Later On

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

Kent Sorenson Was a Tea Party Hero. Then He Lost Everything.

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Tim Alberta has an interesting profile of Kent Sorenson in Politico:

Inmate No. 15000-030 is released into the frigid January morning at 8:46, a gray custodial suit of sweatpants and long-sleeved thermal clinging to his immense frame, a bushy salt-and-pepper beard wrapping around his face, a guard escorting him with a high-powered rifle slung over his right shoulder. Most politicians would appear hopelessly—dangerously—misplaced in a federal prison. Kent Sorenson is not most politicians. Standing over six feet tall and weighing every bit of 270 pounds, with 11 tattoos and a cleanshaven head, Sorenson is probably the only state senator to have ever been mistaken for a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. That happened during his first stop on the penal turnpike, the Metropolitan Correctional Center (“The MCC”) in Chicago, an administrative facility with maximum-security lodging where the “fish” was viewed warily by fellow inmates. A white supremacist, they figured, sizing him up. It didn’t take long—as soon as he opened his mouth, really—for them to realize otherwise. The neighborly disposition, bug-eyed gape and pitched, nasally voice cleared Sorenson of suspicion.

That feels like a life sentence ago. Sorenson has spent the last 10 months here at his second post, the minimum-security United States Penitentiary at Thomson (USP Thomson) in Thomson, Illinois, just over the border from his native Iowa and a four-hour drive from his home in the central part of the state. Today he’s getting out and going back—not home, exactly, but to a halfway house in Des Moines, where he’ll be able to look for work and enjoy long weekend furloughs with his wife, Shawnee, and their six children. As we wait in the parking lot for her husband to appear, the engine of their aging Toyota SUV straining to keep warm in the nine-degree chill, Shawnee tells me how brutal Kent’s incarceration had been on the kids. She is particularly worried about their two sons.

Just then he appears, toting a small cardboard box of personal effects and striding purposely toward the SUV. Shawnee jumps out, kissing her husband and apologizing for forgetting his winter coat. He engulfs her in a bear hug before turning to the stranger a few steps behind. “Hey, nice to meet you,” Sorenson tells me, extending a hand. “Could you do me a favor and drive? I haven’t seen my wife for a long time.” Caught off guard—this wasn’t the plan—I say “sure,” as long as my recorder is rolling. “Just don’t look in the backseat,” he adds. Sorenson grins. He stayed up late last night with the “homeboys” debating how to mess with the reporter picking him up from prison. Now he can’t stop laughing. It’s the happiest I’ll ever see him.

Shawnee takes the wheel instead, navigating toward Interstate-80 West, and her husband’s humor abruptly turns to melancholy. “I’m going to miss those men,” Sorenson says. It sounds trite, obligatory. And yet his eyes are moist. For the next 20 minutes, emotion chokes at his voice as he describes in detail the captive brotherhood forged with the sorts of criminals Sorenson would have once gladly banished from society without a second thought. Now he knows them, their struggles, their stories. There was Ricky, the self-described “pharmaceutical salesman” from Chicago who is doing 10 years for what should have been a petty drug crime—and whose son was shot during his imprisonment. There was Juan, who got suckered into entering a drug house by an undercover fed and was busted inside holding a stack of cash. And there was Chad, who became Sorenson’s best friend at USP Thomson, a Des Moines native who grew up in a meth house and is doing a 20-year stretch for a nonviolent drug crime he committed as a young man. Chad, who carries photos of his two children, ages 11 and 17, has already been locked up for nine years—and despite exemplary behavior and obvious rehabilitation, he won’t get out for at least another nine due to federal sentencing guidelines.

Sorenson emphasizes that he is not naïve. He understands that some people belong in prison, that not everyone’s story should be believed. But having spent the past year in two different institutions, learning about the lives of the inhabitants and the circumstances surrounding their detentions, he developed a burning animosity for the criminal justice system.

His melancholy soon turns to outrage. “There’s no rehabilitation happening in there. There’s no teaching, there’s no training,” he says. Worse, Sorenson adds, were the atrocious conditions: expired food, foul bathrooms, decrepit living quarters. Finally, there’s the underlying sickness plaguing the Bureau of Prisons, race relations—specifically, the entrenched, systemic approach of facilitating and fueling ethnic rivalries in service of the accepted notion that a divided community of inmates is incapable of uniting in the pursuit of a more humane environment.

This, at last, is when Sorenson’s outrage turns to guilt. It’s not that he could have done more from the inside; it’s that he should have done more from the outside, when he had the power, when he was a policymaker with authority and influence, before he became just another discarded member of society. Sorenson, the Republican state senator and Tea Party superstar with a clear path to Congress, had heard about disparities in sentencing. He had read about the statistical inequalities and crooked economics that are foundational to the American prison system. He had watched the demonstrators on television chanting about the devastation wreaked on minority communities by mass incarceration. And he didn’t buy any of it. Sorenson was a conservative—not just any conservative, but a fiery, in-your-face ideologue who preached punitive justice and individual responsibility. He was a law-and-order dogmatist. And he was, if he’s being honest, “a little bit racist,” with no time for the “bullshit propaganda” being peddled by the likes of Black Lives Matter.

Shame envelops Sorenson’s face as a thick snowfall begins to blanket the interstate. Shawnee warns that a blizzard is in the forecast and asks her husband to call the halfway house. He’s supposed to arrive in four hours, but this weather is bound to make him late. Kent picks up her cell phone and stares at it blankly. Shawnee senses his confusion, reaches over and unlocks the screen for him. She dials the number and hands it back. While it rings, Sorenson glances at me. “One year and I’m a zombie,” he shrugs. “Can you imagine coming out after 20 and seeing an iPhone?”

I can’t imagine a lot of things. How someone like Sorenson—a roughneck high school dropout with a winding rap sheet—won elected office as a Tea Party darling and became one of America’s most sought-after presidential endorsements. How the novice state legislator found himself starring in the biggest political scandal in Iowa’s history. How the defendant wound up sharing a cell with cartel members despite the federal prosecutors recommending probation. How the inmate with a hardened worldview had his eyes opened. And how, after enduring so much turmoil and tragedy, Sorenson is supposed to pick up the pieces.

Several weeks before we met in Illinois, Sorenson agreed to give his account for the first time—on my condition of complete and total disclosure. We wound up talking on-the-record for more than eight hours. From those conversations, as well as interviews with dozens of friends, foes, legal acquaintances and veterans of Iowa’s political scene, and hundreds of pages of police reports, court records and federal indictments, I hoped to answer the questions surrounding Sorenson’s rise and fall—and achieve some closure on a story that still confounds the most powerful people in a state that picks our presidents. Little do either of us know, as we rumble westward toward Des Moines, that Kent Sorenson’s punishment has only just begun.

***

The man behind the desk sifted through stacks of processing forms, finally glancing up. “What are you gonna say you’re in for?” he asked Sorenson. The new inmate blinked. “Don’t tell them what you’re actuallyin for,” the MCC official clarified. “It sounds weak.” Sorenson was stunned. Of everything he’d researched online about prison life—the gangs, the food, the unwritten rules—explaining his crime had never come up. “What should I say I’m in for?” he sputtered. “That’s up to you,” the man replied. “I just won’t tell them anything,” Sorenson shrugged. “That won’t work,” the man said. “They’ll think you’re a chomo.” Sorenson already knew what “chomo” meant: a child molester, the lowest form of life in the penal ecosystem, a likely target for beatings or worse. “Try bank fraud,” suggested the man behind the desk.

When he arrived at his new residence—the 19th floor of the MCC—Sorenson was met with pandemonium. The sleeping arrangements had, some time ago, been rearranged by the highest-ranking inmate on the floor, a lieutenant to the Mexican cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The lieutenant had recently been transferred, but the arrangements remained. Now, with a new inmate, the guards restored the nominal structure of the floor to ensure that Sorenson had a bed. There was just one problem: Another inmate was on Sorenson’s assigned bunk and refused to budge. Taking it all in, the decibel level spiking around him, Sorenson feared for his safety sooner than he’d ever imagined. Quickly, though, he realized the threats weren’t directed at him; it was the obstinate inmate who was holding up the program. Sorenson felt relief, and later pity: The stubborn man, in his 40s, had the mental capacity of a child and was rumored to have been raped. He belonged in an institution, not a federal prison.

Where did Sorenson belong? Not here, he told himself. I’m a family man, a business owner, an elected official. But he knew this was a sanitized version of himself—Kent Sorenson 2.0, the archetypal good guy cheated by a bad system. In truth, for most of his life, the penitentiary had been a far likelier destination than the legislature.

Sorenson grew up a hellion. The son of simple Iowa folks—his father owned a janitorial operation—he began smoking marijuana in 6th grade, selling and using harder drugs soon after and drinking heavily by age 14. He would lie to his parents about sleepovers and spend late nights and long weekends cementing a rotten reputation. He built a considerable rap sheet: assault, disorderly conduct, drug possession and delivery. He dropped out of high school at 17 and married Shawnee, then 16. But the marriage, and the births of their first two children, did little to change Sorenson’s destructive ways. “I was a horrible husband and a horrible father,” he says. “The turning point was our third child. I knew if I didn’t change I’d lose my family.”

Sorenson moved his wife and young kids to Oklahoma, hoping to start over by enrolling in Bible school. That never happened. He became disillusioned with their Tulsa church and providing for the family became an all-consuming priority. Still, somehow, Sorenson got his life together, and a few years later returned to Iowa a changed person. He visited the local cops to apologize for past indiscretions. He made things right with his parents. He opened a small business. And he involved his family in the community—church, sports, homeschooling groups.

But politics? Sorenson had no interest. This, despite growing up in caucus-crazy Iowa, with outsized attention paid to the state by every president in the modern era. The extent of his partisan engagement was nodding along to socially conservative sermons and sporadically tuning into local talk radio. His general perception of politicians was harsh—they were all liars and leeches, playing word games to deceive the public and enrich themselves in the process. It was only when the former Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee caught fire in Iowa that Sorenson felt moved, for the first time, to caucus in January 2008. A few weeks later, when Shawnee asked him to accompany her to a rally at the state capital in Des Moines, he snickered. No way. He believed in the cause—amending the state’s constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage—but standing outside the capital on an icy January afternoon was not his idea of time well spent. Shawnee was unrelenting. She told him it was their moral responsibility. She told him it was about what kind of state their children would grow up in. He sighed and agreed to go along.

Once there, a switch flipped inside of Sorenson. He was swept up in the emotion of the event, galvanized by the notion of a culture under siege, inspired by the powerful oration of Rev. Keith Ratliff, then the president of Iowa’s chapter of the NAACP. Storming the capitol building on a whim, Sorenson and a group of friends demanded an audience with the officeholders who represented them: Representative Mark Davitt and Senator Staci Appel, both Democrats. Waiting and waiting, having pestered their staffs, Sorenson expected the lawmakers to eventually oblige him. Neither one did. He was apoplectic. Sorenson spent the car ride home fuming. He vowed to help organize campaigns to defeat both Davitt and Appel.

There was one problem: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2018 at 1:03 pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan, age 21, has his first maximum break in a tournament: 5 minutes 20 seconds to get 147 points

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Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2018 at 11:05 am

Posted in Games

There’s overwhelming evidence that the criminal-justice system is racist. Here’s the proof.

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

A couple years ago, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) gave a powerful speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Scott talked about how he had been repeatedly pulled over by police officers who seemed to be suspicious of a black man driving a nice car. He added that a black senior-level staffer had experienced the same thing and had even downgraded his car in the hope of avoiding the problem. Given that Scott otherwise has pretty conservative politics, there was little objection or protest from the right. No one rose up to say that he was lying about getting pulled over.

The thing is, most people of color have a similar story or know someone who does. Yet, there’s a deep skepticism on the right of any assertion that the criminal-justice system is racially biased. In early August, National Review editor and syndicated columnist Rich Lowry wrote a column disputing the notion that our system is racist. Andrew Sullivan wrote something similar in New York magazine. (Interestingly, both Lowry and Sullivan cite criminologist John Pfaff to support their positions. Pfaff has since protested on Twitter that both misinterpreted what he wrote.) And attempting to refute the notion that the system is racist has become a pretty regular beat for conservative crime pundit Heather Mac Donald.

Of particular concern to some on the right is the term “systemic racism,” often wrongly interpreted as an accusation that everyone in the system is racist. In fact, systemic racism means almost the opposite. It means that we have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them. When you consider that much of the criminal-justice system was built, honed and firmly established during the Jim Crow era — an era almost everyone, conservatives included, will concede rife with racism — this is pretty intuitive. The modern criminal-justice system helped preserve racial order — it kept black people in their place. For much of the early 20th century, in some parts of the country, that was its primary function. That it might retain some of those proclivities today shouldn’t be all that surprising.

In any case, after more than a decade covering these issues, it’s pretty clear to me that the evidence of racial bias in our criminal-justice system isn’t just convincing — it’s overwhelming. But because there still seems to be some skepticism, I’ve attempted below to catalog the evidence. The list below isn’t remotely comprehensive. And if you know of other studies, please send them to me. I would like to make this post a repository for this issue.

I, of course, can’t vouch for the robustness or statistical integrity of all of these studies. I’m only summarizing them. But for the most part, I’ve tried to include either peer-reviewed studies or reviews of data that tend to speak for themselves and don’t require much statistical analysis. I will note that most (but not all) of these studies do factor in variables that address common claims such as that the criminal-justice system discriminates more by class than by race, or that racial discrepancies in sentencing or incarceration can be explained by the fact that black people commit more crimes. And I’ve also included a section for studies that do not find bias in various aspects of the criminal-justice system. There are far fewer of these, though I’m open to the possibility that I missed some.

Finally, none of this is to say that race is the only thing we need to worry about in the criminal-justice system. Certainly, lots of white people are wrongly accused, arrested and convicted. Lots of white people are treated unfairly, beaten, and unjustifiably shot and killed by police officers. White people too are harmed by policies such as mandatory minimums, asset forfeiture, and abuse of police, prosecutorial and judicial power.

There are problems here that are inextricable from race. And there are problems that aren’t directly related to race. But even the latter set of problems tend to be exacerbated when you factor race into the equation. On to the evidence.

Skip to a section: Policing and profiling | Misdemeanors, petty crimes and driver’s license suspensions | The drug war | Juries and jury selection | The death penalty | Prosecutors, discretion and plea bargaining | Judges and sentencing | School suspensions and the school-to-prison pipeline | Prison, incarceration and solitary confinement | Bail, pretrial detention, commutations and pardons, gangs and other issues | The dissent — contrarian studies on race and the criminal-justice system
Policing and profiling
I’ve had more than one retired police officer tell me that there is a running joke in law enforcement when it comes to racial profiling: It never happens . . . and it works. But the problem with trying to dismiss profiling concerns by noting that higher rates at which some minority groups commit certain crimes is that it overlooks the fact that huge percentages of black and Latino people have been pulled over, stopped on the street and generally harassed despite the fact that they have done nothing wrong. Stop and frisk data, for example, consistently show that about 3 percent of these encountersproduce any evidence of a crime. So 97 percent-plus of these people are getting punished solely because they belong to a group that statistically commits some crimes at a higher rate. That ought to bother us.

  • In their book “Suspect Citizens,” Frank R. Baumgartner, Derek A. Epp and Kelsey Shoub reviewed 20 million traffic stops. In an interview with The Post, they shared what they found: “Blacks are almost twice as likely to be pulled over as whites — even though whites drive more on average,” “blacks are more likely to be searched following a stop,” and “just by getting in a car, a black driver has about twice the odds of being pulled over, and about four times the odds of being searched.” They found that blacks were more likely to be searched despite the fact they’re less likely to be found with contraband as a result of those searches.
  • A 2013 Justice Department study found that black and Latino drivers are more likely to be searched once they have been pulled over. About 2 percent of white motorists were searched, vs. 6 percent of black drivers and 7 percent of Latinos.
  • In 2015, the Charleston Post and Courier looked at incidents in which police stopped motorists but didn’t issue a citation. These are sometimes called “pretext stops,” because they suggest that the officer was profiling the motorist as a possible drug courier or suspected the motorist of other crimes. The paper found that after adjusting for population, blacks in nearly every part of the state were significantly more likely to be the subject of such stops.
  • A 2017 study of 4.5 million traffic stops by the 100 largest police departments in North Carolina found that blacks and Latinos were more likely to be searched than whites (5.4 percent, 4.1 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively), even though searches of white motorists were more likely than the others to turn up contraband (whites: 32 percent, blacks: 29 percent, Latinos: 19 percent).
  • According to the Justice Department, between 2012 and 2014, black people in Ferguson, Mo., accounted for 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of citations and 93 percent of arrests, despite comprising 67 percent of the population. Blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to be searched after traffic stops, even though they proved to be 26 percent less likely to be in possession of illegal drugs or weapons.  Between 2011 and 2013, blacks also received 95 percent of jaywalking tickets and 94 percent of tickets for “failure to comply.” The Justice Department also found that the racial discrepancy for speeding tickets increased dramatically when researchers looked at tickets based on only an officer’s word vs. tickets based on objective evidence, such as vs. radar. Black people facing similar low-level charges as white people were 68 percent less likely to see those charges dismissed in court. More than 90 percent of the arrest warrants stemming from failure to pay/failure to appear were issued for black people.
  • These figures are similar to others throughout St. Louis County. For example, in the town of Florissant, 71 percent of the motorists pulled over by police in 2013 were black. Blacks make up 27 percent of the town at the time (they now make up 33 percent). Blacks were also twice as likely to be searched after a stop, even though white motorists were more likely to be found with contraband.
  • A study of “investigatory” traffic stops — that is, stops that did not result in a citation — by police in Kansas City found that blacks were 2.7 times more likely to be pulled over in an investigatory stop, and five times more likely to be searched.
  • A study of stop and frisk incidents in Boston between 2007 and 2010 that did not result in a citation or arrest found that 63 percent of such stops were of black people. Blacks made up 24 percent of the city’s population. Incredibly, 97.5 percent of these encounters resulted in no arrest or seizure of contraband.
  • A 2015 statistical analysis of police shootings from 2011 to 2014 found that the racial disparity in police shootings of black people could not be explained by higher crime rates in majority-black communities.
  • A 2018 Post investigation found that murders of white people are more likely to be solved than murders of black people. There’s also a strong correlation between areas that are black-majority and low-income and the areas with the lowest clearance rate for homicides.
  • Similarly, a study published in June reviewed every reported homicide between 1976 and 2009 and found that “homicides with white victims are significantly more likely to be ‘cleared’ by the arrest of a suspect than are homicides with minority victims.”
  • Another ACLU study, this time on the use of stop-and-frisk in Milwaukee between 2010 and 2017, found that in nearly half of the more than 700,000 such stops, the police failed to demonstrate reasonable suspicion as required by the Constitution. The study found that between pedestrian stops and traffic stops, black people were six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, and that less than 1 percent of those searches turned up any contraband. Here again, while black and Latino drivers were more likely to be searched, they were 20 percent less likely to be in possession of any contraband.
  • Going back to 2002, data show that when New York City was implementing its stop-and-frisk policy, white people generally made up only about 10 percent of such stops, despite making up about 45 percent of the city. Black and Latino people made up more than 80 percent of the stops, despite making up just over half the city population. Consistently, between 85 and 90 percent of such stops produced no arrest, citation or evidence of criminal activity. Fewer than 1 percent of stops produced a gun, the alleged reason for the policy.
  • Between 2012 and 2014, the Los Angeles Police Department received more than 1,350 citizen complaints of racial profiling. The department didn’t uphold a single complaint.
  • A 2016 report found that between 2011 and 2015, black drivers in Nashville’s Davidson County were pulled over at a rate of 1,122 stops per 1,000 drivers — so on average, more than once per black driver. Black drivers were also searched at twice the rate of white drivers, though — as in other jurisdictions — searches of white drivers were more likely to turn up contraband.
  • A 2017 study of interactions between officers and citizens taken from footage captured by police officer body cameras found that “officers speak with consistently less respect toward black versus white community members, even after controlling for the race of the officer, the severity of the infraction, the location of the stop, and the outcome of the stop.”
  • An NAACP survey of citizen complaints against police officers in North Charleston, S.C., between 2006 and 2016 found that complaints by white citizens were about two-thirds more likely to be sustained than complaints filed by black citizens. When the complainant alleged excessive force, white complaints were sustained seven times more often than black complaints.
  • A 2015 study found that though black women are just 6 percent of the female population of San Francisco, they account for 45.5 percent of female arrests.

Misdemeanors, petty crimes and driver’s license suspensions . . .

Continue reading. As you see, it is a comprehensive report.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2018 at 10:25 am

Posted in Law, Law Enforcement

The Whelan story is even worse than you thought

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Jesus. Just read it.

On, paywall. Well, here’s some of the report by Elise Viebeck, Emma Brown, and Robert Costa in the Washington Post:

A conservative legal commentator on Friday denied communicating with the White House or Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh about his theory that the woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault was mistaking him for someone else.
“I have not communicated at all with [White House counsel] Donald McGahn or anyone at the White House, or Judge Kavanaugh, about the topic of the Twitter thread,” Ed Whelan said in a brief interview with The Washington Post.
Whelan, president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, declined to discuss his since-deleted tweets speculating on who might have assaulted Christine Blasey Ford in the early 1980s or whether he had spoken with other top Republicans about the matter.
Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her and tried to pull off her clothes at a party in Montgomery County, Md., while they were teenagers has upended his Supreme Court confirmation process and threatened a nomination that Republicans believed was headed for a straightforward conclusion this month.
Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has strongly denied the allegations, saying in a statement that he has “never done anything like what the accuser describes.”
helan’s claims on Twitter on Thursday evening that Ford might have been assaulted by someone else raised immediate questions about whether he had spoken to or coordinated with Republican leaders about his theory.
Republicans on Capitol Hill and White House officials sought to distance themselves from Whelan’s claims, saying they were not aware that he was going to suggest Ford could have been attacked by a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s.
Whelan has been involved in helping to advise Kavanaugh’s confirmation effort and is close friends with Kavanaugh and Leonard Leo, the head of the Federalist Society, who has been helping to spearhead the nomination.
On Sunday, Ford noticed that — even before her name became public — Whelan appeared to be seeking information about her.
That morning, Ford alerted an associate via email that Whelan had looked at her LinkedIn page, according to the email, which was reviewed by The Post. LinkedIn allows some subscribers to see who views their pages. Ford sent the email about 90 minutes after The Post shared her name with a White House spokesman and hours before her identity was revealed in a story posted on its website.
A White House spokesman said Friday that neither Kavanaugh nor anyone in the White House gave Ford’s name to Whelan before it was disclosed by The Post.
After The Post contacted the White House for comment Sunday morning, deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah called a number of Trump allies to warn them about the upcoming story, according to a person familiar with the calls, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. He disclosed Ford’s identity to a number of these people but did not talk to Whelan, the person said. Other White House officials, including McGahn, also made calls according to a second person, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Whelan did not respond to a request for comment on how he first learned of Ford’s identity. . .

Continue reading.

Emphasis added.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2018 at 9:39 am

Another razor that clamps an extreme curvature on the blade—and a great shave

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I would really like to get some more Van Yulay soaps, and maybe I will, but the soaps are again starting to overflow their shelves. I’ll have to do some cutting back first.

Still, After Dark is a favorite, and the lather I got this morning with the Plisson synthetic was spectacular. And I love the fragrance:

Cinnamon, leather, cypress, sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, patchouli, lavender, mandarin orange, musk, benzoin, vanilla, apple, cedar and bergamot.

The soap’s ingredients:

Stearic Acid, Aloe Vera, Coconut Fatty Acid, Castor, Glycerin, Potassium Hydroxide, Coconut-Emu-Babassu-Olive-Argan-Jojoba-Oils, Calendula, Extracts, Poly Quats, Sodium Lactate, Allantoin, Silica, Liquid Silk, Bentonite Clay, Essential Oils, and Fragrance.

The Baby Smooth did its usual superb job and effortlessly left my face perfectly smooth, to which I applied a splash of After Dark aftershave after giving it a good shake. (The aftershave includes emu oil (and so is not vegan), which I thought might tend to separate.)

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2018 at 9:19 am

Posted in Shaving

“I was sexually assaulted. Here’s why I don’t remember many of the details.”

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Patti Davis, the author, most recently, of the novelThe Earth Breaks in Colorsand the daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, has a powerful column in the Washington Post:

Roughly 40 years ago, I showed up at a prominent music executive’s office for an appointment that had been scheduled suspiciously late in the workday. But I wasn’t suspicious. I was instead eager to try to place some of my original songs with artists he represented. One of my songs had appeared on the Eagles album “One of These Nights,” and I was hoping to turn songwriting into a career.
I brought along a cassette tape of my material, but I don’t remember what the executive said about the songs. Nor do I recall what we talked about. I remember the sky turning dark outside the window behind his desk. I remember sensing that people had left the building and we were there alone. I remember his face, his hair and what he was wearing. When he pulled a vial of cocaine out of his desk drawer and started chopping up lines on a small mirror, I’m 90 percent sure I declined his offer to do some with him, not because I didn’t do drugs — I definitely did in those years — but because I was starting to feel uncomfortable. My memory of the discomfort is sharp and clear, but my memory of declining the coke is, as I said, about 90 percent.
What happened next, though, is indelible. He crossed the room. There was a dark-green carpet, but his footsteps seemed loud, hard. He was against me, on top of me — so quickly — with his hands under my skirt and his mouth on mine, that I froze. I lay there as he pushed himself inside me. The leather couch stuck to my skin, made noises beneath me. His breath smelled like coffee and stale bread. He didn’t use a condom. I remember leaving afterward, driving home, the night around me glittered with streetlights and alive with people out at dinner or bars. I felt alone, ashamed and disgusted with myself. Why didn’t I get out of there? Why didn’t I push him off? Why did I freeze?
I don’t remember what month it was. I don’t remember whether his assistant was still there when I arrived. I don’t remember whether we said anything to each other when I left his office.
I never told anyone for decades — not a friend, not a boyfriend, not a therapist, not my husband when I got married years later.
It doesn’t surprise me one bit that for more than 30 years, Christine Blasey Ford didn’t talk about the assault she remembers, the one she accuses Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of committing.
It’s important to understand how memory works in a traumatic event. Ford has been criticized for the things she doesn’t remember, like the address where she says the assault happened, or the time of year, or whose house it was. But her memory of the attack itself is vivid and detailed. His hand over her mouth, another young man piling on, her fear that maybe she’d die there, unable to breathe. That’s what happens: Your memory snaps photos of the details that will haunt you forever, that will change your life and live under your skin. It blacks out other parts of the story that really don’t matter much.
Ford wants the FBI to investigate so that some of the details she doesn’t remember can be established. It’s a brave request. Perhaps the aging men who are poised to interrogate her, unless they hide behind surrogates, should pause for a moment and think about the courage it takes for a woman to say: Here is my memory. It has haunted me for decades. It changed my life. You need to know about it now because of what is at stake for this country.
Requesting an investigation into the incident isn’t a big ask. Unless . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 September 2018 at 6:31 pm

What Teens Think of the Kavanaugh Accusations

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Joe Pinsker writes in the Atlantic:

As soon as Christine Blasey Ford went public with her accusation that the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when the two were teens, a chorus of conservative political commentators came to his defense. Some of them aimed primarily to sow doubt about Ford’s story, but others weighed the accusations, only to conclude that the behavior described was characteristically adolescent and thus dismissable.

For instance, Stephen L. Miller, a writer for Fox News’s website, tweeted that the allegations didn’t amount to sexual assault, but rather “drunk teenagers playing seven minutes of heaven.” The radio-show host and columnist Dennis Prager advised his readers not to be shocked if a future Republican nominee “is accused of sexual misconduct … from when he was in elementary school.” Going back to an even earlier developmental stage to make her point, the Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker wondered, “What’s next, his potty training?” On Instagram, Donald Trump Jr. engaged in his own infantilizing of Ford’s accusations, likening the scene she described to the result of a schoolyard crush.

These statements were intended to diminish the seriousness of what Ford alleged happened, but, intentionally or not, they also diminish a whole category of humans: teenagers. And many teenagers, as they themselves are proud to report, have a sophisticated, nuanced understanding of sex and consent—one that invalidates the low expectations that so many adults appear to have of them.As they’ve watched the week’s news unfold, some of them have gotten frustrated. “They just keep saying ‘He was in high school—boys will be boys,’” says Maurielle, a 17-year-old from Houston. “But I’m in high school—I don’t want that to happen to me.” She went on, “It feels alienating reading what’s happening, because they’re blaming so much on the fact that they were in high school and they were young.” Julianna, a 17-year-old from outside of Pittsburgh, said she also rejected what she called “the whole ‘But maybe they didn’t know better at that age’ argument.” (I am referring to Maurielle, Julianna, and the other teenagers interviewed for this article only by their first name, to protect their identities.)

“I feel like we have to give teens more credit for being thoughtful human beings,” Ivy Chen, a sexuality-health educator in the San Francisco Bay Area, told me. She teaches thousands of kids and teens across nearly 50 schools each year, and says that her students are “really receptive” to and “up to the task” of conversations about sexual consent.

I talked with several teenagers from around this country this week about the accusations made against Kavanaugh, and their stances on sexual consent were very well thought-out. For example, Julianna, from outside of Pittsburgh, lamented that consent only comes up in conversation when it has been violated. “There’s this unspoken, quiet knowledge between us all that consent is required and healthy and good and everything, but no one will go out of their way to discuss it unless something bad happens,” she wrote to me in an email, adding, “I personally hate that because it feels like we can and should only talk about it when a situation is deemed Bad Enough. Like consent only ‘matters’ if the situation was terrible.”

I also heard from Evan, an 18-year-old Texan who, during some sexual encounters, has “found it useful for us to briefly roleplay a situation in which I make demands and they reject me.” His reasoning: “I want to establish that they have a say in this, that I’ll listen to them, that they can tell me what to do and what not to do.” And one self-described “18-year-old girl woman person thing from a super traditional Persian-Jewish immigrant community” told me in an email that “I have never slept with (or even kissed!) a guy, but when I do, there won’t be any gray area about it— everybody in the tri-state area will know whether or not I have consented.”

Many of the teens I talked with said that the allegations against Kavanaugh, if true, should disqualify him, especially given that he has not apologized for his alleged actions but rather denied them. “It’s the people who haven’t changed that you have to worry about,” says Ally, a 16-year-old Iowan who said that she has “views from both sides” politically. Similarly, Julianna wrote in an email, “I believe that someone should be held responsible for something (rape/assault) that they did, even if they were my age when they did it and it’s been decades since.”

“I have less experience living through life and knowing what’s right and what’s wrong,” said John, a 17-year-old from Seattle who identifies as a “very mild conservative, somewhere in the middle.” “But I think that most people around me have a pretty educated view on what’s right and what’s not in those regards.”

Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University and the author of Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence, notes that most teens are of course mature enough to know right from wrong. But, he says, their brains really are different from adults’ brains. “Adolescents tend to place more emphasis on the potential rewards of a risky decision,” he says. “And adolescents are more shortsighted.” This is why, he said, the Supreme Court banned death sentences for offenses committed by those under 18, and put other limits on sentencing for them as well.

But that’s not the same as arguing, as so many commentators have, that teens are less aware of the consequences of their actions. Steinberg says the reason the Supreme Court treated minors as it did isn’t “because they don’t know better—that doesn’t even figure into the discussion—it’s because they have difficulty behaving in ways that are consistent with what they know,” Steinberg says.

That said, what they know depends in part on their environment. “Depending on where they go to school and where they live, especially state by state, the type of sex ed and therefore their attitudes about this can really differ,” Ivy Chen told me. As of 2016, California, where she teaches, requires middle and high schools to provide “comprehensive” sex-ed classes, which cover puberty, reproduction, and sexual health, as well as relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation, and (often but not always) consent. Chen says she brings up the latter concept generally as early on as fourth grade, telling kids, “Some people like hugs and some people don’t like hugs.”

The teens I spoke with provided a snapshot of how uneven sex ed is throughout the U.S. Maurielle, from Houston, said . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 September 2018 at 5:16 pm

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