Archive | April, 2012

10. Vitamin C and Colds

30 Apr

I have been using Vitamin C (VC) in high doses for the past 40 years — with great success. VC together with other healthful nutrients can profoundly increase your healthy and productive days over those with common colds, flu and maybe other disorders. I have a strong professional background in scientific reasearch and experimental design, with several years of research in psychopharmacology and neurophysiology. It seems that I often have to defend my nutritional practices, so I am going to document one of these issues here.

Particularly after Linus Pauling (winner of two Nobel prizes) published his book Vitamin C and the Common Cold in 1970, a considerable amount of research was performed by Pauling and many others on this topic. Researchers who have reviewed dozens of studies have concluded that VC does shorten the duration of colds and flu. There are no clear positive findings that VC reduces the incidence of colds. You can find this medical research literature using “Pubmed” (medical research site) and searching “Vitamin C common cold” and/or searching author H. Hemila who has done several reviews. The problem with Vitamin C (and many other types of human research) is that with humans, it is not possible to the rigorous studies that would definitively answer all of the questions.

Pauling and others have observed that timing and quantity of administration are critical to the effectiveness. To be most effective, the quantities must be very large, and the first dose must be immediately after the initial signs of the disease. Additional high doses must follow the first. Pauling pointed this out, but few, if any studies, understandably, have been able to create these conditions. Most studies were done with small doses (under 1 gram) and with no critical timing. Pauling also described topical administration of VC as an important adjunct. Nevertheless, the crude studies definitely show that VC affects colds.

Since rigorous relevant studies are not practical, the best information must come from objective persons that have tried the procedure originated by Pauling. Someone could send well-designed questionaires to scientists, graduate students, and others, who would be willing to describe their own personal VC investigations.

Here is my method, derived from Pauling’s writings, and my observations. (Certain illnesses require the attention of a medical doctor so please use good judgement, especially when in doubt or if symptoms persist.)  The first and most critical administration of around 2 to 4 grams of VC must take place at the very first sign of a cold. There is a little more than a minor stuffyness or dry throat — but not much more. If you are over 30 you know the feelings that indicate the onset of a cold or flu. The dose you choose will depend on your body weight and experience. You watch and wait for 2 or 3 hours and take a similar dose, if the symptoms persist. Topical methods should be included. If my symptom is a sore throat, then I will make a solution of VC (2 grams in 1/2 cup of water) and gargle with it or sip it slowly. Do not hold the VC in your mouth for too long, as you might remove a little enamel from your teeth (a possibility that I have not thoroughly researched). You can also squirt this solution into the nasal cavities, if infected. The best method involves the pills and topical (throat and nose) use.

It is important to continue the high doses at 2-3 hour intervals until the symptoms disappear. This could take more than one day. The symptoms may come back again several times after a temporary relief. I believe that in many cases, your immune system must kick in before you will get long term relief. Sometimes its over in a few hours, sometimes longer. I have found that this procedure works 90 % of the time. When I have not conscientously applied this procedure the cold sets in and it may take several days to cure it. It may be true that VC only shortens the duration of colds, but the durations often are very short, just a couple of hours.

Using my experience, and after reading many articles on nutrition, I would suggest a daily dose of 2 or 3 grams. VC should be taken daily on a routine basis, at least for its many other documented health functions. Please do not rely on orange juice for VC. The citric acid in citrus fruits, if taken in large quantities can promote bladder and prostate disease, because the end product of their metabolism is a base. I also strongly suggest other vitamins and highly nutritious foods.

Advertisements

9. Vote Democratic

28 Apr

After numerous discussions with some of my fellow citizens of Michigan, I feel compelled to explain, simply and clearly, why it is so necessary to vote Democratic.

1. The most important reason is that Republicans, if left alone, will transfer more and more wealth to the very rich — by decreasing their taxes, protecting tax loop holes, and by various lobying efforts that promote their operations. Consequently, the rest of us will have less money and services, and many people will become poor and desperate. The result will be greatly increased crime rates, disruptive organized protests, and even violent revolution. The very stabiltiy that conservatives want will be severely threatened. The policies of Republican leaders (against debt-limit increases, etc.) caused the lowering of U.S. credit rating, potentialy costing our country billions of dollars in higher interest rates.

2. Union people: When Republicans took over Wisconsin, the first thing they did was to attack the unions, teachers and other government workers. Everyone is familiar with the Wisconsin uprising and Governor recall effort. Under Republican rule, Wisconsin is the only state with a net loss in jobs over the last two years.

3.  Attack on women. Newly elected Republicans created legislation that attacked women’s rights to use contraception, have equal pay, and to have an abortion.

4.  The Paul Ryan (Republican) budget: It Provides less tax for very rich people, and in some cases more tax for non-rich people. This further increases the recent (last 20 or 25 years) great shift of wealth from non-rich to rich people. This trend if continued will lead to less money for middle-class needs, less support for Medicare and Social Security, increased national debt, and more power to corrupt legislation in favor of rich people. The Ryan budget has specific provisions that hurt the non-rich at all levels.  The budget was recently condemned by Catholic Bishops  because Christians are supposed to help poor people.

5.  Attack on local government to benefit rich people. In Michigan, our new Governor Rick Snyder and state Congress voted to allow the state to take over local government. This ruling has already been used to take prime recreational land away from non-rich people. This land is on our Western lake shores.

6.  Attack on Voting Rights. The fact is that there is very little voter fraud. Republicans claim this is a serious problem and people must show picture identification. This discriminates against poor people, many of which do not have such ID, and will be unable to vote.

7. In 2008, after years of Republican control, the country was near financial ruin caused by two prolonged wars, lowered taxes for rich, and wealthy greed. Investors played games (called derivatives) gambling on mortgage risk. Unaware investors (like me) were tricked into buying these securities, making lots of money for brokers and investment companies.  Republicans want to continue the same policies that brought on this recession.

8. Republicans mislead voters. Although Democrats are not perfect, what Republicans do is blatant and much worse. When Democrats and Obama proposed a small tax increase for rich people making over $250,000 per year, Republicans for many months accussed Dems. of wanting to raise taxes, implying a general tax increase. An ordinary person might think Obama wanted to raise his tax rather than bringing him the financial benefits of more rich tax income.

9. All Republican Congress persons signed the Grover Norquist Pledge to not increase taxes (particularly for Rich people), to not close tax loopholes, and to not end unnecessary subsidies for corporations. Democrats did not sign such a pledge and most are against these ideas and are in favor of a fair tax system, which does not favor the rich.

10. Democrats are simply more sensible and effective in foreign affairs. Republicans under G. Bush involved us in two hopeless wars costing thousands of lives and many billions of dollars.  The also alienated many potential nation allies.

11. The list of Obama Administration’s Achievements is way too long to include here,  and has been provided numerous times elsewhere.  Here are some internet lists: <http://obamaachievements.org/list&gt; <http://obamaachievements.org/&gt; <http://3chicspolitico.com/president-obamas-accomplishments/&gt;

Here is a list with references for each point: <http://simplifythepositive.blogspot.com/2010/03/100-accomplishments-of-president-barack.html&gt;

12.  One final thought — do we need leaders that feel is it more important to destroy Pres. Obama than to properly govern and improve our nation.

Post 8. Psychotherapy and Science

24 Apr

The topics that I will discuss here could fill books, if properly explained. My main goal is to stimulate thought and an interest in behavioral science.  I want people to understand that there is scientific psychology and it has many applications, including a role in  therapy.

My major formal education was in the area of psychology and one of my major careers (about 20 years) was clinical psychologist. I went to the University of Maryland for my Ph.D. This department was strongly oriented towards the science of behavior and clinical methods related to this science. I also have a BS in physics, which makes me even more of a science advocate.

Having this background, and being a firm believer in the power and “rightousness” of science, I have often been disappointed by clinicians and neuroscientists who neglect or ignore the tremendous efforts put forth by many psychologists to make their field scientific. Why should psychology be scientific — because it is man thinking at his very best, and it is the best way to find truth. How do I know this? Well, consider the methods of other professions: politicians, religious leaders, evangelists, philosophers, poets, novelists, reporters, etc. Of all the professions you can think of, only one has a universally accepted method, and that is scientist. All established scientists are guided by principles such as: unbiased observation, replication of findings, free criticism, precise definitions, appropriate experimental designs, use of hard evidence, etc. Also consider that scientists have produced tangible results whereas others often produce nothing but words — and the words of different persons are often contradictory.

Science has brought us computers, TV’s, contact lenses, cures for diseases, automobiles, etc.; all of the technology that we enjoy. Some would say that science also brought us the dangerous atomic bomb. But science only suggested a possibility — the bomb was financially supported and produced by the decisions of politicians.

Behavior therapy uses the results of science to help people live better lives. Science looks at what people do and say, and has little interest in speculating about what the “mind” is doing. Note that what people say about their thoughts can be included in science, but the thoughts themselves are not generally observable and cannot be included. A “thought” can only be “detected” by the thinker, and science is limited to things that can be observed by more than one person.

Biofeedback

A powerful scientific method within the framework of behavior therapy is “Biofeedback.” This method makes use of physiological measuring instruments to provide useful training information to patients. The “feedback” is electrical signals in the form of sounds or visual stimuli. Lets take an easily understood example. A common complaint of patients with stress is headaches. Many headaches are caused by tension in neck and jaw muscles. Biofeedback can provide information about the tension in specific muscles using medical instruments. The patient can observe the feedback and can learn to reduce excessive and dibilitating muscle tension. Other biofeedback methods include information about heart rate, sweat gland activity, blood pressure, respiration, etc. Most of clinical biofeedback is concerned with reducing stress, nervousness and tension, and the physical effects of these factors. Disorders include anxiety, headaches, high blood pressure, digestion disorders, heart function, insomnia, teeth-grinding, etc.  Stated in other words, feedback (lights, sounds, etc.) provides information to a patient so that he can learn to control emotions like fear, stress, and anxiety — and their related physical disorders.

Biofeedback is a powerful, but under-used learning method. Most ordinary people who seek help for psychological problems have anxiety, or anxiety is a major component of some other complaint. The most direct method of treating anxiety is biofeedback, because the feedback makes anxiety “visible” and therefore easier to control. Biofeeback methods lead to “emotional control” — a key factor in mental health. Sometimes, the reduction in anxiety is all a person needs — but often people must also talk about relationships and other concerns.

Many psychotherapists work on curing the “mind” so that a person’s behavior and “feelings” can be adjusted and improved. However, in most cases, the cause-and-effect works in the opposite direction. Developing good behaviors and a well-controlled and relaxed body first, will lead to a “cured mind.” What we have found is that if you are feeling stressed, it is better to work on relaxing your body, than trying to alter your thoughts. Working on fearful thoughts is often frustrating because a tense body keeps generating negative-thought production. There is a an evolutionary reason for this to be discussed in a later blog. Working on relaxation and biofeedback methods breaks the patterns of negative thinking and stimulates more positive and relaxed thinking. The more one studies the relationship between his body and thought process, the better he does.

Biofeedback Under-used

This effective method, which has been popular from time to time has never been widely accepted. Here are the reasons. Since biofeedback is a learning process, it should be a clinical psychology method. But people going into the profession of clinical psychology often have little technical or scientific aptitude, which would be needed to effectively use the physiological measuring equipment. Physicians may discourage the use of biofeedback because it interferes with their practice of medicene. Much of medicene depends on the prescription of medicenes. Biofeeback is a behavioral method which makes many drug procedures unnecessary.

Final Thought

The science of psychoogy has been promoted at some of the most highly-rated educational institutions, such as Harvard University. Biofeedback has been researched and used by scientists at some of the most important clinics, such as the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. There are extreme cases of mental disorders which do require the use of drugs and other methods. But for the common stress symptoms and disorders, behavioral methods and particularly biofeedback provide the most powerful and long-term solutions, without drug dependency and addiction.

Post 7. VOTER EDUCATION

18 Apr

In my last blog, I promised to discuss solutions to the problem of “Self-Defeating Votes.” Everyone knows that this is a very difficult task, but I wanted to write down some thoughts, at least to see for myself, what I can come up with. And even if I do not change the world, maybe I can stimulate others to generate better ideas.

What I can say is that if we do get solutions, they will likely come slowly,and with considerable effort. What I am going to present is basic and would be applicable to any party affiliation. However, I will state that what I present does reflect a political preference for Democrats, as I believe that they are much more likely to improve the country for all, and particularly for the life of non-rich people.

A general method for voter improvement is simply to repeatedly emphasize in all types of communication, the basic problems and the development of rigid beliefs. I am going to address each topic previously presented in my Post 6.

Politician and media lies, distortions and omissions

The first rule is that more liberal and intelligent politicians must be scrupulously honest, to keep their credibility. Then they must carefully lay out their arguements and proofs. Mostly what we hear from politicians is inspiring talk and little about actual plans and details. Probably because that is what gets a lot of votes. Maybe what we need is both. Let the politicians inspire us, but they should also set up web sites, pamphlets, and TV presentations that are very clear, logical, and well-organized. That way, they can cover both avenues, the more intellectual and the more emotional.

Many of us, including myself, learn more from visual presentations. Visual outlines of important points stick with me and I can learn more. So I think we need to add visual, logical methods to the usual inspiring speech approach.

Failure to investigate and find truth

I am going to present a strategy using the example: The Republican Paul Ryan Budget Plan. Democrats want to discredit this plan but what often happens is that each side makes statements about it and each side claims the other is lying. Democrats need to provide an easy method of downloading this budget, and then refer to this document in their criticizms, and add excerpts so that people can verify what is included. That way people can see that they are telling the truth. Of course, this will only work for a fraction of the population, since the rest would not make the effort or would not understand the wording. Still, it would be a help, and more authoritative people could work with others.

In the course of writing this blog, I searched for an hour and could not find a copy of the complete Ryan budget. At one time, I also searched for the complete Herman Cain 9-9-9 plan. My search ended up with some computer programs, which were supposed to contain the budget. These programs were impossible to understand. One thing I do understand is that these documents tend to be hidden because a real examination would be a disaster. The current system is designed for corruption.

One solution would be to divide a large topic like healthcare into several smaller parts, each part would be passed separately and in a certain sequence. This would make discussion easier, but would only be possible in situations where each part could stand alone. Another would be to develop summaries of legislative alternatives. Democrats could develop a five page summary of the Ryan budget, and challenge Ryan to make a similar summary. If there are two summaries, then it will be easier to compare the two and discrepancies could better be resolved. If Ryan refused, then he could be criticized for that.

It seems that we only develop debates between cadidates. Maybe we need to also organize formal public debates around important pieces of legislation. Prior to the debate, each side would record its written summary of the bill on the internet. Maybe there should be a law that requires an internet bill summary to accompany any proposed bill. Perhaps, for every 20 pages of bill there should be a one page summary (or similar rule).

Pride and social pressure

These are powerful forces that profoundly influence behavior. People proudly declare that they are Conservative or that they support minorities or poor people. And they declare their affiliations to similarly minded folk and get a strong rewards for this. These identifications tend to remain powerful even if their party or group has changed its nature or goals. In my view, the Republican party has changed so much from 40 years ago, that many would leave it, except for these powerfull identification and social forces.

Most of the things that Democrats do, would be helpful in affecting moderately leaning conservatives, but maybe we need more emphasis on party changes. Many ordinary Republican voters are happy with a centrist position and just need more clarifying speeches on the powerful negative influence of Tea Party people.

Final Thought

In general, I would like to see more real arguments that get to the heart of issues. Changing minds is always difficult, but I am sure it is true that as more and more people stand up and declare what is right, we will move towards better government.

6. Self-Defeating Votes

9 Apr

It is my view and the view of many others, that many citizens vote in a way that is self-defeating.  They vote politicians into office that will legislate to their disadvantage. Non-rich people often vote for candidates that will raise their taxes and lower taxes for the very rich — causing economic hardship and a decrease in public services, like:  Medicare, social security, public safety, education, air, water, and food inspection, etc.

What are the “basic causes” for this voter “error”?   Here are some factors:

1. Politician and media lies, distortions, and omissions.

Politicians have learned to alter information in a way that is appealing to many people. They disguise their economic goals with phrases like “free enterprise”, “freedom”, “big government”, “government control”, “deregulation”, “job creators”, “hate business”, etc.  They also switch the topic to moral factors, to misdirect people from the important budget matters. (Moral principles are important, but legislators can do little in this area — and note that many conservatives have had affairs, divorces, and various shady practices.)
The politicians and media are supported by wealthy people, who can produce persuasive advertisements.  The lies are pointed out by the opposing party, but in the end, because of factors discussed below, there is little effect.  Each side says that the other is lying and some people cannot determine who is right.

2. Failure to investigate and find truth.

Many people do not know how to perform the searches that will lead to the truth.  Having a wealth of  information on the internet should make this easy, but not in many cases. And, others don’t the have the time or motivation to research. They are happy with what they believe in and only listen to those with views similar to their beliefs.   I will talk more about this in the future, but I want to list some areas where truth is found, but often overlooked:

An actual look at national budgets written by party leaders (not just the promotional lies) or at least    listen to what the opponents say.

Signed pledges (!) not to: increase taxes,  fill tax loopholes, or cancel subsidies.  (How many ordinary people can use tax loopholes or get corporate subsidies?)

False claims like: give more money to “job creators” so that it will trickle down.  The very wealthy have been trickling down on us for way too long!  Currently, “job creators” have more money than ever before. And remember that most of the so-called “job creators” are simply rich, and do not actually do any hiring.  It is better to directly reward actual job hiring,  than to throw more support to all rich people.

Remember that anti-trust legislation was developed not because of a whim, but because private businesses were greedy, and did communicate, and did stifle competition to vastly increase profits!  Not all businesses are unethical, but many are simply consumed with increasing profits in any possible way.

3. Pride and Social pressure

Social pressure from family and friends provides a powerful influence on many voters.  Those that stray lose support and friendship. Many are simply convinced by traits like “conservative”.  Someone who is fearful decides to become a conservative because it seems safer.  Once a person has made that choice, he is often trapped, because any contrary arguments bring back the fear. I have a very conservative and fearful friend who becomes visibly uncomfortable when presented with alternative ideas.

Another factor is pride. For example, an uneducated person that has worked for a corporation as a lower level manager and achieved some success takes pride in his loyalty and achievements. He is a good soldier. Once he strongly identifies with big business and corporations he ignores other considerations because they lead to internal conflict.

My next post (7th) will be concerned with the difficult job of melting hardened minds.

5. “Social Darwinism”

5 Apr

Today, President Obama said that the Republican empowerment of the top Rich is  “Social Darwinism.”  I have a scientific background and a long term interest in evolution  (Darwinism), so I was fascinated by this term. In my younger days, I think I was aware of it, but currently did not remember much about it. When I thought about it, I could easily guess the meaning, but did some research on its usage.

First, let me state the basic principles of evolution: survival of the fittest, variation in offspring with new traits that can last at least several generations, and death.  Stated in another way, animals that are best adapted to an environment tend to live longer and reproduce. The “fittest” are most likely to mate and pass their superior genes on to the next generation. If animals did not die, reproduction would diminish and there would be no variation. It is important to also understand that evolution is dispassionate, not good or bad, does not have any goals, and is just a fact of nature. It explains many things about our structure and where we came from, and is one of the most solidly supported facts of science.

Social evolution is something I have thought about for many years, so I was immediately interested in the term “Social Darwinism.” Historically, the term has acquired a very negative meaning. It refers to people who are rich and powerful and believe that they have a right to dominate other classes because they are the fittest. How do they know they are so fit, because they actually are successful, at least in making money.

My writings on social evolution have been purely explanatory, and without any value judgments.  If you look at the principles of evolution just described above, then you can see the application. The fittest groups tend to survive, there is variation in their traits, and members die or retire from the group. The point for me is that it is the “nature” of the world or groups and animals to evolve. Groups that are not “fit” tend to die out.

Obama’s point is that certain rich people look at their success, decide they are the fittest, and justify their greed and misdeeds because it is in line with biological evolution. Of course, not all rich folks are greedy, and many are quite willing to give back through charity and/or increased taxes. And I should clarify that I think there is nothing wrong with being rich, it is the extremes that are disturbing — like the recent major shift of money from the middle class to the wealthy. But the greedy rich should be more cautious because history is replete with accounts of revolutions (violent and otherwise) designed to stop the abuse. The non-rich may not be as “fit” but they have numbers on their side, and good-hearted rich people to help them.

In future writings, I intend to further discuss evolutionary concepts, and their broad range of applications, ranging from micro-organisms, to groups, to giant stars.

I have to add a final thought. Just because a presidential candidate has been successful in business, does not mean that he will make a good president. Business leaders learn to make themselves and their investors lots of money, and basically to ignore as much as possible, employees or citizens that they might harm. And often they ignore the success of the business itself, as long as they can draw money out of it. Presidents have a different and much more complex imperative. They must consider the overall success of the country, all its citizens,  its relationships with other nations, and a Congress that may not cooperate.

4. Consciousness?

1 Apr

Sam Harris is a well known author, who wrote several books critical of religion.  I think Harris is a courageous and excellent writer in that area.   When talking about religion and some other topics, he is logical, scientific and reasonable.

My comments here were inspired by a talk (distributed by email 3-29-12) by Harris on “Free Will”,  based on his latest book. After the talk, a member of the audience asserts that “consciousness is an illusion.”

Here is an almost verbatim representation of what Harris said in response:

    “It depends on what you mean by consciousness.
   What I mean is: consciousness is the one thing that can’t be an illusion.
   Consciousness is the fact of experience. The fact that something is
   happening, the fact that the lights are on” … “Even if I am the brain in a bat
   what I am calling consciousness is a manifest fact of reality, and is the basis
   for every other fact that I would experience.”

This verbage inspired me to discuss in detail, at last, a long standing issue.
When Harris talks about psychology,  he throws science and reasoning aside and sounds more like a preacher than a scientist. In other writings, he promotes religion-based meditation as a method of relaxation training rather than therapy methods developed from scientific investigation.

Here is the problem with his use of the word “consciousness.” As Harris uses
it, it is strictly a layman’s term and of no use in science. One of the most fundamental features of science is the use of carefully and effectively defined terms.

P. W. Bridgman, in his famous book: The Logic of Modern Physics (1959),
advocates careful attention to definitions and the use of definitions that can
be expressed in terms of “operations.” For example, in behavioral science,
you can define “hunger” as 24 hours of food deprivation (with some additional
details). Such a definition is clear and promotes effective communication.  Another such definition is: a “meter” is the length of the path travelled by light in a vacuum during a very small, specified time interval: 1 over 299,792,458 sec. The definition is expressed in terms of conditons and operations. It is universally understood and used in laboratories by physicists all over the world.

Harris says that by “consciousness” he means “The fact of experience. The fact
that something is happening, the fact that the lights are on, etc …. ”   But, where is consciousness, how is it measured? Is it an action, a state, or a condition ??
Nothing is clear about this term as Harris uses it; why do we need it at all?

The definition is in fact circular: “consciousness is experience”,  or you could say “experience is consciousness”, its “things happening.”  Or “consciousness is the perception of reality”, and “reality is what the consciousness perceives.” Many words in common use, do not advance understanding. I have listened to many neuroscientists and biologists lecturing on subjects involving psychology, making this same mistake.

Behavioral science was developed through discussions over the course of centuries, where introspection and other loose methodology was rejected. One of the most important principles of science is that what is observed, must be observable by more than one person, and it must be replicable.  Harris’ instrospection is only observable by Harris, and every person who introspects is subject to this same dilema. Each person who studies his own brain is making the same mistake.

Psychology and neuroscience do better when working with measurable behaviors, recordable speech, and clearly defined physiological actions and structures. Harris looks out at the world using his brain and eyes, etc. and assumes that he can understand a system that he is a part of. Proper science uses clearly defined stimuli, conditions, and behaviors and events, and in doing so, progresses. A group of scientists and scientists in different laboratories can study individuals of a species and make replicable findings.

Although perhaps not the best approach,  Harris  could  have  said  that consciousness is a state in which an individual responds in specified ways to specified stimuli. The stimuli and responses can be expressed in exact ways, so that the word has meaning. A person is “unconscious” if responses are attenuated in certain ways.  Harris basically says that consciousness is reality (as he perceives it).  Although he would deny this,  his concept of consciousness lends support to the idea of an entity –a “soul” or “mind”– that sees and understands that “the lights are on.”  Of course, there is no scientific evidence that this entity exists. We only know that people do and say things, and that their bodies have physiological events.

Finally, when Harris (who does so well in other areas) uses “mentalistic” terms like “consciousness”, he actually opens up the door to ideas like the existence “free will.”  Hard science is clearly deterministic — who knows about the “mind”.