We’ve coddled ignorance for years. Now we’re all paying the price with COVID.

This is not a real column, but it wouldn’t be completely surprising to see it | Susan J. Demas graphic

Sane America has had enough.

After almost two years of a horrific pandemic that’s killed almost 620,000 Americans 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.

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.

Nope.

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. Read more

Stein, other attorneys general tell congressional leaders to guard against voter suppression, possibly reform the filibuster

Attorney General Josh Stein announcing a lawsuit settlement in June

A group of 22 attorneys general including North Carolina’s Josh Stein, on Monday sent a letter to bipartisan congressional leaders urging them to pass legislation protecting against both voter suppression and election subversion and possibly reform the filibuster.

“Following the 2020 presidential election, we witnessed something many of us considered unthinkable: an attempt by the then-sitting President of the United States [Donald Trump], assisted by certain state elected officials, to steal a presidential election,” the AGs write. “We, the undersigned 22 attorneys general, write to emphasize that the peril to our democracy did not end on Inauguration Day, with the transfer of power from one administration to another. To safeguard our democracy, it is vital that Congress act promptly —including, if necessary, to reform the filibuster — to pass legislation protecting against both voter suppression and election subversion.” Click here to access the full letter.

The coalition is led by Stein, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford. Other AGs who signed on are from: California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

“Each of our offices worked to ensure that the 2020 general election was conducted freely, fairly, and with integrity. Our offices challenged changes made by the United States Postal Service that slowed mail delivery and increased the risk that some votes cast by mail would not be counted,” the attorneys general write. “Some of our offices also defended modifications made by our internal elections administrators to ensure that voters had a fair opportunity to vote and that their votes were properly counted during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. We made clear that voter intimidation at the polls would not be tolerated. And our offices successfully defended democracy by opposing the effort of 18 states to overthrow the presidential election results.”

The AGs write that Trump did not succeed in 2020 because “the legal arguments made by those seeking to overturn election results were generally so extraordinarily weak that they did not have even the veneer of legitimacy” and some Democratic and GOP election officials “refused to buckle under pressure at critical points.”

However, the coalition argues that federal legislation is necessary to strengthening voting protections and prevent election subversion. As the Advance has reported, Republicans in 48 states, including Michigan have bills clamping down on voting rights. They also note the growing right-wing movement for so-called election audits, as have been proposed in Michigan and other states.

“The truths upon which this nation was founded are self-evident. They are not self-executing, however. The profound challenges confronting our democracy demand that Congress act to prevent voter suppression and election subversion. Irrespective of one’s views on the value of the filibuster in general, it must not be allowed to stop Congress from addressing these issues so fundamental to our Constitution and democracy,“ the letter concludes.

Susan Demas is the editor-in-chief of the Michigan Advance, which first published this report.

The latest on Trump’s effort to overturn the vote in Michigan

Michigan state House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, both Republicans, are supposed to be headed to the White House Friday for a chat with President Donald Trump, who’s been eager to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election won by Democrat Joe Biden.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appeared Thursday night on both CNN and MSNBC, with the GOP leaders’ meeting as the primary topic of discussion.

CNN host Erin Burnett asked Whitmer about Trump’s contention that he should win Michigan, despite losing by about 155,000 votes, and what she can do about it.

“The president can say all he wants; he can summon people to the White House all he wants. He can try to interfere — which raises serious legal and ethical questions, by the way. But the fact of the matter is, Joe Biden won this state and won big — by 14 times the margin that Donald Trump won Michigan in 2016,” said Whitmer, a former Ingham County prosecutor.

“The will of the people will be done. And these efforts to disenfranchise Wayne County, where the majority of our African American voters live is just a blatant attempt to steal the election result and disenfranchise Michigan voters, and it will not stand.”

That echoes arguments made by University of Michigan law professor Richard Primus in a Thursday Politico column. He argues taking the meeting is a threat to democracy, but he also lays out a case that it “threatens the two Michigan legislators, personally, with the risk of criminal investigation.” Neither Shirkey nor Chatfield are attorneys.

“The president is a dealmaker, and it’s far more likely that his agenda is transactional. When considering a course of action, he doesn’t think about principles; he thinks about what’s in it for whom. So it makes sense to think that he is inviting Shirkey and Chatfield for a private meeting to offer them something,” Primus writes.

“… The danger for Shirkey and Chatfield, then, is that they are being visibly invited to a meeting where the likely agenda involves the felony of attempting to bribe a public official.”

Primus notes that if Trump is successful in staying in office for a second term, he could stymie a Department of Justice investigation, but he would have no ability to stop a state probe by Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose spokesperson retweeted the story.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Whitmer was asked about Shirkey’s previous comments that seemed to suggest the Legislature would not intervene in the post-election process and if she was concerned that he would now change his mind.

She responded, “of course … I don’t know why they’d be going to the White House.”

Earlier on Thursday, Whitmer noted that she and Democratic legislative leaders sent a letter to congressional leaders asking for a COVID-19 relief bill, but Shirkey and Chatfield declined to sign on.

“Maybe they’re going to lobby for COVID funding, which would be welcome here in Michigan and across the country. It’s one of the things that our nation’s governors — I was one of them — met with the incoming Biden administration about today [said] is desperately needed. And if that’s what they’re doing wonderful, but if they’re going there to undermine the results of this election and disenfranchise Michigan voters and to embarrass the state of Michigan, what they are doing runs against our law and they should be very careful because it’s dangerous.” Read more

RBG is gone. This is why we fight.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, best known as a steely champion of women’s equality, gave voice to the voiceless. And as a legendary Supreme Court justice, she was committed to ensuring their rightful place in America until the day she died.

We have lost so much as a country during these last four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, marked by immigrant kids in cages at the border, people suffering in poverty, attacks on voting rights, brazen government corruption, impeachment-worthy foreign policy, waves of police attacks against Black Lives Matter protesters, a rise in white nationalist violence, an assault on LGBTQ rights, especially for trans people, and more — culminating with a plague that’s killed 200,000 people and bludgeoned the economy.

Ginsburg tried mightily to be a bulwark against this rising reactionary tide. “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you,” she exhorted.

No one person can do it alone.

With her death Friday at age 87, it’s so easy to succumb to fatalism, since Trump will almost certainly get to replace her (especially if you made the mistake of spending last night on Twitter, as I did).

If you’re a masochist, social media is a great place to see Republicans’ full inhumanity on display in real time, from U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) fundraising off of Ginsburg’s death minutes after it happened to U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) declaring, “RIP to the more than 30 million innocent babies that have been murdered during the decades that Ruth Bader Ginsburg defended pro-abortion laws.” That’s nothing compared to the cackling from right-wing media figures, of course.

And there was the predictable chorus of Republicans victoriously firing off statements that Trump must absolutely fill Ginsburg’s slot less than two months before the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) waited one hour before giddily announcing that he would definitely try and ram a nominee through this term, even though RBG quite pointedly declared as she was dying, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Talk about spitting on someone’s grave before they’re even buried.

I didn’t mind watching beltway journalists whip up their hypocrisy takes, as so many swallowed the GOP’s solemnly delivered bunk on why they had a moral obligation to tank President Obama’s 2016 pick of Merrick Garland.

But several of those same folks — who, as always, skew well-off, white, male and straight — naturally had hot takes aplenty that this spells doom for Democrats in November. And some decided it was their place to lecture those of us with everything to lose on the correct way to mourn (we’re supposed to wait to talk about political implications) and the proper place to donate (cancer charities, not ActBlue).

Some people feel that the world is entitled to their opinion at all times, on all matters. It never seems to occur to them that they can sit this one out. Read more

Stein joins other AGs to sue Trump over Endangered Species Act rollback

Attorney General Josh Stein

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has joined a coalition of state attorneys general that’s suing the Trump administration’s over its rules weakening the 1973 Endangered Species Act.

In August, the U.S. Interior and Commerce departments announced final rule changes, including mandating that regulators must look at economic factors when determining whether a species should be classified as endangered. Environmentalists protested that allows officials to ignore the impact of climate change.

In all, 18 attorneys general and New York City are plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Together, they argue that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service’s unlawfully undermined the 46-year-old law’s key requirements.

“We’re going to try to undo what the president is proposing to do with the Endangered Species Act,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a press conference announcing the litigation.

Other states involved in the action include Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 42 species are endangered in North Carolina and 19 are threatened. These include, plants, mammals, fish, mussels, birds, insects, spiders, reptiles and amphibians.

U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in August that the changes were “designed to increase transparency and effectiveness.”

“The revisions finalized with this rule-making fit squarely within the president’s mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public, without sacrificing our species’ protection and recovery goals,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said at the time. “These changes were subject to a robust, transparent public process, during which we received significant public input that helped us finalize these rules.”

In their lawsuit, the attorneys general argue that the rules as “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act; unauthorized under the Endangered Species Act; and unlawful under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Of specific concern are the actions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to: Read more