Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen, first woman to head the Fed.

Man Bites Dog?

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.

Elizabeth
Anne Hull

As you probably know, the “glass ceiling” has suffered yet another crack, as Janet Yellen has started work as the first woman to head the Federal Reserve Bank. That means that the two most significant leadership positions in global money are both occupied (word chosen carefully) by women. (The other is the International Monetary Fund, helmed by Christine Lagarde.)

As the grandmother of a female commercial pilot (the first of either gender that I know of in our family), I follow “firsts” for women with special interest. So I noticed another news item that may not have hit everyone’s radar: Yellen’s husband, George Akerlof, himself a Nobel prize winner in economics, stepped down as a member of the advisory board of the UBS International Center of Economics in Society at the University of Zurich.

Even though he wasn’t paid for being on the advisory board and there was no conflict of interest, he wanted to “avoid even the appearance of conflict,” Akerlof said. UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, operates an investment-banking business in the U.S. and is therefore regulated by the Fed.

Remember the constraints put on Caesar’s wife? This goes beyond a husband helping his wife with the housework and child care, so she can Lean In.

Hunger games

 

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.


Elizabeth
Anne Hull

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Let’s you and him fight! One of the most effective strategies in battle is to pit factions of opposition against each other. Politicians do it so that opponents stop bothering the people in power, or the people who want power. They view government — whether local, state, national or international — as “playing the game” of politics.

When I saw the first of the Hunger Games films, I was surprised that I actually enjoyed watching such a violent idea come to life through the wizardry of Hollywood. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on neo-Freudian transactional analysis to understand drama (“A Transactional Analysis of the Plays of Edward Albee,” Loyola University of Chicago, 1975), and I think games can sometimes be dangerous even if they aren’t immediately lethal.

Regarding a sporting event as a game can make fans blind to the suffering of others. I have been watching the debate over football players and their higher risk of dementia at a young age, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Playing games in personal relationships can prevent you from enjoying the tension release of intimacy and trust.

I’m not sure whether I feel less comfortable with those who view human life as gamesmanship in a zero-sum game (if one wins, another must lose), or with those who view the abstract qualities of life as battles, declaring war on poverty, drugs, or terrorism.

Ordinarily, games can be fun, but they can get to be tedious when they are unrelieved by work. And sometimes wars must be fought, especially if others pick the fight.

Geese oiled by Enbridge spill.

These Canada geese and some 200 other migratory birds, along with countless fish, mussels, turtles and mammals, were coated in oil when a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy ruptured near Marshall, Mich., on July 26, 2010. The break spilled at least 843,444 gallons of crude oil into a wetland and nearby Talmadge Creek, and flowed into the Kalamazoo River and downriver for 38 miles to Morrow Lake.

When 840,000 gallons of unclearable, ultrasticky Canadian crude comes to take up residence in your little town — while you yourself can’t live there anymore — is that what you want?

Kzoo River sign

Thirty-five miles of the Kalamazoo River were closed to public use after the oil spill. Some portions remain closed.

Three years ago, the Enbridge Energy pipeline carrying heavy Canadian crude ruptured and spilled almost a million gallons of ultra-polluting tar-sands crude into the Kalamazoo River in western Michigan. In spite of tens of millions spent on recovery and cleanup efforts — similar to the practices that will be employed when a similar rupture occurs in the proposed Keystone XL pipeline — most of that is still there.

This stuff is not normal crude. It doesn’t float to the surface to be sucked away. It dives to the bottom, where removal equipment can’t pull it out — with as much as 180,000 gallons lingering there.

Is this what we want? Vast programs of permanently despoiling America’s pristine lakes, rivers and woodlands? And all for the sake of mining vast quantities of tar sands for fossil fuels that we dare not go on burning, anyway, for fear of what its released carbon compounds will do to our country’s rapidly worsening climate?

 

Fred wrote this in August of last year, shortly before his death. We present it now, with fresh links, because little has changed since then. Supporters continue to press for the stalled expansion of the Keystone pipeline owned by TransCanada, which saw 12 breaks in 2011, spilling more than 21,000 gallons of oil. Enbridge, meanwhile, failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline for government-ordered cleanup of the mess its pipeline made in the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

The blog team

Eisenhower,-Dwight

  Dwight D.
  Eisenhower

 

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

                  —Dwight D. Eisenhower

   

name badge

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.

Elizabeth
Anne Hull
 

Today I’m thinking about names. Fred’s was one he generally enjoyed, uncommon enough to be distinctive but not so rare as to be a unique identifier. He was no Beyonce or Liberace or Oprah. Though a lifelong anglophile, Fred liked the spelling of his name — the way the Danish kings did, with no C, rather than the most common English and Continental way — even though throughout his life he suffered from the indignities of having people, and later spellcheck programs, hypercorrect it for him.

What he didn’t like was the middle name on his birth certificate, George, but when he joined the U.S. military in World War II, he allowed the officials to give him the name Fred G. Pohl, Jr. He especially despised “Junior.” Fred was quite thoroughly estranged from his father, since his teenage years, and he always tried to be his own version of what he thought a man should be. He published consistently (when he didn’t use a pseudonym) as Frederik Pohl.

My own name, the one my mother, obsessed with the British royal family, gave me, combines two English queens. So I spell my middle name with an E, as did Queen Anne.

Fred and I had trouble from the day we ordered our wedding invitations, which we insisted be reprinted twice, once when the printer stole my E, and then when they dropped a C into Fred’s name.

Continue reading ‘Call Me Betty’ »

Frederik Pohl and Dave Wolverton, 1987.

Fred with Dave Wolverton at the 1987 Writers of the Future Awards.

Over at Paleofuture, Matt Novak turned up a letter Fred wrote for a 1987 Writers of the Future time capsule. Novak writes:

“One of the predictions was from Pohl, who I contacted through email to ask about his letter to the future. There were over a dozen letters in the time capsule from people like Orson Scott Card and Isaac Asimov. But it was Pohl’s letter that really caught my eye because it hinted at a skepticism surrounding the entire practice of prediction — in particular, a reference to the work of cold readers and other charlatans who would have you believe that they can see into the future with certainty.”

After the opening of the time capsule last year, Novak asked Fred what he thought about it. Check out Paleofuture for Fred’s 2012 comments on his predictions of a quarter-century earlier. Here’s Fred’s 1987 letter:

Dear People of the Future,

In my day there were professional entertainers, and fake psychics, who specialized in telling total strangers all sorts of intimate details about themselves. The process was called *cold reading*. I’ve never done it before, but I think I can do it for you. I think I can tell you quite accurately what your lives are like as you open this time capsule.

For example, you live in a world at peace. Something like the World Court, as an arm of something like the United Nations, resolves international disputes, and has the power to enforce its decisions. For that reason, you live in a world almost without weaponry; and, because you therefore do not have to bear the crippling financial burden of paying for military establishments and hardware, all of you enjoy an average standard of living about equal to a contemporary millionaire’s. Your health is generally superb. Your life expectancy is not much less than a century. The most unpleasant and debilitating jobs (heavy industry, mining, large-scale farming) are given over to machines; most work performed by human beings is in some sense creative. The exploration of space is picking up speed, both by manned colonization and robot probes, and by vast orbiting telescopes and other instruments. Deforestation, desertification and the destruction of arable land has been halted and reversed. Pollution is controlled, and all the winds and the waters of the Earth are sweet again.

This is a very short description of your life, but it could be made even shorter. A single word can describe it: it is very close to what every previous age of mankind would call *Utopia*.

How do I know these things?

It isn’t because I’ve made a probabilistic assessment of present-day trends. Quite the contrary. All the evidence of what is going on in the world today leads to the conclusion that none of these things are going to happen, because our country, the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world (and, I have always thought, the best) is bankrupting itself to recruit and train terrorists in Latin America, give arms to terrorists all over the world, develop and deploy fleets, armies and weapons systems which have no purpose except to pound any country which disagrees with us into submission. Since, unfortunately for us, the people who disagree with us have terrorists, fleets, armies and weapons systems of their own, the most plausible future scenario is all-out nuclear war.

It is therefore clear that to make the predictions above is to bet recklessly against the odds.

It’s still a good bet, though.

In fact, I don’t see how I can lose it. Anyone opening the capsule to read these lines will have to agree that my low-probability predictions pretty well describe the actual turn of events … because if the high-probability ones of mass destruction and species suicide should prevail no one is likely to be around to read them.

The blog team