Black Swans

I learned a new definition and tag the other day: “Black Swan.”


What is a Black Swan? As best as I can decipher a Black Swan has three attributes:

  1. The event is unpredictable (to the observer).
  2. The event has widespread ramifications.
  3. After the event has occurred, people will assert that it was indeed explainable and predictable (hindsight bias).

These three Black Swan components can comprise a positive or negative consequence, or both. But it is primarily the second component that makes the event historic for the ages.

The origin of the term “black swan” in order to characterize such events I found intriguing. Prior to 1697, not one Western civilization country had observed any black swans in existence. This gave rise to the blind notion that such creatures just didn’t exist. Hence, the term became used to describe situations of impossibility and in my own estimation, egocentric innocence.1 And then it happened.

After a black swan was indeed observed in western Australia in 1697, the egocentric innocent assumption was disproved. Since then, “black swan” now describes situations where (premature) perceived impossibilities have later been disproven and those false egocentric paradigms have been shattered. Thank goodness for elapsed time and losing our supposed, imposed innocence.

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

And Robert Browning called it “sin.”

There are many Black Swan events throughout human history, more than you might think or that you were unaware of or not privy to and as it were was classified as “Strategic Subterfuge” by higher powers. The latter is much more prevalent than one might imagine. Some examples include:

  • Rise of the internet
  • The personal computer
  • The Georgia (1829) to the Black Hills (1874) Gold Rushes and others
  • Battle of Little Big Horn
  • World War I
  • Discovery of fossil fuels then electricity and AC vs. DC
  • Discovery of nuclear fission
  • The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 or
  • The collapse of Spain’s global Empire over the 18th- and 19th-centuries
  • The 15th-century Columbian Exchange
  • The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on targets in the U.S.
  • COVID-2019

The inventor of the term “Black Swan,” Nassim N. Taleb, underscores the point that the black swan event depends upon the observer. A Thanksgiving turkey sees its demise as a black swan, but the butcher and guests dining do not.

It’s important to draw the distinction between a black swan event and a crisis. Not all black swan events are crises, any lottery winner will attest to that. And not all crises are black swan events. Terrorist attacks are an almost daily occurrence worldwide, but the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were of unprecedented magnitude and unpredictability, hence their characterization as a black swan. Additionally, I have included COVID-19 because it meets all three criteria for being a Black Swan event. Yes, its ramifications are just as widespread as other black swan events and in hindsight it was obviously predictable and quite explainable; by all reputable, established, global medical experts. COVID-19 only became a global pandemic, especially lethal inside nations of defiant egocentric ignorance, and without question clearly fulfilling criteria #2 above as a direct result of defiant sectors of the human population. The fact that this pandemic is still not under control and behind us can only be blamed on our chosen, willing defiance and ignorance.

However, Mr. Taleb disagrees with me and anyone else calling COVID-19 a Black Swan. You can read his argument in The New Yorker entitled The Pandemic Isn’t A Black Swan But A Portent of A More Fragile Global System. It is an excellent article that I recommend reading. Though Taleb disagrees the pandemic is a black swan, he is correct in pointing out that there are clear reasons why humanity, nations, and governments are all too often repeatedly unprepared for them. This denial or chosen innocence/ignorance by populations gives more credence to the above framed quote on how costly the chosen apathetic mindset becomes.

Moving along now to the distant history in the ancient Levant.

~ ~ ~ § ~ ~ ~

I want to add another Black Swan event to the list that many in the Western Hemisphere and the U.S. will want to take exception. What is it? In a word: Christianity. Several of my regular blog followers will have a general idea as to how and why I add 4th-century CE (and after) Christianity. You’ve read enough of my blog-posts over these last 10-years to know how and why I would label it as a firm, strong holder of being a Black Swan. Listing all the verified, contextual evidence as well as the likely plausible conclusions based upon the said exhaustive interdisciplinary components, it is in my mind without question a Black Swan. Specifically the event? The 17-year disappearance of Yeshua bar Yosef from the Greco-Roman—not the Jewish account, but the Roman—canonized New Testament. This event caused and causes an entire host of many further problematic ripple-effects fragmenting and eventually destroying Christendom’s veracity.

If you did not know about or had not heard of a Black Swan event as I had not, now you know. What are some Black Swans you can recall or comprise as one? Feel free to share them below!


Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Texas’ 1836 Project

There are different stories, legends, and narratives in popular culture today in Texas, and parts of the U.S., about events that took place over twelve days and nights at Misión San Antonio de Valero February 23 to March 6, 1836, otherwise known as the Siege of the Alamo. One such pop-narrative is from a southeastern Anglo-American viewpoint, post-Civil War. Another is from a later Anglo-Texian viewpoint about the new Republic begun in 1845. And still another much less popular or well-known narrative from an indigenous Tejano viewpoint begun in circa 1821. There is a fourth narrative that is so obscure and completely overlooked today that for the purposes of this blog-post, time, and word-count I shouldn’t mention it. But that would disrespect and defeat the virtues of Agnotology, something I personally hold very dear in our modern fight against disinformation, destitute scholarship in town squares, and partisan politics. Therefore, I will indeed mention the unsung fourth narrative of earliest Texas history: the Indian Nations of Taysha, or Texas.

It’s worth mentioning that part of Texas’ state and national identity is wrapped in what we call the Six Flags of Texas. Technically speaking this is not the full story. It should actually be at least “Seven Flags of Texas,” perhaps one representing the Indian Nations of Taysha. But unfortunately when Anglo-Americans write their victorious histories, peoples they’ve labelled “uncivilized” are omitted and made footnotes, maybe. But oh well, I digress.

Quietly woven throughout the narratives of the Southeastern Anglo-American and Anglo-Texian viewpoints, but rarely mentioned publicly or taught in Texas school classrooms today was slavery’s role in Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico and eventual willing annexation by the expanding United States. The deluge of Anglos immigrating from the Deep South slave-states which Mexico was against and trying to stop were, in the minds of Mexico’s government and empresarios, illegal incursions and seizures. At the very least, they were controversial, agitating, and enflamed tensions present between several clashes of cultures throughout the once vast (proclaimed) Spanish Territory of Tejas. Anglo-American immigrants did not wish to pay any taxes or tariffs to the Mexican government, particularly to Antonio López de Santa Anna who seized power himself in an insurrection against former President Bustamante. Many prevalent Tejanos of Tejas such as the very well-known José Antonio Navarro opposed Santa Anna’s dictatorship and by default Mexico.

What might surprise many Texans today is that several of Tejas’ Tejano elite such as the Navarro family also owned slaves, and by default and by way of economic motivations, Navarro and key Tejanos of Texas’ Republic also opposed Mexico’s recent independence from Spain and from the practice of slavery. However, these historical facts found on a Texas 1860 Census Slave Schedule for Atascosa County (location of Navarro’s San Geronimo Ranch) show he owned six to nine slaves indicating clearly that Texas’ fight was at least in part to keep slavery legal in the new Republic. Navarro and other famous Texas Tejanos with him fought Mexico for independence along with slave-owning Anglo-Americans…

…to protect the practice of slavery in Texas, upon which cotton farming relied heavily. It was not uncommon for families of this group to own slaves in the colonial period. Although the number of families holding slaves was small, it was a vital connection between Tejano elites and American cotton growers immigrating to Texas.

Henry and Patsy Navarro” from Casa Navarro History at the Texas Historical Commission website, accessed 7/10/2021
Movie set of the 2004 film “The Alamo”

What is also commonly unknown about earliest Texas history is that those same Tejanos who fought, bled, and died for Texas’ independence from Mexico at the Alamo and other battle-fields eventually lost over the next decade their original land grants and rights as citizens of Texas. By 1860-61 they were “legally expunged” you might say when Texas officially joined the Confederate States of America and its fight to keep slavery alive.

Since the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the legendary fight at the Alamo twenty-nine years earlier was intentionally altered to emphasize the southern Anglo-American and Anglo-Texan narrative as a fight solely against Santa Anna, thus overshadowing all other narratives in the face of humiliated Confederate defeat. Confederate Texans wanted to save face then and were successful. Now today with the advent of reignited racial awareness and heated tensions, resident first-, second- and third-generation Texans (a few fourth-generation too) and politicians—many of whom trace their pedigrees to the Midwest and Deep South slave-states—want at any cost to protect and advance a more Anglo-narrative of Texas history. More precisely, Texas school curriculums are being further realigned to promote an anachronistic Republican narrative which is not comprehensive or contextual to verifiable TayshaTejano Texas history.

Over the past two-weeks of this month, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, himself a first-generation Texan from Maryland, confirmed on his Twitter account that he personally called for the censorship and cancellation of a July 1st book promotion at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, TX. The name of the book and co-authors? Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth by Chris Tomlinson, Bryan Burrough, and Jason Stanford.

But this censoring tactic is part of a greater movement by GOP state officials like Gov. Gregg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Senator Ted Cruz, and other Republican officials regarding critical race theory and whether verifiable academic history has a place in Texas public school curriculums.

On June 16th, 2021 the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 797 requiring Texas schools to display the term “In God We Trust” across campus buildings if such signage is donated to them. House Bill 2497 was passed by the Texas Legislature in May 2021 giving a biased GOP committee the authority to promote our “official” state history—to residents receiving their driver’s license—from the aforementioned Anglo-narratives. House Bill 3979 is awaiting Gov. Abbott’s signature and it dictates how Texas teachers can talk to their students about current events and America’s as well as Texas’ history of racism and slavery. These legislative bills are just three of a number of other bills in a state-wide Republican campaign to teach reteach and promote a more narrow, patriotic version of our national and Anglo-Texan histories. Here in Texas it is called The 1836 Project and it plays off of and counters the acclaimed or controversial 1619 Project, but with a modern, intentional Texas GOP twist. From Gov. Gregg Abbott this past May:

“To keep Texas the best state in the United States of America, we must never forget why Texas became so exceptional in the first place.”

Personally I would argue that these recent campaigns to modify or omit established historical scholarship that is indeed verifiable, in Texas and other states, began as early as 2010, if not sooner. Though governmental officials like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are and have been censoring or obstructing democratic freedoms and liberties in Texas on public property, they have gone much further than book promoting events.

For those of you born prior to the year 2000, remember in your classrooms the concept of “Compare and Contrast“? Critical-thinking and analysis skills are paramount for students to learn and acquire for the overkill of today’s “Disinformation Age.” Beginning at least in 2010 and 2012 political campaigns within the Texas GOP began muddling up this vital concept and skill getting taught in our public school curriculums. From The Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact website:

Gail Collins [of the New York Times] says Texas GOP platform calls for schools to stop teaching “critical thinking.”

Sue Owen, PolitiFact.com, August 11, 2012 — accessed 7/11/2021

Nevertheless, the Texas GOP did muddled-up and confuse the issue. Deputy Executive Director of the Republican Campaign, Chris Elam, stated the platform subcommittee unintentionally and unknowingly implied opposition of teaching critical-thinking in schools. He and his party were correct about that as can be read here:

“We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

As Gail Collins wrote, the Texas GOP platform does state that the party opposes “critical thinking.” But Collins also leaves out some important context. The platform makes it clear that its opposition is centered on one type of education model: outcome-based education.

Whatever one wishes to call it and play complicated games with words and phrases, this past May and June 2021 in our Texas Congress, the confusion and muddling has been scaled up again. It seems it has taken on yet another form when it all begins to censor and omit significant facts that compose an exhaustive contextual historical picture. This new type of political manipulations upon verifiable, established academic scholarship—whether in classrooms or in the town square—has become a dangerous epidemic in 21st-century America. Allowing this epidemic to continue will only setup further future digressions into sociopolitical turmoil that is ill-equipped to correct, adapt, and progress itself into a truly healthy, thriving Constitutional democracy. I’m unsure how you my readers might feel, but this destitution of Agnotology being replaced by (hyper?) Patriotism over historical, contextual facts disturbs me greatly.


Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Unsung Heroes


Or perhaps “Rarely Sung Heroes” in these modern times of growing (or struggling?) decency in the United States. I say that with caution and some hesitation. Let me explain.

Back on June 6, 2019, the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France honoring all the Allied soldiers who participated, fought, died, and survived in that historic amphibious invasion to liberate Nazi Europe, I published my blog-post Five Hundred Yards. It was my attempt for readers to bring an acute perspective and emotion what the landings on Omaha Beach was like that June morning for the thousands of 17-, 18-, 19- and 20-year old boys had gone through as they hit the water or beach. If you have the opportunity to read or reread Five Hundred Yards, please do. It will set the stage and context for this post.

Some/Many caucasian Euro-American descendants born and living in our 50-states today have a generic, basic knowledge of how indigenous North American peoples/Indians were either exterminated, moved from their homelands, or abusively treated and deceived by the U.S. government, military, and new settlers between 1778 and 1911, during the official existence of the United States. Between 1539 and 1774 thousands upon thousands of Indigenous peoples were massacred by European colonists and their armed forces. By far the biggest killer of North American Indians were all the lethal diseases European colonists/invaders brought within them and spread. Ironically, similar to what former President Trump accused the Chinese of doing with COVID-19. Nevertheless, it is estimated that from the Pre-Columbian Era (1325–1492) to the final massacre in 1911 in Washoe County, Nevada, between 95,000,000 to 114,000,000 Native American people, that’s millions not thousands, were wiped out by Europeans.

Despite this horrific background and constant inhumane atrocities committed upon them by Europeans and Euro-American descendants, during our first and second European World Wars more than 12,000 Native American Indians fought in Europe for the U.S. in World War I. More than 44,000 fought for the U.S. in World War II. Keep in mind, this is only one to three generations after the exterminations and removals from their own ancestral homelands over a 600-year timespan. Think about that. The numbers of your own people gradually and drastically dying, massacred, and disappearing all around you. With that in mind, these Native American men who, like their African-American WW1 and WW2 military counterparts, volunteered to go fight and risk their lives on a far away continent for a nation who at the time and well before did not love them or treat them as equals and far from justly. Nor did this nation welcome their survivors home as heroes the same as their own caucasian Euro-Americans and yet still went and did their patriotic (tribal) duty and did it bravely, honorably as the warriors they had always been.

I want to commemorate in a small way those Normandy, D-Day Native American warriors who did not come home, those who were wounded and maimed, and those who survived the entire war who did come back home, but nonetheless were still scarred and mentally wounded by those 2–3 years in Nazi Europe. Scarred perhaps too by six centuries of war upon their people by Europeans and Euro-Americans. Here is one of many partial accounts of that June morning on Omaha Beach, 1944 by Army Medic and 19-year old Private of Fox Company in the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division who were the first frontline units to hit Omaha Beach.

In my June 6, 2019 blog-post Five Hundred Yards, I wrote about how many casualties were sustained by the first wave hitting the beach or head-high water of Omaha in the first 15-minutes and hour of landing. What I didn’t mention in that blog-post was that decades later German Wehrmacht testimonies stated they were firing their MG-42’s, 5cm and 8cm mortars, and rocket-launching Nebelwerfers so much, non-stop that the barrels were all overheating, even when they rotated them with extra barrels they had, 3-4 extras in some units. The German gun-crews were astonished by how many Allied soldiers kept coming and falling, coming and falling, over and over, endlessly as they quickly exhausted their entire stores of ammunition. On the American side with the 1st Division known as “The Big Red One,” they sustained over 2,000 casualties in the first hour of landings.

One particular Army Medic who was one of 14 total Medics in his regiment made it far enough up the 300-400 yards of flat beach and took cover. However, as he looked back from where he had come he realized he was all alone. No one in his company had made it safely as far as he had. He then noticed many of his fellow infantrymen lying on the beach wounded, screaming, and in the rising tide carrying their 60-75 lbs of gear, most were struggling or unable to pull themselves up the sand so as not to drown. Without hesitation he ran back some 300-400 yards again under heavy fire with his two satchels of medical supplies to those wounded and drowning, pulling many of them 10-11 yards up on the beach and began giving first aid. Another Corp man reported to his officers that this one Medic pulled about eighteen wounded out of the water that were twice or three-times his size and their uniforms and gear heavily soaked. Charles Norman Shay is a Penobscot Indian from the state of Maine and was that one remarkable Army Medic. He tells in his own words what happened:

“The seas were red with the blood. At the very beginning, it was difficult for me to witness so much carnage. I had to push what I was experiencing out of my mind, so I could function the way I was trained to function. Then I was able to operate effectively and even saved a few lives. I have always been proud to be a medic. It’s a special privilege.”

Shay remembers cradling those critically wounded to give them some comfort. When he found one he recognized, badly wounded with an open abdomen, he stayed with Private Edward Morozewicz, one of his closest friends, to ease him in his last few breaths. In 2017 Shay visited Morozewicz’s family, making sure they knew of Edward’s courage. Charles participated in a special ceremony honoring his fellow fallen medic. Shay still questions why he lived when Morozewicz and most of his unit were killed. “I knew [Edward] was slowly dying. I bandaged his wounds and gave him morphine. But I knew there was no help for him, says a somber Shay.

Most of the American 1st and 29th Division’s first waves onto Omaha Beach perished, cut-down and slaughtered by the precise, heavily supplied and experienced 352nd German Infantry Division. The 352nd was assembled with many battle-tested soldiers pulled from worn-out or disbanded Wehrmacht divisions that had served on the Eastern front in Russia. By 12-noon on D-Day over half the men and most of the officers in Shay’s Company were either seriously wounded or dead. Up to 3,000 Allied troops died, and some 9,000 were injured or classified as missing that day, unidentifiable, or lost to the sea. Of Shay’s Regimental Medical Detachment of 42 medics, seven were killed and 24 severely wounded. After so many of his regiment and company fell or were killed, he later struggled many times with Survivors Remorse.

“My heart breaks for those mothers who prayed for their brave sons but never welcomed their sons home again,” says Shay wiping away a tear. “I can never forget the men who never had the chance to experience life as it was meant to be, a wife and a family, but instead were destined to depart this life in some far-off [European] land.”

Shay often says it was random, crazy luck that he survived D-Day, the rest of the war, and later the Korean War that he volunteered for service just five years later. After the war in Europe ended, the U.S. Army awarded Shay a Silver Star for his actions, and the French government appointed him a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur, the highest honor given to non-citizens of France. But despite those medals this humble Penobscot Indian veteran always refers back to fellow warriors who paid the ultimate price and sacrifice for their country, homeland, Native tribes and family. Shay says there were many just like him.

Recently there has been new memorials and ceremonies finally recognizing the heroic contributions and sacrifices of Native American WW2 veteran warriors. Charles Shay makes annual trips back to Normandy to pay his ceremonial respects and honor his fellow Indians lost there with Eagle feathers, sage, and tobacco. He does so to bring heightened awareness to the younger public, particularly back in the United States. He lets his fellow Indian warriors lost, buried there under row after row of white crosses that they are not forgotten.

In the Normandy American Cemetery at least 29 Native American soldiers are buried. In the Brittany American Cemetery at least nine Native American soldiers are buried. And at the Utah Beach American Cemetery 30 Comanche soldiers, Code Talkers, from the Oklahoma Reservation are memorialized there. According to Dr. Harald E. L. Prins, an anthropologist and researcher at Kansas State University, 175 Native American soldiers landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Over 75-years later only around 55 have been identified.

For an extensive telling of Shay’s gallant service on D-Day go here. Many of the past stories of that day in June, a lot of the later accompanying military field narratives describing the Omaha ordeal are sanitized versions of the original field unit notes. And as S.L.A. Marshall writes for The Atlantic magazine in his provocative, transparently graphic article First Wave at Omaha Beach, he says even “Cornelius Ryan’s epic film The Longest Day misses the essence of the unfiltered Omaha story.” I highly recommend his article.

It is my opinion, reflecting back this June 6th, 2021 anniversary of D-Day, given these Native American warriors pre-war histories they had every justifiable reason not to lift a finger for a white-man’s faraway war. They did not have to do any patriotic service for a 1940’s Euro-American country that treats them and had treated them as second- or third-class people without the same identical privileges and human rights afforded White America. Today, I think these Native American warriors are overdue, deserving the utmost respect, honor, and ceremony up to or beyond any other homage given to any Euro-American veterans of any U.S. wars! May they all receive many sacred Eagle feathers, burnt sage, and tobacco so all of their spirits rest in peace and receive (at minimum) equal remembrance and honor by all Americans; every single one of us without exception. Unmeasurable gratitude for all of you Native American warrior veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, past and present.


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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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