Alabama Senate candidacy may redefine decency

Alabama Senate candidacy may redefine decency

Beverly Young Nelson says then-Deputy District Attorney Roy Moore signed her high school yearbook. She alleges he offered her a ride home from her restaurant job when she was 16, then groped her and kicked her out the car door.

My story of sexual harassment is typical #MeToo

My story of sexual harassment is typical #MeToo

Actress Lupita Nyong'o wrote about her harassment at the hands of Harvey Weinstein. "I wish I had known that there were ears to hear me," she wrote. "That justice could be served. There is clearly power in numbers." I wish so, too. When a friend or an employee speaks about this, don't ignore it. And maybe, offer to put her up, or at least back her up, until she regains her pride and sense of safety.

Climate whistleblower Joel Clement deserves public support

Climate whistleblower Joel Clement deserves public support

This apparent sidelining of senior voices is troubling and just the most recent example among federal employees. A president with a vital obligation of stewardship of the nation's lands must have an open ear to the career people who've dedicated their lives to the mission.

Sears declines as a middle-class icon

Sears declines as a middle-class icon

s we wandered past the $5 discount T-shirts on the first floor at the East Northport store, I was reminded of the role of Sears in the American middle class and the evolving U.S. economy: It was long a source of decently compensated jobs, quality tools and reliable appliances, but is now high on some retail analysts' list of retailers likely to file for bankruptcy protection.

Business leaders abandon Trump after Charlottesvile remarks

Business leaders abandon Trump after Charlottesvile remarks

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, left, and six other members of Donald Trump's manufacturing advisory council resigned when the president equated white nationalist marchers with those who came out to protest them in Charlottesville, Virginia, the weekend of Aug. 12. Trump disbanded the council rather than accept the rebuke.

Local jail takes on substance abuse, a major cause of repeat crimes

Three years ago, Sean Paddock left a bar after drinking, got into his car, started driving and nearly killed someone. He was arrested and eventually served 18 months in the Suffolk County jail in Yaphank.

None of the facts of his situation - the near-miss fatality, a confrontation with police, court appearances, outpatient rehab - resonated deeply enough for Paddock, 30, to change his ways.

But he did find hope, of all places, in jail. He told his story to a crowd gathered May 18 for a ribbon-cutting of a new addiction-treatment wing in Yaphank.

Individual jail cells can be isolating. Suffolk County, NY, is experimenting with communal cells with inmates committed to going straight.

Individual jail cells can be isolating. Suffolk County, NY, is experimenting with communal cells with inmates committed to going straight.

As a society, we are rethinking why and how we incarcerate people. We're contending with a soul-crushing rise in addiction to heroin, opioids, alcohol. Localities around the country are trying new ways to fight back and to rehabilitate people who commit crimes, but whose underlying problem is addiction.

This is Suffolk County's window into that transformation. Paddock's recovery isn't common, but it offers hope.

When he entered jail, he told the gathering, "I still had a selfish mindset." After participating in the addiction program, he realized that "a lot of my addiction was around insecurities and fears and uncomfortability with who I was as a person. I started developing gratitude in the program, and a newfound love for myself."

With his mother in the crowd, Paddock called himself a felon, but now also "a true member of society."

The program is an expansion of the drunken driving treatment that was offered at the jail for years, Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said in an interview. In the past five years, the jail population has dropped dramatically, making room for a wing of the building dedicated to treatment.

The treatment program is now also offered to women, and participants are housed separately from the general population, with two 24-bed common rooms, one for each gender.

Colleen Ansanelli, a licensed social worker who runs the treatment program, said the communal rooms are a big improvement. Although the open house at the new wing was held last week, it began operating on April 15.

"Their habits are to isolate, which is fostered by the structure of a jail," Ansanelli said in an interview. "This is more of a treatment community. It's much more intimate. If somebody isn't taking their recovery seriously, the group uncovers that."

There are private rooms for one-on-one counseling, which is key to getting someone to open up. "The thing that has to change is the thinking," Ansanelli said. "We have to replace, 'I'm a loser.' "

Such cognitive behavioral therapy has become the predominant treatment for offenders in the United States and Europe, according to the National Institute of Corrections, a resource agency within the U.S. Department of Justice. Research shows that professional cognitive treatment can reduce recidivism by 25 to 35 percent, which means saving taxpayers money on incarceration.

The Suffolk program is still working out the kinks. Ansanelli had to remove four men this week and return them to the general jail population for what she termed "infecting the group with their negative thinking." Their spots will be filled quickly. The demand for treatment among the 1,270-person jail population is high. Some want to get well; others simply want to impress a judge and win an early release.

This program can't promise to turn out solid members of society, but it's better than what we've had in the past.

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

Obamacare repeal, new concerns about women's health care

Washington is having another whirl with repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Lost in much news coverage of concessions to the Freedom Caucus and amassing the magic 216 House votes for passage is this: This legislation is as devastating to women's health care as the previous repeal version.

Protesters in favor of Obamacare gather outside the Supreme Court building in Washintgon. (Photo: Thomson Reuters)

The new House effort adopted Thursday in Washington mostly along party lines would eliminate the "essential health benefits" covered by the Affordable Care Act, including maternity and newborn care. The bill would pull funding for poor women to go to Planned Parenthood for birth control and lifesaving cancer screenings. It would restrict private insurance coverage of abortion.

"This latest attempt at a health care plan lacks an important component for women - health care," said Robin Chappelle Golston, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, which represents Planned Parenthood in New York. "They say there is no war on women, but this sure looks like one."

No kidding. Before Congress could agree to an omnibus spending bill this week to keep the government running, Democrats pushed to get rid of a GOP rider that, according to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, would have undermined a woman's right to reproductive health.

The continued government-sponsored enthusiasm for pregnancy has begun to look like a chapter out of "The Handmaid's Tale." The 1985 Margaret Atwood novel, recently made into a Hulu series, is set in an imaginary totalitarian future in which fertile women are required to bear children to repopulate the nation.

The bill now moves to the Senate, but Thursday's vote in Washington may light a fire under the New York State Legislature to pass measures that shore up basic health care for this state's families. It's worth emphasizing this truth: If women don't have control over their own reproductive biology, they will no longer be free.

"It's been a difficult time," Golston said of the Trump era. However, "it's a positive time in terms of people who've been activated who were not active before."

That includes Long Islanders, who have assembled at more than 65 events and demonstrations since the November election to fight for protecting reproductive rights and access to reproductive health care including contraception coverage. Planned Parenthood of Nassau County has nearly doubled its email list to 15,000. Suffolk County figures weren't immediately available.

In New York, some state lawmakers are trying to erect a bulwark against Washington action, but the efforts are in limbo. Two bills that passed the Assembly await action in the State Senate. One is the Reproductive Health Act, which would strengthen New York law to allow abortion after 24 weeks if the fetus is no longer living or the mother's health or life is at risk. That's consistent with Roe v. Wade, which New York law predates.

The odds of the Senate passing the Reproductive Health Act are dismal. But a second bill that would protect contraception coverage, the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, may have a shot. Golston said Senate Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference support it, and that Republican Sen. Elaine Phillips of Flower Hill has been "helpful." Her office confirmed she would vote for the contraception act. Originally proposed by state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, the bill might be blocked by the State Senate majority coalition from coming to the floor for a vote.

The coalition should think carefully before crushing a bill that would be a backstop if the Trump administration delivers on its promise to repeal Obamacare and starve Planned Parenthood of federal funds.

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

Trump's antics stoke opposition

President Donald Trump's continuing assaults on cherished American ideals, like protecting the environment and providing health care, are having an intriguing side effect. His administration is keeping the outrage at a boil.

For organizations that encourage and train women to run for political office, that has made for a very busy four months since Election Day.

Tens of thousands marched against President Trump in New York City on Jan. 21, 2017, and the total nationwide was in the millions. (Photo: mathiaswasik/flickr/cc)

Tens of thousands marched against President Trump in New York City on Jan. 21, 2017, and the total nationwide was in the millions. (Photo: mathiaswasik/flickr/cc)

Activism has spiked in many areas, from demonstrations in airports to raucous town halls to protests at politicians' doorsteps. But the events of the last few months have fundamentally changed attitudes about politics, particularly among women. Organizers say many more women are embracing the value of running for office.

VoteRunLead, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that offers classes with titles like "30 Things Every Woman Needs to Know to Run for Office," recently surveyed women who had signed up for the program. In the past, two-thirds of VoteRunLead's students said they were thinking of running in the next five years or so. When their children were grown, perhaps.

Now, according to VoteRunLead founder Erin Vilardi, 66 percent want to run in the next two years.

"In the past, we heard, it's on my mind, but it's not urgent," she said. "A new crop of women are raising their hands and accelerating the schedule."

VoteRunLead, which is based in New York, unveiled a website this week under the banner "Run as you are." An important function of groups like this is matching the skills and passions of individuals with the right offices.

"Probably, the number one question I get is what to run for," Vilardi says. She begins by asking what policies they want to change. Most will end up seeking school board or local offices, with a sprinkling interested in federal posts.

From September 2014 to the November election, VoteRunLead trained about 5,000 women at conferences and online. Since Nov. 8, another 5,565 have signed up. Organizations like the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, She Should Run and Ignite National are reporting similar surging interest.

Even optimists thought interest might fade after the Jan. 21 women's marches. But Anne Moses, president of Ignite National, which offers programs for high school and college women, says so far, apathy has been a stranger. "I thought maybe it would slow down," she said, "but this administration is doing a good job of keeping people angry."

Cue Hillary Clinton. On Tuesday, she gave a major speech in San Francisco to an audience of 6,000, and she's scheduled today to address the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security in Washington. On Tuesday, she tried out a new mantra: "Resist, insist, persist, enlist."

Her timing was perfect. Last week brought the image of a room of men in Congress debating whether to cover maternity care, along with Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts making light of losing mammograms. He was forced to apologize.

Such moments are raising awareness in young women that "sexism is real, it's not just something my mom is talking about," said Moses of Ignite National, which is based in San Francisco.

The recent ineptitude of the White House - failing on two travel bans and Obamacare repeal - also demonstrates, like a reality show, that no experience is necessary to try governing. The missteps have been liberating for potential candidates, and especially women, who research shows tend to underestimate how well-prepared they already are for jobs.

Who knew that Trump's Washington would offer so much inspiration?

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

 

Melania Trump goes at own pace

There's one Trump whose approval ratings are climbing fast, and it's not the guy in the Oval Office.

First lady Melania Trump has picked up 16 percentage points since before the inauguration, according to a recent poll by CNN/ORC. Fifty-two percent said they have a "favorable" opinion of Trump, even as her husband's numbers remain mired in the low 40s.

Americans, it seems, are getting to know the former model from Slovenia. The same poll found that 23 percent had "no opinion" of her before President Donald Trump's inauguration; afterward, only 12 percent hadn't yet made a judgment.

First Lady Melania Trump arrives at a luncheon she hosted to mark International Women's Day in the State Dining Room at the White House March 8, 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)

First Lady Melania Trump arrives at a luncheon she hosted to mark International Women's Day in the State Dining Room at the White House March 8, 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)

This first lady is like no other in recent memory. She had no experience in the political spotlight before landing in this high-profile, if poorly defined, role at the top of American public life. She was known in New York celebrity circles, of course, and pictured in society coverage as the wife of a publicity-loving billionaire whose name adorns skyscrapers, hotels and golf courses.

But national politics, unlike celebrity and fame, often demands more gravitas and homage to tradition. Melania Trump is navigating this all in real time, without the training wheels her predecessors had, and with a partner whose political brand is built on upending Washington norms.

Before becoming first lady, Michelle Obama was the wife of a state senator and then a U.S. senator. Laura Bush was married to a Texas governor and a member of a family steeped in politics. Hillary Clinton's husband had been the attorney general and then governor of Arkansas. Barbara Bush had a wealth of experience as the wife of a former CIA director, ambassador to China, congressman and vice president.

As political spouses, these women made mistakes and learned from them.

Trump's first major foray was publicly bruising. She was the wife of the candidate then, supporting him as he accepted the Republican Party nomination. Her speech at the convention was cribbed from her predecessor's - and the plagiarism was rightly blasted.

It's enough to make a person want to hole up in a posh Manhattan penthouse and tend to her 10-year-old son. Get back to basics.

Now, though, there are signs that Trump is testing the waters as first lady. Earlier this month, she visited a hospital in Manhattan to read to sick children. She chose the classic, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" In the lore of first ladies, this is public relations gold.

Trump's visit cast her as nurturing and selfless, with little risk. No tyke was going to pop up and ask whether she had permission to quote Dr. Seuss.

Last week, she hosted an invitation-only luncheon at the White House in honor of International Women's Day and spoke about equality, freedom and women helping each other achieve success. Also, the Trumps will honor the 139-year-old custom next month of rolling Easter eggs across the White House South Lawn.

Step by step, Trump is adopting traditions we associate with first ladies. Her next challenge will be the gravitas.

Before Election Day, Trump said she was interested in working to combat cyberbullying, but she hasn't begun, at least not publicly. Nancy Reagan is remembered for her anti-drug message, Obama for encouraging kids to exercise and Laura Bush for reminding children to read. Must each first lady have a cause? It will be interesting to see how Trump answers that question.

For now, she's made it clear that she will remain in New York until son Barron finishes his school year. This also allows her to approach her new role with caution.

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

 

pain relief as a habit for seniors

As the medical community and lawmakers have responded to the crisis in opioid abuse by making the pills harder to get, there's one group whose needs are being largely neglected: the elderly.

More than 30 percent of people enrolled in Medicare Part D used opioid prescriptions, according to a top Medicare administrator's report to Congress in February 2015. Older people are more apt to have chronic pain from musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis, from nerves damaged by diabetes or shingles, or from cancer. They're more likely to have surgery.

New state laws and guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over recent months, have sought to tighten controls on who receives the pain meds and how much.

While many view opioid addiction as a youthful problem, many older Americans are struggling with dependency and pain. Alternatives to opioids aren't always clear.

I've heard from older people who say please don't allow public pressure to make these completely unavailable. They fear returning to a life of constant pain - mostly physical but sometimes also emotional. Addiction counselor Clare Waismann calls opioid use "a blanket between you and reality."

So the problem becomes, how to weigh relieving pain against the possibility that strong, habit-forming drugs derail one's quality of life? American medicine must release its dependence on popping pills and force health insurers to recognize there's a healthier path for many people.

Opioid pills decrease the pain, particularly at first. Then, as time goes on, they have less effect, and people take more to stop from hurting. The higher doses can lead to confusion and depression, even rendering people homebound. Some are misdiagnosed with dementia.

Older people also don't metabolize the drugs as well, so they stay in the body longer. Opioids can bring on vomiting or constipation, increase the risk of falls and fractures, and damage kidneys and hearts with long-term use.

Most seniors recognize the signs of growing drug dependence, but they're ashamed to talk about it, says Waismann, who runs a medical detox and treatment center in Southern California that serves older people - a rarity. They grew up in a time when drug addiction and alcoholism were viewed as evil, and so they remain silent about the problem. They don't want to identify as "drug addicts," nor do many rehab centers accept older people because of the risk of death involved as people are weaned off opioids.

Nationally, opioid prescriptions have begun to decline, and some doctors have completely stopped prescribing them. Many are recommending non-drug alternatives to manage pain, such as exercise, acupuncture, weight loss, therapy, meditation, tai chi or yoga.

Yet, insurers often don't pay for those, or for costly inpatient clinics like Waismann's.

But even without special treatment, people can speak to their doctors about slowly reducing the dosage. Waismann believes there are alternative medicines to manage muscular and nerve pain. And even at an advanced age, people should think 10 years down the road.

Waismann told me this story. An 83-year-old woman went to the clinic last month. She never had a drug problem, but over the last eight or 10 years had a number of hip and neck surgeries. She was taking more opioids but was still in pain.

She had been worried about her growing drug dependency for nearly four years but didn't know how to stop.

After detox, she was more clear-headed and able to return to driving, traveling, golfing, volunteering at a foundation and visiting with her grandchildren.

She still has a full life ahead.

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

It's necessary to keep talking about politics, religion

We're living in an age when provocation is highly rewarded.

Candidate Donald Trump provoked his Republican primary competitors with epithets like "little Marco" and "low energy" Jeb Bush. In recent weeks, Milo Yiannopoulos, a website editor often identified by the title "provocateur," was rewarded with a lucrative book contract and a speaking role at the influential Conservative Political Action Conference.

Milo Yiannopoulos is a British media personality associated with the political alt-right and a former senior editor for Breitbart News. 

Milo Yiannopoulos is a British media personality associated with the political alt-right and a former senior editor for Breitbart News

Until he went too far. Apparently, our society keeps redefining what "too far" means. Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, with a newlywed wife at home, was apparently no longer enough to shock us into dumping this public figure into obscurity. Instead, voters rewarded him with the presidency.

However, Yiannopoulos was not so fortunate. After his comments about sex and teenage boys became public this week, he's out of a book contract, a job and a speaking role. For now. He has pledged to return to the spotlight, and even splashier..

I could go on about the relative outrage over female and male assault, but that's a topic for another day. What concerns me is that Americans react like Pavlov's dog, salivating over name-calling, "yuge" Twitter audiences and whatever is viral, trending, titillating, angry or divisive.

Do we no longer attend to substance? Where is the space in our lives for quieter, saner voices? Former Secretary of State James Baker on the right, or Sen. Bernie Sanders on the left? OK, Sanders isn't quiet. But you get my point. He's thoughtful. He has ideas.

A reactive, sharply divided country is what we have, and the split is serving us poorly. There are family members and important subjects we're avoiding. Popular wisdom has held that one shouldn't discuss religion or politics. However, to heal our divisions and move our country forward, it's essential that we toss out that old truism and bring politics back into our private conversations but discuss them respectfully.

Yet, as in any good arena, there must be rules. Rules allow teams of men to rush at each other on a gridiron without producing total chaos.

One useful rule would be to stop uttering phrases simply to provoke. I have no control, of course, over President Trump tweeting about "liberal activists" or a "so-called judge," but the rest of us can commit to packing away the verbal bombs in our lives. As author Don Miguel Ruiz advised, words have power; be impeccable with your word.

Another possibility I'll borrow from a long-ago conversation with Ed Rigaud, founder of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. As he was developing the center in the late 1990s, he spoke about a room where people could converse about race, one-on-one. The idea was disconcerting, but we've reached a point of desperation in our American conversation, about both race and politics, when we should try it. Where there's discomfort, there may be growth.

A final suggestion comes from the world of project management. A facilitator runs a meeting of stakeholders, who often have competing interests. When the participants get stuck in an argument, the facilitator moves the sticking point aside - into a "parking lot," they say - so the conversation can continue productively.

A productive conversation about politics? In this environment? Dream on, you might say. But we've been stuck in the parking lot for a good while. It's time to try.

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

A women's agenda for Trump era

If the participants in women's marches around the country last weekend are looking for a public policy road map, they would do well to pick up a copy of "Work Pause Thrive."

Published this month, author Lisen Stromberg's ambitious book lays out an agenda for legislative changes and describes policies that progressive employers are putting in place. The goal is to help along a new generation of men and women who say they want both involved parenting and rewarding work.

A new book from journalist Lisen Stromberg, Work Pause Thrive, offers a collective agenda for working families. (Photo: LisenStromberg.com)

A new book from journalist Lisen Stromberg, Work Pause Thrive, offers a collective agenda for working families. (Photo: LisenStromberg.com)

As a devotee of advice on work-life balance, I found "Work Pause Thrive" dealt well with both policy and practical advice for would-be parents just starting their careers. The book navigates an economy still churning from the expansive entry of mothers into the workforce since the 1970s, without having put into place adequate affordable child care or altering the "all-in, all-the-time" workplace culture.

Stromberg tells this story from experience. She met a group of women in 1996 in a new mother training class recommended by their doctors. Twenty years later, the women are still in touch, and many of their careers look like "a direct trajectory to the top of our professions," she writes, "but buried deep within our resumes are twists and turns, pull backs and pauses."

The women crafted "nonlinear" careers that often required soul-searching, risk and straightforward negotiation with employers. But she wants the millennial generation to know it can be done - and that technology and attitudes are moving in this direction.

Putting family first for a time doesn't have to mean sacrificing one's career, according to Stromberg's survey of nearly 1,500 women. She highlighted women like Ann Fudge to make her point.

One of the most successful African-American women in business in 2001, Fudge quit her job as a division president for Kraft Foods to spend more time raising her two children. Fudge had recently been named by Fortune magazine as one of the 50 most powerful women in business.

When she left her corporate job, there was a brouhaha in the media about how she couldn't hack being both a mother and a top businesswoman.

The rest of her story received much less attention. Within a few years, she returned to work as president of the Young & Rubicam advertising agency.

Stromberg focused on college-educated women and men, she told me in an email, because that's the world she knows. "I was motivated to understand why even women with resources can't find solutions for challenges in the workplace when it comes to dealing with caregiving," she wrote.

However, middle- and lower-class families - in which Stromberg says women are increasingly opting out of paid work - would also benefit from her policy prescriptions for national paid leave, high-quality universal child care and paid sick leave.

Lower earners find it cheaper to stay home with children because they can't find work that covers the cost of child care. Meanwhile, many young parents struggle with student debt - never mind saving for college or retirement.

"We have been distracted by the notion that work/life integration is a privilege," Stromberg wrote in her email. "The reality is we lack public and workplace policies to support working parents. Let's focus on that issue and stop pitting women of different socio-economic classes against each other."

Women's Marchers, take notice.

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

Trump's bully pulpit: Twitter

Melania and Barron are staying in New York, and now it's not even clear that Donald Trump needs to move to the White House to make public policy. All he needs is a smartphone and a Twitter account.

The president-elect has had a pretty good week on Twitter, nixing a backroom deal in Congress that would have defanged an ethics watchdog and nudging Ford Motor Co. to expand in Michigan instead of Mexico.

President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter on Nov. 16, 2017 to announce that Ford Motor Co. won’t be moving Lincoln production from Kentucky to Mexico.

President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter on Nov. 16, 2017 to announce that Ford Motor Co. won’t be moving Lincoln production from Kentucky to Mexico.

Why would Trump change what's working for him? Why heed Tuesday's advice from top congressional Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer and dispense with this "Twitter presidency"?

Trump has achieved what many leaders have tried: talking around and over the news media and Congress directly to his supporters. Unfiltered to 18.6 million followers. But make no mistake, today's victories are riddled with risk.

Of course a journalist would say that, you're thinking. The press doesn't want to be made irrelevant.

But consider this: Issuing orders by tweet runs the risk of inflaming fear and setting in motion forces that Trump doesn't intend and can't control.

The late Italian novelist Umberto Eco listed fascist traits that Trump appears to have in common with former dictator Benito Mussolini: Taking action for action's sake. Dissent equated to treason. Fear of the other. Appeal to social frustration. Machismo. Selective populism.

Mussolini reigned by means of fear.

What was the motive for Ford's reversal if not the fear of a threat, which Trump has made repeatedly, that he will attach a 35 percent tariff on products made in Mexico coming into the United States? In public statements, Ford CEO Mark Fields attributed the decision to market forces and called it a "vote of confidence for President-elect Trump."

Whether he believes the 35 percent tariff will materialize or not, Fields is playing it safe. Trump's threats hold extra power at the moment, because nobody knows which of his statements he will back up once he gets into office.

House Republicans acted out of fear, as well. When Trump got wind of the plan to gut a congressional ethics panel, he tweeted, "do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog . . . their number one act and priority."

Within two hours, House GOP leaders held an emergency meeting and dropped the plan.

One has to smile at Trump's success in reversing this secret backroom deal. Does anyone outside of Congress really want a lighter ethical touch for Washington lawmakers?

But it doesn't stretch the imagination to think congressional leaders felt threatened. Certainly, 140 characters - or even a string of tweets - isn't the best way to change minds through logical discourse. The lawmakers kowtowed to power, and that's worrisome. It doesn't feel like democracy.

Think of the times when a Trump tweet has not saved jobs or embarrassed Congress but its effect has turned the other way. The president-elect used Twitter in early December to criticize Chuck Jones, a union leader at Indiana's Carrier plant. Afterward, Jones said he received threats from Trump's supporters.

The Anti-Defamation League has reported a surge of anti-Semitic tweets directed at journalists, many of them from Trump fans.

In a nod to more traditional communication, Trump has announced that he will hold a news conference next week to talk about separating his private business interests from his new public role.

That's a step in the right direction. Complex issues like this one deserve more than 140 characters.

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

what voter suppression brings

On his national "thank you" tour of states that voted Republican, President-elect Donald Trump gave a shout-out to an unlikely group. He claimed at an event in Michigan that African-Americans came through for him "big league," and those that didn't vote were "almost as good" in helping him win.

It was a bizarre claim, because exit polls showed that nationally, Hillary Clinton won African-American voters 89 percent to Trump's 8 percent.

Known as the "Stump for Trump Girls," Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson made waves when they endorsed Trump for president on CNN back in August. (Photo:CNN)

Known as the "Stump for Trump Girls," Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson made waves when they endorsed Trump for president on CNN back in August. (Photo:CNN)

But coming after the first presidential election since the Voting Rights Act was gutted by the Supreme Court, Trump's claim is not only bizarre, it's Orwellian. Was he signaling to his supporters that they had done well in suppressing Democratic votes?

It's hard to know with Trump. As unscripted as he appears, he often laces his speech with music to the ears of the "alt-right," a white nationalist movement

We don't know for sure how many Americans were disenfranchised on Election Day. Some civil rights groups - the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights - say that Republican-backed voter suppression laws probably helped tip the election in Trump's favor.

No one should vote who doesn't have that right. However, there's been almost zero evidence of voting fraud, while suppression efforts around the country have put disproportionate pressure on voters who traditionally vote Democratic: minorities, the poor, college students and other young voters.

Fourteen states had new voting restrictions this year for the first time in a presidential election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law. These include stricter voter ID laws, more stringent registration requirements, reduced early voting and greater hurdles to restoring voting rights to people with criminal convictions.

On the face of it, these measures look like well-intentioned efforts to safeguard our democracy and the voting rights of citizens. But look a little deeper to witness how these rules are employed.

In Alabama, a driver's license or special picture ID is required at polling places. Before Election Day, eight counties with the highest percentages of nonwhite voters closed driver's license bureaus.

In Arizona, Republican election officials in Maricopa County reduced the number of polling places to 60 from 200 in 2012 and 400 in 2008. More than half the county's population is nonwhite, and one-third is Hispanic.

In North Carolina, citizen activists calling themselves the Voter Integrity Project petitioned to purge voter rolls. They sent mail to addresses in Beaufort, Cumberland and Moore counties, and tracked those that came back as undeliverable. In August and September, activists submitted some 4,500 names to the county elections boards, which canceled the voters' registrations.

Thousands of North Carolinians who tried to vote found they had been taken off the rolls, and a disproportionate number were black, said the NAACP, which has filed a federal lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs called the purge "insane," and something out of the Jim Crow era.

Yet, Trump amped up his supporters' fears with claims - wholly discredited - that "millions" voted illegally in November. Two days after he tweeted that, Michigan Republicans introduced legislation to tighten the state's already strict voter ID law.

Trump nation is ready to act on his inferences, even without evidence. How frightening is that?

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

What now for women in politics?

Some women I know are talking about running for office. It's an attractive idea and an empowering response to a devastating turn. Many sense a new obligation to seek political power after Hillary Clinton's loss.

A sea of pink hats on march participants in Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration. (Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

A sea of pink hats on march participants in Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration. (Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

That's a bright silver lining to the presidential election, which many of us saw as a highly qualified woman losing to a man with no governing experience. I'm not alone in looking for that silver lining; The Associated Press and The Washington Post have written about 20- and 30-something women submitting their names for local school boards and city council seats.

And yet, the promise of women jumping into the political arena could easily be wishful thinking. In fact, the brutal 2016 election might have convinced more women that politics isn't worth it. That would be dispiriting, as I believe a feminine ethos is needed to improve education, environmental protection, health care, retirement security, and the working lives of parents and other caregivers.

As a nation, we've been at this juncture before. In the early 1990s, when Clarence Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court, former aide Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment in televised hearings before Congress. Outrage about how she was treated, in part, led to the election of four women to the U.S. Senate in 1992. We dubbed it "The Year of the Woman."

Twenty-four years later, it seems that great opening wasn't sustained. Come January, only 19 percent of Congress will be female.

This election year was so much harsher than 1992. T-shirts said "Trump that bitch." Fake news circulated about a Clinton aide's connection to a Washington pizza parlor that was a front for a pedophilia ring. At least some of the 42 percent of women who voted for Donald Trump believed his claim that Clinton was cynically playing the "woman card" to get elected.

Jennifer Lawless, the director of American University's Women & Politics Institute, told The Atlantic, "I think the defeat has the potential to set back female candidates' emergence. Women are less likely to think they have thick enough skin to endure the rigors of the campaign trail, and to contend that voters will vote for them, donors will give to them, and the media will cover them fairly."

Also in the silver-lining crowd is Wall Street legend Sallie Krawcheck. She says Trump's win could motivate business women to seek leadership roles. Fortune published Krawcheck's call-to-arms Tuesday in the form of a letter to her young daughter: The girl cried and vowed to "accomplish something important life," she wrote of her daughter's reaction to Clinton's loss.

Yet, even so, Krawcheck had to admit that there's "a perilously thin line of acceptable behavior" for women leaders - especially those who wear their strength and ambition boldly like Clinton.

Some countries have set quotas for women in elective office. In 1993, India amended its constitution to reserve one-third of village council seats for women. Also, one-third of council leaders, or pradhans, had to be female.

At the start, just 5 percent of council seats were held by India's women. By 2005, the experiment had exceeded its 33 percent quota, with 40 percent of seats in women's hands. The result has been a greater focus of village councils on clean water, police responsiveness, roads and education. Parents in villages that have had two female pradhans are more likely to want their daughters to study past high school. They see a potential future for them in political office. Do we?

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.