Methods for resisting the destruction of democracy, science, and diversity.


Daily calls to senators, representatives, and the governor can wear you down. It is tiring and it doesn’t help when several of those representatives are republicans who are doing their master’s bidding. Do they work? Comments from current and former senators and representatives, as well as activist guidelines, suggest that they can be effective as long as you follow certain guidelines – here are examples from Barney Frank and from the Daily Kos:

One clear theme is that you must identify yourself as a constituent and leave your address. Not only that, it is important to make sure that the correct message is in writing – not from an email or a petition but from a letter, post card, or written statements from a phone call. If it is the latter, make sure they can summarize your stance – office aids are not brilliant nor do they have high ethical standards.

But contacting representatives is only one method of resistance. There are many other methods that are arguably more effective. Some argue that protests, marches, and boycotts are not effective, especially from groups of scientists, who are supposed to be impartial, but there is currently an all out assault on science and we want to use all of the tools in the box. This reminds me of bayesians who think that we should dispose of all frequentist approaches to statistical inference or of information theorists who think that null hypotheses should never be used. Why ditch one approach in favor of another? There are many resources that discuss the efficacies of all approaches (e.g., Noam Chomsky often touches on these issues in many books and essays) and it is clear that they all are effective to varying degrees. Another very important, but longer term, approach is to build local communities, groups, and legal activism vehicles. This too is covered by susbstantive literature. Although it doesn’t cover all of these approaches, a recent article in the New York Times summarizes why the Trump resistance is effective at using all of these tools to fight the nationalistic authoritarianism that will destroy our country and damage the world:

So, with that in mind, back to work on stopping this destruction. Here is the call to action from Beth Leger:

Silencing a minority Senator is an awful, terrifying development. If you can’t read a statement from Coretta Scott King, addressed to the US Senate, what is next? Can we expect the EPA, NSF, ESA to get a calm, impartial hearing on the senate floor when they are up on the chopping block? I don’t think we should wait.

From a FB group member who met with Heller’s staffers yesterday, they said the calls they are receiving are “about 50/50” for and against Heller’s positions. Really? That strains credulity.
There was speculation that if they do not take down your name/address, that may be a way for them to fudge the figures.
I know we already made two group calls this week, but my strong suggestion, if you want senators to be able to to speak out on issues that are important to science (and anything else!) when they come up on the floor, is that we once again call Senator Heller (despite the busy signals) and express outrage that he voted along with the entire Republican Senate to silence Senator Warren’s speech. It would be reasonable tell him what you think about Jeff Sessions, while you are at it.
Mandy’s point of asking if they logged your call, and how they do that, seems important, given the 50/50 statement.
Senator Dean Heller (local office): 686-5770   DC office: 202-224-6244   702-388-6605 (Las Vegas) 775-738-2001 or 775-738-2002 Elko
I also sent a small donation to Elizabeth Warren’s re-election campaign. My response to censorship? Get out the wallet. 🙂



Keep pressure on the senate, call the house, march, and boycott

Some information and action links for the week…

First, how each senator has voted thus far on Trump nominees. The democrats need to put up more resistance, but Cortez Masto has a reasonable voting record early on.

Next, public lands! Here is Beth Leger’s email for phone calls:

I hope you are rested up and ready to call again. First, a quick update on the Senate: Betsy DeVos’s vote is in the AM. I have called probably 6 times about this and… nothing, but if you want to poke again:

Senator Dean Heller (local office): 686-5770   DC office: 202-224-6244   702-388-6605 (Las Vegas) 775-738-2001 or 775-738-2002 Elko
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the House is up to it’s usual nonsense, creating the most radical bills possible, including ones that dramatically change management of public lands. While HR 621 is dead, HR 622 is alive and kicking (this was written after Bundy and company took over Malheur last year; it removes Federal authority from enforcing laws on public lands).
Public lands are one of Amodei’s main issues:
“The ultimate goal for each individual bill [he introduces] is to reduce the amount of federal land in each county and increase the land use decision making process to locally elected officials, communities, and stakeholders – not by bureaucrats at the BLM or Forest Service”
My thought is, today we call and tell this turkey that we value wild, open, lawful, public lands, and that we oppose legislation like HR 621 (dead, but still), HR 622, and any other attempt to transfer federal land.
Representative Mark Amodei (local office): 686-5760  DC office: 202-225-6155
In the science writing class some of us did last year, we realized that making stories personal is the way to make them interesting, so if you have the energy needed for it, telling a story about you and public lands as part of your statement would be great and give Bob something else to sigh about. 🙂
I’m going to tell the story of Matt [Forister] and my driving across Northern NV 20 years ago as grad students. We headed out on a re-collection trip, and were stunned that we weren’t hitting any fences or no trespassing signs. Roads on the map were barely roads, and you could pull over and camp any where, and we went DAYS without seeing other people. It was wild, and it was magic, especially for 2 Californians who had never experienced vast public lands. Fast forward to when this job opened up at UNR, and we leapt at the chance to leave New York and come here… Bob is going to hear about it!!
MARCH!! Remember the science march for DC and for Reno, links are here:
Finally, BOYCOTT!!
And try to have some fun amidst all this real life doom and gloom. More on that in the next blog post….

Can we defeat any of Trump’s cabinet nominations? SCOTUS? Keep trying.

It feels like the republicans have made their deal with the devil and are going along with Trump’s dangerous agenda in its outrageous entirety. They continue to support obviously unqualified candidates, like Betsy DeVos – a nominated education secretary who will do her best to destroy public education and who is not aware that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal law. Here is a good editorial (by a New Hampshire senator) in the New York Times about why senators should vote against DeVos:

We must keep up the pressure on “moderate repulbicans” to stand up to the authoritarian and damaging Trump regime. For DeVos, two republicans, Collins and Murkowski will vote against her – we just need one more! Collins said the following about DeVos:

“Her concentration on charter schools and vouchers, however, raises the question about whether or not she fully appreciates that the secretary of education’s primary focus must be on helping states and communities, parents, teachers, school board administrators, school board members and administrators strengthen our public schools.”

PLEASE call your republican senator’s office and push for a vote against DeVos. Call your democratic senator and

NEXT… it’s time to heat up the fight against Trump’s ultra-conservative supreme court nomination (Gorsuch) for the stolen seat! Here is an action item for supporting a filibuster on Gorsuch.

“Republicans chose a candidate that while ideologically aligned with ultra conservative, Koch-funded Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation — looks and sounds great on camera. He has all the tools necessary to market right-wing ideology as mainstream values. What’s more, at the age of 49, he could sit on the high court for decades, extending Donald Trump’s horrendous legacy into the lives of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Judge Neil Gorsuch authored a book arguing against legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia, saying that “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” As noted by Vox, this stance is a red flag for Gorsuch’s attitudes on abortion.

He also sided with religious employers seeking to limit their employees’ rights to birth control coverage in the lower court decision in Hobby Lobby and is an outspoken proponent of limiting federal agencies’ authority to take regulatory action of any kind.”

There is so much more to do!


Actions early this week: Immigration ban, Pruitt, Bannon

At the bottom of this call to action is a quote Bertrand Russell, who was a gre51a9bz-2fpl-_sx311_bo1204203200_at contributor and thinker in academia, activism, and philosophy. It is worth reading “The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell” again, especially in light of attacks on our freedom by Bannon/Trump and the push for a theocracy.




FIRST, Numbers for Nevadans to call:

Senator Dean Heller (local office): 686-5770   DC office: 202-224-6244

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (local office): 686 – 5750 DC office: 202-224-3542

Representative Mark Amodei (local office): 686-5760  DC office: 202-225-6155

Representative Paul Ryan: 1-888-909-RYAN (7926)

Governor Brian Sandoval: 684-5670  (I called his office last week to say thank you for speaking out about the wall; the person answering said “email him.” I was like, no, please take a message.)

Alt-White House: You can’t call the real White House any longer, just Trump business organizations:


From the morning briefing, New York Times:

Here’s what you need to know:
• Trump bars citizens of seven nations.
A political crisis continues to build after President Trump’s order to close the borders to refugees and visitors from the predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen).
Amid protests over the weekend, the White House pulled back on part of the temporary ban, and as of Sunday night, officials said no one was being held at U.S. airports. Some lawyers disagreed.
• What we know about the ban.
The order created uncertainty about the U.S. immigration system. Legal residents from those countries were affected at first, but they are now exempt.
How we got here: Mr. Trump’s plan received little or no legal review. The secretary of homeland security was not asked for guidance, and Customs and Border Protection officers were unaware.
The reactions: Mr. Trump said the order was a matter of national security, but some Republicans are calling for him to back down.
European leaders and Silicon Valley executives denounced the move, while predominantly Muslim nations not affected by the order, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have not responded publicly.
What the terrorism experts say: It is unlikely to significantly reduce the threat of an attack in the U.S.
Those affected: We collected the stories of people covered by the ban, which delayed families from reuniting and students at American universities from returning.
The next steps: Judges in at least four cities ruled that the president had moved too quickly, the first steps in litigation that may last years.

 Also, this is a useful document for the immigration executive order. You can see the response from Cortez Masto, Heller, and Sandoval. You can also see that there is very little support from senators and governors – only silence from conservatives on this issue, which is worth pointing out to Heller and Sandoval (both have posted weak responses).



Call our Senators to tell them to vote against Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head the EPA. That vote is scheduled on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

Pruitt talking points (from Beth Leger):

Scott Pruitt has objected to the EPA relying on reports from scientific bodies and has been openly critical of climate science.

-Scott Pruitt has worked with and received large contributions from the very companies he would be expected to police,

-He has filed numerous lawsuits against the agency he is nominated to lead.

-This is a truly unacceptable nomination and I request that Senator Heller demonstrate some independence from his party and vote no on this nomination.


-This is a truly unacceptable nomination and I appreciate that Senator Cortez Masto has publicly spoken against this nomination.


Trump signed a memo over the weekend that reorganized the National Security Council, placing Bannon, former editor of Breitbart (Nazi) News, on the council and removing the director of national intelligence and the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff from NSC principals meetings.

This is a much longer fight, but we need our senators making statements like the recent statements from Bernie Sanders who said that Stephen Bannon should be removed from National Security Council because “we need experienced people who will protect our country on the National Security Council, not an extreme right-wing political operative.”

Call senators, representatives, and the alt-White house about this!

Finally, a couple useful links and some thoughts from Bertrand Russell:

An excerpt from Bertrand Russell’s “Free thought and propaganda”:

“Thought is not “free” when legal penalties are incurred by the holding or not holding of certain opinions, or by giving expression to one’s belief or lack of belief on certain matters… The most elementary condition, if thought is to be free, is the absence of legal penalties for the expression of opinions… Legal penalties are, however, in the modern world, the least of the obstacles to freedom of thoughts. The two great obstacles are economic penalties and distortion of evidence. It is clear that thought is not free if the profession of certain opinions makes it impossible to earn a living. It is clear also that thought is not free if all the arguments on one side of a controversy are perpetually presented as attractively as possible, while the arguments on the other side can only be discovered by diligent search.

None of our beliefs are quite true; all have at least a penumbra of vagueness and error. The methods of increasing the degree of truth in our beliefs are well known; they consist in hearing all sides, trying to ascertain all the relevant facts, controlling our own bias by discussion with people who have the opposite bias, and cultivating a readiness to discard any hypothesis which has proved inadequate.”

Time to support politicians who support science and diversity.

Jerry Brown’s speech provides some hope. States that rejected Trump should stand up to his attacks on us, and we should urge them to do so. It might be a good time to call your governor and other state and local politicians to ask them to reject anti-science policies, to continue to push for reversing climate change and to stop attacks on our public lands, immigrants, and LBGT communities.

Here is the text from Brown’s speech:

Evidence is increasing that states will be the solution to problems like an increased push for oil development and inane attacks on alternative energy. There are many examples of approaches like the reported actions of Denmark’s energy minister: “Denmark’s minister in charge of energy policy plans to head to the U.S. this year to talk to state representatives in an effort to promote wind energy despite open declarations of hostility toward the technology from President Donald Trump.”

So, let’s support state politicians who are standing up to Trump or ask them to do so regularly…

…but if you live in a state like Tennessee, you are going to get responses like this from politicians at all levels. I’m not sure what you should do:

“Thanks very much for getting in touch with me and letting me know what’s on your mind regarding the nomination of Scott Pruitt to serve as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
On December 8, 2016, President-elect Trump nominated Scott Pruitt to become the next EPA Administrator. The President-elect has the right to nominate individuals that he trusts to advise him, and under the Constitution, the U.S. Senate has the power to advise and consent to such appointments.
The election belongs to the people and the people have voted for change. Now it is the responsibility of President-elect Trump and Congress to work together to address the voices of anger and despair, and of hope, that we heard across America. This includes reducing Washington’s role in our lives, making it easier to find a good job and less expensive health care, and making our system more fair. It’s time to put the election behind us. The way to make change and move our country in the right direction is to work together to bring out the best in all of us.”

Finally, here are more ideas about how to effectively engage politicians. It is worth watching.

The latest call to action from Beth Leger

Dr. Beth Leger, EECB, UNR, continues to lead a local group of scientists who refuse to stand by and watch science, diversity, and our country get destroyed by the emerging fascist state.  Here is her call to action for today….

Hi all!  Great job yesterday making calls, AND we are now 50+ people. 🙂

Again, the longer-term goal is to sustain 1-2 calls a week, but this week still feels different, so I suggest we call as a group one more time this week, today, 9:00-12:00, this time with a notice to Representative Mark Amodei (or your representative) that we are paying attention to his votes in the House.
I worry that the last few days are really going to embolden the House, and that they are already sharpening their legislative knives.
The point of this call: do not forget who you represent, as we are paying attention. The entire house is up for re-election in 2 years (nov 8 2016) and they should not confuse the president’s term with their own.
(there is a lot more to call the Senate  about, of course, so please feel free to check herehere, or here if you are still fired up!)
Representative Mark Amodei (local office): 686-5760  DC office: 202-225-6155
-I’m a constituent and scientist who lives in Representative Amodei’s district.
-I am asking that he not sponsor or vote for legislation that dismantles science-based policies or undermines the missions of federal agencies, such as the EPA and USDA ARS. 
-You could mention yesterday’s EPA funding freeze and muzzling of the USDA ARS scientists as an examples of executive orders you are not in agreement with, and say that any House legislation that reduces the power of scientists to do their job, communicate results, and affect policy is SERIOUSLY UNCOOL. 
-Nevadans expect their representatives to act independently and to protect the wild areas of our state, as well as human health and safety.
-I look forward to following Representative Amodei’s votes on these issues.
Some background that you can bring up, depending on how mean you are feeling:
Mark Amodei is a true follower, having voting his party line 96% of the time in 2014, and 94.2% of the time in 2015. (I can think of a lot of mean things to say about this.)
The legislation he does introduce is about transferring federal land to states, so they can then sell it. This is actually very unpopular, except in small circles (ahem, Bundy).
Amodei voted very happily for the REINS act just a few weeks ago, which is exactly the kind of very bad, anti-science legislation that would gut federal environmental laws indirectly. (The House has passed this like 3 times; the Senate never has, not yet).
Alas, he keeps winning his district handily, as it is all of Northern Nevada (in 2016, 66,000 more votes than the next dude, out of 313,000 voters. Ouch.).
BUT. He may be feeling a bit antsy about his voters. Amodei was one of the very few Republicans to not attend the Trump inauguration! Instead, he had a breakfast celebration here in Reno. Interesting. Maybe he’s realized he needs to maintain some distance, to keep Reno happy? I suggest we use today’s phone call to make him even more antsy. Message: we care about science, and we are watching your votes.
If you want more information about him, or your reps if you aren’t in Reno, I like these sites:

Our daily calls to congress

First and foremost, please call your senators today. Here is a google spreadsheet with some useful information about nominations for the least qualified cabinet in our lifetimes, including brief talking points:

If you are in Nevada, here are the numbers for your Senators:

Senator Dean Heller (local office): 686-5770   DC office: 202-224-6244
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (local office): 686 – 5750 DC office: 202-224-3542

Many of us are not strangers to interacting with public servants (i.e. those serving in congress, governors, POTUS, etc.), but I don’t think any of us has a clear idea about the impact of our calls, letters, or visits to these servants’ offices. Nevertheless, now is the time for scientists to raise their voices louder, as the attacks on facts, knowledge and progress associated with science have increased exponentially in recent days. Does it make a difference? If you are in Nevada, the answer is “probably not” for Heller’s proximate vote, but he is in a blue state and he barely won in the last election. It has some unmeasurable (and perhaps small) impact. The more important point is that we have to keep stating the truth, because we know it is the truth… George Orwell: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre.”

Some of us are particularly bad at speaking to staff in DC or in local offices, but it doesn’t matter, we should do it anyway. In the late 80s, I went to DC to testify as a constituent (California) in favor of Alan Cranston’s Desert Protection Bill, which eventually yielded  7.6 million acres of wilderness. My voice was shaky, and my throat dry as I explained in a congressional hearing why this protection was important. For me, nothing has changed, I get just as nervous calling our local offices now, as a scientist, as I was back then, as an environmentalist pleading for desert protection. But in the end, it’s worth it, no matter what the end product is. Anthropogenic climate change is a fact. Rex Tillerson’s record at Exxon, ties to Russia, lack of experience, and fights against climate change reform are all facts. Truisms are true and our servants need to hear them.

Yes, get back to your important peer-reviewed work. But spend a few minutes to oppose The Party.