Friday, June 22, 2012

Solving Rising Corrections Costs and Solving Increased Number of People With Dependencies

We need to get people with addictive problems treatment that help them overcome their addictions rather than spending large amounts of money imprisoning them in institutions where they receive inadequate treatment at overcoming their addiction,

In the 1950s, about 90% of the people institutionalized, meaning they were either in a mental institution, prison, or jail, were in a mental institution. Today, about 90% of the people institutionalized are in prison or jail. This means more people are at a higher cost institution and in an institution with a lower rate of helping troubled people improve their lives.

We as a society have moved from institutionalizing our most trouble people into mental health institutions and instead placing these into corrections facilities. This isn’t a conscious decision. Obviously most addictive people committed a crime in order to wind up in the corrections system. Yet the huge shift in where such troubled people have entered public facilities over the past few decades does indicate a definite societal shift in how people who fail to fit into our society are treated.

Getting troubled people help for their troubles, by definition helps them more than does putting them in a cell. By addressing what troubles them, it more likely means there will be a resolution that helps them overcome their troubles, or at least they will learn how to better cope and function with unresolvable or difficult-to-resolve troubles. This tends to improve the lives of troubled people. Further, people with less troubles tend to create fewer troubles for others. Others thus tend to be better off when they are not troubled by people with troubles. Thus, overall, more people are happier. Which could be a problem for me because happier people are less likely to fill a need to read humor writings such as mine and others, which will makes humor writers less happy and thus less likely to write more humor, so maybe it all balances out.

We, as a society, have chosen an alternative that doesn’t work as well in solving problems with addictions. Further it is incredibly more costly. Thus, we pay more for a less effective solution. One might suspect we are not very bright. Prisons, and to a lesser degree jails, are expensive. Don’t believe me: look at how much they cost to build and maintain. I don’t know you sense of cost, but to me, that’s a lot of money. There aren’t many, if any, discount prisons for sale in big box stores or dollar stores. I looked. I couldn’t even find a section where they might be sold.

Many troubled people have troubles with dependencies and drugs and/or alcohol. Their use of illegal drugs and sometimes alcohol (some alcohol use is illegal honest. I am sure the 14 year old with the unlicensed moonshine still might be breaking some law or at least a zoning ordinance). These lawbreakers sometimes go to prison for their illegal dependencies and for such purposes alone. A significant portion of our prison population consists of people arrested solely for using or having an illegal substance. In addition, the use of illegal substances can impair judgment (or so I have been told. Those who told me this assured me they themselves were not impaired when they told me this, so this seems to be a sober fact.) People with impaired thinking are most apt to take risks or just do plain dumb things that get them arrested. Numerous reality shows and police logs prove this point.

There is good news. Most of the people are known as “stupid young idiots” or SYI. SYI are immature. Now the good news. (Promised you there would be good news.) Most immature people become mature mature. When they become more mature they are far less likely to do stupid, immature things, especially things that will get them arrested, as shown as TV programs, or perhaps tracked by a family of bounty hunters. Thus, if we wait, trouble makes tend to outgrow their immaturities. Most people arrested are under age 30. Over age 30, people’s brains adjust to the realities and responsibilities of adulthood and they do less stupid illegal things and more stupid things within their own homes such as not cleaning garages or forgetting where children are supposed to be.

Not all people outgrow their immaturities, There is a small set of hardened criminals who never tend not to outgrow their criminal tendencies. They will likely become lifelong criminals. They are often identified by serial arrests or paying themselves huge bonuses within the companies they manage. This people will need to be dealt with and hopefully removed from causing more harm. In fact, there is a benefit to sooner identifying career hardened criminals, usually after their number of arrests is more than their age, especially if their age is over 30.  This are the type people who may best benefit from determinate penalties, such as the promise of specific periods of incarceration Unfortunately, many politicians have won good will by promising to put away such people into the criminal justice system that they forget these are a small group of who such penalties may be appropriate.

A general solution to these issues is we need to do a better job at identifying people with troubles and helping them with their problems. A few decades ago, we did a poor job at this We essentially warehoused the troubled. To the surprise of some experts back then, it was discovered that many commercial goods may be reasonably warehoused but people cannot be warehoused.

The conditions of many  mental health facilities used to be horrid. Facilities sometimes spent as little money as possible to provide residences, and little else was provided, for people with mental challenges. The goal was often to medicate the residents to keep them clam-not for their sake-but to make them easier to manage. Many facilities had conditions so deplorable that court actions forced their closures, leading to legal changes that led to the vast majority of people institutionalized in mental health facilities being removed from these institutions.

There are many individual stories of what happened afterwards. Some people were released from mental health institutions made good use of their freedoms and became productive members of society Some became professional comedians. Many wound up living in new places of squalor, some become homeless or frequently homeless, and may became incarcerated.

Incarceration is our mantra. There are politicians who wake up every morning (or afternoon, depending on how drinks lobbyists gave them last night), get into yoga positions, and calming chant to themselves something like “mandatory minimum sentences”, “build more prisons”, “if elected, I will fight crime”, and “Willie Horton” (which, I have learned, is not the name of a Canadian coffee company Apparently that’s Tim Horton, and that is someone totally different from Willie). This apparently results from reading public opinion surveys showing that people prefer less crime over more crime. Candidates pledging more crime do not tend to fare will in elections.

Troubled people, though, tend to do better being treated for their problems than being incarcerated. Prisons do provide them some benefits. They spend more time with other prisoners, swap recipes, experiences, and learn how to become better criminals. For all those high costs, we have created an institution for higher learning in improving criminal procedures. Imprisonment tends to make prisoners bitter. Prison TVs lack a good selection of cable networks and being interrupted before your program is over to tend off an assault from another prisoner becomes irksome. When troubled people are released from prison, they often are more bitter people who have learned how to become better criminals. This means incarceration was not necessarily the wisest of public investments. Some inmates are rehabilitated Some correctional institutions have rehabilitation programs that reach some people who do respond positively. Yet many prison wardens will admit upfront that prisons are for punishment, not for rehabilitation

Ironically, when we were a society that more often sent troubled people to mental health facilities, we then did not know how to treat them. Since then, advancements have been made in Psychology, Psychiatry, Therapy, Counseling, and TV shows with people named Phil and Drew. Treatment costs less than prisons and is more effective.

We are also getting better at identifying people with problems. School and child psychologists, child and school behavioral experts, teachers, and often cranky old people living next door are more often able to identify traits in children at around ten years of age, and sometimes even years sooner than that, and sometimes a few years afterwards (which does sort of make this sentence strange: up to age 10 and over age 10 doesn’t appear to really mean much linguistically) that warn that children my have troubles. These are often the children who are not fitting in socially, or exhibiting unusual behavior such as standing naked on their desks while waving knives, especially after already being told before such behavior is inappropriate, or some lesser tell tale sign. This does not mean that a 10 year old (or under age 10, or over age 10) will develop into a troubled adult. Yet it does indicate who may have problems at that age, and who continue having difficulties that could lead to such off behavior at becoming a talk radio show host. Nearly every child who caused serious trouble in school was identified earlier with troubles and in many cases the resources to help the child were lacking. Not every trouble child with cause a serious problem, but every troubled child that is helped should have an improved life. Children who are helped tend to do better academically, tend to become more productive, and avoid becoming troubled adults or stand up comics.

Unfortunately, we provide few resources on helping troubled children. In recent years, these programs have often been scaled back dramatically. Ironically, we would save money if we provided more services. There are long term benefits to children who become more productive and lead healthier and happier lives I am biased, but I like happy, productive people. Rude people tend to spread their miseries to others and work in retail establishments where they gave me changed for a $10 when I gave them a $20 and then insist I gave them a $10.

People with drug and/or alcohol dependencies are often identified when they are arrested as having these dependencies. For instance, some of identified when asked to walk a straight line and they respond by asking which of the two squiggly lines they see are the one they should traverse. Sometimes they are identified when asked to take a breathalyzer and they confused their mouth with some other body part.

Treating people, once identified or self-requested, for their drug and/or alcohol dependencies is a good idea. (What? You read this far and thought I’d change my mind? Well, a healthy skepticism is fine, but, seriously, trust me on this point.) Please be forewarned that this is often an involved effort.

Science has shown that people with drug and/or alcohol dependencies have altered brain structures. It often takes time for the brain to restructure to where the brain was, and where the body was, so it no longer craves the substance upon which it was formally dependent. Some people can do this with sheer will power, some do it with counseling, mentors, and help from others. Some people achieve this medications that alter the brain structure (which some studies show are often the most successful method). Yet, 95% of those who try to quit falter at some point (Alright, here you may have some healthy skepticism as here I am relying on statistics from others. The actual percent may be 94% or 96%. I haven’t independently verified this. It might even by 93% or 97%, but you should get the general idea that most will falter.) With a success rate in the neighborhood of 1 in 20 (although some state the odds generally improve over successive attempts), it should not surprise us that it may take several attempts at whatever method or methods are used until success is reached, The key is to not give up, even after faltering. If you know someone trying to quit a dependency, be there for them. They may not be the nicest person when the falter, but most express appreciation in the long run knowing that there were friends that were there for them.

If you are concerned about someone with a dependency, avoid ignoring the problem and letting a person continue to slide downwards on an addiction, thinking they’ll turn around when they “hit bottom”. One never knows how deep that bottom can be until the person decides that a non-dependent life is worth living Even if you fear you aren’t reaching a person, your support and care often does resonate. Many people who have overcome dependencies later state how, even while they turned their backs to those who tried to help, that the actions, words, and sentiments of those trying to help did get through and did ultimately help them realize what they were telling them.

Also, if you don’t know what hitting bottom is, I’ll tell you. The ultimate hitting bottom is death. If you try to help someone and they die, have no guilt. The actions of someone else is that person’s responsibility, not yours.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Solving the Economic Crisis

The economies that do the best will be those that attract the best labor supply,

Imagine you own a company. Your company has been growing and has been profitable for some time. You see no reason for this trend to alter. This is the experience you have always known and observed continue. This is like the frog in the hot water that your sadistic frog-hating Science teacher showed you. The frog will continue sitting in the hot water even when it becomes too hot to sustain life for frogs because a.) frog brains are relatively smaller and the notion that death is imminent appears not to register with frogs in hot water and/or b;) the sadistic Science teacher has seen to it the frog can’t jump out and ruin the demonstration.  What it is we school children were supposed to learn from this, other than the fact our Science teacher hates frogs, we have no idea. I suspect if any of us ever got a hankering for frog legs, his house might be a place to inquire if he had any.

Back to the company I claim you own (don’t deny it, I saw you in the last paragraph dreaming about your company, even those readers who actually do own companies). We decide (actually, I am deciding for you since I am writing this and you are not) that we want more profit over time. The way to get more profit, so we may afford to eat more frog legs, is to expand the company. We took some business courses, or read about business practices somewhere, or we learned it on the street from some whore, also known as a banker, that if we borrow money we more expand our business so that it will earn even more money even after we pay back the banker who, if the banker were really so smart, why doesn’t the banker go out and earn more money borrowing money and creating businesses, but I digress.

Governments are like businesses, except they are not. They are governments, not businesses. Governments borrow from banks. They also borrow from themselves. A government may decide to buy something and then say, I’ll pay for it later because I am the government and I say I may borrow from myself. Incredibly, this can work, as long as whoever borrowed the money has the money to pay the person who loaned the money, even if the entity that borrowed and loaned the money is the same entity because whatever the government purchased and said it will pay for later will have someone demanding that future payment.  This works as long as the economy is expanding so that everyone earns more money.

In economic terms, if your productivity increases, things are great, at least economically (your health, sex life, and golf scores are other matters).  Yet, what happens if productivity decreases. Then your economic success decreases, your health deteriorates from increased worry, your golf score increases due to your poorer health, and your significant other is more apt to run away with a younger version of someone like yourself.  Why might productivity at your company decrease? You may have borrowed to expand and you over-expanded.  Over-expansion is not limited to obese people at an all you can eat buffet. People are not buying as much of the extra whatever it is your company offers because you have flooded the market, or maybe your customers flooded their basements and they are spending their money on cleaning their basements and not on whatever it is you offer.

You may over-expand and discover you are unable to find enough qualified employees to do whatever it is you do. This is becoming more of a current problem. The baby boomers are retiring from jobs at larger number than there are baby born more  sooners, aka Millenials, are entering the workforce. This causes many companies problems a double problem as their pension costs increase while they find themselves unable to find enough experience new employees, especially since new employees but the very definition do not have as much experience.  Companies are paying retirement to their expertise and paying for employees who lack expertise.  This may also increase your golf score, and cause other affiliated difficulties.

This is a problem more governments, from local to national levels, are experience worldwide. The elderly population is growing more rapidly than the new labor force. The elderly are using the social services and safety nets that have been established for them in larger amounts than ever before. In the United States, this is helping drive health care costs much higher. The increase in health care costs far dwarfs the increase costs of social security. That is the great American problem.

Economists who better figure these things (because they have data and expensive computers I don’t have, honest) claim that, if little changes in our economy, that the entire Federal budget in today’s dollars will be 100% for debt repayment in about half a century.  That doesn’t sound good to me. Maybe it sounds good to you, but if it does and you are an American, you are not the best of Americans, or you really, really love debt repayments.  That means there all the Federal government budget will go for paying for stuff we already bought, like a few wars, some prescription drugs, a few safety nets, a park here and there, and things like that. There will be no money to buy anything new, like keeping all the parks and military and health care research and members of Congress paid and continuing. That means there will either have to be huge tax increases, which would hurt our global economic competitiveness, or we will have to make huge spending decreases, who could do great harm to large numbers of people.

There is a solution to this problem. Fortunately, it is an easy solution. Unfortunately, in the United States, we are not doing it. We need to increase our economic productivity to increase the number of people paying taxes into the system to keep our Federal government and our national economy vibrant and growing. Some economists believe that could be achieved by adding 50 million taxpayers over the next half century.

So, get busy and start churning out future taxpaying babies.  Hmmm, it seems the message is not getting out there. Even when your significant other runs off with a younger version of you, there still are not enough new babies being born. It seems many of you spend more time on your golf game than your bedroom game.

What will solve the problem is to increase immigration. These smart economists note if we add one million new working immigrants a year, things will be hunky dory. I am not certain what a hunky dory is, but economist tell me it is a good thing.

One thing that is for certain is that, in this increasingly global economy with expanding contact and trade among people around the world, the economies that do the best will be the ones that attract the best labor supply. Those that shut out good workers will fall behind.

I spoke to one of the economists who spoke of the projections of oncoming insolvency. He projected huge increases in taxes and large amounts of unemployment and a lower standard of living where people would expect to see their lives worsen over time and their children living with less than their parents had. He admitted that an addition of immigrants would solve the dire economic forecasts he had, yet he did not believe that Americans had the willpower to allow that to happen. So, I ask you Americans: which would you prefer, the complex solution to this problem which means much higher taxes, greater difficulty in finding and keeping a job, and your children having a lower standard of living than you have, or are you willing to accept the simple solution of allowing more immigrants and having to keep you job, keeping your taxes low, allowing our economy to grow and your children to live a better life, all for the discomfort of having more people around you speaking with accents? If you ask me, and I hope you do, go with the more people with accents choice.

Some American oppose increasing immigration. The American history has been one of immigrant arriving in the United States with large organized groups seeking that no one else is allowed in.  Time after time we have seen America grow because of immigration. Human nature shows us that the hardest working and most productive generation often are second generation Americans.  We need more second generation Americans in America, and the first step is to attract more first generation Americans.

There are some who fear increased immigration because of fears of terrorism. Fighting terrorism is a separate issue that requires deligence from experts who combat terrorism. A benefit from increased immigration is that it may solve one of the main problems those fighting terrorism experience is a lack of people from within the communities that most engage in terrorism that can be recruited to work with anti-terrorist authorities. If the communities are larger with more eyes and ears and noses and other senses within those communities, we may better combat terrorism.

Americans need to remember that we are all immigrants. Even Native Americans entered the continent through Alaska and either stayed or made their way southwards and eastwards over the objections of bears, deers, and other current residents. Unless your family has always lived where humans first formed, you are descended from immigrants. Without immigration, you wouldn't be here today, which would really hurt my book sales.

Americans have survived immigration. In 1890, almost 15% of the population were immigrants. Which is nothing compared to what the percent was in 1620. There was a large anti-immigration organization in the 19th century that called themselves the Know Nothings, which at least shows they recognized their own intellectual shortcomings.

As an aside, if we really wish to fight terrorism, and I suspect most of us do (those who don’t, please report yourselves to the nearest authorities), I do not understand why we require people seeking to become citizens to return to their countries for one year.  Isn’t that handing terrorist groups a list of people to concentrate for recruiting, while they are back in their own countries, further beyond our powers of observation, and closer to contact with the terrorist organizations? Isn’t it better to let these people continue to better assimilate and get their careers and lives moving forward within the United States?  Just a thought.

Let us welcome more immigrants. Several communities have excellent programs where they help locate immigrants into marginal socioeconomic communities that are in decline. These new immigrants often improve their homes and, when brought in sufficient numbers, turn around the economic decline in these neighborhoods such that existing residents see profit in improving their homes. Declining neighborhoods turn into economically growing neighborhoods.

Plus,let’s face it. Our labor supply is diminishing as baby boomers retire in large numbers than Millenials are replacing them. There are also a lot of jobs that many Millenials, due to their generally higher educational attainment, do not wish to do. We need immigrants to do these jobs. We need to attract the best skilled labor from around the world, including creating and keeping our own skilled labor. That is how an economy will survive and thrive.

Solving the Energy Crisis and Solving the Environmental Crisis

The use of algae for fuel creates the most fuel at the least costs compared to all other processes of creating fuel. This will resolve the need for drilling for similar fuel, which saves costs, and it ends dependency on regions where oil exists which may have positive geopolitical consequences for the United States. Using algae for fuel does not harm the environment as drilling does. Algae has a tremendous environment advantage in that it consumers carbon dioxides and it produces oxygen. The increased use of algae may solve climate change problems created by the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

How is it that this simplest of solutions to some of our most serious problems has not happened? Well, make it happen. Yeah, you, reading this. If this has not happened by the time you are reading this, then contact your member of Congress or write a letter to a newspaper (if they still exist) or whatever media is around. Post something on Facebook (if that still exists, or whatever is big then, which I presume won’t be MySpace, although post something there for the one historian who reads MySpace) or whatever social media there is.

The reason why this easy solution has not been enacted is because we look believe the problem is complex and believe there is only a complex answer. There has been massive investments in the more expensive methods of finding fuel. Wars with physical deaths and economic wars with massive monetary amounts at stake have been fought over drilling. Therefore, we presume that a problem so complex that people go to wars over it therefore must have a solution that is complex.

Whoever develops large scale algae fuel wins. The U.S. Defense Department wanted to develop algae fuel for their self-interest in developing a low cost fuel for military use. Congress cut off funding of algae research. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what whispers went on that I couldn’t hear (although I admit I wasn’t even trying to listen in: I am not that type of busybody), yet I suspect that oil companies (who I’ve heard rumors have been known to donate money to campaigns of people running for and elected to Congress, and these contributions have been notice by those accepting them that they develop a sympathetic feel for their struggles to further increase their usually decent profits...although I could be wrong...probably not).

We have a belief that trees contribute oxygen, and we like to breathe oxygen, because we would die otherwise, and most of us are pro-life on the continuing to live issue, and that therefore we need to halt cutting down so many trees. I am not stating that I dislike trees and don’t support that who want to save trees. I personally like trees, have respected them for years, and accept for the branches that knock down the power lines that cause me to lost powers, I like trees. Yet, trees are not the leading source of our oxygen. Algae is. Algae creates the majority of the oxygen we breath. It is fine to save trees, yet if you really want your oxygen, make more algae.

Algae can be converted into more gallons of energy than using any other method, including, in general order of what gasoline yield, palm oil, coconut, jatropha (which is a bunch of plants in case you never heard of it, because there aren’t too many Jatropha Growers Society members in the United States), rapeseed (a plant, honest, I didn’t name it), sunflowers, soybeans, ethanol, and drilled oil. Algae actually yields far more energy than any of these methods. The problem is the method we mostly currently use is the least productive method.

Now for the good part, especially you readers who like to save money (see, you learn to save money by buying this book. Buy more copies.) Algae is the least costly of these methods. Algae grows easily in all kinds of water, even icky water, so there is not much to it to grow algae. Plus, algae grows year round. The fuel sources from plants can only be harvested after growing for some time, usually once or maybe twice a year. Algae grows all the time.

The increased use of algae may create some cultural changes. Algae may become a new prestige item. Swimming pools will be not just for swimming but for growing algae. People will engage in algae growing competitions. Moonshiners will quit making moonshine and switch to algae, ending an era of people going blind drinking poorly made alcoholic beverages. People will demand perfumes scented with algae as the new “in” item.

The prevalence of algae in our lives will alter how we live. For instance, instead of jokes such as "why did the algae cross the road?. They're algae, they have no idea what a road is" and "how many algae does it take to change a lightbulb? They're algae, they can't change a lightbulb." Suitors will tell their dates "your eyes look like pools of algae". Parents will name babies "Algae", with multiple spellings of the name such as "Al G", "Allgaee", and "Al Gore".Movies and historic novels will be produced about the great algae pioneers, causing future generations to dream of those exiting days when people first grew algae for fuel. Children will dress as algae on Halloween.

There will be two large organizations that will fight the movement towards using algae for energy, One will be the current energy producers. There is a lot of money to be made drilling deep into the ground, Large investments have been made into drilling deep into the ground. Once people realize they can make fuel more cheaply by a process that does not involve drilling into the ground, there exists a possibility (not that I can predict the future, but the potential here strikes me as decent) that people will prefer to pay for the less expensive method than for the more expensive method. There is something about human nature that this often occurs that people pick two things that are similar and choose the one that costs them the less. Studies have shown this.

The people who drill into the ground will not be happy that someone has developed a cheaper and more efficient method of doing what they do. This will make them sad, They made some hugs. They are apt to get angry, though, and realize they have lots of money to try and prevent this from happening. Personally, I would advise them to take their money and invest it elsewhere. There are lots of ways to keep making money, such as developing better computers or flying cars or filming movies about the difficulties vampires have fitting into a new high school. Our enterprise system encourages making money. If it could be made in a way that does not destroy land, waterways, and wildlife, as drilling does, so much the better. Even werewolf teenagers are apt to agree with that. If it can be seen that sending money to countries that often work against our national interests (assuming the reader is American, or at least Canadian, or perhaps European, or Asian, or African, or a vampire), and that instead we may make more movies about vampires asking teenagers to the proms (see, vampires do have an interest in this), than we may keep more money in our economy (unless the reader is from an oil producing country, in which case, let me please state, “sorry”), than we may spend less on energy and more on other goods such as flying cars and movies about talking race cars.

 A second group that will oppose using algae for fuel will be the People for the Ethical Treatment of Algae or PFTETOF, which, frankly, makes for a lousy acronym. Granted, more algae may be brought to life, which should be a plus for algae lovers. Yet, admittedly, more algae will eventually be turned into flue, which will very likely not be the highpoint of an algae’s day.

I know there are algae lovers who collect and admire algae. I don’’t condemn such people, though they should be open to criticism. If someone spends great amounts of time admiring algae, perhaps that person should consider other hobbies.  They don’t have Best Algae awards at horticulture shows. Or, at least, as of this writing,, I know of none.. I will stand corrected, and a bit horrified, if such an award is established. I will wonder what the criteria would be in awarding a more distinguished algae over all others. Will the award include a talent section?

The PFTETOF crowd will be a problem towards using algae for fuel. They may well defend algae by throwing algae onto those seeking to use algae for fuel, although they would likely realize the hypocrisy of such an action. They might seek legal restraints. Is algae, like a corporation, a person under the law? They might have protest marchers, with signs reading slogans lie “Give algae a chance”. “In your heart, you know algae’s right”, and “Tippecanoe and Algae Too”.

If you help join the fight to use algae for fuel, you will help make this a better world.