Covid-19 is opening the door for researchers to address a problem that has vexed the medical community for decades: the overtreatment and unnecessary treatment of patients. On one hand, the pandemic caused major health setbacks for non-covid patients who were forced to, or chose to, avoid tests and treatments for various illnesses. On the other hand, in cases in which no harm was done by delays or cancellations, medical experts can now reevaluate whether those procedures are truly necessary. Numerous studies have shown that overtreatment causes unnecessary suffering and billions of dollars in ...
Most days, it’s hard to fully comprehend our current dystopian nightmare.
We now accept that 777,000 Americans are dead in the COVID pandemic and the death toll continues to climb day after day, even when we’ve had life-saving vaccines widely available for eight months.
We accept that millions of parents refuse to get their children vaccinated or even send them to school in masks — and then angrily demand to be worshipped as heroes for endangering their kids and untold numbers of others.
We accept that leaders of the GOP, one of our two major political parties, have bluntly told us that mass death is inevitable, while trafficking in conspiracy theories and quack science as alternatives to vaccines, and then cravenly blame Democrats when herd immunity can’t be reached and people continue to get sick and die.
While the majority of Americans are vaccinated, we are being held hostage by the millions who aren’t and politicians practicing pandemic nihilism. How do you ever come back from that? Many of us have lost hope that we ever fully will.
I’ve thought a lot in recent months about how we’ve become so unmoored from our collective humanity and moral decency. And I keep coming back to Sandy Hook.
After 20 little children and six adults were brutally murdered in a Connecticut elementary school in 2012, President Barack Obama addressed the nation. With tears in his eyes, the father of two spoke of the tragedy and the need for common-sense gun reforms, something that the vast majority of Americans supported then and now.
First Republicans and a few NRA-backed Democrats blocked any progress on policy. Then the GOP launched a ghastly ad mocking Obama for comforting a grieving parent. The lesson here is that the right will always lecture that it’s too soon to talk about gun control after a mass shooting, but it’s not to disparage victims and those trying to help. Meanwhile, far-right media, like Alex Jones’ Infowars — which became highly influential in the Trump era — spent years spreading conspiracy theories that Sandy Hook parents were crisis actors, subjecting them to threats and harassment after the greatest loss imaginable.
When it became acceptable for right-wing leaders to gleefully embrace their monstrousness after first-graders were blown away, all bets were off.
Is it a surprise that the GOP’s next and current leader, Donald Trump, made his political bones by slandering Mexicans as rapists, separating migrant children from their parents at the border and egging on his supporters to assault his enemies at rallies?
Is it a surprise that hours after our nation was rocked Tuesday by yet another school shooting, this time at Oxford High School, that a GOP operative would slam Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — a mother of two who knows firsthand what it’s like for our kids to be subjected to Kafkaesque lockdown drills — for coming out and mourning with parents?
Now almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve managed to normalize a breathtaking loss of human life.
What’s more, we don’t expect Republicans who run the Legislature to have a plan to stop any more than our over 24,000 friends and neighbors in Michigan from dying in the fourth surge, because they’ve never had one.
We don’t even expect them to be responsible and OK billions from the feds to respond to COVID and aid people and businesses who have suffered during the crisis. (House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) blithely said there’s “no emergency” even though Michigan hospitals broke records again this week for COVID hospitalizations). It goes without saying that Republicans are playing politics as the 2022 election looms, hoping that the continued horror show will cost Whitmer reelection.
All along the way, Republicans have propped up the ridiculously dangerous “medical freedom” movement. It’s the logical endpoint of right-wing propaganda about what freedom is.
For decades, Republicans have sold people on the idea that universal health care is communism and true freedom can only be achieved by keeping a free-market system that can bankrupt you after a single visit to the ER.
They’ve told us that climate change isn’t real, but even if it is, corporations must have the freedom to poison our planet or else they’ll take away jobs or raise prices on everything.
And of course, they’ve idolized guns as the ultimate symbol of freedom — so much so that they’re good with domestic abusers and felons being able to buy firearms, while terrified parents get to instruct children on what to do in case of mass shootings at school, the mall, really anywhere — which occur almost daily.
Freedom isn’t free. In America, it’s really the freedom to die.
We are still free, of course, to reject this right-wing culture of death. But after years of living with savagery, too many of us seem too exhausted to fight.
Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.
Despite their millions, GOP hopefuls Dr. Oz and Dave White are using pre-checked boxes for extra campaign cash
Now, the Garden State resident and heart surgeon is asking for money for himself to underwrite his 2022 bid for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat
And just like viewers hoping for a healthier life, if Oz’s political supporters aren’t mindful of the fine print, they may not know what they are agreeing to.
Oz, along with fellow Republican Dave White, who’s running for governor, are the latest GOP candidates who have included pre-checked boxes on their fundraising solicitations that set up donors to make indefinite campaign contributions.
Both candidates are self-proclaimed millionaires and successful businessmen, whose personal wealth could be an asset as they both attempt to win competitive statewide primary elections in 2022.
Yet both also are taking advantage of a fundraising strategy, pioneered by former GOP President Donald Trump, that can juice a campaign’s finances, but has been criticized by members of both parties as unethical, and that the Federal Election Commission has asked Congress to ban.
In a statement, Marisa Nahem, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said that the candidates are “taking plays from Trump’s failed playbook.”
“The Republican ‘Super MAGA’ primary candidates are in it for themselves and they’re willing to scam unwitting Pennsylvanians just to survive a crowded and messy primary — it’s clear that Pennsylvania Republicans are more interested in propping up their far-right campaigns than putting the people first,” Nahem said.
Oz’s website displays the boxes after hitting potential donors with a campaign pitch.
“I’ve spent my career in medicine working to empower people to take control of their own lives,” the pitch, which includes a smiling picture of Oz, reads. “The government wants to tell you how to live your life, provide for your family, and make your health care decisions. I believe YOU should be in control to take back the power and feel like you are in control of YOUR life again.”
The site then suggests donations of between $25 to $2,900 — the FEC maximum for an individual donation.
Underneath the amounts are two check boxes in yellow. The first, already checked, makes the donation repeat monthly.
The second box has another plea for dollars.
“Dr. Oz is committed to putting the power back in the hands of the people. He needs you to join the Mid-Month Money Pledge to ensure that he has the support he needs to become Pennsylvania’s next Conservative Senator. Stand strong with him today!” the button reads.
Underneath, in small text, is the consequence of keeping the box checked: Another automatic donation on Dec. 15.
On Wednesday evening, the box listed the donation as $10. As of Thursday, the donation amount is listed as zero, although the box remains pre-checked.
Oz’s campaign did not reply to a request for comment.
White, a Delaware County entrepreneur running to be Pennsylvania’s next chief executive, also has used the pre-checked box, even after he said he’s put $2 million of his own money into the race.
His donation page has less pageantry. It just asks for a donation “to support Dave White WIN his race for Governor,” suggesting between $25 to $1,000 contributions.
White’s campaign did not reply to a request for comment.
Beneath is another yellow tinged checkbox already marked for recurring donations.
At least three statewide Republican candidates already have used the pre-checked box — gubernatorial candidate Bill McSwain and Senate candidates Kathy Barnette and Sean Parnell, who has suspended his campaign.
The main donation tabs on Barnette’s website now does not use the pre-checked box. *Depending on the link, some fundraising portals for the McSwain campaign still use the boxes. For instance, text messages from the McSwain campaign encourage donors to make recurring donations and give an extra donation mid-month under a warning that the “liberal mob is ready to do whatever it takes to maintain their control of critical states like PA.”
Multiple GOP gubernatorial candidates criticized the tactic earlier in this year. Gubernatorial candidate Joe Gale, an elected Montgomery County commissioner, called it a “scam;” Pittsburgh attorney Jason Richey said, if elected, he’d sign legislation banning it under state campaign finance laws.
All five of the candidates who used the boxes raised funds with WinRed, a Republican-aligned fundraising platform. The organization did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
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Michael Flynn is always in the news for the worst reasons.
Today, it’s because of the former Trump advisor’s feud with Lin Wood and the leaking of text messages and audio recording during which he calls QAnon “total nonsense” as well as a CIA psy-op. Last time, he was calling for a single religion in the United States. Time before that, QAnon members accused him of being a Satanist for a sermon at a church drawing from a former New Age apocalyptic leader.
Next time, it may be for something worse. In any case, everything Flynn has been doing suggests that QAnon or not, his audience, his rhetoric and his goals are far more concrete and far more sinister than the mocking media coverage suggests. Let’s start in September.
On September 17, Flynn was at the “Opening the Heavens” Conference at the Lord of Hosts Church in Omaha, Nebraska. That event claimed to be “an annual, multi-day event where the prophetic heart of God and the manifestation of His supernatural power are demonstrated to those in attendance and [those] viewing online around the world!”
Flynn spoke alongside a number of “prophetic” pastors, including Gene Bailey, executive director of Kenneth Copeland ministries, whose spiritual warfare preaching got the heavy-metal treatment last year.
Flynn’s speech made news due to QAnon’s reaction to it. It was said to be Satanic, ironic given QAnon’s resemblance to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Flynn’s speech resembled a 1984 sermon by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, founder of the Church Universal and Triumphant, a New Age apocalyptic group best known for their move to bunkers in Montana to await a prophesied nuclear apocalypse in 1990. Not only was it a failed doomsday cult, but it was a theosophic movement, something associated with Lucifer by its 18th-century founder.Flynn said he felt called to St. Michael, the archangel and his namesake. While the link between Prophet and Flynn is interesting, the text of Flynn’s “Archangel Prayer” is all by itself not so great:
We are your instrument
Of those sevenfold rays
And all your archangels, all of them
We will not retreat, we will not retreat
We will stand our ground
We will not fear to speak
We will be the instrument of your will
Whatever it is
In your name, and in the names of your legions
We are freeborn, and shall remain freeborn
And we shall not be enslaved by any foe
Within or without
So help me God.
“Seven rays” is a concept used in theosophy and in the Summit Lighthouse. Prophet’s prayer to Archangel Michael, which people have compared Flynn’s sermon, is not only part of the theosophic movement, but an aggressively anti-Communist talk, ending:
Archangel Michael, Stand with me!
Save my child!
Save my household!
Save my nation and bind those Communist hordes!
Others can analyze the I AM movement and its issues, but the use of militant religious language and the comparison to an aggressively apocalyptic, anti-Communist doomsday cult is bad enough.
Then in early November, Flynn and Wood had a series of exchanges -- people have focused on the audio recording of Flynn calling QAnon a CIA disinfo operation — but more worrying was the fact that he told Wood, on November 3, to read an article proving QAnon is a fraud.
Why more worrying? Because it was written by Hal Turner, a neo-Nazi radio host who’s promoted various QAnon conspiracies and served time for threatening elected officials -- he advocated murder repeatedly. The article is incredibly scary. It included this passage:
The Trump Anon believers want SOMEBODY ELSE to do it for them. Well, I’ve said this before and I will say it again now: Nobody is coming to save them/us. Nobody is coming to save the country. If you want something done, you gotta do it yourself. And until someone (but not me) decides that it is finally time to throw away all the comforts of this life, and brutally slaughter the people who are doing all these things, (and by “slaughter” I mean exactly that) then all these things will continue, unabated, to the destruction of our country and our oh-so-comfy lives.
This is standard Turner fare -- to preserve white nationalist power, people have to murder others, including elected officials -- but to have someone with Flynn’s background and his elite status within QAnon conspiracy and other movements promoting it is infinitely more terrifying than the entertainment value of seeing him bashing QAnon.
A week later Flynn and Wood were in Springfield, Missouri, at a “Preserving America” event billed as “Come and listen to America’s tier-1 patriot speakers and learn about preserving America under the Constitution.” Outside of the Springfield News-Leader, it garnered little press -- but one local sheriff attending claimed he had, “A great conversation with General Flynn. He wanted me to know the American Sheriff is the last line of defense for our freedom. I agree!”
Flynn has spoken with Richard Mack for the “Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association” podcast, an anti-government extremist group that works to recruit sheriffs into the “patriot” militia movement. The comment should be taken in that light.
Then there is Flynn’s ongoing “Reawaken America” tour, the most recent news items before the Wood blowup. On November 13, the tour was at the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, John Hagee’s church.
Hagee is an apocalypse minded Christian Zionist and his son and executive pastor of the church, Matt, was on stage for the event. The “Reawaken America Tour,” a QAnon speaking tour, has numerous pastors presenting -– Dave Scarlett, Mark Burns, Phil Hotsenpiller, Leon Benjamin, Greg Locke, Jackson Lahmeyer, Brian Gibson among them. All have pushed the Big Lie and Christian Nationalism.
On stage, Flynn said, “if we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.” The clip got widespread media play, but it is much more important in that broader context. “Reawaken America” has events in Dallas in December at Elevate Life Church in Frisco, where Pastor Keith Craft runs men-only “Warrior Nights,” dresses in militant garb, and mocks mask-wearing and the government.
In February, they’ll be at Trinity Gospel Temple in Canton, Ohio, where Pastor Dave Lombardi tweeted out on November 3: “‘King Cyrus’ will prevail! Christian principles will prevail!,” and “the ‘Walls of Jericho’ will fall tonight! The Gospel message will prevail! The March continues!”
Both ideas have violent overtones — the fall of the walls of Jericho is followed by the massacre of all inhabitants. “King Cyrus,” a reference here to Donald Trump, destroyed the empire of the Babylonians.
These events are linking congregations nationwide in a specific project -- to build an ultranationalist Christian right to control of America.
Flynn’s fall events show it is not as simple as whether or not he’s a grifter who pretends to believe in QAnon. He is. He’s a fraud. He’s corrupt. And we already knew this. But he’s also a corrupt fanatic, who believes in overthrowing the government and imposing a theocracy. He certainly seems comfortable reading and promoting neo-Nazi articles advocating the literal slaughter of enemies while doing so.
Stop laughing at Michael Flynn.
Driving him out of QAnon is great, but the other groups he’s engaged with, the other ideologies he’s a part of, are no laughing matter.