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Proof that More Immigration Leads to Higher Crime

A Higher Proportion of Immigrants in the U.S. is actually associated with a LOWER violent crime rate.

Except wait, it’s not proof of that at all.  As the share of the U.S. population made up of immigrants has more than doubled, the violent crime rate has actually fallen.

Does this information fail to match your preconception?  Try working through the cognitive dissonance this time.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and Uniform Crime Reports.

Mad Science You Can’t Do At Home

This year, I have taken on the responsibility of giving my 13 year-old son some exposure to science in addition to what he gets at school. So, I was excited when I saw a copy of Mad Science: Experiments You Can Do At Home – But Probably Shouldn’t by Theodore Gray. What a great title, huh? Looking at the title of contents, I saw a number of fascinating ideas, perfect for grabbing teenagers’ attention. The idea that I could do these experiments at home, however, was most appealing of all. I imagined many afternoons of lab work with my son.

Once I got a better look, after bringing the book home, my excitement turned to disappointment.

The first experiment I looked at was called Making A Perfect Match. As the name suggests, the activity involved making homemade matches. What would I need for this experiment?

– Red phosphorus
– Potassium chlorate
– White glue
– 1/8 inch wooden dowels
– Oven
– Fire extinguisher
– Safety glasses

Wait a minute. Red phosphorus? Where do I get that? The next page had a note about that: “Red phosphorus and potassium chlorate are among the most dangerous of chemicals because they create contact explosives: Mixtures that blow up while you are mixing them. Private possession of red phosphorus is a federal crime.” So, how am I supposed to do this experiment at home, when I am legally prohibited from possessing one of the significant ingredients?

Most of the other experiments in this book are like this, containing features that make it difficult, if not impossible, to do at home. Among the items required by the experiments in Mad Science:

– white phosphorus
– 30 pounds of mercury
– welding carbons
– firebricks
– catalytic converter
– a 16 inch glass globe
– liquid oxygen
– magnesium ribbon
– cobalt powder
– a bank of 12,000 volt capacitors
– blast shield
– a spark gap trigger
– muriatic acid
– a plasma torch
– gold leaf
– titanium dioxide
– a Van de Graaff machine
– a sample of radioactive material
– pyrolitic graphite
– plating electrodes
– a cylinder of chlorine gas
– a spinthariscope
– a glass makers’ furnace

Does anyone have these things just hanging around the house?

I’m glad the only experiment I tried was checking this book out from the library, instead of buying it myself.

mad science experiments for home

Irregular Math Gets Queasy

I was doing some research on a problem in algebra early this morning, and one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was looking at a paper presented at the American Mathematical Society in 1972 with the purpose “to show that a complete, convex, externally convex metric space is generalized euclidean if and only if it has the euclidean symmetric isosceles queasy four-point property or the euclidean external isosceles queasy four-point property.”

Wow. Okay. Mrs. Washington never taught me that in high school.

I am calling out for help on this one. I tried to read the paper. Honestly, I did, but I can’t make heads or tails of it.

I need a mathematician to tell me:

What is the euclidean external isosceles queasy four-point property?

How is this concept actually used in math, and what are some of its applications beyond theory?

While Vicky Hartzler Fiddles, the Globe Burns: October 2014 was Hottest on Record

On November 2014, Republican member of Congress and global warming denier Vicky Hartzler noticed it was cold. This, she decided, was proof enough to ridicule the idea of global warming. So she took to Twitter:

Republican Representative Vicky Hartzler on Twitter: Global Warming Strikes America!  Brrrr!


Rep. Hartzler is in her 54th year on Earth.  Someone so well-experienced with the seasons really should have figured out that November tends to be colder than the months that precede it.  It’s a trend those in the meteorological profession call Autumn.  It also would be nice for a member of Congress to recognize that the place she happens to be standing at the moment is not necessarily the same as every other place on the planet, or that the one cold day she notices is not necessarily the same as the general trend.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler’s cold toes in Washington, DC on November 18 2014 are a product of local weather.  To look for evidence of global climate change, we should instead look to a global average of temperatures, and not just on one particular day but over a long period of time.  It turns out that NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies houses a collection of temperature records spanning all sorts of places over land and sea around the entire globe.  The NASA GISS global temperature record for each and every October doesn’t show weather.  It shows climate change.  It shows clear evidence of global warming:

Global Temperature in the Month of October, 1880 to 2014, from the NASA GISS database of global temperature anomalies over land and sea

If you look at the global temperature records for 1880-2014 for any month of the year so far, they will show clear signs of global warming.  When the month of November is done and climate records for November from 1880 to 2014 are complied, they will show clear signs of global warming.

Vicky Hartzler sits on a House of Represenatives committee devoted to finding “emerging threats.”  If she can’t figure out the nature of the global warming threat, what else is she missing?

My Apocalyptic Climate Change Skepticism

I have been silent too long on this subject, worrying that the Speech Police are going to silence me. No more – I shall be brave.

I am a climate skeptic.

There, I said it.

I am a skeptic of wild assertions about climate change that have yet to be supported by good, solid science.

Primary among the climate change claims I am skeptical of: The Earth’s climate is changing because Jesus is about to come and suck all his true believers up into the sky.

This idea about climate change is held by 49 percent of Americans, according to a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and the American Academy of Religion. 49% of Americans say they believe that climate change is happening because of End Times they believe are predicted by Christian sacred texts. Three years ago, only 44% of Americans claimed this belief.

Where does this belief come from? It’s a conspiracy by people who want to keep on making money by polluting the environment without paying any penalty, buttressed by an old superstition that, whenever anything goes wrong in the world, it must have something to do with the return of an ancient Jewish leader who will finally come to settle an old debate about the application of ancient local laws in a newly Hellenized culture.

There is no evidence whatsoever that climate change has been caused by two thousand year-old religious grudges. There is, however, literally tons of evidence that has been collected that climate change is largely due to human industrial and agricultural activities.

As a skeptic, I look at what the evidence shows, not what any faith presumes.

Celebrate The Family Doesn’t

Ask a parent of young children what happens between 6:00 and 8:00 PM on a Saturday night, and you’ll likely be told that that’s family time. At 6:00 PM, the family will be having dinner together. Then, the dishes have to be washed, and the kids need to be tucked in to bed. Maybe there’s time for a game, or a movie, but after a long day, the parents are tired and just want to go to sleep themselves.

An evening political conference is not part of this schedule. Yet, 6-8 PM on a Saturday night was the time slot that the 2014 Celebrate The Family conference was scheduled for this year. The conference is put together by an organization called The Family Leader, in an effort to bring right wing Christians together from across Iowa, so that they can exercise influence over the federal elections.

The conference typically advocates for extreme social policies such as prohibiting people from getting married, putting medical decisions in the hands of insurance companies, withdrawing support from people in financial distress, and establishing Christianity as the national religion of the USA. At the conference last night, Bob Vander Plaats, President and CEO of The Family Leader, told attendees that, “It is time the church stopped remaining silent and time that the church speak up!”

When have churches in America ever been silent? When have they not been speaking about their political agendas? Can anyone identify a single year over the last generation when right wing Christian activists were not loudly trying to tell everyone else what to do?

Whether it is the relentlessly preachy tone of the of the Celebrate The Family conference, or the event’s scheduling right in the middle of family dinner and bedtime, one thing is clear: Celebrate The Family is not a family event. Most of the attendees have gray hair, and not a single child is to be seen.

Celebrate The Family doesn’t.

celebrate the family religious political conference

Are the Racists Right? Is Minneapolis More Violent Since Somali Immigrants Arrived? The Answer Rhymes With “Fell, Snow.”

The blog “Stuff Black People Don’t Like” has made an incendiary accusation about Somali immigrants to Minneapolis, Minnesota:

“None of these Somalis in any city of the United States should be in the country, if the government was actually concerned with creating a strong future for the nation’s actual citizens. It is not. Minneapolis once was a city with one of the lowest crime rates in America and the highest standard of living; social capital (the necessary building-block for building strong communities) was at a premium. Enter the Somali refugees and the importation of crime that the city needed if it was to compete with other vibrant cities in the diversity lottery.”

We need to keep in mind that this is a blog blaming black people for the fact that the United States no longer sends people to the Moon; by itself such a claim could be easily dismissed. But similar claims appear elsewhere. On a page devoted to the Minneapolis “problem” on the anti-immigrant website “Refugee Resettlement Watch,” a pseudonymous writer makes a similar claim connecting the rate of violent crime and the immigration of people from Somalia:

“Random Reader is right to be scared. Scared that they and their children will be victims of Somali violence. Violent crimes against Americans are sure to rise as the number of Somalis increase. Millions of American families are homeless and living in cars and tent cities while well-paid tax-using NGOs/Volags and city bureaucrats hand over desperately needed housing and financial assistance to foreigners. Foreigners brought in to displace Americans like Random Reader. Random Reader will eventually be forced out of the place he/she was ‘born and raised’ in. As the number of Somalis increase the crime rate will increase and the city and state will be bankrupted from all the foreign welfare freeloaders and welfare cheats.”

And according to Leisa Crawford of the ultra-conservative and pro-white Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, “After the Somalis arrived in Minneapolis, violence in the city intensified and the crime rate exploded.”

“Minneapolis was once a city with one of the lowest crime rates”? “The crime rate will increase… as the number of Somalis increase”? “The crime rate exploded”? Because the claim appears repeatedly online, it should be tested, and because of the unique history of Somali immigration to the United States, the claim can be easily tested. As Jason DeRusha of CBS Minnesota explains, Somali immigration to the city of Minneapolis began at a discrete point in 1993 as the federal government initiated a settlement program for refugees fleeing the violence in Somalia’s brutal civil war. Early Somali immigrants spread word to fellow refugees that Minneapolis was a friendly place, and so more Somali immigrants continued to settle in Minneapolis.

Uniform Crime Reports data gathered by local police agencies and aggregated by the FBI are available from 1985-2012 through the federal government’s UCRDataTool service. In addition to this, Minneapolis crime data for 2013 were released just last week. According to this data, the average violent crime rate from 1985 to 1992 in Minneapolis was 1,553 violent crimes per 100,000 population. In 1993, when the number of Somali families could be counted on one hand, Minneapolis’ violent crime rate stood at 1,768 violent crimes per 100,000 population. From 1994 to 2013, the average violent crime rate in Minneapolis was 1,378 violent crimes per 100,000 population.

That’s right: since the influx of Somali immigrants to Minneapolis began, the violent crime rate has gone down, not up. The Somaliphobic claims you read above are simply false.

A few of you may be thinking right now that I’ve focused on violent crime to hide some kind of surge in property crime (the other category of criminal activity in the Uniform Crime Reports). To put that suspicion to rest, let’s report the property crime stats for Minneapolis, too:

the average property crime rate from 1985 to 1992: 9,891 property crimes per 100,000 population
the property crime rate in 1993: 9,268 property crimes per 100,000 population
the average property crime rate from 1994 to 2013: 6,472 property crimes per 100,000 population

Yet again, upon a quick check of crime statistics the claim that crime has increased since Somali immigrants came to live in Minneapolis is shown to be false. Those who make this claim (invariably appearing on websites that cast aspersions on black people) are either ignorant or are lying to you.

Postscript: When I refer to information available on the internet, I’ll usually add a link as a courtesy to you and as a courtesy to the original source of information. I’m not extending that courtesy to the sources listed above. If you search for that text on Google, you can find it, but I don’t want to reward purveyors of inaccurate racist propaganda. When these bloggers begin to make claims based in fact, I’ll consider changing my mind.

The Monsters Won

dice destroyed

Jim Webb for President, The Pros and Cons

jim webb for president bumper stickerThis week, former U.S. Senator from Virginia Jim Webb announced that he is forming an exploratory committee, the first step in beginning a campaign for the Democratic nomination for President in 2016.

What can we make of the Jim Webb for President campaign? Here’s a quick sketch of the mixed bag Jim Webb’s political record:

– opposed the Iraq War from the beginning.
– voted against powers of indefinite detention without criminal charge in the United States
– opposed to Wall Street bailouts
– supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination
– voted to support net neutrality
– opposed efforts to lower wages for workers on federally funded projects
– voted for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
– supported protection of roadless areas in national forests
– voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay, to support equal pay for women
– supports ending government support for corporations that outsource jobs overseas
– opposed legislation that would block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases
– voted against an end to Iraq War authorization in 2011
– opposed equal rights for women in the military
– refused to support the Respect For Marriage Act, which would have repealed the anti-equality Defense of Marriage Act
– supported Mitch McConnell’s legislation to help oil companies evade responsibility for oil spill prevention
– failed to support legislation prohibiting the use of mercenaries in America’s wars
– supported the reauthorization of the Patriot Act
– supports allowing states to discriminate against gays and lesbians by making it against the law for them to get married
– voted to extend George W. Bush’s tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires
– voted to prohibit President Obama from closing the infamous prisons of Guantanamo

Are there important points from Jim Webb‘s political career that we missed? Please share them here.

When the Greens Showed Up in Maine

In November 2013, J. Clifford wrote here about a Green Party that complained about ballot access but wasn’t running candidates.

In November 2014, the Maine Green Independent Party ran 13 candidates for state legislature — an impressive feat for a party with very few members and zero corporate support.  It’s true that none of those candidates won, but you can’t fault Maine’s Green Party for failing to give it a good shot.  As I traveled about the state this year I saw Green Party lawn signs, especially promoting candidates Alice Knapp and Asher Platts, dotting the landscape.  A neat graphic design, featuring Maine’s iconic moose as a historically-relevant alternative to the donkey and elephant, graced campaign materials.

Americans are not currently inclined to give Green candidates much of a chance; given that hostile environment, I’m inclined to give strong credit to the candidates who did choose to stick their necks out and provide active advocacy for an alternative vision.  Thanks, Maine Greens.  Your efforts this cycle make me think more about finding a way to support you actively in the next cycle.

Ben Carson Thinks He Is Being Fingered By God To Be President

A couple of weeks ago, in response to an article we wrote pointing out the connection between Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson and a Christian fundamentalist secret society that calls itself The Family, John Philip Souza the Fourth, the director of the ethically questionable super PAC raising anonymous cash to encourage Carson’s campaign, came by Irregular Times and told us that the Ben Carson for President campaign certainly is not filled religious zealots.

After that, members of the Run Ben Run political team started writing that they support Ben Carson because they need a presidential candidate who accepts that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and believes in Creationism rather than evolution through natural selection.

Of course, someone might point out that it’s Ben Carson, and not all his religious extremist associates, who is seeking election as President. So, shouldn’t we judge Ben Carson’s campaign according to what he does himself?

Well, okay, let’s do that. Today, we have news that Ben Carson believes that God is fingering him. Seriously. Asked whether God has grabbed him to demand that he run for President, Carson replied, “I feel fingers.”

Remembering that the last U.S. President who believed he was chosen to lead by God was the disaster-prone George W. Bush, Americans would do well to be wary of Ben Carson’s delusions about the Hand of God.