Just like as in a nest of boxes round,
Degrees of sizes in each box are found:
So, in this world, may many others be
Thinner and less, and less still by degree:
Although they are not subject to our sense,
A world may be no bigger than two-pence.
Nature is curious, and such works may shape,
Which our dull senses easily escape.Margaret CavendishOf Many Worlds in This World
There are a number of Earth’s animals, great and small, that care for each other. They seem to have feelings for the welfare of another. They demonstrate an innate behavior to protect their own as a whole rather than and possibly at the demise of themselves. In human terms this is called compassion, empathy, courage, altruism, love, and other inspiring virtues. In scientific terms it is known as eusociality and forms of superorganism behavior. In other words, the greater good of the whole is far greater than the one. Feel free to enjoy the accompanying music while viewing the slides of animal compassion, empathy, and selflessness and our planet’s sheer beauty:
There is an enormous goldmine of virtues to be learned and modeled by these animals and how they treat each other and other species.
OF VANITY AND LOATHING
There is one species on Earth that often regards and treats its own atrociously, let’s say by a form of cannibalism, but also treats its environment, its one and only home, nay even its own kitchen table—their food/water sources, their limited medicine cabinet, and the very air they must breath—with astounding naivety. As such, they carelessly risk their own offspring’s and their future offspring’s very home too in spite of evolving to astonishing levels of intellect. This one species for decades, no, no… centuries has persisted blindly and stubbornly in insatiable consumption, neglecting and biting the hand that feeds it, and with a bottomless amount of vanity. It has too often chosen ignorance or denial, prejudice or violence, and a habit of lethargy to change little, if anything, about its direction. Judging by its historical record it would seem this “superior species” is the epitome of self-defeating obesity leading to self-inflicted extinction. My accompanying tune and tribute to this brilliant, yet endangered species and slideshow:
WARNING — Some images are graphic and disturbing. Discretion advised.
After some 100,000 years of human “civilization,” is it time our species rethink its priorities and values, perhaps overhaul them completely? Is it time we stop exploiting, trashing, destroying, and ignoring our living kitchen that sustains all life on Earth, let alone our own kind? When will it be too late? How much business as usual becomes bankrupt, no more business, ever?
Most likely that deadline is much sooner than you think. Agree? Disagree? Indifferent?
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always — Love More
I am very happy to report that I finally qualify for my COVID-19 vaccines! My first (Pfizer) dose is scheduled for this Saturday, March 20 and my second dose Saturday, April 10. I am thrilled, to say the least!
But will my vaccinations be enough come April 30th, 2021? Or June 30th, 2021 when either the U.K. variant arrives in Texas and DFW (assuming it hasn’t already) or other future variants which mutate into a strand resistant to current vaccines? By the way, I have no idea WHY WordPress would not offer a button feature giving an Image with text wrap-around, so aesthetically this “block” looks utterly ridiculous!!! But hey folks, this isn’t my oversight. 🙄🤦♂️
Anyway, back to COVID-19 vaccinations and the stupidity that is Texas government by our Governor and his party. Prepare yourself my regular readers, I am not going to restrain my honest thoughts, opinions, or language for this post. I am tired and frustrated that a lethal virus turned world pandemic in the earliest stages whose impact could have been greatly lessened and its duration greatly shortened, was not achieved or even sought after. Most of all, thousands upon thousands of premature deaths by coronavirus, of all ages, never had to happen. Smarter prevention should have started as early as December 2019 or January 2020!
Oh, another thing. I am honestly sick and tired of blogging about this virus and the too many Americans and Texans not taking its effects and protections-against seriously. I so want to blog about other subjects, happier funnier, artful and intriguing subjects instead of this far reaching ripple-effects of a deadly virus. A virus that was politicized at the expense of ordinary families and individuals, i.e. America’s moderate, struggling or hard-hit, economically disadvantaged, middle and lower classes/demographic that make-up 85-90 percent of the U.S. population. They are the Americans I do not want marginalized, overlooked, or treated as inferior or as cannon-fodder for this virus and its evolving variants!
So I’ve been compelled to blog about it, not because it’s admirable or needed, but because it has also impacted me and my standard of life greatly! It must be discussed. This is the case I think with all Americans, or rather mostordinary, moderate Americans. In a way, how can one avoid it or pretend as if an unprecedented event and pandemic didn’t happen to yourself or to anyone else? Answer, you can’t. So perhaps for therapeutic reasons I’ve journaled about a virus that never had to be this bad. In the Spring of 2020 I had hoped I wouldn’t have to journal about it or blog about it for an entire year… and still counting, still ongoing. Tiring. Frustrating. Appalling. Saddening. Those are words partially expressing 15-months of American and Texas life in a politicized pandemic which has taken over half a million lives. Does that many dead bodies even compute!? And a large significant number of those deaths did NOT have to die early—for children and teenagers, they died way too early! How did (in 2020), and how do American political leaders live with that genocide atrocious fact and sleep at night? Are they human? Do they even have a heart?
So yes, I have blogged about this shameful travesty and a virus/pandemic that did not have to be so catastrophic and so unnecessarily protracted! If we had had intelligent, empathetic, and principled government leadership with citizens possessing the same traits, how very different these days would be. Ah, but alas… that has been a dream of another place, another time, in another Universe likely filled with an unfamiliar(?) superior species, isn’t it.
But enough torture and Shakespeare. What alternative reality am I living in Professor, you stupid man! Time to wake from that silly “American dream,” right? Dreams aren’t real are they?
A RETURN TO THE AMERICAN REALITY
A serious question:will my scheduled vaccinations be enough to relatively protect me come April 30th, 2021? Or June 30th, 2021 when either the U.K. variant arrives in Texas and DFW (assuming it hasn’t already) or against other coming future variants that mutate into a strand more resistant to current vaccines? And if the SARS-CoV-2 virus is always given non-stop opportunities to spread faster and mutate throughout people, populations or political groups defiant to simple, easy health-safety measures? Those easy to do measures such as wearing a mask, social-distancing, and avoiding crowds and huge social gatherings?
In doing those simple safety measures Americans/Texans greatly reduce or stop new variants from latching on, forming, then build resistance to our initial vaccines. Will our vaccine research, development, legal-approvals, and distribution be able to ever catch up to where the latest up-to-date doses are ahead or neck-n-neck to a virus constantly adapting and resisting COVID-19 vaccines? Can Americans and Texans do what must be done to eradicate this deadly pandemic and constantly mutating virus? The biggest way the virus keeps mutating is because of defiant humans (Republicans?) not wearing masks and not social-distancing. People, that is how it survives, spreads, evolves more intelligently, and therefore NEVERgoes away.
Another way more dangerous, new COVID-19 variants pop-up and survive is because too many defiant, indifferent humans refuse to avoid big gatherings or crowds, e.g. sporting events, patronizing pubs-bars, conventions, or attending family reunions without masks or staying 6-feet apart. Am I driving this home by repeating what hasn’t been done and what must be done? I hope so; let’s do it some more!
It is a no brainer what will happen if Americans/Texans behave as if the deadly pandemic is over. What follows that selfish thinking will be another sixth, seventh, or eighth spike or resurgence in COVID infections across America again. Then hospitals fill-up again near or above operating capacities just like what is happening in Manaus, Brazil. This indifference and/or defiance only perpetuates restrictions, lockdowns, and more mandates longer causing all the same economic ripple-effects all of us in the U.S. have experienced the last 14-15 months. Please wake tha F*CK UP people and use your scientific brains!
Yet, nine days ago our Texas Governor blatantly ignored warnings from health officials, epidemiologists, virologists, and a whole host of Texas nursing groups urging him to not do it, unanimously stating it is way too early!
My readers/followers, I know I sound like a broken record here and in many of my previous blog-posts. I’m not sure I should apologize though. It seems however, at least for those who either don’t listen, don’t care, or don’t understand virology, epidemiology, and how infectious diseases/viruses function, survive, and adapt… I must keep beating this drum. When a society/nation does not learn from their mistakes, and learn them permanently, then it is cliché, but history repeats itself. What happened for 12-months in 2020 just continues, it happens again and again until one of two things happen: either no more humans, or all humans out-smart COVID-19 and all its following variants! Duh, right? No, not so fast Professor.
Does over 47,000 dead Texans (as of March 17, 2021) from coronavirus not mean anything to you Governor Abbott? There are now two more infectious, more lethal variants on the way. They may already be in Texas, or will be in large spiking numbers by the end of March if most Texans do not wear masks or social-distance until it’s safe to do so. A premature reopening will defeat the previous gains made this year against COVID while also gaining ground with increasingly more Texans and Americans getting vaccinated. In turn, that will better contain possible newer variants from forming. Why jeopardize 14-months of pain, toil, and exhausting efforts made to getting control over this pandemic spreading? Why play Russian Roulette and chance killing thousands of more lives uselessly and prematurely with this idiotic decision? Wait only 3-5 more weeks, two months, or whatever it takes to halt the recurring of newer and newer variants!
Alright, enough imploring, enough ranting, enough reminding. Time for the science.
Scientists in the United Kingdom yesterday reported that a small number of B117 variants have developed the E484K mutation thought to help SARS-CoV-2 partly evade immunity, and today another UK group said their lab experiments suggest the mutation added to B117 may dampen the impact of vaccination after one dose.
Overall, the vaccine is likely to be effective against B117, though its efficacy is somewhat affected. Though they found wide variation among individuals, on average B117 required a twofold increase in serum antibody concentration to neutralize the virus. However, when researchers added the E484K mutation, substantially higher antibody levels—on average, a 10-fold increase—were needed for neutralization.
I highly recommend you read this article and stay tuned in to the ongoing results from vaccine boosters. CIDRAP was founded in 2001 with the University of Minnesota’s Office of Research and Public Health.
As is the case with anything brand new, a break-through discovery or invention, they have to be taken in those first days with a grain of salt and without knee-jerk reactions, right? Don’t jump to premature conclusions, right? Medical research is a long, sometimes slow process. In this field doctors and scientists must get it right. So here’s a “balancing” article from the Poynter Institute regarding the new COVID variants and the breaking news surrounding them relative to vaccinations, also a good quick read: “New COVID-19 variants could be more resistant to vaccines, but let’s not jump to conclusions.“
As a side note, the Poynter Institute is the parent company of PolitiFact.com, a fact-checking website I utilize often.
Get ready for my long sentence; take a deep inhale folks. If Americans, including our federal leadership and Congress/Senate (in Jan. 2020), and a specific political, socioeconomic demographic in this country (including Texas)… had listened closely, heeded the vehement recommendations from public health and medical advisors regarding what HAD to be done, nationwide, for public safety, and how this COVID-19 pandemic could and would devastate our economy IF we did not follow their protective guidelines… then we WOULD NOT BE in these shitty circumstances, the multiple recurring spikes or resurgences, and dealing with unprecedented unemployment and crippled economy for over a full year! And need I mention the over 552,400 (and still counting!) premature deaths by COVID? Actually yes, I probably do. 🤦♂️
The minute Gov. Abbott announced his total lifting of COVID-19 mandates and restrictions, many Texans could not wait to dash out of their homes or jobs as if nude. What I saw when I had to go out in public here in North Dallas and nearby affluent areas of Dallas, Plano, and Addison, Texas, almost no one had masks and frequently I witnessed lots of close-up gatherings and groups as if we had suddenly returned to normal. I couldn’t help but imagine those starting-gates at the Kentucky Derby or Belmont Stakes when the bell rings, the gate-doors slam open, and the race horses leap out of their tiny stall. I mean, here you’d think we were all in prison cells for years and near bonkers to be let go, celebrating liberally. Whoops, I better not use that word! Might offend thousands of Conservatives. 🙄
And yet we are still dealing with a deadly virus that could’ve and should’ve been much better managed, controlled, and near eradicated. But here we are in mid-March 2021! Are you effin kidding me people!? What an embarrassing track record we Americans and Texans have and continue to show the world. We are a bunch of self-centered, self-absorbed Prima Donnas who cry “freedom and liberty” for ourselves, ME, ME, ME when asked for the sake of public health and safety to—like our need for speed limits on highways, roads, and in school zones—just wear a simple, easy mask out in public, to social-distance, to avoid huge crowds indoors/outdoors close-up, and get vaccinated ASAP when available and qualified.
America’s Greatest Generation (or G.I. generation) would unanimously reply “Piece of cake!” Well yeah! Think long and hard about what all they had to handle, go through, and successfully came out victorious, for the most part. What a shame 2019-2021 America. What a shame Texas we have forgotten or lost those principles, endurance, and helping community caring for each other!
For all the rest of you level-headed, scientifically-based and educated readers: CONTINUE BEING SAFE, COURTEOUS TO OTHERS, and PATIENT till the very end of this pandemic. An “ending” when say there are only 9 or 10 Americans with COVID-19, any variant. And also an “end” when the qualified experts tell us it is safe to say, “COVID-19 has been eradicated enough. You may return to normal, if you’ve been fully vaccinated.” Will that day arrive? I do hope so. I hope that day actually comes very, very soon despite all this stupidity, indifference, and defiance that surrounds me. I also hope this ME ONLY behavior and mentality changes and does so permanently. Agreed?
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT & FOR YOUR FUNNY-BONE
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
I posted that quote from Shaw in my May 27, 2020 blog-post “It’s Over, We’re Free!“ That was less than a year ago and following no less than two (2) deadly, major resurges of COVID-19 infections and widespread deaths across the U.S. and my bullheaded, reckless home state of Texas. Easter and Memorial Day weekends of defiant, indifferent crowds gathering in large numbers, not following required public safety measures were blamed for those two major spikes.
No less than two months later (post-July 4th holiday) the same results; another third spike for 2020 also due to defiant human behavior. Three (3) more major resurges would follow that—Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas holidays—with even MORE infections and needless deaths. The cause? Duh, impatient, defiant crowds recklessly abandoning required public-health safety measures while falsely believing or being told by politicians, not expert virologists or epidemiologists, that earlier declines in COVID19 infections meant freedom, that is was all over, or at least “under control“ by the White House and Administration. But it wasn’t. Not even close.
Fast forward to March 2, 2021 in Austin, Texas and Governor Greg Abbott’s press announcement:
Does it feel like we are listening to, watching a broken record stuck in a vicious, annoying cycle/recycle? If not, it damn sure should Texas because this is sheer stupidity and a deluded misconception of authoritative medical science and infectious diseases backed with a proven, known track-record just ONE YEAR AGO Gov. Abbott! This 100% relaxing and prematurely implying victory or “under control“ is idiocy and indeed “Neanderthal thinking“ as President Biden appropriately responded.
LEADING THE NATION FROM THE BASEMENT
Why must, why do Texans insist they are the #1 leader in the nation in many/most all social and economic standards and measurements over the last three decades or more? One answer? Because our last three governors and our majority party of Congress have led the nation in MANY categories, from the basement that is, and they never want to discuss that reality publicly! Much less admit it to Texans or Americans. Did you notice in the video-clip above the very proud, verbose arrogance of Gov. Abbott implying that Texas will be one of the first states of the Union to lift/remove all COVID-19 mandates upon businesses and the public?
That is the recurring mentality and poorly advised, poorly educated, medically inept leadership and state Congress regarding infectious diseases—and many other socioeconomic segments—that I am addressing here and deeply disturbed by repeated empty Republican boasting in Texas. For my global and out-of-state readers, that’s not just a 2020–2021 occurrence. The deluded Texas perceptions from one specific demographic here has been perpetual since 1995, at least in areas of government and corporate authorities.
In an April 2012 examination of the Texas Economic Model by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, reported that despite Texas leading the nation in “expanding, growing employment,” comparatively low housing costs, and abundant oil and gas resources leading to very low prices for consumers, the state’s economic model is far from exemplary:
[T]he fact that so many Texans have failed to benefit from them – with poverty, low-wage jobs and lack of health insurance all above the national average – makes Texas a less-than-desirable model to follow.
“Not All It Seems,“ as the report-title states, is spot-on. Although Texas loves to boast that it is The Lone Star State, or “Don’t Mess with Texas,” or “Don’t Tread On Me, Remember the Alamo,” and “Come and Take It“—a very popular Pro-gun slogan—the state actually bottoms out on many public well-being, socioeconomic measurements. Case and point, several metrics for Texas since 2018 to 2020 show my state ranks comparatively in the bottom half of almost every single quality-of-life category for the bulk of its citizens. A closer look and reminder follows Texas.
TEXAS IS SUBPAR AT BEST
Out of all 50 states in the Union, where does (and has) Texas rank? According to USNews Best States in 2019, in the following eight socioeconomic standards the Lone Star State is…
#37 in Health Care— based on Access, Quality of Care, and the Public’s Health, a subcategory evaluated in six metrics: mortality rate, suicide rate, smoking rate, mental health, infant mortality rate and adult obesity rate.
#34 in Education— barely 37% of Texans are college grads, a #32 ranking, and a #33 ranking of Pre-K to 12 educations, i.e. enrollment in pre-K, standardized test scores, and the public high school graduation rate.
#15 in Economic condition — measures the state’s economic stability and potential. Oil and Natural Gas are Texas’ major driving resources.
#33 in Infrastructure— measures the state’s renewable energy, transportation, and internet access.
#39 in Success Opportunities— examines if states are granting citizens the tools needed to succeed in three subcategories of housing affordability, economic opportunities upward, and social-occupational, political, and legal equality.
#12 in Fiscal Stability— measures the state’s short- and long-term fiscal health.
#33 in Crime & Corrections— a state’s public safety and condition of prison/corrections as well as its justice systems.
#40 in Natural Environment/Amenities— a state’s air and water quality, rate of pollution, protections and violations, and enforcement of those subcategories.
These eight 2019 metrics ranked Texas overall at #38 of 50 states according to the report. Subpar at best Texas and that’s being generous. To see the ranking methodology used for these metrics click here.
In a 2020 study from a panel of university and professional experts on WalletHub published the Best and Worst States to Raise A Family utilizing 52 key indicators for families. There are 1 or 2 crossovers, but Texas ranks #28 in four metrics valued for a quality family-life. Also and again, in the bottom half of the nation overall. The breakdown:
5th in Family Fun— with kids under 18, number of recreational attractions, Rec & Fitness Centers, Parks & Playgrounds, and other factors.
37th in Health & Safety— 17 different sub-metrics such as COVID-19 weekly rates, quality of public hospitals, number of Climate disasters in past decades, and Share of Children Aged 6 to 17 Who Go to Safe Schools, and more factors.
33rd in Education & Child-care— measures quality of public schools, graduation rates, daycare quality, and child-care costs, and more factors.
41st in Affordability/Cost-of-Living— measures cost of housing, median financial health of families, problems paying medical bills, and Median Annual Family Income and Health coverage, and more factors.
38th in Socio-economics— measures Separation & Divorce rates, median duration of marriages, wealth gaps, food stamps distributed, and Job Security and Satisfaction, and more factors.
Since 1995 (or longer) none of the above two ranking systems and their metrics have significantly changed for the better. In stark contrast, however, what has changed enormously for Texas is indeed its fiscal stability/growth over the last 35-years due to: 1) homebased, mega corporate revenues/profits, 2) sharp rises in K–12 charter and public school enrollments, and 3) the state’s famed “Rainy Day Fund“ (graph above) with a 2020 fiscal balance of $10.7 billion. The fund has never seen a traumatic downward fiscal turn since the 2000’s. They were short, minor turns. Yet, in the above two statistical rankings and tables for quality-of-life measurements it is irrefutable that Texas has never been better than subpar to inadequate for over 25-years. This is an odd dichotomy, a strange ongoing 10+ year enigma given the state’s outstanding fiscal stability.
LEADING THE WAY IN HIGHEST TEEN BIRTH RATES
In another metric/category regarding families and parenting, the CDC 2019 Teen Birth Rate ranking for females aged 15-19: Texas is #42 joining all 11 Southern states formerly of the Confederacy, and all eleven being among the highest Teen Birth-rates in the entire nation for decades. In 2018 and 2017 Texas ranked 44th both years. Going further back to 2005 Texas was ranked the worst/highest at 50th, dead last. All 11 former Confederate states are and have been the nation’s worst/highest Teen birth-rates going back to 2005.
WHY NOT LEAD THE NATION IN REPEATED COVID-19 SPIKES IN 2021
Now with the total lifting of all COVID-19 safety mandates by Gov. Greg Abbott and his Republican Administration and Congress, Texas is all but guaranteed to soon lead the U.S. once again in another 8th or 9th deadly spike of coronavirus infections and widespread hospitalizations by late March 2021. Mark my words. The stupidity here in GOP leadership and supporting it knows no bounds. Not in infectious diseases, public health and safety, higher education, or sheer psychiatric delusions of fact-based science.
Since Jan. 21, 2020, when the very first case of COVID-19 was reported inside the U.S., to date Texas has never been in the top 50 states with the fewest cases and deaths. Never. Always in the bottom-half or lower. But no worries, it is all over. We are free to return to normal Texas! Gov. Abbott and his cabinet say so…
…well, until that likely spike, resurge in Texas late this month or early April sends these defiant, clueless Texans back into quarantines, lock-downs, and public mandates… for a 7th or 8th time in just 15-months. Yes, Texas just has to be the nation’s leader in many metrics, including ignorance, self-centered defiance, and medically-scientifically uneducated. It seems for the last 25+ years we must be in the nation’s rear-end. Not being first—way up in the smelly hindquarters below—is clearly unacceptable for us Texas folk! 🤦♂️😖
March 5, 2021 Addition — Over the last several months I have very much appreciated various TV news outlets doing segments of ‘Remembering Those Lost to COVID-19’ segments to remind many of us insensitive, divisive, and defiant Americans how to be human, how to empathize with regular Americans dying way too prematurely, and NOT forget those who died needlessly.Here is one such segment below. There are over 520,000 stories just like these five dead people. The story of James Wong, a 45-year old American of Chinese descent and Zurina Rose, a 42-year old American of Filipino descent, resonated with me deeply because of their health-care and mental-health connections. Zurina’s story is particularly crushing. I too began to choak-up like Judy Woodruff does at the end. Please watch all of the 3-minute clip from PBS NewsHour:
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always