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.

Common Sense Vs. Politics

An advertisement in Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal promoting sound public health caught my attention. I applaud the effort to continue to press forward with getting more people vaccinated to stem COVID-19. While the ad correctly urged an easy way to receive the shots it also presented what is wrong with our politics.

The fact that in Wisconsin there remains a need to clarify that these vaccine shots do not include a microchip or alter DNA made me put the newspaper down, and if anyone saw me, I surely just shook my head. When it comes to marketing to the anti-vaxxers no one can deny the effectiveness of partisans who used a pandemic to score points.

Meanwhile, The New York Times ran an article Sunday about the presidential election in France. The issue of Algeria, colonialism, and religion has been created by some partisans as a wedge issue in the upcoming balloting.

The legacy of Algeria has perhaps been most evident in the phrase “great replacement,” a racist conspiracy theory claiming that white Christians were being replaced by nonwhite immigrants.

Cleary the lack of critical thinking is not a local problem, as it spans the globe and presents itself in the most dreadful of ways. But wasn’t the emergence of the world wide web and countless ways to access information and gain knowledge to have lifted us all up as a global society?

So what happened where people now entertain the idea of microchips in vaccines and ‘replacement theories?

While history is replete with inaccurate information about health issues and it was only 62 years ago that our nation was actually discussing if a Catholic could be elected leader of the free world, should we not now be smarter and wiser with modern technology?

I grew up as a child hearing prognosticators speak of gadgetry akin to the world of The Jetsons, the space-age cartoon, being very possible within the coming decades. Life was going to be more advanced, the work world changed to make workers toil less, and the underlying assumption was we would be happier.

Computer chips revolutionized the world and advances, up and down the line, have allowed for everything from classrooms to space travel to speed forward with modernity. I marvel at those achievements as some of them mirror what we were told might happen as children.

But are we smarter and more able to think, reason, and use logic to not only navigate our personal lives but the larger community around us? In many aspects of our lives, such technology has been a clear asset. But how then, at the same time, do we account for what seems to be a growing segment of the world population insisting on rejecting facts and common sense, as noted in my two examples from today’s papers?

It is assumed, and I would argue correctly so, that using politics to steer our nation towards civil rights, and greater freedoms such as lowering the voting age and broadening the definition of marriage moved our nation closer to our ideals about democracy. But we have also seen the utter contempt for facts and logic used by some for partisan reasons actually grow; most recently by the willful undermining of life-saving vaccines.

The internet and the myriad ways to gain access to information and knowledge about every imaginable topic were to have lifted up humanity. In many ways, it has done that very thing. But we have also seen political forces misuse social media to create conspiracies and stir doubt as they score victories by how many they can deceive and delude.

I remain an optimist, seeing the glass half-full. But we need to be mindful that it can also be argued to be half-empty.

And so it goes.

Mary Nellie Parker: Hancock Woman’s Inspiration Makes For Article In Wisconsin State Journal

Mary Nellie Parker is recalled in Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal (Feb. 13th edition). The woman who was born in Waushara County and called Hancock home is being known today around the state. And for the best of reasons.

Several weeks ago, the newspaper wrote about the COVID-19 pandemic entering its third year and the challenges that presents for so many in our state. The paper wondered if we could take inspiration from earlier generations who struggled with crisis and hardship. They wanted readers to offer ideas.

My mind went at once to Mary Nellie Parker. In my researching The Hancock News for my Doty Land podcast episode about the 1918 pandemic, I came across the most touching, uplifting, and memorable news article concerning Parker. While there were many stories and accounts of locals who suffered from the virus, and then also from WWI, which was being fought at that time, it was Parker who best exemplified the human spirit in those troubling years.

Here then is the way the story looks from today’s paper. It was requested to keep the article to 250 words….I wrote tightly and came in at 249. I wish I had been able to know this woman. She surely was most remarkable.

Aaron Rodgers Deserved His Moment With Karma In Green Bay

Simply put, if a person is a high-profile figure, they must not be rewarded with expressing anti-vaccination sentiments. Novak Djokovic was such an example. Aaron Rodgers is another example.

Insulting the intelligence of state residents, and undermining vaccination efforts within the demographics that look up to and follow Rogers hurt the efforts of the medical establishment to stem COVID. We are going into our third year of the pandemic and we needed to have all folks working for the needs of the larger community.

Rodgers refused.

Karma responded.

And so it goes.

Justice Rendered: Novak Djokovic Had His Balls Handed To Him

There is not so much elation at this desk in the very early hours of Sunday as I write, as there is deep gratitude that facts, science, and law prevailed.

I have been waiting over the past hours to discover the outcome of the judge’s ruling concerning Novak Djokovic’s last-ditch attempt to stay in Australia and play tennis.  I have not shied away from stating I wished for him to be kicked out of the nation for his lies and dismal behavior.

The wait is now over.

The brash and arrogant Djokovic failed in his final attempt to stay in the nation and play in the upcoming tournament.  His unvaccinated stance and lies about his travels have cost him dearly.

Sports personalities have many people looking up to them, and as such have a responsibility that comes with fame and fortunes.  The Australian decision was correct.  It was the second visa rejection based on the fact he could very well pose a risk to public health and order.

The icing on this story is this decision cannot be appealed.

I have made it clear with the most irksome Aaron Rodgers, and others who toss intelligence aside concerning COVID, that there must be a price to pay.  In the case of Djokovic, it was clear that allowing him to stay in Australia could encourage others to refuse vaccines or disregard pandemic restrictions.

Simply put, if a person is a high-profile figure, they must not be rewarded with expressing anti-vaccination sentiments.  Today the only proper outcome that could be rendered was handed down in Australia.

And so it goes.

Novac Djokovic Is International Disappointment

The news from Australia was very disappointing if you are someone who follows science, believes in medical professionals, and disdains arrogance.

Novac Djokovic had a legal victory after a judge in that country reinstated his visa. The thin line of legal justification was that the tennis professional had not been granted enough time to confer with his lawyer for the hearing. (Cue the barfing.)

The problem is that Djokovic is not serious about COVID, and feels comfortable flaunting the rules and common sense about vaccines. Too many people are letting him get away with his insulting our collective intelligence.

He had COVID and used that infection, and the antibodies it created to get a visa, even though he is not vaccinated. There is not enough medical evidence to support the theory that the antibodies provide the protection that the three-shot series does.

This is not the first time this rather disreputable person played fast and loose with the needs of the larger community during this pandemic. It was just months into this international crisis that Djokovic organized a tennis tournament in the Balkans, tossed aside mask-wearing and of course, he came down with the virus. As did others in that stunt.

The problem I have with Djokovic, other than his brashness is that he constantly refuses to adjust his life for the greater good. In December, he was found to have contracted the virus again but was out and about–up close to people, and shunning the wearing of a mask.

Before entering Australia he was not to have been jetting about the world. But, in fact, he had been to both Spain and Serbia. Meanwhile, the Aussies have been under strict mandates and take the pandemic most seriously, as they should.

I believe in a strong sense of justice, and if other legal matters result in his being allowed to remain in Australia then I hope his time in front of the cameras on the tennis court concludes with his not breaking the men’s singles title record. We should not desire to elevate stupidity.

I post about sports personalities and the way younger people look up to them. As such, it is important they set a standard of behavior we would want our youth to follow. When it comes to Djokovic, however, who has spurned wearing masks, being vaccinated, or refusing to be honest let us hope kids worldwide are playing a video game rather than following the news.

And so it goes.

Conservative Republicans, Like Ron Johnson, Play To Under-Educated Base

There seems to be a race underway in the nation where elected conservative Republicans seek to dive deeper into absurdity in an attempt to be nuttier than the previous one.

In Wisconsin, we were offered more outlandish buffoonery from Senator Ron Johnson who stated in a town hall meeting he had an idea about combatting COVID.

“Standard gargle, mouthwash, has been proven to kill the coronavirus. If you get it, you may reduce viral replication. Why not try all these things?” (For the record this is not actual science and rebuked by medical professionals.)

Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie posed his family in front of a decorated tree with all hefting military-type assault weapons for a Christmas greeting, shortly after the Oxford High School gun massacre.

Meanwhile, Tom McMillin, a Republican from Oakland Township, proposed in a social media post that mandatory school attendance be removed in Michigan. He is a member of the Michigan State Board of Education!

I recall during my years as Door County Democratic Chairperson talking with a wide array of people at events such as the annual fair or when campaigning door-to-door for local candidates. At times, I encountered some of the most unbelievable sets of views and ideas that could be imagined. So what is being reported, all too often, in our newspapers and online is not new. Right-wing lunacy has long-been part of our political narrative.

What is so troubling now, however, is that instead of the tin-foil hatted folks being aberrations in the party they now are the base of the GOP. But that is not how I first came to know conservatives.

In my teenage years, I started watching Firing Line with William F. Buckley. He was a conservative with a vocabulary that reached out through the television set and made me sit up and pay attention. In my rural upbringing reasoned approaches to the world seemed utterly sound to me. Then I graduated from high school, left home, and encountered the world.

My first job was working in radio broadcasting in Door County. With a red streak that then ran very deep, the local politics was not for a faint-hearted liberal Democrat. I found, however, that the vast majority on the other side of the aisle were logical and reasoned with varying points and perspectives about the issues of the day.

The conspiracy-laden John Birch Society and the truly unhinged Posse Comitatus crowd were in the county, and not ashamed to spill their views when answering their front door during an election year. Tigerton Dells was then a topic in Wisconsin and those headlines concerning the Posse seemed to embolden that segment of the electorate. I was soon most aware that enlightenment liberalism was not spread evenly across our state.

But that element was a narrow sliver of the whole. Today, however, the under-educated within the GOP revel in their status and expect the rest of us to meet them at that level. Republican officeholders encourage the ridiculous ideas and notions so as to retain power, rather than seeking to better inform and lift up the voters.

There have always been times of great transition and uncertainty in the nation where politicians have used fear to spin a message and gain office. Today class divisions and market revolutions, continuing demand for power and rights among groups from Blacks to transgenders, along with a shifting electorate that is more brown and diverse provide the combustible elements for current conservative pols.

But what is most dismaying is the low level that conservative Republicans will dive into when playing to their base. Such tactics are dangerous to a democracy that does rely on educated citizens to make sound decisions about the path forward for a nation.

John Adams wrote the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. Though he penned that public education should be at the heart of that state’s understanding of government, it is easy to see how elected officeholders can, and should, also be teachers and ones who impart facts to the citizenry. He wrote that “wisdom and knowledge . . . diffused generally among the body of the people [are] necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties.”

I wish conservative Republicans would ponder the role they need to play when speaking to their base of support.

And so it goes.

Wisconsinites Defining Themselves

Over the past two years, I have become better acquainted with segments of Wisconsin. Having lived here since my birth in Wild Rose, I have watched and read over the decades the comings and goings of those who lived near me and ones in the farther reaches of the state.

At times, I have been moved by the emotional resolve of a community pulling together, such as after the horrific Barneveld tornado. Recently we saw the better angels of our state move into action to help families impacted by the horror that ripped Waukesha after a man drove into a Christmas parade.

Since early 2020 we have watched as nurses and doctors have spent every day confronting not only a virus that has filled hospitals to capacity but also stressed medical professionals to a point they have never reached before in their careers. We have learned of teachers who crossed technical hurdles so to ensure students could continue their education, even if not sitting in the school classroom.

That is the part of Wisconsin that makes me proud to live here, knowing our lives are enriched with caring and thoughtful people doing tough work under the most trying of circumstances. The best of Midwestern values shines with these people.

But there is another segment of the state who also defined themselves over the past two years.

Perhaps I deluded myself for many years about the true character of some of my fellow citizens in the state. After all, I worked in local politics in Door County and then for a decade with a state legislator and appreciated the wide array of ideas and opinions. I fully grasped policy differences were as natural as the sun rising and setting. Partisan differences were not, for me, the mark of character.

But in 2006, as I drove through my hometown area and saw the number of yard signs in favor of an anti-gay marriage amendment slated for a statewide ballot, I was forced to realize a divide that I had not seen, or perhaps not wished to see all those previous years. This issue was not about increased taxes, or how to pay for road maintenance, or any such sundry list of concerns. This was not the typical issue of the day, but a blunt tool designed to foment bigotry and hate. It pained me to see signs on the lawns of people I personally knew promoting its passage.

This year as our state, like the nation and the world, fought back on a virus that has killed too many and undermined economies I have watched as some rebel against logical ways of living and acting so as to stem COVID’s spread. The utter rejection of wearing a mask so to protect their own families and the communities in which they live, or taking a vaccine that has proven efficacy so to allow for herd immunity, is more than shocking.

For so long I had a real faith in the rest of my fellow citizens, and that makes this year utterly dismaying to watch play out in relation to our basic human interactions with one another. My mom used to say that you never know how ugly families can be until there is a will to probate. She would be aghast to have watched how selfish and outrageous people turned out to be in a pandemic.

People refuse to be vaccinated and in so doing have split families apart. After all, those who follow science and reasoning do not wish to put their lives in peril by being in close proximity to those who reject common sense. Some fight against mandates, even for health workers or emergency workers who arrive at homes in trucks with flashing lights.

I have watched a segment of this state, a segment that is larger than what I would have ever imagined, lean into their tribalism, and in so doing, forsake the greater good. To me, that has been harder to accept than any presidential election night loss. That is because I know in four years there is a good chance at righting the ship of state.

What we have lost as Wisconsinites, as demonstrated by a segment of our populace with the rejection of science, facts, data, and following the advice of medical professionals is not something we can just glue back together again. The loss of our commitment to being good to each other, in the most trying of times, has defined who we are.

It is truly sad.

And so it goes.