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Why Ron Johnson’s Anti-Vax Stupidity Is Deadly — To Republicans

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The United States no longer has to stand by for a daily White House downplaying of the threat from COVID-19, promotion of fake cures, or encouragement to get a bleach injection. That's a good thing. So is the increased availability of vaccines that, though a long way from herd immunity, may be playing a significant role in preventing the United States from seeing a real "fourth wave" of cases.

Last November, researchers at the National Institutes of Health produced a study that now seems eerily prescient. Based on the idea that vaccines could be 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19, and that these vaccines would also reduce transmission, they modeled the effect in the U.S. of achieving 40 percent vaccination of the total population. The researchers concluded that the rate of new cases could be almost cut in half, the burden on ICUs greatly reduced, and the number of deaths drastically cut back well in advance of hitting the kind of numbers usually associated with herd immunity.

With 40.9 percent of Americans now having received at least one dose, that effect could be preventing a surge in the United States right now. We're only now reaching the levels where that effect is significant, but as the vaccine numbers go up, the possibility of a return to normal draws ever nearer. The math and science shows that every American who gets a vaccination is taking a step that benefits the whole nation.

But what if you don't believe in science? Or math? Or doing anything that helps someone else? In that case, look no further than the advice being offered by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-is for Russia) who is doing his best to keep vaccine hesitancy high.

While some very smart people were working out the benefits of vaccination and healthcare workers all over the nation were working to turn these numbers into reality, there has continued to be a cadre of Republicans who have undercut the vaccination effort. And with Trump reduced to sideline player, the biggest in-office source of pro-death propaganda may be the Kremlin favorite, Johnson.

As Forbes reports, Johnson has declared himself "highly suspicious" of the "big push to get everyone vaccinated." Part of this appears to be back to that not understanding math thing. Johnson has argued that because the vaccine is 95 percent effective, that means "only a limited number" of people really need to be infected. How that works in Johnson's head is unclear, and no one really wants to go in there, but however this is supposed to work, it doesn't.

Johnson then went on to encourage young people not to get vaccinated, and pushed back against the use of any sort of vaccine passport to protect public safety, calling it "a very freedom-robbing step."

Johnson then turned to the ultimate basis of all Republican policy: selfishness. "If you have a vaccine quite honestly what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?" said Johnson said. "What is it to you? You've got a vaccine and science is telling you it's very, very effective. So why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine?"

The Republican Party no longer has a platform beyond "Obey Trump," but if they were adding planks, "I've got mine, why the hell should I care about anything else?" would certainly be high on the list. Only it shouldn't be surprising that Johnson has this thing completely upside down.

If he, and other Republican "thought" leaders like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Tucker Carlson are really so set against getting a vaccine, what they should be doing is telling everyone else to get vaccinated.

Right now, 43 percent of Republicans are saying "no" to the vaccine. All over the country, red counties are finding themselves with a vaccine surplus. Whole states like Georgia, Mississippi and Montana are pondering what to do about wasted vaccines and unfilled vaccine appointment calendars (Hint: Send them to communities of color, where demand is high). Unless that number goes down, it would take near perfect participation from every other American adult to reach the lowest threshold for herd immunity. And what herd immunity does is protect the people who did not get vaccinated.

By discouraging everyone from getting vaccinated, the people Ron Johnson is most putting at risk are his Republican followers. Which makes it tempting to adopt a Johnson-esque attitude and just sort of … snicker. However, these are human lives on the line. And in addition to Republican vaccine conspiracy theorists, in every community there are a small number of people who legitimately cannot get vaccinated. That can be due to very specific allergies, or to immune system issues. Those people are protected when the population reaches herd immunity, because the disease is no longer readily spread within the community. Efforts of bozos like Johnson also put those people at risk.

It's important to counter the lies spread by Johnson, Greene, Carlson, and others, and to encourage the maximum number of people possible to get vaccinated. That protects the people who can't get vaccinated, and it helps to protect everyone from having millions of lingering infections that kick out new, ever more resistant, variants. More effort needs to be put into public campaigns to push or pull people to get vaccinated.

But looking at it from Vladimir Putin's point of view, convincing people not to get vaccinated does make America weaker. So … good job, Ron.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Trump’s Mythical Migrant ‘Caravan’ Is Heading Our Way Again

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

GOP lawmakers are renewing the xenophobic claim that "caravans" of immigrants are making their way to the U.S.-Mexico border to invade the country, seizing on recent news of a rumored group of immigrants supposedly making their way to the United States from Central America.

On Monday, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei declared a "state of prevention" in response to rumors, which first began circulating on anti-immigrant sites in February, of one potential caravan, which was said to be approaching the Guatemalan border from Honduras. As Reuters reported, a few hundred Hondurans were indeed set to travel to the Guatemalan border on their way to the United States, but that group had been mostly dispersed by Tuesday.

Republicans have pounced on the opportunity to link the various groups to President Joe Biden.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) went on the offense, tweeting on March 25, "Reporter: 'What will you do to stop incentivizing illegal immigrants?' Biden: 'A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.' What is that? The slogan for the Biden caravan from Guatemala?"

Biden was actually quoting a proverb from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who taught that long, arduous journeys or tasks must all begin with simple but meaningful actions.

Then, on Wednesday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) tweeted, "The Biden Border Crisis is creating chaos and threatening the borders of multiple countries," linking to an Associated Press article about Guatemala's announcement.

Cotton was using news of the caravan to push the narrative of a "crisis" at the border caused by the Biden administration and its reversal of Donald Trump's harsh immigration policies. Researchers have said there is no evidence of such a crisis or that Biden's decisions led to it.

Other Republicans have been revamping the anti-immigrant "caravan" talking point to push the border "crisis" narrative.

Sen. Ron Johnson tweeted on March 8, "A caravan a day. Those are the numbers we are seeing right now at the border. We do not have the facilities to handle this. This is the tip of the iceberg of a crisis caused by President Biden's policies."

"I fear that we will soon see caravan after caravan again forming in the Northern Triangle countries and headed toward the United States," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted similarly on March 9.

Experts say the racist myth of a "caravan" invading the United States is not rooted in reality but is mostly a xenophobic talking point meant to fear-monger about immigrants more broadly.

"This vitriol against the caravan of Central Americans and Mexicans on their way to the U.S. border was cruel electioneering, no more," anthropologist and researcher J.P. Linstroth wrote in a 2018 op-ed, when Republicans first began rolling out the "caravan" narrative ahead of the midterm elections. "These people are poor and are fleeing horrific violence in their home countries."

Linstroth noted that U.S. intervention in civil wars in Central America during the 1980s had caused instability in the region that carries on to this day.

Furthermore, he said, immigrants often travel in caravans simply as a form of protection.

"Traveling in numbers makes the journey safer for these migrants. Often migrants are commonly victims of real threats of violence along the way — murder, rape, and robbery," Linstroth said.

In a phone interview, Leo Chavez, distinguished professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, further underscored the extreme risks immigrants face on the journey from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border.

"You become commodities for people who want to take advantage of you," he said, noting threats of theft, sexual assault, and kidnapping were common realities for those making the trek.

Chavez said traveling in a caravan gave immigrants safety in numbers.

"Unfortunately, because they do that as a way to protect themselves, the image that's created, that's usable and weaponizable is that it becomes a metaphor for a whole bunch of people moving towards the U.S. en masse. And they use it like an invasion," he said.

Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans and Trump employed the "caravan" rhetoric as part of the tactic to scare voters. At the time, they presented a message of impending doom, claiming in racist terms that such an "invasion" would overtake the country.

The broader electorate ultimately rejected that xenophobic fear-mongering: Republicans lost 40 seats in the House and the majority in that chamber that year.

Following the elections, mentions of the caravans died down, only resurfacing again briefly in 2020, ahead of the presidential election and amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Sen. Johnson Dragged Over ‘Incredibly Ignorant’ Claim About Greenland’s Naming

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Embattled Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), already under fire for his support of the Capitol insurrection and the "big lie," and for saying he trusted the MAGA domestic terrorists over Black Lives Matter protestors, and for his record of spreading Russian disinformation, is now the target of mockery over his false claim about how Greenland got its name.

There seems to be some GOP fascination with the autonomous territory that is a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Although it spans more than 830 square miles, Greenland has a population of just 56,000 people. And President Donald Trump infamously wanted to purchase the island – perhaps because it's the largest in the world – or trade it for Puerto Rico.

A New York Times profile lays waste to the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, accusing him of "assaulting the truth," and calling him "the Republican Party's foremost amplifier of conspiracy theories and disinformation."

"Pushing false theories on the virus, the vaccine and the January. 6 attack on the Capitol, Mr. Johnson, the Republican senator from Wisconsin, has absorbed his party's transformation under Donald Trump."

The Times say Johnson has a "predilection for anti-intellectualism," and "is an all-access purveyor of misinformation on serious issues such as the pandemic and the legitimacy of American democracy, as well as invoking the etymology of Greenland as a way to downplay the effects of climate change."

John "offered a false history of Greenland to dismiss the effects of global warming."

"You know, there's a reason Greenland was called Greenland," Mr. Johnson told WKOW-TV in Madison back then. "It was actually green at one point in time. And it's been, you know, since, it's a whole lot whiter now so we've experienced climate change throughout geologic time."

In the interview on Thursday, Mr. Johnson was still misinformed about the etymology of Greenland, which got its name from the explorer Erik the Red's attempt to lure settlers to the ice-covered island.

"I could be wrong there, but that's always been my assumption that, at some point in time, those early explorers saw green," Mr. Johnson said. "I have no idea."

It took little time for the mockery to begin.