie Jerry Maguire) EVERY SINGLE TIME I’ve heard it spoken. I think it touches a raw nerve of unfulfilled love within me, and allows a deep and abiding sadness to surface. Is it ONLY because of ‘Hollywood magic’ that this takes place. . .am I being manipulated by the cold orchestrated efforts of the media machine to go see the next Cameron Crowe movie? Again, perhaps.

Yet when this sadness occurs, it highlights that those feelings within me, no matter how glorified or artificial they may appear in Hollywood, do indeed exist. Is it because Renee Zellweger’s character is so willing to accept Jerry Maguire, a man full of vanity and failures and flaws, at his lowest ebb?

If we are looking for love at all, THAT is what keeps most of us believing that there is one perfect woman/man out there in the Universe. It is the unconditional, the solid-as-a-rock notion that “I will stand beside you always…even when you are broken…” that keeps us coming back for more.

The Chinese have a concept called “Yuan Fen,” for which no direct translation exists in the English language. It is a visual, contextual combination of destiny, tried-and-true effort and, well, luck. Yuan Fen, like so many things Chinese, is a karmic phrase meant to illustrate the importance of fate and diligence in our lives. For a relationship to work, one needs both “yuan,” the fateful, pre-destined meeting of a man and a woman that creates the possibility of lasting love — and the “fen,” or the action of sharing and WORKING toward fulfilling that destiny together.

It is a lovely concept, at least to me. Since yuan fen acknowledges the deeper meaning of events in our daily lives, it also highlights the need for shared energy and commitment to make “the dream come true.”

The can be no “fen” without “yuan.” Without hard work and a little luck, there can also be no yuan fen. THIS is the part of the equation which alienates those of us in Western culture. . .because let’s face it, if things get tough in relationships, most of us cut-and-run.

Our lack of commitment — our unwillingness to stand shoulder to shoulder during difficult times — is probably the simplest reflection of life in the material age, and a society built on instant gratification.

IT IS NOW NEARLY 12 YEARS since my first-and-only wife divorced. We definitely did not experience ‘yuan fen,’ but I love and admire her just the same.

Nonetheless, as another Valentine’s Day approaches, I still believe the idea that fate and destiny and hard-work are delivering my yuan fen to me as we speak. It is the “eternal optimist” in me. Some of you may think that my beliefs make me a naïve idiot. Whatever. I still believe that love will complete the circle.

My prayer is that you find your “yuan fen” as well. . .and that you will be willing to work for your blessings, like so many in “the greatest generation” did before us.

Happy Valentine’s Day. . .and peace to you all.

10 February 2006


plato told

him:he couldn't
believe it(jesus

told him;he
wouldn't believe

certainly told
him,and general

and even
(believe it

told him:i told
him;we told him
(he didn't believe it,no

sir)it took
a nipponized bit of
the old sixth

el;in the top of his head:to tell

— e.e. cummings

THEY FOUGHT THE ENEMY through the jungles of Vietnam, ducking gunfire, spending sleepless nights and avoiding death, only to be caught in the tripwires and booby traps set by society here at home. And every day, I see the faces of America’s war heroes — who were proud to serve —proud to fight for a way of life here in the Promised Land — living on the streets of every major city I travel to.

That this fate has been dealt to them is ironic — because these men and women — like so many before them who served in a foreign land — dreamed of the day they would come home to America. Home — home of the plenty, home of the brave — and now, home of the homeless.

“The way I live now is like I lived back in the jungle,” one vet told me. “Thirty years later look at me. . .this is where I live at,” he said while motioning to his plastic-encased barracks. I sat with James for nearly an hour as the wind ripped through his 6X10 shack. James was as articulate a man as I had ever met. As I looked around I saw a few books stacked neatly in the corner; one by Albert Camus, the French author and playwright, and another by James Baldwin.

Can you imagine that, if but for a moment? A homeless man, a soldier who’d dug a new foxhole, reading books by a Nobel prizewinner — and another by a man who was arguably one of the most powerful voices in the debate on race in America?

How could it be, I asked James, that patriots have been relegated to this subterranean existence in a nation which claims to revere its’ warriors? He looked at me and smiled. “Son,” he said with sad eyes and a half-smile, “have you ever killed a man? Do you know what that can do to you in your darkest hours?”

When I produced THE PROMISED LAND in 1991, America had just won the first Gulf War a year earlier. There was talk from President George H.W. Bush that we had finally “kicked the Vietnam syndrome, once and for all.” I thought it apropos to raise the question what it meant to be a soldier in war, and whether these men and women in the streets — drunk with dark images and in need of help — were casualties of a society disconnected from the realities of the horror they encountered in war.

It is a question I have never been able to escape. . .and it is a question we should be asking ourselves today as the killing and dying continues in Iraq.

Cleveland State professor John P. Wilson was the first to call Vietnam vets “Forgotten Warriors,” and to bring attention to the deeply held trauma they felt upon returning from that war. Wilson and his own “band of brothers,’ including former Army Captain Shad Meshad and others, helped define what we now know as PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was the modern version of “shellshock,” a term known to just about any WWII veteran.

The question is, will we really “support our troops” when they come home? The answer is anything but certain, considering our recent history.

Back in 2004, for example, while in the midst of the presidential campaign, ABC’s Nightline program read the names and showed the faces of every American killed in action in Iraq. As you may recall, the outrage was palatable. Some ABC affiliates (owned by backers of President Bush) refused to air the Nightline program, instead opting to broadcast a scurrilous, slanted and cowardly “mockumentary” about John Kerry’s service in Vietnam.

I remember thinking how nearly every car in America sported those silly magnetic yellow ribbons proclaiming “We Support Our Troops,” but when push-came-to-shove, these wealthy broadcast entities chose politics instead of honoring the men and women who died in combat. They re-opened the wounds of Vietnam for cold, calculated, and cynical reasons that in no way served to honor the veterans of war — ANY war.

TODAY, with over 130,000 Americans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the soldiers we claim to support are living a hellish existence: again, they are ducking gunfire, spending sleepless nights and doing their best to avoid death in another faraway land. The nation is divided again, and the world is a tempest-in-a-teapot.

Will we remember that we owe them a far greater debt than to merely pat them on the back? Will we repay their service —as the Pentagon budget becomes more bloated with weaponry and big corporate payoffs — with counseling and healthcare services and job support? Or will we fail them again — as we have done so many times in the past?

These men and women have sacrificed the best years of their lives in service to our nation. They will be stained by the sights, sounds and smell of war — and trapped by the hyper aberrations of combat.

It is up to us — to our leaders — to choose whether they return with the full support of our people, or whether they become — like so many before them — unknown soldiers left to die without dignity. . .in the Promised Land.

03 February 2006


IT'S ANOTHER ELECTION YEAR, and some polls show that Democrats are making a comeback following long reign of Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate. As such, both parties are scouring the country in search of Independent and so-called “swing voters” to create a majority.

The real question is not which of the "Republicrats" take power, but whether we will force them to act on the issues we hold dear.

Every election cycle, Americans hear incessant talk about health care. The Democrats speak to the uninsured and the underinsured, seniors, and minority populations, while Republicans often appeal to middle-class and more affluent voters. One year ago, Republican leaders in the House claimed that the Medicare reform bill passed in Congress was a major success for consumers. Well, we know that it was a major windfall for the drug companies, but beyond that, Medicare is a deeply flawed and expensive program for senior citizens, who are now at the mercy of the petrochemical profiteers.

Unless the dialogue changes dramatically in the coming months, both parties could miss an opportunity to influence what is undoubtedly the largest untapped “niche” in American politics - the 150 million-plus citizens who use alternative, or “complementary” medicines. Even the World Health Organization - which is primarily aligned with conventional methodologies — acknowledged in its’ treatise on “traditional medicines” that 158 million adults use these medicines in the United States.

What is not revealed in the WHO study is the astonishing breadth of this grassroots movement, which cuts across nearly every religious, cultural, socioeconomic, and, yes, political genre in America. As considerable consumer data accumulates about both the political leanings and buying habits of this massive niche, however, alternative medicine users remain the “bastard child” of politics - with no one political party willing to claim them. Even Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic populist from Cleveland who strongly supports alternative medicine, refused to raise the issue during the numerous Democratic debates during his presidential campaign in 2004, choosing instead to champion single-payer medical coverage for every American.

Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), however, has also been a champion of health freedom at every turn — and he recently introduced House Bill 4282, the Health Freedom Protection Act, with Democratic co-sponsor Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and a bevy of bi-partisan supporters.

For the record, I am one of 100+ individuals and companies who joined the Coalition to End FDA & FTC Censorship, a group run by attorney Jonathan Emord. Emord, backed by the powerful and enigmatic leader Dr. Julian Whitaker, Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw and an assortment of health freedom organizations like the American Association for Health freedom (AAHF), has repeatedly defeated the FDA in court. This time, Emord and his supporters are ratcheting up the pressure in this highstakes challenge. I have written TV ads for for national television as part of this important campaign.

HR 4282 prevents the FDA from “denying those who sell dietary supplements from reprinting or distributing United States Government publications (or accurate quotations from those publications) that explain the effect of nutrients on disease.” It also effectively overrules an FDA policy that prohibits companies that sell dietary supplements from distributing these government publications (or accurate quotations from those publications) that discuss how nutrients (of a kind contained in the dietary supplements sold) cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent disease.

But HR 4282 doesn’t stop there. It aims to allow for certain “qualified health claims” and reverses FDA decisions that have refused to allow health claims for dietary supplements “against the weight of the scientific evidence.” The Bill specifically mentions saw palmetto extract for treating the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia; omega-3 fatty acids for reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (without qualification); omega-3 fatty acids reducing for the risk of sudden death heart attack; glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for reducing joint stiffness and pain associated with osteoarthritis; and calcium reducing the risk of bone fractures.

So far, this bill has 14 original co-sponsors, but again, if you are interested in securing your health freedom, please call or write your Congressman and pressure your Senator to sponsor a similar bill in the Senate.

The buying power of alternative medicine consumers was made quite clear when one examines a market research study called the National Family Opinion poll, conducted in 2002. The NFO poll was compiled from a database of more than 550,000 U.S. households - and what emerged was a portrait of America’s burgeoning “silent majority.” This survey followed Dr. David Eisenberg’s landmark study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993, which grudgingly confirmed that “well over 100 million Americans” utilized what he called “unorthodox medicines.”

Eisenberg’s study, in addition to the WHO report and the NFO poll, confirmed not only the sheer numbers of Americans using alternative medicines, but perhaps more importantly, that Americans distrust what they are hearing from politicians, drug companies, insurance companies, conventional medicine establishments and the mainstream media about “the true state of health care in America.”

A key aspect of the NFO survey underscored the people’s “distrust of the media when reporting on matters of health.” The NFO survey study revealed that a whopping 41 percent of the general population do not trust major media to “tell the truth” about health and wellness information, and that consumers want unbiased information about alternative medicines.

Thus, just as “NASCAR dads” have become a force on the political landscape, so have alternative medicine consumers. Both are “consumer-driven” movements that defy conventional thinking, and both were propelled to the mainstream by a base of rabid “fans” - with NASCAR now being the most widely viewed sport in the history of America.

So one would think - with all of those voters at stake in what promises to be another close election for control of the Senate — that both parties would be courting this huge bloc of voters. But in fact, of the prominent politicians who could play an important role in Election 2006, only a few have taken a stand on this issue - and they are either Congressmen or governors, NOT Senators. Among the most prominent is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California — long a proponent of health freedom — said again recently that he adamantly opposes unbridled government regulation of dietary supplements.

According to The Associated Press, Schwarzenegger responded to a question about the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to ban the weight-loss aid ephedra one year ago by saying he was opposed philosophically to government regulation of supplements. “I have always campaigned against the FDA getting involved in food supplements,” he was quoted as saying at a recent event. Schwarzenegger also said there should be labeling and “a certain standard” for supplement safety, but said that if the FDA regulated supplements, “most of the costs of food supplements will go up,” and “I have very rarely seen the government do anything that was effective” in the area of regulating supplements.

Another outspoken leader is New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat who was mentioned briefly as a potential running mate for John Kerry in 2004. As a member of Congress, Richardson co-sponsored the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act (DSHEA) in 1994, before serving as President Clinton’s Secretary of Energy and as a United Nations ambassador. Richardson noted in a 1994 interview with me that his bill was introduced to help consumers in their “David and Goliath battle” for medical freedom of choice. “What we’re talking about here is millions of American consumers against FDA and big government — big bureaucracy,” he said at the time.

Using the B-vitamin folic acid as an example, Richardson noted how “the FDA had to be dragged kicking and screaming into giving license to folic acid,” which has been proven to prevent certain birth defects in children. “This vitamin, which is known to be safe and effective, was blocked for over a decade by the FDA,” Richardson said, adding that if the FDA had “spread the word sooner,” thousands of birth defects could have been prevented.”

Richardson’s visionary comments from a decade ago were again brought to light as a result of a report on folic acid from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a few months back. The study noted that by adding folic acid to one’s diet — a practice finally approved by the FDA in 1996 to prevent birth defects — the tragedies of neural tube birth defects were reduced by about 20 percent. In addition, the study also reported that folic acid also appears to have a striking effect against cardiovascular disease, preventing an estimated 48,000 deaths a year from strokes and heart attacks. In all, the researchers estimated that folic acid led to 31,000 fewer deaths from stroke and 17,000 from heart disease each year from 1998 to 2001.

So why wasn’t the information — first reported by maverick alternative medicine Dr. Jonathan Wright in 1981 — more widely disseminated before 1996?

“It is this bias against dietary supplements,” Richardson concluded, that makes consumers cynical about politics and government. “We don’t assume that the American people can make rational decisions,” he explained, countering the widely believed argument that Democrats feel the government “knows what’s best” for the populace and imposes its will on the people. “We over-regulate in our society. The American people - this growing grassroots movement - want the freedom to choose. Of course, we want the highest standards, we want quality, but we should provide the information and let the consumer make the decision.”

Ultimately, the success or failure of Congressman Ron Paul’s Health Freedom Protection Act will be a critical marker to the future of complementary alternative medicine in the United States. As tens of millions of independent voters who care about complementary alternative medicine examine the candidates’ records, there is a glimmer of hope if consumers decide to seize the day and force these sleepy-headed legislators into action.

For Republicans, Democrats and Independents who care about this issue, HR 4282 might be the only hope for expanding our medical freedom of choice on a nationwide basis, but it is too early to tell. The votes have yet to be cast, but once again, it is up to you to take action.

The fate of health freedom may lie with your willingness to take a stand. . .and make your voice heard. Financial contributions made by you will go directly to fund the nationwide TV campaign to pass the HEALTH FREEDOM PROTECTION ACT, and Mr. Emord guarantees that "100% of the contributions will be applied to purchase more media around the country." Donations can be made via credit card to the Coalition Fund by calling 202-466-6937.

I often hear from readers and others that they are frustrated by the lack of "action steps" they can personally take to impact medical freedom of choice. Here is a definitive way that you can help preserve — and expand — the rights we have come to expect as American consumers.

Let's fight back. . .and reclaim our freedoms before they are lost to the biased, uncaring bureaucracies at the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission.