One reader's rave

"Thanks for the newspaper with your book review. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this terrific piece of writing. It is beautiful, complex, scholarly. Only sorry Mr. Freire cannot read it!" -- Ailene

Help the Honey Badgers in their fight for freedom of speech and thought!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Redistricting Just Doesn't Add Up"

That was the title of an article by municipal reform activist Brett Mandel, published in the latest Public Record. In it, he complains of how the process is fundamentally about "dividing, not uniting" people, and is inherently "disrespectful" because "inevitably one must choose to split some neighborhood, fragment some population, or carve up some community."

This looked to me like a good opportunity to point out an alternative. Here's what I wrote:

Dear editor,

Brett Mandel is more right than he seems to know when he says this. And that's because he isn't right when he says, "One has to draw the lines somewhere." Or at least he doesn't have to be right.

There's an alternative to single-seat, first-past-the-post elections. Already in use in many jurisdictions, it's called cumulative voting. A body such as a city council is elected on an at-large basis, but voters have the option of casting more than one vote for a candidate. For instance, suppose we were to have 17 members of Philadelphia City Council, all elected at-large. Each voter would have 17 votes to cast, but te wouldn't have to divide these votes between 17 different candidates. Te could give all 17 votes to one candidate, 10 to one and 7 for another, or however te liked.

A minority — be it political, ethnic, or of any other sort — that knew it represented, say, about 3/17 of the electorate, could choose to give all its votes to just 3 candidates. The members of this group would still be able to cast just as many votes as anyone else, and could thereby guarantee that they'd get as much representation as any other part of the population, instead of being diluted into invisibility.

Another advantage to this procedure is that it would render partisan primaries clearly unnecessary. No one would be pressured to pigeonhole themselves ahead of the general election, and the annual cost of elections to the public would be cut in half.


Setting the Record Straight on Firsts

I've been visiting the websites of the various candidates, and found an inaccurate statement on Karen Brown's (R). I wrote them this correction:

Your statement that Karen Brown is the first female nominee for Mayor of Philadelphia is inaccurate. I turned 18 in 1979, and my first vote was for Nora Danielson, mayoral nominee of the Socialist Workers Party.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I had an amusing experience yesterday. I couldn't access one of my customers the usual way, and when I got to the alternate floor I wasn't sure how to gain access. While weighing whether to try the phone at one end of the elevator lobby or the buzzer at the other, I heard a deep voice say, "This is your conscience, stripey7," and then repeat itself. After a split second of spookiness I realized I was being pranked. Laughing, I asked, "OK, who is it?" Then, through one of the glass doors, I saw someone rise, and knew that was the way to enter. As I got in I recognized him -- he was someone I often see on the usual floor, and is taken to playing around. Sometimes his joking gets annoyingly repetitive, but in this case it was fun.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stop Facebook's Collective Punishment!

The other day I saw a news item about Facebook's closing the accounts of California prisoners after one accessed his victim's profile. I'm sending them the following letter:

I am angered to read that, in response to one convict's passively viewing his victim's profile, you are now undertaking to identify and close all accounts held by prisoners in California.

You are not a police agency and should not be doing the work of a police agency -- least of all in a way that amounts to collective punishment of all incarcerated Facebook users because of the actions of one.

This policy harms society by making it more difficult for prisoners to reintegrate into the outside world. I urge you to end it immediately.

If you wish to write Facebook about this, their address is:
Facebook, Inc
PO Box 10005
Palo Alto, CA 94303

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Quote of the Day

"The consortium's presentations to federal government officials [on a scheme for intelligent rather than random assignment to prescription drug plans] were met politely but coolly. Perhaps its advocates should have called it 'intelligent design.'" -- Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein (hardcover edition) page 172

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Quote of the Day

"The Internet: where men are men, women are women, and children are FBI agents." -- seen on a hacker flier left in an honor box in Center City Philadelphia

Monday, August 01, 2011

Earlier today I friended Slutwalk Philadelphia, which my friend Kali Morgan had posted about on FetLife.