Thrilled to see the excitement over the Medicare-For-All bill introduced yesterday. I support universal healthcare and am happy to see Bernie Sanders continue the fine work of people like Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and especially John Conyers, who has been proposing single-payer, Medicare-for-All type legislation since 2003. The Trump administration has not advanced any meaningful policy, just worked to roll back protections we put in place for the climate, for women, for immigrants, for campus rape victims, for senior citizens, for student debt holders, for minority voters, and for children, so it’s fun to have some actual policy to write about for a change instead of just having to scream about how it’s not really cool to hurt people for corporate profit, or even worse, no reason at all except fear and loathing.  

This bill offers some of the most comprehensive coverage of any government-sponsored health care system in the world, covering all doctor visits, specialty or primary, all hospital stays, basically everything including dental and vision, and all free at the point of service. These are lofty and admirable goals that would certainly make life easier for people who use the healthcare system if implemented well.

I do understand, and expect the senator does as well, that this current bill is not meant to become law (there is currently no activist push to get Republicans on board, just Dems), and is more means of moving the conversation forward, and also a litmus test for Democrats, a way to determine whether or not they are “on board” with single-payer. This sort of political theater is normal and expected, but not of much interest to me, especially since my senators already back the legislation. This is not to say I disapprove, I’m sure this kind of thing is both necessary and effective. It’s just not all that interesting to me.

What does interest me is policy and health care. I would very much like to see Senator Sanders succeed where others have failed and see the US adopt a system where equal, affordable, comprehensive coverage is available for everyone regardless of their standing. Here are the issues I see that need to be addressed to properly implement a system like this. I hope the senator and his policy folks can find a way to address these needs and put together a serious proposal.

First and hardest is the upheaval to the health insurance industry itself. It’s easy to think of the insurance industry as faceless corporations and evil CEOs, but there are over half a million people (500,000) in the health insurance industry, most of them just regular workers banging out a wage. What happens to those people if their industry goes away needs to be addressed, and there’s too little talk about how to do that. The main criticisms of coal regulations (one example) have to do with the jobs lost that were never replaced. One would think it would be easy to find better jobs for people than slogging away in a coal mine, but it’s something we failed at, and that failure dominates much of the conversation. This is also a big failure when it comes to some of our free-trade agreements, where low-wage jobs lost weren’t adequately addressed. I made the mistake of pish-poshing this point when discussing coal regulations and free-trade years ago, dismissing it as the price of progress. We should not make the same mistake now. It’s not just a political trap. There are real human beings involved here too.

Second, and almost just as hard as the first, is addressing the shortage of resources. We’ve been facing a shortage of health care professionals that drives up costs and waiting times. We just can’t make doctors and nurses appear out of thin air. I don’t have many ideas here, but it’s an important issue that has gotten even less attention than insurance industry job losses.

Third is the issue of getting rising health care costs under control. Some of this would be alleviated by the stronger bargaining leverage over providers afforded by a single-payer system, but given the stratospheric rise of costs recently, it’s almost a certainty that more should be done, and we need innovative solutions.

Last, and by far easiest, is paying for it. I have read the white paper, and the numbers don’t really add up. Which is fine for a bill that is not meant to pass. I understand why there is no payment system committed to here. At least some of the provisions used to fund the bill will be unpopular with at least some people, and there’s no need to commit to unpopular policies and give critics of the bill’s supporters attack ammo. But without some kind of structure in place or any numbers to point at, opponents will just be able to scream about massive tax increases they make up out of thin air and proponents will not have much ammo to fight them with, and there is no practical way to advance the bill politically when it gets to the stage of debating the nitty-gritty.

Look, we all know the money is there. There is no shortage of money. But we still have to show our work on that.

It’s like this:
Waitress: Here’s the check.
You: This is no problem, I have plenty of money.
Waitress: So, cash then? 
You: I’m sure the people here don’t mind kicking in.
Waitress: So you’ll be splitting the bill?
You: There are a number of different options.

See, eventually you have to put something in the little black folder.

Thanks for reading.

It looks like our fearless leader wants to flex his muscles a bit and show the mean ol’ Democrats that he’s really not Putin’s puppet (“Swear to God! See? See now??!?”) so he’s talking about going harder into Syria. Trump says Obama was too weak on Assad and Putin, and frankly, it’s one of the few areas we agree. Hillary would have been tougher, and I would have supported that. I don’t support Trump getting tougher. I think Assad and Putin are murderers, that this latest massacre is a travesty, and I support some sort of intervention to stop the slaughter in Syria. But not by Trump and not by this administration. Simply put, we can’t trust them to make the best decision between a group of bad options, which is all we have here, which is all we almost ever have. They’re bad decision makers. They have no experience, no moral compass, no compassion, no regard for lives, American, military, civilian, or any other. They’re stupid, and they’re cowards. People like that are no good in a fight. They should stay out of them.

So one of the reasons I haven’t been writing a lot is because I have been reading a lot. Here’s a short walk through the things I’ve picked up lately, wrapping up with some words on racism, and why we can’t forget that it just handed the Presidency to a psycho.

Continue reading “A Little Light Reading”

I want to apologize to those of you that have been reading this space regularly. I have not been writing as much was I would like to be. There have been some things happening in my personal life that have led to that in some degree, but for the most part, it’s me. I’ve been spending a lot of time observing, listening to people on both sides of the aisle, thinking, and reading. I’ve also been basically in two states lately, either filled with a blinding rage that is both all-consuming and exhausting…or exhausted. It’s been difficult to focus in these periods.

Also, frankly, I don’t like to shout into the void unless I have something new or original to say. There’s a lot of good people out there doing a lot of good reporting on the current political climate. Hopefully you’re reading some of them. If not, take a look at Ezra Klein, Joy Ann Reid, Rachel Maddow, David Cay Johnston, Sopan Deb, Sarah Kendzior, Dan Diamond, and Leah McElrath, to start with.

But, since I have a blog, that makes me a blogger, which means I must write on my blog. So, these are the things I’ve been watching and thinking about. I’ve got a few short hits on a few things that have been happening, and something longer on the election and the reaction to it from many on The Left.

These are my opinions. If you don’t like them, well, I have others.

Continue reading “It’s Just My Opinion, But You’re Wrong”

Maybe if we think, and wish, and hope, and pray, it might come true
Baby, then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do (The Beach Boys)

I was going to write something about last night’s speech, but Sarah Kendzior has written a wonderful rebuttal that is better than anything I could do. It’s here and I highly recommend reading it. 

The headline to Sarah’s piece says “Trump played nice for the night,” and that seems to have come as a surprise to a lot of people. President 44 1/2 doesn’t often play nice or like to talk much about things that would be nice. His rhetoric leans towards fearfulness and apocalyptic ravings, with some empty promises and slogans thrown in, such as in last night’s speech. Indeed, I Googled “donald trump wouldn’t it be nice” and I found a few references to an off the cuff remark he made at a town hall in October about not broadcasting battle strategies. Oh, and also, about one thousand references or variations on the same theme, that he keeps hitting over and over again:

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we got together with Russia and knocked the hell out of ISIS?”

The President has been saying this for years now, so I’d thought I’d respond. I want to ask him if he’s ever seen Black Mask, or is somehow otherwise familiar with the story of Whitey Bulger and FBI agent John Connolly. Because an alliance between the US and Putin’s Russia would be built on the same moral ground as the alliance between the FBI and Whitey Bulger, and a Putin alliance would be just as bad for the US as the Bulger alliance was for the FBI.

Last Saturday I was proud to be one of the thousands of people who went to Copley Square to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies because I believe these policies negatively impact civil liberties (of citizens and legal travelers as much as anyone else) and public safety.  But I also think they are a MASSIVE waste of money, and my strong opposition to Trump’s threat to defund so-called “sanctuary cities” is due to the fact that this policy will make the costs associated with mass deportation less transparent and easier to hide, and thus make their job of justification easier. It will also affect all US cities and towns, not just the ones under attack as Sanctuary Cities.

originally written 11/25/2016

Putting out massive amounts of fake news online and attempting to intimidate the press into publishing exactly what he wants are not the only ways the Trump team plans to control the media message about his administration. The fact is, Trump doesn’t need media publications to print outright lies. As long as they interpret what he says in the most positive way possible, and use headlines that portray things in the most positive light despite nuance that implies otherwise, they can transmit exactly the message he wants and still try to claim truthfulness and objectivity.

Look at the recent coverage of some of Trump’s remarks during his sit-down with the NY Times staff on Tuesday. During this sit-down, Trump let loose with a barrage of gaslighting and bullshitting so expansive that I could spend all weekend breaking down various points, but I’m going to focus on his remarks about climate change so we can see how much that sort of twist and spin drove the immediate coverage of the story. Look and see how important it is to read beyond the headlines, beyond the spin, to look for quotes without editorializing and interpretation by the writer, and most of all, to look for actual policy, and to the policies that have been advanced in the past by the people he is stocking his administration with, in order to see what is really happening. Most of all, learn to listen to what the President-elect actually says, rather than what the media and those around him say he said.

 

After the sit-down between members of their editorial staff and the President-elect, the NY Times ran a story about the meeting written by three of the people who had been there. The story had the headline, “Trump, In Interview, Moderates Views But Defies Convention.” The story included this paragraph:

On climate change, Mr. Trump refused to repeat his promise to abandon the international climate accord reached last year in Paris, saying, “I’m looking at it very closely.” Despite the recent appointment to his transition team of a fierce critic of the Paris accords, Mr. Trump said that “I have an open mind to it” and that clean air and “crystal clear water” were vitally important.

After this story hit the streets, multiple media outlets ran with this interpretation. Newsweek ran a headline blaring that Trump had “softened” on climate change and ran this quote in their story:

Trump told the Times he thinks there is “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change, reporter Mike Grynbaum tweeted. “It depends on how much,” the reporter quoted Trump as saying. Asked whether the United States will withdraw from climate change accords, Trump said: “I’m looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it,” the reporter tweeted.

Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, also said on Tuesday he was thinking about climate change and American competitiveness and “how much it will cost our companies,” the reporter said, without elaborating.

The headline on Reuters stated that Trump was keeping an “open mind” on climate change and quotes him as saying “clean air is vitally important.”

Business Insider went with the “some connectivity” quote in their headline, and they editorialized his comments down to this:

Trump seemed to suggest at least an openness to engaging with science and policy issues regarding the climate. He also suggested he might not pull out of the Paris Agreement, though he didn’t lend any specifics or details.”

The LA Times headline proclaimed a “shift” in Trump’s thinking on climate change, and more editorializing and interpretation of his comments as follows:

The president-elect, who had branded climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and dismissed efforts to fight it as a massive, politically motivated waste of time and money, now said that perhaps action was needed, and that he might follow through with America’s commitments in the international climate agreement that he repeatedly vowed during the campaign to disregard.

The positive spin was so ubiquitous that even the Center for Climate Protection ran a headline for a blurb on climateprotection.org on the interview that said “Donald Trump’s Interview With The New York Times Offers Hope On Climate.” The story quoted the paragraph from the NY Times story as well.

Here’s the problem with all that reassurance: other than the key buzzwords and phrases, Trump didn’t actually say anything positive about climate change in the interview. In fact, reading Trump’s full comments on climate change as given to the NY Times during that interview should actually scare the hell out of anyone that believes in the science surrounding climate change. Let’s look at them verbatim.

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, opinion columnist: Mr. President-elect, can I ask a question? One of the issues that you actually were very careful not to speak about during the campaign, and haven’t spoken about yet, is one very near and dear to my heart, the whole issue of climate change, the Paris agreement, how you’ll approach it. You own some of the most beautiful links golf courses in the world …

[laughter, cross talk]

TRUMP: [laughing] I read your article. Some will be even better because actually like Doral is a little bit off … so it’ll be perfect. [inaudible] He doesn’t say that. He just says that the ones that are near the water will be gone, but Doral will be in great shape.

[laughter]

Here we see that Trump’s first instinct concerning climate change is to make jokes about how climate change might actually improve some of his golf course locations, making them closer to the coast. Right off the bat, the implication is not that he is serious about this matter.

FRIEDMAN: But it’s really important to me, and I think to a lot of our readers, to know where you’re going to go with this. I don’t think anyone objects to, you know, doing all forms of energy. But are you going to take America out of the world’s lead of confronting climate change?

TRUMP: I’m looking at it very closely, Tom. I’ll tell you what. I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully. It’s one issue that’s interesting because there are few things where there’s more division than climate change. You don’t tend to hear this, but there are people on the other side of that issue who are, think, don’t even …

SULZBERGER: We do hear it.

FRIEDMAN: I was on ‘Squawk Box’ with Joe Kernen this morning, so I got an earful of it.

[laughter]

TRUMP: Joe is one of them. But a lot of smart people disagree with you. I have a very open mind. And I’m going to study a lot of the things that happened on it and we’re going to look at it very carefully. But I have an open mind.

Above is his use of the phrase “We’re looking at it very closely” and his first use of the NY Times quoted comment “I have an open mind to it.” Notice that he is not being asked about the Paris climate accord at all when he says these things, and read this paragraph from the NY Times story recapping the meeting again:

On climate change, Mr. Trump refused to repeat his promise to abandon the international climate accord reached last year in Paris, saying, “I’m looking at it very closely.” Despite the recent appointment to his transition team of a fierce critic of the Paris accords, Mr. Trump said that “I have an open mind to it” and that clean air and “crystal clear water” were vitally important.

As noted, many news outlets have been using this interpretation to spin his “open mind” comments to indicate that Trump has an “open mind” to climate solutions, but it’s clear reading the comments that’s not what he said at all. Immediately after saying he has an open mind, he indicates that the people he is listening to with that open mind are climate change deniers. He says, “there are few things where there’s more division than climate change. You don’t tend to hear this…

You don’t tend to hear it because it’s wrong. In fact, there are few things in science where there is more consensus than climate change. The vast majority of scientists believe it is happening, it is manmade, and that we need to immediately work to prevent it from worsening.

Remember the phrase “I have an open mind,” this will be a recurring thing. It’s obviously the message he wants to send, despite all indications being to the contrary.

SULZBERGER: Well, since we’re living on an island, sir, I want to thank you for having an open mind. We saw what these storms are now doing, right? We’ve seen it personally. Straight up.

FRIEDMAN: But you have an open mind on this?

TRUMP: I do have an open mind. And we’ve had storms always, Arthur.

Note, again, the “open mind” comment followed IMMEDIATELY by  denial that anything new or different is occurring. It’s only possible for someone who believes in climate change to find this reassuring when “open mind” is taken completely out of context, something a disturbing amount of media outlets were willing to do for some reason.

SULZBERGER: Not like this.

TRUMP: You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views. I have a totally open mind.

Again with the open mind, this time following an outright lie. The highest temperature ever recorded on earth for one day was in Kuwait in July 2016. NASA has shown that 2016 will be the hottest year on record.

My uncle was for 35 years a professor at M.I.T. He was a great engineer, scientist. He was a great guy. And he was … a long time ago, he had feelings — this was a long time ago — he had feelings on this subject. It’s a very complex subject.

The uncle he speaks of is his uncle John Trump. Donald brings him up often as proof that the Trumps are genetically superior to normal humans. (from The New Yorker, April 2016: “I had a father who was successful,” Trump told CNN, in 2010. “And, you know, I have a certain gene. I’m a gene believer. Hey, when you connect two race horses, you usually end up with a fast horse.” In South Carolina, earlier this year, he noted, “Dr. John Trump at M.I.T.; good genes, very good genes, O.K., very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart.” (Donald Trump was at Wharton as an undergraduate, after transferring from Fordham.) To the Boston Globe: “My father’s brother was a brilliant man . . . We have very good genetics.” And then on NBC, after telling Lester Holt that his uncle was a professor at M.I.T.: “I mean it’s a good gene pool right there”—he pointed to his head—“I have to do what I have to do.”)

It’s true that John Trump appears to have been a brilliant scientist, but since his field was in defense, working on x-ray technology and other machinery, it’s not clear how much, if any, work he did on climate change. Further, even though he brings him up, Trump doesn’t actually say what his uncle’s feelings on the subject of climate change actually WERE, just that he had some. His main purpose in bringing up his uncle, as usual, seems to be because he feels that it beefs up his own intellectual credentials to name drop an MIT scientist in the family.

TRUMP: I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know. I know we have, they say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists. Where was that, in Geneva or wherever five years ago? Terrible. Where they got caught, you know, so you see that and you say, what’s this all about. I absolutely have an open mind.

At this point, it becomes clear that he intends to sneak “open mind” into every answer whether it’s in context or not. But no matter how many times he says it, all he does in this interview is to express skepticism. The email controversy he speaks about is evidence that scientist can disagree while reaching a consensus but it did not change the research or the overriding conclusions of the majority of scientists. It’s clear that Trump has an open mind to the climate change skeptics. It’s not clear he’s open to the science of it. After all, the expression, “I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know,” almost always indicates that the person speaking has in fact closed their mind to further evidence and input.

TRUMP: I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.

Whenever someone says “I will tell you this,” be prepared to be underwhelmed by the glaringly obvious. I will note that it’s fine to think clean air, water and safety are important, but if you don’t think pollution is a threat to those things, I don’t have any confidence in you guaranteeing their safety.

TRUMP: And you know, you mentioned a lot of the courses. I have some great, great, very successful golf courses. I’ve received so many environmental awards for the way I’ve done, you know. I’ve done a tremendous amount of work where I’ve received tremendous numbers. Sometimes I’ll say I’m actually an environmentalist and people will smile in some cases and other people that know me understand that’s true. Open mind.

The President-elect certainly loves to pimp his golf courses and hotels during interviews, which is just lovely. As far as anyone can tell, “so many environmental awards” is actually “one” environmental award, for a bird sanctuary at his Bedminster Golf Club in 2007. Despite that award, nobody has ever actually said he’s an environmentalist; even the Bedminster club has been cited for a string of violations from the NJ EPA, and his environmental record at his developments in general is incredibly spotty, as reported in the Washington Post: “He likes to pretend he’s an environmentalist because of the landscaping on his golf courses, but at the end of the day, it seems he’s the only one that actually believes that,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Action Fund. “His brand of environmentalism is only for the wealthy and elite.”

Also regarding that last answer, it’s literally like he got to the end of his statement and then realized he had not said the words “open mind” in his answer at all and just blurted it out at the end. I thought of Abbott and Costello both yelling, “Third base!”

JAMES BENNET, editorial page editor: When you say an open mind, you mean you’re just not sure whether human activity causes climate change? Do you think human activity is or isn’t connected?

TRUMP: I think right now … well, I think there is some connectivity. There is some, something. It depends on how much. It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies. You have to understand, our companies are noncompetitive right now.

They’re really largely noncompetitive. About four weeks ago, I started adding a certain little sentence into a lot of my speeches, that we’ve lost 70,000 factories since W. Bush. 70,000. When I first looked at the number, I said: ‘That must be a typo. It can’t be 70, you can’t have 70,000, you wouldn’t think you have 70,000 factories here.’ And it wasn’t a typo, it’s right. We’ve lost 70,000 factories.

We’re not a competitive nation with other nations anymore. We have to make ourselves competitive. We’re not competitive for a lot of reasons.

That’s becoming more and more of the reason. Because a lot of these countries that we do business with, they make deals with our president, or whoever, and then they don’t adhere to the deals, you know that. And it’s much less expensive for their companies to produce products. So I’m going to be studying that very hard, and I think I have a very big voice in it. And I think my voice is listened to, especially by people that don’t believe in it. And we’ll let you know.

The NYT tries to nail Trump down here on whether he actually thinks humans cause climate change. Note that out of everything Trump says in the answer, “some connectivity” is the phrase overwhelmingly quoted in all the positive coverage about him. But Trump spends most of this answer talking about whether it’s worth it to combat climate change EVEN IF YOU THINK THERE IS A CONNECTION TO HUMAN ACTIVITY. The entire response is about a loss of factories and the need to “compete”.

So, out of the entirety of his responses to the NYT about climate change, Trump makes a joke, says plenty of smart people disagree that it’s a problem (arguable), that we’ve always had storms, that the hottest day ever was almost 120 years ago (incorrect). He says his uncle was a scientist that had an opinion on this but doesn’t say what it was, says we’ll probably never know for sure if it is a problem (we know already that it is), and brings up an email “controversy” that was ultimately irrelevant (probably out of force of habit.) He closes by talking about how successful he is again, brags about a great environmental record that doesn’t exist, then tacks on some of his talking points meant to talk up his trade policies. He closes with another joke:

FRIEDMAN: I’d hate to see Royal Aberdeen underwater.

TRUMP: The North Sea, that could be, that’s a good one, right?

Of course, to people who live and work along the coast, to fisherman who have come from a generations-long tradition to working along the coast to families who have safeguarded their properties there to pass them along to their children, paying higher property taxes and insurance and praying against catastrophic storms, the idea of the American coasts sinking into the water isn’t as funny as it is to a billionaire who owns some golf courses nearby.

Later on, one more question is asked on climate:

SHEAR: Just one quick clarification on the climate change, do you intend to, as you said, pull out of the Paris Climate …

TRUMP: I’m going to take a look at it.

SHEAR [interrupts]: And if the reaction from foreign leaders is to slap tariffs on American goods to offset the carbon that the United States had pledged to reduce, is that O.K. with you? And then the second question is on your sort of mixing of your global business interests and the presidency. There’s already, even just in the 10, two weeks you’ve been president-elect, instances where you’ve met with your Indian business partners …

TRUMP: Sure.

It’s unclear whether or not the “Sure” is in response to the question on the tariffs from foreign leaders, but it seems obvious Trump isn’t concerned about that. Certainly he gives no indication that he is planning on reconsidering pulling out of the climate accord and, even though he used the phrase “open mind” over a half-dozen times earlier in the interview, he chooses not to say it here. Yet in the NY Times story about this meeting, this paragraph, which we opened by looking at, pretty much states he did:

On climate change, Mr. Trump refused to repeat his promise to abandon the international climate accord reached last year in Paris, saying, “I’m looking at it very closely.” Despite the recent appointment to his transition team of a fierce critic of the Paris accords, Mr. Trump said that “I have an open mind to it” and that clean air and “crystal clear water” were vitally important.

Now that you’ve read the transcript yourself, think of how much the writers of this story had to twist Trump’s own words that they just listened to in order to get to that paragraph. Ask yourself why they would do that. Again, see how much that sort of twist and spin drove the immediate coverage of the story. Remember to look beyond all that, to be immediately skeptical of editorialized paragraphs that only use a few words of a person’s actual statement, and to never assume that what is written in the headline is what is written in the story. After all, this was portrayed in headline after headline as a “softening” or a “shift” on climate change by the President-elect. Story after story included paragraphs about how the President-elect’s words offered “hope” to climate change activists that he had an “open mind” on the subject and was willing to consider action. But other than him tacking the phrase “I have an open mind” onto almost every answer on the subject, it’s clear that the only ideas he has an open mind to are being advanced by climate change deniers and skeptics, who finally see the chance to undo all the good work on climate that has been done in the last 20 years.

This sort of thing is ALL OVER THE PLACE. Please pay attention.

See you soon

Originally written 12/6/2016

Thanks to everyone who read my last bit about taking Trump seriously and not literally. That was mainly about interpretation, but I wrote a bit in there about the danger his administration represents to voting rights for Americans. This threat is not “imminent”. It is already being carried out at the state level, now further emboldened by Trump’s accusations of voter fraud.

“Gerrymandering”, or the practice of drawing a congressional district in such a way as to ensure a majority of voters from one party or another, is a pretty common word these days in political circles, because the practice is pervasive. In North Carolina and Wisconsin, courts have found that the gerrymandering of certain districts was unconstitutional. Both cases are likely to go to the Supreme Court for a ruling, and their decision could set precedent on these matters indefinitely and have an effect on many cases yet to be heard.

How many cases? It will be many more than there were before. Their decision in Shelby County Vs Holder enabled state governments to attack voting rights at will. The spirit has always been willing in GOP-led states, but since their attacks are always based on specious claims of widespread in-person voter fraud which have always been easily discredited in the past, they’ve been especially emboldened by the President-elect’s attack on the fairness of our elections. As reported today in The Nation, GOP lawmakers in Michigan have filed a new voter-ID law, even before they have finished counting the votes from the last election.

“Donald Trump tweeted that millions had voted illegally and 48 hours later this bill popped up out of nowhere,” says Dan Korobkin, deputy legal director for the Michigan ACLU. “That’s either a giant coincidence or a very concerted effort to disenfranchise people at the state and local level based on lies.”

Already, Trump’s discredited lie that “millions” voted illegally in 2016 seems to be impacting Republican actions. “A multitude of candidates have raised the concerns about the integrity of elections,” said GOP Representative Lisa Lyons, who sponsored the bill. “We need to respond to those questions. We are going to make sure that we’re protecting you—all voters—and the integrity of the election.”

It’s worth noting that despite alleging concerns about the integrity of their elections while sponsoring voter ID laws, MI GOP lawmakers are suing to block Jill Stein’s attempt to have their Presdential vote recounted because, “she cited no evidence of fraud or mistake in the canvass of votes.” So the MI GOP believes that you need evidence to count votes again, but not to disenfranchise voters.

In addition to the ongoing battles in NC and WI, the Nation references a new voter ID law being proposed by newly elected NH Governor Chris Sununu, and Texas’ ongoing attempt to revive a voter ID law struck down as unconstitutional 10 years ago.

These voter ID laws are discriminatory, but even if you are not a minority, you should be opposed to them. According to the ACLU, they also hinder students, the elderly, and disabled voters, who are among the groups that may not have a valid driver’s license in state or other required ID.

Voter ID laws also cost you money. They represent a tax on every citizen for the right to vote, for which no American should have to pay.

Requiring voters to obtain an ID in order to vote is tantamount to a poll tax. Although some states issue IDs for free, the birth certificates, passports, or other documents required to obtain a government-issued ID cost money, and many Americans simply cannot afford to pay for them

In addition, states incur sizable costs when providing IDs to voters who do not have them. Given the financial strain many states already are experiencing, this is an unnecessary allocation of taxpayer dollars.

What’s at stake? Well, Republicans control 33 state legislatures right now. If they get to 34 they will have the amount they need to force a Constitutional convention in order to attempt to amend the Constitution. If they get to 38 they will be able to ratify amendments on their own. Then the GOP, which right now is under the spell and control of a con man, his white supremacist chief strategist, his Islamophobic conspiracy-minded National Security Adviser, and a host of opportunistic power brokers with the ethics of a crocodile and empathy to match will have the power to shift and shape our laws to their liking. It should go without saying that protecting voting rights is important. Right now, it’s crucial.

Please pay attention!

Thanks for reading – see you soon.

Originally written on 11/29/2016

Yesterday a column was posted on CNN.com by a fellow named Brad Todd, titled “Dear journalists: Stop Taking Trump Literally”.  Mr. Todd says that while journalists take Trump literally, his voters take him seriously and that’s what matters. I read the piece and thought it was bad. After all, I had just a few days ago written a very long post on my own websiteabout journalists doing the exact opposite, taking Trump seriously when he said he had an open mind to climate change and putting words in his mouth to indicate that he did have an open mind, rather than just taking a literal reading of what he said. I also thought the CNN article was written from the wrong perspective, an advertising man advising journalists to look at news as a for-profit industry, the reader as “customer,” and the important customers as Trump voters, and to stop trying to provide as much information possible in as complete a way as is necessary to tell the whole story to as many readers as may find it relevant. “This is seriously a bad take, and I mean that literally,” I said.

But yesterday, a twitter user named @ezlusztig posted a series of tweets that made me rethink the whole idea of taking Donald Trump seriously and not literally. Elliott Lusztig refers to a book by Hannah Arendt called “The Origin of Totalitarianism”, published in 1949, I have not read the book so I rely on his interpretation. He says Ms. Arendt noted how “decent liberals in 1930s Germany would ‘fact check’ the Nazis’ bizarre claims about Jews” failing to understand that the Nazis were not stating fact but intent, “not describing what was true, but what would have to be true to justify what they planned to do next.” Another user quotes Jean-Paul Sartre, from his 1944 book “Anti-Semite and Jew” as follows:

Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play.

They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.

Lusztig concludes by referring to Trump’s tweeted falsehood about 3 million illegals voting in this context, which many mainstream news sources rushed to fact-check in its immediate aftermath:

What Trump is saying is not that 3m illegals voted. What he’s saying is: I’m going to steal the voting rights of millions of Americans.

I still think the main points of Todd’s piece are off base and many of his conclusions are wrong (at the very least it’s more relevant to cable-type news than factual reporting), but his ad-man sloganeering can be applied to many Trump’s statements in the context of seeing them as statements of intent rather than literal fact.

So when Trump tells you he thinks 3 million illegal immigrants voted, don’t take him literally and scream, “No they didn’t!” Take it seriously as a threat to take voting rights away from Americans. Often you can find corroboration of his “statement of intent”, like in his pick for Jeff Sessions for AG. Sessions has a 30-year “record of hostility” toward minority voting rights. The Justice Department has been involved in a number of lawsuits in recent years against states seen by the DoJ to be in violation of voting rights laws. This will likely end under Sessions, who cheered the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court. Or look at his pick of Steve Bannon as chief strategist. Bannon once said he thought only property owners should be allowed to vote, which leaves out large groups of minorities, young people (especially students), people who live in population centers, and, of course, poor people.

When Trump tells you he thinks that protesters are acting in bad faith, or that he believes flag burners ought to be put in jail or denaturalized, don’t take him literally and start talking about whether the public supports a ban on flag burning or argue about whether protesters are right to protest. Take it seriously as a threat to free speech and the right to protest, from a man who as shown over and over again that he can’t stand being criticized and has repeatedly expressed his admiration for totalitarian states that jail dissidents. Look for corroboration in his own history of disdain toward free expression, like when he proposed fighting ISIS in America by closing down our mosques and even threatening to restrict our internet speech like North Korea and other totalitarian states, saying, “Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people.

When Trump tells you he thinks this media outlet or that reporter treats him unfairly, don’t take him literally and examine whether the treatment was indeed correct and fair. Take it seriously as a threat to curb freedom of the press and subject it to heavy government interference by a man who has expressed a desire to “open up the libel laws” to make it easier to sue the press for writing about him, and who has first-hand experience in how much fake propaganda (no matter who it comes from) and control of the news cycle can help or hurt someone in the eyes of the American people.

Trump often speaks in an obfuscating manner, and reporters have a hard time getting him to state a position clearly. Trump’s surrogates – and one has to assume this will be true of a White House Press Secretary as well, as far as one exists in a Trump administration – often don’t bother to try to interpret or clarify his statements, deferring back to him or making light of his off-the-cuff way of speaking. When they do provide a “clarification” it will often be an outright lie itself. So reporters interpret Trump’s words for themselves and hack up his quotes to make it seem he said things they would like him to have said. This will continue to be a problem. But making sense of Trump’s nonsense will not be as simple as just listening to exactly what he says. Behind a literal statement that seems so outrageous and obviously incorrect that it must be just a pretext for controversy lies a serious threat feeling its way out into the public discourse, looking for approval from Trump’s followers while providing a cover of plausible deniability to the people making the threat.

So the next time you hear Trump or one of his surrogates say something outrageous, don’t take it as a literal statement. Take it as a serious threat.

Please pay attention!

See you soon.