Category Archives: political

Just tell it so they get it: gerrymandering

wang5

As Sam Wang talked this morning on how to countermand the evils of gerrymandering —  legislative districts structured to favor one party — I kept thinking “he’s the perfect person for this.” Wang spoke this morning at the Princeton Regional Chamber breakfast. 

The battle to redistrict Congress will be fought in the courts, probably leading to the Supreme Court, which has turned down several cases for lack of a manageable standard.  As Wang said, lawyers don’t go to law school because they like math. (Nodded agreement from the 80+ attendees, with more than the usual number of lawyers.) Lawyers might be good in math but it’s probably not their forte.

So if you want to use algorithms to uproot gerrymandering, you’d better figure out how to make that math accessible to the lawyers’ brains, especially the SCOTUS brains.

If any one can do that, Wang can. He is an eminent neuroscientist with an unusual facility to state complicated concepts in simple ways, as in his first book “Welcome to Your Brain.”

Though Wang is still doing neuroscience he is also consulting on political statistics via the Princeton Election Consortium. During the question page he talked about testifying in various court cases and presented various “manageable standards.”

His webpage even has an option to do the math yourself – pick a data set and work out whether those districts are configured fairly.

On that page, Wang says he wants to do more than use math and polls to explain politics. He wants to stimulate people to act. Not just Democrats, but “all Americans who want to save institutions – whether they are liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican.” He recommends that we all

  • joining our U.S. Representative’s party (even though that may be hard to do)
  • work to keep the media ‘on task’

Are you looking for ways to make change? Read his  action items for democracy’s survival here.

Says Wang: “Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way round.”

 

Sam Wang talks – consumes no crickets

wang-bugSam Wang speaks to the Princeton Regional Chamber TOMORROW (if you get this on Tuesday), i.e. Wednesday, February 15.

He spoke to the chamber back in 2009 on  the title of his book “Welcome to Your Brain.

He made some election predictions last September at the Princeton Public Library.

He famously ate crow (or, rather, crickets) in a post-election mea culpa. :

He was included in the U.S. 1 cover story “Living in a Trump World” in January.

On Wednesday, February 15 for a Princeton Regional Chamber breakfast at the Nassau Club his title is The Long Collapse: A Data-Based Look at U.S. Politics from 1994 to 2017.  

Sorry for the late notice but if you see this before Wednesday at 7 a.m. it’s not too late to attend.

Discrimination x three: Princeton stories

taylor
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, photo by Denise Applewhite

Thanks to Planet Princeton’s Princeton Wire newsletter for the news roundup that alerted me to an article on housing discrimination research at Princeton University by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, assistant professor of African American studies and author of From #blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation. She has a fascinating biography.

“Putting the blame on the individual suggests that racism can be overcome by education alone,” said Taylor. She is quoted in the article as reminding us that throughout history racism has been used as a way for the powerful to control others for material gain — and it is still used that way.

Another amazing but grim story from the Planet Princeton lineup is about the wrongfully imprisoned Princeton alumnus from Iran. 

If first aired on the Moth Radio Hour, which if you didn’t know about, you want to.

Less grim but still unsettling is the Daily Princeton article on research showing that, at the tender age of six, kids think boys are smarter than girls.

Race discrimination, nationality discrimination, gender discrimination — does this go on  forever?  Parents, start with your two year olds, they have to be carefully taught.

“I am not your Negro’

imgad

I Am  Not Your Negro , an Academy Award-nominated film by Raoul Peck, is an up-to-the-minute examination of race in America through the eyes of James Baldwin. It will be in some theaters on February 3. The trailer  reveals it to be a succinct and powerful summary of a time that some of us lived through but did not experience.

The Garden Theatre notes that major cities get it first, but that it will come here “by the end of the month.” What a great resource!

 

Weekend Reader: ‘Our New Head of State’

I like this composite article about Trump because it cites and links the original sources.

Why does it fit on “Princeton” comment? I met the author, Maxwell Anderson,maxwell at Princeton University’s EQuad, at the Friend Center a couple of years ago. When I find the picture and can remember exactly what event, I’ll post it, but he’s worth reading.

Each week, for this ‘deep thinker’s guide to modern culture,’ he draws from multiple sources to summarize a different topic. What is his business model? That’s another story.  

The White House’s ‘Letter Underground’

fiona
Fiona Reeves, photo by Damon Winter

“Fiona Reeves was in her early 30s, unadorned, the kind of person who wore her professionalism earnestly: a well-practiced posture, a sensible maroon dress, sensible flats. You could imagine her becoming dean of a really hard liberal-arts college one day. She grew up in a house loud with conversation about the way government works — her father is the presidential historian Richard Reeves. She had wanted a career in publishing, not politics. She went to Duke, studied public policy and African and African-American studies, and then came Obama.”

Reeves is a Duke alumna, which is why I get to refer to this article on this blog because I am as well. She was in charge of the Office of Presidential Correspondence (OPC), described in this New York Tunes article by Jeanne Marie Laskas. It will stick with you, like the letters the OPC compiled for Obama. Read it and be glad for the Obama years.

March, call, write!

dc-march-1992

What do I do, personally, about reacting to Trump? March? Tweet? Write letters? Make calls? Many of my Trump-resisting friends will go to Washington on January 21. Many more will carry signs in Trenton.

At first I resisted resisting. I espoused the views of an Italian on the  Right Way to Resist Trump ?

“The Berlusconi parallel could offer an important lesson in how to avoid transforming a razor-thin victory into a two-decade affair. If you think presidential term limits and Mr. Trump’s age could save the country from that fate, think again. His tenure could easily turn into a Trump dynasty. (the opposition) was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity.”

So, no, insults don’t work. Focus on issues, like how healthcare can be improved by patient-centered healthcare, whether under the ACA or another system.

But a good friend, a Washington insider, tells me that “the op-ed from the Italian is already outdated (we’ve learned a lot about Trump’s future government since 11/18) and shows the folly of the approach he advocates. Trump’s made  most of his cabinet picks, so we now have the benefit of actual decisions to use to evaluate whether there is really any interest in bi-partisan governing that would be consistent with his campaign promises. 

“It will easily be the most extreme cabinet ever sworn-in.  The Department of Labor nominee opposes the idea of a minimum wage and required overtime pay, not exactly economic populism.  The AG was rejected by the Republican majority senate in 1986 when he was nominated to the bench.  And the details of the infrastructure plan that he says Democrats should work with Trump on have been announced and will amount to a massive give=away to corporations and the privatization of public infrastructure. 

“The NYT has run an excellent series on the potential consequences of that policy choice.  A recent article was on the Bayonne water authority.   

Will Trump himself pay attention to the marchers? I don’t think so. But the march can put the legislators on their guard.

“I agree with you that Trump will care little about the protests nor will he care what Democrats think of him.  The key are those people and institutions that are enabling him and necessary for him to govern. NeverTrumpers who worked hard to defeat him in the primaries did the good work, the Republicans that have continued a public stance against him after the election are true heroes and that opposition is mainly from the foreign policy and national security wing of the party.  They have put country ahead of party.

“Unfortunately, the broader so-called Republican establishment, if that still exists, has decided that the opportunity to get its policy wish list through is more important to them than the dangers that will come from giving this man and his followers the keys to the country with little oversight or accountability.  The only thing that will change that will be if they believe there will be electoral consequences as a result of Trump’s unpopularity. 

“To that end, protest, including the occasional massive protest like the woman’s march, is an important action but of course cannot be the only thing. Mass protest is a piece of movement building AND people need to contact their elected officials.

“That needs to be followed up with intensive grassroots organizing in the places that Republican elected officials represent, like Pennsylvania, including reaching out with empathy towards those that are suffering economically and need help.  Help that Trump has already shown he has no interest in delivering at a systematic level. 

This article for the Guardian tells how progressives should use Tea Party tactics. Former Congressional staffers have created the Indivisible Guide for resisting the Trump agenda. “Unless you worked in congress the summer of 2009, you cannot fathom the volume of phone calls [that came in],” said a former staffer. The Tea Party “slowed federal policy making to a halt.” 

Call your own members of Congress. If you like and agree with their decisions, call  the lawmaker’s office and say so. Rally the troops behind them. Say  ‘Thank you for opposing Trump’s agenda but also speak out at every turn.’

If you need help learning to make a difference, and you live near Princeton, put this workshop on your calendar for Wednesday, February 22 at noon at Princeton Public Library: Sam Daley-Harris: Writing Checks, Signing Petitions, and Protest Marches: Is That All There Is?

Shall I march? call? write? I’m glad for the marchers –my prayers go with you! We marched in DC 25 years ago (photo above). But this year I will find other ways to ‘speak out at every turn. ‘