Later On

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

Archive for September 29th, 2022

Thousands were released from prison during covid. The results are shocking.

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Molly Gill, vice-president of policy for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, has an interesting column (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post:

We are keeping many people in prison even though they are no danger to the public, a jaw-dropping new statistic shows. That serves as proof that it’s time to rethink our incarceration policies for those with a low risk of reoffending.

To protect those most vulnerable to covid-19 during the pandemic, the Cares Act allowed the Justice Department to order the release of people in federal prisons and place them on home confinement. More than 11,000 people were eventually released. Of those, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) reported that only 17 of them committed new crimes.

That’s not a typo. Seventeen. That’s a 0.15 percent recidivism rate in a country where it’s normal for 30 to 65 percent of people coming home from prison to reoffend within three years of release.

Of those 17 people, most new offenses were for possessing or selling drugs or other minor offenses. Of the 17 new crimes, only one was violent (an aggravated assault), and none were sex offenses.

This extremely low recidivism rate shows there are many, many people in prison we can safely release to the community. These 11,000 releases were not random. People in low- and minimum-security prisons or at high risk of complications from covid were prioritized for consideration for release.

Except for people convicted of some offenses, such as sex offenses, no one was automatically barred from consideration because of their crime, sentence length or time served. The BOP instead assessed each eligible person individually, looking at their prison disciplinary record, any violent or gang-related conduct and their risk to the public.

The agency allowed a person’s release if they had a home to go to and would be able to weather all the burdens of home confinement. Home confinement requires people to wear an ankle monitor with GPS tracking, stay home except when given permission to leave for things such as work or doctor’s appointments and remain drug- and crime-free. No one was simply released onto the street without support or supervision.

The Cares Act policy teaches us that many of our prison sentences are unnecessarily lengthy. People who commit crimes should be held accountable, and that might include serious time in prison. Many of the people released to home confinement had years or even decades left to serve on their sentences. But they changed in prison and are no longer a danger to others, as the new data confirms.

Releases to home confinement were also focused on two groups of people who pose little to no risk to public safety: the . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

It’s good when people learn from experience. Apparently most of the convicts did. I’ll be most corrections officers have not — and, of course, the privatization of prisons means that some major corporations have a financial interest in maximizing the number of people in prisons. That industry has lobbied heavily for mandatory minimum sentences (keeping people in prison longer) and for three-strikes laws (keeping people in prison until they finally die). The reason is not public safety, it is corporate profit.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 9:06 pm

Asking one simple question can entirely change how you feel

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Christian Waughi, professor of psychology at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, writes in Psyche:

The pursuit of happiness is many people’s primary goal in life, and a subject that’s occupied countless philosophers and psychologists over the millennia. It is usually painted as an effortful and difficult aim to accomplish, especially in trying times. Indeed, it’s through their promises to help us reach a happier place that many self-help gurus pay for their mansions on the beach. However, taking the first step to being happier could be a lot simpler than many people realise.

Logic dictates that happiness relies, at least in part, on a person’s ability to regulate their emotions. After all, emotion regulation is the process of trying to change one’s current emotions to reach a more desired emotional state. For example, I hate crying at sad movies, so whenever I feel the sadness creeping up, I usually crack a joke to ward it off. Many of the emotion-regulation strategies people commonly use might be familiar to you, such as doing fun things, talking with a friend, and trying to think about the situation differently.

However, there is actually a much simpler way to change how you feel, as my colleagues and I, along with other researchers, have found. It starts with answering the question ‘How do you feel?’ You might think of the answer as just a ‘report’ of your current emotional state or mood, end of story. But there’s more to it: research shows that the mere act of answering this question actually changes the emotions you are currently feeling.

When we put our feelings into words in this way, scientists call it ‘affect labelling’. In psychology, the word ‘affect’ (the ‘a’ is pronounced as in the word ‘tap’) refers to the family of feelings that include emotions and moods. So, if someone asks you how you feel or if you ask yourself the same question, you ‘affect label’ if you respond by saying something like ‘I feel angry’, but not if you just respond with a grunt or a grimace.

Studies have shown that when people label their negative emotions, it can decrease how negative they feel. For this research, participants typically view various negative emotional stimuli (such as images of snarling dogs or impoverished children) and then the researchers ask them to either label the emotion of the image (eg, ‘fear’ or ‘sad’) or, for a control comparison, to label the content of the image (eg, ‘animal’ or ‘person’), and finally the participants will report their emotional feelings. Importantly, at no point do the researchers instruct the participants to purposefully and effortfully reduce their negative emotions. Most participants are also unaware that labelling their emotions might change their feelings. The fact that labelling the emotion provoked by an image nonetheless has this dampening effect on participants’ negative feelings suggests that affect labelling is different from those deliberate emotion-regulation strategies I mentioned earlier. It seems that affect labelling can help reduce negative emotions ‘implicitly’ – or without a conscious goal.

Affect labelling helps people feel better by dampening negative emotions while also heightening positive emotions

You might wonder what this has to do with experiencing more happiness, rather just less misery. Relevant here is whether  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 5:48 pm

Broccoli in garlic sauce, incidentally vegan

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This recipe looks interesting — and presented at a good clip. I particularly found the Marmite tip of interest: use it in a sauce to add umami (and B vitamins). 

I certainly would not use white rice, which lacks the minerals found in the bran. I would use brown rice or — more likely — a more nutritious grain (like kamut or rye) or pseudo-grain (like quinoa). Those are more nutritious than rice and also tastier, IMO.

Another change I would make: after cutting up the broccoli, I would let it rest for 45 minutes to prevent the loss of sulforaphane. (The video at the link provides a workaround to preserve the sulforaphane if you don’t let the broccoli rest.) I routinely use the “hack-and-hold” method when I cook broccoli (or kale or cabbage or any other cruciferous vegetable). I like doing that better than using the workaround.

I would also probably skip the sugar and molasses, but that’s me.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 5:06 pm

Good walk

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Now that I am walking longer and faster, the training effect has really taken hold. Today:

3.07 miles
52 minutes 10 seconds
3.54 mph
110 steps/minute
33″ stride (average)
5765 steps

My daily goal is 6000 steps, and 6000 steps in the walk alone would be nice, so I might after a while extend the length of the walk another quarter-mile or so. Or maybe extend the time, so that I do a 1-hour walk. It’s gotten pleasant now: good weather for walking, and I am fit enough now so that the walk is not a strain.

I do use Nordic walking poles, of course, which makes the walk more enjoyable and also a better exercise (since it becomes a full-body exercise, with the arms, shoulders, and upper back involved — plus using the poles improves my walking posture. The map and tracking info is from my Amazfit GTS 4 Mini.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 3:01 pm

Great news! Dr. Selby’s 3X Concentrated Shaving Cream shall return!

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Dr. Selby’s 3X Concentrated Shaving Cream is solid to the touch, like a soap, and it makes a wonderful lavender-scented lather — it’s one of my favorite lather sources — see this post. It has sadly been absent from the US for several years — it’s made in Uruguay (a very interesting country, FWIW).

I just got a comment that Dr. Selby’s shall return. I’ll post more about this as I learn more.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 1:24 pm

Billionaire-backed legal group sues to block student loan forgiveness

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Judd Legum reports at Popular Information:

In August, President Biden announced he would provide student debt relief to lower and middle-class borrowers. Under the plan, eligible individuals would get up to $20,000 in student debt canceled if they received Pell Grants and up to $10,000 otherwise. The program is open to individuals who make less than $125,000 annually ($250,000 for married couples). The plan will benefit up to 43 million borrowers, and up to 20 million people will see their loans zeroed out.

On Tuesday, a man named Frank Garrison filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the relief. Here is how the Washington Post reported the news:

A public interest lawyer in Indiana is suing to block President Biden’s plan to cancel some student debt, arguing that the policy will force him to pay state taxes on the forgiven amount.

And this is the lead of CNN’s story:

In one of the first significant legal challenges to President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, a public interest lawyer filed a lawsuit Tuesday arguing that the policy is an abuse of executive power.

In both stories, we later learn that Garrison is being represented in the case by his employer, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), which the Washington Post describes as a “conservative public interest law firm.” But what you will not learn from either story is that the Pacific Legal Foundation receives extensive funding from right-wing billionaires. And this “public interest law firm” has a record of filing lawsuits that advance its donors’ economic and ideological interests.

Among the PLF”s major donors are . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 1:16 pm

Just how racist is the MAGA movement? This survey measures it.

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Jennifer Rubin has an interesting column (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post:

It has long been understood that the MAGA movement is heavily dependent on White grievance and straight-up racism. (Hence Donald Trump’s refusal to disavow racist groups and his statement that there were “very fine people on both sides” in the violent clashes at the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville.)

Now, we have numbers to prove it.

The connection between racism and the right-wing movement is apparent in a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute. The survey asked respondents about 11 statements designed to probe views on racism. For example: “White Americans today are not responsible for discrimination against Black people in the past.” The pollsters then used their answers to quantify a “structural racism index,” which provides a general score from zero to 1 measuring a person’s attitudes on “white supremacy and racial inequality, the impact of discrimination on African American economic mobility, the treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system, general perceptions of race, and whether racism is still significant problem today.” Higher scores indicate a more receptive attitude to racist beliefs.

The results shouldn’t surprise anyone paying attention to the MAGA crowd’s rhetoric and veneration of the Confederacy. “Among all Americans, the median value on the structural racism index is 0.45, near the center of the scale,” the poll found. “The median score on the structural racism index for Republicans is 0.67, compared with 0.45 for independents and 0.27 for Democrats.” Put differently, Republicans are much more likely to buy into the notion that Whites are victims.

The poll also found that the religious group that makes up the core of today’s GOP and MAGA movement has the highest structural racism measure among the demographics it surveyed: “White evangelical Protestants have the highest median score, at 0.64, while Latter-day Saints, white Catholics, and white mainline Protestants each have a median of 0.55. By contrast, religiously unaffiliated white Americans score 0.33.” This is true even though Whites report far less discrimination toward them than racial minorities do.

The survey also captured just how popular the “Lost Cause” to rewrite the history of the Civil War and downplay or ignore the evil of slavery is on the right: “Republicans overwhelmingly back efforts to preserve the legacy of the Confederacy (85%), compared with less than half of independents (46%) and only one in four Democrats (26%). The contrast between white Republicans and white Democrats is stark. Nearly nine in 10 white Republicans (87%), compared with 23% of white Democrats, support efforts to preserve the legacy of the Confederacy.”

Americans who fully support reforming Confederate monuments have a much lower structural racism index score, while those who oppose it have a much higher score. The same is true when it comes to

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 1:13 pm

Good news for many: Coffee Linked to Reduced Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality

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Megan Brooks reports in Medscape:

Drinking 2 to 3 daily cups of coffee, including ground, instant, or decaffeinated coffee, is associated with significant reductions in new cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality, compared with avoiding coffee, a new analysis of the prospective UK Biobank suggests.

Ground and instant coffee, but interestingly, not decaffeinated coffee intake was also associated with reduced risk of new-onset arrhythmia, including atrial fibrillation.

“Our study is the first to look at differences in coffee subtypes to tease out important differences which may explain some of the mechanisms through which coffee works,” Peter M. Kistler, MD, the Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia, told | Medscape Cardiology.

“Daily coffee intake should not be discouraged by physicians but rather considered part of a healthy diet,” Kistler said.

“This study supports that coffee is safe and even potentially beneficial, which is consistent with most of the prior evidence,” Carl “Chip” Lavie, MD, who wasn’t involved in the study, told | Medscape Cardiology.

“We do not prescribe coffee to patients, but for the majority who like coffee, they can be encouraged it is fine to take a few cups daily,” said Lavie, with the Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The study was published online today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 

Clear Cardiovascular Benefits

A total of 449,563 UK Biobank participants (median age 58 years; 55% women), who were free of arrhythmias or other CVD at baseline, reported their level of daily coffee intake and preferred type of coffee on questionnaires.

During more than 12.5 years of follow up,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 1:02 pm

Van Yulay and the iKon open comb

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Van Yulay’s After Dark is a favorite. Van Yulay shaving soaps vary in their formula from soap to soap, and the catalogue entry for each soap explains the benefits of the various ingredients used in the soap. Here’s what this one is made of:

Stearic Acid, Coconut Fatty Acid, Palm Stearic, Castor, Glycerin, Potassium& Sodium Hydroxide, Aloe Vera, Coconut-Tallow-Lanolin-Babassu-Manteca-Argan-Emu Oils, Shea & Kokum Butters, Sodium Lactate, Calendula, Extracts, Poly Quats, Allantoin, Silica, Bentonite & Kaolin Clay, and Fragrance.

I noticed in loading the effect of the two clays — a little slower and a little thicker on the brush — but the resulting lather, once I worked in a little more water as I brushed my face, was extremely nice, as was the fragrance: “Cinnamon, leather, cypress, sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, patchouli, lavender, mandarin orange, musk, benzoin, vanilla, apple, cedar, and bergamot.”

Well lathered — and the Plisson synthetic did a fine job — I brought my iKon stainless open-comb razor into play. This is not the Shavecraft version (cast aluminum head, and called “Short Comb”), but the stainless version, currently sold with a B1 coating. This is a remarkably good razor — extremely comfortable with no sacrifice of efficiency. Using it is always a pleasure. Mine, as evidence by the bare stainless steel, is from long ago, and I enjoyed it from the start.

Three passes left my face smooth and undamaged, and a good splash of Van Yulay’s aftershave splash (a witch-hazel-based formula, which among other things includes emu oil — so shake well) ended the shave and started a new day on a good note.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Queen Victoria: “

Originally blended in the 19th Century, this is a blend of some of Queen Victoria’s favourite teas that were delivered by our founder John Murchie when HRM was in residence at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This regal blend is one of Murchie’s most notable blends, yielding a smooth but complex tea incorporating the rich fruit flavours of Darjeeling, brisk Ceylon, smoky tones of Lapsang, and the underlying sweetness of Jasmine.

And, as I do most mornings, I enjoyed a bowl of the chia pudding I made last night.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 10:43 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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