Hurricane Harvey: Wake-up call for tax reform and government regulation to improve equality for all citizens

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Hurricane Harvey was not preventable; however, researchers have predicted this flooding scenario for years.  The severe damage was partly caused by the failure of local, state and federal government regulations and planning. It was the lack of governmental oversight and absence of regulations that allowed floodplain to be transformed into corporate profit centers by building houses and industrial buildings.

In Houston two inches of rain will automatically cause flooding and somewhere in Harris County and  major flooding has occurred about every two years. Despite the repeated flooding, legislators avoided implementing meaningful flood control regulations such as prohibiting building on floodplains, having more green space for water drainage, or implementing building codes that require flood proof buildings. If you live in an earthquake zone, building codes demand that the structure can resist earthquake damage.  Why not have similar rules for buildings on a flood plains? To build a flood proof structure on a flood plain does not take rocket science. All you have to do is build it on on stilts so that the ground floor is free to flood without damage.

Houses on stiltsjpg

Such building code regulations would increase the cost to the developer, reduce profitability and increase taxes.  Instead, developers and corporations reaped the immediate profits through legal bribery to politicians (contributions to election campaigns) to block rules and regulations. They thereby transferred the preventable flood loss to the individual home owners. Similarly, the explosion at the Arkema plant near Crosby, Texas, occurred when the plant lost its refrigeration as its backup power supply was flooded. It was a failure of planning and regulations– It is so much cheaper to put the emergency power supply on the ground floor than high enough to prevent flooding.  This is identical to the cause the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster–flooding of the emergency power supply which pumped the water to cool the reactors.

Eventually, it will be the American tax payer who will pay for the Hurricane Relief Package. Already FEMA reported that 95,745 people in Texas have been approved for emergency assistance. The agency has so far disbursed about $57 million to citizens in Texas and this is only the beginning.

As in all disasters, the lower and middle economic classes will disproportionately suffer. They are already living from paycheck to paycheck and  have limited resources to recover.  It is the role of Government to provide help to allow recovery. Yet, this is counter to the prevailing philosophy of the Republican party as illustrated by  more than 20 Texan representatives and senators, including Senator John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, who voted against the $50.5 billion 2013 Hurricane Sandy Relief Package for the victims of Superstorm Sandy that impacted New York and New Jersey.  They are now trying to rewrite their scandalous voting record by claiming that they voted against the 2013 Relief Package because it was “full of pork” — A patent lie.  The actual data as summarized by Linda Qui in the New York Times’ fact check article, Was 2013 Hurricane Sand Relief Package full of Pork.” points out that the Congressional Congressional Quarterly analysis said that $17 billion in the bill went toward immediate aid for Sandy victims while $33.5 billion was for “near- and long-term assistance and mitigation” of damage from future disasters. See the superb article https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/us/politics/hurricane-sandy-relief-fact-check.html?hpw&rref=politics&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well

It is the government’s role to help all citizens regardless of race, age, gender and political preference. It is ironic that the Republican Texan legislators who all voted against the 2013 Hurricane Sandy Relief Package  will now need those New York and New Jersey legislators’ support to pass an estimate $150 billion Hurricane Harvey Relief act. Part of me thinks, Senator Cruz and Cornyn, you  got what you deserved. How do you dare to ask other legislators to support a Texas Hurricane Harvey Recovery Act when you previously voted against helping others. Also, you have consistently supported ways to shrink government, reduce taxes on the rich, reduced rules and regulations that were created to protect people. Luckily, not everyone is like you. The lawmakers from the New York-New Jersey region are not as callous and have already stated they will support help. As Republican RepPeter King of New York wrote in a tweet directed at Cruz., “I won’t abandon Texas the way Ted Cruz did New York.”

The damage caused by Hurricane Harvey reminds us that no one is an island and we all need each other’s support in time of crisis. The role of government is to help all people in need and create regulations to prevent a similar harm from reoccurring. Government rules and regulations are citizens’ only protection against corporate greed.

The upcoming tax reform debate and legislation is an opportunity to demonstrate that the well-being of all citizens is more important than increasing the wealth of the super rich and corporations who avoid paying taxes by holding their profits offshore. It means increasing the tax revenues to pay for infrastructure repair and reduce economic inequality. The tax reform bill will need to increase the taxes on affluent citizens and reduce corporate tax loopholes. Reducing taxes on the rich and corporations, the mantra of “Republican Trickle down economics,” has predominantly benefited the super affluent and reduced the prosperity of average Americans.

Hurricane Harvey disaster as a wake-up call to demand that the government is for the people and by the people and demonstrate that its role is to mitigate and prevent disasters and improve the quality of life of every citizen.

Contact your legislators and demand that they:

  1. Support Hurricane Harvey Relief funds
  2. Work on the Tax Reform Legislation that increases the taxes on the rich, reduces corporate tax loopholes
  3. Create legislation to protect individuals against corporate greed which means more industry regulations and infrastructure improvement.

Finally, remember the role of government is NOT to create rules and regulations to maximize immediate profits, it is to provide a future so that our great grandchildren have more equally and better productive and healthier lives.  If only the government, designers and builders of the houses in Houston had acted by this creed, flooding would have been a challenge but almost all people could have ridden out the storm at home.


Enhance Yoga with Biofeedback*

How can you demonstrate that yoga practices are beneficial?

How do you know you are tightening the correct muscles or relaxing the muscle not involved in the movement when practicing asanas?

How can you know that the person is mindful and not sleepy or worrying when meditating?

How do you know the breathing pattern is correct when practicing pranayama?

The obvious answer would be to ask the instructor or check in with the participant; however, it is often very challenging for the teacher or student to know. Many participants think that they are muscularly relaxed while in fact there is ongoing covert muscle tension as measured by electromyography (EMG). Some participants after performing an asana, do not relax their muscles even though they report feeling relaxed. Similarly, some people practice specific pranayama breathing practice with the purpose of restoring the sympathetic/parasympathetic system; however, they may not be doing it correctly. Similarly, when meditating, a person may become sleepy or their attention wanders and is captured by worries, dreams, and concerns instead of being present with the mantra. These problems may be resolved by integrating bio- and neurofeedback with yoga instruction and practice. Biofeedback monitors the physiological signals produced by the body and displays them back to the person as shown in Figure 1.

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Figure 1: Biofeedback is a methodology by which the participant receives ongoing feedback of the physiological changes that are occurring within the body. Reproduced with permission from Peper et al, 2008.

With the appropriate biofeedback equipment, one can easily record muscle tension, temperature, blood flow and pulse from the finger, heart rate, respiration, sweating response, posture alignment, etc.** Neurofeedback records the brainwaves (electroencephalography) and can selectively feedback certain EEG patterns. In most cases participants are unaware of subtle physiological changes that can occur. However, when the physiological signals are displayed so that the person can see or hear the changes in their physiology they learn internal awareness that is associated with these physiological changes and learn mastery and control. Biofeedback and neuro feedback is a tool to make the invisible, visible; the unfelt, felt and the undocumented, documented.

Biofeedback can be used to document that a purported yoga practice actually affects the psychophysiology. For example, in our research with the Japanese Yogi, Mr. Kawakami, who was bestowed the title “Yoga Samrat’ by the Indian Yoga Culture Federation in 1983, we measured his physiological responses while breathing at two breaths a minute as well as when he inserted non-sterilized skewers through his tongue tongue (Arambula  et al, 2001; Peper et al, 2005a; Peper et al, 2005b). The physiological recordings confirmed that his Oxygen saturation stayed normal while breathing two breaths per minute and that he did not trigger any physiological arousal during the skewer piercing. The electroencephalographic recordings showed that there was no response or registration of pain. A useful approach of using biofeedback with yoga instruction is to monitor muscle activity to measure whether the person is performing the movement appropriately. Often the person tightens the wrong muscles or performs with too much effort, or does not relax after performing. An example of recording muscle tension as shown in Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Recording the muscle tension with Biograph Infinity while performing an asana.

In our research it is clear that many people are unaware that they tighten muscles. For example, Mcphetridge et al, (2011) showed that when participants were asked to bend forward slowly to touch their toes and then hang relaxed in a forward fold, most participants reported that they were totally relaxed in their neck. In actuality, they were not relaxed as their neck muscles were still contracting as recorded by electromyography (EMG). After muscle biofeedback training, they all learned to let their neck muscles be totally relaxed in the hanging fold position as shown in Figure 3 & 4.

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Figure 3: Initial assessment of neck SEMG while performing a toe touch. Reproduced from Harvey, E. & Peper, E. (2011).

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Figure 4: Toe touch after feedback training. The neck is now relaxed; however, the form is still not optimum. . Reproduced from Harvey, E. & Peper, E. (2011).

Thus, muscle feedback is a superb tool to integrate with teaching yoga so that participants can perform asanas with least amount of inappropriate tension and also can relax totally after having tightened the muscles. Biofeedback can similarly be used to monitor body posture during meditation. Often participants become sleepy or their attention drifts and gets captured by imagery or worries. When they become sleepy, they usually begin to slouch. This change in body position can be readily be monitored with a posture feedback device. The UpRight,™  (produced by Upright Technologies, Ltd https://www.uprightpose.com/) is a small sensor that is placed on the upper or lower spine and connects with Bluetooth to the cell phone. After calibration of erect and slouched positions, the device gives vibratory feedback each time the participant slouches and reminds the participant to come back to sitting upright as shown in Figure 5.

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Figure 5: UpRigh™ device placed on the upper spine to provide feedback during meditation. Each time person slouches which often occurs when they become sleepy or loose meditative focus, the device provides feedback by vibrating.

Alternatively, the brainwaves patterns (electroencephalography could be monitored with neurofeedback and whenever the person drifts into sleep or becomes excessively aroused by worry, neurofeedback could remind the person to be let go and be centered. Finally, biofeedback can be used with pranayama practice. When a person is breathing approximately six breaths per minute heart rate variability can increase. This means that during inhalation heart rate increases and during exhalation heart rate decreases. When the person breathes so that the heart rate variability increases, it optimizes sympathetic/parasympathetic activity. There are now many wearable biofeedback devices that can accurately monitor heart rate variability and display the changes in heart rate as modulated by breathing.

Conclusion: Biofeedback is a useful strategy to enhance yoga practice as it makes the invisible visible. It allows the teacher and the student to become aware of the dysfunctional patterns that may be occurring beneath awareness.

References

Arambula, P., Peper, E., Kawakami, M., & Gibney, K. H. (2001). The physiological correlates of Kundalini Yoga meditation: a study of a yoga master. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback26(2), 147-153.

Harvey, E. & Peper, E. (2011). I thought I was relaxed: The use of SEMG biofeedback for training awareness and control. In W. A. Edmonds, & G. Tenenbaum (Eds.), Case studies in applied psychophysiology: Neurofeedback and biofeedback treatments for advances in human performance. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 144-159.

Mcphetridge, J., Thorne, E., Peper, E., & Harvey, R. (2011) SEMG for training awareness and muscle relaxation during toe touching. Paper presented at the 15th Annual Meeting of the Biofeedback Foundation of Europe. Munich, Germany, February 22-26, 2011.

Peper, E., Kawakami, M., Sata, M., Franklin, Y, Gibney, K. H. & Wilson, V.S. (2005a). Two breaths per minute yogic breathing. In: Kawakami, M. (2005). The Theses of Mitsumasa Kawakami II: The Theory of Yoga-Based Good Health. Tokyo, Japan: Samskara. 483-493. ISBN 4-434-06113-5

Peper, E., Kawakami, M., Sata, M. & Wilson, V.S. (2005b). The physiological correlates of body piercing by a yoga master: Control of pain and bleeding. Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine Journal. 14(3), 223-237.

Peper, E., Tylova, H., Gibney, K.H., Harvey, R., & Combatalade, D. (2008). Biofeedback Mastery-An Experiential Teaching and Self-Training Manual. Wheat Ridge, CO: AAPB. ISBN 978-1-60702-419-4

*Reprinted from: Peper, E. (2017). Enhancing Yoga with Biofeedback. J Yoga & Physio.2(2).*55584. DOI: 10.19080/JYP.2017.02.555584

**Biofeedback and neurofeedback takes skill and training.  For information on certification, see http://www.bcia.org  Two useful websites are: