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Fact Check Update: is Lewiston, Maine Crime-Ridden since the 2001 arrival of Somali Immigrants?

Since I’ve moved to Maine, I’ve encountered a lot of friendly people, but I’ve also heard many derogatory comments about the supposed criminality of Somali immigrants who began arriving in Lewiston, Maine in the year 2001. Last year, I decided to check the claim that Somalis had brought crime to Lewiston against the observed crime rate of the city collected in the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States report. Results, available through the year 2011 then, indicated that since Somali immigrants came to Lewiston, the crime rate had gone down, not up.

A year has passed since then, and crime data for Lewiston is now available through 2012. In the meantime, anti-immigrant hysteria is resurgent as border-state politicians see massing immigrant hordes in a bus of YMCA campers and imagine that immigrants from Central America will somehow infect the U.S. with ebola.

What do the new statistics on crime in Lewiston, Maine show? See for yourself:

Is Lewiston more violent since Somali immigrants came to town?  Violent Crime Rate in Lewiston, Maine from 1985 to 2012

Are thefts up since Somali refugees arrived in Lewiston, Maine?  Fact check the hype with this graph of UCR property crime rates from 1985-2012

lewistonmainepropertycrimerate2012

As you can see, both violent crime rates and property crime rates are lower on average since Somali immigrants came to Lewiston. The notion that Somali immigrants have plunged pleasant Lewiston, Maine into the sordid depths of criminality is contradicted by observable fact. The whisper campaign against Lewiston’s Somali-Americans is based in myth, perpetuated by ignorance and fear. Fear is surprisingly resistant to change, but ignorance is curable. If you live in Maine, you can help with the cure; the next time someone talks about “those” Somalis and “their” criminal ways, respond with the facts.

Fact Check: Did Georgia Pass A Law Allowing Guillotines To Be Used For Executions?

The United States has real problems with capital punishment. Our nation’s methods of execution are often unnecessarily cruel, as seen in the case of Joseph Rudolph Wood, who took two hours to die after receiving a lethal injection in Arizona. These problems have brought publicity to the recent opinion of Alex Kozinski, a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who has declared that executions in the United States ought to be done with guillotines.

guillotine law usaPeople who are familiar with the American system of justice are aware that the opinion of one judge is not enough to change the law. Kozinski may continue to say that he’d like to see guillotines used to execute prisoners, but his statements won’t change the way that prisoners are actually executed.

The members of network of right wing religious conspiracy theorists, however, either don’t understand the way that laws are made in the United States, or are choosing to exploit others’ ignorance in the matter. They’re using the Kozinski’s statements to revive a favorite story of theirs: That mass executions by guillotine will soon take place across the USA, as a One World Government led by a demon-possessed leader takes power.

We’ve written about this conspiracy theory here at Irregular Times before. Over two years ago, we took note when Pamela Rae Schuffert declared that guillotines were being set up all across the United States for mass executions that would soon begin. Schuffert never provided any evidence for the existence of these guillotines, however, and the mass executions never took place. The obvious falsity of these failed conspiracy theories haven’t prevented them from being repeated, and accepted by gullible readers.

The newest incarnation of the guillotine urban legend has it that Judge Kozinski is a part of the New World Order Illuminati conspiracy, and that Georgia has already passed a law to enable the execution of prisoners by guillotine, with other states soon to follow. Is it true? Is there a law in Georgia that allows the government to kill people by chopping off their heads with guillotines?

As with most successful conspiracy theories, this one is half true. There really was legislation to legalize execution by guillotine in Georgia. However, this legislation is old news. It was introduced in January of 1996 – over 18 years ago – and was never passed into law.

HB 1274 was written by state legislator Doug Teper in order to provide for the possibility of organ donation from the bodies of executed prisoners. Lethal injection and electrocution render organs unsuitable for transplantation, but decapitation leaves them intact. The bill never even was allowed to come up for a full vote by the state legislature.

The truth is simple, and can be easily researched by anyone who cares to do so: There is no law in Georgia allowing execution by guillotine.

Get Sloshed The Detox Way

healthy detox boozeHealth conscious people are commonly depicted as extremists who are so obsessed with chasing after ideal identities that they’ve forgotten how to have fun. Now, that stereotype has been blasted to pieces by Ritual Wellness, which has developed a new line of organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed juice blends that can be consumed by people following programs of detoxification… when mixed with alcohol.

What’s the point of being well if you can’t get a little loose and sloppy every now and then?

Marra St. Clair and Lori Kenyon, the founders of Ritual Wellness, explain that they wanted to find a way to drink alcohol “without sacrificing their health and fitness completely”.

Drinking alcohol with a depleted uranium mixer wouldn’t work. Cocktails laced with cyanide were straight out. St. Clair and Kenyon merely wanted to sacrifice their health and fitness partially. So, they developed Ritual Mixers, to help their customers combine hard-hitting liquors with a veneer of self-discipline and health consciousness to add that extra special sparkle, so that they can reshpect themselves the morning after.

The juices in Ritual Mixers are not merely natural, St. Clair and Kenyon explain. They’re “super natural”. They contain no added chemicals, so that you can add all the chemicals yourself, for an alcohol cleanse!

Do As The Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit Says, Not As It Does

predictive analytics innovation summitToday, I got an unsolicited email inviting me to the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit in Chicago this November 12th and 13th.

In that email, Euan Hunter, a global sales executive with Innovation Enterprise (“an independent business-to-business multi-channel media brand focused on the information needs of Senior Big Data, Strategy, Advanced Analytics, Strategy, Innovation, Digital, Finance, Operations, Publishing & Decision Support executives”) warned that “There are a limited number of early bird passes available. If you would like to attend please reach out to me directly…”

If the people at the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit are so good at predictive analytics, how come they have to ask me if I would like to attend? Why do they need me to reach out to a global sales executive to let them know that I want to attend the summit?

Why can’t they just predict that I want to attend, and have my credentials waiting for me?

The speakers at the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit include Kelly Uphoff, Director of Experimentation and Algorithms for Growth and Targeting at Netflix, the company that predicted that because I watched Doctor Who, I would want to watch Family Guy and Top Gear.

I propose that Innovation Enterprise rename their summit to be a bit more accurate. How about: Predictivesque Analytics Innovation Summit?

Nick Troiano, the Mayday PAC, Americans Elect, No Labels and the Peterson Network: Connections?

2012 saw the rise of Americans Elect, a corporation that planned to manage the election of its own “centrist” presidential candidate, thanks to insider connections and large cash flows from undisclosed sources. 2012 also saw Americans Elect’s demise, when American citizens elected to stay away from Americans Elect and refused to participate after finding out that a corporate board could nullify any candidacy it didn’t like.

Since Americans Elect failed and subsequently dissolved, its leaders have migrated to new projects, one of which is a congressional campaign by Americans Elect National Campus Director Nick Troiano and another of which is the Mayday Super PAC led by Americans Elect alums Lawrence Lessig, Mark McKinnon and Kahlil Byrd. Yet other leaders drifted back to No Labels, an Americans-Elect-connected public relations organ funded by billionaire social security privatization advocate Pete Peterson.

Given that Americans Elect is itself a resurrection of Unity08, a prior corporate privatized presidential election effort, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that Americans Elect organizers might resurrect the effort for the 2014 or 2016 election seasons. Now that the Federal Election Commission has released fundraising details for the first half of 2014 for the Mayday PAC and Nick Troiano’s campaign, we can answer two questions:

Question 1. How many financial contributors do the Mayday PAC and the Nick Troiano campaign hold in common?

According to FEC filings for the two groups through June 2014, the Troiano campaign has received money from only 60 individuals who gave enough for their identities to be disclosed. Only 29 of the 60 disclosed contributors (including Nick Troiano himself, his mother, and his father) live in Pennsylvania. In contrast, the Mayday PAC reports 1,485 identified contributors. There is only one person who has contributed to both the Mayday PAC and the Troiano congressional campaign — Republican public relations strategist Mark McKinnon.

Question 2. How reliant are the Mayday PAC and the Nick Troiano campaign on Americans Elect and No Labels leaders for financial support?

The Mayday PAC contains three former Americans Elect leaders in its inner circle — Mark McKinnon, Lawrence Lessig and Kahlil Byrd. McKinnon and Lessig have also donated to the Mayday PAC. No other individuals listed in the leadership of Americans Elect appear to have donated to the MayDay PAC. The Mayday PAC appears at this point to be financially independent of the Americans Elect group.

In contrast, 9 of the 60 identified contributors to Nick Troiano’s congressional campaign are tied to Americans Elect and/or No Labels:

* Robert Bingham, financier and large-scale funder of Americans Elect’s predecessor Unity08
* David Walker, employer of billionaire Pete Peterson, leader of No Labels and failed Americans Elect presidential candidate
* David Albertson, contributor to Americans Elect and member of Americans Elect leadership circle
* Laurence Kotlikoff, supporter of Americans Elect and Americans Elect presidential candidate
* Erskine Bowles, No Labels leader and spokesperson for policy priorities of billionaire Pete Peterson
* Zack Hubbard, Americans Elect intern
* Mark McKinnon, Americans Elect and No Labels leader
* Jake Brewer, Americans Elect employee and spokesperson

4 more of the identified contributors to Nick Troiano are participants in the broader “centrist” pro-corporate, anti-social-program network of groups supported by the billionaire No Labels’ funder Pete Peterson:

* Morgan Ryan, organizer of the Common Sense Coalition, a group that billed itself as a successor to Americans Elect
* Brian Edelman, in leadership of Run For America, a political corporation taking up the Americans Elect mantle in selecting congressional candidates to fund in 2014
* Phil LaRue, organizer of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of Congressional Democrats who articulate a desire to vote for Republican-lite policies
* Timothy Pagliara, head of a Pete-Peterson-funded group pushing for Peterson-favored budget plans also spoken for by Erskine Bowles

In short, while the Mayday PAC appears financially untethered from the Americans Elect/No Labels/Pete Peterson policy network, congressional candidate Nick Troiano appears to remain enmeshed in it.

Charisma News Advocates Putting Corpses On Trial

“We must recover America’s Christian heritage,” writes Charisma News, a web site that purports to report the news from a Christian perspective.

What might that Christian heritage be, though? The word “Christian” was completely left out of the Constitution, and the very first words of the Bill of Rights explicitly prohibit any official attempt to associate the United States with any religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”

Still, it is conceivable that, although the USA is a religiously diverse nation with a secular government, in which increasing numbers of citizens are non-Christian, the beliefs of the remaining Christian majority could influence the way that the government is run.

What might that look like?

cadaver synod pope steven viLet’s take, for example, the right to a fair trial, a legal right that is established by constitutional amendments 4 through 8. It’s true that the Christian Bible never declares that people have the right to a fair trial, but there is a history of the administration of justice by Christian leaders that long precedes the existence of the United States of America. America’s founders were aware of this history, and might have hoped that we would replicate this Christian legal precedent in America’s judicial system.

But what is the Christian heritage for how a trial ought to be run?

We can look at the trial of Formosus as an example.

Formosus was Pope from the years 891 to 896 when he died. Formosus was then put on trial in 897, and excommunicated.

The Pope that followed Formosus was named Steven. He was referred to as either Steven VI or Steven VII, depending upon which faction of the Christian church a person belonged to at the time. In 897, some Christians held that there had been 6 popes named Steven before the current one, while other Christians believed that one of those Stevens had been an illegitimate pope, and had their own system of counting.

Anyway, Pope Steven VI/VII was so vehement a political opponent of the deceased Pope Formosus that he was not satisfied with the death of Formosus. He literally would not let his grievances with Formosus lie.

Pope Steven ordered the corpse of Formosus to be dug up from its grave, nine months after it was buried. Though the corpse was a nasty, smelly thing by this time, Pope Steven had it dressed in sacred papal clothes and put in a chair so that it could be put on trial. A teenager was placed behind the papal corpse in order to speak on its behalf. Formosus had no other defense.

The corpse of Pope Formosus was accused of three crimes: 1) Perjury, 2) Coveting the Papacy, and 3) Violating Church laws when he was elected Pope.

Pope Steven VI/VII appointed himself chief prosecutor, and screamed at the rotting remains of Pope Formosus, giving long speeches about how vile Formusus had been. Then, the corpse of Pope Formosus was found guilty of all three crimes.

As punishment, the corpse of Formosus had three of its fingers cut off – the fingers used to make the sign of papal blessing. The papal vestments were removed from the corpse, and were replaced with ordinary clothes. Formosus was then reburied, not in his previous fancy papal tomb, but in a mass grave for poor people. Later, the body of Formosus was thrown into the Tiber River, and then dragged out by a monk and reburied once again.

Digging up corpses to put them on trial is part of the Christian heritage that Charisma News wants to make central to American life. Is it something that you want to recover?

Americans Elect CEO Kahlil Byrd Leads Two Groups Recruiting Candidates… Conflict?

Fact One: Former Americans Elect CEO Kahlil Byrd is listed as a leader of Run for America:

“Run for America is a post-partisan initiative designed to fix our dysfunctional politics by strategically supporting a new generation of highly talented leaders, innovators, social change agents, entrepreneurs, and outside the box thinkers for public office. These leaders are driven not by political self-preservation, party loyalty, or serving special interests, but by a desire to solve big problems, will in turn will offer a new approach to politics and be able to lead us into an era of problem-solving, common sense, less polarized politics. To this end, Run for America will recruit, support, and elect 10-20 candidates for U.S. House races in the 2016 election.”

Fact Two: Former Americans Elect CEO Kahlil Byrd is listed on the leadership board of the Mayday PAC, another group that promises to choose candidates to fund in the 2016 Congressional elections. Challenged to identify its standards, Mayday insists:

“Q: Is campaign reform the only “screen” that will be used to decide which candidate(s) to support?

“A: Yes. Support for fundamental reform in the way campaigns are funded is the essential filter now. There will always be issues that we, as individuals, will feel passionate about. But the one and only thing that our pledgers and volunteers are unanimously united on is the need to reform the way we fund elections in the United States.”

Mayday PAC insists it hasn’t picked its candidates yet. Run For America insists it already has, in the past tense:

“We analyzed 435 congressional districts for more than 40 data points. We’ve found the districts where a candidate can win spending the least amount of money, the districts with high populations of voters under 35, districts which split their votes for Congress and President, among many others. These factors provide strategic opportunities in several dozen districts, making them very viable for our candidates to run and win. These are the districts we will focus on in 2016.”

Has Kahlil Byrd kept his priorities distinct in these two groups? Or when the two lists of candidates for the two groups are revealed, will they end up with a curious overlap? Watch closely and see.

Whatever Happened To Global Warming?

Remember when environmentalists used to warn us about global warming all the time? Well, it’s been years since An Inconvenient Truth was a hit in movie theaters, and since then, what kind of warming have we seen? Why, I bet right now that you’re shivering. Environmentalists can’t point to a single piece of evidence to…

…hold on…

Um, it turns out that the report just released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that the global average surface temperature in June was higher than has ever been recorded during than June. The oceans were particularly hot last month, with warmer global ocean surface temperatures than at any time since global ocean temperature data began to be collected back in 1880.

Hm. So that’s what happened to global warming. It’s gone global.

However, to be balanced, we do need to point out that Latvia had cooler than normal land temperatures during June. Surely, that means that global warming must be a hoax, right?

And besides, it’s not as if environmentalists aren’t getting what they want, what with increases in sources of renewable energy. Why, I saw a solar panel just the other day, and…

…hold on…

Okay, actually, according to a report just released by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, “the United States has made limited or little progress toward the goal of using energy more efficiently during recent years.” The energy efficiency efforts of the U.S. rank 13th out of those from 16 nations assessed by the report.

Hm. Maybe Barack Obama’s extreme expansion of offshore drilling has something to do with that.

global temperature anomalies june

Louie Gohmert: What’s Good for Christians and What’s Good for Muslims in America

Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert is warning America that radical Muslims are trying to enshrine their religious values in American government. Making claims about the Council on American Islamic Relations in a speech to Congress last year:

“At some point, we have to learn that there are people who want to do away with our Constitution and do away with our form of government and substitute their own caliphate therefor. Some want to do it peacefully; some in the organization want to do it violently. But it is an outrage for people who want to eliminate our Constitution and have their own sharia law to be allowed to be in the higher places in this government.”

But what about the idea of Christians bringing their religious ideas into American government? Rep. Gohmert loves the idea, declaring that “separation was to be a one-way wall, where the state would not dictate to the church. But the church would certainly play a role in the state”:

Not only that, but Gohmert argues that the United States is a Christian Nation. “Gohmert Says America is Christian Nation” is the title his own office gives this video snippet of Congressional remarks:

Louie Gohmert would like Christian prayer used by representatives of American government in the halls of American government. But what happens if Muslim prayer is used in an American ceremony? Gohmert is incensed. Speaking to the U.S. Congress again last year:

“Now look at what has happened. We see these incursions on the freedom of belief, and Christians are persecuted and forced to endure the slams and the arrows that should never be endured. Like SEAL Team 6, for example, those heroic members that were put in harm’s way in a situation they should never have been put in in Afghanistan, after SEAL Team 6 was outed as the one that took out Osama bin Laden. You can see the DVD, a recording of the Ramp Ceremony. They have an imam come up in his language and do a Muslim prayer over the American flag-draped caskets, and we know some of those guys were devout Christians.”

When you hear Rep. Louie Gohmert talking about letting religion in to American government, he only means the religion he likes. When you hear Rep. Gohmert talking about keeping religion out of American government, he only means the religion he doesn’t like.

REDEEM Act – Needed Prison Reforms Or Coddling Criminals?

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives saw the introduction of a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill by Democrat Chaka Fattah and Republican Frank Wolf. The Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act (REDEEM Act – H.R. 5158) would:

- Reduce solitary confinement for juvenile offenders
- Provide methods for both juvenile and adult nonviolent offenders to seal their criminal records
- Provide incentives to states to stop treating 16 and 17 year-olds as adult offenders
- Restore eligibility for some benefits to low-level drug offenders

The purpose of the REDEEM Act is to make it less likely for convicted criminals to go on to commit more crimes after they are released from imprisonment. Still, as I read about the REDEEM Act, I have a series of political campaign commercials from the 1980s playing in the back of my mind, with candidates pledging to “get tough on crime”.

Is it possible for the REDEEM Act to get passed in an election year?

Americans Elect Candidate David Walker: Where is he Now?

Americans Elect veterans: where were they then?  Where are they now?  Let’s look at one alum today and see how he’s doing.

2012: David Walker, employee of the anti-social-security billionaire Pete Peterson, appears on television to announce how flattered he is to find a “grassroots” Draft Walker for President “movement” is working to put his name in for nomination on the Americans Elect privatized election corporate ticket.  Staffing the “movement”: current and former members of various Peterson-funded front organizations.

2014: In the finance-friendly state of Connecticut, David Walker runs for Lieutenant Governor, holding second place in a July voter preference poll.