Senator Ron Johnson Owes Wisconsin An Apology For Being Party To Vaccine/AIDS Lies

There are a number of weighty issues the nation needs to engage in as a war rages in Eastern Europe, medical professionals forecast a sharp increase in COVID cases this fall and into the winter, and a report that there are almost 2 open jobs waiting to be filled for every person who is employed in the nation.

Those three topics are but a sampling of what a working member of congress could be preoccupied with any hour of the day, any day of the week.

So it was most alarming to read this past week that Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson found the time to saddle alongside Todd Callender, who is a wild-eyed anti-vaccination zealot. That is a charitable characterization on my part.

During the bizarre teleconference campaign event for Johnson, Callender linked COVID vaccines as causing AIDS.

“You’ve got more than 100 doctors here, all of whom will tell you that these shots caused vaccine-induced AIDS. They purposefully gave people AIDS”.

Now, before I go one sentence further I must address in a factual way this absolute lie. Having been employed by Madison’s AIDS Network in 2003, in part to fashion the start of a program for medication adherence, I know how vital facts are to this disease. AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and is not caused by vaccines. Furthermore, AIDS is the third stage of HIV and when AIDS occurs, the immune system has been severely damaged.  PERIOD.

I also know the need for science to be respected, medical professionals heeded, and how tremendously effective medications are for ones in need, regardless of the disease up for discussion. So it was very concerning to read that once again Johnson was attempting to smear a vaccine that is proving worldwide to be a significant change-maker.

What was shocking and utterly dismaying was how Johnson gave wiggle room and oxygen to Callender’s crazy notion that maybe the coronavirus vaccines are a means of deliberately transmitting AIDS. In the video conference not once does Johnson fight back in any way on the idea that vaccines caused AIDS.

The video shows that Johnson says, “Everything you say may be true, but right now the public views the vaccines as largely safe and effective, that vaccine injuries are rare and mild. That is the narrative. That’s what the vast majority of the public accepts. So until we get a larger percentage of the population with their eyes open, to: Whoa, these vaccine injuries are real. Why? You’ve got to do step by step.”

I felt we knew Johnson’s full lack of appreciation for science when in 2010 he announced that “I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change”. He added, “It’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time.”

During the COVID pandemic, however, we have been treated to Johnson’s absolute rejection of science with wildly ridiculous statements over and over again, such as suggesting that mouthwash would cure the problem.

He was not shy about suggesting that it was acceptable to lose between 1% and 3 % of the American population so to keep the economy in the nation pushing forward. That would be upwards of 3 million of our fellow citizens dying.

 “….getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population”.

Acting with callous disregard for the citizens of the state is one thing, as with the above statement, but being a part of the spreading of absolute lies about the public vaccines in relation to AIDS requires more than moving on to the next campaign event.

It requires a full-throated and sincere apology from Ron Johnson to Wisconsin.

The vaccines have proven to be highly effective in reducing deaths and hospitalizations and it is unacceptable for a United State Senator to in any way be a party to the spreading of lies about such a life-saving measure.

Yes, Johnson is in election mode, but that does not negate his responsibility to put health care facts above whatever demographic within the Republican Party he was playing to with Callender.

It is true that many of Johnson’s past statements lacked empathy, and were just weird. But being party to the spreading of groundless and dangerous lies about the vaccine is a step into a moral hole Johnson needs to apologize for now.

And so it goes.

HIV And Trump: When One Does Not Know History…..

On June 5, 1981 news was made about what would become known as HIV/AIDS.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) published an article in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR): Pneumocystis Pneumonia—Los Angeles. The article described cases of a rare lung infection, Pneumocystis cariniipneumonia(PCP), in five young, white, previously healthy gay men in Los Angeles. Los Angeles immunologist Dr. Michael Gottlieb, CDC’s Dr. Wayne Shandera, and their colleagues reported that all the men had other unusual infections as well, indicating that their immune systems were not working. Two had already died by the time the report was published and the others would die soon after. That edition of the MMWR marked the first official reporting of what would later become known as the AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) epidemic.

Now, nearing 40 years later, and Donald Trump who made news today for more of the short-sighted, dangerous and callous moves he is known for during the past years.

The Trump administration today imposed new restrictions on fetal tissue research, including ending a HIV-research contract and some NIH funding.

The action canceled a multimillion-dollar contract with a California research lab that uses fetal tissue to test new HIV treatments in a significant tightening of federal support for biomedical science that relies on material collected from elective abortions.

The fact science is never a factor in this administration is not shocking.  What does astound thinking people is what this all means.

Research using fetal tissue has led to life-saving advances , including development of vaccines for rubella and rabies and drugs to treat the HIV virus. Scientists around the country have correctly denounced the decision, saying that fetal tissue still was critically needed for research on HIV vaccines, treatments that harness the body’s immune system to battle cancer, and a list of other health threats — including some to fetuses themselves.

But facts never get in the way of the clueless who number heavily in this administration.  Another dark day for America.

Nancy Reagan Did Not Help With AIDS Awareness–Hillary Clinton Is Just Wrong

I, along with a huge swath of the nation, was simply stunned on Friday when watching the lead-up to the funeral for Nancy Reagan.  Outside the large tent erected for the event was Hillary Clinton being interviewed about her recollections of the former First Lady.  What she had to say was thoughtful and comforting.  But then Clinton started spewing the most bizarre up-side down line of fantasy that made me wonder how much rest might be required to bring her to a state of awareness.  I know presidential campaigns are taxing on the body but how does one explain what Clinton had to say about Nancy’s role with AIDS?

I was very much aware of the AIDS crisis in this nation during President Reagan’s terms.    I was so upset with his administration’s lack of focus on the matter, and the way the fear of the disease was outpacing the facts that I made an effort to stem the tide.

I was working at WDOR radio in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in the mid-80’s and with a small market station had more latitude than I might have found at a larger station.  Our signal reached to Milwaukee at night and I decided to use the platform behind the microphone.  So I researched, interviewed, wrote, packaged, and reported a week-long series which aired on most of the daily newscasts about AIDS. Each part was roughly 3 minutes in length.  I had a serious and (humbly stated) well crafted product at a time it was seriously needed.   I made clear AIDS was not ‘ a gay disease’.

So to hear Clinton say that Nancy Reagan was somehow instrumental in bringing AIDS awareness to the nation was simply galling.

I might remind Clinton that it was Americans like me who continually chastised President Reagan for not even talking about AIDS.  It would not be until May 31, 1987 that he would even mention the topic in a speech.   By then I was out of radio and working with a state legislator.   I was in government and hearing from many who were as troubled by the lack of awareness as I had long felt.

By the time Reagan found his way to talk about AIDS more than twenty-five thousand people, the majority of them gay men, had died in the United States.   It was shocking that our president had not noticed or cared.

But his callous disregard was not alone when it came to those in his White House.  Those folks my age will recall that Reagan’s spokesman, Larry Speakes, made jokes about victims of AIDS at press conferences.  And as we all know from living at that time Nancy Reagan famously and sadly refused to act in any way in 1985 to help her friend Rock Hudson when he was in Paris dying of AIDS.

I simply can not abide the lapse of memory that Clinton showed on national television with her revisionist history.  As a former broadcaster who worked to inform my listeners, and as a gay man there is no way to stay quiet on this matter.

The fact is that Nancy Reagan did not act to help bring awareness to the AIDS epidemic when she had the power to do so.   History will always show that to be true.

The Remedy For Rebecca Bradley’s Hate Speech

Last weekend, before the hateful writings from Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Rebecca Bradley were reported, I had a phone conversation with an aunt who is in her early 70’s.  We talked about more elk coming to Jackson County and how fast they can run, and how the Decorah eagles are once again sitting on their eggs.  We opined on seed catalogs and traded tidbits about our family.  As is always the case when we get on the phone there was never a time when silence registered on the line.

She follows news and politics but is not what anyone would term a politico. In other words she is very much an average voter.  So it probably comes as no surprise that the conversation only turned to the presidential election as a result of a question I asked her about the tone of the race.  With her usual soft-toned candor she spoke about how there was never a time when candidates acted in the fashion now seen and heard about every day.  How could such rude and crude behavior be a winning formula this campaign season?  What happened to self-respect?

I too have felt after watching the daily campaign news there was really no more that could make me wince or look twice in disbelief.   Had we not seen just about everything when in a presidential debate Donald Trump talked about the size of his body parts.   When I hear parents talking about their kids running around the house yelling for others to look at the size of their hands it is clear that all news is not fit for young people.

But when it came to wincing the worst was yet to come.

This week we learned that Rebecca Bradley wrote that human beings with AIDS were “degenerates”,  gay people were “queers”, AIDS was a “politically-correct” disease, and Bill Clinton was a “queer-loving” president.  I will leave out of this post whether she is able to prove anywhere near the level of objectivity that is required to fulfill the job as a member of the state’s high court.   I will not even venture into the moral wasteland of her soul for my attempt at rebuking her remarks.    As a former employee of AIDS Network in Madison I could easily clip her written words into bits and add them to history’s trash bin.

But instead I want to focus on who we are as an electorate, and what we have to say with the power of a ballot.

I think most voters want to be treated with respect.  They want their candidates to be mature.  Voters know that everyone has done something in their past that has no doubt been embarrassing.   But there is a huge difference with youthful indiscretions such as under age drinking or streaking in a mall compared to the person who willfully puts hate-filled words down on paper that is intended to hurt another and then be published.    Acting out in ways that are part of the growing up process like smoking dope at the local rock quarry is far different than penning hate-filled rants that I suggest speaks to a most troubled foundation.

Voters have a need to respond to the way we have been treated from those who seek our vote.  It is not enough just to ascertain what a presidential candidates’ tax plan is or how ones judicial philosophy shapes their views when hearing a court case.  Voters also have a right to ask how they were viewed by the candidates during the election.

Did the candidate consider that when they coarsen our political dialogue it lasts longer then just for the duration of the campaign?  Do candidates understand when hateful or unwarranted and over-the-top rhetoric is spewed about it undermines the social fabric of our state and nation?   A candidate needs to know how they conduct themselves impacts us all regardless of whether they win or lose.   A candidate may not know it but the election is not all about him or her.

On Election Day voters can say how they feel about the tone of the election as much as they can over the issues.  The best way to let Bradley know her hate and bitterness is not the stuff that makes for Wisconsin values is to simply not vote for her.  Cast a ballot for someone else, or no one in the race.   Let your voice be front and center for how we want our candidates to behave as they ask us for the responsibility to lead.

If they can not respect us during the campaign what hope do we have after they are elected?

Vatican Needs To Stop Condemning Condoms To Prevent HIV

One of those must reads that nearly everyone can agree with.

Why is “permission” being granted to safeguard against one virus, Zika, but not against HIV and Aids? While Zika is horrific, how many lives has Aids claimed and ruined, including babies who are born HIV-positive? A disgrace, then, that, in all these decades, the issue has been persistently dodged by the Vatican. In 2009, Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, said that the Aids tragedy could not be solved by the distribution of condoms “which even aggravates the problems”. The following year, Benedict conceded that “male prostitutes” could use condoms.

Again, this was welcomed as a positive step (as are any crumbs from Rome’s table on this issue), though Benedict’s stance did nothing to protect women, children or homosexuals who did not care to class themselves as prostitutes. Last year, Francis said that there were more important things to deal with such as malnutrition, a common and unedifying Vatican swerve.

However, now that Zika has been addressed, surely the Catholic church can’t continue to justify this kind of oblique, unhelpful stance. Where Aids is concerned, what’s stopping the Vatican (and its relatively modern-thinking pope) once and for all untying the issue of conception from protection, and acknowledging the entirely separate role of condoms in preventing the spread of disease, not just for male prostitutes, but for all? In a wider way, acknowledging that, in these modern times, “artificial contraception” has uses (preventing disease; preventing pregnancies affected by disease) that extend far beyond their original contraceptive intent and are, therefore, ethically acceptable.

Conservatives Must Recall Reagan’s Failure With AIDS When They Strike At Obama Over Ebola

Many people are watching the fear factor outpace the reality of the situation surrounding Ebola in the United States.  Over the past two weeks the issue has taken on a partisan spin as conservatives take a swipe at the Obama Administration.  What those fear-mongers need however is a slice of history.

It was that ‘great communicator’ President Reagan who had not only the podium but also the skills to dialogue with the nation about the great health issue of his time, AIDS.   But during his two terms in the White House Reagan failed to address the issue.  Like then the issue of a health concern today is one a president needs to weigh in on and work not only to contain as a medical matter with health professionals but also address in even tones with the nation so as not to unduly alarm them.

While President Obama is doing his part to match the science of the matter with needed policies to deal with it, the GOP partisans are attempting to make Ebola a fear factor that might gin up some votes for them come Election Day.

Conservatives might recall, before they start throwing any stones, that  Reagan would not address the issue of AIDS until May 31, 1987 (near the end of his second term), at the Third International Conference on AIDS in Washington. When Reagan spoke, 36,058 Americans had been diagnosed with AIDS and 20,849 had died. The disease had spread to 113 countries, with more than 50,000 cases. 

Reagan did not speak out sooner so as not to draw the ire of such ‘educated notables’ in his political base as Reverend Jerry Falwell who had mandated for all conservatives to believe that “AIDS is the wrath of God upon homosexuals.” Meanwhile Reagan’s communications director Pat Buchanan argued that AIDS is “nature’s revenge on gay men.”    Good Lord if anyone looks like they need a roll in the hay to loosen them up it is good-ole Pat!

So when the latest conservative rants against the leadership of Obama start being spewed chalk it up to partisan spin of the most unjust kind.  When it comes to conservatives it always winds up that politics is all that guides them.

Christine O’Donnell Opposes Sex, But Has Views On AIDS And Condoms

Since Christine O’Donnell is opposed to masturbation and sex before marriage why should we now consider her an expert on condom distribution?  For someone who is so asexual she sure has lots of ideas about how the rest of the nation should live.  We should, however, all be glad Christine O’Donnell is not having sex.  This is one person that really should never procreate.

Now comes a video that is truly shocking as it showcases the lack of not only her intellect about AIDS and the funding for a cure,  but also her humanity.  From 1997 we can watch Christine O’Donnell expound on AIDS funding and condom distribution.   We can watch her get all preachy.  What comes through louder than anything else is her lack of human compassion to take all the steps possible to help those who are infected.  That is what makes her statements truly unconscionable.

Her lack of any education about AIDS is most obvious.  While she wants to comes across as ‘moral’ consider how she also throws overboard not only those with the ‘lifestyle’ but also babies born with AIDS, hemophiliacs, wives whose husbands cheat on them, nurses and doctors who get exposed, accident victims that receive tainted blood…the list goes on and on.

HIV/AIDS, to O’Donnell, is something that people get because of their ‘lifestyle’.    She is very wrong.  AIDS is a disease, and all are susceptible to it.  To bring ‘lifestyle’ language into the mix is to show that Christine O’Donnell is just being another anti-gay homophobe.  Someone needs to tell this dizzy Republican nominee that  homosexuality is not a disease, but HIV/AIDS is a disease and  it MUST be cured.

For the record condoms DO prevent AIDS and should be distributed, and discussed openly, especially in high schools.   CP has strong views on this matter.

The treasure trove of video from Christine O’Donnell is nauseating.  I can not wait until this puritanical nightmare is pushed back into her sad world on Election Day.  Until then we will continue to expose the nation to Christine O’Donnell. 

AIDS Network Used 58% Of Donations From ACT Ride On Operating Costs

In the current economic climate every non-profit is struggling to do two things.  The first is to raise money, and the second is make every dollar stretch as far as possible in an effort to affect change as much as possible.  The economy today just mandates that be the case.  Likewise in these hard times individual donors are seeking to find places to put limited dollars that will make as much of an impact as possible.  Doing more with less on each side of the giving and taking aspect for non-profits is the only way to do business.  That is what one would think. 

There is however another way to do business with the money that is obtained from the public for the work of a non-profit.  Lets call that method, ‘the AIDS Network way’.   It is not, I hasten to add, the way a non-profit operates if they wish to be credible, or capture repeat donors that have every expectation the money they give will be properly spent. 

Each year the AIDS Network has a bike ride in the summer that is designed to raise money for the Network, and draw attention to the work that needs to be done to fight HIV/AIDS.  When hearing of these goals most would say in a blink of an eye, “sure I will donate to the cause.”     

Hold on Nellie!!   Not so fast.  Before you reach for the wallet lets check to see how the money was spent by the AIDS Network from the donations they already received for past rides.  

Of $386,291 in total special event donations, $295,525 (or 77%) was from Ride donations. Here’s the shocking truth of how AIDS Network spent these donations in 2008:    

 Fundraising Costs $204,032-53% 

 Management Costs $20,887-5% 

 Volunteer costs $36,462 – 9%  

Education/Outreach $48,661 – 12% 

 Client Services $76,249 – 20%  

This audit proves that in 2008 AIDS Network lied to all of the ACT Ride participants when it said that 90% of their donations were used to support AIDS Network prevention and client services. The audit proves that only 32% of Rider donations were used for these services. What is shocking to everyone who has ever invested the time and enormous energy to complete the ACT Ride and raise the funds – is that 58% of their hard earned donations are used by AIDS Network to cover their fundraising and management costs.   

There is a desire within most people to care about others, and to share in the cost of making sure those in need are cared for.  That is the spirit of walking a shared road that makes us one with another in society.  So it troubles me greatly when I read of the less than careful handling of funds by an agency that is supposed to be client focused.  The operating costs for ACT Rides of the AIDS Network undermines my message to others that giving to non-profits allows for a greater good.  It is hard to convince people to give when the curtain has been raised, the spotlight shines, and the audience is allowed to see the stage laid bare. 

Once again there is a need for the AIDS Network to send someone to the center of the stage, pull up a chair and have a frank discussion with the people in the audience.  The people in the 13 counties that the AIDS Network purports to work for need to know why there is such a huge operating budget for a fundraising effort.  They also need to know why the AIDS Network claims that 90% of the money raised supported client services and prevention work when by their own numbers 58% was used on fundraising and management services. 

Sadly, I think we will all be waiting for a long time to hear from the AIDS Network.  I say this as the only show they know how to put on is to circle the wagons, hunker down, and wait for the storm to pass. 

The problem for the AIDS Network is that the audience is getting bigger and more restless as we wait for some honest answers.

I think someone needs to tell Executive Director of the Madison AIDS Network, Karen Dotson that it is SHOWTIME!