Monday Reads

Happy Monday!!

Over the weekend we lost two giants of biology and the study of biodiversity.

The New York Times: E.O. Wilson, a Pioneer of Evolutionary Biology, Dies at 92.

Edward O. Wilson, a biologist and author who conducted pioneering work on biodiversity, insects and human nature — and won two Pulitzer Prizes along the way — died on Sunday in Burlington, Mass. He was 92.

His death was announced on Monday by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. A cause of death was not given….

“Ed’s holy grail was the sheer delight of the pursuit of knowledge,” Paula J. Ehrlich, chief executive and president of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation said in a statement. “A relentless synthesizer of ideas, his courageous scientific focus and poetic voice transformed our way of understanding ourselves and our planet.”

When Dr. Wilson began his career in evolutionary biology in the 1950s, the study of animals and plants seemed to many scientists like a quaint, obsolete hobby. Molecular biologists were getting their first glimpses of DNA, proteins and other invisible foundations of life. Dr. Wilson made it his life’s work to put evolution on an equal footing.

“How could our seemingly old-fashioned subjects achieve new intellectual rigor and originality compared to molecular biology?” Dr. Wilson recalled in 2009. He answered his own question by pioneering new fields of research.

As an expert on insects, Dr. Wilson studied the evolution of behavior, exploring how natural selection and other forces could produce something as extraordinarily complex as an ant colony. He then championed this kind of research as a way of making sense of all behavior — including our own.

As part of his campaign, Dr. Wilson wrote a string of books that influenced his fellow scientists while also gaining a broad public audience. “On Human Nature” won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 1979; “The Ants,” which Dr. Wilson wrote with his longtime colleague Bert Hölldobler, won him his second Pulitzer in 1991.

Dr. Wilson also became a pioneer in the study of biological diversity, developing a mathematical approach to questions about why different places have different numbers of species. Later in his career, Dr. Wilson became one of the world’s leading voices for the protection of endangered wildlife.

National Geographic: Thomas Lovejoy, renowned biologist who coined ‘biological diversity,’ dies at 80.

Thomas Lovejoy, a well-known American conservation biologist who coined the term “biological diversity” in 1980, died on December 25 at the age of 80. Lovejoy, who lived in northern Virginia, spent more than 50 years working in the Amazon rainforest, founding the nonprofit Amazon Biodiversity Center and bringing worldwide attention to the threats of tropical deforestation. In 1971, he received his first grant from the National Geographic Society, becoming an Explorer at Large in 2019.

“To know Tom was to know an extraordinary scientist, professor, advisor, and unyielding champion for our planet,” said Jill Tiefenthaler, the Society’s CEO, in a statement. “He was also a consummate connector, helping bring people and organizations together to preserve and protect some of our most fragile ecosystems and cornerstone species.”

In 1980, he also published the first estimate of global extinction rates, correctly projecting that by the early 21st century a huge number of species would be lost forever. Lovejoy, who held a Ph.D. in biology from Yale University, advised three administrations, the United Nations Foundation, the World Bank, and other organizations on how to protect species and advance the field of conservation biology. Since 2010, Lovejoy served as a professor in environmental science and policy at George Mason University in Virginia.

“Tom was a giant in the world of ecology and conservation,” said Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer in Residence. “But most importantly, he was a wonderful mentor and extremely generous with his students, colleagues, and friends.”

Despite his focus on some of the world’s toughest environmental challenges, Lovejoy remained an optimist. “We all have an interest in fixing this before it gets badly out of hand, and it’s getting close to that,” Lovejoy told National Geographic in 2015, speaking about climate change. “There are things we can do together. There are energy and innovation possibilities. There are biological solutions that would benefit everyone.

Politics News

Donald Trump Jr. recently slammed the teaching of Jesus. Relevant: Biblical Scholar Donald Trump Jr. Tells Young Conservatives That Following the Bible Has ‘Gotten Us Nothing.’

On Sunday [December 19], Turning Point USA hosted Donald Trump Jr. where he praised a crowd of young conservatives as “the frontline of freedom” but cautioned that following biblical teaching like “turn the other cheek” was holding them back and has “gotten us nothing.”

“If we band together, we can take on these institutions,” Trump told the crowd in Arizona. “That’s where we’ve gone wrong for a long time.”

Jean Metzinger, Tea Time

Jean Metzinger, Tea Time

“They cannot cancel us all,” he continued. “This will be contrary to a lot of our beliefs because I’d love not to have to participate in cancel culture. I’d love that it didn’t exist. But as long as it does, folks, we better be playing the same game.”

“We’ve turned the other cheek and I understand sort of the biblical reference — I understand the mentality — but it’s gotten us nothing,” Trump said. “OK? It’s gotten us nothing while we’ve ceded ground in every major institution.”

Trump is more correct than he probably knows here. Christianity is a poor device for gaining worldly influence. Nearly every page of the Gospels has stories of Jesus refusing earthly power and exhorting his followers to do the same. In fact, there are few things Jesus talked as much about as the upside down Kingdom of God where “the last shall be first” and “blessed are the meek.” Moreover, he cautioned against seeking earthly influence, going so far as to proclaim “woe to you who are rich.” The most cursory reading of Scripture would leave anyone with the sense that this is not a manual for getting stuff.

Peter Wehner wrote about Don Jr.’s “values” at The Atlantic: The Gospel of Donald Trump Jr.

Donald Trump Jr. is both intensely unappealing and uninteresting. He combines in his person corruption, ineptitude, and banality. He is perpetually aggrieved; obsessed with trolling the left; a crude, one-dimensional figure who has done a remarkably good job of keeping from public view any redeeming qualities he might have.

There’s a case to be made that he’s worth ignoring, except for this: Don Jr. has been his father’s chief emissary to MAGA world; he’s one of the most popular figures in the Republican Party; and he’s influential with Republicans in positions of power. He’s also attuned to what appeals to the base of the GOP. So, from time to time, it is worth paying attention to what he has to say.

Trump spoke at a Turning Point USA gathering on December 19. He displayed seething, nearly pathological resentments; playground insults (he led the crowd in “Let’s Go, Brandon” chants); tough guy/average Joe shtick; and a pulsating sense of aggrieved victimhood and persecution, all of it coming from the elitist, extravagantly rich son of a former president.

Hermann Max Pechstein

By Hermann Max Pechstein

Wehner notes Jr.’s reference to Jesus’s teachings of loving our enemies and “turning the other cheek” when they attack us.

Throughout his speech, Don Jr. painted a scenario in which Trump supporters—Americans living in red America—are under relentless attack from a wicked and brutal enemy. He portrayed it as an existential battle between good and evil. One side must prevail; the other must be crushed. This in turn justifies any necessary means to win. And the former president’s son has a message for the tens of millions of evangelicals who form the energized base of the GOP: the scriptures are essentially a manual for suckers. The teachings of Jesus have “gotten us nothing.” It’s worse than that, really; the ethic of Jesus has gotten in the way of successfully prosecuting the culture wars against the left. If the ethic of Jesus encourages sensibilities that might cause people in politics to act a little less brutally, a bit more civilly, with a touch more grace? Then it needs to go….

The problem is that the Trumpian ethic hasn’t been confined to the Trump family. We saw that not just in the enthusiastic and at times impassioned response of the Turning Point USA crowd to Don Jr.’s speech but nearly every day in the words and actions of Republicans in positions of power. Donald Trump and his oldest son have become evangelists of a different kind.

While we’re on the subject of Trumpian so-called “christians,” MSNBC opinion columnist Jarvis DeBerry writes: White evangelicals dying of Covid after denouncing vaccines are wasting martyrdom.

This year we’ve seen a number of conservative personalities, including the late evangelical leaders Marcus Lamb and Jimmy DeYoung, who succumbed to Covid-19 after minimizing the risks of the disease or making disparaging remarks about the vaccines. What is such opposition if not an arrogant attempt to put God to the test, no less problematic, say, than stepping off a great height and counting on being caught by angels?

A personal decision not to take Covid-19 seriously is bad enough. Even worse, though, is a personnel decision to fire those who do. When evangelical Christian radio host Dave Ramsey fired video editor Brad Amos on July 31, Amos responded with a lawsuit against Ramsey Solutions that claims Ramsey thought taking steps to avoid infection showed a “weakness of spirit.” A spokesperson for the company told McClatchy News that Amos was “fired during a meeting to discuss his poor performance with his leaders, where he insulted his most senior leader. He was not terminated for his religious beliefs or how he wanted to handle COVID.”

Weeks later, the National Religious Broadcasters fired spokesperson Daniel Darling after he said in a USA Today op-ed and on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that getting vaccinated was his way of obeying the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself. The NRB has stated that on the matter of vaccines, it is “neutral.”

Time for Tea, Angela Brittain

Time for Tea, Angela Brittain

The demands for religious exemptions to Covid-19 vaccination mandates may have Americans convinced that to be religious in America means to be recklessly indifferent to Covid’s dangers. But a December poll from the Public Religion Research Institute finds that at least 60 percent of Jewish Americans, Hispanic Protestants, Hispanic Catholics, white Catholics, Latter-day Saints and “other Christians” believe “there are no valid religious reasons to refuse a vaccine.” The PRRI also finds that at least 50 percent of Black Protestants, other Protestants of color, white mainline Protestants and “other non-Christian religious Americans” share that view.

That leaves white evangelicals by themselves as the only religious group in the country in which fewer than half — in this case, 41 percent — agree that there are no valid religious reasons for such a refusal.

Read the rest at MSNBC.

More Reads

Stephen Collinson at CNN: Trump and the January 6 committee are now locked in a full-on confrontation.

Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: Capitol panel to investigate Trump call to Willard hotel in hours before attack.

Kelly Weill at The Daily Beast: Pro-Trump Group Invented Voter Fraud Claims Months Before Election.

Evan Osnos at The New Yorker: Dan Bongino and the Big Business of Returning Trump to Power.

Ian Millhiser at Vox: Just how much is Trump’s judiciary sabotaging the Biden presidency?

Raw Story: Biden-slurring dad Jared Schmeck goes full MAGA on Steve Bannon’s podcast: ‘The election was 100% stolen’

ABC News: Fauci warns omicron cases ‘likely will go much higher’

CNN: Between Christmas and New Year’s, doctors expect the US Omicron surge to grow.

What’s on your mind today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: The Threat From Trumpist Mass Delusions

Franz-Marc-1880-1916-Chatte-et-ses-petits

Franz Marc (1880-1916), Chatte et ses-petits

Good Morning!!

As we all know, there’s a substantial portion of American society that has surrendered to mass delusions. The things these people believe are so insane that you have to wonder of a large proportion of them may actually have serious, previously undiagnosed psychological disorders. From Twitter yesterday: Two examples of apparently insane people speaking at local board meetings about covid-19 conspiracies.

Some of these crazies have actually acted on their delusions. Recall the man who traveled from North Carolina to Washington DC to investigate the “pizzagate” conspiracy–the belief that Hillary Clinton and other Democrats were using the basement of a pizza restaurant to sexually abuse children and then extract “adrenachrome” from their adrenaline glands to gain immortality. There isn’t even a basement in the restaurant. He took his AR-15 into the place and waved it around. Now he’s in prison.

Believe it or not, the “adrenachrome” delusion comes from the book by Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I read it several times back in the day and I clearly recall the hilarious scene in the book. This is from Raw Story this morning in a very useful piece by Thom Hartmann: Trump’s shared psychosis is destroying the fabric of society

Thompson was bemoaning running out of hashish and being almost out of opium when his “fat Samoan” sidekick offered an alternative:

“As your attorney,” he said, “I advise you not worry.” He nodded toward the bathroom. “Take a hit out of that little brown bottle in my shaving kit.”
“What is it?”

“Adrenochrome,” he said. “You won’t need much. Just a little tiny taste.”
I got the bottle and dipped the head of a paper match into it.

Mary Fedden2

By Mary Fedden

“That’s about right,” he said. “That stuff makes pure mescaline seem like ginger beer. You’ll go completely crazy if you take too much.”

I licked the end of the match. “Where’d you get this?” I asked. “You can’t buy it.”
“Never mind,” he said. “It’s absolutely pure.”

I shook my head sadly. “Jesus! What kind of monster client have you picked up this time? There’s only one source for this stuff…”

He nodded. “The adrenaline glands from a living human body,” I said. “It’s no good if you get it out of a corpse.”

When Thompson asks his “attorney” where the adrenochrome came from, the fictional character tells the fictional tale of having once been hired to represent a child molester/murderer who’d presumably extracted it from one of his victims.

“Christ, what could I say?” Thompson’s sidekick told him. “Even a goddamn werewolf is entitled to legal counsel. I didn’t dare turn the creep down. He might have picked up a letter opener and gone after my pineal gland.” Which then led them to a discussion about eating pineal glands to get high…

The pineal gland episode is even wilder. I doubt if very many of these Pizzagate/Q-Anon cultists have read Hunter Thompson, but somehow this fictional episode was absorbed into their conspiracy theories.

Q-Anon-inspired delusional beliefs have led to a number of real-life incidents of deadly violence. This horror happened a couple of days ago:

HuffPost: Surf Instructor Dad Killed Kids Over QAnon ‘Serpent DNA’ Fears: Feds.

A Southern California man has been charged with killing his two young children with a spearfishing gun, deluded by QAnon conspiracy theories that made him believe that his kids were possessed with serpent DNA and that killing them would save the world, authorities said.

Matthew Taylor Coleman, 40, of Santa Barbara, was arrested Monday while reentering the U.S. from Mexico, where the bodies of his 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter had been found earlier that day, according to the criminal complaint.

Coleman, who founded a surf school in Santa Barbara, had been reported missing by his wife after she told authorities that he unexpectedly took off with their two children on Saturday while they were planning a family camping trip. He didn’t say where he was going, failed to answer her text messages and didn’t have a child’s car seat in his vehicle, she told authorities….

Mexico authorities later reported to U.S. officials that the bodies of two children matching the missing kids’ description had been found that morning in a ditch with large puncture wounds in their chests.

In a recorded interview, authorities said Coleman confessed to killing his children and leaving their bodies in Mexico. He said he drove them across the border on Saturday, having “believed his children were going to grow into monster so he had to kill them,” according to the criminal complaint.

Coleman told authorities that he was “enlightened by QAnan and illuminati conspiracy theories and was receiving visions and signs revealing that his wife … possessed serpent DNA and had passed it onto his children,” according to the complaint.

Killing his children, he told investigators, would be “saving the world from monsters,” the complaint said. He knew it was wrong, “but it was the only course of action that would save the world.”

Brigid Marlin, 1936

By Brigid Marlin, 1936

How many of these Q Anon cultists actually have undiagnosed psychological disorders? I’d bet quite a few. A bit more from the Thom Hartman article quoted above:

The University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism notes that 68 percent of the open Qanon followers arrested at the US Capitol on January 6th who had also committed crimes before or after that coup attempt “have documented mental health concerns, according to court records and other public sources.”

Their psychological issues included “post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy.”

The “Qanon Shaman” of so many iconic 1/6 pictures has now pleaded mental illness as his reason for showing up at the Capitol, as have two others who “were found to be mentally unfit to stand trial and were transferred to mental health care facilities.”

Of the six women arrested on 1/6 who’d also committed crimes before or after the coup attempt, the researchers note, “all six…have documented mental health concerns.”

These people are not only committing crimes because of their Trumpian delusions, but also they are helping to spread the coronavirus by claiming it is a government hoax and refusing to get vaccinated and wear masks. And powerful Republicans like Ron DeSantis and Gregg Abbott are catering to their delusions with deadly results, as I wrote in my Thursday post. The latest dire reports from Florida:

Tampa Bay Times: Florida COVID deaths rise as delta spreads; infections hit 21,600 a day.

Florida continues to see record COVID-19 infections across the state. Now, deaths are rising too.

The state reported 151,415 infections from Aug. 6-12, according to the state Department of Health. That’s an average of more than 21,600 cases a day. It’s the third week in a row that the Sunshine State set a record for weekly cases. Only Louisiana saw more infections per capita.

Florida also reported 1,071 deaths, a 74 percent increase from the previous week. Two children are among the dead.

More than 500,000 Floridians have been infected since June 19, when cases began climbing again. The more contagious delta variant is the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the nation, rewriting the old rules of staying safe as it powers the fourth — and worst — wave of the 17-month pandemic.

The burden on Florida hospitals continues to grow with an average of 2,222 new COVID-19 patients admitted every day over the past week, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. As of Friday, there were 15,441 confirmed COVID-19 patients being cared for in state hospitals.

The Sunshine State accounts for more than one out of every six infections and one out of every five hospitalizations in the U.S. this past week.

Gertrude Abercrombie, White Cat

Gertrude Abercrombie, White Cat

Buzzfeed News: Florida Hospitals Are “Stacking Patients In Hallways” As The Delta Variant Surges.

The calls came fast, first with a cardiac arrest case, next with multiple patients who were having trouble breathing, and all were suspected to have COVID. Usually, Stew Eubanks, a paramedic in Sumter County, Florida, deals with lots of minor emergencies, but now it’s mainly life-threatening cases. After a nonstop 24 hours, his Wednesday shift ended with another cardiac arrest.

“It’s bad right now,” Eubanks, 39, told BuzzFeed News. “We’re stacking patients in the hallways, stacking patients in the waiting room.”

Florida’s hospitals are filling up, with nearly 85% of inpatient hospital beds occupied, according to the Florida Hospital Association’s latest report. In the last week, the state has averaged more than 20,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, with nearly 15,000 people hospitalized. That’s shattered previous case records for the state, and COVID-19 deaths, which had been steadily declining since February, are also steeply rising.

By the end of his shift, Eubanks had transported 14 patients, a sharp increase from the six he’d see on a normal day prepandemic servicing the Villages, the largest retirement community in the country. Not only did he have more patients than normal, but they were also much sicker and required more critical care. Of the 13 hospitals in the local area, eight had limitations on which patients they would accept, including a standalone ER that warned it did not have enough oxygen to admit more COVID patients. Eubanks said even patients who manage to get admitted are waiting over 12 hours to receive care and that hospitals no longer have the space to separate highly contagious COVID patients from other people requiring emergency medical attention.

“Everybody is on fire and nobody has any water,” Eubanks said.

And from Texas:

Carma Hassan at CNN: ‘Your child will wait for another child to die.’ Amid Covid-19 surge, Dallas County has no pediatric ICU beds left, county judge says.

Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are surging and in Dallas County, Texas, there are “zero ICU beds left for children,” county judgeClay Jenkins said in a news conference Friday morning.

“That means if your child’s in a car wreck, if your child has a congenital heart defect or something and needs an ICU bed, or more likely if they have Covid and need an ICU bed, we don’t have one. Your child will wait for another child to die,” Jenkins said. “Your child will just not get on the ventilator, your child will be CareFlighted to Temple or Oklahoma City or wherever we can find them a bed, but they won’t be getting one here unless one clears.”

The judge added no ICU beds have been available for children for at least 24 hours. The Texas Department of State Health Services told CNN the shortage of pediatric ICU beds is related to a shortage in medical staff.

Faragó,_Géza_-_Slim_Woman_with_a_Cat_(1913)

Géza Faragó, Slim Woman with a Cat

“Hospitals are licensed for a specific number of beds and most hospitals regularly staff fewer beds than they are licensed for. They can’t use beds that aren’t staffed. With the increase in COVID cases, hospitals are experiencing a shortage of people to staff the beds that they are licensed for,” department spokesperson Lara Anton said in an email, adding that staffing agencies in the state are working on recruiting medical surge staff from across the US.

Earlier in the week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced more than 2,500 medical staff would be deployed to hospitals in the state to help with the increasing number of Covid-19 patients. More than 11,200 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 in Texas, according to state data, with roughly 323 ICU beds left available statewide.

Jenkins spoke alongside other elected officials as well as leaders from the Workers Defense Action Fund and other groups who said Abbott’s handling of the pandemic is putting residents in danger.

In July, Abbott issued an executive order combining many of his earlier Covid-19 orders, which included language that no governmental entity, including school districts, could require masks.

The Austin-American Statesman: Doctors see Texas’ COVID surge lasting months as hospital resources stretch thinner.

Austin-area doctors who are seeing COVID-19 cases regularly — and some of the more severe cases up close — say they believe we could be dealing with this latest surge for months to come.

Driven by the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus and fueled by a significant unvaccinated population, the spike in COVID-19 cases has squeezed the number of available hospital beds in Texas to a pandemic low of 7,187 — in yet another troubling sign of a strained hospital infrastructure.

According to state data, only about 439 total hospital beds are available for an 11-county region, made up of 2.3 million people across Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Lee, Llano and San Saba counties. The region had only seven staffed intensive care unit beds available Friday, up from just two on Tuesday.

“It’s much more cases in the hospital than we’ve ever really dealt with,” said Dr. Brian Metzger, the medical director of infectious diseases at St. David’s HealthCare. “It’s rough. Everybody is just tired.”

The patients are the unvaccinated, mainly in their 30s and 40s, but some in their 20s as well as some older people. Metzger is also starting to see families. Currently in his hospital are two brothers who have been in the intensive care unit for weeks. He also had been treating a husband and wife: She’s on a ventilator, and he died last night.

CNN reports that the crazies may be building up to more January 6-style violence: Calls for violence online similar to before January 6 Capitol attack, DHS Intel chief says.

Online extremist rhetoric is strikingly similar to the buildup to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, with increasing calls for violence linked to conspiracy theories and false narratives, Homeland Security Intelligence chief John Cohen said in an interview with CNN.

There have been online comments such as “the system is broken,” “take action into their own hands” and “bring out the gallows,” Cohen said, offering as paraphrases of what has been observed.

Youki-and-cat-Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita

Youki and Cat, Leonard Tsuguharu

While the conspiracy theories vary, there has been an ongoing narrative focused on the false premise that the presidential election was illegitimate, Cohen said. That narrative is paired with an increase in calls for violence to rectify the situation.

His comments come as the Department of Homeland Security issued a new terrorism bulletin warning the public about increasingly complex and volatile threats and days after DHS alerted state and local authorities to an increase in calls for violence online tied to election-related conspiracy theories.

“It’s very similar to the stuff we saw prior to January 6,” said Cohen, the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis senior official performing the duties of the under secretary. But the comments have stopped short of specific dates and threats, he noted.

Several swirling conspiracy theories point to a process that will change the results of the election.

“Concern from a law enforcement perspective is at a certain point in time, all of the conspiracy theories that point to a change occurring through process are going to sort of wear out. And the question is going to be, are people going to try to resort to violence, in or in furtherance of, that false narrative?” Cohen said.

What can be done about all this mass delusion? I frankly have no idea. All I can do is try to lay out what’s happening. Please let me know what you think. As always, this is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Governors DeSantis and Abbott Are Killing Their Citizens.

Childe Hassam, Geraniums, 1888

Childe Hassam, Geraniums, 1888

Good Morning!!

Right now the Southern states are experiencing the kind of surges that hit us in the Northeast at the beginning of the pandemic. Unfortunately these states are dealing with the Delta variant, which spreads much more easily than the early versions of the virus. That’s bad enough, but many Republican governors are making it worse by fighting against simple mitigation strategies that can protect their citizens.

Dakinikat sent me this article from Yahoo News: Southern Hospitals, Crushed By Delta Strain, Report Running Out Of ICU Beds.

Hospitals across the southern United States are reporting dramatic surges in coronavirus patients, forcing some to close their emergency rooms and others to treat more patients than they have capacity for as the delta variant of the virus continues to wreak havoc on regions with large swaths of unvaccinated residents.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Monday said the state had “very startling” figures showing the largest, single-day increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began. He said state hospitals had just eight beds in the ICU left for severely ill patients.

In Louisiana, an epicenter of the current wave, hospitalizations were climbing at the fastest rate since the pandemic started. Last week, the head of the state’s largest hospital described recent weeks as the “darkest” thus far, saying doctors were no longer able to provide patients adequate care under a crush in admissions.

“When you come inside our walls, it is quite obvious to you that these are the darkest days of this pandemic,” Dr. Catherine O’Neal, who runs the Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, said last Monday.

O’Neal added later that week that dozens of children and young adults were now in the hospital, a reality that’s new under the delta variant. Half of the 12 children admitted were under the age of 2, The Advocate reported.

At least Louisiana has a Democratic Governor–Jon Bel Edwards–who actually cares about the situation. Not so in Florida and Texas, where Ron DeSantis and Gregg Abbott seem determined to kill as many of their citizens as possible.

Florida reported similar circumstances, with many hospitals over capacity. The Wall Street Journal reported that at least 43% of the state’s intensive care beds are filled with coronavirus patients, prompting complex logistical issues as hospital workers race to find space for a tide of sick residents.

And in Texas several hospitals said they were closing their emergency rooms due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, directing patients elsewhere.

The Artist's Garden in Argenteuil, Dahlias, 1873's Garden in Argenteuil, 1873, Claude Monet

The Artist’s Garden in Argenteuil, Dahlias, 1873’s Garden in Argenteuil, 1873, Claude Monet

The delta variant has upended the country’s reopening plans, prompting cities and states nationwide to reinstate social distancing measures and mask mandates that were relaxed just months ago and meant to usher in an era of relative freedom. Now, COVID-19 cases are rising in every state in the U.S. and hit the highest levels this week since February, averaging more than 100,000 a day.

Many of the states with the biggest outbreaks have some of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates and are led by Republican governors and legislatures that have made it much more difficult to protect their citizens. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has banned vaccine passports and mask mandates for some businesses and schools. Arkansas’ Hutchinson said he made an error when he barred new mask mandates in April, and Texas’ Greg Abbott (R) has faced revolt from some school districts who have threatened to sue over his order to ban mask mandates.

Stephen Collinson at CNN: Kids are the victims of new GOP bid to politicize the pandemic.

America is being forced yet again to learn the same, repetitive lesson of the pandemic: Fighting a raging, evolving virus with cynicism-laced politics rather than medical data only leads to the same result – a prolonged national nightmare.

School kids are the latest victims as Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, the Republican governors of Florida and Texas, prioritize ideology over public health guidance. The governors are clashing with local officials who are resisting their orders banning school mask mandates, which appear to directly contradict traditional conservative resistance to distant, centralized power.

The Delta variant of Covid-19 is challenging the long-held belief that children don’t get hit hard by the coronavirus. The American Association of Pediatrics reported last week that the US had an 84% increase in new Covid-19 cases among children from July 22 to 29, and Dr. Aileen Marty – an infectious disease expert at Florida International University – told CNN last week that children’s hospitals in the Sunshine State are “completely overwhelmed.”

As the Delta variant scythes across the country – especially less-vaccinated Republican states – there are increasing signs that leaders like DeSantis and Abbott have locked themselves into absolutist positions that they will be unable to water down without sustaining serious personal and political damage. But the price for their path is more sickness and death in crowded Covid-19 units among people they were elected to serve.

Renée Carpentier-Wintz

Renée Carpentier-Wintz

“For any other disease, you would not turn to your political leader for medical advice,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN’s Pamela Brown on Monday. “Politicians should really let the public health and physician leaders move forward on how to get this thing under control.” [….]

The irony is that by resisting similar measures, these Republicans have proved true warnings by federal health officials that the Delta variant represents a grave threat. Now the same dynamic may play out again, as they ignore CDC advice that all kids in schools should wear masks.

Both governors enjoy strong support in conservative media. DeSantis was recently celebrated by right-wing pundits for his handling of the pandemic and is seen as a possible alternative nominee in 2024 if ex-President Donald Trump decides not to run again. ThSo their refusal to change course as conditions worsen only bolsters the impression that those who want a political future in the GOP must now demonstrate their contempt for common-sense health measures, just as surely as they must repeatedly prove their devotion to Trump.

There’s much more at the CNN link.

Both Abbott and DeSantis have ordered school districts not to require masks; some school officials are resisting. DeSantis is even threatening to defund schools that require masks. CNN: Florida governor’s office says state could withhold salaries of officials who enact school mask mandates.

In a move that escalated Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ fight over mask mandates, the governor’s office said Monday that the state board of education could move to withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who disregard the governor’s executive order that effectively prohibits mask mandates in school districts.

Last month DeSantis, a Republican, issued an executive order requiring the state’s health and education departments to create rules based on parents’ rights to make the health care decisions for their children who are students. Several lawsuits have since been filed challenging the constitutionality of the executive order.

Several school districts are considering mask mandates and a few have said masks will be required, with some opt-out exceptions.

A statement from the governor’s office on Monday says the state board of education “could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members.”

His spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, pinned a tweet Monday that reads: “Ultimately — Education funding is for the students. The kids didn’t make the decision to encroach upon parents’ rights. So any financial penalties for breaking the rule would be targeted to those officials who made that decision.”

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Woman with a Parasol in a Garden, 1875

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Woman with a Parasol in a Garden, 1875

It’s close, but I’d have to say DeSantis is the worst. How bad is Covid in Florida? Newsweek: Florida’s COVID Death Rate Is More Than 32 States Combined.

According to a COVID tracker created by The New York Times, Florida is currently recording a seven-day average of 122.1 deaths in the state from the virus, a figure larger than 32 other states combined.

Florida’s figure is also more than double that of the second most affected state, Texas, which is currently recording a seven-day average of 57.6, closely followed by California with around 42 people dying every day.

Louisiana and Missouri have also been badly affected, with average death rates of 33.4 and 25.1 each, while Maine and Vermont are faring the best, reporting figures of 0.1 and 0.3 respectively.

USA Today: As kids return to school, most Florida counties report COVID cases four times higher than last year.

Most Florida children are returning to school in areas where COVID-19 outbreaks are far more intense than they were when school started last year.

In most counties, cases are at least four times higher than a year ago, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. Five counties report a more than tenfold increase.

Cases among children are surging too, raising questions about the health consequences of students returning to campuses and a state ban on school mask mandates while vaccines are available for only some of the schoolchildren.

Public health experts and pediatricians said last fall that the most important factor to consider when deciding whether to start classes in-person was the amount of viral spread in the community at large. With cases so much higher than last year, districts are going against those recommendations by welcoming students to campus and limiting online learning options. Those moves follow instructions from the state government, which also prohibited schools from requiring masks for all children.

Over the seven days prior to last Friday’s state report, Florida saw 13,596 cases among children under 12, and 13,858 cases among ages 12 to 19.

Do Fournier, 1951

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: When it comes to the new coronavirus surge, Florida is an obvious outlier.

There is no real mystery undergirding Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) decision not to advocate for measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus in his state. During the first six months of the year, when cases were falling, he made his future ambitions very clear, embracing a variety of right-wing culture-war fights with an obvious eye toward maximizing his position for the 2024 Republican primary. He’d deny this if asked, no doubt, because there are legal obligations that accompany an actual declaration of candidacy and because elected officials enjoy being courted for such roles. But if you’ve seen a candidate position himself for a run, you knew what you were seeing.

Part of his ploy was to position his stewardship of Florida during the first part of the pandemic as the ideal balance of safety and freedom. Florida’s economy was unexceptional last year and its case totals unremarkable, but DeSantis, with the help of conservative media, was hailed as the anti-Andrew-Cuomo: a Republican who set aside the forceful recommendations of business closures and remote schooling. So he leaned into that with cases falling, waging a rhetorical battle against South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) and others as the most effective champion of personal freedom in the face of the pandemic.

It probably seemed like a good bet. Vaccinations were pushing cases lower and the pandemic seemed like it was moving to the background. It was easy to be the masks-are-a-choice guy because it seemed less likely that there would be a call to reimplement mandates. And Republicans, even in recent polling, don’t see masks as necessary because they aren’t worried about being infected. (Perhaps in part because they’re not following news about the virus very closely.)

But then the delta variant emerged. Cases in Florida began to spike and DeSantis was left with a bad set of choices: play it off as no big deal, push hard on vaccinations or reintroduce containment measures. He tried the second option for a while, without numbers budging much. So now he’s bear-hugged the first option.

Gustav Klimt, Bauerngarten mit Sonnenblumen, 1906

Gustav Klimt, Bauerngarten mit Sonnenblumen, 1906

DeSantis is either very stupid or just plain evil. I’m going to go with stupid. This idiot is even trying to keep cruise ships from requiring vaccines.Predictably, Abbot and DeSantis are now expecting the rest of us to bail them out.

The Guardian: Texas governor appeals for out-of-state help to fight latest Covid wave.

The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, appealed for out-of-state help to fight the third wave of Covid-19 in his state amid dire warnings while two more of the state’s largest school districts announced mask mandates in defiance of the increasingly hardline Republican.

Abbott’s request came on Monday as a county-owned hospital in Houston raised tents to accommodate their coronavirus patient overflow.

Private hospitals in the county already were requiring their staff to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the Dallas and Austin school districts announced Monday that they would require students and staff to wear face masks. The Houston school district already announced a mask mandate for its students and staff later this week if its board approves.

The highly contagious Delta variant is fueling the wave.

The Republican governor has directed the Texas department of state health services to use staffing agencies to find additional medical staff from beyond the state’s borders as the Delta wave began to overwhelm its present staffing resources.

He also has sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association to request that hospitals postpone all elective medical procedures voluntarily.

Local10.com: Florida requests 300 ventilators from federal government as COVID cases keep rising. Hospitals face ‘sheer exhaustion.’

 As a result of the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the state of Florida requested 300 ventilators from the federal government, according to a Department of Health and Human Services planning document obtained by ABC News.

Flowering Garden, Vincent Van Gogh

Flowering Garden, Vincent Van Gogh

The request was made on Friday “to replace expended state stores,” the document said.

The ventilators were expected to be delivered on Monday, though it was not said how they will be allocated.

It comes as doctors are stressed and hospitals are tapped for resources, their beds continuing to fill with unvaccinated patients infected with the virus.

“The nurses, the physicians, they have passed burnout a long time ago,” said Dr. Joshua Lenchus, Broward Health’s chief medical officer. “This is sheer exhaustion”

Florida reported an average of over 19,000 new coronavirus cases per day last week, and more than 13,000 hospitalizations were reported across the state Sunday.

CDC metrics on Monday showed five consecutive days with more than 20,000 new infections.

I feel for the citizens of Texas and Florida–especially the young children, who are at the mercy of their parents’ political ideologies as they return to school. This is completely insane!

That’s my rant for today. Thanks for reading, and I hope you stay safe and healthy wherever you live.