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( gill )

Comments made by gill

How Does Our Food System Contribute To Global Warming?

In 1993, my wife and I inherited an eighty acre farm in northwest Iowa. We kept the farm, and we produce corn and soybeans. In 2007, we shipped 13,000 bushels of corn to the nearby ethanol plant. From our small farm came about 30,000 gallons of ethanol and, to my surprise, 250,000 pounds of distillers grain (DG). What is distillers grain? That is what I asked at the ethanol plant, seeing huge mounds of golden grain type stuff stacked here and there.

DG turns out to be food -- good food in fact, rich in vitamins (A, D, E, niacin, riboflavin) and minerals of all sorts. It is also very high in protein and, in fact, a much better food than the original corn. It is the dark secret of ethanol production that this extremely valuable food source is wasted (my opinion) on feeding animals, mostly beef. The DG is much more valuable (my opinion again) than the ethanol. In fact, the ethanol is best regarded as a waste product in the production of DG.

Here is what I propose:

(1) Outlaw feeding DG to cattle (let them eat grass)
(2) Require corn-based ethanol producers to operate so that the DG they produce is suitable for human consumption. No antibiotics or harmful by-products for humans should end up in the DG. Some corn-based ethanol producers already do this.
(3) Use the approximately 250 billion pounds of DG so produced each year in the US to alleviate world hunger. Millions of lives could be saved.

November 10, 2009 at 2:48 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Prison Crisis: Parole, Rehabilitation, Reentry

Knowing some basic statistics would help us in our discussion of parole and rehabilitation. The following example is from the US as a whole, but it applies to California's problems as well.

First some important terminology: If Sam and Bill assault Tom, then Sam has committed an assault on Tom and Bill has committed an assault on Tom.  There are two "offenses" that have been committed, two "offenders" and one "victim."  Justice demands that we convict both offenders and thus "solve" both offenses. 

Each year in the United States, there are about 5,000,000 (five million) victims of violent crime (mainly rape, robbery, assault) out of the 250,000,000 citizens over the age of 12 (statistics for children are separate). Taking multiple offenders into account, there are about 8,000,000 violent criminal offenses in the U.S. each year.

The number of arrests of violent offenders each year is about 15% of the total number of violent offenses. Thus, there are about 1,200,000 arrests of violent offenders each hear (15% of 8,000,000). Some of the offenses for which these arrests are made may have been in previous years, but this 15% is still useful information.  It tells us the rate at which we are making progress in solving crime -- not a good rate. Of these 1,200,000 arrests, about half result in a conviction. There are about 600,000 convictions out of 8,000,000 violent offenses.  We are solving less than 10% of the violent offenses by convictions. 

This same pattern of low conviction rates and an enormous accumulation of unsolved offenses is characteristic of all crime categories for which people are in Donovan and other state prisons. What you need to understand is that, in regard to parole, rehabilitation, etc., we are talking about a small percentage of offenders relative to the number of offenses committed and number of offenders still at large.

We are about to enter into a vaccination program for the H1N1 virus. If we vaccinate less than 10% of the people at risk, the program will fail. It won't matter if while they get their shots we play music, let them watch TV, or stab them with dull needles so they don't want to come back. Ten percent is ten percent. Failure, however, is no excuse for mean mindedness.

If you want to learn the precise statistics, start at the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) site: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/.  For California go to http://ag.ca.gov/. All of this stuff is important but, sadly, takes great patience and time to read.

October 13, 2009 at 1:40 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Prison Crisis: Life at Richard J. Donovan State Correctional Facility

In the 1990's, Rand Corporation did an excellent study of the three strikes law: Three Strikes and You're Out, MR-509-RC. An interesting set of statistics is contained in two tables, D.5 and D.6, pages 56 and 57 (combine arrest rates, D.5, with conviction rates for arrests, D.6). I was amazed by these numbers and have checked them out again from time to time (most recently about a year ago with one of the authors of the orignal study, Caulkins). Here are the percentage of criminal offenses in California, by category, that are ever resolved by a conviction:
Rape 2.3%, Robbery 3.6%, Assault 8%, Burglary 3.4%, Theft 2.1%, MVT 1.4%
These are amazingly low numbers that must be considered in a discussion such as yours, but they weren't brought up on your show.

October 7, 2009 at 3:51 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Prison Crisis: Long Sentences, More Prisoners

In the 1990's, Rand Corporation did an excellent study of the three strikes law: Three Strikes and You're Out, MR-509-RC. An interesting set of statistics is contained in two tables, D.5 and D.6, pages 56 and 57 (combine arrest rates, D.5, with conviction rates for arrests, D.6). I was amazed by these numbers and have checked them out again from time to time (most recently about a year ago with one of the authors of the orignal study, Caulkins). Here are the percentage of criminal offenses in California, by category, that are ever resolved by a conviction:

Rape 2.3%, Robbery 3.6%, Assault 8%, Burglary 3.4%, Theft 2.1%, MVT 1.4%

These are amazing numbers, very carefully researched, that must be considered in a discussion such as yours, but they weren't brought up on your show.

October 7, 2009 at 10:10 a.m. ( | suggest removal )