Subscribe to Irregular Times via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to Irregular Times and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 751 other subscribers

Irregular Times Newsletters

Click here to subscribe to any or all of our six topical e-mail newsletters:
  1. Social Movement Actions,
  2. Credulity and Faith,
  3. Election News,
  4. This Week in Congress,
  5. Tech Dispatch and
  6. our latest Political Stickers and Such

Donald Trump Promises To Beat China All The Time

For a generation, the idea of Donald Trump running for President has been a joke. Trump keeps on flirting with running for President, but then backs out.

Not today, though. Today, Donald Trump has finally gone ahead and committed to actually running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Trump gave specific reasons for us to vote for him, too. Among these reasons was that, “I beat China all the time. All the time.

Trump also explained that he wants to lead the United States federal government because “We have people who are stupid.”

“I’m the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far,” Trump told the audience for announcement speech. In the list of comparative losers who have run for President before him, Trump apparent includes George Washington, who won the Revolutionary War.

So it looks like Trump for President is a joke after all. The only question is whether Donald Trump is in on the joke.

What Does Jeb Bush Need Our Support For?

John Ellis Bush, who prefers that we all call him Jeb, given the nasty history of US presidents named Bush, is asking for your support. He wants you to go “all in for Jeb”.

all in for jeb

To me, this request for the support of everyday Americans is astonishing, given that Jeb Bush already can support himself more than well enough on his own. Jeb Bush was born rich, and he has used his family’s wealth and power to gain even more wealth for himself,molten at the expense of others, on the boards of abusive employers such as Swisher Hygiene and mismanaged corporations such as Rayonier.

Jeb Bush took these positions not to serve the companies’ workers and investors, but to profit from them. He is showing the same selfish attitude with his presidential campaign. When he ought to seek ways to support the nation, Jeb Bush expects the nation to support him. When he ought to be offering to be all in for America, he asks America to be all in for Jeb instead.

Mr. Bush, this election is not about you.

Ben Carson Warns Americans Not To Elect Him President

The very first full sentence you will see upon visiting the campaign web site of Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is a quote from James Madison: “The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.”

This statement is a clear signal that Ben Carson doesn’t believe he can be trusted with the Presidency. After all, Carson is seeking the executive power of government for himself, and here he is, saying that he believes he’s liable to abuse that power.

An alternative interpretation is that Ben Carson intends to destroy the power of government if he becomes President. Even if that’s so, why elect him, if he doesn’t even aspire to something honorable in the Presidency?

Besides, if he became President, Ben Carson would have to use the power of government to destroy the power of government. If the power of government would be liable to abuse, that means that even Ben Carson’s effort to use the power of government to destroy the power of government would be abusive.

Ben CarsonThe quote Carson chose suggests that power, not government, is the real problem. If Ben Carson destroyed government power, that power would not be destroyed. It would just flow into different hands – in big corporations and churches, and the ability of the people of the USA to share in some of the power of the government through the mechanisms of democracy would be gone.

Ben Carson’s selection of this statement about power for prominent use in his campaign materials suggests self-deception at best, and duplicity at worst. Carson’s combination of seeming disdain for power even as he claws for it is reminiscent of the attitude of Boromir, from The Lord Of The Rings. He identifies the thing which is most corrupt in the world, and then says that he’d like to borrow it for a while, please, because, after all, he could be trusted with it.

I don’t think so, Mr. Carson. One does not simply pull the wool over the eyes of the American people.

The truth is that the power of the Presidency is not liable to abuse, when its boundaries are respected. If Carson was truly concerned about excessive power in the Executive Branch, a legitimate concern, he would campaign for a seat in Congress, to seek to contribute to a greater check on presidential authority.

Results, Not Rhetoric, From Rick Perry

Over the weekend, Rick Perry issued a challenge to Hillary Clinton. He tweeted that “Americans want results not rhetoric.”

As Governor of Texas, Rick Perry certainly got results.

– At the end of his term of Governor, Texas began to lose tens of thousands of jobs per month, as the boom-and-bust cycles of the oil industry that Rick Perry had allied himself with hit Texans hard.

– Rick Perry increased the economic burden on poor and middle class workers while giving huge government packages to fossil fuels companies, even as the contribution by those companies to the state economy fell.

– Thanks to Rick Perry’s policy of promoting the oil and gas industry at the expense of environmental standards, Texas has the highest rate of carbon dioxide emissions of any state in the union.

– Under Rick Perry, poverty grew in Texas. Texas now has the fifth highest rate of poverty in the nation. Only states like Mississippi and Alabama have more poverty than Texas.

– If you do have a job in Texas, watch out. Texas ranks highest of all U.S. states in the rate of worker deaths.

– Texas is dead last in the nation in terms of the percentage of its adult residents who have graduated from high school.

– Texas is among the bottom 5 states in terms of teacher pay, and that neglect has brought results – Texas ranks 47th in SAT scores.

– During Rick Perry’s time as governor, Texas achieved the lowest rate of literacy in all the USA.

– Under Rick Perry, Texas came to have the lowest rate of health insurance coverage in the nation.

– As much as Rick Perry claims to be pro-life, under his watch, Texas provided the lowest rate of prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy of any state.

– Texas also ranks lowest in the nation in terms of voter turnout.

So, yes, Rick Perry certainly knows how to get results – negative results of the sort that nobody would hope to emulate. In the 2016 presidential election, we shouldn’t allow Rick Perry to do to America what he did to Texas.

rick perry runs for president

Jeb! Campaign Says It’s All About The Little People

Jeb Bush is scheduled to announce the formal beginning of his 2016 campaign for the Republican presidential campaign tomorrow. Actually, John Ellis Bush has been campaigning for weeks now, in illegal coordination with a Super PAC that takes unlimited amounts of money from corporations and wealthy families, but hey, what is the law to the members of a dynastic political family that has included both of the two most recent Republican U.S. presidents? Law, schmaw.

Jeb bush eyes closedBasic plausibility doesn’t seem to matter much to Jeb Bush either. In a statement intended to encourage voters to support his campaign just before it officially begins, Bush says, “My core beliefs start with the premise that the most vulnerable in our society should be in the front of the line, not the back.”

If Jeb Bush really believes that the most vulnerable in our society should be in the front of the line, how come he is using the power he inherited from his elite family, plus the power of the corporations and wealthy oligarchs who are giving him his money, to budge his way to the front of the line? Why isn’t Jeb Bush helping someone who wasn’t born with a million dollar trust fund to run for President?

Jeb Bush appears to believe that corporate executives and inheritors of family fortunes are the most vulnerable people in America, because that’s who his policies are designed to help most.

Jeb Bush wants to cut Social Security and Medicare while giving tax cuts to billionaires and subsidies to gigantic, profitable corporations. That’s not helping the vulnerable. It’s the same old corrupt business as usual.

Has Crime in Towns around Lewiston, ME been “Doubling or Higher” Since Somali Immigrants Arrived?

Read the comments to this 2013 Irregular Times article if you’d like to see some cognitive dissonance at work. A lot of people “know” (by which I mean think) that Lewiston, Maine has become a much more crime-ridden place since Somali immigrants arrived there. The trouble is, this is demonstrably untrue. As a matter of fact, the average crime rate the period since Somali immigration to Lewiston began is lower than in the period before Somali immigration:

Historical trends in property crime rates for Lewiston, Maine
Historical trends in violent crime rates for Lewiston, Maine

In the comments to my articles pointing out this simple but challenging truth, you can find a lot of people trying desperately to figure out ways to cling to their false belief that the crime rate is higher in Lewiston, Maine since Somali immigrants came to town. The latest person struggling through this psychological dissonance is GrimmTale, who writes:

“@Jim Cook – You don’t think Somali’s drive a car, take the bus, or ride a bicycle? Because that’s what you’re saying if you believe HIGH spikes in close neighboring towns which have witnessed crime rates doubling or higher since the Somali injection but, ignore that – this crime spike is NOT the result of this injection. 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 has made a specific claim — “neighboring towns have witnessed crime rates doubling or higher since the Somali injection” — in the form of a testable hypothesis. Hypotheses can be tested against evidence, and we’ll take a first look at evidence tonight.

The towns surrounding Lewiston, Maine are Auburn, Durham, Greene, Lisbon, Sabattus and Turner. The standard source for crime statistics in towns in the United States is the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, a gathering of local police reports of crimes (whether solved or unsolved) into handily readible tables in the bureau’s annual Crime in the United States reports.

Unfortunately, before 2001 the FBI did not release data on crime in towns less than 10,000 in size, which rules out all but Lewiston’s sister city of Auburn. Even now, the FBI does not share Uniform Crime Report data on the smallest towns (such as Durham, Greene and Turner). Fortunately, Somali immigration began in 2001, so we can start looking there, and also fortunately, three communities are both adjacent to Lewiston and large enough to report data after 2001, when Somali immigrants began to arrive (and 2001 featured the smallest trickle into Lewiston, relatively speaking).

Here are the trends in violent crime rate and property crime rate for Auburn, Lisbon and Sabattus — per 100,000 population — from 2001 to the latest year for which crime statistics are available, 2013:

Violent Crime Rate in Auburn, Maine, in Lisbon, Maine and in Sabattus, Maine from 2001 to 2013

Property Crime Rate in Auburn, Sabattus and Lisbon Maine, from 2001 to 2013, source UCR

As you can see, for the most part the violent and property crime rates are down all three neighbors of Lewiston or just about the same as they were.  There is no evidence whatsoever for a “doubling or more” in the crime rate since Somali people began to make Lewiston their home.  Those seeking to justify their disdain for Somalis will have to move on to some subject other than Lewiston’s crime rate… or the crime rate of these three Lewiston neighbors.

Tomorrow, just in case you think I’m cherrypicking, we’ll consider the crime rates in all of Androscoggin County, Lewiston’s home.

What every spaceship needs: a self-distract button

The example of movie after movie should give clear guidance to astrophysical engineers.  Time and again Our Hero manages to keep the spaceship Galactro, or Phaeson, or Whatever, from destroying itself with only 3 seconds to spare.  Why?  Because somebody put their coffee mug on the self-destruct button, and Our Hero must race to the other side of the ship to access manual override…again!  Sheesh.

This is a problem created by engineers, so it should be a problem that engineers can solve.  The engineeers at Microsoft Research will insist that the answer is to add a pop-up window asking if you really want to do this, and then not let you do it even if you click “OK” because you don’t have administrative privileges, which you can’t get without accessing the Microsoft Life account you don’t have.  Apple engineers would solve the problem by forbidding you from self-destructing your ship because that feature is an in-app upgrade, which you bought for your iPad, and then again for your iPhone, but not for your iShip, and the Terms of Service clearly state in Esperanto on page 4834 that in-app upgrades do not transfer across devices.  Android engineers would have sold you an operating system for your ship that doesn’t have enough working memory to load the self-destruct sequence while that kid piloting the ship is playing Minecraft on his console, which he is doing like all the time. Problem solved!

A social engineer would trace the bug farther back to its source: that ubiquitous, gnawing impulse for self-destructive behavior among humans.  As any behavioral therapist knows, the key is to knock people out of their cycles of self-harm with other habits that withdraw attention from that basic psychological dysfunction and allow it to wither unattended.  In that line, I suggest that all existing spaceships be refitted to replace auto-destruct buttons with auto-distract buttons.  Imagine that the Plarathian Battle General has taken over your ship and is trying to blow it up by pressing that pesky auto-destruct button.  You’re busy punching him, he’s got his massive fingers around your throat, and your crew busy tilting wildly and falling over chairs.  Now imagine it’s been replaced by an auto-distract button.  General Xodd reaches that button and finally presses it, and all of a sudden… he can’t remember why he rushed onto the bridge a moment ago.  Was he maybe looking for his keys? You’re too dazed to throw another punch, and your crew has started thinking about taking up macrame.  Everybody wins and nobody gets hurt.  That’s a double bonus.

And hey, if it works for spaceships, why not the Ship of State?  Think about it.  Wow, that cloud kind of looks like a duck.

The Concrete Cost Of High Military Spending In 2016

Yesterday, by a vote of 278 in favor and 174 in opposition, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve a huge spending package of 578.6 billion dollars for the military. The legislation, H.R. 2685, raises military spending above the level requested by the military itself.

578.6 billion dollars is such an immense amount of money that it’s difficult to imagine what it means in practice. In order to overcome this problem, let’s make this military spending bill more concrete.

For the amount of money Congress just approved for the machines of war, it could have instead:

– Bought a brand new Toyota Prius for over 21,000 families.

– Bought more than 1.1 million iPad tablets.

– Installed solar power systems on 24,000 homes.

– Given a nutritious meal to half of the U.S. population every day of the year.

– Put 30 million new books in American libraries.

– Paid for 19 years worth of medical research by the National Institutes of Health

Instead, they chose to get America ready for war.

Why Live Life With No Regrets?

At the motivational merchandising site for Kimberley Crossman, I came across the following thought by “Sophie B” today:

Live life with no regrets

From time to time we all wish we could turn back time and fix our mistakes. It is important to remember that these experiences make us who we are, mistakes are how we learn. You wouldn’t be the person you are today if it weren’t for life’s valuable lessons.

It’s ok to mess up
Learn from your perceived failures and move on! Don’t let negative thoughts drag you down.

At the end of the day you are your own best friend
Make sure your health and wellbeing is priority. You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself.

Follow your dreams, not the aspirations some may have for you
You will be the only one living your life, choose your own path not the one people want you to follow.

Over at the shirt shop at TeeSpring.com, Sarah is selling the following shirt on commission:

Sarah sells a No Regrets shirt likely made in a sweatshop

Every time it sells, she makes a couple of bucks without having to lift a finger. How could Sarah have regrets with a deal like that? Well, she might have regrets if she thought about the fact that in Haiti, Honduran sweatshop workers are treated as sub-human and make $6 a day producing Gildan shirts, the brand Sarah sells with. Would it be disempowering to regret profiting off of other people’s misery?

When I see that shirt, I think of Adolf Hitler wearing it. I think of Hitler mouthing the Kimberley Crossman “no regrets” mottos with pretty, pretty flowers in the background. “From time to time we all wish we could turn back time and fix our mistakes. It is important to remember that these experiences make us who we are… It’s ok to mess up!… Don’t let negative thoughts drag you down. At the end of the day you are your own best friend Make sure your health and wellbeing is priority. You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself. Follow your dreams, not the aspirations some may have for you. You will be the only one living your life, choose your own path not the one people want you to follow.” Hitler sure did choose his own path and take care of himself. But shouldn’t he have had some regrets?

What kind of a life does a person lead if they have no regrets? A profoundly unreflective one? A narcissistic one? A self-excusing one? An utterly boring and unadventurous one? An unethical one?

Regrets are useful. They are an invitation to reflect, to think over our past actions. Our regrets can be a motivation, prompting us to reflect on what we might have done differently in the past so that we can practice doing better in the future.

Let’s buck this trend. Let’s stop pretending that avoiding self-accountability is like some kind of social movement. Let’s bring regret back in.

Time For Diane Rehm To Retire

Yesterday, NPR talk show host Diane Rehm confronted U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders with something that could derail his 2016 presidential campaign. “You have dual citizenship with Israel,” Rehm said.

It was an astonishing moment – because what Diane Rehm said wasn’t true at all. Senator Sanders does not have dual citizenship with Israel. He was born in the USA.

The idea that Bernie Sanders has dual Israeli-American citizenship is just another stupid right wing conspiracy theory spread on the Internet, equivalent to the rumors that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not in the United States. Behind both rumors is bigotry. In the case of Obama, the rumors were racist, meaning to imply that no one with African ancestry could be trusted with the White House. In the case of Sanders, the bigotry is anti-Semitic, implying that Sanders can’t be trusted because he is Jewish, rather than Christian. All Jews, the conspiracy suggests, are really Israelis at heart, and as foreigners, will betray the United States the first chance they get.

When Senator Sanders explained to Rehm that he doesn’t have dual citizenship at all, Rehm retorted that she had proof. “I understand from a list we have gotten that you were on that list,” she said. A list? That’s a play straight out of the McCarthyist handbook.

The truth is that this supposed list is a fraud. When she was confronted at the end of her radio show, Diane Rehm admitted that she got her information from a comment on a post on Facebook.

People listen to Diane Rehm’s nationally-broadcast radio show because they believe that Rehm has the intelligence and wisdom to do careful research about the people she interviews, with a staff to support her efforts. That Rehm doesn’t even bother to fact check information she finds in comments on Facebook shows that this belief in Rehm’s integrity and intelligence is not well-founded.

A radio show that repeats bigoted, outlandish rumors found on Facebook as if they are fact has no place on NPR. It is time for Diane Rehm to retire.

Rick Santorum’s Worry Record on Same-Sex Marriage

In 2015, Rick Santorum is running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

In 2006, Rick Santorum took to the floor of the Senate to argue for S.J. Res. 1, a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would expressly outlaw any definition of marriage other than heterosexual coupling. Then-Senator Santorum asked a series of questions about what might happen if same-sex couples were allowed to marry:

“Will speech against same-sex marriage be allowed to continue unfettered?

“Will anyone be able to again say that marriage should be between a man and a woman without being branded a bigot?

“Will a minister be able to preach from I Corinthians 6:9 that the unjust and immoral such as adulterers, prostitutes and sodomites will
not inherit the earth?

“Will our local Catholic Charities lose their tax-exempt status if they do not bend their religious faith to the new norm?

“Will a rabbi or priest be forced to preside over same-sex marriages in order to continue to be able to consecrate traditional marriages?

“The scope of the ramifications of this debate are unclear, but there is no doubt that very serious issues arise. As Maggie Gallagher noted
in her article, “Marc Stern is looking more and more like a reluctant prophet: ‘It’s going to be a train wreck,’ he said ‘A very dangerous
train wreck.'”

Now that same-sex marriage is legal for a majority of the country, let’s check off Rick Santorum’s scary list of outcomes and see if they came to pass.

“Will speech against same-sex marriage be allowed to continue unfettered?” YES. Speech against same-sex marriage contrinues, unfettered by the law. The only thing is, more and more people disagree with that speech, and are feeling free to say so:

Pew Research Center. May 12-18, 2015. N=2,002 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 2.5.

“Do you strongly favor, favor, oppose or strongly oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally?”
May 2008, June 2008, April 2009, August 2009, April 2012, June 2012: “… allowing gay and lesbian couples …”

Favor Oppose Unsure/
Refused
 
% % %  

5/12-18/2015

57 39 5  

9/2-9/2014

49 41 10  

2/12-26/2014

54 39 7  

5/1-5/2013

51 42 8  

3/13-17/2013

49 44 8  

10/24-28/12

49 40 11  

6/28 – 7/9/2012

48 44 8  

6/7-17/2012

48 44 9  

4/4-15/2012

47 43 11  

2/22 – 3/1/2011

45 46 9  

8/25 – 9/6/2010

43 47 10  

7/21 – 8/5/2010

41 48 10  

8/11-17/2009

39 53 8  

4/2009

35 54 11  

8/2008

39 52 9  

6/18-29/2008

40 52 8  

5/21-25/2008

38 49 13  

3/2001

35 57 8  

6/1996

27 65 8  

“Will anyone be able to again say that marriage should be between a man and a woman without being branded a bigot?” Well, NO, but that’s because people don’t have the right to not be called a bigot. More and more people are deciding that discrimination against gay people is bigoted, and they’re calling it bigotry, and they’re calling to the people who continue to call for discrimination bigots. So what? See “Free Speech,” above.

“Will a minister be able to preach from I Corinthians 6:9 that the unjust and immoral such as adulterers, prostitutes and sodomites will not inherit the earth? YES. Ministers continue to be able to say whatever they want. Everyone else continues to be able to disagree with them.

“Will our local Catholic Charities lose their tax-exempt status if they do not bend their religious faith to the new norm?” NO. The Catholic church continues to oppose same-sex marriage as an article of faith (which means “special religious thingy we don’t have to justify with facts or logic”), and continues to hold tax-exempt status.

“Will a rabbi or priest be forced to preside over same-sex marriages in order to continue to be able to consecrate traditional marriages? NO. This simply hasn’t happened.

Rick Santorum wasn’t speaking from the Republican fringes back in 2006. He was representing the mainstream of Republican political predictioneering. Looking back from the vantage point of 2015, it’s clear that Santorum didn’t have a clear vision of the future then. Will Republicans reject or embrace the new set of doomsday predictions Rick Santorum is offering today?