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What Brought the Green Party and the Libertarian Party Together? This Wall Street Tycoon’s Lawsuit…

Peter Ackerman has a flair for timing.

The former Michael Milken acolyte and Wall Street tycoon, who maintains a guarded set of offices one block away from the White House, has managed to make a political splash just as members of Congress head for the exit, just as cable news channels start covering shark attacks again, and just as media pundits look for a news story, any news story, to include in their next political column.

Here’s the political splash: the Wall Street tycoon and the Libertarian Party have joined up with the Green Party to file a joint lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission and, through them, the Commission on Presidential Debates. You read that right: Peter Ackerman, on behalf of Americans Elect and his new organization Level the Playing Field, filed a lawsuit today (June 22, 2015) along with the left-leaning Green Party and the me-leaning Libertarian Party. The goal: change the rules for the presidential debates in 2016.

There are a lot of interesting details in the text of that lawsuit, and I’ll have something to say about it over the next few days, but for tonight let me just share the link so you can read it for yourself. Read the full text of the lawsuit here — and please tell me what you think.

Is Everybody Really Doing Plastic Surgery? Do You Personally Know Anyone Who Is?

The cover of the issue of Time Magazine currently out on shelves would have us believe that plastic surgery is an everyday thing now, and everybody is getting it done.

The cover’s text is downright threatening: Nip. Tuck. Or Elese.

time plastic surgery

Everybody is getting plastic surgery done, says Time Magazine. I’m skeptical of this claim. I haven’t gotten any plastic surgery done on my body, and I don’t know anybody who has.

Do you?

Time’s editors have seen your future, and they’re not afraid to tell you what it is: “Why you’ll be getting cosmetic procedures even if you may not really want to… You’re going to have to do it. And not all that long from now.”

The strange thing is, this week’s article on plastic surgery doesn’t stand alone. The magazine published two other articles on plastic surgery within the last two months. Why? Is Time being paid by a professional association of plastic surgeons to write these articles?

Perhaps plastic surgery is prevalent in the social circles frequented by the management of Time Magazine. I couldn’t say – I don’t run in those circles.

Drought Restrictions, California Luxury Hotel Style

Just one week ago, California instituted additional water restrictions, to try to control the state’s descent through ecological crisis without triggering a fundamental social disaster.

Arriving in Los Angeles this morning, I witnessed what a long way Californians have to go. In front of the W hotel in the Westwood neighborhood, right close to the UCLA campus, I came upon an employee using a water hose, not to water the plants outside, but to clean off the entrance ramp to the hotel’s parking garage.

water waste in Westwood w hotel

Not all Angelinos are being so damp-headed, though. Just around the corner from the wasteful W is a beautiful hedge of rosemary, a Mediterranean herb that is much more suited to dry conditions than a patch of grass would be.

The Los Angeles County Waterworks is offering a cash-for-grass rebate of between one and two dollars per square foot of grass that is replaced by water-efficient landscaping. Companies like Dry Jungle are helping residents install plants that are actually suited to the local climate.

Guess: When Was the Last Time that the Globe Had a Month Cooler than the 1951-1980 Average? What Are the Chances of That?

There Is No Global Warming, screams a NewsMax headline yesterday.

No Global Warming? Let’s play make-a-guess using NASA’s GISS temperature data dating from January 1880 to May 2015 to test that assertion.

To play the game, make a guess: how many months has it been since the globe had a monthly temperature reading cooler than the 1951-1980 average global temperature? Really, go ahead. Make a guess.

Now read on.

If there has been no global warming, as the NewsMax headline baldly asserts, then whether the globe is warmer or cooler than the 1951-1980 average since 1980 should be essentially a flip of the coin, with some months warmer, some months cooler, but no overall tendency for temperatures warmer than the 1980 average since 1980. If there has been no global warming, then the chance that any particular month is warmer than the 1951-1980 average should be 50% and the chance that any particular month is cooler than the 1951-1980 average should be 50% too.

Now here’s the answer, according to NASA’s GISS temperature data across the globe over land and sea. The last time that a month was cooler than the 1951-1980 average for that month was February 1994. That was 256 months ago. In every one of the 255 months since then, the global temperature has been warmer than the 1951-1980 average.

If global warming really did not exist, and whether a month was warmer or cooler than the 1951-1980 average was just a flip of the coin, then you’d randomly get that chain of 255 warmer than average months only 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000173% of the time (1/2 to the 255th power).

That’s how outrageous it is to say there has been no global warming.

Big GOP-Led Cities Are Less Fit And More Slack On Average Than Other Big Cities

This week, we here at Irregular Times have been witness to a cynical, all-too-common right wing rhetorical trick: The argument that because you can’t find any big cities with problems that are run by Republicans, Democratic leadership must be causing big city problems.

This morning, I’ll use the 2015 American Fitness Index to show why this argument is fundamentally flawed. The Index compares the physical fitness of residents of America’s 50 biggest cities, ranking them in order, where 1 is the physically fittest city, and 50 is the least physically fittest city.

We’ve heard a lot this week from right wing readers of Irregular Times that people who don’t like Republican policies are just too lazy to take care of themselves, whereas Republicans are too hard-working to get slack. However, the American Fitness Index of 2015 shows that the most physically fit city in the nation is Washington D.C., which is run by a Democratic mayor, while the most out-of-shape city in the nation is Indianapolis, which is run by a Republican mayor.

Of course, these two cities are just the most extreme. Still, on average, the distinction holds. The average physical fitness rank of big American cities run by Republican mayors is 29.2. The average physical fitness rank of big American cities run by non-Republicans is higher, at 25.3.

Yet, it can also be claimed by Republicans who want to make their party seem like a bastion of discipline and hard work that most of the big cities in the USA that are more out-of-shape than average are run by Democratic mayors. How can this be so?

Only a small number of the 50 biggest US cities are run by Republicans. Just six. Most big cities have Democratic mayors, because Democratic voters are more likely to live in big cities than Republicans are.

So, we could say that most big cities with cockroaches have Democratic mayors. On the other hand, we could say that most big cities with well-endowed libraries and museums have Democratic mayors. However, we can say these things not because Democratic mayors cause cockroaches and library books and museum exhibits to show up in big cities. It’s simply that any big city of any quality at all is more likely than not to be represented by a Democrat.

So, the American Fitness Index shows us two things: One, that there are big cities run by Republican mayors that have negative attributes, and two, that any time you hear a Republican running around talking about how Democratic mayors of big cities are to blame for America’s problems, you know they’re trying to pull a fast one on you.

2015 Is So Far Is The Hottest Year On Record

A few weeks ago, researchers released the results of a scientifc analysis concluding that the supposed recent hiatus in global warming, which Republicans have referred to as an excuse to avoid enacting environmentally responsible legislation, was in fact never real, but the result of a mistake in statistical analysis.

Last year, 2014, was the hottest year in historical times for our planet, and this year is shaping up to be even hotter. That’s not just my personal assessment. The full report will be out tomorrow, but the headline is already posted at Climate.gov: Globally, 2015 has experienced the hottest first five months of any year on record, since global temperatures began to be measured in 1895.

Fact Check: Not One Conservative-Led American City is a “Shit Hole”?

Visitor Frank, rejecting empirical evidence that Republican congressional districts aren’t better off than Democratic districts, has recently declared that he doesn’t need to waste his time on evaluating the available facts.  Instead, he has decided to try posing a different question:

“on the matter ot this furthervstudy on Congressional districts, which i won’t waste my tine on, i have one simple question: point out to me just one conservative run city that turned into a shit hole.”

Fine.  Here’s one: Biloxi, Mississippi.  A.J. Holloway served six terms as mayor (22 years) until he left office this year.   He is a conservative Republican.

Let’s compare the city of Biloxi to the United States as a whole.  Only 4% of the residents of Biloxi have earned a Bachelor’s degree; 9.4% of Americans have.  22.4% of Biloxi residents live below the poverty level; 15.4% of Americans overall live below the poverty level. The median household income in the United States is $53,046, but the median household income in Biloxi is just $39,666.  16.7% of Biloxi residents are on food stamps; just 12.4% of Americans overall are on food stamps.  14.9% of Americans are without health insurance, but 20.3% of Biloxi residents go without health insurance.  In the United States overall, 6.2% of people have low income and do not live close to a grocery store; in Biloxi, that figure rises to 16.3%.  21.7% of Americans smoke; 27.3% of Biloxi residents do.  12 percent of births in the United States are pre-term, but in Biloxi 16% of births are pre-term.  On average, a Biloxi resident dies two years earlier than the average American.  The rate of violent crime in Biloxi is 7.8% higher than in the United States overall.  The rate of property crime in Biloxi is 76.0% higher than in the United States overall.

I would not use the term “shit hole” to describe Biloxi; that kind of language is mean and ugly.  Regardless of language, however, Biloxi is clearly a troubled city — and it has been run by the same conservative Republican for a generation.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Uniform Crime Reports, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Things Donald Trump Fans Say

“Does “The Donald” have a high opinion of himself, even to the point of sounding egotistical? You bet! As one of America’s most successful CEO’s he has earned that right.”

“Trump is our savior! He is like a God.”

“Donald Trump has $9 billion dollars. He never has to do desperate things. He has 9 billion reasons to say whatever he wants — and let the chips fall where they may.”

“He owes no political loyalty, to anyone, and offers and states his opinion, without regard, for the politically correct terms, that seem to have over taken over our political discourse!!”

“Perhaps what we need is a tough-talking “get it done” CEO with an out-sized ego.”

“When Trump fires a torpedo through the middle of the Politically Correct gestapo you have to admire him.”

“He seems to understand that having a great, healthy America doesn’t mean shoving endless vaccines into our young boys and girls. We already can’t afford 1 in 42 boys having autism (and likely it’s higher than that now).”

“Donald Trump is flawed. But ironically he may be the perfect candidate at the perfect time. Why? Because he says whatever is on his mind.He has no filters.”

“He is completely and utterly unapologetic about his wealth.”

“I think the Libruls deserve such brutality, forwardness while being handled with a choke collar. Go Donald, Go! :O)”

“He hires the best people he can find and doesn’t hesitate to fire them when they fail.”

“Trump says he’ll build a WALL, not a fence on the Mexican border. That’s good enough for me.”

“I think that the wall is too expensive. Land and water mines and armed border agents and ranchers who are allowed to shoot would be cheaper, faster, and more effective. Keep it going Trump. I respect you.”

“THE DONALD WOULD MAKE A GREAT PRESIDENT,,, HE IS A MAN, HE IS WHITE, HE LIKES WOMEN”

“I would vote for him. I like his integrity and character. I would not want to work for him – that is for sure.”

“Obama,YOU’R FIRED!”

11 Alternatives to “Kanga Roof”

Outside houses recovering from a hard winter in Central New York, you can spot a lot of these signs:

Kanga Roof Lawn Sign

Why is this company (and it’s not the only one) home of the “Kanga Roof?”  Because the contractors “hop to it.”  Get it?  Kangaroo?  Hop?

It’s a weird kangaroo in this picture, that’s for sure.  It’s wearing clothes.  It’s got springs on its feet.  It lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona judging by the Saguaro cactus and cholla.  But hey, it sure is memorable.  I will never forget Kanga Roof, and maybe that’s the idea.  There are some great possibilities for future advertising campaigns, too.  “Our prices are no tall tail.”  “Make your home snugger’n mama’s pouch.”  “Our customer service shows striking properties reminiscent of convergent evolution.”

If at this point you’re kicking yourself, wishing that you had thought of the business name Kanga Roof first, don’t despair.  There are a number of great alternatives out there.  Here are a few;

1. Turtle Roof: We Shell Get it Done

2.  Jackrabbit Roof: Our Service is Fast

3.  Cheetah Roof: Our Service is Faster Than a Jackrabbit (yum)

4.  Human Roof: We Don’t Sprint Or Anything, But Over a Long Distance Our Average Speed is the Tops

5.  Glia Monster Roof: We Know Dry

6.  Capybara Roof: Given Enough Roughage, We Keep Going after the Biggest Drenching

7.  Komodo Dragon Roof: With Our Tough Scales on Top, There’ll Be No Leaking of Bodily Fluids

8. Manatee Roof: We May Not Be Mermaids, But Our Work Isn’t Fictional, Either

9. Tardigrade Roof: We’ll Go To Extremes for Your Home Improvement Project

10.  Dog Roof: Roof!

11.  Glow in The Dark Tetra Roof: Not a Product of Genetic Engineering, but Still Pretty Nifty

21 Senators Vote Against Affirming That Torture Is Illegal

The Bill of Rights contains two measures that make torture illegal: Freedom from forced self-incrimination and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. Yet, 21 United States Senators placed themselves in opposition to the Bill of Rights yesterday, when they voted against a measure that reiterates that torture by the U.S. federal government is illegal.

The names of these pro-torture Senators are: John Barrasso, Roy Blunt, Dan Coats, Thad Cochran, John Cornyn, Tom Cotton, Mike Crapo, Joni Ernst, Deb Fischer, Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch, Jim Inhofe, James Lankford, Mike Lee, Mitch McConnell, James Risch, Pat Roberts, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott, Jeff Sessions, David Vitter.

These politicians will stand up in front of voters and claim that they believe in freedom and the American way, but the truth is that they don’t. That so many powerful members of the upper house of our national legislature are willing to stand up in public and express support for the most brutal totalitarian abuses is shocking. What’s truly frightening, however, is that voters in these senators’ home states are likely to re-elect them in spite of, or even because of, their support for torture.

Have Crime Rates in Androscoggin County been “Doubling or Higher” Since Somali Immigrants Arrived?

For a few years now, I’ve been looking into the persistent notion some people have that Somali immigrants have somehow plunged the city of Lewiston, Maine into an unprecedented crime wave.  If you look into actual crime statistics, you’ll find out pretty quickly that this anti-immigrant perception is simply not based in systematically observed fact.  In the 15 years before Somali immigrants started arriving in Lewiston in 2001, property and violent crime rates were actually higher than they’ve been in the 15 years since Somali immigrants started making Lewiston their home.

Some people get upset when I point this out, and try to find ways in which it might somehow be possible to blame Somali immigrants for crime in Lewiston.  This past week, someone with the pseudonym of GrimmTale stretched in an unusually creative direction, insisting that Lewiston crime rates may be lower since Somali immigrants came to town, but that’s just because Somali immigrants living in Lewiston have been sneakily riding cars, busses, and bicycles to nearby towns to commit crimes there.  GrimmTale comments:

“Let’s be real here – if there’s nothing in a poverty stricken town to steal, mug, rob, assault – you go to the next town which has affluent (or anything better than in your own town) residents. It’s something anyone with any sense of logic can figure out. Beautiful Maine is falling victim to the effects of wayward immigration, and it will be too late before anything is done to save her. Pity really.”

GrimmTale insists that the towns neighboring Lewiston have suffered a crime “spike” since Somali immigrants began to arrive in 2001, with a “doubling or higher” in the crime rate around Lewiston.

I promised GrimmTale that I’d check out this interesting claim, and earlier this week I found that in the towns directly adjacent to Lewiston that are big enough to be listed in the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States reports, there absolutely has not been any “doubling or higher” of either the violent crime rate or the property crime rate.  Strike One against GrimmTale’s claim.

To further settle this question, let’s take a look at crime rates for the entirety of Androscoggin County, Maine, the county within which Lewiston, Maine is centrally located.  Here are the property crime rate and violent crime rate trends for Androscoggin County between 2000, the year before Somali immigrants began to settle in Lewiston, and 2013, the last year for which crime statistics are available:

Androscoggin Property Crime Rates, 2000 to 2013

Androscoggin County Violent Crime Rates from 2000 to 2013, courtesy of the Maine Department of Public Safety

Do you see a “doubling or higher” in the crime rate of Androscoggin County, the place that surrounds the city of Lewiston, Maine?  No.  If anything, there’s been a slight decline.  (Data source: Maine Department of Public Safety)

With a crime rate below the national average, Lewiston Maine is not an unusually dangerous place to live.  With a concentration of darker-skinned faces in the single most pasty state of the Union, it is noticeably different.  Don’t fear the difference.  Embrace it.  Try a visit and make a fun day of it.  Check out this summer’s art exhibitions and dance festival at Bates College.  Check out a show at The Public Theater.  Go hiking and birding, then grab a brew.  And hey, the rest of Androscoggin County’s all right too.