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207. We Don’t Need a King Trump

25 Mar

0KingTrumpTrump has actually expressed his admiration for dictators, such as those controlling Russia, N. Korea, and Turkey. In an exchange with Joe Scarborough, when told that Putin “kills journalists that don’t agree with him”, he replied that “our country does plenty of killing, too.”

I am seriously concerned that Trump supporters really do not understand why he is a great danger to the US and must not continue as President. Here is a partial list of his worst abuses.

In January of 2020 he disregarded intelligence agencies and highly regarded epidemiologists and ignored the clear dangers of Covid19. This delayed our understanding and actions regarding the disease and probably caused thousands of unnecessary deaths. Testing for the virus was definitely delayed by Trump and his administration. He downplayed the virus so that it would not affect his precious stock market, which helps with his future election. He could have begun working on associated supplies, like protective masks and gloves and equipment like ventilators. He terminated a special White-House group dealing with epidemics. He blamed Obama for having ineffective procedures, when he had three years to correct them.

He left the Paris Climate Accord and ignored the dangers of climate change. He should have worked on our own climate efforts and on supporting valuable research programs. Ultimately, millions of people will die from the resulting hurricanes, fires, floods, droughts, and possible wars.

He withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal, which included several major nations, and was preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The deal was working, according those most familiar with it. Now we have no deal, worse relations with Iran, and more potential dangers.

He failed in his dealing with North Korea. He boosted world respect for them and they continue to develop dangerous nuclear missiles. Expressing his “love” for Kim made him look foolish.

He has lost world respect for the US Presidency because of his childish and rude behavior. By breaking several existing international deals, other nations do not trust him. There is also less trust because what he says is often different from staff statements.

Knowledgeable people throughout the world cannot believe what he says because he makes obvious mistakes and lies. Fact-checkers have counted over 16000 “false or misleading claims” during his three years in office. To show that this count is plausible, one can simply read his speeches and note how the “truth” varies from time to time. For example, he made up a story about why he fired FBI Comey, and then three days later gave an entirely different reason. Another lie is the “do-nothing” Democrat congressmen, that, in fact, created hundreds of bills, which were not acted on by the real “do-nothing” Republicans.

He supported Russia in several ways. In one situation he believed what Putin said, instead of what his intelligence agencies stated. He significantly delayed the imposition of Russian sanctions approved by US Congress. His impeachment was based on an action that favored Russia.

He undermined the FBI, intelligence agencies, and other governmental offices, like the Attorney General. He promoted actions that benefited him instead of our country. His A.G. Barr, a yes-man lied in his description of the Mueller Report.

He appointed many Federal Judges that are radically conservative and in many cases, without appropriate qualifications.

He supported tax changes that primarily support already rich people and corporations, while ordinary people got very little and nothing permanent. His financial policies have greatly increased our national debt.

He made a deal with Turkey, which resulted in the deaths and loss of homes for thousands of Kurds. Kurdish soldiers helped the US fight and destroy the Islamic State. This action has led to further distrust of the US in international matters.

Trump was impeached because he pressured Ukraine to help him with his 2020 election. This was harmful to our ally Ukraine in their fight against Russia, and the delay of needed military support was a major setback for them. This increased global distrust of the US.

He hollowed out many US government agencies, such as the State Department. We lost many valuable experts that helped with vital decision making. Trump said he could make the best decisions on his own (with Tweets, of course). Most of his staff and cabinet were chosen on the basis of loyalty and subservience, rather than competence and experience. Many had to resign and many were fired for calling him “moron” or simply disagreeing.

Many immigrants at our Southern US border suffered because of poorly thought-out policies. Disorganization caused children to be separated from parents in a way making reuniting them very difficult, and still is incomplete. In many cases, Trump has rushed to implement policies without considering the negative effects.

Some of his trade policies were OK, but trade deals with China were a disaster for many farmers and others in the US. Some of our farmers were paid by our government for their losses. The total is more than $20-billion per year. Many losses to others are not compensated at all. In January of 2020 he signed an initial trade agreement with China, that includes many uncertainties. As usual, many people have to suffer to satisfy Trumps ego.

Trump has damaged ObamaCare and tried to abolish it without the promised Republican replacement plan. US citizens were saved by one vote, that of Republican John McCain. Trump has falsely claimed that he was preserving the “pre-existing conditions” feature. It seems that McCain is the last Repub with the guts and patriotism to stand up to Trump.

A vote for Trump is support for a government in which all of the above will continue and likely get worse. The tyranny of Trump must be terminated.

206. Coping with Virus Fears

17 Mar

The rapid spread of Covid-19 virus has triggered fears in many people, and fear can be dibilitating.  I watch a lot of news programs, and I am disappointed to see the promotion of ineffective stress-reduction programs. In my earlier days I was a licensed PhD clinical psychologist, and I am going to briefly present ideas here (not medical advice), which may be of help. There is a general value to learning the control emotions and limiting fears. Here are some important ideas, which are just an introduction to this topic.

Stress, anxiety, and fears have a basic physiological factor, which evolved for survival. The main organ controlling this is a branch of the autonomic nervous system. It is also known as the “fight-or-flight” system, which prepares us for a vigorous defense. This system involves higher heart rate, muscle tension, blood flow changes, sweating, etc.

Fight-or-flight changes are activated by real danger, or simply by fears. Many will notice this activation and identify it as anxiety or stress. It leads to “worry.” Once triggered, the activation (anxiety) can last for hours or days beyond the original stimulus. The activation itself can be stressful and can lead to even more of these changes. (Technically, this is a positive feedback loop, i.e. feedback causes something to increase.) The end result of increased activation can be a panic attack.

Stress and anxiety must first be treated by normalizing this defensive system. Relaxing the body will cause the brain to relax. Starting therapy by working with fearful  thoughts is not effective, because they will always occur when the fight-or-flight system is activated. The procedures involve relaxing many muscles and breathing peacefully.

A “relaxation tape” or therapist can provide instructions for this process. Once a method is learned, it can be implemented in just a few seconds. Also important is awareness (feedback) of muscle tension and blood flow changes. Many people live much of their adult life, unaware of excessive, energy draining, activation. If a therapist is used, very effective “cognitive” discussions can be added later. Also a part of the process is learning to breathe peacefully: generally, regularly, slowly, and deeply.

If a person is presented with relevant measurements (scientific facts) he/she can learn more quickly. When scientific, medical instruments are used, the therapy method is called “biofeedback.” The feedback could be heart rate, hand temperature, a measure of sweating, or blood pressure, usually presented with a changing sound. For example, hand temperature will rise as one relaxes. A transducer and some electronics can convert this temperature into a sound. As temperature rises, the pitch can rise and the patient gets helpful information.

Having taped instructions for the relaxation process is a good way to start. You can go to the Internet and do this search: “muscle relaxation tapes.” Here is a good one:
.                 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86HUcX8ZtAk
After using the tape a number of times, the relaxation procedure can be shortened. Eventually, a “brief relaxation response” can be developed, which takes only 10 to 15 seconds and can be done almost anywhere. Note that these behavioral methods provide an actual, direct cure, while many other methods provide something temporary, which must be used indefinitely. As you learn the relaxation methods, much of the process becomes automatic and less attention is needed. Take whatever actions are required for the virus, and deal with any associated fears in this enjoyable way. Entering a state of peacefulness is a remarkable experience.

 

204. GMO’s Evoke Unwarranted Fears

25 Feb

GMO-Picture-CornI write blogs, tweets, and other comments on a variety of subjects. Studying the critics of these pieces suggests to me, that many people don’t understand and/or distrust science in general. My position is that the work of scientists provides numerous benefits for all citizens, including better foods, electronics, transportation, health care, pet care, climate-change info, etc. Scientific information and discovery for many is also exciting and interesting and helps us to understand the world around us.

My current scientific topic is Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) foods. Genetic modifications involve the manipulation of DNA molecules in the laboratory. The  manipulations lead to relatively permanent changes, including: enhanced plant growth, plants that better survive insect and disease attacks, plants that require less water, and will grow in unhealthy soil, and other improvements.

Given all the potential and existing benefits, GMO foods should be carefully studied and regulated. Certified products will provide extensive nourishment for an ever increasing Earth population. Also, global warming can reduce crop yields due to fires, droughts and other weather anomalies. It is extremely important to have the best plants available as demand increases. It will be of particular benefit to farmers in developing countries that are struggling to survive. Crop plants modified to do well in unusual soil conditions, in somewhat salty water, and in partial droughts, will be of great benefit.

Here are a few facts: Even now, GMO crops are widely used as livestock feed without any adverse reports. If they were poison, surely they would have made our hamburgers toxic, but this has not happened. Note also, that modifying plant DNA by “breeding,” is common and has occurred for ages.  In my previous blog, I discussed seaweed as a potential major food source, and also for its absorption of the greenhouse gas CO2. Genetic improvements of seaweed could be of great benefit.

An advantage of GMO as a way to modify, is that the modifications are known and can be evaluated for safety. Many natural modifications are unknown. Nature, in some cases, does produce toxic plants. There is always a tendency to want natural products, and I am the same way. Yet for many years we have modified plants through breeding, developed medicines that are not natural, and we all eat food that undergoes many “processes.” We need to move forward, in a safe way, with valuable innovations.

Here is a good, easy-to-read source of GMO facts by Kurzgesagt:                                                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TmcXYp8xu4

202. Deaths and Traffic Lights.

2 Feb

There is an old saying going back decades: A corner only gets a traffic light, when there is a traffic death there. When I think about what is currently happening in our world, this saying comes to mind. In order for certain good things to happen, we need the impetus of a disaster. Many do not address issues, unless they perceive some sort of major risk.  We could say that the enemy of good government is complacency. 

.                        Complacency Leads to Dictatorships

The first application that comes to mind is the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Under past presidents, Republican or Democrat, people were not really alarmed. Of course, there were criticisms and complaints, but generally, most of us went about our business not particularly concerned. After a long period of questionable actions, concern really mounted. In the 2018 elections, Democrats finally became alarmed and massive numbers voted.  In fact the surge also led to an impeachment. Now, we clearly see the need for a “traffic light on the corner.” And, after a little hesitation, I will state that the President’s behavior has been so egregious for years, that even if you think the articles of impeachment are a little weak, they are still justified. I am sure that if the founding fathers were presented with our current facts, they would agree with his removal from office.

For many people, there is a complacency about climate-change. They might even believe the science, but in their narrow world they don’t feel the danger. It’s another variation of the traffic-light dilemma. No traffic light because my life is OK.

The traffic-light principle could also be applied to the errant evolution of the Republican party. It appears that after Trump was nominated, the Party was able to eliminate more responsible and intelligent members, and attract more transactional and financially desperate folks. The Repubs and Dems ignored the dangers and the errant drift was not prevented because there was no dramatic “death,” just a slow almost invisible decline. After the firing of Comey, the problems were more visible and a Special Councel, Mueller, was appointed.

I want to point out that the “traffic-light” effect is very common.  In one of the subdivisions I lived in, a minority faction was elected because the majority of residents, really did not care much. They were only concerned after the minority group did some inappropriate and expensive things for themselves.

I think if you look around the world, you can see how this traffic-light principle has had its effects. In many nations, there is an acceptance of government for a long time, and change (often bloody) only occurs at some breaking point. I think many of the “Arab Spring” nations went through such a transition.  In Russia, the initial effects of Putin’s leadership were beneficial. And so the population just did not get very alarmed about Putin’s gradual transition to autocracy. Hopefully, some day they will be able to put in the “traffic light.”

 

 

 

191. Voters: Don’t let Trump Mislead you Again

15 Nov

It pains me to think that many voters have believed the false promises of Donald Trump, and in 2016 voted for him. Here is a list of his lies and distortions of facts that must be considered.

Trump said that when he took office, there would be a new Republican health care system that would replace ObamaCare. There was no Republican system and he and Republicans were going to abolish ObamaCare without a replacement. Fortunately, John McCain, by his one vote, saved us from a disaster.

Trump mislead voters about the wall for our Southern border. He did not say the truth, that a wall could only be built if the Congress approved it, and he did not say that Mexico was not likely to pay for it. He lied when he said it was the best plan for that immigration problem.

Trump told voters that he was so rich that he would never need to accept money from donors. A few months later, he started to do just that. He actually was not that rich and had to borrow money to survive. American banks did not trust him, but he managed to get loans from a foreign bank.

Trump said he would drain the swamp, but instead he swam in it. He hired billionaires from Wall Street. Most of his staff  and appointees were hired on the basis of loyalty, rather than expert knowledge and experience. He and his staff supported big business rather than the ordinary people that voted for him. His policies have produced a massive national debt, partially due to major permanent tax reductions for millionaires. He gave the middle class small temporary reductions. Also swampy is Trump’s profits from businesses he illegally promotes through his presidency. He even wanted (for a while) to have an international meeting at one of his golf clubs, Doral.

He promised to abolish regulations, but did not tell you that regulations are mostly for the safety of ordinary people, while rich manufacturers, of course benefit. There is a long history in the US of  toxins produced during manufacturing, that have killed many people.

Trump promised improved trade policies. What he did was poorly planned and damaged farming and other businesses both here and abroad. The final effect was small successes and major failures. He did not consider that every tariff he imposed could be matched by a foreign tariff. He lied that tariffs are paid by the foreign countries. A US tariff is paid by US importers and usually results in higher US prices.

Perhaps most serious of all, is that he mislead you on the dangers of global warming. Aberrant weather patterns due to climate change are already causing floods, fires, and farming problems. These dangers will soon become more widespread and will lead to major population migrations. Desperate people will likely cause wars and increased crimes.

He promised at times to become more “presidential” but, in fact, he still calls people names, has a ridiculous, large turnover in staff, and governs by whims expressed in tweets. He is more interested in personal winning than in the success of our country. Trump is in favor of torture (Pres. Ronald Reagan opposed this) and cares little for human suffering.

Maybe the real issue for many Trump supporters is that they like his policy of rejecting Mexicans, Muslims, and others. They will have to weigh these policies against all the harms that Trumps other policies will cause.  Also note that achievements touted by Trump, such as a rising stock market and low unemployment, were continuations of  remarkable eight-year trends established by President Obama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

189. Disturbing Thoughts Can be Prevented

5 Nov

I recently read some discussions of ways to eliminate disturbing thoughts. I have treated a number of patients with this problem and have some of my own ideas that could be of help with this problem.

A disturbing thought may begin with something observed in a movie, in real life, or with something heard or read. It is immediately made worse if it induces a reaction.

Here are some examples of such thoughts. I worked with a commercial pilot that was required to sit in the cockpit and do nothing but monitor instruments and watch the skies for other airplanes. His thoughts turned to all sorts of problems like his investments and affording education for his children. It is torture to have to sit and do “nothing” for long periods of time. For some, listening to music helps. Another patient was a nanny that had thoughts of killing the children that she cared for. A man tended to think about all the “silly” things he said to his girlfriends, causing them to reject him. It is pretty normal to have some such thoughts.

Understanding anxiety is the key to dealing with disturbing thoughts. . This is a set of conditions that prepare the body for dealing with attacks; generally running away or fighting. To support these vigorous actions, there is an increase in heart ate, blood pressure, some muscles tense, faster breathing, sweating, etc., all changes necessary to support increased activity. Sometimes this activation occurs when there is no threat, and it can last for days or much longer. When this “fight or flight” preparation is excessive, inappropriate, and lasts for a long time, it is called anxiety. Often there is a circular process that prolongs this reaction. Fearful thoughts stimulate the physical anxiety and the feeling of anxiety leads to fearful thoughts.

It is also helpful here to define thought It is assumed to be some type of brain activity that involves words, feelings, and/or images. Scientists know a little about certain simple thoughts, but complex thinking is not yet understood. Brain actions closely associated with sensations or movements have been studied and are fairly well understood. Some thoughts appear to have a trial-and-error function that precedes difficult decisions. For example, you want to ask your boss for a raise. Your brain will try out different words and approaches and note what “feels” best.

Here are some therapy ideas and methods:
1. Do not fight these thoughts. Allow them to pass through your mind. Accept the fact that certain thoughts may occur for a long time, but usually will gradually have less effect.
2. If bothered by a specific phrase, and other methods don’t work, try repeating the words many times, until they are meaningless. This may take many repetitions.
3. Do a “brief relaxation response” (see below) every time the disturbing thought occurs. This way, the thought will be associated calmness instead of stress.
4. Associate the thought with something pleasant or funny. For example, if you keep thinking about a mistake you made, then associate that with something good that you did.
5. Some people can accomplish these actions by themselves, but many others will need the help of a therapist.

Some people are helped by simply talking about a problem with a therapist. Others will need some physical training like “progressive muscle relaxation” or biofeedback. These physical methods will improve emotional control and will diminish anxiety. A generally healthy method, which can also help with anxiety or stress, is to stretch the major skeletal muscles. Stretching muscles tends to relax  them and will also prevent injuries.

A fully licensed Ph.D. behavior therapist is recommended for the best therapy. Psychoanalysis is generally not effective for the problems discussed above. Methods like yoga or meditation include some procedures that are helpful, but include other aspects that may not help. It is best to find a therapist that has precisely what you need, rather than using more “mystical” methods which will be less effective. For very serious cases and medication, a psychiatrist might be required. If possible, it is best to start with a Ph.D psychologist instead of psychiatric drugs.

The “brief relaxation response” mentioned above, consists of the following. The goal is to relax all major muscles of the body, and to try and make breathing as  peaceful as possible. Muscles can be relaxed by (1) tensing and loosening, (2) stretching them, and/or (3) by shaking (example: let your arms hang down very loosely and then shake them). Many patients benefit from relaxation tapes with instructions, that are available on the Internet (search “muscle relaxation tapes”). Here is a good example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nZEdqcGVzo    

You can also find relaxing music. My version of a brief relaxation response takes about 10 to 20 seconds after training. Begin by inhaling slowly and deeply. Then, exhale slowly and as you do this, let your whole body go limp. The “limp” part requires some practice, with or without a therapist. You can add a quick neck or scalp massage, and be sure to check tension in the back and calf muscles.

Here is a possible program. Start by working a lot with a relaxation tape to develop skills. Use the “brief relaxation response” frequently during a day and before going to sleep. Try any or all of the methods to deal with your disturbing thoughts.

 

 

 

168. What Stands Out, in This Complicated World

7 May

For an ordinary citizen of the USA, I would guess that there are so many political events and ideas reported by the media — that it may be difficult to decide what is important and what to focus on. I see my role as a blogger, to help explain important current issues in a clear way. And, of course, I admit that I see the world in my own special way and with my own set of beliefs. Maybe I should explain just a little more. I believe in the following: Kindness wherever possible, a strong and prosperous middle class, the spirit of the US Constitution, respect for 99% of the law, and that the vote of every citizen should have an equal effect. To further explain the last point, a very wealthy person should not have extra influence on elections.

Here are my choices for the most outstanding and important current ideas and issues.

Climate-Change disasters are already here and we must make every effort to work on this problem, including considerable research and construction of “green” devices. This effort will take some money, but next to nothing compared to the expense of neglecting it. Briefly, numerous populated lowland areas will be permanently flooded, there will be massive migrations, and increased fires and hurricanes. Actual global warming is increasing faster than previously estimated. Climate change work must be funded, just like our military, government and other necessary agencies without asking where will the money come from.

We must put much more effort into protecting our elections from Russia and maybe other meddlers. Generally, our voting system must be hardened and reliable. Trump has put little effort into protecting our election system, but there are some efforts by various agencies and state governments to help. Our President has little interest because the meddlers have helped him.

Our government must support scientific and tech research, which can improve our lives and help with increasing population. For example, we must stop condemning GMO foods (see my blogs) and do sufficient research to improve trust in this valuable method. Nature is constantly modifying the DNA of all living things, and does not inform us of changes. GMO changes are known and we can test their safety. Humans have changed DNA for many centuries by animal and plant breeding; GMO is a similar, but quicker and more effective.

We clearly need improvements to our health care system. Abolishment of ObamaCare without a good replacement would be a catastrophe for millions of US citizens. ObamaCare provides more citizens with insurance and more safeguards for insurance loss due to various limits and pre-existing conditions.

We must maintain good relationships with our traditional allies: Canada, Mexico, members of the EU (and UK), Australia, India, Scandinavians, Japan, and others. We must very carefully work out an appropriate relationship with China and Russia. International relationships are very complicated and require the participation of many experts. Our current gov is simplistic and often resorts to coercion when good diplomacy is better. It also uses trade policies without considering all the possible effects.

Although sanctions can be useful in forcing more responsible government, they can be ineffective because the leaders of a country will always have plenty of food and various  luxuries. It’s the ordinary citizens that suffer the most. Sometimes really good, intelligent negotiation is better.

Immigration issues at our Southern border must be worked out in a reasonable and humanitarian way. This, of course, is a very complicated issue, with many valid interests to consider. Repubs and Dems must work together and form a viable plan. Our current gov has ignored real solutions and has taken action for purely political purposes, causing needless suffering for many.

The Robert-Mueller-Report makes NO statements of innocence, and includes facts related to many administration crimes, illicit actions, various wrongdoings, and suspicious activity. Ignoring these findings would be a disaster for our country. In order to satisfy certain rules and traditions, conclusions have been ignored, and left to Congress. The evidence provided in the Report can be used for various legal actions and when appropriate for articles of impeachment.

Our new Attorney General, William Barr, is a Trump sycophant who lies, and cannot be trusted. He must be nullified in some way.

Those who believe in democracy always include a free and independent press as one of the most important requirements. The best reporters, like those who work at major newspapers, don’t attack anyone without good cause. If a leader hates the press, then likely he is corrupt and making big mistakes.

Many writers have tried to explain the bizarre behavior of our President. Here are my thoughts: his desperation to keep voters leads him to contradictions, such as supporting both Israel/Jews and Neo-Nazis (Charlottesville conflict). He has no ideals or patriotism, and is only motivated by self-interest. Like most older people, he is somewhat affected by Alzheimer’s disease, which produces memory loss, repetition, and confusion. Stress and sleep loss may be other factors.

For more ideas, please read my other blogs and my tweets,   @RichardLeeWB.