Mail 734 Thursday, July 26, 2012
Everyone should understand. I don’t recommend much. I can only describe what I have concluded is worth doing for myself. I take some massive overdoses of some vitamins and radical shields, and some other strange stuff. That may not work for anyone. It may not even be working for me, although I have introspective reasons to believe that it is. I am quite sure that some of what I take makes expensive urine, and some helps my physiology, and I can’t determine which does what.
Vitamin D and multivitamins
Like you, I used to think that I ought to take a multivitamin, since my diet certainly isn’t perfect. But it turns out there’s no evidence that they actually do any good, and some evidence of harm. Vitamin D, on the other hand, is virtually all upside, with very little risk of overdose until you get up into the multiple tens of thousands of IUs.
Here’s a good explanation from one expert whom I trust for health information:
I have different conclusions.
Re. Glendale Dentists, Aspirin, and Folic Acid:
I agree completely about folate, with the proviso that large doses should be accompanied by making sure that you’re not short of vitamin B12. Folate can cover up the haematological signs of B12 deficiency, but doesn’t help the other consequences (such as irreversible nerve damage) of severe lack of B12. Unfortunately, people over maybe 60 are much more likely to have B12 deficiency problems, because B12 absorption is dependent on adequate stomach acid – increasingly unlikely as one gets older.
Aspirin has been proved to lessen the risk of abnormal blood clotting but also to increase the risk of ulcers, which may ultimately bleed and may lead to complications such as peritonitis. AFAIK fish oils have the same anti-clotting effect but no effect on the stomach, so you can probably get the same anti-clotting results with less side effects by regularly eating mackerel or salmon. These oils also benefit the function of the nervous system, including the brain.
Plant pigments collectively known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (try saying that after a few beers!) also have anti-clotting and antioxidant effects – and are found in quite a few common foods such as red wine and beetroot, along with all the black or purple berries.
It all comes down to the same old story – eating the diet people are evolved for is better for us. No surprises there, although the agribusiness and junk food industries wouldn’t want you to know it – which is probably why the authorities come down HARD on anyone making health claims for supplements and the "paleo" diet.
Also, although once again business (this time a different one, the pharma cartel) wouldn’t want us to think about it: there is no such thing as a deficiency in aspirin, statin drugs or Zocor. If a drug has long-term benefits, there is almost certainly some diet or lifestyle change with the same benefits and without the downsides.
Sorry about the long reply – it’s one of my hobbyhorses and one out of which I used to make a living. Until the banks put paid to that, but that’s the subject of another post perhaps.
Until the Glendale dentists there were no formal studies. Now we have a better understanding. And I make no doubt that lifestyle changes can substitute for drugs, but that may not be the most cost effective use of ones time and energies and habit formations. And some people benefit from regimes that would kill others.
Of course the drug industry wants to sell drugs, as the corn industry wants to sell corn, and the science fiction publishing industry wants to sell science fiction.
I am not sure what you mean by aspirin deficiency. Evolution has pretty well designed us to have the good grace to die when our children reach child bearing age, so that we make room for them; the alternative is that every advance in food production is used up by making more people, and while the standard of living for a few can go up, most will live at subsistance level. Indeed for tens of thousands of years until about 1840 that is how humanity lived: 90% of humans lived at a subsistance level. A few lived much better of course, but most lived at the edge and if resources increased that did not appear as a higher standard of living, but as more people. The Black Death raised wages for everyone, and the effect was temporary. The Industrial Revolution changed living standards, although it is not entirely certain that this change is permanent, and it is certainly distributed unevenly.
There is no aspirin deficiency, but then people my age used to be rare, and people my age writing a lot were even more so.
But we are now living much longer than we used to. There are far more older people now than ever before. We have not evolved for long life.
Big Government, Income Inequality, & Economic Mobility
First, I would like to tell you one last time how much I enjoyed the opportunity to meet you and speak with you and Larry Niven at Liberty Con. I have received many years of intellectual pleasure from the two of you, separately and together, and I will prize the chance to tell you in person for the rest of my life.
On the subject at hand, I ran across a succinct article (http://money.msn.com/personal-finance/what-no-ones-telling-us-workers-usnews.aspx) about the issue of income inequality. It addresses some fundemental truths in coping with the income gap; it is up to the individual to fix it, not the government. However, it does not address a proper role for government in the issue: identify and eliminate all laws and regulations that impede economic upward mobility (e.g. the so-called "progressive" income tax rates).
Kevin L. Keegan
I have never supposed that much progress is possible without government. Sarah Hoyt shows the best developed kind of very libertarian society I know of, but it too is unstable. Possibly everything is, but the United States, these United States as we used to be known, did manage to combine liberty with order for a long time. Pity we decided to substitute national bureaucracy for ordered liberty, and national entitlements for what de Tocqueville called ‘the associations.’ But then nothing is forever.
This article does an excellent job of disecting the NSA surveillance octopus. This is worse than Nazi Germany; clearly we live in the Fourth Reich. You can equivocate, excuse, or attempt to justify as I’m sure all those good Nazi citizens did, but the fact remains that this country is not what it is supposed to be and this government no longer cares to follow the laws the created nor does it care to respect the freedoms granted to us. I suppose I can do little other than complain to people who either (1) won’t listen or (2) will echo my complaints. Back when we might have changed things, I was considered "crazy". Now my friends and family admit that I was right, but it’s no comfort. Yeah, so I knew what I was talking about; so what? I was never trying to be a prophet of doom; I was trying to turn things around and now I wonder if that will ever be possible. Then again, I suppose the Nazi regime changed. I hope our shift is less violent and less humiliating.
People who think that Nazi analogy is "over the top" or "overused" obviously have no idea about what has been going on in this country and they obviously have no idea how Nazi Germany worked. While we are not talking carbon copies here and we don’t have a firey speaker hailing from a beer hall in Munich, we have many striking similarities. The process has been refined and it has a more sophisticated approach, but it is shaping up to be the same tyranny. Wait and see; that seems to be all most people are good for denying, waiting, and finally admitting — but then, of course, it’s too late.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
As I suspected:
This is a shocking video confirming, by former NSA employees, what many of us probably suspected about the National Security Agency.
NSA whistle blowers Thomas Drake, former senior official; Kirk Wiebe, former senior analyst; and William Binney, former technical director, return to “Viewpoint” to talk about their allegations that the NSA has conducted illegal domestic surveillance. All three men are providing evidence in a lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation against the NSA.
Drake says the spying affects “the entire country,” citing a “key decision made shortly after 9/11 which began to rapidly turn the United States of America into the equivalent of a foreign nation for dragnet blanket electronic surveillance.”
“It’s hard to believe that your government’s gonna actually do it,” Wiebe says. “That was the shocker.”
Binney mentions a new NSA facility under construction in Bluffdale, Utah: “That facility alone can probably hold somewhere close to a hundred years worth of the communications of the world.” Binney continues, “Once you accumulate that kind of data – they’re accumulating against everybody – [it's] resident in programs that can pull it together in timelines and things like that and let them see into your life.”
It is also noteworthy that this interview was conducted by the very aggressive former-New York state Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was brought down in a call girl scandal, where unknown government surveillance techniques were used against him. Welcome to the fight Eliot.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Why did no one fight back?
"…Aurora, Colorado already has strict gun control laws on the books that make it:
* Illegal to carry a concealed weapon, even if you’re a law-abiding citizen.
* Illegal to discharge a firearm in public unless you are a peace officer.
Thus, any person who would have shot James Holmes and stopped the massacre would, themselves, have been arrested as a criminal!"
I have mine. Do you?
Gasmasks in demand as Israel tracks Syria chemical arms
RE: I have mine. Do you?
Most commonly available gas masks will be of no use against most war gasses.
Terrorists are not likely to use mustard or phosgene or chlorine. But yes, it’s wise to be prepared for an idiot attack since it’s easy to make mustard.
I attended the two week NBC officers course. A mask is all you need if you stay in your home or apartment as these are low dose environments. Many items are available on the net, such as"
John from Waterford
It all depends on what you are preparing for. Having a gas mask can be useful, and we can hope that we never encounter modern nerve agents. Or that a home grown terrorist doesn’t do a lot of research.
. Fact check Obama and the VA
OBAMA: "We’ve hired thousands of claims processors. We’re investing in paperless systems. To their credit, the dedicated folks at the VA are now completing 1 million claims a year, but there’s been a tidal wave of new claims."
THE FACTS: Veterans can be eligible for help with conditions caused or aggravated by their military service. The government, however, has long struggled to keep up with the claims, and the backlog has grown worse during the president’s term in office as soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In May 2009, about 135,000 claims for disability benefits had been pending for more than 125 days, representing about one-third of all pending claims. Today, that number has more than quadrupled, to 558,000 claims — about two-thirds of all those pending.
As Obama emphasized, the Veterans Affairs Department has processed more claims than ever in the past two years. In 2010, the VA completed a million claims but received about 1.2 million new ones. In 2011, the department again processed more than 1 million claims, but about 1.3 million new claims came in.
The department’s independent inspector general has said the VA made the problem worse by not assigning enough staff to process appeals and not following its own guidelines in processing older claims.
For example, when investigators reviewed the claims processed at three offices in California, they found that division managers did not conduct monthly reviews of those claims pending for more than a year — a violation of policy that led to unnecessary delays.
In recent congressional hearings, lawmakers from both parties have voiced frustration with the VA’s inability to cut into the backlog despite the additional resources allotted to the task. Obama noted that the VA has redeployed 1,200 claims experts to target and tackle the most complex claims in the backlog. It’s also moving to a paperless system.
OBAMA: "We’ve also focused on the urgent needs of our veterans with PTSD. We’ve poured tremendous resources into this fight."
THE FACTS: Obama correctly noted that the administration has increased its investment in helping veterans deal with the mental wounds of war, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder. Staffing for counselors, psychologists and mental health workers is up 45 percent since 2005, with the department recently announcing that about 1,900 more mental health workers were being added to the fold.
But there too investigators found that the VA routinely did not follow its own guidelines in treating patients seeking mental health treatment. The department had claimed that 95 percent of new patients seeking mental health treatment got a full evaluation within the department’s goal of 14 days. But the independent investigators found performance was far worse; nearly half of the veterans seeking mental health care for the first time waited about 50 days before getting a full evaluation.
Investigators explained the conflicting numbers by stating that the VA did not have a reliable and accurate method of determining whether patients were getting timely access to mental health care. They said the VA’s measure "had no real value."
Obama called it an outrage when he hears about service members and veterans who died waiting for help. "We’ve got to do better," he said. "This has to be all hands on deck."
The shootings in Colorado
Sandra and I live in Parker, which butts up against Aurora’s southern end. Our youngest daughter, Emily, lives in Aurora, just a few miles from the complex in question and, like me, is an avid movie-goer.
Needless to say, I have pretty strong feelings about this incident, which I wrote about at Ace of Spades (where I guest-blog occasionally as ‘Fritzworth’, an old high-school nickname). Here are my two posts — the first written in an airport while still waiting to hear back from Emily to know whether or not she was ok (you’ll see I pretty much agree with you and Larry on the desired consequences, though I go perhaps a bit farther); the second, on the mental state of the killer himself:
Safe travels back home, and hugs to Roberta; Sandra sends her best.
Worth looking up for those interested.
Education Without Schools
Jerry you write: One of the things I pointed out in the education panel this morning is that it is no thoroughly possible to get a very good education without going to the schools, and without incurring a life long crippling debt by taking out huge student loansk which mostly serve to drive up the price of education
Sites like the Khan Academy and shows like PBS’ The Mechanical Universe suggest that the technology is available, but are all of the pieces really in place? One feature of my undergraduate education was recitation sessions in which the class was split into smaller groups which met separately with a teaching assistant who answered questions, graded the homework, and worked through examples, and went over common mistakes on the exam questions. I’m not convinced that one is really getting the same benefit out of the course without feedback from a live person.
I did once take a distance learning class during the summer, and the video lectures were actually a repeat of lectures given during the previous spring semester. I don’t even know if the professor was on campus that summer. I do know that one of his graduate students was available to answer questions and grade homework. Access to that live human can be important, not just in terms of grading papers and exams so that you can receive a credential but also in terms of the learning experience itself.
Perhaps it is possible to create an educational system where the lecturers invest a great deal of energy into creating really good lectures which are consumed by a large number of people and might even be reused for a few years before they are updated. That part could be fairly inexpensive amortized over a large number of students. I’m thinking here of the PBS show The Mechanical Universe with its animated derivations, which is now well over 20 years old. It is still important for the student to have access to a knowledgeable and capable mentor whose student load is small enough to enable him to provide assistance as needed. This role is even more important than in a traditional classroom setting, because if the lectures are recorded, or given live to thousands of people at once, the students are effectively unable to ask the lecturer questions.
Also there is no guarantee that schools partition what they think you should know into the same set of courses. If we want to make it possible for students in such programs to be credentialed by examination, one needs to ask who writes the questions, gives the exams, and decides what material is fair game for examination.
Students also learn from one another, and that may not be so easy to reproduce in a distance learning environment.
Good distance learning technology is an important first step, but there are others beyond.
Do you get from modern universities enough to justify being in heavy debt for most of your life?
For some perhaps it is so.
I don’t think we essentially disagree. As the cost of education increases, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify the cost for people who see higher education as career preparation, which is pretty much most people with a college education.
On the other hand, so long as employers consider a four year degree an absolute necessity to even be considered for some positions, it may be worth the price even if the student gains no benefit at all from the actual instruction. Presumably at some point the price will climb too high, or the employers will get fed up with the quality of graduates and the bubble will burst.
My email was meant to suggest that if we aim to replace universities with distance learning, that there is more to be replaced than a one way broadcast of course materials. Things like recitation, TAs, and feedback via graded homework can be important. That is hardly a reason to give up on distance learning. I think we can add these elements to distance learning. What would it actually cost to hire a grad-student to be an online TA for a 20 person recitation section if it wasn’t part of a university’s expensive package deal? Lab courses would be trickier.
As government injects more money into the ‘professional education’ establishments, the price of the credential will rise as the quality of education deteriorates. More and more unqualified people will be recruited because if there is more money to be made the administrators will find ways to make it.
We need a way to provide credentials to the qualified and otherwise get out of the way. Government can decree that every child is entitled to a world class university prep education, and to a world class university education, but it cannot provide those. I can spend us broke trying and make a lot of credential vendors very wealthy indeed.
China Reveals Hand in ASEAN
Most in the West would not see this as a big deal; having lived in Northeast and Southeast Asia for most of my adult life, I know better. I will get to the meaning of this — as I see it — after the snip.
For the first time in its 45-year history, ASEAN’s foreign ministers failed to issue a joint communiqué following their annual consultations last week in Phnom Penh. It is important to understand this high profile failure. What happened? And what does it mean for ASEAN and for the strategies of the United States and other countries with strong interests in the Asia Pacific?
China has revealed its hand as an outlier on the question of ASEAN unity. It seemingly used its growing economic power to press Cambodia into the awkward position of standing up to its ASEAN neighbors on one of the most important security concerns for the grouping and its members. China’s overt role, underlined by leaks about Cambodia’s complicity in sharing drafts, seems to suggest Beijing’s hand in promoting ASEAN disunity. Thus the most important message coming from Phnom Penh is not the intramural ASEAN spat over the joint statement but, rather, that China has decided that a weak and splintered ASEAN is in its best interests.
Of course a weak and splinter ASEAN is in China’s interests. I would have thought hat China would work through Myanmar on this, but Cambodia is also a logical choice and it should make Thailand and Vietnam feel a little more uncomfortable. Thailand has a Chinese population, which is wealthier than most other Thais, they have Myanmar and now Cambodia in China’s pocket. Vietnam is warming up to the United States; Thailand is a long-standing client state of the United States. Without consensus at ASEAN, it will be impossible for South East Asian nations to form a comprehensive defense policy and it will not be possible for ASEAN to speak with one voice against Chinese aggression in the region.
Events in Thailand will get more dubious as the ruling monarch ages and Thaksin Shinawart continues to press his agenda on Thailand. Thaksin is one of those Chinese Thais I spoke of earlier. If his power grows, Thailand could get much more interesting. Laos and Vietnam — back in 2001 — were very close. Some said that Vietnam basically ran Laos, but I am not sure how accurate this is. I know Vietnam had great influence there and probably still does. In any case, we have two nations in China’s pocket in ASEAN. Alone, I don’t see how any of the ASEAN nations could possibly stand up to China — even together they would have a difficult road ahead without U.S. support.
This divide an conquer strategy on China’s part seems brilliant. They’ve made sure the Chinese navy can continue to press advantages over maritime claims disputes within the region and they would not have to worry about ASEAN — and possibly APEC — taking a stand against the aggression. Meanwhile, China will plod on.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
© 2012, jerrypournelle. All rights reserved.