Commentaries – Valerie Powell (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)


·         A Missed Opportunity – Will Those Who are Angry Still Vote for the Same Representative (or Senator) in 2016 as Last Time?

1.      Pollsters and the media missed a big opportunity in the "angry" polls – will those who are angry still vote in 2016 for the same representative (or senator) as last time? - Apparently that question wasn't asked!

·        Democrat Weak Voter Turnout Fatal

1.      The Democrats (at least white ones) apparently just don't turn out to vote in numbers adequate to matter. Please see: and and also: White Democrat voter turnout has become so weak ( that the party has limited opportunity to succeed, although this is challenged here: . See also: and .

2.      Gerrymandering, used by both parties over time, is now in place for Republicans, and is critical to Republican political control now: and, although some ascribe GOP advantage in the US House to living patterns: . With weak (white) voter turnout, Democrats simply won't be able to change that. See US voter turnout trails that of most developed countries: and . Thus a Republican President and majorities in both houses of the US Congress are almost a certainty in 2016. Part of this is due to the failure of many Democrat politicians in office to strongly, vocally, and persistently defend President Obama against Republican attacks 2008-2015 and to show unity.

·        Donald Trump vs. Vladimir Putin

1.      Can you imagine how that would work out? Two nativists (1 pro-USA great again vs. 1 Mother-Russia great again) and nationalists and both having nuclear weapons and huge military, air, and naval forces. Obviously both would win? After a war?  See: and Here's a viewpoint: (September 2015).

·        Bedroom phones.

1.      The design of a bedroom phone: no lights and a switch to turn off the ringer (corded or cordless). See: and and

·        Scott Walker – Scott Walker and George W. Bush.

1.       Scott Walker always reminds me somehow of George W. Bush, except W. is obviously much smarter than Scott Walker, especially when it comes to the "big picture" in international affairs: . (August 2015).

·        U.S. Failure to maintain Passenger Rail Infrastructure

1.       While high-speed rail functions in other countries: and and and , the U.S. Congress has not addressed U.S. passenger rail infrastructure requirements in New Jersey affecting NJ Transit on routes available from Amtrak: for the rail transportation and transit capabilities that we have. Here is a story on Africa's first high=speed line in Morocco: . Here is information on Turkey's high-speed line: and here is Russia's Sapsan (Сапсан):

·        Artificial Intelligence and the Age of Robots:

1.      Where there is artificial intelligence, there is also artificial stupidity.

·        The USA and the Impression of "Arrogance"

1.      One way to begin to reduce the international impression of "arrogance" on the part of the USA would be to go metric. One way to reinforce the international impression of US "arrogance" would be continued use of non-metric measures, like Fahrenheit. (July 2015)



4.      Hollywood:

5.      Power and arrogance:


7.      Dickens:

·        Mr. Trump's Misconceptions

1.      It has apparently not yet occurred to naïve Mr. Trump that the extent to which the US has tried to strengthen Southern border control has aggravated the situation, forced those trying to enter to seek the services of smugglers. Crime in Mexico is encouraged by the war on drugs and its impact on drug smuggling, also by our gun laws. Please see: . Mr. Trump is better at performing (attention-getting) than at understanding. (July and August 2015)

2.      Camino de la lágrimas – "Andrew Trumpson" – does he want to repeat the horrid acts of the 1830s "Trail of Tears" in another era and on a far larger scale by seeking to expel millions of persons with a 21st Century "Immigrant Removal Act"? See: Remember the targets of the "Trail of Tears" were Native Americans, and the potential target of Trump's effort constitutes, in significant measure, populations from Mexico with a substantial indigenous basis (from an anthropological viewpoint), Mexico being a country that our nation invaded in the 1840s in spite of the objections of A. Lincoln and others. See Edward E Baptist, The Half has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (Basic Books, 2014), p. 332: About the only thing on which Calhoun and Palfrey ( could agree was that all of Mexico was too much. "We have never dreamed of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race," Calhoun proclaimed. "More than half of the Mexicans are Indians, and the other is composed chiefly of mixed tribes. ... Ours, sir, is the government of the white race." Palfrey also thought that Mexico's "nameless and mongrel breeds" would fit poorly into the United States. (August 2015)

·        Big Data and Big Data Integration

1.      It is surprising that Hadoop gets so much attention with regard to "Big Data" when InterSystems Caché beat out Hadoop to capture data in mapping the Milky Way Galaxy for the European Space Agency (ESA) Gaia Project: (July 2015)

2.      See:

·        Women in Programming

1.      Some remark about women being underrepresented in STEM fields like computer programming. This doesn't seem to be the case in M (MUMPS) Programming, as evidenced by Ruth Dayhoff, Joan Zimmerman, Nancy Anthracite, Gretchen Bradfield, Judy Faulkner, Kate Schell, and others. The leading vendors for this technology today are InterSystems ( and FIS Global GT.M ( ).(July 2015)

·        Would Not Having Declared Independence from Britain Have Prevented the Civil War?

1.      Alternative history buffs have given attention to this topic:





2.      Most interesting in this is the association of the Boston Tea Party with protecting smuggling profits. (July 2015)

·        Advertisements on TV, radio, and Internet

1.      Advertisers are interested in ad placement: However many viewers/listeners (1) on TV simply switch to a different channel or mute the feed, (2) with radio, while driving, simple turn the radio off or switch channels, especially when the topic is unpleasant like "IRS crises," or (3) with Internet searching, look the topic up with the search engine to find a text treatment of the topic. A large proportion of advertisements encountered by a viewer or listener simply are not presenting a product that the viewing or listening individual is in a position to purchase or wishes to purchase. This is a problem with such broadcast (simplex) communication. June 2015

2.      Sequences of advertisements amount to 4 minutes total for some TV channels. This is far too long to tolerate a constant series of ads uninterrupted by any non-advertising programming. Is there any known instance of a broadcaster reducing the proportion of advertising content per unit of broadcast time? June 2015.

·        Interrelating Climate Change Roles and Responsibility for Displaced Populations

1.      Should liability for receiving immigrants be indexed to responsibility for pollution? In other words, should the countries which contribute most to climate change be responsible for accepting refugees from nations where residence has been disrupted by climate change? If so, would the transfers of populations be determined in part by proximity (of the dislocated population(s)) to nation(s) contributing to climate change and not reducing pollution CO2 or Methane (greenhouse gas) contributions to climate change? The index for requirement to accept populations (1) displaced by inundations or (2) displaced by catastrophic failure of local agriculture should be based on (1) contribution to climate change and (2) successful efforts to reduce contributions to climate change. There must be some incentive to reduce contribution(s) to climate change. Tying displaced-populations obligations to national track records on climate change contribution and rate of mitigation efforts should be considered at the Paris meeting in November 2015: . Please see:

1. ;


3. ;

4. ;

5.  June 2015.

·        Unrest in US

1.      The so-called Charleston "massacre" presents a dilemma. There is a report from news media that the shooter wished to provoke a race war. If this allegation is true, widespread unrest would grant the perpetrator his intent.

2.      Candidate Lindsey Graham made the stupid assertion that the shooting in Charleston was, in effect, persecution of Christians rather than racism: . So far (June 20) no cable TV news commentator has pointed out in connection with the "against Christians rather than racism" argument, that the 2012 Oak Creek, Wisconsin, shooting targeted Sikhs, not Christians. Assuming Lindsey Graham not to be stupid, his remarks likely reflect self-serving misrepresentation of the nature of the Charleston event. June 2015.

3.      Progress is being made with regard to trying to relegate the Confederate battle flag (the so-called "Strom Thurmond" or "Dixiecrat" flag , or in South Carolina, the "John A May" flag brought to the foreground in 1948 (Thurmond/Dixiecrat) and 1961 (May), ) on public property at the state capital to display in a museum. The best presentation of this so far (June 20) has been on MSNBC's UP with Steve Kornacki show. June 2015. It is impressive that a South Carolina Republican has taken the initiative to bring this topic up in the South Carolina legislature.

4.      The Republicans are poorly equipped to address national concerns regarding poverty, crime, mass incarceration. Their pre-existing assumptions make it almost impossible for Republicans to address needs in poverty areas of the US. All the Republicans know how to do is to blame anyone who has difficulty under their circumstances. What can you expect from a society founded on slavery and designed to maintain it? The provisions in the US constitution designed to preserve slavery constitute its fatal flaw. May 2015.

5.      21st Century US Democrats don't vote in sufficient numbers in off-year elections to help change anything of significance – note especially the elections of 2010 and 2014. Democrats in safe districts have no incentive to challenge gerrymandering. Gerrymandering in house districts has become a fatal flaw in the US political system. Republicans obviously have reasons to embrace Gerrymandering. May 2015. In general, voting participation in the US Voter turnout in the US is an embarrassment. Please see: with chart showing US lowest on list, as low as 40% for lower house in off-year elections according to note. See also: and May 2015. See also: and  and

6.      It is not clear in the US that police are not supposed to mete out instantaneous punishment, distress, and in some circumstances, to withhold medical care, according to the perceptions of certain police officers at a scene of apprehending suspected criminals, as soon as possible after arrest. April/May 2015. Such police officers regard themselves as judge and jury on the spot, dispensing instantaneous retribution for suspected infractions. See also: and and  and  and and  and

7.      Reparations in today's USA: Is there sufficient mistreatment in today's USA to justify reparations?

·        Sugar Industry Research Scandal, see:

1.      Kearns CE, Glantz SA, Schmidt LA (2015). Sugar Industry Influence on the Scientific Agenda of the National Institute of Dental Research’s 1971 National Caries Program: A Historical Analysis of Internal Documents.  PLOSDOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001798




·        Sugar Consumption - WHO

1.      Harris L (2015) Sugar consumption must be reduced throughout life. British Dental Journal 218, 215 (2015) Published online: 27 February 2015 | doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2015.115

·        Regarding so-called "Australian Paradox":





5.       Rikkers W, Lawrence D, Hafekost K, Mitrou F, Zubrick SR (2013). "Trends in sugar supply and consumption in Australia: is there an Australian Paradox?". BMC Public Health 13: 668. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-668. PMC 3726354. PMID 23866719

6.       O'Connor, Anahad (25 July 2013). "Australians Are Getting Fatter". New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2014 by Wikipedia.

·        I will believe corporations are persons when corporations are taxed as persons are taxed. (April 2014)

·        Scot Silberstein and others. EHR safety and the National Health Safety Board (NHSB) idea and the FDA. (March 2014)  See: See: and  and

·        Al Roker is great! - (January 2014)

·        And Stephen Colbert nails it! “noted meteorologist Donald Trump…” – Donald Trump is such a clown! (January 2014)

·        Transportation 500 miles or less.

·        At first I took the Republicans at their word (complaints about the ACA, efforts to secure concessions from the Democrats). But then I thought, what is their advantage in causing a crisis over the debt ceiling? I think they have sensed that the urgency of their deficit argument is waning as the economy has improved, so I find it hard to believe other than that they really want the economy to get worse so their argument about the deficit will be taken more seriously.

·        What could possibly go wrong during a U.S. cruise missile attack on Syria? GPS vulnerability: Iran’s capability to exploit U.S. drone vulnerabilities: If we expect precision strikes and don’t want embarrassment, we must not have vulnerabilities. Internet vulnerabilities will persist until the architecture of the Internet is revised to assure that the source of every message can be validated and cannot be spoofed. (August 2013).

·        Given the news about anthropogenic climate change:, it is surprising that there is no historical (or archeological) research to determine if human beings have ever successfully averted environmental threats. There is, however, a psychological approach to explaining human reaction: (August 2013)

·        Apparently Rep. Hovey (Conn.) is not aware that any statement beginning with the word “if” is likely not an apology. A real apology doesn’t begin with “if I offended anyone,” it begins with, “since I obviously offended people” and continues, “therefore I apologize to them.” – see: . Apparently NBC News missed that point also. According to logic, a conditional statement (commonly one like “if the first assertion is true, then the second assertion is true”) is equivalent in truth value to a certain disjunction (an “either…or” statement of the form: “either the first assertion is not true or the second assertion is true.”) (January 2013)

·        Are corporations persons? Recently in California a motorist/activist, Mr. Jonathan Frieman, used the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lane of a highway, accompanied only by corporate papers as the other claimed “person” in the vehicle that he was operating: and Mr. Frieman reportedly lost his case and wants to appeal his case as far as the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Frieman should be cautious about expecting justice and logic from the Supreme Court. Any educated American knows about the Dred Scott case of 1857:, upholding slavery. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1875 effectively held that the right to vote was not a constitutionally-protected privilege: in order to help deny women a right to vote. The Plessy vs. Ferguson case: (1895), upheld segregation. (January 2013)

·        The NRA did its usual sad job today and the Texan school district before that. As a teacher, with over 53 years experience in the academic classroom, I think it is impractical to try to manage weaponry in the classroom while teaching. If a man with a Bushmaster™ semiautomatic weapon came suddenly into my classroom, I would already need to have a comparable weapon in my hands, ready to aim (carefully enough to avoid hitting my students) and fire. In a majority of classrooms, student seating is located between the podium and the door. I doubt that I would be effective in the classroom, carrying a Bushmaster™ around with me all the time. A concealed handgun would likely be useless in such circumstances. The Texas school district favoring armed school guards forgets an important massacre in Austin in 1966, where part of the shooting was onto Guadalupe Street, where the Austin police have weapons: . The NRA’s position on armed guards at schools is seriously undermined by the Columbine incident: and . The only way to deal with the hopeless NRA is to establish a competing organization, possibly the “Sensible Rifle Association” (SRA). Nothing else is likely to have any useful impact. Let us take Mr. A. Scalia at his word about the U.S. Constitution not being a living document and allow citizens one musket each. (December 2012)

·        “Entitlement Reform,” does that include the entitlements claimed by the oil industry? (November 2012)

·        Rev. DeForest Soaries was Secretary of State of New Jersey in 2000 and then commented on the inadequacy of voting provisions. Quotes from Rev. DeForest Soaries: See also: (November 2012)

·        The Electoral College reminds us of how deeply the institution of slavery affected the design of our nation. Many regard the Electoral College as a sop to the Southern States who feared direct popular vote elections because the slave populations in those states did not count as citizenry. In the late 1960s, segregationists successfully opposed an effort to abolish the electoral college. See: . (November 2012)

·        Poor, sad, Bill O’Reilly from Fox News. Although review has already demonstrated that Sandy did not affect the outcome of the 2012 presidential election, he clings to the idea that it did. And he focuses on what he calls the “entitlements” of women and minorities while ignoring the “entitlements” of big oil and of other big components of our society. Please see also: Remember, “big oil” wants “stuff.” Also, “big agriculture” wants “stuff.” (November 2012)

·        The same question comes up with regard to New York City after Sandy as to New Orleans after Katrina: should the city be rebuilt in the same flood-and-disaster-prone location? Given global warming, anticipated sea level rise, and the likelihood of more coastal disasters, it would be more prudent to expend the resources of society to rebuild at a greater height above sea level. This is as hard to imagine for NYC as for NOLA, yet at some point it must be addressed. However the acknowledgement of risk for coastal cities would diminish property values. At some point we will have to act on these issues for all areas threatened by sea-level rise. The alternative is to hope for sufficient volcanic activity across the world to cause global cooling. See also: (October 2012)

·        With regard to Gavin Menzies’ book: 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, the most serious reasons to doubt Menzies’ assertions are the virulent smallpox epidemics in the “New World” after 1491. If Eurasian explorers had made contact with North and South America in about 1421 or shortly thereafter, severe smallpox epidemics should have occurred before the arrival of Spanish explorers in Mexico and Peru in the early 16th century and other European explorers subsequently. (October 2012)

·        NBC News’ Richard Engel is correct when he documents the long-term impact of major events in the Middle East:  I wonder if Mr. Engel or any contemporary commentator knows anything about the 20th Century Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt and his concept of the “worst possible turn of events?” (In German: “die schlimmst-mögliche Wendung,” see Dürrenmatt’s Theaterprobleme). It was Dürrenmatt who anticipated the modern concept of banks “too big to fail” with his late 1950s play Frank the Fifth (in German, Frank V.: Engel correctly notes that the Arab Spring’s origins can be traced back to the US invasion of Iraq and dethroning of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Engel also observes that, tracing back to our meddling in Iran and the regime of the Shah, we (the US) bear great responsibility for the current rise of Iran’s power.

·        And then there is Fred Thompson, one of the sorriest excuses for a politician that exists. Mr. Fred Thompson thinks that the U.S. healthcare system is “#1” – like a football team, I suppose. You may recall that football teams are composed of individuals who intentionally and periodically crash into one another until they succeed in achieving accelerated dementia. My suspicion is that Mr. Fred Thompson thinks the Flintstones™ is a documentary. (September 2012)

·        If any politician uses a “robocall” to reach you, you should consider pointing out to him* that if he is interested in job creation, he should not use robots to place phone calls to constituents. Clearly any politician who uses “robocalls” is not interested in job creation. (September 2012) *I don’t think a woman politician would do that.

·        Technology and Voice Recognition. Please see this BBC1 Scottish comedy video on “Eleven” - . For background on this series, please see: and (March 2012)

·        How many young people have told me recently that they want to leave the United States if either Santorum or Romney is elected? Quite a few. (March 2012) In November I saw the high proportion of young people who voted for Pres. Barack Obama. See Pearson’s Mock Election: (November 2012).

·        Health Care costs and Clinical Data Integration. See:, direct link to Dr. Steven Foreman’s writings at: Dr. Foreman is a health care economist. (March 2012)

·        About Congressional districts in the U.S., since the U.S. Constitution does not specify districts must be formed within states, the multiple representatives apportioned under the constitution to a given state should all be elected in a single statewide multimember district consisting of the entire state (i.e., effectively at large). This is now true of states which only have one representative; such states elect the state’s one representative statewide. This would eliminate all gerrymandering and all need for periodic redistricting. A proportional representation voting method must be used to assure representation of all groups of voters or of parties (see Douglas J Amy: Each citizen of a given state could then decide which representative to consult. With the present system, a voter (citizen) is confined to the representation available in a geographic region (Congressional District) and under present political circumstances, a representative of the party other than or opposite to the party of the individual voter is virtually useless and the voter is deprived of useful Congressional representation. A bill to carry this out could be called the Congressional Voter Representation Deprivation Relief Act. Please see this essay by Douglas J Amy, Mount Holyoke College: (this commentary first posted March 2012) Petition to be submitted to the White House petition site: Abolish Single-Member Congressional Districts and Establish Proportional Representation for the House of Representatives. - Abolishing single-member districts will end manipulating voters’ intentions by redistricting. Single-member districts are not required by our constitution. All states with more than one U.S. representative should elect U.S. representatives by proportional voting. Prof. D. J. Amy, of Mount Holyoke College states, “The basic approach of proportional representation is simple: legislators are elected in multimember districts instead of single-member districts, and the number of seats that a party wins in an election is proportional to the amount of its support among voters.Gridlock in Congress, with adverse effects, occurs in part because, as in 2012, the will of the voters was frustrated by partisan redistricting. Both major parties have abused redistricting over time for partisan gain.

·        If you don’t like fracking, then ride public transportation to reduce oil and gas consumption. If you live in a rural area, encourage city-dwellers in your state to ride public transportation. (March 2012)

·        The Objectivists effectively deny that the “looters” and “moochers” categories of author Ayn Rand represent part of a theory of Social Darwinism and reject confusion of Objectivism with Social Darwinism: They claim a focus on the “rights of the individual.” The Objectivists contrast their individualist ethics with the so-called “collectivist belief” in progress of culture of the Social Darwinists. The key point is to evaluate the respective views on altruism on the part of the Objectivists (Rand, Preikoff) and the Social Darwinists (Spencer). (April 2012)

·        The real “moochers” (to borrow a word from author Ayn Rand, are the tax cheats, who cost the U.S. taxpayers $3bn over a decade, according to this report: (April 2012)

·        Technology: Piloting airplanes and technology, please see: (March 2012) Navigating by GPS and technology, please see: (April 2012)

·        As school districts begin to charge families for school bus (transportation) services, parents will realize that consolidating to bigger and bigger schools, which require bus rides, was a mistake. (April 2012)

Disclaimer: Any viewpoint expressed here is strictly the author’s and does not necessarily reflect any viewpoint of any organization with which the author is associated, by virtue of employment, appointment, or membership.

Updated January 4, 2016

©2012, Valerie Powell