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

Join 371 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

Contact Us

We can be contacted via retorts@irregulartimes.com

Malaria Strikes The USA! Stop All Flights From Asia!

Earlier today, in order to justify a ban on flights from west Africa in order to respond to a tiny number of Ebola cases in the United States, an Irregular Times reader using the pseudonym “Mr. Conservative” wrote that, “I guess one death is insignifigant for you Mr Liberal. But for me one death, two near deaths and half a dozen more people infected is too much.”

Does Mr. Conservative really have sound Public health policy in mind, or is he just freaking out? Let us consider how he would react to the spread of another deadly disease.

The number of cases of malaria in the U.S. recently surged to a 40-year high of 1,925 cases. Five Americans died of the disease.

Malaria is common in many parts of Asia. Malaria is spread by mosquitoes, and a lot of Americans get bitten by mosquitoes. Danger! Panic!

If Mr. Conservative was telling the truth when he said that even one death of an American from a disease would be too much, and requires a travel ban, then he must favor a ban on all flights from Asia. After all, there were not just one, but five deaths from malaria.

Do you think Mr. Conservative is going to call for such a ban?

I’m not holding my breath, and it isn’t because I have a respirator on to protect myself from airborne Ebola.

Ebola the panic virus

Humble Ancestors?

vetulicolianIf I asked you to think of an ancient relative of a human ancestor you probably would not picture something like the vetulicolians.

The vetulicolians had the basic body plan that you see here: A kind of segmented area attached to a flatter area to which had a kind of stiff rod running down the middle of it. They were probably not direct ancestors to the animals that became fish that became amphibians that became reptiles that became mammals that became primates. They were close relatives to those animals, however, according to new work by a team of Australian researchers. That stiff rod looks awfully like a notochord placing the animal within the line of chordates, a group to which we belong.

It is striking to consider that animals such as these are related to us in someway, family members, though distant. We are tempted to think of ourselves as highly evolved creatures and these vetulicolians as lonely and humble. However, though these animals preceded us in terms of time, they also preceded us in terms of success. They wereamong the most common animals of their time, not humble, but actually very successful. They are a reminder that success comes in many forms and that innovation is not everything.

For a Grieving Child I Love: Love, Aubrey

A few months ago, my wife was diagnosed with a deadly cancer that will kill her sooner or (a bit) later and is causing a lot of pain along the way. I’m not only married; I have school-aged children, too. While I keep one eye on my wife I keep another on my children. They’ve got open eyes, and they’re not blind. How they react to the news of their mother’s mortality isn’t as simple as a “boo-hoo” and is not resolved with a Hallmark cliche or the cloying “God loves you.” I can’t summarize the emotional journey my kids are making in a word or a sentence or paragraph or page. They’re thinking and feeling so much, and most of it is not in a literal or direct way about their mother. I don’t know what happens next as they wade through grief, and I’ve been told no one knows because it’s different for every soul. So how do I prepare them? How do I strengthen them? How do I protect them?

I’m beginning to figure out that I can’t protect my children. They are inevitably going to be hurt in staggering ways, and they will have to find their legs and stagger on to somewhere and something else. It won’t be easy. It will be slow. All I can do is love them, not fix it. All they can do is survive, not be fixed.

In the midst of all this, I am so glad that a friend of my 10 year old daughter gave her the book Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur. I’m so glad my daughter asked me to read it to her at bedtime. Aubrey, the main character of the book, is 11 years old when her father and sister are killed in a car accident. Aubrey’s mother, depressed and delusional with guilt, abandons Aubrey, who must live with her grandmother and figure out what to do next. This quandary is not philosophical or religious or otherwise grand in scope for Aubrey as the book unfolds. Aubrey’s choices are as simple yet as difficult as “how do I breathe now?” or “will I stay in bed?” or “will I eat today” or, later, what do I say to people, to adults, to other children?

Aubrey’s outward slog is alternated with an inner monologue in which she writes letters to her dead father, her dead sister, her absent mother, and even her sister’s imaginary friends. Aubrey learns to find and write the truth — you are gone, you are dead, you will not grow up like I will, you chose to leave me — at the same time she faces the harsh reality that there may be no miraculous third act. Her mother will not be who she was. She will not get a replacement wonder daddy. She will have to be old before her time and move on with broken parts.

This book is not an after school special with a message and a happy ending. It’s alternately ambiguous and direct, accepting and naming pains that don’t tie up neatly with a pretty bow. For my daughter, that’s good, because nothing she is facing in her life now ties up with a pretty bow, either. Love, Aubrey doesn’t promise her what she can’t have. It gives her and every grieving child of her tender age a more real and important gift: the knowledge that in all this, she is not the only one.

Elm Tree Dreams Die Quietly

1930 — The parasitic fungus Ophiostoma appears in Cleveland, Ohio and begins attacking American elm trees.

1950s to 1980s — 40 million elm trees die across the United States.

1970s — Start of government-university-community cooperative efforts to identify and propagate resistant elm trees.

1999 — Maine State Legislature creates Elm Tree Restoration Fund. 12 ME Rev Stat ยง 8702-A:

“1. Establishment of fund. The Elm Tree Restoration Fund, referred to in this section as the “fund,” is established as a nonlapsing fund under the jurisdiction of the bureau to promote the restoration of disease-resistant cultivars of American elm in the municipalities of the State. The bureau may apply for and accept any appropriation, grant, gift or service made available from any public or private sources consistent with the purpose of this section and shall deposit any such money into the fund.

“2. Use of the fund. Through a community forestry program pursuant to section 8002, subsection 1, paragraph B, the bureau shall develop a process for municipalities to submit proposals and establish criteria for reviewing proposals and awarding grants from the fund. The grants must be used for the planting and maintenance of disease-resistant cultivars of American elm and must match on a one-to-one basis funds raised by a municipality.”

1999 to 2013 — The Elm Tree Restoration Fund exists in name but has no funds.

2013 — Maine State Senator Troy Jackson introduces LD 283, a bill to eliminate the Elm Tree Restoration Fund. In remarks to the Maine State Legislature Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Senator Jackson declares that “I believe it is best to take something that has no money and no use and get it off our plates so that we can move on to more pressing matters.”

2013 — LD 283 is passed without a roll call vote in the Maine House and Maine Senate. LD 283 becomes law without the signature of the Governor. No newspapers note the decision. The Elm Tree Restoration Fund dies quietly.

Researchers Find Chemicals In The Air!

chemicals in the air

Alert! Researchers have found chemicals in the air: oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water…

Second Annual Impeach Obama Week Set To Fizzle

Next week is the second annual National Impeach Obama Week. Somehow, I had missed the first one.

How successful is National Impeach Obama Week likely to be? There are no scheduled protests in favor of impeachment in Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, or Wyoming. There are plenty of other states in which no impeachment protests are scheduled. I note these, however, because they are red states where the sentiment in favor of impeachment might be expected to be high. If impeachment protests are not happening even in the states, it seems almost impossible for an impeachment of the president to gain traction nationally.

Where protests are taking place, the sentiment behind them is often not very enthusiastic. Take, for example, the only protest taking place in Arizona. People are being asked to gather for an impeachment protest at the Courthouse Gazebo in Prescott, but are told, “Nothing formal. Just a casual meeting of like-minded people. Bring a sign (optional). Invite your friends.”

Come and sit a spell… Impeach Obama… shrug… would you like some lemonade?… Time to go wash my hair…

Animal Rights Protests This Weekend

I had no idea, but apparently this week is Primate Liberation Week. This Saturday will see a protest in San Francisco against the airline DHL, which is accused of transporting primates from Asia to laboratories in the United States where they will be subjected to experimentation.

In Johnson City, Tennessee, Boston, Massachusetts, and Peoria, Illinois, there will be a protests against surfaces on the same day.

I am not sure how I feel about these protests. I would like to hear your thoughts.

Specific Ebola Doom Prediction: Martial Law At Onset Of Winter

As Ebola remains practically non-existent in the United States, but fear of Ebola spreads across the nation like wildfire, right wing conspiracy theory sites continue to fan the flames.

Today at Pakalert Press, one of the featured articles makes a very specific doomsday prediction: “America will soon be put on lockdown as Ebola runs rampant across the country as cold weather arrives”. The article cites that staple of conspiracy theories, the anonymous inside military source, as saying that Ebola is airborne, but only in cold weather. So, as soon as the frost comes, which should be any day now, we should see a large number of new Ebola cases in the United States…

…if the conspiracy theory is not a load of horse shit

It is impossible, of course to know for certain that this predicted disaster will not take place. There is a slight chance that an Ebola epidemic could sweep across the United States.

All we can do now is wait to see if this extreme prediction comes true. The track record of Pakalert Press leads us to believe that we don’t have much to worry about. The right wing rag predicts that martial law is imminent about once every week.

Ebola Panic Blends Fantasy Future Into The Present In The Wall Street Journal

Yesterday, the front page of the Wall Street Journal featured an alarming headline: Ebola Response Strains Hospitals. Under that headline, the paper told readers, “As the Ebola epidemic in west Africa expands, more cases could require treatment at US hospitals far from the specialized centers that have handled patients so far.

The mismatch between these words and the headline represents the Ebola panic quite well. How could a future possibility of an epidemic’s expansion on another continent be straining hospitals in the United States right now? The answer is that it couldn’t, that it isn’t, that time just doesn’t work that way.

The only strain that we are dealing with is the extra effort that so called journalists are going through to convince people that a public health crisis in the United States exists.

Wall Street journal Ebola hype

A Plastic Bag In Every Gutter! American Chemistry Council Spends Big To Keep Congress In The Bag

An organization with a name like the American Chemistry Council sounds harmless enough, as if it’s a scientific group with the mission of supporting high school teachers with lesson plans about the Period Table, and ionic bonds, and that sort of thing. The mission of the American Chemistry Council certainly sounds bland: “The American Chemistry Council’s (ACC’s) mission is to deliver business value through exceptional advocacy using best-in-class member performance, political engagement, communications and scientific research.”

The activities of the American Chemistry Council aren’t so harmless, however. The Council’s work actually involves fighting against environmental safety and sustainability, sacrificing scientific integrity in public policy for the sake of corporate profits for chemical manufacturers.

This year saw the first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, but the American Chemistry Council has been fighting for a long time to prevent such laws from being enacted. The reason is sadly simple: Many of the companies that support the American Chemistry Council sell the materials from which plastic bags are made. They don’t particularly care how many of these bags end up in landfills, or clogging up storm drains, floating out in the ocean, or hanging snagged in the branches of trees. For them, business is business, and the more plastic bags we use, the better.

The corporations that back American Chemistry Council make a lot of money, so the council didn’t have much trouble finding over a million and a half dollars to pay for television advertisements promoting five Republican candidates in U.S. Senate elections.

All five of the candidates that the American Chemistry Council spent money on yesterday oppose congressional action to deal with climate change, despite the fact that last month was the hottest September on record. They include Iowa Republican Joni Ernst, who seeks to completely dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, and opposes implementation of the Clean Water Act. Ernst admits that she doesn’t understand the science of climate change, but opposes action on climate change anyway, because of the economic interests of her political allies.

Far from promoting scientific literacy, the American Chemistry Council seems to be devoted to advancing the cause of ignorance.

** Breaking News: ** 139 Americans Die Of Ebola in One Day

With 139 Americans dying of Ebola in just one day, can our nation possibly sustain this death toll in the future?

… oh, wait. No, no, never mind. Those are the daily deaths in the United States from influenza and pneumonia, not Ebola.

Oops. My bad. I mixed up the rows when I was taking notes from the CDC’s latest release of mortality data. I meant to write down “50,636 flu and pneumonia deaths a year / 1 Ebola death a year,” but I wrote down “1 flu or pneumonia death a year / 50,636 Ebola deaths a year.”

Sorry. It’s a natural mistake to make — I got distracted watching cable news. Back to you, Anderson.