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)
Engaging and inspiring, Rev. Dr. “Buster” Soaries simultaneously aggrandized his Princeton chamber listeners and challenged them. The pastor of the 2,000-seat First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens dealt with the latest Trumpisms right away. “This country has survived even more turbulent times,” he reassured. “Our strength is not only in the election of candidates, but also in our infrastructure of voluntary associations to preserve the integrity of our society — people who recognize others’ talents and are willing to share their resources, to invest in who we have been and who we will become.”
Partnerships are key, he said, referring to podium banners touting the chamber’s gold, silver, and bronze sponsors. “To be who we are called to be in history, we have to prove that the freedoms we enjoy work for everybody. To say ‘what’s mine is yours if you need it.’ By giving to others, we can be who we say we are.“
To combat “a Bermuda triangle of deprivation” three decades ago, he partnered with, for instance, United Jersey Bank’s Joe Semrod to transform the “worst public housing I have ever seen in my life” into what now looks like private condos. But he might also partner with current and former gang leaders to muster support for community change.
Three requirements for successful partnerships:
Partnerships must be relational not just transactional. It’s not just writing checks. Without spending extra money, a hospital can move its health screening facilities to a needy community. Police offers can visit schools. People can tutor other people’s children.
Partnerships must be horizontal. Those with money should trust the knowledge and talent that are in the community. For instance, a Thanksgiving turkey giveaway went awry because the people standing in line were just reselling the food. The ‘respectable’ church ladies needed to consult with those less ‘respectable’ to get their charity to the right people.
Partnerships must be sustainable, not seasonal. “As political seasons change, there go our projects. The government can fix a street but it can’t fix a broken heart. We are nurtured by the neighborhood we build. We need to focus on what it takes to build each other up.”
Helping people to live within their means is an important part of ministry, says Soaries, who believes that churches should teach people how to budget. He learned the hard way. As a young man he was a big spender, buying a Cadillac because he assumed preachers drove expensive cars and spending for expensive clothes. “I had more money on my back then I had in my bank account.”
Don’t blame government for the legacy of poverty, he says. “We could raise the minimum wage to $200 an hour and some people will still be broke.” Instead, switch from premium cable to basic cable and use the extra $75 for a life insurance policy. “Then you will close the gap for your children.”
Ken Kamen of Mercadian asked how to help people change their spending ways. “We live in a culture of entitlement that thinks fantasy and reality are twins,” Soaries said. In the first three chapters of his book, Breaking Free from Financial Slavery, “I trick people into confessing that they have a problem.”
Phil Slater of Omega Financial Services , a new chamber member at the Carnegie Center, revealed his company might be hiring loan processors.
And I was delighted to introduce Audrey Yeager, new on the staff of the Princeton Symphony, to Chip Jerry, brother of the late Philip Jerry, — a Joffrey Ballet star who spent part of his career at American Repertory Ballet/Princeton Ballet School — where Audrey studied when as a student at Rider. It was a serendipitous way to welcome her to Princeton’s business community.
“Stories Still Matter: In Print and Online” was the theme of the Princeton Chamber’s Business before Business breakfast networking meeting this morning. Richard K. Rein, founding editor of U.S. 1 Newspaper, shared stories that only dig-deeper news people would know. His speech was informative, entertaining and well-delivered.
As a Speech Coach, I was especially taken by his smart opening which was void of verbiage. Yes, Rein opened with silence, four seconds worth (as the audience later learned). He created the “verbal white space”™ that level-sets audience attention and highlights opening remarks. Silence is often scary for societies that talk a lot.I noticed one or two people in the audience getting antsy after 2 seconds of quiet, but saw the other 90 people in the audience palpably poised to listen and patiently await the stories that would soon unfold.
Starting a speech with silence makes perfect sense. It can feel risky and uncomfortable at first, but the positive impact is quite rewarding. Silence is to speech, what margins are to writing. The ability to be present without words in speaking and in life, can be a strong differentiator.
Narratives can change opinions, said Rein, citing the late John Henderson (a former reporter who built his real estate business on the lyrical descriptions of his listings) and Jerry Fennelly, who issues real estate analytics in story form. Long form narratives can also clarify the thinking of the writer (as well as the of the reader) and help establish credibility for both writer and subject.
Then it was story time: Rein told of almost-missed stories about Colin Carpi, lawyer Bruce Afran, and Muhammed Ali (as written by himself and fellow Princetonian sports writer Frank Deford) and he related a bit of gossip about Larry L. King. (Based on observing Ted Kennedy at a party, King vowed to do everything he could to keep that Kennedy from being president.)
In a lively Q&A Irv Urken asked about the value of print in a digital world: Brandishing the articles he used in his speech, he said, “you don’t have to worry about your batteries going down.” He also cited “the science of touch” and suggested that some presentations and pictures “require a bigger screen.” That print media has a limited space means that somebody must edit it to fit the space, and when editors get to do more than just run a spell check, readers read more carefully. Then Rein gave a shout out to Urken’s offspring who have media careers — one works for Newsweek and Street, the other for Yahoo.
Former reporter Vickie Hurley-Schubert (now with Creative Marketing Alliance) asked which was his favorite story. Hard to pick, but Rein cited one early in his career, for New Jersey Monthly, on the scandal surrounding Circle of Friends.
I liked his answer about whether the media has a liberal bias: “When you spend time with people, you begin to assimilate their values. Media does have an ego, but it also bends over backwards to present other points of view.”
So — down with ‘scooplets,’ which, as Rein explained, are what Jill Abramson calls the focus on quick content that spawned $1.9 billion in free publicity to the Trump campaign.
Up with narrative journalism. Long live the long form stories in the likes of U.S. 1 and Princeton Echo.
Craig Kramer works for healthcare firm Janssen, but he and his wife had their own personal health challenge: Their daughter suffered from an eating disorder. Kramer speaks at the Princeton Regional Chamber luncheon on Thursday, June 2, 11:30 a.m. at the Forrestal Marriott. His topic: The business case for transforming mental health.
Speaking That Connects, owned by Eileen N. Sinett, was named Small Business of the Year at today’s breakfast held by the Plainsboro Business Partnership, part of the Princeton Regional Chamber. “Well deserved” was the often-heard kudo for the former chairman of the PBP who coaches professionals and corporate teams to enhance their communication and presentation performance and dedicates Monday nights to facilitating a Conversational ESL group at Plainsboro Public Library.
Mayor Peter Cantu spoke, and though you’ll get better detail from Vincent Xu in the next edition of West Windsor-Plainsboro News, here are some of the facts I was surprised to learn:
More than 50 percent of the township is open space
Plainsboro has an record-holding tax collection record– 99.6 percent, contributing to its AAA bond rating
Child care and assisted living centers will break ground near the hospital this year, and a 300-unit senior housing development i planned.
Forrestal Village, ever struggling, could get 395 apartments with a “unique design.”
New retailers will be Panera, Five Guys, and a pet supply store but alas — no grocery store is imminent.
Eight major companies have earned the state Good Neighbor award, with Sandoz the most recent.
Gym rats rejoice, a 25,000 foot health spa is going through the approval process.
And — considering that Plainsboro ranks 5th nationally in “diversity” (translated, that means a population that is not primarily Caucasian) — it’s not surprising that the newest addition to the athletic scene will be a regulation cricket field. According to one sports reporter, cricket is the new soccer. A “capital commitment” has been made and, meanwhile, the next nearest field seems to be in North Brunswick.
I just registered for the WIBA program featuring Anne Marie Slaughter for (as I write on Monday) for Tuesday, April 12, 5 p.m.. Finally broke down and did it, wasn’t going to (my favorite choreographer Mark Morris is at McCarter that night) but I will just have to leave Greenacres Country Club early. Wasn’t going to go because I have mixed feelings about Slaughter’s opinions on why women can’t have it all as blurted out in the notorious article in The Atlantic.
Of course women can’t have it all. We pre-Gloria Steinem brides knew that all along.
But I got so confused by the discourse (she said/ She said/ she said/ She said) that I gave up and went on doing what I was doing before, which was trying to have it all and not succeeding.
So I’m hoping this former Princeton professor turned media guru will enlighten me on her current views about women. (Will she also weigh in, as a former Woodrow Wilson School dean, on the Wilson/name controversy?) . I will have to leave early to see Mark Morris Dance, but at least I’ll take home a copy of Unfinished Business, her new book based on the article that caused so much commotion.
As for Morris — Virtually all of Morris’s choreography is to live music, including Whelm to Debussy and The, a four-hand arrangement of Bach’s first Brandenburg concerto. (There will be one piece to recorded music; the songs of Ivor Cutler. Complete program here.) I firmly believe the commotion surrounding the excellence about Mark Morris is well deserved.
When David Sedaris launched his annual speaking tour tonight, standing room only at McCarter (Wednesday), the line for book signing snaked around corners. Asked about the election, his off-the-cuff answer about Trump, paraphrased:
“It’s as if he looked at who wasn’t being pandered to — the stupidest people in America weren’t being pandered to.” Sedaris said, pointing out that at least Trump gives plain answers rather than politician-runaround. “I think he dominated the news so long that people were tired of him.”
Patrick Murray will opine on the same subject on Thursday, April 7 at the Princeton Regional Chamber. To find out what folks are really thinking about politicians like Trump, says Murray, eavesdrop in a diner. Murray is quoted in Michele Alperin’s U.S. 1 cover story here. Murray heads the Monmouth University Polling Institute, which is still in the game of political prognosticating, an arena in which — surprisingly — Gallup has left. Here is why.
For this occasion, Sedaris wore culottes. What would Trump say?