Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

August 15th, 2021:

Weekend link dump for August 15

“So it goes for many media companies, at a loss for revenue and drooling over the profit potential in sports betting. As gambling swallows up sports media, anyone pausing to consider editorial conflicts (or, in the case of bets based on nonpublic information, possible law-breaking) might feel left out.”

“Indonesia says ‘Jurassic Park’ project on track despite UNESCO warnings”. There’s no way this ends well, is there?

“COVID-19 accounts for nearly half of all police deaths” in 2021 so far.

There is a huge uptick in the request for vaccines. We’re back almost to how we were when the vaccine first came out.”

“If Americans truly wish to protect all children (and adults) from kidnapping, exploitation, and other forms of sexual and physical harm, we must recognize that cases like Johnny Gosch’s and Eugene Martin’s are extremely rare. Stranger abduction and exploitation understandably terrify parents and other family and community members in acute ways, yet family members and acquaintances are far more likely to perpetrate harm against children.”

“My reaction to the Dick Farrels of the world is: I’m sorry their friends lost a friend, and I’m sorry for all the people they fed bullshit to who are currently in danger of contracting a dangerous but easily preventable virus because he encouraged them not to protect themselves with a simple, safe and efficient vaccine. If his death and deathbed conversion to the efficacy of vaccines serves as a useful rebuttal to all his previous bullshit on the subject, so much the better. Beyond that, I wouldn’t have wished him dead, and I’m glad he’s no longer able to tell other people not to get vaccinated. It’s too bad the former was required for the latter, but, well. Here we are. If it takes more deaths like his for it to sink in, at least they will not be entirely useless deaths. This is about as kindly as I can put that.”

Pitchers really, really can’t hit. That’s all you need to know.

RIP, Lauryn Farris, leading voice for transgender advocacy in San Antonio.

“The audacity of the former President’s attempts to subvert the law by weaponizing the Justice Department not only underscores how close the United States came to a full blown constitutional crisis this year. It also emphasizes that any attempt by Trump to use a war chest already worth $100 million to try to recapture the White House in 2024 would represent a mortal threat to democracy and the rule of law from a leader who was undeterred even by his own first impeachment.”

This is the core of good climate policy: pushing fossil fuels off the grid over the next decade and replacing them with zero-carbon energy.”

RIP, Tony Esposito, Hall of Fame goalie for the Chicago NHL team.

“Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said state and local governments should require teachers to get vaccinated against Covid-19.”

“Newsmax helped create and cultivate an alternate reality where up is down, pigs have wings, and Dominion engaged in a colossal fraud to steal the presidency from Donald Trump by rigging the vote.

RIP, Cameron Burrell, former NCAA champion sprinter at the University of Houston.

“What the crank is giving people is the *illusion* of not trusting an authority—unlike all those sheep who trust the *mainstream* authorities. A bit like the media elites who win large followings by telling you not to trust media elites.”

Let unvaxxed people complain about vaccination requirements for travel. They shouldn’t be traveling if they’re not vaxxed.

Who should Americans be angry at? Can we narrow it down? Sure.”

RIP, Nanci Griffith, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter.

“More than 4,700 lives lost to Covid-19 in Florida and Texas could have been saved if those states had higher vaccination rates, according to a study released on Thursday.”

“Restaurant owners across the country are experiencing similar waves of backlash after announcing vaccination requirements for anyone who wants to dine indoors. Their Yelp pages get overrun with one-star reviews from people who have never eaten there; their Instagram posts get spammed with vitriolic comments; their inboxes and voicemails get flooded with messages. Many of the comments are eerily similar: angry anti-vaxxers accuse restaurateurs of medical segregation, comparing vaccine requirements to racial discrimination.”

And it’s off to SCOTx for the mandate stuff

It’s where it was always headed.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is taking the mask mandate battle to the state Supreme Court after the state was defeated in its attempts to overturn such mandates in San Antonio and other municipalities.

Paxton made the announcement late Friday night in a tweet that read, “We have taken this mask mandate to the Texas Supreme Court. The Rule of Law will decide. — AGPaxton.”

On Friday, a three-judge panel of the 4th Court of Appeals denied Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott’s request to overturn a temporary restraining order granted Tuesday that blocked Abbott’s ban on mask mandates and allowed the city to order masks in schools and government buildings.

“After considering the petition and the motion, this court concludes (the state) is not entitled to the relief sought,” Justices Luz Elena Chapa, Irene Rios and Beth Watkins wrote in their Friday ruling.

That same day, the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas also denied the state’s bid to overturn a mask order by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. And in Travis County, a judge granted similar restraining orders against Abbott to Harris County and the South Texas school districts of Brownsville, La Joya and Edinburg, allowing them to keep mask mandates in place.

See here for some background, and here for a story about the Dallas appellate verdict. As far as I can tell, this hearing will review both of those rulings, and thus will obviously affect the other litigation going on. To that end, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee has submitted an amicus brief in support of Dallas and Bexar. I have no particular reason to believe that the Supreme Court will do anything other than offer the usual room service to the state, but I have to hope, because what else is there to do? I assume we will know shortly what they think. KXAN and the Trib have more.

State follows through on Abbott’s attack on trans kids

Revolting, though fortunately not particularly consequential. For now, at least.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has responded to Gov. Greg Abbott’s request for an interpretation of state law sent last Friday, agreeing that some gender confirmation surgeries for transgender children constitute child abuse.

According to the letter, signed by DFPS commissioner Jaime Masters, allegations of such surgeries “will be promptly and thoroughly investigated and any appropriate actions will be taken,” though it’s unclear what impact the ruling will have.

Medical experts said gender-affirming care for transgender children rarely, if ever, includes use of the surgeries — orchiectomies, hysterectomies and mastectomies — that Abbott cited in his letter Friday to Masters. Most care for transgender children includes social transitioning and puberty blockers, which are reversible.

Abbott vowed last month to take action to restrict transition-related medical care for transgender minors in Texas. The move comes after a bill that sought to define several types of gender-affirming health care as child abuse was passed by Texas Senate during the regular session before gaining little traction in the House.

Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with the Texas division of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the letter seems to carry little weight or merit.

“It seems to us that this is mainly a political attack and political stunt as a way to attack transgender kids,” Klosterboer said. “…This letter, it is official in the sense that what the commissioner says might influence how DFPS does their work, but it doesn’t change the law in this area.”

Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, a founding member of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, said legislation would have to be passed to change the Texas Family Code for there to really be any major change. However, the letters could present detrimental affects to transgender children seeking gender-affirming care.

“This opens the door to any parent of a trans kid being accused of child abuse,” Zwiener said.

[…]

Ricardo Martínez, CEO of Equality Texas, said rhetoric within the letters from Abbott and DFHS, which include the term “genital mutilation,” are an attempt to institute fear mongering and do not reflect actual gender affirming care.

“I think that it’s important to address that current best practice, health care approach for transgender children is a social transition which requires no medical intervention,” Martinez said. “I think that the letters that have been changed between Governor Abbott and the state agency are really not taking that into account. For older adolescents and teens the prevailing standards of care best practices and guidelines, look nothing like the contents of those letters.”

See here and here for the background. It’s good that this new directive means little in terms of actual policy change, but that’s of limited comfort when you remember that anti-trans bills are on the agenda for the special session. Abbott is not going to give up on this. He cares way more about hurting trans kids than he does about protecting kids in general, as his utter failures on COVID make clear. The Chron has more.

As it happens, this news story came out on the same day that one of my cousins sent an email to a bunch of family members. It was a reply to an email he had sent five years ago, announcing the birth of his first child, a son. In this email, he informed us that his partner is pregnant with their second child, and also that their first child had been telling them since they were three that they were not a boy but a girl. It took my cousin and his partner, a couple of Brooklyn hippie types, some time to understand what this meant and come to terms with it, but they had done so and were re-introducing the larger family to their daughter and her new name. He included a picture, which was lovely. I’m happy for my cousin and his family, and I hope they never live in a place where the government is actively trying to harm their children. No one should have to deal with that.

It’s a bad time to go to a rural hospital

Only gonna get worse, too, at least in the short term.

For the past week, Brooke Hale has been told “no” about 80 times a day. The executive assistant at Altus Lumberton Hospital has spent her shifts on the phone in a windowless office, repeatedly asking other facilities within an 800-mile radius the same question: Can you take one of our critical COVID-19 patients?

On Thursday, there were three. They needed intensive care, and without it they could die. Hale tried hospitals in Texarkana and Tyler, Lubbock and Lufkin, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi. None had room.

“I feel helpless,” Hale said through her green N95 mask. “I feel like I can’t help patients like I need to.”

The same scene is being repeated throughout Southeast Texas, as rural hospitals and freestanding emergency rooms are scrambling to send critical patients to other regions and states because Houston medical centers, full with COVID-19 patients, refuse to accept transfers.

For small facilities, what once was a routine transport to local hospitals has become a frantic process of cold calling and cajoling health care providers in hopes of securing an open bed. In the meantime, patients who must receive intensive care languish in places that are unable to provide it.

By Thursday afternoon, 543 patients in the 25-county hospital region anchored by Houston were waiting for staffed hospital beds, according to the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council; 62 more waited to be admitted to an ICU. The gridlock also extends to ambulance crews, who wait longer outside of crowded ERs to admit patients.

And health officials predict the region’s COVID-19 hospitalizations, which have grown for three straight weeks to more than 2,500, will swell further through August.

The result is a strained health care system that is more dangerous for anyone in need of acute care, from a critically ill COVID-19 patient to a car accident victim who requires surgery. And like last summer’s surge, researchers fear this wave will bring an increase in non-COVID deaths, attributable to delays in care caused by the pandemic.

“Typically, it takes less than an hour to find a bed,” said Dr. Swapan Dubey, chief medical officer at Texas Emergency Care Center, which has two Houston-area freestanding ERs. “Nowadays in my own centers, we’re hearing cases that are taking 30 to even 50 hours.”

I mean, this is the same song we’ve been singing for the past few weeks. We experienced this before, in previous COVID waves, and at least at some level the lesson never took, because here we are again. We know exactly what we need to do to make this better, and we have a much better tool available to us this time with the vaccines, and yet here we are again. I don’t know what else to say, but I do know who to blame, and that’s Greg Abbott. Even in this part of the state, which includes some of the reddest counties around, we need to make more people see it that way, too.