Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Instructions for Submitting WikiLeaks Video Clip

Hello World-Wide Wiki Citizens!

The following is a brief description of this project with instructions on how to participate and submit your video clips. Julian Assange’s extradition hearing date is set to occur on either Feb 7th or 8th, 2011. Our goal is to release this video is the day of his hearing. With your help it will be a very powerful message that will be heard by many people around the world. Due to our very tight deadline we ask that you submit video clips back to us by February 1st.

Project Overview
This is a simple and direct open letter to the US government about Wikileaks and Julian Assange spoken on video by people from around the world. We presently have approximately 25 countries and 60-70 people on board. The video will include your voices as part of a collective message as well as other relevant imagery and quotes that provide a full picture to help us meet our objective. The goal is for this video to be powerful, intelligent, moving and straightforward.

The objective of this project is two-fold. First, it is to interrupt the US government’s attempts to villainize and prosecute Julian Assange and bring down Wikileaks. Second, it is to assist in shifting public opinion in the US by strategically highlighting the potential loss of key freedoms including free speech and a free press and the implications this could have on open societies everywhere. The end of our video will direct viewers to sign on to this letter. The goal is to collect as many signatures as possible.

Video Clip Participation Instructions
1. Each participant is asked to read three paragraphs of this letter that we have selected for you. So, if your last name begins with:

A-H: Read paragraphs 1-3
I-P: Read paragraphs 3-5
Q-Z: Read paragraphs 5-7

First state your name and the country in which you reside, then “speak” your portion of the letter.

Tips for being on video:

  • Make sure you are looking directly at the camera. You can put the words behind the camera to make this easier.
  • Try to speak (not read) the letter. You can break it down into sentence by sentence. Remember, we can edit, so pauses are fine! Take your time!

  • Put your heart into this! This is OUR message about OUR rights and freedoms.

  • Just be you. You are great just the way you areJ. You are so brave!!!!

2. You are also welcome to submit a brief general message to our potential audiences (US government, US media, US public, global public). Or, you may wish to cite a specific fact that you think is relevant to this open letter and our overall objective. For example, you may wish to offer facts about the Iraq or Afghanistan war, powerful quotes about freedom, democracy, truth, or government, a personal statement about protecting our rights, about misuse of information to set policy agendas, or about our need as citizens to have access to accurate information. If you or someone you know has been personally affected by these two wars, you may wish to say something brief about this. As long as your message is respectful, factual, relevant, and brief, it may be included in this video project.

The goal here is to function as a powerful reminder of the critical need for governments to do the RIGHT thing. While we realize we will all have our own thoughts, feelings and ideas on this complex situation, we have come together over a common understanding: citizens need access to accurate, truthful information.

Submission Instructions
Video Clip Format: Quicktime.mov
Deadline for Submission: Feb 1, 2011 (sooner if possible)

1. Name your video file first name, last name, country (ie, Tangerine Bolen USA)

2. Go to www.dropbox.com and download the free drop box software for uploading your video clips. Dropbox.com will send you an email with instructions guiding you on how to share a folder with others.

3. Follow the instructions for uploading your video clips and then for sharing your new folder. Upon doing so, please add Cliff Sargent and Tangerine Bolen to the shared folder using the email addresses below:
Cliff: refractingfolds@gmail.com       Tangerine:        tangerinebolen@gmail.com

Note: Upon uploading your video clips into Dropbox, you are agreeing to release your clips into the public domain.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me (Tangerine) at my email address.

I can’t thank you all enough for your support, your participation, and your willingness to come together to do this. We all know how critical it is we get this message across. So…let’s do it! Let’s change our world!



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Defend Your Democratic Rights - Join our Open Letter-Video to US Gov

Open Letter to the United States Government Regarding WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and the Fundamental Tenets of Democracy and Open Societies

To President Obama, US Senators and Congressmen and women, Attorney General Eric Holder, the Department of Justice, and all of those involved in the attempt to prosecute Julian Assange, founder of the nonprofit news organization WikiLeaks.org:

“We are a diverse group of people from around the world who have come together for a common purpose: to defend WikiLeaks, to ask the United States to cease its attempts to manufacture a case against Julian Assange, and to defend democratic principles and our fundamental rights guaranteed therein. We are professionals, homemakers, activists, students, and others who believe that government derives its power from the consent of the governed, as stipulated in the Declaration of Independence, but that citizens can only give meaningful consent if they are fully informed about their government’s actions. Nothing more violates American principles, which inspire both those of us who are and are not American citizens, than the idea that "government knows best" and has the right to deceive its own people.

The Wikileaks documents have revealed that the U.S. government has been keeping enormously important information secret from the American people, such as the fact that the U.S. government knew of the mass murder of civilians in Iraq even though it claimed it did not; that the U.S. government failed its legal responsibility as an occupying power by handing civilians over to Iraqi police units knowing they would be tortured and killed, even though it claimed it did not; that U.S. officials believe the Afghan government is corrupt and unpopular, even as they falsely claim to be fighting for democracy in Afghanistan; and that U.S. officials are extremely worried about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear stockpile, a potential matter of life and death that they have kept from the people of the world.

When the N.Y. Times released the Wikileaks “Afghan Logs” on July 25, its headline read: "View Is Bleaker than Official Portrayal of War in Afghanistan." This revealed, according to America’s “newspaper of record,” that the U.S. Government was hiding the truth from its own people. Is it really right that the proud citizens of America should need Wikileaks to discover vital truths denied them by their own government?

U.S. officials claim they have a right to deceive the American people, and prosecute WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, on the grounds of “national security”. But this information is clearly known to America’s enemies. It is the American people who have been denied it, information critical to their ability to make an informed decision as to whether or not to support their government's war-making, including putting their sons and daughters at grave risk of death or crippling injuries.

The U.S. Government claim that Wikileaks has endangered national security has been invalidated by its own Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, who has stated "is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest." The German Interior Minister has stated that "WikiLeaks is annoying, but not a threat”, and the Guardian has reported that “Wikileaks: US allies unruffled by embassy cable leaks.”
The result of any U.S. government prosecution of Wikileaks and Julian Assange will be to restrict the truthful information American citizens receive about their government's foreign policy. But the U.S. cannot promote democracy abroad by limiting it at home.

We urge you to halt your undemocratic prosecution of Wikileaks; and to instead learn from it by providing the public with the honest and truthful information upon which democracy depends.”

Go to www.support-julian-assange.com for more information on this open letter and to join our video message to the US government.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Clarion Call on the Morning After

To all of those who wish to paint what occurred in Arizona as an isolated incident - this is our clarian call.

Responding to this issue with a clear-eyed view of how increasingly toxic, ugly and utterly broken politics and civil discourse has become in the US in the last two years is not - in and of itself - politicizing this tragedy. In fact, to reflexively turn a blind eye to the consequences of our actions, our (yes OUR) failure to do better, to stop the rising tide of hatred and the breakdown between people on different sides of the line -IS to politicize this. Moreover, the reflexive but understandable need to do this in this climate is actually a devastating abrogation of the opportunity for ALL of us to begin to healing.

There is a critical difference in the two primary ways we may respond to this. One path leads us through the wounds we've collectively incurred, through our being able to admit our own ugliness or weakness, to a place where we might begin to heal. This path feels very vulnerable in a climate of blame and lack of self-reflection or accountability on BOTH sides.

The other path leads us more deeply into denial and will leave us even more susceptible to a total breakdown in our society if we cannot stop deluding ourselves about what we've done and what we have become. Our national identity is sick and broken. To ignore this lumbering wounded elephant/donkey in the room and attempt to frame this as an "isolated" event - just the result of an isolated, sick mind - is to dig our heels deeper into the mud and this devastating divide - and perhance to unthinkable consequences.

I am not interested in laying the mantle of blame for the deaths of these innocent Americans - Americans who were practicing democracy in the highest, best sense possible (a casual meet and great with their rep, face to face - doesn't get better than that!) - on one half of this country. That one-half would include my father, my uncle, my cousins, my neighbors, and my friends.

In fact, I am not interested in deepening the disgusting stereotypes that have been worming their way into the public consciousness and poisoning our ability to think - much less communicate. Stereotypes that are easily conjured and offer some modicum of angry comfort in these dark and exhausting times - but that inevtiably lead to schoolyard taunts (saliant ones that come to mind are "libtards" or "repugnikans", oft found on Yahoo news threads) derailing decency and distorting our perceptions.

However - some people who have the megaphone and the ear of the nation ARE interested in precisely such things. In fact, they have gone to great lengths to exploit our divide, to rankle the scared and the wounded, to tap into the fears we all share, and, instead of calling upon our higher natures, they have strategically (or for their own sick greed) incited our basest instincts - instincts that are primed and rumbling just under the surface, as the world appears to fall apart around us.

Because YES - America is in crisis. We are in survival mode - a kind of collective fight or flight syndrome in the aftermath of too many traumas. Moreover, we do not have effective leaders in front of us, and if we did, then we totally failed to understand that we HAD to take the higher road, together (we, and our leaders) in order to climb out of these difficult times and co-create a more hopeful path ahead.

Critical to the functioning of our society is a civilized political process. Civil discourse - and every single one of us insisting upon it from our leaders - is the ONLY way we will ever solve complex and very scary problems. Civil discourse was used exhaustively (and yes, with plenty of rancor) by our founding fathers to ensure the creation of the most robust and successful rule of law document in human history - the US Constitution. Our founding fathers knew full well that complexity, and paradox, and deep philosophical divides HAD to be bravely tackled together - no matter how much you hated your oppenent in the moment - if we were to succeed as a fledgling nation and be able to guarantee that success, and our liberty, over time. These men understood that our higher natures HAD to take precedence. We HAD to find adequate and lasting compromise, through rigorous, frustrating, yet civil discourse.

We all know how our Congress performs in this regard now. I am ashamed for my country and my people that we have let it sink to this.

But the "WE" here is critical. Sarah Palin, and her keen ability to capitalize on our woundedness for her own gain, is a product of our times. Her exploitative nature and savvy political charm are, to some extent, to be expected. But the US media, and the US public, should know better. WE should be able to see through this fraud of a person and recognize, viscerally, the damage she and other political exploiters are causing to this nation. That so many in the country don't see this is a disturbing sign of just how deeply we have begun to delude ourselves in our surface-obsessed, "reality" TV, soundbite, spin-dominated times.

So - no - facing the fact that the way public figures have behaved in the US in the last few years can and does impact our collective psyche, or at least, our collective willingness to tackle things with integrity, is NOT politicizing. It is taking the humble, if uncertain road (one littered with landmines to be sure) toward our own healing. Toward the healing of this divide. I don't blame Republicans. That would be me defeating the purpose of everything I've just written.

But I want you to stand with me and denounce the ugliness we have all participated in. NOW. Before this reflexive defense is solidified in one half of the nation and we totally lose our opportunity to turn in a better direction. Before more of our neighbors and friends, and daughters and fathers die. We will never stop truly isolated incidents. But together, and only together, we can try to stop this tide.

Restoring our country and our political process is up to each of us. It starts with a hard look in the individual and aggregate mirror. It starts with facing each other without pointing fingers, no matter how mad we are. And it starts with dropping the insane perceptions we've formed of our fellow Americans - and - with a whole lot of humility and courage so we can find our way forward.

But that starts when we stop deluding ourselves with the idea what we don't have a great impact on one another - that what we do here doesn't really matter. Clearly, we do - and clearly - it does. And I am asking you to take this moment to extend your hearts and hands and meet me in the middle, ALL of us - politics, defensive masks and armor aside, to grieve together, over the horror that happened in Arizona yesterday. We must grieve, but we also honestly face the fact that it is no suprise that the cauldron boiled over in a sick mind, in our littered battlefield.

The future of our country and our children depends on our ability to do this.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Citizens United

Nearly a year ago last January, in an astonishing turnabout from its decades-long stance on corporations and campaign financing, the Supreme Court abolished 103 years of settled law and handed the keys of our government to multinational corporations. Although the repercussions of this decision are unthinkable, the ripple outward effect began with a bang in this past November's midterm elections.

In a 5-4 decision split along bitter, partisan lines, Justice Roberts and his colleagues let their free-market, right-wing ideology blur their thinking on the necessities of a democracy, profoundly turning their backs on our founders’ attempts to build a successful and lasting representative form of governance. The founding fathers went to great lengths to protect citizens and the government through creating a Republic designed to prevent both minority and majority tyranny. Yet Justices Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas sounded the death knell for any semblance we have of a representative democracy, blatantly tilting the playing field in the favor of big business and minority tyranny. In response to this madness, President Obama stated:

"The Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."

The Obama administration's response was the "Disclose Act", last June. But although the Act passed in the House, it stalled in the Senate this past fall, and is not likely to see the light of day any time soon.

So what did this SCOTUS decision mean for the midterm congressional elections this past November? An election spending goldrush, where Republicans outspent Democrats 5 to 1. Sweeping election victories, where 1/4 of the funding sources were not required to be disclosed.

And what does it mean for the future, as strategists get their wits about them and learn how to fully leverage these anonymous monies? It means that Sarah Palin has a real shot at the US presidency. Why? Because any politicians who dare to campaign on a platform that threatens the interests of big business -- such as banking regulations and credit card company reforms, health care reform, clean energy or environmental standards -- can look forward to an unstoppable juggernaut of ads designed to smear and defeat newcomers and incumbents alike.

Moreover, since multinational corporations do not have to be American "citizens" (just corporate persons endowed with the right to free speech), these conservative Supreme Court justices have opened the door to foreign interests having the ability to influence the outcomes of US political campaigns. In the face of the implications this activist move, it is difficult to know whether to feel dumbfounded or terrified.

Last January, SCOTUS settled on a singularly anti-democratic decision, and the entire playing field of politics has been transformed. There is no limit on the ante that can be set, for this new game. And only those with billions of dollars in resources can hope to compete at all in an attempt to level the playing field.

When the Supreme Court abolished a set of rules designed to help ensure that regular Americans have a say in who their representatives will be, it transformed the Amerian landscape. It is now most assurredly business, not citizens, who have the power to create the conversation, control the conversation, and shape its outcome. Get ready for a kind of minority, corporate tyranny that has thus far been fettered by at least some attempt at maintaining fairness and access in our democracy.

"The court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation,” Justice John Paul Stevens lamented after the Citizens United decision.

November's midterm elections function as a stark reminder of the power to influence our political process for ill. Now, with enough money, you can create reality, override rationality, evoke goblins, and own our democracy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The World I Know

The world I know is different than this one. It is the world as I believe it was meant to be – lush, verdant, full of song and remembering. In it, god has 6 billion faces and multitudes of representations – the drape of the willow’s branch, the sweet burst of ripe mango on the tongue, the honk of wild geese across a cold winter sky. God is everywhere. God is everything. And our lives are lived as a response to the clarion call to honor, to remember, to live brighter, bigger, deeper. The world I know does not separate nature and man. Nor is it a juggernaut rolling blindly toward destruction. The world I know is a world in which we have finally allowed ourselves to become humble and wise. We are still human, to be sure, but we celebrate each day to play our part in the great harmony of things, taking great care, of ourselves, each other, and this blue planet spinning through the universe. We have remembered what it is like to bring balance to things. We have remembered that the earth is perfect, exquisitely perfect in its bountiful offerings. It doesn’t need fixing. We do. But we know this, and remember how to harvest in harmony, and we abandon the madness of “scarce resources” and we have let go of the profound fear that drives us to tinker with and destroy every living thing. In the world I know, the deepest callings of the heart, the great and worldwide need for something higher has been realized, because we see god in one another’s faces, and although we still know pain, we have evolved beyond the madness that led us to such unnecessary suffering. In this world, we create local, national, and global policies that ensure comfort and security, because we have finally realized that resources are not scarce – they are mismanaged and horded. In the world I know, I am god, and the tiniest part of god, and so are you. In this world, I am not my wrinkling skin. I am my laughter, my heart, my love, my wonder and my wondering. I am beautiful, because radiance is allowed – no expected, to pass through me. And radiance is not separate from humility. In the world I love, the deep and profound grief of living with such madness on this planet does not threaten to destroy me. The few at the fringes, who saw god in everything all along, become the commonplace masses, become a cacophony of discordant yet perfect song, with enough breadth, with enough space, to accommodate everyone. Still finding our own pathways to god – yet with a chuckle and a small smile, acknowledging – yes, you and I, yes our gods even, here, beneath our skins, here, in the stillness and smallness and slow breath, here, and even when we are gone, we are all one.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Better Than This

A combination of the circus of health care reform and the fact that I’ve turned 39 this month has caused me to veer off health policy to talk about the world we have co-created…
I was up until 3 a.m. recently, slightly melancholy after a spur-of-the-moment, lovely picnic in the park with friends. I'd come home a little tipsy, very tired, pondering my life, my age, our culture and the ways of the world. I plucked up the courage to finish one of the best books I've read in a long time (The Elegance of the Hedgehog) -- a book I've been reluctant to commit to because in some ways, it hits too close to home, and I was approaching its final chapters with a low sense of dread. The writing was too good to offer an easy out, and true to form, author Muriel Barbery’s ending left me spinning and stunned. I found myself sobbing at nearly 3 a.m., about my family, about ten years of loss, about doors that close and the unrelenting force of circumstance. How can I fundamentally transform a world in which power is decreed by class and status, when I have little of either? When will this 20 year task, of healing myself deeply enough so that I can help heal the world, find its cynosure? And how do I ensure the weaving of a bright tapestry after more than a decade of trauma? Exhausted, I lay there wondering just how much tenacity I can continue to muster amidst my struggles with fate, my profound sensitivity, and a world of systems I don’t believe in.

Here’s the deal: l love this planet. I love life with a fierceness and tenderness I can’t easily explain. I am not afraid to die. But sometimes, I am deathly afraid of the world we have created. On a fairly regular basis, everything inside of me rises up against the things we take as commonplace…supermarkets, corporate personhood, adulterated food and dollar stores to name a few; this last being particularly disturbing when you follow the trail of exquisite beauty and ecological complexity of a rainforest to plastic bins of throw-away goods for a throw-away culture – one in which we know all too well how to throw away each other. (And honestly, I think these things are connected). Supermarkets are just as frightening -- though not as frightening as the fact the most Americans don’t realize this -- that aisle after aisle of all of our major grocery stores are filled with toxic chemicals and fake food. In American culture, it is a great and cloudy distance from the soil and the farm to healthy, nourished cells and clarity of mind. Our addiction to technology has dulled our senses to the healing power of nature’s bounty and the fantastic toxicity of the systems we have created to manipulate, produce and procure its proxy. This fact can be said for more than our food.

A modern era that cut us off from heart and old wisdom has led us to a postmodern world in which speed, complexity and an increasing sense of universal malaise is the norm – and we don’t know how to navigate back to the vitality of the moist earth, hard ground, seed and acorn where once we lay dreaming. We are a simultaneous juggernaut and mad dash toward massive planetary destruction. And setting this unnerving fact aside for just a moment, we have built a world of systems and ways of being that are oppressive rather than liberating. The result? Widespread apathy, anomie and a low, reverberating global hum of desperation. It is not surprising that anyone, anywhere, feels helpless. For to change the world, we must change ourselves, and to change ourselves, we must change our systems, and to change our systems, we must muster the kind of courage on a collective level that we’ve never managed to do as a species, let alone a people or a country.

It is a daunting proposition to think of, or to believe in and fight for, a global paradigm shift in human consciousness; but it is precisely what is required of us, if we are to survive and create sustainable systems in the process. And the beauty of it, implausible as it may seem, is that it is just such a shift that is going to liberate us. Coming to an understanding that we are, in the end, all in this together, that whether it makes sense yet or not, we are part of a collective psyche in which what each of us does affects one another, is a shocking prospect. No, I do not believe those with the most protected class and status have any corner on happiness. And our culture of mind-numbing entertainment will not save us. Nor will our desperate obsession with youth and beauty, as if our collective grasp toward its fertile hopefulness will not mean that life has passed us by while we turned our backs on an authentic existence. We cannot be happy when we oppress one another. We cannot reach the fulcrum of what every sane human being seeks: a deep sense of fulfillment, love and peace (a sense of the oft inexpressible, infinite divine and our perfect part in that infinity) – we cannot reach this, until we realize that each and every one of us needs the chance to know it. Or, at the very least, needs the option to live a meaningful, safe, productive, and secure existence, content in our traditions and beliefs and content enough with them to not encroach upon the differences in one another’s. But amidst this relativity there is a deep need to nurture our sense of connectivity and universality. Whether we agree on the existence of god, or paths to the divine, we must all be able to agree that the path to the divine (or to a sustainable future) is not one of massive planetary degradation and a world of social injustice. No amount of power, wealth, status symbols, antidepressants or zanax can save us from the truth of this. And our global sense of malaise will only deepen as we destroy this planet, and each other, as rapidly as we can in our stubborn attempts to hide behind our carefully crafted illusions – including capitalism, consumerism and the dogma inherent in all the monotheistic religions.

What we need is a global transformation – a global evolution of our species – something beyond anything we’ve yet seen. Yet any true kind of transformation will first require brutal honesty; a hard look in the individual and aggregate mirror, so that we more fully face where we’ve been, who we’ve become, and what it means for our survival and our happiness. Our obsession with science, reason and fundamentalist religion has cut us off from a deep sense of heart, soul and connectedness to a thread that links each of us to each other and all of us to this vital, vulnerable planet. I know that we are beautiful. I know that each of us, in our own ways, is amazing. We are capable of deep humanity, of joy, of moments of grace – yet the ways we are living, individually and collectively, are insane. I don’t believe that our species is actually crazy, but I do believe we are deeply lost. We find ourselves hopelessly entrenched in systems that keep us perpetuating nightmares around the world, and we insist on maintaining an existence of massive global injustice, all with a sense of entitlement. Worse still, there is a deep symbiosis between the systems we’ve created, and the way these systems shape us. We are slaves, most of us, expert at towing the line. Our survival in this society, in our world, depends on it. And in the process, we learn with great skill how to oppress one another, and how to betray ourselves, sometimes so deeply that it can take lifetimes to find our way back home again.

Well, I am here to say that I don’t believe in what we have created, but neither do I believe that what we face is impossible. Absolutely daunting, yes. But I fundamentally believe that we are meant to do better than this. I believe, with every ounce of my being, that we ARE better than this. And, that although our lives are but a brief, bright spark, we are meant to learn how to evolve, WHILE WE ARE HERE. We are meant to make this world a better place for ourselves, and for each other. This is our clarion call. This is our task. We have a task to consciousness, a task to understand our collective psychological and ecological connectedness and interdependence. And, we have a task toward goodness. I know, I know in my heart that we are starved for this; we are deeply starved for the truth of a more connected, creative, liberating, passionate and soulful existence. We have grace in our hearts and grace in our fingertips. It is a matter of having the courage to face the loss of taking so long to discover it, of facing the loss of the darkness we collectively perpetuate. There is no one way to the divine. But the divine is calling us to the task of rising above who and what we have been, to co-create a world that we know, truly know, in our hearts makes sense.


Monday, August 3, 2009

The Allopathic Stranglehold

It is interesting, sitting amidst the whirlwind discussion of US health care, witnessing a dialogue that fails to climb out of the the sink hole on the reform road.

Disease is big business in the US. Our national failure to distinguish health care and medical care has us trapped in fallacious arguments -- with talking heads in the media across the country espousing on their ideas for "health" reform, such as the push for universal care -- which is simply to increase access to medical care -- without ever truly understanding the full scale or depth of the problems. The following are some of the most critical problems in our health care system:

A medical system and medical monopoly on care that prevents options -- and thinking -- outside of allopathic medicine.

A fee-for-service reimbursement system that allows physicians to over-prescibe services for profit purposes. This reimbursement system has persisted despite common sense, but was spawned, in part, by physician groups' fighting for autonomy after the introduction of the third party payer system.

A mixed market that prevents the development of a more democratic socialist type of universal care while also preventing the "laws" of capitalism from working. Consumers are unable to play their normal role in a capitalist system in US health care, partly because the AMA forbids publication of the relative value units (RVUs -- the costs attached to its codes) from being made public knowledge. We are thus unable to competitively shop for services, which would normally force those providing them to lower prices and/or become more efficient. The private market in health care has long enjoyed its status of being free from the dictates of consumer- oriented capitalism -- and it is foreseeable that we could change the reimbursement system while still preventing consumers from being able to influence price.

Our national obsession with pharmaceuticals. This is perhaps one of the most ghastly aspects of our current paradigm -- the susceptibility of the American public to believing that a pill can be a panacea -- or that drugs cure -- when quite often they are highly toxic, far more dangerous than natural health options, and far less efficacious when it comes to restoring health. DRUGS MANAGE SYMPTOMS of underlying imbalance in systems. Yet the power, money and influence the drug companies have gained since we repealed the law prohibiting them from advertising on TV has allowed these companies to spend the kind of money needed to convince the American public that they need more and more drugs. Meanwhile, we are polluting water tables across the country -- due to major over-medication of millions of people who would, in many cases, find real relief from methods that treat whole systems and underlying problems.

An underfunded and corrupt FDA. The FDA, an organization designed to protect the American public, is largely funded by drug companies. Its hands are tied due to funding issues, it is understaffed and overworked, and it is squarely entrenched in the allopathic mindset. It is by no means a neutral organization -- and at present, it is incapable of living up to its duties.

Moral hazard. Moral hazard occurs when patients take too little accountability for their own health, and/or they overuse health insurance due to a lack of knowledge about costs and a lack of responsibility for paying them. (MDs commit moral hazard as well, when they over -- prescribe due to greed or malpractice fears). Patient moral hazard is in part due to the allopathic paradigm that has convinced people they have no valid intuitive knowledge of their own bodies -- a paradigm that has shifted accountability, responsibility, and the power to heal -- into the hands of MDs. This psychological paradigm runs deep -- and secured itself in our history in the late 1800's, when the AMA systematically set out to destroy and discredit the homeopathic industry. Since then, the American people have largely distanced themselves from natural healing and an understanding of their own bodies -- instead choosing to believe that the "doctor knows best" -- when very, very often, this is NOT the case!

A profit-based, allopathic-obsessed system that actively prevents the adoption of low-cost efficacious healing modalities -- to the point of sending innocent people to jail and turning our backs on methods that work because they are not highly profitable and not instigated by those in the orthodoxy.

This last point is one of the most critical, and ties back to the first. Ultimately, whether the American public or Congress knows it or not, we are facing a clash of paradigms. I have worked for many years in the alternative/integrative health industry (which we now refer to as "natural medicine" or "natural health"), and witnessed many incredible things. I call it the "underground railroad" of health care in the US. Across the country providers and patients are working together to restore vital health, often after patients have been told there are no answers or they have no hope. There are tens of thousands of American citizens who know otherwise.

Yet, colleagues like my friend Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez in NYC nearly go to jail, lose their licenses, lose their reputations, and rack up millions in legal fees defending themselves -- all too often because they had the gall to "go off the deep end," and turn their backs on the orthodoxy of conventional medicine. Despite his sterling credentials, Dr. Gonzalez nearly lost everything because he discovered and began to offer an alternative cancer treatment. And, after years of fighting for his freedom and ability to practice, the NIH turned around and gave him a $2 million grant to test his treatment on patients! This is because he is one of the few people in the country seeing success in treating pancreatic cancer.

I have many stories similar to that of Dr. Gonzalez. But let me say this: I am as critical of the natural health field as I am of conventional medicine. Both sides of this fence have their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and failures, their places of integrity and places of greed, dishonesty, and a willful refusal to work toward a higher, common good. Natural medicine holds INCREDIBLE promise -- but the field itself is a terrible mess -- and despite the good number of people who are working for change -- it is characterized by a complete inability to come together to actually change our system.

All of this scratches the surface of what we face, and how and why we got here. When we fail to understand the psychology behind health care -- and how much this psychology has been shaped, even deliberately, by the self-interests of big industry, then we fail to grasp the problem to the degree that provides the power to generate real change.

There are practical, entrenched systemic issues to deal with at hand. And then there are our illusions -- and our need to create a new dialogue, one that allows us to break free of our narrow understanding of health and healing, to see the full range of tools and options we have at our disposal, and to discover how we might best make use of them to create a healthy health care system.