From guns to COVID, we’re all trying to survive the GOP’s dystopian culture of death

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?

No. The cruelty is the point, as essayist Adam Serwer noted during the Trump era. And so is the brazenness.

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: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Inside Trump and Eastman's Jan. 2 'Big Lie' call with more than 300 GOP state legislators

Michigan Senate Oversight Committee Chair Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) was on a call with hundreds of GOP lawmakers days before the Jan. 6 insurrection with President Donald Trump and his legal advisers, the Washington Post reported Saturday.

Trump was on the call along with lawyers John Eastman — who wrote a memo outlining how Vice President Mike Pence could disregard the 2020 Electoral College vote and install Trump for another term — and Rudy Giuliani, who Michigan House Republicans allowed to lead a long post-election hearing airing myriad baseless right-wing election conspiracy theories.

The call with 300 state legislators was a strategy session on decertifying 2020 presidential election results. Michigan's Board of State Canvassers approved in November President Joe Biden's more than 154,000-vote victory over Trump and Michigan's electors cast their ballots for Biden in December.

“You are the real power," Trump told the state lawmakers, according to the Washington Examiner. “You're the ones that are going to make the decision."

The Post also reported that Giuliani ran a “command center" at the Willard, a Washington, D.C., hotel, plotting with Eastman and other Trump loyalists like Stephen Bannon about how to overturn the 2020 election.

McBroom told the Washington Post of the call he was on: “I didn't need any convincing about our plenary powers," adding, “I was listening to hear whether they had any evidence to substantiate claims" of significant voter fraud that could change the results in Michigan. His office did not immediate return a request for comment from the Advance.

McBroom told the Post he did not hear such evidence and didn't support efforts to delay the vote count. However, a majority of the GOP caucus in the Michigan Senate went on to sign a letter asking members of Congress to examine baseless allegations of election fraud. An earlier version asked to delay the electoral vote count, as the Advance reported on Jan. 6.

The signees included state Sens. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek), Tom Barrett (R-Potterville), Kim LaSata (R-Bainbridge Twp.), Roger Victory (R-Georgetown Twp.), Dale Zorn (R-Ida), Lana Theis (R-Brighton), Kevin Daley (R-Lum), Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), Curtis VanderWall (R-Ludington), Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes) and Jim Runestad (R-White Lake). The Advance noted at the time that McBroom, who also held hearings in which Republicans made unproven election fraud claims, did not sign on.

Lawmakers in Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania also signed letters to Pence asking to delay certification. The Advance reported the 11 Michigan House members who signed on were: Reps. Julie Alexander (R-Hanover), Ken Borton (R-Gaylord), Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers), Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair Twp.), Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan), Matt Maddock (R-Millford), Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville), John Reilly (R-Oakland), Daire Rendon (R-Lake City), Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Twp.) and Doug Wozniak (R-Shelby Twp.).

In June, the Senate Oversight Committee led by McBroom released a 35-page report concluding that there was no widespread evidence of voter fraud and debunking several conspiracy theories.

“Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan," the report reads. “The committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain."

Trump was incensed by the report and attacked both McBroom and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake).

“Michigan state Sens. Mike Shirkey and Ed McBroom are doing everything possible to stop voter audits in order to hide the truth about November 3rd," Trump said in a statement. “The Senate 'investigation' of the election is a cover up and a method of getting out of a forensic audit for the examination of the Presidential contest."


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: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Michigan's Whitmer vetoes bills part of nationwide right-wing effort to restrict voting after Trump's 2020 loss

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Sunday vetoed three Republican election bills introduced after former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election as part of a nationwide right-wing effort to restrict voting and change election rules. She also vetoed a fourth measure she said lacked the proper funding.

Despite Trump's loss in Michigan and other key states, he and his supporters have continued to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories. Whitmer said in the veto letter obtained by the Michigan Advance that they were an “attempt to suppress the vote or perpetuate the 'Big Lie': the calculated disinformation campaign to discredit the 2020 election. I will have no part in any effort that grants an ounce of credence to this deception, so injurious to our democracy."

Biden defeated Trump by more than 154,000 votes in Michigan. The GOP-led Senate Oversight Committee in June issued a 35-page election report concluded there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Michigan and debunked several conspiracy theories.

“The 2020 election was free, secure, and accurate. The results were certified and officially audited by trusted local election officials, as required by law," Whitmer said in her letter to lawmakers. “Judges appointed by both Republicans and Democrats rejected more than 60 lawsuits challenging the outcome."

The vetoed legislation is House Bills 4837, 4838, 4492 and 4528, which passed the Senate last week.

HB 4837, sponsored by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Springport), restricts who has access to the qualified voter file. Whitmer called out the bill because it “implies that outside parties had access to the state's qualified voter file [in the 2020 election]. They did not."

HB 4838, introduced by state Rep. Phil Green (R-Millington), would prohibit internet access to voting machines — rooted in a right-wing conspiracy theory that this happened during the 2020 election. Whitmer noted in her veto letter that the bill “implies that electronic poll books were connected to the internet and vulnerable to tampering. They never were."

HB 4492, sponsored by Rep. Ann Bollin (R-Brighton), would expand polling place locations. But Whitmer vetoed it because she said it would “make it more difficult for seniors and persons living in large apartment complexes to vote."

The last bill, HB 4528, sponsored by Rep. Bryan Posthumus (R-Cannon Twp.), would require the secretary of state to provide more training for election challengers. Whitmer said the bill “is worth further consideration, it must have the necessary funding to accomplish its purpose."

“I am laser focused on kitchen-table issues that get things done for Michiganders, like fixing the roads, ensuring clean water, and providing good-paying jobs," she said. “We can and should work together on election policy, as well – but only in ways that strengthen our democracy. I am ready to join hands with anyone who shares these goals."

Since Republicans anticipated that Whitmer would veto voting restriction bills, they have a Plan B with a ballot measure. If the Secure MI Vote campaign gathers enough signatures, the initiative first goes to the GOP-controlled Legislature for approval. Whitmer lacks the power to veto that.

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: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Michigan Republicans avoid tough questions as they beg lobbyists and multi-millionaires for cash

Real news is rarely made at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, an ostentatious Michigan schmoozefest where politicians beg lobbyists and multi-millionaires for cash and thirsty lesser-known candidates sometimes ditch their contempt for the media and do interviews in hopes they'll break out of single-digits in polling.

Don't get me wrong — it's not always boring. Sometimes political operatives get punched there.

Future GOP presidential candidates have been known to test the waters at the biennial event — although this weekend's selection was decidedly C-List with former Vice President Mike Pence and ex-U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley bowing out. That left attendees with the rhetorical stylings of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who reportedly announced, “I never thought I would go to Michigan and live to tell about it."

The Michigan Advance didn't cover the confab — we were again denied credentials — which is part of an unfortunate pattern of elected officials and politicians ducking tough questions, which has only accelerated during the pandemic.

However, if you turned to the Advance this weekend for political and policy coverage, I don't think you left disappointed, as we strive to cover things other outlets don't. We talked to Black business leaders about the Detroit Chamber of Commerce's focus on inclusion and diversity at its annual conference (also on Mackinac Island) and what more needs to be done. We had an eye-opening look at the pandemic's toll on children, with thousands sickened and more than 1 million orphaned.

And we ran commentary from longtime Georgia political columnist Jay Bookman on the blueprint for former President Donald Trump's coup attempt, known as the Eastman memo (as it was written by Trump legal adviser John Eastman) — and why democracy is in more danger than ever even though it failed.

“In that memo, Eastman lays out a step-by-step scheme by which Vice President Mike Pence could single-handedly overturn the results of the presidential election and ensure that Trump stayed in office, despite having lost the election," Bookman writes. “Trump embraced the strategy wholeheartedly, as subsequent events have proved."

Had the Advance been at the MIGOP affair, you can bet we would have asked leaders about if they supported or condemned the Eastman memo and future attempts to overturn elections. I can't really think of a more pressing issue than whether or not donors, party leaders and elected officials believe that our democratic electoral process can be swept aside if a Republican doesn't win.

That's really the ballgame, isn't it?

We only have two major political parties in the country. If one of them is being led by people who believe that democracy and the Constitution are impediments to maintaining power, what does that mean for America's future? What does that mean for a free and independent press?

The conference featured a “voter integrity" panel in which GOP officials concluded that their big mistake in 2020 was not trying to create legal chaos early enough — not Trump failing to win enough votes or Republicans filing bogus cases lying about election fraud and causing an astroturf scene at Detroit's TCF Center to stop absentee ballot counting.

We would have followed up and asked about the national GOP effort to restrict voting rights in almost every state, including the “Secure MI Vote" voter suppression ballot measure. We would have asked, for instance, why is it even necessary, when the GOP-controlled Michigan Senate Oversight Committee concluded in an extensive report that there was no voter fraud in 2020 and blasted hucksters for making bank off election conspiracies?

But then again, those are probably the kind of hard-hitting questions the GOP party brass wanted to avoid.

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: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

An overlooked goal of the rising far-right? Get good people to quit.

When U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) this week announced his retirement after being one of only a handful Republicans to impeach former President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, it was greeted with the usual discourse when moderates step aside.

Pundits are always atwitter if this mean that Democrats are moving too far left or Republicans are shifting too far right and speculate what this means for the party's fortunes in the next election. (Usually you get some “Washington is broken" laments for good measure.)

While all that's a standard part of political discourse, it does obscure a rising and more sinister trend: An explicit goal of the fascist far-right-wing of the Republican Party — those who stormed the U.S. Capitol to wage a violent coup and their myriad sympathizers who hold elected office — is to make good people quit politics, from members of Congress down to members of school boards.

The goal is to exact such a personal toll that people decide it's just not worth it for them, and especially their families, to serve. In a disturbing interview with the New York Times, Gonzalez, 37, described an “eye-opening" moment when uniformed police officers showed up at the Cleveland airport to give him extra security after his January impeachment vote.

“That's one of those moments where you say, 'Is this really what I want for my family when they travel, to have my wife and kids escorted through the airport?'" he told the Times.

Gonzalez, of course, isn't alone in Congress. U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids), who also voted for Trump's impeachment, said afterward he and colleagues were buying body armor.

Those who stood up for democracy now have some decisions to make — and one of them is quitting like Gonzalez. While it makes complete sense to put your family first, it does, unfortunately help the far-right's goal of opening up a seat for a pro-insurrectionist Republican.

An explicit goal of the fascist far-right-wing of the Republican Party — those who stormed the U.S. Capitol to wage a violent coup and their myriad sympathizers who hold elected office — is to make good people quit politics, from members of Congress down to members of school boards.

– Susan J. Demas

And now U.S. House GOP leadership has now openly thrown in with the insurrectionists, trying to stonewall investigations, even though violent rioters were hunting down Republican and Democratic members alike on Jan. 6. For good measure, the caucus booted U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who also voted for impeachment, as conference chair.

In Michigan, we've almost become used to violent threats as a standard right-wing political tactic throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and after Trump's thumping in the 2020 election (despite his lies and endless voting conspiracy theories). We were the site of some of the largest, heavily armed protests over stay-home orders featuring signs calling for Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's murder.

Right-wing activists stormed the state Capitol on April 30, 2020, with some AR-15-toting men looming over senators in the gallery as they took critical pandemic votes in what's been described as a “dress rehearsal" for the Jan. 6 insurrection.

BIPOC lawmakers, in particular, raised the alarm, but said they had to take security measures into their own hands when GOP leaders ignored their pleas. Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) was escorted to the Capitol afterward by armed Black citizens, while Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) donned a bulletproof vest.

Then in October, Whitmer made international news after federal agents busted a self-described militia plot to allegedly kidnap and kill her over her health orders — and incite civil war. Notably, the top GOP leaders at the time, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and then-House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), joined yet another anti-Whitmer rally at the Capitol just hours after law enforcement announced the arrests. (Shirkey told the crowd, “We need to be strong … and not be afraid of those who are taking our freedoms away from us.")

We also had warnings that the far-right wasn't content just to intimidate officials at the federal or state level, with car caravans known as “Trump Trains" rolling through small communities last year like Houghton in the western Upper Peninsula. Vehicles donned Trump, American and Confederate flags and Trump supporters allegedly yelled out threats and racial slurs.

We've seen throughout history that these are popular fascist terror tactics, like the “squadrismos" that roamed the Italian countryside. Gangs of hundreds or even thousands of men brutalized citizens, particularly socialists, in the runup to Mussolini coming to power.

We're not supposed to believe that kind of wanton violence can happen here, but after witnessing hundreds desecrate the Capitol and try to overthrow the government, why would we be so sure?

It's not a coincidence that local health officials and school board members are the latest targets of right-wing hate over school mask mandates, even as COVID cases are skyrocketing in kids. There's the genteel attempt to strip state and local health officials' power to stop mass death with the well-financed Unlock Michigan ballot petition, but then there are the crass threats and protests at what used to be sleepy local meetings across the state and country.

Melissa Ryan, the editor of the Ctrl Alt-Right Delete (CARD) newsletter and an expert on extremism, told the Advance that this is just the next phase of well-funded, well-connected national right-wing groups that first whipped up anger against lockdowns, and then moved on to blasting school sports bans and the COVID vaccine.

“It's largely the same people; it's the same groups; it's the same resources. They're trying to keep their base as enraged as possible," Ryan said. “They're not necessarily trying to change anyone's mind. They're trying to cause so much disruption that it's just easier for a school board member to resign or for the policy to change, not because it's how the majority of parents feel, but because it's just easier not dealing with them."

School board members tend to be parents or former educators who volunteer their time because they care about kids and their communities. Health officials are just trying to make evidence-based decisions for public safety. They didn't sign up to be subjected to Nazi salutes or death threats. You can't blame people for resigning like Ohio's health director, Dr. Amy Acton.

But we can't sleep on the fact that these fascist tactics are working and the far-right is emboldened. This week, Ryan Kelley, a GOP gubernatorial candidate who was at the Jan. 6 insurrection, posted a disturbing TikTok video outside an Ottawa County Commission meeting.

“You don't even know yet what this is going to look like if you guys keep trying this tyranny," Kelley declared.

Right-wing extremists are prepared to get what they want by any means necessary. This isn't the fight a lot of us wanted, but it's here. Pick a side.

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: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

You're 11 times more likely to die of COVID if you're unvaccinated: CDC study

Those who didn't get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 were 11 times more likely to die of the virus than those who got their shots, according to a new study from the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This article was originally published at Michigan Advance

People who weren't fully immunized also were than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than those who were. The study published Friday examined 600,000 COVID-19 cases in 13 states from April through mid-July.

“The bottom line is this: We have the scientific tools we need to turn the corner on this pandemic," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing Friday. “Vaccination works and will protect us from the severe complications of COVID-19."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved COVID-19 vaccines on an emergency basis in December. There were initial limitations on who could receive the vaccine in Michigan, with groups like health care workers and seniors having priority. By April 5, all Michiganders 16 and up were eligible to get their shots. In May, the feds signed off on children 12 to 15 receiving the Pfizer vaccine.

The CDC study dovetails with data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that the Advance reported on in August. Between Jan. 15 and July 21, 98% of the state's COVID-19 cases were among people who were either unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, DHHS said About 95% of COVID-19 deaths during that same time period were individuals who were not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated, according to the health department.

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: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Mike Pence and Nikki Haley drop out of Michigan GOP conference

The biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference scheduled for later this month has lost two headliners: former Vice President Mike Pence and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Speakers who are still on the Michigan GOP event's list include other potential 2024 presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Other guests include Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Ronna McDaniel, former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, former Michigan Gov. John Engler and former President Donald Trump spokesman and “Dancing with the Stars" alum Sean Spicer.

The confab is slated for Sept. 24 to 26 on Mackinac Island and is considered a critical event for GOP candidates before the 2022 election.

The Mackinac Policy Conference sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce takes place days before at the Grand Hotel and has a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for safety, angering many Republicans. Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock said last month the GOP event does not have one in a Facebook post swiping at the Detroit Chamber conference and urging people to “hang out with me and Sean 'Spicy' Spicer."

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: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

The stomach-churning hypocrisy of the so-called ‘pro-life’ movement has revealed their true face

This week, my almost 19-year-old daughter stepped foot on her college campus to take classes for the first time (a year late thanks to the loud, selfish minority's continual refusal to take COVID seriously).

This article was originally published at Michigan Advance

As I hugged her goodbye, it occurred to me that she now has fewer rights as a woman than I did when I left the nest for college 23 years ago.

Thanks to five far-right Supreme Court justices cowardly dropping an opinion in the dead of night Thursday essentially gutting Roe v. Wade, millions of people in Texas just lost their right to safe, legal abortion. (Of course, abortion has been around thousands of years and will always continue — it's just more people will desperately seek out risky methods). Other red states will giddily follow.

When it comes to women's rights in America, we have undisputedly gone backward.

Think your birth control is safe? Same-sex marriage? Please. The extremist Supreme Court will have the final say over what you do with your body and in your bedroom. Basic health care and civil rights will be overturned — perhaps without even giving citizens the courtesy of arguing their case in court.

This is the end point of a far-right Republican Party that considers the American experiment of democracy to be a failure because it's no longer conducive for them to fairly win elections on its unpopular platform of tax cuts for billionaires and basic rights for straight white men only.

Progress is never inevitable and permanency for hard-fought rights isn't guaranteed — that's a lesson we need to heed as we're being attacked on every front, from racial justice to the safety net. But after years of listening to Republicans shamelessly lie about abortion methods and statistics — even in legislation — and male pundits and editors smugly dismiss women who warned Roe would be overturned as “hysterical," I think we're all allowed to be angry right now.

As a journalist, I've been trained to question everything (the old adage is, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.") So it's been wild to see how the so-called pro-life movement has long been treated gingerly by the media.

Their talking points are repeatedly and egregiously false, from claiming that abortion leads to breast cancer to claiming that late-term abortions are casually prescribed to former President Donald Trump's favorite bizarre lie that doctors and women are teaming up for post-birth abortions (which would be straight-up infanticide and of course it isn't happening).

Since Trump came on the scene, many reporters have struggled with how to cover Republicans, whose press releases, tweets and public comments are a gordian knot of falsehoods that take paragraphs to debunk (they're of course counting on us not to bother and just reprint their propaganda).

But the anti-abortion movement wrote the playbook they're following.

Working the refs and loudly complaining about coverage you don't like — complete with threatening reporters' jobs, which some might call “cancel culture" — is a staple of right-wing political training. But there's more at work than that. Many journalists give anti-abortion activists enormous deference, rarely questioning if their moral or religious objection to basic health care is sincere — or if it's just rooted in deep misogyny. After all, pro-lifers are often vocally against the Equal Rights Amendment or even equal pay. It's not like they're hiding their sexist agenda.

But we do our readers and viewers dirty to unquestioningly include anti-abortion lies for the sake of balance — and it's irreconcilable with our core mission of informing the public.

We've also set the stage for how much of the COVID-19 pandemic has been covered, with lies and conspiracy theories spewed by anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers often juxtaposed with doctors detailing scientific research and giving sound medical advice. Gotta tell both sides.

We've now been living through a horrific pandemic for almost two years that's killed over 640,000 Americans — equivalent to wiping out the entire state of Vermont — and sickened 39 million, roughly the population of California, our biggest state.

It's been fascinating to see the radio silence from the so-called pro-life movement to stop a mass death event. This should have been their moment — if this was really about sincerely held beliefs.

Yet they're not on the forefront of the public health fight for masks in schools — especially to protect vulnerable children — and even lobbied in Michigan for vaccines to come with a warning if aborted fetal cells were used in developing them, which amped up vaccine hesitancy. Oh, and when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued stay-home orders in spring 2020, Right to Life of Michigan stayed mum on the life-saving measure, except to complain that she didn't shut down women's health clinics, sniffing that “her most important audience is Joe Biden's vice presidential selection committee."

It was always about raw political power for the right. It was never about the preservation of human life.

That's why your friendly neighborhood conservative who told you Trump wasn't that bad has been cheering over the Supreme Court's “pro-life" decision in Texas, but he's fine with your babies going to school and getting murdered by an active shooter or getting life-threatening COVID because “freedom."

But after watching anti-abortion activists' flagrant and stomach-churning hypocrisy during the pandemic — which is typically considered the greatest political sin imaginable — it's amazing that most reporters didn't cover groups with any more skepticism.

Last fall, Republicans installed anti-abortion warrior Amy Coney Barrett to replace women's rights champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the high court just days before badly losing the 2020 election. Barrett was mawkishly lauded by some women as “a new feminist icon" while others defended her against attacks on her large family (which Democrats never made).

Well, here's the truth about living in Amy Barrett's America, ladies. She got to have the family she wanted and on her own terms. You don't.

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: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Law professor says Supreme Court order 'functionally ends Roe'

After days of silence, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an unsigned order early Thursday allowing a Texas abortion ban to go into effect, setting a precedent for other states to pass similar laws. The law, Senate Bill 8, which experts say effectively bans 90% of abortions in the second-largest state of 29 million, went into effect 24 hours prior when the high court didn't weigh in.

This article was originally published at Michigan Advance

“In reaching this conclusion, we stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants' lawsuit. In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas's law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts," the opinion said.

University of Michigan law professor Leah Litman, who has been tracking the case, said that the decision has broad implications.

“The Court didn't say anything about Roe [v. Wade] in the order, but they didn't have to: Allowing TX to ban abortions functionally ends Roe," Litman tweeted Thursday.

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's liberal justices and wrote a dissent, as did Justices Elena Kagan. Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

“The Court's order is stunning," Sotomayor writes. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand. Last night, the Court silently acquiesced in a State's enactment of a law that flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents. Today, the Court belatedly explains that it declined to grant relief because of procedural complexities of the State's own invention."

In her dissent, Kagan writes that “without full briefing or argument, and after less than 72 hours' thought, this Court greenlights the operation of Texas's patently unconstitutional law banning most abortions."

“As of last night, and because of this Court's ruling, Texas law prohibits abortions for the vast majority of women who seek them — in clear, and indeed undisputed, conflict with Roe and Casey," she adds.

The Supreme Court's decision comes earlier than expected, as the court in May agreed to hear another case that could end the right to abortion, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. That's a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks.

However, abortion rights advocates have been bracing for the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to be overturned or severely curtailed since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a women's rights champion, died late into former President Donald Trump's term last year. A GOP-majority U.S. Senate quickly replaced her with Trump's right-wing nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, who has a long track record of opposing reproductive health rights, just before Trump lost the 2020 election.

The Texas law bans abortions as early as six weeks with no exceptions for incest or rape. It allows private individuals to sue anyone who they believe is providing abortions or assisting someone in accessing an abortion, including health care workers, clergies and rideshare drivers. Not only does the law allow for citizens to sue, but it incentivizes it by awarding them at least $10,000 if they are successful. Because the law gives the power to enforce the ban to private individuals, it makes it difficult to challenge the law in court.

The law is seen as a green light for Republicans in other states to pass similar legislation. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would veto any bills the GOP-controlled Legislature would pass, so anti-abortion activists likely would go with a ballot measure. Under Michigan law, the Legislature can approve such petitions and the governor has no power to veto — something Right to Life of Michigan has successfully used for abortion restrictions in the past.

“Reproductive health and rights all over the country have never been at greater risk – what's happening in Texas makes that painfully clear," Sarah Wallett, Planned Parenthood of Michigan chief medical officer, told the Advance Wednesday. “Here in Michigan, we face an especially dangerous threat."

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: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

The 1/6 Commission wants to know what went down with Trump and Michigan Republicans

There's been some mystery surrounding a post-2020 election White House meeting between then-President Donald Trump and Michigan legislative leaders, including state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and former House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering).

This article was originally published at Michigan Advance

Now the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol wants to know what really went down.

After the Nov. 20 meeting, the Republicans said they were there to talk about COVID-19 relief, not to entertain Trump's request to help overturn the 2020 election. He lost Michigan by more than 154,000 votes to now-President Joe Biden. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was on the phone during the meeting.

However, Trump after the meeting tweeted that it was “much different than reported by the media. We will show massive and unprecedented fraud!" Chatfield and other lawmakers were seen drinking champagne at the Trump Hotel in Washington that night.

And in subsequent interviews, Shirkey said that the election did come up, but he told Trump lawmakers had no role in awarding electoral votes. Shirkey also has endorsed the conspiracy theory that “dead people voted" in 2020 and called the Jan. 6 insurrection was a “hoax," falsely claiming Trump supporters were not behind it.

Shortly after the meeting, the GOP-controlled Michigan House Oversight Committee invited Giuliani to testify on Dec. 2 about baseless allegations of election fraud. Giuliani told lawmakers they had the power to overturn the election. Trump and his allies also plotted to overturn other states he lost, including Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, pressuring GOP leaders to assist them and filing a slew of unsuccessful lawsuits.

The special House committee has demanded documents from the National Archives and seven other agencies related to the attack and Trump's attempt to overturn the election. Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a letter to the U.S. Archivist that the panel wants documents on “planning by the White House or others for legal or other strategies to delay, halt or otherwise impede the electoral count."

As part of that, the panel wants communications from Nov. 3 and Jan. 20 between the Trump White House and three Michigan GOP officials: Shirkey, Chatfield and Wayne County Canvasser Monica Palmer. Trump called Palmer after the board certified Biden's win during a chaotic Nov. 17 meeting in which Republican members initially refused to do so. Wayne is Michigan's largest county that includes Detroit, a Democratic stronghold that's 80% African-American. Palmer unsuccessfully tried to rescind her vote afterward.

House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) has called for a state-level committee to investigate Michigan's ties to the insurrection.

“What we saw today coming out of D.C. is what we've known here in Michigan all along – Republican leaders Shirkey and Chatfield were involved in conversations at the highest levels in the lead up to the Jan. 6 insurrection. We deserve to know the details on how involved they, and potentially other Michigan elected leaders, were in the disgraceful events of last January. No stone should be left unturned in D.C. or in Michigan," she said.

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: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Michigan man facing jail time after sending vulgar threat to Gov. Whitmer: 'We have been watching and know your every step'

Kevin Dawe, 31, of Clarkston is facing jail time for allegedly sending threatening messages directed at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Monday.

This article was originally published at Michigan Advance

Dawe has been charged with two counts of malicious use of telecommunications services, misdemeanors each punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

“There is a fine line between airing grievances with an elected official and threatening their life or their loved ones," Nessel said. “My office stands ready to pursue criminal charges against anyone who crosses that line."

This comes after federal and state agents in October announced that a group of self-described militia members were allegedly plotting to kidnap and kill Whitmer over her COVID-19 health restrictions.

The charges against Dawe stem from two alleged threats in January and March. Dawe allegedly sent threatening messages through web submissions to the governor's Constituent Services Department.

The messages included vulgar language, Nessel said, providing this censored excerpt: “Take care . . . and maybe shelter. We have been watching and know your every step. You f*** with everyday hard-working Americans, we F*** WITH YOU."

A request for comment from Whitmer's office was not immediately returned.

Dawe turned himself into the Michigan State Police Metro North Post on Thursday and posted a $500 cash bond. Court dates will be set in Eaton County 56A District Court.

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: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Ignorant knuckle-draggers have a startling amount of power in America -- now we're all paying the price

Sane America has had enough.

After almost two years of a horrific pandemic that's killed almost 620,000 Americans — with nearly 20,000 of them from Michigan — and deadly, faster-spreading variants emerging because selfish and ignorant people refuse to get vaccinated — those of us who have tried to do everything right have no more f–ks left to give.

This article was originally published at Michigan Advance

Anti-vaxxers, COVID conspiracy theorists and right-wing politicians have made the pandemic far more hellacious than it ever needed to be. We have been lectured endlessly by pundits and attention seekers on social media that we musn't ever make them feel bad about their awful choices — no matter how many public, violent scenes they cause over health rules, heavily armed protests they organize to intimidate us and how much the death toll soars.

Their feelings have been deemed more important than the health and well-being of our families, because somehow if we kowtow to the worst people in our society, a few will supposedly be nice enough to get vaccinated or wear masks.


Knuckle-draggers do not deserve veto power over our safety. The only way we will make COVID an occasional nuisance instead of a mortal threat to everyone's health is with vaccine mandates for everything from school to concerts to travel.

If you refuse to get vaccinated — and this goes double if you are someone with enough of a platform to influence others — you are to blame for the fourth wave. You are the reason why more children are being hospitalized, so spare me your family values bloviation. You are why good people who have done their part and gotten their shots are getting breakthrough cases.

I am tired of sugarcoating it. I am tired of the perennial hectoring to “both sides" the pandemic like we mindlessly do with political coverage.

The 40% who can't be bothered to get jabbed because they know more than doctors or they understand freedom better than the rest of us or just know that the magnetic 5G is gonna be injected in their veins are why people continue to needlessly die. And they are why life continues to be hell for the rest of us.

Yes, there is a political divide in vaccination rates — and Republicans are on the wrong side of it. Let's stop denying the obvious or making excuses for a party whose pandemic response has been a mix of crass pandering to their base and sociopathic stupidity.

For almost a year and a half, most of us have stayed home as much as we could, helped our neighbors, homeschooled our children, faithfully worn masks and gotten our shots when it was our turn. Health care workers, in particular, have seen the most unfathomable human suffering, been forced to isolate from their families and have desperately pleaded with people to follow simple health rules and get vaccinated so that we can put COVID-19 behind us.

We were promised that by sacrificing, working hard and playing by the rules, we could put an end to mass death and finally get back to some of the things that bring us joy: having parties, going to festivals, traveling beyond our backyards and more.

But the dream of post-COVID normalcy is fading fast as Delta and other variants have ripped through our country, even infecting some of the vaccinated.

That's also threatening our economic recovery, which is why you're seeing corporate America step up with major companies like Walmart and Google finally issuing vaccine mandates.

And like clockwork, grandstanding dimwits in the Michigan Legislature are debating GOP legislation outlawing vaccine passports on the heels of Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) giddily leading the charge to snatch away Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's emergency powers. They have plenty of company, with GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott banning schools from issuing mask mandates, while GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been busy tying local governments' abilities to fight COVID, too.

Let's be clear. Vaccine passports should have been mandatory from the jump. Counting on people to do the right thing has worked for most people during the pandemic — but there are millions who have proven they couldn't care less about keeping others — or even themselves — alive.

But it seems to be in our DNA as Americans to cower in the face of an angry (white) minority, and so President Biden and many Democratic politicians were convinced that mandates wouldn't work. Of course, even efforts by Whitmer and other leaders to essentially bribe people into getting vaccinated with lottery-style raffles were deemed by Republicans as slightly less offensive than critical race theory.

Yes, there is a political divide in vaccination rates — and Republicans are on the wrong side of it. Let's stop denying the obvious or making excuses for a party whose pandemic response has been a mix of crass pandering to their base and sociopathic stupidity.

How did we get to a point where the proudly ignorant wield this much power, anyway?

Well, in my more than 20-year career in journalism, there has been one constant: You are never, ever to make people who are loudly anti-intellectual, knowingly spew lies and publicly pat themselves on the back for it, feel dumb. That is the sin of elitism and there is nothing worse, you see. Even casting the argument in positive terms, like lauding the value of higher education, is considered looking down on nice folks who insist that the earth is flat and their theories should command the same respect as those of Galileo.

We're told there's nothing worse than living in liberal bubbles (even though those in the media and on the left are obsessed with trying to understand red state America). But you know what? Living in a blue enclave is a pretty great way to survive a plague. Nobody yells at you for wearing a mask at the gas station. Schools actually care about our kids' safety. Officials aren't trying to score political points off of our misery.

And so when I have taken publications to task for knowingly printing lies about COVID-19, particularly from GOP leaders who know exactly what they're doing, the reaction is always dreadfully boring. A seasoned journalist (read: white and male) takes it upon himself to lecture me that I know nothing of journalism (even though I've run two publications and they typically have run none), and people must be trusted to make up their own minds and sift between facts and B.S.

How's that working out as we're facing another fall and winter trapped in our homes as unvaccinated-propelled variants crash across the country?

After this much unneeded agony, I'm done coddling the craven and crazy. And I know I'm not alone.

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: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.