Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 23rd, 2007

Prisons: a growth industry in the US

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It still seems strange to me that the US is so fixated on locking up so many citizens, seemingly with little curiosity or interest in why it is necessary, given that most other countries don’t have this pattern. None match the US in prison population per capita, and those that are closest are not the kind of nation that we perceive ourselves to be.

And it’s still going on:

Childress is a part of a first wave of about 700 male convicts that California has shipped to privately owned and operated prisons here, in Tennessee and in Mississippi. “I feel good, like I could do another 10 years,” he says, half-jokingly.

The nation’s big private prison companies like it too. Having long lusted after a share of California’s 173,000-inmate population, they now forsee a steady stream of business.

Depending on the outcome of legal challenges, California could be “one of the longtime drivers of growth for the private prison industry,” says industry analyst Kevin Campbell.

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 August 2007 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Business, Government

Establish the habit of action

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Good advice, I think:

People at the top of every profession share one quality — they get things done. This ability supercedes intelligence, talent, and connections in determining the size of your salary and the speed of your advancement.

Despite the simplicity of this concept there is a perpetual shortage of people who excel at getting results. The action habit — the habit of putting ideas into action now — is essential to getting things done. Here are 7 ways you can grow the action habit:

1. Don’t wait until conditions are perfect
– If you’re waiting to start until conditions are perfect, you probably never will. There will always be something that isn’t quite right. Either the timing is off, the market is down, or there’s too much competition. In the real world there is no perfect time to start. You have to take action and deal with problems as they arise. The best time to start was last year. The second best time is right now.

2. Be a doer - Practice doing things rather than thinking about them. Do you want to start exercising? Do you have a great idea to pitch your boss? Do it today. The longer an idea sits in your head without being acted on, the weaker it becomes. After a few days the details gets hazy. After a week it’s forgotten completely. By becoming a doer you’ll get more done and stimulate new ideas in the process.

3. Remember that ideas alone don’t bring success
– Ideas are important, but they’re only valuable after they’ve been implemented. One average idea that’s been put into action is more valuable than a dozen brilliant ideas that you’re saving for “some other day” or the “right opportunity”. If you have an idea the you really believe in, do something about it. Unless you take action it will never go anywhere.

4. Use action to cure fear
– Have you ever noticed that the most difficult part of public speaking is waiting for your turn to speak? Even professional speakers and actors experience pre-performance anxiety. Once they get started the fear disappears. Action is the best cure for fear. The most difficult time to take action is the very first time. After the ball is rolling, you’ll build confidence and things will keep getting easier. Kill fear by taking action and build on that confidence.

5. Start your creative engine mechanically – One of the biggest misconceptions about creative work is that it can only be done when inspiration strikes. If you wait for inspiration to slap you in the face, your work sessions will be few and far between. Instead of waiting, start your creative motor mechanically. If you need to write something, force yourself to sit down and write. Put pen to paper. Brainstorm. Doodle. By moving your hands you’ll stimulate the flow of ideas and inspire yourself.

6. Think in terms of now
- Focus on what you can do in the present moment. Don’t worry about what you should have done last week or what you might be able to do tomorrow. The only time you can affect is the present. If you speculate too much about the past or the future you won’t get anything done. Tomorrow or next week frequently turns into never. As Ben Franklin said, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

7. Get down to business immediately – It’s common practice for people to socialize and make small talk at the beginning of meetings. The same is true for individual workers. How often do you check email or RSS feeds before doing any real work? These distractions will cost you serious time if you don’t bypass them and get down to business immediately. By becoming someone who gets to the point you’ll be more productive and people will look to you as a leader.

It takes courage to take action without instructions from the person in charge. Perhaps that’s why initiative is a rare quality that’s coveted by managers and executives everywhere. Seize the initiative. Be a crusader. When you have a good idea, start implementing it without being told. Once people see you’re serious about getting things done they’ll want to join in. The people at the top don’t have anyone telling them what to do. If you want to join them, you should get used to acting independently.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 August 2007 at 7:38 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tom Coburn puts hold on bill

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A bill that would benefit many of us—at no cost to taxpayers:

Since 2005, the Genetic Alliance and other patient advocacy groups have been working to get legislation passed that would protect individuals with genetic disorders (and their blood relatives) from discrimination in insurance coverage and in the workplace.  The resulting bill called “GINA” has received broad support from both parties.  The bill (details at link below) has been passed in the House of Representatives.  It looked to be a slam-dunk in the Senate, as well, but Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn (a physician) has put a hold on the bill meaning that it won’t even be considered for an up or down vote.  Senator Coburn’s office has not provided an explanation for this action yet.  President Bush has already indicated that he will sign this bill into law if it is passed in the Senate.  The only hold-up now is Senator Coburn’s hold.

According to Senator John Kyl (R-AZ), enacting GINA requirements will result in little to no direct cost to taxpayers.  The biggest opponents of this legislation have been the health insurance industry and employer groups who would like to reserve the right to deny costly services to persons with genetic disorders.

Genetic Alliance is requesting that patients impacted by this legislation contact Senator Coburn (if they are from Oklahoma) or contact the Republican leadership in the Senate to request that they persuade Senator Coburn to release the hold.

Here is the bill:
http://rpc.senate.gov/_files/L2GeneticNondisDBJS021605.pdf

Here is Senator Coburn’s legislative aide email (if you live in OK):
courtney_cox at coburn.senate.gov

Senate leadership contacts for non-OK residents:
Trent Lott (R-MS)                  Phone 202.224.6253
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)           Phone 202.224.2541

It seems a bit ridiculous that we have to fight to prevent discrimination due to our genes.  However, the threat of discrimination in the U.S. is real.  Here is an example, the International Classification of Disease (ICD) now in its 10th revision, is used by the majority of the world to categorize disease and to keep medical statistics.  It does this by assigning numerical codes (PCD has not be given a specific code yet, that is a different problem).  In the 10th edition, the ICD distinguished the numerical codes for genetic diseases by putting a letter “V” in front of them.   These so-called “V” codes were great for countries with national health plans where all patients are covered regardless of their condition.  However, in the U.S. where ICD-10 codes are used for private insurance reimbursement, it is feared that V codes will prove to be “handy guide to discrimination” by insurance providers, allowing them to easily deny claims submitted using a  V code.  Please note–this has not happened yet–this is merely an example of why Genetic Alliance, the AMA, and other professional groups have been fighting for GINA for nearly 3 years now.

If you have the ability to make a call or send an email, please consider it.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 August 2007 at 5:01 pm

The Union of Non-Metric Nations

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Metric

The Union has three members: the US, Liberia, and Myranmar.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 August 2007 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

The war on drugs and its prisoners

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This seems to me to be unjust and irrational:

A year has passed since Steve Tucker made his unheralded return to Atlanta.

His one-bedroom flat, tucked into a sprawling Sandy Springs apartment complex, is furnished sparsely: a recliner, TV, computer and a small, picnic-style table that serves as both dining hutch and desk. The stark white static of the walls is interrupted only by three small, web-like dream catchers tacked to the Sheetrock.

It’s the sort of Spartan minimalism one might expect of someone who, until recently, had to content himself with staring at bare cinderblock.

“Watch out, you’re talking to a notorious ex-con.” Wrapped in a sharp Middle Georgia twang, Tucker’s voice betrays a suppressed smile. The slight, balding, 50-year-old Atlantan is hardly an intimidating figure.

But he’s only half-kidding. Nearly a decade ago, he was sent to prison as a result of a once-infamous federal drug case that sparked national outrage for its rough interpretation of justice.

In the spring of 1994, the Tucker family received lengthy prison sentences — 10 years for Steve, 16 years for his older brother Gary, and 10 years for his brother’s wife, Joanne — without possibility of parole, for the curiously worded federal crime of “conspiracy to manufacture marijuana.”

Yet federal prosecutors never charged them with buying, selling, growing, transporting, smoking or even possessing marijuana. An 18-month DEA investigation had failed to turn up direct evidence connecting the Tuckers to even a single joint.

Instead, they were locked away for selling the lamps, fertilizer and gardening hardware from the small hydroponic supply shop Gary operated on Buford Highway that enabled their customers to grow pot.

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 August 2007 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Drug laws

Is the Surge working?

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No.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 August 2007 at 3:56 pm

Legalize (and regulate) drugs

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From Drug Policy Alliance:

Drug policy reform is in the media spotlight with a cover article in the latest issue of Foreign Policy, a prestigious international magazine of global politics, economics, and ideas, as well as a slew of other media coverage.

DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann takes on a range of drug policy ideas in the piece, challenging the notion that the global war on drugs can be won and asserting that legalization may be the best approach.

The high-profile article will be provocative discussion fodder among Foreign Policy‘s audience of influential business and government leaders in the U.S. and around the world. It has already inspired a thoughtful television piece featuring Nadelmann on The Fox Report, a FOX News program.

The recent announcement of a new anti-drug aid package for Mexico has also prompted discussion of reform in the media. The Los Angeles Times ran a piece by Ethan Nadelmann in which he offered a reality check on the likelihood of Mexico turning a corner in its fight against the drug trade. He suggested an alternative approach in which Mexico focuses on all violence–drug-related or otherwise, while the U.S. commits to such measures as increased treatment access on its own soil, rather than focusing so heavily on international drug control. He also encouraged a discussion at high levels of government on the failures of drug prohibition. Nadelmann can be heard speaking on this issue on a recent edition of To the Point, a nationally syndicated radio show.

Arnold Trebach, one of the co-founders of the original Drug Policy Foundation in 1987, took on the related issue of the connection between Mexican drug cartels and terrorists, with an op-ed in the Washington Times. He pointed to the war on drugs as a misuse of resources and to legalization as a way to make the drug trade less lucrative.

TIME, the weekly news magazine, recently looked at the injustice of New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, describing the work of Real Reform New York to get these draconian sentencing laws changed. The Rockefeller Drug Laws also came up in the Albany Times-Union, which ran an op-ed by DPA’s Gabriel Sayegh advocating Rockefeller reform.

A drug policy reform angle has been popping up on other issues as well. The Des Moines Register recently ran an op-ed by DPA staffers Tony Newman and Bill Piper in response to the news that the FBI has relaxed its hiring criteria so that more people with a history of drug use are eligible for employment. The op-ed asserted that people should not be discriminated against for what they put in their bodies when they are not at work. A letter to the editor by Bill Piper on the same issue also appeared in the Washington Post.

With all of this media attention on drug policy, discussion of the issues is becoming increasingly widespread, both in homes at the dinner table and in government offices.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 August 2007 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Drug laws

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