Commentaries – Valerie Powell (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
· 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: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/08/16407588-conn-politician-apologizes-after-saying-giffords-should-stay-out-of-my-towns . 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: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/07/jonathan-frieman_n_2427971.html and http://www.pacificsun.com/news/local/article_a50eab78-56c0-11e2-b475-001a4bcf6878.html. 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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dred_Scott, upholding slavery. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1875 effectively held that the right to vote was not a constitutionally-protected privilege: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minor_v._Happersett in order to help deny women a right to vote. The Plessy vs. Ferguson case: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_events_plessy.html (1895), upheld segregation. (January 2013)
· The NRA did its usual sad job today and the Texan school district http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/teachers-armed-guns-texas-school-article-1.1224257 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: http://voices.yahoo.com/charles-whitman-texas-tower-massacre-22749.html . The NRA’s position on armed guards at schools is seriously undermined by the Columbine incident: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/21/columbine-armed-guards_n_2347096.html and http://gawker.com/5970539/columbine-had-an-armed-security-guard-on-duty-and-the-nra-is-dumb . 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 http://catholicreview.org/article/play/arts/scalia-constitution-is-not-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: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/d/deforest_soaries.html See also: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/236/voting-machines.html (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: http://www.iwantmyvote.com/justice/electoral_college/ . (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. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/11/06/oreilly-minorities-and-women-voting-obama-because-they-want-stuff/. Please see also: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-november-7-2012/post-democalypse-2012---america-takes-a-shower---fox-news-meltdown. 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: http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/29/opinion/orlove-sandy-new-york/index.html?iid=article_sidebar (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: http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/09/07/13686562-the-arab-spring-is-dead-and-syria-is-writing-its-obituary?lite#. 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.: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061609/faq). 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” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FFRoYhTJQQ&noredirect=1 . For background on this series, please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burnistoun and http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rqg3q. (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: http://www.sfgate.com/business/prweb/article/Young-People-Cast-Their-Vote-in-World-s-Largest-4014861.php (November 2012).
· Health Care costs and Clinical Data Integration. See: http://www.springer.com/public+health/book/978-1-4471-2184-8, direct link to Dr. Steven Foreman’s writings at: http://www.springerlink.com/content/v77020hw578g0u57/. 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: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/polit/damy/BeginnningReading/PRsystems.htm). 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: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/polit/damy/articles/redistricting.htm (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: http://www.atlassociety.org/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: http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/tax-cheats-cost-uncle-sam-3-trillion-cost-173224779.html (April 2012)
airplanes and technology, please see: http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/24/
· 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 26, 2013
©2012, Valerie Powell