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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for the ‘New Ideas’ Category

Margaret Atwood

Monday, November 20th, 2017

 

One of my favorite writers. Her books and poems are gems. Splendid literary style, marvelous character development and intriguing plots.

 

Margaret Atwood

November 18th was the birthday of Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood (1939) , best known for her searing explorations of feminism, sexuality, and politics in books like The Handmaid’s Tale (1986), a dystopian novel that takes place in a United States, which has become a fundamentalist theocracy where women are forced to have children. She started writing the book on a battered, rented typewriter while on a fellowship in West Berlin. The book became an international best-seller. Atwood’s daughter was nine when it was published; by the time she was in high school, The Handmaid’s Tale was required reading. Atwood once said, “Men often ask me, ‘Why are your female characters so paranoid?’ It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

 

Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario. Her father was an entomologist and the family lived for a long time in insect-research stations in the wilderness. She was 11 before she attended a full year of school. About growing up in near isolation, Atwood said: “There were no films or theatres in the North, and the radio didn’t work very well. But there were always books. I learned to read early, was an avid reader and read everything I could get my hands on — no one ever told me I couldn’t read a book. My mother liked quietness in children, and a child who is reading is very quiet.”

 

One day she was walking across a football field on her way home and began writing a poem in her head and decided to write it down. She says: “After that, writing was the only thing I wanted to do. I didn’t know that this poem of mine wasn’t at all good, and if I had known, I probably wouldn’t have cared.”

 

Her first novel was The Edible Woman (1969), about a woman who cannot eat and feels that she is being eaten. Atwood likes to write in longhand, preferably with a Rollerball pen, and is even the co-inventor of the LongPen, a remote signing device that allows a person to write in ink anywhere in the world using a tablet and the internet. Her books include Alias Grace (1996), The Blind Assassin ( 20000, Oryx and Crake (2003), The Stone Mattress (2014), The Heart Goes Last (2015), and many others .

 

About the writing life, Margaret Atwood says: “You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.”

 

The “NFL Follies.”

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Now we can turn from the “Congressional Follies” to the “NFL Follies.”

“Roger Goodell Ignoring League’s Rules in Letting Players Protest Anthem.”
Grabien News
September 23,2017

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is such a stickler for adhering to the intricacies of the NFL’s league rule book that he infamously waged a years-long, multi million-dollar battle with the New England Patriots trying to prove that balls used in the 2014 AFC championship between the Pats and the Indianapolis Colts were under-inflated.

After a federal vacated Goodell’s four-game suspension of Tom Brady, Goodell appealed to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; by 2016, the Pats appeared to lose their will to keep fighting the case and eventually accepted the penalty (Brady’s four game suspension, $1 million fine, and the loss of two draft picks).

Yet the NFL commissioner, notorious for his unusually massive compensation package — rumored to be north of $40 million/year, making his total compensation of $156 million higher than Tom Brady’s — is taking a decidedly less fastidious approach to the rules governing the national anthem at NFL games.

The NFL rule book specifically requires both teams appear on the field for the playing of the anthem, standing, remaining quiet, and holding their helmets in their left hands. Failure to do so can result in fines, suspensions, and the loss of draft picks.

The rules are found on pages A62-63 of the league’s game operations manual:

The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.

During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.

On Sunday, almost a hundred players took a knee during the national anthem. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Beats, Seattle Seahawks, and Tennessee Titans all opted against even coming out on the field for the anthem.

But rather than warn these players and team they’re violating league rules, Goodell is focusing his anger at President Trump, who said in a speech Friday that the NFL team owners should require their players to stand during the anthem.

“The way we reacted today, and this weekend, made me proud,” Goodell said. “I’m proud of our league.”

On Saturday, Goodell responded directly to Trump, accusing the president of disrespecting the league, which asipires to “create a sense of unity in our country and our culture”:

The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.

We’ve reached out to the NFL, asking if any of the players or teams that skipped the national anthem will face discipline; we’ll update this report with their comments.

Goodell hasn’t always been so supportive of his players engaging in free speech on the field.

Last year the NFL barred the Dallas Cowboys from wearing a decal on their helmet honoring the five police officers killed in a domestic terror attack.

The NFL also banned the Tennessee Titan’s linebacker, Avery Williamson, from honoring 9/11 victims by wearing cleats that read “9-11/01″ and “Never Forget” on the 15th anniversary of the terror attack.

The NFL fined Robert Griffin III $10,000 for wearing a t-shirt during a press conference that said “Operation Patience.” (The shirt was created by Reebok and players are required to only wear clothing sold by Nike.)

RGIII also ran into trouble with the league for wearing a shirt that said “Know Jesus, Know Peace.”

The NFL has banned players from wearing Beats headphones on the field (doing so violated the league’s deal with Bose).

The Steelers’ William Gay was fined for wearing purple cleats, which he did to raise awareness for domestic violence (an issue Goodell claims the league takes seriously).

Goodell’s opposition to speech he dislikes is so determined that he even has a Patriots fan who flipped him off fired from his job.

Snopes.com claims that this rule does not, in fact, exist. The article cites the rule quoted above and reports “No such wording appears in the 2017 version of the Official Playing Rules of the National Football League.”

Yet the NFL’s Game Operations Manual — the 200-plus book the league refers to as its “bible” — is different than its rulebook. It is not available to the public. The rule cited above comes from the league itself, via the Washington Post.

The Post reported Sunday that the NFL confirmed the rule’s existence but emphasized their ability to enforce it selectively:

Under the league rule, the failure to be on the field for the anthem may result in discipline such as a fine, suspension or loss of a draft pick. But a league official said the key phrase is “may” result, adding he won’t speculate on whether the Steelers would be disciplined.

The specific rule pertaining to the national anthem is found on pages A62-63 of the league’s game operations manual, according to a league source.

After Grabien contacted Snopes.com, bringing the above facts to their attention, the author amended his article, confirming the existence of the above-state rule, and changed their description of this story from “false” to “mixture.”

The DACA Conundrum

Thursday, September 28th, 2017
  • Well, here we go again. Another fight between conservatives and liberals, another impossible mess that Obama left for Trump and Reublicans( confused , disorganized and splintered as usual). So, the “Congressional Follies” will proceed as promised. A quite complete overview of the mayhem to come was provided by The Washington Examiner in its OP ED section on September 22, 2017:

Build a Wall Around DACA
Washington Examiner
September 22, 2017
President Trump will soon learn what it means to cut a deal with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Democrats will not be satisfied with amnesty for the 800,000 immigrants who entered illegally as children. They will push to expand amnesty, bit by bit, to cover nearly all 11 million illegal immigrants in America. Trump will find that his deal to codify DACA won’t earn him lasting love from Democrats and immigration activists, but merely spur demands that he go further, and stoke outraged attacks if he doesn’t.

DACA carries the seeds of its own expansion.

To prevent this, Trump and congressional Republicans should hold fast and make sure the bill is coupled not only with tougher immigration enforcement but also with root and branch reform of policies on green cards and visas.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has co-sponsored the RAISE Act with Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue. Cotton and Perdue are right that the current green-card policy must go, especially after DACA. This is because siblings and parents of residents and citizens are allowed to immigrate and gain permanent residence in America. This “chain migration” means that those siblings can then bring in their children and children’s wives, who can bring in more siblings, and so on and on.

By legalizing nearly a million new permanent residents, DACA could set off a massive chain reaction.

“If we don’t change underlying laws about chain migration, which account for almost two-thirds of all green cards this country gives out every year,” Cotton warned in a recent interview with the Washington Examiner, that DACA “could be the largest amnesty in the history of the United States.”

“In fact,” Cotton added, “the very first people that would be eligible are the parents of the DACA recipients, which is to say the very people who broke the law by bringing their kids here.”

Cotton’s bill would severely limit family reunification green cards, so adults don’t bring in their siblings, and adults are not automatically allowed to bring in parents. This would limit the ripple effect of DACA.

The RAISE Act, by moving toward a skills-based immigration system, would address the legal issue. Then, there’s the moral hazard issue, which is that codifying DACA would induce many Central and South American parents to send or bring their parents illegally into the U.S. in the hope of a later round of amnesty.

This isn’t imaginary. “There’s a reason why we had a surge of kids at the border two years after President Obama created the DACA program and after the first round of renewal,” Cotton aptly pointed out.

“If you’ve got kids, put yourself in the position of a mom or dad in El Salvador, the most dangerous place in the world, the home of MS-13,” Cotton said. “If the U.S. gives legal status to 20- and 30-somethings who came here as children, what price would you pay to get your child here now?”

If DACA doesn’t come with real border enforcement, this humanitarian crisis is nearly guaranteed.

Finally, there’s the political reason DACA would expand. Who actually believes Democrats want to stop at legalizing and naturalizing the 800,000 who entered as children. That’s merely Step One.

Immigration activists admitted as much in a demonstration this week where they chanted at Nancy Pelosi “All of us or none of us!” demanding amnesty for all illegal immigrants. It would fit the pattern if Democrats one at a time added new classes to amnesty. Seniors first, then people who have been here more than 20 years next, then pregnant women, and those who entered when younger than 25 years old, and so on.

We have little objection to DACA itself, but a country in which every illegal entrant is declared a legal entrant is one that has given up its sovereignty. Or, as Trump put it during the election, a country that has no border ceases to be a country. DACA threatens to spread. Congress, as part of any deal with Schumer and Pelosi, needs to build a wall around it.

Tax Reform Legislation

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

Congress is to consider Tax Reform Legislation Today.The following is a good review of the difficulties ahead

Tax Reform Legislation

Washington Examiner

September 20, 2017

Republicans are split on a strategy for moving tax reform legislation through Congress, one week before they are supposed to release a document outlining their plan to overhaul the tax code. In other words, Republicans not only don’t have consensus on the content of a tax plan, they also haven’t agreed on how to go about legislating one.

Some Senate Republicans on Tuesday mulled the idea of writing a budget that would allow them to pursue tax changes that lost significant revenue, weighing the possibility of a $1.5 trillion net tax cut over 10 years.

That approach would allow them to bypass the filibuster through budget reconciliation, the legislative procedure that allows bills to clear the Senate with only 51 votes.

 

But because of rules preventing reconciliation from adding to long-term deficits, the strategy likely would require that at least some tax provisions would have to be temporary.

 

House Republicans have staked out a different route. The House Budget Committee has advanced a budget that would require the tax plan to be revenue-neutral, meaning the reform would have to raise as much revenue as would be lost from tax cuts, after accounting for any economic growth generated by the improved tax code. In the House GOP version, the tax reform could be permanent.

 

The Senate and House budgets would have to be reconciled in conference. Then the tax-writing committees would draft legislation to meet the parameters spelled out in the budget. If those documents diverge significantly, the two chambers might have to sort out not just differences in details, but also the entire approach. And before either chamber approves its budget, it must allay concerns among some members that the process could move in a direction they don’t like.

 

In the House, conservative members of the Freedom Caucus have asked for assurances that the tax reform effort won’t drift off course, as they believe the attempt to pass healthcare legislation through reconciliation has.

 

Some of the same pressures apply in the Senate.

 

On Tuesday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., a member of the budget committee, said he wanted to hear from the “Big Six” congressional and administration Republicans working on tax reform.

“I’d rather hold off on the budget and reconciliation until we understand a little bit more exactly what the tax proposal is going to look like,” Johnson told reporters.The outline to be released next week is expected to include some targets for rates, but not much other detail.

Georgia Rep. David Perdue, another member of the Budget Committee, said his preference was not to proceed through the budget process. “I would rather us not have to do it with reconciliation, I don’t like reconciliation,” he said.

 

In the Senate, some Republicans expressed a desire to pursue a simple, less ambitious tax plan, rather than the comprehensive rewrite of the tax code favored by House Republican leaders. Speaking at a tax reform hearing in the Finance Committee, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., downplayed the need for sorting through the details necessary to make the tax reform numbers add up. Instead, he said, Congress should simply lower business and individual tax rates, eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax and the estate tax, and bring back earnings corporations have overseas, “and call it good and not go into all these other details.””It sure would save us a lot of time,” Roberts said.

 

Yet the fast-moving developments in the Senate on Tuesday were enough to draw criticism from outside fiscal hawks.

“Senators should ask themselves whether they are going to take the easy road and pursue unpaid-for tax cuts that worsen our dangerous national debt, or use this once in a generation opportunity to pass fiscally responsible, pro-growth tax reform,” said Maya MacGuineas, head of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

An Unusual, But Fitting Ending

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Antimatter/ Carl Anderson

Physicists began speculating in the late 19th century that there may exist particles and matter that are exact opposites of the matter that surrounds us, mirror-image anti-atoms and perhaps even whole anti-solar systems where matter and antimatter might meet and annihilate one another. But in 1932, American physicist Carl Anderson discovered the first physical evidence that antimatter was more than just an idea.

Anderson was photographing and tracking the passage of cosmic rays through a cloud chamber, a cylindrical container filled with dense water vapor, lit from the outside, and built with a viewing window for observers. When individual particles passed through the sides of the container and into the saturated air, they would leave spiderweb tracks of condensation, like the vapor trails of miniscule airplanes, each type of particle forming a uniquely shaped trail. Anderson noticed a curious pattern – a trail like that of an electron, with an exactly identical, but opposite curve – an electron’s mirror image and evidence of an anti-electron. Anderson named the antimatter particle the positron and won a Nobel Prize for his discovery four years later.

Around 1940, biochemist and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov took up the newly discovered particle, using it as the basis for his fictional “positronic brain,” a structure made of platinum and iridium and his means for imparting humanlike consciousness to the robots in his story collection I, Robot.

The fictional uses of antimatter and the positronic brain have since spread throughout literature and popular entertainment, from the writing of Robert Heinlein to the classic British television series Doctor Who to propulsion systems and the sentient android, Data, in the American science fiction series Star Trek – even to Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, the sequel to his wildly popular DaVinci Code, in which the Illuminati intend to destroy Vatican City using the explosive power of a canister of pure antimatter.
NB: Perhaps this is the way our universe will end, i.e. a sudden flood of positrons from a nearby mirror universe, meeting up with all our negative electrons, which will blow blow up both of them. Certainly a neat way to end everything. See my short story: “What in the World Matters.”


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