The Arrow #183

Hello everyone.

Greetings from Montecito on the 4th of July.

Hope everyone had or is having a great 4th, at least those of us in the United States.

I had two people guess the riddle about where the line “where the cotton’s high, and the corn’s a growin’ and there ain’t no fields to plow” came from. One poll respondent wrote: “Walter Brennan. I’m old.” Correct. Another was more specific: “The last line is from "Old Rivers" which I listened to on the radio while growing up in Dallas, Texas; the line follows "one of these days I'm gonna climb that mountain Walk up there among them clouds" Absolutely spot on.

Walter Brennan had a long and illustrious career in Hollywood. He won three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor back in the 1930s and early 40s. He was in God only knows how many movies and TV shows. He isn’t much remembered in Hollywood these days because he was a right winger to the max.

He mainly was in the movies, but he relented and agreed to be on a TV show called The Real McCoys that turned out to be a big hit and ran from 1957-1963. The Real McCoys was about a family of poor folks from West Virginia named McCoy who moved to a farm in California. It was kind of a forerunner to The Beverly Hillbillies.

So here follows some Eades family trivia.

My father loved The Real McCoys. The male lead in the show was Richard Crenna, who played a real hayseed named Lucas McCoy. For whatever reason, my old man thought I looked or acted like the Richard Crenna character. As a consequence, he started calling me Luke when I was a kid. And he called me Luke the rest of his life. My mother never picked it up, nor did any of my brothers and sisters.

When MD became a part of the family, she heard him call me that and wondered what the deal was. I told her the story of The Real McCoys and how that had started it.

On the show, Luke was married to a woman named Kate McCoy, played by Kathy Nolan. Luke always called Kate Sugar Babe.

After MD learned why I was called Luke by my father, I told her that made her Sugar Babe, so I started calling her that as a joke. But it kind of stuck. Before long, it was shortened to Sug, which is what she goes by now in our immediate family. Even the kids call her Sug. It’s skipped a generation with the grandkids. They all call her either Granny or Nanny, but the kids and I all still call her Sug, which is a great nickname for a low-carb doctor.

When The Real McCoys was near the end of its run, Walter Brennan decided to record a song. If you want to call it that. It was more of a narration to music. But the frigging thing ended up getting as high as #5 on the the US Billboard chart, making Brennan, who was 67 at the time, the oldest living person to have a hit song in the top 40.

I’m surprised that it wasn’t higher than #5, not because it was so good, but because they played it every five minutes. Or so it seemed. I had just entered my teenage years and was interested in the Beatles and all the other contemporary music. I felt like every time I turned on the car radio, there was Walter Brennan ‘singing’ Old Rivers. I heard it enough that I memorized those lines I used last week. I was amazed when I pulled up the recording on YouTube and found I had it down, correct to every apostrophe.

Brennan had a weird voice, which I just learned came about because he was gassed in WWI. He was in France for two years, and mustard gas damaged his vocal cords, giving him the high-pitched voice he was famous for.

Here is a recording of the song Old Rivers. It’s kind of treacly, but has its charm. I hadn’t heard it in at least 50 years until I looked it up after writing last week’s Arrow. I remembered every word. When I listened to this as a kid, it didn’t strike me as a tear jerker, but it sure does now.

If you want to see an episode of The Real McCoys, just search it on YouTube. Multiple episodes are there. Here is one I grabbed at random as an example. Shows what TV was like in the late 1950s/early1960s before color.

Before we get to the poll responses, of which there were many, I need to address something else.

Politics and the Comments Section

In my view, politics at the individual level is irrational. Especially for the totally committed. For those folks, it’s not politics, it’s tribal.

It’s not irrational to have a favorite candidate, but it is irrational to engage in heated arguments with those who favor a different candidate than yours. Has anyone ever won a political argument with a friend or relative? I don’t mean a friend or relative who is ambivalent, or who is vacillating about who to vote for. I’m talking about arguments with those all in on a different candidate. Has anyone ever changed anyone else’s mind?

I seriously doubt it. Yet everyone loves to argue politics. It’s a waste of time.

Before you get into an argument with a Trump supporter or a Biden supporter (depending upon your and their politics), ask is there anything I can do or say to change your mind and get you to vote the other way? The answer will always be no, so why engage in the first place?

Especially since you have only one vote, which matters little in the great scheme of things. Once in a blue moon a contest comes down to the difference of one vote, but seldom in a presidential election. So the reality is that your vote doesn’t count, nor does the vote of whoever you’re trying to convert.

I’ve gone back and looked at the stats (as presented by Wikipedia) on how many people vote in presidential elections. The last election in 2020 was an all-time high for percentage of eligible voters who actually voted. But it was in the middle of Covid, so all kinds of exceptions were made to the voting laws as a consequence. I averaged the percentage of voting age people who actually voted over the last ten presidential elections and it averaged 53.2 percent. So a tiny bit over half the population who are of voting age actually vote.

I couldn’t find any statistics on how many people were one-party zealots, but I suspect it isn’t a huge number. There are more registered Democrats than Republicans, but the gap has been closing. And Independents have been surging. Last I read, there are slightly more registered Independents than there are Republicans in those states that allow Independents to register.

Despite Democrats outnumbering Republicans, there have been more years spent under Republican presidents, at least since 1980, which is when I started counting. So if there are more Dems than Republicans, a bunch of Dems vote for the GOP. At least for president. Or a majority of Independents do. More likely a combination.

I would suspect that anyone self-identifying as an Independent is not particularly a political junkie.

So, a little more than half the population votes in presidential elections. Let’s assume there are 50 percent of people who are highly motivated to vote the party line. (Admittedly, this is a guess on my part.) About half of those will vote for one candidate while the other half will vote for the other. Those are the committed political zealots. 

Which leaves 50 percent of people who are not political junkies. These folks are the hobbits in Curtis Yarvin’s great essay. They just want to stay home, grill out, and watch their kids grow up. They would vastly prefer to go to their kid’s basketball game than watch a presidential debate. The Trump-Biden debate last week drew 51.1 million viewers, which is a little more than a third of the estimated number of people who will vote in the election this year.

That means that a lot of people are not as consumed with the presidential election as are the truly committed.

But they are consumed with bread and circuses.

A lot of people live from one event to another. You’ve got the Olympics this year, as with every presidential election year. People will be distracted with that. Then the next huge event will be the Major League Baseball playoffs.  And then the World Series.

After all that, the next big spectacle will be the presidential election. Only then will 50 million or so hobbits actually begin to pay attention. And depending upon how they’re swayed close to election day, they will decide the outcome. It’s a sad state of affairs, but those who care the least will end up electing whoever ends up getting elected.

The truly committed on both sides will vote for their candidate. And their votes will pretty much cancel one another out. Then the great unwashed masses, who haven’t spent hours of their lives watching political programming and reading everything written on the subject, will come in and decide who will be president.

So arguing about who is the better candidate is a waste of time and brainpower. I can’t imagine losing friends over it, yet many people do.

Which brings me to the comments section. I’ve written a blog since 2005, and I would guess I’ve blocked maybe five comments out of the tens of thousands that I’ve gotten since then. All of the ones I’ve blocked are those of one reader attacking another in a mean way. I don’t block people who are arguing rationally, but when I comes to name calling, I block.

In the comments on last week’s Arrow, this happened. I didn’t block anyone, because I didn’t realize it had happened. I saw the start of the whole thing, but I figured it was over. The platform allows only three replies to a given comment, at least so I thought. 

I had written to the folks running the platform asking them to upgrade the comments section to allow ongoing conversations. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, they did.  And I didn’t know it till I went back to look for new comments and saw this whole long back and forth thread.

I would be willing to bet a large amount of money that despite both sides providing links and data no minds in this online debate were changed. So what’s the point?

From now on, I’ll remove any comments in which names are called.

If you’re desperate to argue politics, go to X/Twitter. You can always find a debate there. You won’t convert a soul, but you can have fun trying.

After all that, I’m going to post something below that seems political, but it really isn’t intended to be. It’s simply a matter of fact.

Does Joe Biden Have Dementia?

I’ve been a doctor for over 40 years, and during that time I’ve seen countless patients in emergency rooms, hospitals, and clinics. I’ve taken care of many patients with dementia. It is not a difficult diagnosis when it reaches a certain point.

Someone sent me this X/Twitter post comparing Biden’s debate performance against the loathsome Paul Ryan and against Trump a short 12 years later. The decline is difficult to miss.

As anyone who watched the debate knows, this clip wasn’t cherry picked to show Biden at his worst. It was pretty much this way from beginning to end. It is sad. This did not just come on him the afternoon before the debate—it’s been cooking for a while.

When I made my debate prediction last week, which was on the money, I was guessing about CNN providing the questions in advance to Biden. As it turned out, Erin Burnett more or less spilled the beans on that after the event when all the talking heads were aghast at the president’s performance. Listen carefully at 0:09 seconds in this clip.

I was stunned to see how the mainstream media went on the immediate attack against Biden as soon as the debate was over. I continued watching CNN just to see what they would say. I figured they would try to cover for what everyone had just seen with their own eyes. But no, they savaged Biden’s performance. They gave him no quarter. They acted like it was a revelation, yet I’m sure they all knew his condition going in.

And, surprisingly, they all gave Trump kudos for his performance. They said he was obviously with it and vastly sharper than Joe, but that all he did was tell one lie after another, without bothering to articulate what those lies were. I picked out a few exaggerations, but some of what he said was not lies.

Speaking of lies… Lies are no strangers to the mainstream media. Take a look at this whopper just a few months before the debate. I suspect these are words Joe Scarborough would love to have back. Look at the absolute certainty with which he lies through his teeth. Or, to give him credit, maybe he really didn’t know, but somehow I doubt it.

The only light moment came when Biden said his golf handicap was 6 when he was vice president, which is shown in the clip at top. Trump’s reaction is priceless. He held it together and tried to look and act presidential during the entire thing until then. Trump is a golfer and knows what a 6 handicap means. Someone with a 6 handicap is a very good golfer. That means he/she scores in the 70s regularly. Very few amateur golfers play that well, a fact Trump knows. Certainly not without a lot of practice and frequent play, and a good degree of athletic ability. I suspect Biden’s handicap, if he even has one, is in the 18-20 range. It was funny to see Trump break character after holding it together throughout the rest of the debate on far more weighty subjects.

Okay, on to the poll responses.

Poll Responses

The last one I received will be the easiest to deal with.

Yacon Syrup Poll

A reader asks

Hi, did you ever publish the results of the poll you did in #114 about Yacon Syrup? In #103 you discussed Yacon as an alternative to Wegovy and that you might try it. In #114 you added a poll for anyone who tried it to complete. I have searched both the email and online versions, but cannot find the results.

For those of you who came to The Arrow after I wrote about this, I presented a RCT from South America in which overweight women were given either Yacon syrup (made from the Yacon plant) or placebo. Those on the Yacon syrup lost significantly more weight than those on placebo. I found a link for it on Amazon so anyone who wanted to try it could. A few months later, I ran a poll to see the results from those who did try it. Here they are:

Looks like it was somewhat effective for 23 percent of those who tried it.

My ChatGPT Experience

At least I learned a new term out of this whole fiasco: hallucinating. That’s what it’s called when AI comes up with a bunch of nonsense or absolutely faked citations. The AI is hallucinating. Who knew?

I got a bunch of responses via the comments, the poll, and emails. And I learned a lot about AI as a consequence. Plus, I got a lot of good recommendations for more reliable AI providers. Moron that I am, I figured AI was AI. That they were all just slightly different versions of the same thing. But I was wrong. Different AI programs do things differently.

I was recommended a bunch of different programs by various readers. The best (for my purposes) were and, which I am going to fork over $20 per week for. At least for a bit to see if it’s worth it. Both of these programs provided me with accurate citations for my niacin search. I already had found the papers on my own, but both of these programs fed them to me when queried. Scite gave me a few more I hadn’t found myself. I looked them all up to make sure they were real, and they were.

I’m always looking for citations, and PubMed, where they’re all catalogued does not have as good a search engine as do these two AI programs. Plus, both provide literature from the popular press as well, which PubMed does not.

I can’t see myself using AI to write anything for me. Summarize, perhaps, but not write. After my experience with ChatGPT (and I know it’s a lot better now), I would spend more time going over whatever it wrote for accuracy than I would spend just writing it myself. Plus, after looking over what some of these programs wrote, I’m a much better writer than any of them. (He said, all full of himself.)

I’m happy to have brought this up in last week’s Arrow, because the feedback has been extremely helpful. I thank everyone who took the time to write and set me straight and helped me find the AI programs that (I hope) will work for me.

All it costs to support The Arrow is about two coffees per month. Thanks in advance.

Niacin Dosing and Obesity

I heard from a number of people asking about the use of niacin to reduce lipid levels and to increase muscle mass.

It’s true. Niacin does both.

Back in the early 1940s there was a big change in the way hogs were raised and fed. For years and years hogs were more valuable as a source for lard than they were for meat. All that changed in the 1940s. Probably because of Crisco. I don’t know this for a fact, but it seems reasonable.

But for whatever reason, when meat became the goal, hog farmers had to make a change. They turned to different breeds of hogs that tended to be leaner and more muscular. They found that if they dosed them with niacin as part of their feed, they would eat more, grow faster, and put on more muscle.

This wasn’t lost on the body building community. So they adopted niacin as part of their dietary regimen.

Then it was discovered that niacin would reduce lipid levels. This, of course, was during all the cholesterol hysteria when everyone was trying to reduce their lipids. Niacin did the trick for many people.

There was a book that came out at that time titled The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure, which was a mega bestseller. The author encouraged people to consume a lot of fiber, primarily from big bran muffins he provided a recipe for. As I recall, he had a few other nutritional tricks as well, but the main driver of the lipid lowering was his recommendation to take niacin. His book drove a run on niacin at the time.

A few studies came out showing niacin increased longevity, basically because it lowered lipid levels and thus supposedly decreased cardiovascular risk. But since then, other studies have come out showing there is no increase in longevity. What you have to consider, however, is that there will probably never be RCTs showing any difference in longevity simply because those studies are too expensive and take way too long. The truth is we have no way of knowing whether niacin increases lifespan or not.

We do know, however, that niacin in smaller doses does increase appetite. And it does increase insulin resistance, and it does increase blood sugar levels. Which is probably why the hogs gained so much weight on it.

Since flour enrichment began in the 1940s and the dosage bumped up in the 1970s, humans have been getting a lot of it. And now that just about every manufactured snack food contains niacin (either from the enriched flour it contains or by direct addition of it along with other vitamins to provide the halo of health), we’re getting a whole lot more of it than we need.

One of the major studies I found contains the graphic below. Which requires a little explanation.

This chart shows the correlation between obesity and grain intake going back to the 1930s. Now I know correlation isn’t causation, but just hang in there with me for a bit. This isn’t a direct correlation. It is a lag correlation. The obesity figures are shown as a ten-year lag behind the grain consumption. In other words, the obesity figures are moved ahead ten years and pretty much overlay the grain figures. The grain involved has been enriched with niacin since the 1940s. So if a long-standing dose of niacin had been given over time, increasing appetite and minimally increasing insulin resistance and blood sugar, this is what the picture might well look like. Especially when you see the jump right after the 1970s when the enrichment was increased.

I know what you’re thinking, because I thought the same thing. All the increased carbs because of the increased grain consumption would cause this same picture. The carbs in grain (flour) would probably increase appetite, insulin and blood sugar levels. Right? So why can’t we just use Ockham’s razor and attribute this to the grain?

As I wrote, I thought this same thing until I looked at the next chart.

Grain consumption was much higher before we started enriching flour. Grain consumption bottomed out in the 1970s just before the whole low-fat movement and all the dietary guidelines kicked in. This was the same time the second phase of enrichment began as well. Looking at this chart gives us a different view of things.

Below are the two more charts looking at diabetes in which we see basically the same thing.

Could part of the effectiveness of the low-carb diet in reducing weight and reversing diabetes come about as a function of reducing niacin in the diet? If you go low-carb, you cut most products made with flour from your diet, which gets rid of a lot of niacin. My view is that getting rid of the niacin probably doesn’t bring about all the changes experienced on a low-carb diet, but it may add to the effect.

Back in the 1920s there was very little obesity and even less diabetes in the face of a lot more grain consumption. So is it the added niacin causing the problem? Who knows? That’s why I’m digging through all these papers.

I found a study from 1938 looking at 54 school-aged children and the effect of added niacin. These were young girls in two different institutions. They were fed decent diets, especially by today’s standards.

The children receive one serving of meat, at least three cups of milk, and two servings each of fruit and vegetables besides potatoes, in addition to simple desserts and refined and whole-grain cereals and bread each day. Raw fruits and vegetables are included several times a week, and eggs are given every other day. Throughout the study the above dietary was not changed at either institution, and supplements of vitamin B were made in addition to the regularly planned menus.

These were real foods at the time. No additives, no flavorings, and no enrichment. The girls were their own controls. They went on and off of the extra B vitamin doses.Their calories and grams of food were closely measured along with their weights. The researchers found body surface area (which is how the BMI is calculated today) was a better measure than weight as the girls were of varying ages.

The upshot of the study was that the girls ate more and gained more weight per surface area when supplemented with B vitamins. Not vastly more, but a bit more. But this was a short term study. The obesity figures in the charts shown above are based on years of niacin (and other B vitamin) enrichments. The nice thing about the study with these young girls is that since the food was all natural without enrichment or additives, there really aren’t a lot of confounders.

This isn’t the absolute best study ever done, but it does add to the mass of evidence that these added B vitamins at least cause an increase in appetite.

More to come as I dig deeper.

Who Signs Up to Participate in Studies?

One sharp reader asked an astute question.

Having seen several ads on Facebook recently for medical trial volunteers (Alzheimers and Parkinson’s treatments, for instance), I’ve been wondering: what sort of person would agree to take part in such a trial? Perhaps simply volunteering for a trial is itself a confounder…Is that a thing?

People sign up for studies for a multitude of reasons. Those with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other issues sign up because it’s free (or they may even get paid) and their hope is that they’ll be randomized into the study group, so they’ll get the latest drug or treatment. Which is why thousands signed up for the Covid vaccine trials—they were hoping to get the vaccine early.

There is a lot of hands-on care in these studies, and they take a lot of time.

People who sign up to be in a metabolic ward for a month are not people out trying to make a living. They are humans, but they are probably not representative of the population at large. Consequently, the data they generated may or may not correlate with the same data were it generated by the general public. But it’s the best we can get under the circumstances.

Which is why when I see outcomes that don’t jibe with what I think they should be based on my many years of practice, I always wonder about the study population.

Nutrition, the Administrative State, and Me

As you’ve doubtless read by now, the Supreme Court has pretty much laid waste to the so-called administrative state. Many of you may not know what the administrative state really is, and I suspect most of you haven’t had any close encounters with it.

But I had a too-close encounter, and I’ll tell you all about it.

This is a simplistic description, but the way our Constitution was written, Congress makes the laws, the executive branch (headed by the president) enforces them, and the judicial branch makes sure the laws conform to the Constitution.

Over the many years since its founding, this system has become almost unrecognizable. Congress has all but abandoned passing laws. They pass one here and there now—usually naming a post office or something similar—but don’t get into the nitty gritty of law writing like they used to. They have abandoned a lot of that to the executive branch, which has itself set up a ton of agencies and bureaucracies that have taken over Congress’s role in lawmaking.

These agencies crank out all kinds of rules and regulations that should be the province of Congress, but Congress is glad to be rid of that job. Members of Congress want to please their constituents, not shower them with rules. If one of the agencies comes down on a constituent, the constituent’s Congressperson commiserates with the constituent, but says, “There’s nothing I can do; that agency is a law unto itself".

All of these agencies promulgate rules and regulations (none of which were passed by Congress) and God help you if you fall afoul of one of them.

Here’s what happened to a company formed by MD and me and a couple of our friends.

The husband of the other couple was a pediatric neurosurgeon. He did all kinds of complex neurosurgical procedures that required hours for just one operation. One night while he was making rounds, he had a heart attack. He was rushed into surgery and underwent an emergency bypass. During recovery, his doctor put him on the Dean Ornish diet, which damn near finished him off. During this nightmare, he somehow came across a copy of Protein Power, which he read and adopted. He recovered nicely once he got some quality protein, good fats, and cut the carbs.

We didn’t know him when this happened, because we didn’t meet him until we moved our practice from Little Rock to Boulder, Colorado.

His cardiologist didn’t want him standing for hours and hours operating on children’s brains for fear he would fall out. So he retired and really got inspired to make a deep dive into the medical literature about all things low-carb.

He found a paper by a guy who had put subjects on pyruvate, hydroxycitrate, and carnitine as a weight loss regimen. According to the paper, he had pretty spectacular results. Our neurosurgeon friend thought it would work even better if we added some biotin and chromium.

MD and I had a busy practice in Boulder taking care of patients for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and the whole gamut of metabolic disorders. We came up with a list of supplements for any patient who wanted it to try out the regimen described in the paper along with our additions. Most of the ingredients weren’t all that expensive, but the pyruvate was very costly in those days, especially in the quantity specified in the paper.

A number of our patients wanted to give it a go, so we gave them the shopping list and off they went to purchase all the many pills they had to take. Most of them who tried it lost a fair amount of weight, but we didn’t do it as a randomized controlled trial. We just let anyone who wanted to spend the money and take all the pills do it. Despite not having a control group to test against, based on looking at our patients charts and kind of comparing them to others of the same sex and weight, the formula appeared to work.

In an effort to reduce the price of the pyruvate component, we used aspartic acid, which the body can convert to pyruvate. We found a supplement manufacturer that could take all these components, grind them all together, flavor the mix and make it taste halfway decent. We planned to make it as a citrus powder and mix it in water to make a sort of lemonade.

We then scouted around for a clinical testing lab that could recruit subjects and run a study. We found one in Maine, of all places. We agreed on a price—studies are not inexpensive—and paid the down payment to get the thing rolling. We had our supplement manufacturer make up a bunch of the product along with a placebo that looked and tasted the same—also not an inexpensive proposition. We shipped it to the testing lab and gave them the green light.

While we were on the phone going through all the specifics, the head of the lab told us that if we wanted any chance to make this supplement work, we would have to put the subjects on a low-carb diet. He told us that he had tested a lot of non-drug products for weight loss over the years, and he said most people in both the control group and the study group didn’t lose weight unless they were on a low-carb diet. It was obvious he didn’t know my story in terms of dietary recommendations, so it was kind of funny.

He also told us that in his experience it was extremely difficult to have a good outcome using non-drug, supplement-based weight loss products. He said he had tested a ton of them, and most of them don’t work. He wanted to give us fair warning since we were queueing up to give him a lot of money. We said we understood.

The clinical testing lab recruited 90 patients, randomized them, and started them on a six-week trial. What had not occurred to me before we started is that the trial would span Thanksgiving. Once this did occur to me, the study was already underway. We just had to hope that wouldn’t put a big ding in it, because we figured most folks would probably bolt from their diets over the holiday.

I was in the Harvard Bookstore when my cell rang. I saw it was the Maine lab number, so I went outside in the freezing December weather to take the call. The head of the lab says, Well, I’ve got good news and bad news for you. Which one do you want first?

I said, start with the good. He said, Okay, we just undid the codes on your study, and let me tell you, you’ve got one helluva product. We’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like a drug, not a supplement.

I said, Wow, that’s great! What could the bad news be?

He said, You don’t have a marketable product.

I replied, What?!?!

He said, The subjects hate it. We have to practically horsewhip them to get them to take it.

I had kind of feared something like this, because the powder wasn’t very soluble. It mixed about like sand in water. You kind of had to shake it to keep it in suspension while you drank it. If you let it sit for a few seconds while you were swallowing, all the ingredients dropped to the bottom of the glass.

But I knew we could find a technologist who could make it soluble and taste good. I was ecstatic that it worked as well as it did. The subjects on our supplement lost 71 percent more weight than those on placebo. Over Thanksgiving.

We did find a good technologist who created a drink that did dissolve and taste great either as a cold drink or a hot tea.

We decided to market it via infomercial, which took us many months and a lot of money to get done and tested. We finally made it work and sold the heck out of it and had thousands and thousands of repeat customers. The product had no side effects. It wasn’t a stimulant. You could take it at bedtime. It was terrific.

Our business was booming.

Then the Federal Trade Commission showed up.

As it turned out, they had decided to go after weight-loss supplements, and since ours was the biggest seller out there, we were targeted.

I wasn’t all that worried at first, because I knew we hadn’t done anything wrong. We had done a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, which most supplement makers don’t do. We had done everything by the book.

The FTC sent us a CID, a civil investigative demand, asking us to answer a bunch of questions about claims we made in our infomercial. I was going to answer them, but before I did, I called around and discovered that I really, really needed a good attorney to interface with them.

At the time, our eldest son worked at a giant law firm with offices all over the country. He ended up setting us up with a partner who did nothing but deal with the FTC.

When MD and I and our partners met with this attorney, he told us what we would have to do to deal with them. He said we were probably looking at a considerable fine, because once they get you in their clutches, they don’t let go. He laid out for us all the things we were going to have to do to get this behind us. I listened to it all and said, This is bullshit. We haven’t done anything wrong. We’ve done it all by the books. Let’s just sue them and be done with it. I’ll be happy to get on the stand and tell how the product works, why it works, and that we haven’t done anything wrong.

He then told me how the administrative state works.

First, we couldn’t just sue them. There is a process that has to be gone through. To begin with, we have to give them all our financial records, both business and personal. But wait, we have a corporation that sells the product. We don’t do it personally.

Doesn’t matter. Then he used the phrase I heard over and over throughout the entire nightmare. “Congress has granted them broad powers…” Whenever I would say, How can they do this or that, this is America, our attorney would use that line.

He said unlike a creditor, the FTC can go right through your corporation and grab your personal assets.

He then told us that if we wanted to fight this thing, we would have to be prepared to go to court. Fine with me, I said. He said, You don’t understand. You don’t get to go through a regular court, you have to go through an FTC court. And you’ll lose. Everyone who goes through the FTC court loses—it’s run by the FTC.

Once you lose, you can appeal. But the appeal is handled through yet another FTC court, and you’ll lose there, too. Then once you’ve gone through all that, you can appeal the decision to the entire group of FTC commissioners (who are all political appointees), but you’ll lose there as well.

Once you make it through all that, then the ball is finally in your court, and you can take it to the federal court of your choice, ideally one that has a record of ruling against the FTC.

I asked him how much it would cost to get through all the FTC crap so we could get to federal court. He told me the last time he took a case all the way through the process, it cost $1.2M just to be able to make it out of the FTC’s clutches and into federal court. And another $300K to do the federal court work.

Which kind of put a damper on my enthusiasm to take them to the mat. We didn’t have the money to take it through that whole mess to an uncertain outcome.

So we worked on settling the whole thing with them. As it turned out, we ended up with no fine, no consent decree, none of the nightmarish outcomes our attorney said we might end up with.

But the experience cost us our company—we had quit promoting the product. And cost us around $500k in cash. If you can imagine, our copying bill was almost $50,000 for all the documents they wanted, that we had to get certified by a legal copy house.

There is more to the story, but I’m getting depressed all over again just writing about it.

It was a nightmare. It dragged on for several years, which were the worst years of my life.

So I know all about the administrative state. I’m glad it’s coming to an end. Or at least I hope so.

Okay, on to something more fun. Which in this case, could be an amputation.

Oliver Wiswell

When I was growing up, my grandfather was the superintendent of schools in a small town in the Missouri Ozarks. All of the textbook companies would send him samples to review for the various classes in school and for the library. Many of these sample books made their way into my hands.

I was a reader from early, early on. When I was in grade school, not only did I read the reading textbooks for my own class during the summer, I read all the reading textbooks for all the classes. And I read all the extraneous books that were samples for extracurricular reading. I was drawn to books on frontiersmen such as Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill, and others of that ilk.

When I was in 7th grade, I found a book in the public library, which I haunted, titled Northwest Passage. It was by Kenneth Roberts, whom I knew nothing about at the time, but later discovered he was an excellent historian as well as a popular author. Northwest Passage was a huge book that was 700-800 pages long. It was the first adult book I had ever read, and I don’t know why I even picked it up.

But when I got into it, I was hooked. It was about Rodgers’ Rangers and the Revolutionary War. I could not put it down. I just looked it up to get an Amazon link and started reading the free part of it. It goes on for a lot of pages, before the free part ran out, and through my eyes now, none of it seemed like it would hold the interest of a 12-year old boy. Even me as a 12-year old boy. But it sure did back then.

Over my life, I’ve read every one of Roberts’s books. They’re all long, and they’re all about historical characters. The only one I hadn’t read until this past year is Oliver Wiswell (out of print). And now I’ve finally read it.

I finished it a few months ago, but I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.

A few years ago, I found a first edition, first printing from its pub date in 1940. Here is my copy.

I’ve had it sitting around since, but for whatever reason decided to pick it up and read it. It’s a typical Roberts book, coming in at 836 pages. But it was hugely controversial when he wrote it. Probably still would be if it were commonly read, but it isn’t. I doubt many readers of this newsletter will have ever heard of it.

It was controversial in its day because it is about the Revolutionary War told from the perspective of a loyalist to the king. During that time, there were folks who wanted America to basically be a part of the British Commonwealth. They wanted to have America be run by Americans, not by the British, but they wanted the umbrella of Great Britain over them.

Then there was the rabble, which we now call the Patriots. They called them rebels. They were the great unwashed masses, most not particularly educated. The loyalists were basically the educated elites. The rebels hated the loyalists. They burned their houses, they tarred and feathered them. They killed their livestock.

Oliver Wiswell was a loyalist whose father was a famous judge. They were turned out of their house and put on the run. The entire story is about the bookish Wiswell trying to get England to pressure Howe to defeat the rebels. It’s kind of jarring to read, because we’re used to the patriots being heroes, not portrayed as low-IQ scum.

There are many times early in the book when General Howe, the leader of the British forces in America would have the rebels right where he wanted them, but would not pursue the battle or follow through. In each case, the rebel forces were able to escape, much to the chagrin of Oliver Wiswell and the other loyalists who wanted to see them crushed.

Finally, Oliver makes his way to England to see if he can drum up support for the loyalists in the colonies. And to find out why General Howe won’t do what he needs to do to defeat the rebels.

There was one passage in the book that I’ve been wanting to post here, but there just hasn’t been the right time to do it. Once I realized July 4 was going to fall on a Thursday, I decided to wait till then (now) to post it.

In this passage, he’s talking to Benjamin Thompson aka Count Rumford, who was born in Massachusetts and is himself a loyalist like Wiswell, but he has the ear of a minister who can get to the king. He’s hoping someone will bring General Howe to heel and make him fight.

It’s a perfect summary of politics today.

"It's common knowledge in America, sir," I said, "that General Howe has won all his battles, but refused every opportunity to win the war. After each battle he's been on the verge of victory, but never once would he let his troops move forward and take that victory. Nobody in America understands why he behaves as he does; but the rebels thank God for General Howe and drink a toast to him whenever they have anything to drink."

Thompson looked faintly amused. "Perhaps it's just as well that nobody in America understands English politics. If the rebels should understand General Howe's behavior, they might actually win a war that so often looks hopeless to them."

He raised an eyebrow at Lord Germaine. "Have I your lordship's permission to explain matters to my ignorant young friend here?"

Germaine moved a languid hand. "Tell him all, Benjamin. Don't spare us! And by all means let him know how you yourself have suffered in this land of tyranny and oppression."

Thompson looked reproachful. "I hope my lord knows that I'm deeply grateful for what he’s—“

"Tchah!" Germaine interrupted. "Pass the port and tell your young friend anything that comes into your head. It'll always be too close to the truth for comfort. Damned if I understand how you pick up all your information, Benjamin!"

Thompson spoke to me, but I knew his words were directed even more to Germaine. "You'll never understand Howe's behavior, Oliver, until you understand English politics. If you intend to write a history of this war, you'll have to learn them from top to bottom. Are you at all familiar with them?"

When I said I wasn't, Thompson looked satirical. "Then why shouldn't you find Howe's behavior unfathomable! For years, in this country, the Whigs were in power and had things their own way. All good Whigs had splendid government positions, and received splendid salaries for doing nothing. Then, not long ago, the Tories ousted the Whigs, and took the splendid government positions and the splendid salaries for themselves. The Whigs are out in the cold, Oliver, and they don't like it! They'd been in power so long that they regarded all those fine positions, all those highly paid sinecures, as theirs by divine right. They're doing everything on earth to get back into power again. They're attacking the Tory party in every possible way, and stopping at nothing. The Tory party is the government, Oliver; so every Whig is against the government. The rebels in America are against the government; therefore the Whigs support the rebels. That's the only reason Pitt and Burke make speeches in favor of the rebels, Oliver—to embarrass the government. If the rebels should be defeated, the Tory government would have been successful: the Tories would remain in power. That would mean the Whigs would be out of power for another term of years—would be left pining fruitlessly for those high positions and those enormous salaries that used to be theirs.

"I'll tell you the horrible truth, Oliver. The English don't like to admit it, but you can corroborate it in a thousand ways—if you work hard enough. The Whigs, in their attempt to get back into power, aren't even hesitating to wreck the British Empire. That's a peculiarity of politicians in this country, just as in our own."

"It sounds fantastic," I said.

"I admit it," Thompson said, "but it's the simple truth. It only sounds fantastic to you because you're hearing it for the first time. Here's another simple truth: Nearly every member of the Whig party in Parliament, for purely political reasons, has seized every opportunity to give aid and comfort to the enemies of his country. Never in any nation has anything been seen like the malignant and daringly outspoken treason of the English Whigs.”

I didn't believe him, and Thompson knew I didn't.

"Don't take my word for it," he said. "Investigate for yourself. You'll find my statements painfully conservative! You'll find that General Howe is a Whig. You'll find that if he should put down the rebellion in America, he'd have won a great victory for the government, which is Tory. On the strength of such a victory, the Tories would stay in power for the next two generations. For two generations they'd keep their splendid government positions and their splendid salaries. For two miserable generations the Whigs would be out in the cold! They'd starve in the midst of plenty, and all the blame would fall on Howe! Single-handed, he'd have defeated his own friends, his own party! He'd have undone all the Whig trickery, all the Whig treason, all the Whig plotting and planning to destroy the Tories and get the Whigs back into power."

"Well," I said, "I'm afraid General Howe, in failing to destroy the rebels when he had the chance, has done more than help the Whigs. I'm afraid he's given France the opportunity to make war on England and perhaps destroy her. That's why I ventured to come here to find you. I figured Lord Germaine should know at once."

And there you have it. Politics at its finest. Nothing has changed a bit. Each party would sell out the country to stay in power.

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Odds and Ends

Newsletter Recommendations

Give Books & Biceps a look. It’s by a strength trainer who both lifts and reads. You’ll get valuable info on both.

And there is always my bride’s Substack OutlanderMD. If you’re an Outlander fan, and Outlander fan wannabe, or if you simply want to learn about how medicine worked in the 18th century, this is the newsletter for you.

Video of the Week

This one is perfect for today and comes with a personal twist. One of our best friends in Montecito is an old Hollywood hand. Here’s what he posted on FB this morning.

As of now it's officially July 4th, and I'm posting again one of the best patriotic greetings I was ever part of. I was the stage manager for this special broadcast and got to cue every one of these fine singers. I confess I may have been humming to myself in the background. Have a grand Fourth, everybody.

Time for the poll, so you can grade my performance this week.

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Keep in good cheer, and I’ll be back next Thursday with our regular programming. Happy 4th to all!

This newsletter is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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