Not 1st is Unacceptable!


We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.

George Bernard shaw

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.

McNichol and Johnson,The Texas Economic Model: Hard for Other States to Follow and Not All It Seems,” (2012)- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, accessed March 3, 2021.

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.

Big Tex at the 2020 State Fair of Texas

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

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Country vs City: The U.S. Political Landscape

As the 2020 Presidential election Nov. 3rd dragged on through the night and into the morning, then afternoon of Wednesday with no outright winner, by Thursday, Nov. 5th I noticed something on the various election maps displayed in newscasts on TV, online, and in various political articles of the United States’ two-party system. The color-coded 50-states and various key swing states of Red or Blue, or trending to Red/Blue, and then the many counties within each of those states going Red or Blue, one thing seemed consistent in all of the states.

2020 Presidential Election Map – Nov. 5, 2020 at 12:00pm CST

Just as large Red-Blue maps showed in the elections of 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and then again in 2016 and once again Nov. 4th, 2020 it became clear that for reasons not fully known to me—although I had an educated hypothesis why at the time—most all urban areas, counties, and major cities tended to go and have gone for decades to Democrats (Blue). The rural areas and counties tended to almost always go to Republicans (Red). How interesting.

The distinction is not only stark, but it has also been the evolving political landscape in America for a number of decades (see below slide-show of swing states). Why is that? What is going on with large metropolitan areas and what has gone on in those populations? What has been happening in rural counties? And why do many suburban areas flip-flop between the two parties every 2-4 years? Matt Grossmann at the Niskanen Center in Washington D.C. says “Election maps are showing stark divides between liberal cities and conservative countrysides, advantaging Republicans in our geographic electoral system.” Advantaging Republicans? I wanted to further understand why these clear political demographics have become so predominant, so unmistakable. Here is what I found, the data according to several scholars and political savants explaining population densities and how those densities shift on the political spectrum.

There was another data-set I was also interested in myself, personally, to see what correlations might be shown pertaining to the education levels attained by rural residents, suburban residents, and urban residents. Was there any patterns of education correlating to population densities and political affiliations? What I discovered was also quite stark and unmistakable. But lets first examine the dynamics of population densities and their political alignments.

U.S. Population Densities and Political Divides

Jonathan Rodden is a professor at Stanford University in their Political Science Department. He is a graduate (BA) of the University of Michigan, Fulbright student at the University of Leipzig, Germany, and a post-grad (PhD) in Political Science from Yale University. He works on the comparative political economy of U.S. institutions.

Rodden draws back to unionized industrial railroad hubs, but he finds that today’s growing divisions reflect the changing cultural values of the parties’ new coalitions. Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center finds that U.S. geographic areas are becoming economically and psychologically distinct, with cities concentrating those open to new experience and working in the technology-driven economy and rural areas, retaining those averse to social and economic change. They both find our geographic divide central to contemporary politics, including the election of Donald Trump. Wilkinson says urbanization and geographic polarization help explain where we are today.

In his research at the Niskanen Center Will Wilkinson finds:

…that we’ve failed to fully grasp that urbanization is a relentless, glacial social force that transforms entire societies and, in the process, generates cultural and political polarization by segregating populations along the lines of the traits that make individuals more or less responsive to the incentives that draw people to the city. I explore three such traits—ethnicity, ideology-correlated aspects of personality, and level of education achievement—and their intricate web of relationships. The upshot is that, over the course of millions of moves over many decades, high density areas have become economically thriving multicultural havens while whiter, lower density are facing stagnation and decline as their populations have become increasingly uniform in terms of socially conservative personality, aversion to diversity, and lower levels of education. This self-segregation of the population, I argue, created the polarized economic and cultural conditions that led to populist backlash.

Will Wilkinson,The Density Divide: Urbanization, Polarization, and Populist Backlash,” June 2019 – Niskanen Center, accessed Nov. 4, 2020

Since the start of the Industrial Revolution (1880’s) the American GDP (gross domestic product) has moved from a primarily agricultural economy in the Southern and Midwest states, and a manufacturing economy in the Northeastern states to a much more heavier manufacturing GDP by the end of the World Wars (1918, 1945) and significant decline in agricultural regions. For various economic factors the Midwest states moved more and more from family-owned agrarian farms to buy-outs by large corporate farms such as the six biggest: TIAA-Cref, BlackDirt, Hancock Agricultural Investment Group, American Farmland Company, AgIS Capital, and Gladstone Land Corporation. Over the last century and a half this has contributed to a gradual stagnation or decline in rural America.

By the end of the 1980’s and 1990’s the American job-force and GDP had shifted from a heavy manufacturing economy to one of an information economy and knowledge-based work. This nurtured an increasingly higher job-demand for highly skilled, highly educated workers and a departure from a less skilled, less educated service workforce. This has concentrated our higher economic production counterintuitively. Our shift from agrarian to manufacturing to an information, knowledge-based economy actually facilitated the dynamics we see today: talking and working from hundred of miles away. What is more ironic is that this latest shift did not usher the death of distance or mobilization, it actually amplified the many advantages of clustering highly educated, highly skilled workers together. As Will Wilkinson explains:

…the productivity of better educated workers is augmented more by each new technological development. But the productivity of those people is enhanced yet further by being near other people with similar skill sets.

In other words, many creative, highly skilled, highly educated workers all bumping heads weekly, challenging each other, enhances all aspects of ingenuity, cutting-edge research, and an inspired workforce on most occupational levels. This is less so and a bigger challenge in rural areas where seclusive lifestyles or aversions to diversity, and sheer distance prohibits many social and economic potentials for that community. To be more candid, removing one’s self from constant opportunities to learn, evolve, compete, and engage with those different than you increases ignorance and chances of social-economic extinction.

If you are able to read or listen to the 51-minute podcast on the Niskanen Center’s website hosted by Matt Grossmann (here), then I recommend it. It thoroughly explains at least two contributing factors to the United States’ current polarized politics. Finally, Will Wilkinson surmises two poignant reasons why Donald Trump was able, against all political odds and predictions, to win the Presidential election in 2016. Wilkinson’s last bullet-point is particularly telling:

  • Related urban-rural economic divergence has put many lower-density in dire straits, activating a zero-sum, ethnocentric mindset receptive to scapegoating populist rhetoric about the threat of “un-American” immigrants, minorities, and liberal elites who dwell in relatively prosperous multi-cultural cities.
  • The low-density bias of our electoral system enabled Trump to win the majority support in areas that produce just 1/3rd of GDP and contain less than 1/2 the [U.S.] population.
Education Levels Attained in Rural, Suburban, and Urban America

As I mentioned in my opening paragraphs, with the last five Presidential elections and this one in 2020, all of them have unequivocally shown that with population densities rural counties in America go almost always Republican, and urban counties go Democratic, with suburban counties fluctuating every 2-4 years, I asked What are the highest education levels attained by those resident voters?

In an April 2016 report by the Pew Research Center it found many interesting distinctions between America’s Republican (Conservative) and Democratic (Liberal) voters.

Highly educated adults – particularly those who have attended graduate school – are far more likely than those with less education to take predominantly liberal positions across a range of political values. And these differences have increased over the past two decades.

[…]

Among adults who have completed college but have not attended graduate school (approximately 16% of the public), 44% have consistently or mostly liberal political values, while 29% have at least mostly conservative values; 27% have mixed ideological views.

Pew Research Center — “A Wider Ideological Gap Between More and Less Educated Adults” April 26, 2016, accessed Nov. 6, 2020. https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2016/04/26/a-wider-ideological-gap-between-more-and-less-educated-adults/

A 2018-2019 Pew Research Center report found that among registered voters in the same period, 41% with post-graduate work identified as Democrat, 37% as Independent, and 20% as Republican. Those registered voters with a four-year bachelor’s degree 34% identified as Democrats, 38% as Independent, and 26% as Republican. By contrast, 2018-19 registered voters with only a high school diploma or less, 34% identified as Republican, 31% as Democrat, and 31% as Independent (click here for report). For a visual correlation of these educational levels versus rural, suburban, and urban counties as well as by state, see maps below.

“Advanced degree” means either 2-years of college or junior college or in a trade school. Compare these two maps to the first map above of Red/Blue states or Republican/Democrat states. Notice the correlations?

What the data has been telling political scientists and sociologists over the last three decades and especially the last decade is that the current political landscape of the United States is clearly divided by not only population density, but by highest education levels attained. To say it another way, one of the most striking patterns in this 2020 Presidential election and the last five is this: a major bipolar divide between white voters with a college degree and those without one.

According to exit polls in the 2018 midterms, 61% of non-college-educated white voters cast their ballots for Republicans while just 45% of college-educated white voters did so. Meanwhile 53% of college-educated white voters cast their votes for Democrats compared with 37% of those without a degree (see tables below). This has played out again in 2020.

Adam Harris, a political and education journalist concludes what I have learned the last 20-years regarding the U.S. political landscape today:

The diploma divide, as it’s often called, is not occurring across the electorate; it is primarily a phenomenon among white voters. It’s an unprecedented divide, and is in fact a complete departure from the diploma divide of the past. Non-college-educated white voters used to solidly belong to Democrats, and college-educated white voters to Republicans. Several events over the past six decades have caused these allegiances to switch, the most recent being the candidacy, election, and presidency of Donald Trump.

The million-dollar question then is Why the leftward shift by higher educated Americans and the rightward shift by lower educated Americans? Well, the jury is still out on that answer, or they are gradually filing in the courtroom these last two or three federal elections. Typically three influencing factors are offered by American political scientists, savants and scholars:

  1. General polarization (Populism?) — Pew Research Center has found that the entire U.S. has become more ideologically polarized due to: distrust in government, racial and religious politics through the 1960’s and ’70’s, and renewed again with police brutality of the last 3-5 years. Also a growing income inequality across the American middle- and lower-classes, the latter not seeing mobility or growth in earnings or minimum wage stagnation in most states. These divisive events and movements inside the U.S. the last 20-years have not significantly changed for a highly educated American consistently engaged in liberal ideologies and institutions. This probably furthers the political chasm.
  2. Women — More women are increasingly entering the workforce and obtaining college and post-grad degrees. They then tend to gravitate to Democratic, liberal ideologies more so than men. This trend may have contributed to higher educated Americans aligning with Democratic values.
  3. Insularity — This condition could be summed up simply as we like our echo-chambers of like-minded people and friends. As Bill Bishop popularized in his book “The Big Sort,” Americans are increasingly clustering with their political, religious, and social circles those ideological bubble-walls are getting thicker. It’s suggested that this is particularly true with the post-grad set. This factor goes back to what Grossmann, Wilkinson, and Rodden above explained and postulated. Reviewing that Niskanen Center podcast above… highly educated Americans in particular seek out jobs that use their highly educated skill sets; it ends up sorting them into more homogeneous communities near and inside urban areas.

The flip-side of this political trend in the U.S. is that the rightward shift by Conservatives and Republicans is in age groups, or generational groups. Pew Research has also found that Baby-boomers, Generation X-ers, and to a lesser degree the “Silent Generation“—Americans born between 1928 and 1945—all of which makeup the bulk of Republican and GOP-leaning members, have shifted more and more to the Right since the 1990’s. Again, why is that?

Pennsylvania ballot-counters with bipartisan Monitors/Lawyers standing watch – 2020 Presidential election

What is unmistaken these last two or three decades in the U.S. political landscape is the increasing lines of geopolitical distinction—Republicans residing mostly in rural counties and with lower educations while Democrats, Liberals, and Independents reside mostly in urban counties with higher education levels by comparison. And for the most part the suburban populations fluctuate, despite a newer (slight) trend that they too are trending a bit more to liberal Democratic ideas.

While it is looking increasingly day by day, hour by hour that former Vice-President Joe Biden will be our next President—as of 4:00pm CST—what are your thoughts about our political landscape to date and the last 20-30 years? Share them below in comments if you feel and so desire. I and my regular followers are interested in the feedback!


Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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More Evangelicals Turn Against Trump

It’s great news isn’t it? I for one am smiling big with some chuckles. During times like this—and they have been many!—I often say to myself as if I was a Conservative or Evangelical (but I’m not!), with a shocked expression, “Oh SH*T! I didn’t see that coming or happening.” HAH! And surprise surprise, we have yet another one America!

robert-schenck

Rev. Rob Schenck

I typically wouldn’t published a post predominately about and by a religious evangelical activist, let alone one by Reverend Rob Schenck. But this one time I am making an exception because this interview on PBS’ Amanpour & Company with Michel Martin this past Tuesday, June 16th is a remarkably insightful look at the current state of American Evangelicalism in the volatile, turbulent Trump Era. The interview with Schenck is particularly revealing given that it was America’s Evangelical communities and organizations that helped Trump get elected in 2016. Now those same Evangelicals are becoming increasingly disenfranchised with the unstable, impulsively unpredictable President. They are once again justified.

If you are unfamiliar with the Rev. Rob Schenck, he burst onto the scene of public awareness first in 1988 with his “Faithwalk” from Canada, through the U.S., and into Mexico City, then again in 1992 in Buffalo, NY, at an abortion clinic where he affectionately cradled a preserved fetus named “Tia,” grabbing national and global attention for his Pro-life beliefs. Rev. Schenck later became a key role and player in Washington D.C. for The National Memorial for the Preborn, later named the National Pro-Life Religious Council, an annual pro-life event inside the U.S. Capitol complex. Schenck has organized many Conservative-Religious events, movements, and meetings across the U.S. with government officials and has been heavily involved with pro-life projects. His most infamous involvement was with his one or more national organizations paying Anti-abortion poster-girl Norma McCorvey over $450,000 to publicly campaign against and denounce Roe v. Wade and abortions. Schenck now regrets that highly unethical exploitation of McCorvey and has since reversed his position, publicly supporting Roe v. Wade.

With his very controversial background it made Rev. Schenck’s comments in this 17-minute interview that more startling, more eye-opening about Trump’s crumbling support of Evangelicals for his reelection hopes. I urge all of you to watch. If you would rather read the transcript of the segment, click here then scroll down and click “Read Transcript.”

Using the Bible as a prop. Rev. Schenck goes on to say it was a political stunt meant to reinforce the devotion of certain voters. And furthermore, many television viewers do not know what Trump’s staff did to control that predetermined area and church property that he seized control of a church, by using military-grade force, even against the clergy that were present there, evicting essentially an entire sector of the city… Many well-known Evangelicals and Conservatives are rightly doubting and criticizing their elected Administration that as Rev. Schenck regrettably puts it was a Faustian deal made with Donald Trump where he…

promised, I will give you everything you have ever wanted on your laundry list of political deliverables, if you give me what I want and demand, and that is religious cover. I need you to say that I’m blessed of God and that everything I have done is good.

America, all registered voters for this upcoming election, if that isn’t a dystopian political police-state eerily similar to the one portrayed in the 2005 film V for Vendetta, then I don’t know what is. But what I find no sympathy for is with Rev. Schenck and his supporters/followers, Pat Robertson, and all American Evangelicals or Christians who voted for this immoral, incompetent whacko they helped put into the White House. Intelligent Americans for decades knew this about Donny T. and everything about his character, family, personal life, and sketchy, abusive real estate failings and mediocre business practices since his celebratizing in 1982! Trump is very well-known to admire and support powerful, wealthy, corrupt Mafia-style men as well as men known to have abusive, illegally exploitative histories against women and/or girls. Therefore, does Rev. Schenck and America’s Evangelicals and Conservatives really deserve our sympathy now?

Is it worth saying to them in a calm yet firm tone I told you so”?

————

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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