Thursday, Nov. 12th, Qin and I took a much needed morning and afternoon to stroll lazily through the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. We did strictly observe, of course, all necessary COVID-19 protocols for health and safety, not just for ourselves, but for all other park guests as well. It was tricky sometimes to keep 6-8 feet away on a few narrow bridges and pathways, but we did the best we could. Yes, there were a couple of occasions where other park guests were oblivious to how exactly 6-feet measures out—they seemed to ridiculously think it was 2-3 feet—and two park workers who thought it was 1-2 feet and supposedly no mask was required for one grounds-keeper. Hence, due to continued negligence by others our visit was not entirely tranquil nor altogether safe.
If the park wants to stay open for reasons of profit and revenues, then its authorities really must employ a regiment of security-like roaming guards monitoring guests’ compliance to safety measures. I am also quiet sure the 66-acre park (0.267 sq. km) allowed too many paying guests inside. This was hugely disappointing and shocking. I guess it doesn’t matter because over 73.6 million Americans voted Nov. 3rd for an incumbent of sheer ignorance, sheer denial, and subhuman wanting more and more needless deaths. But enough talk about our out-of-control pandemic and suffering; unimportant right? 😟 Let’s move on to the beauty and splendor of our planet and these botanical gardens shall we.
Qin and I brought along a cooler of Fuji apple slices and fresh-cut pineapple wedges for a noonday snack. Qin toted her thermos of freshly boiled (sterilized) water—a lifelong habit she formed when growing up and living in China. Not that she needs to do it in Dallas, but it’s a habit of comfort for her. I don’t mind. I find it exceedingly safe and charming. 😋
When we reached our designated parking lot and Gate-number, showed our prearranged, electronic time-slot admission receipt, we began the morning stroll and tour of this award-winning Arboretum. It would be a 4-hour respite from 12-days of self-appointed “Stay Home” orders, not to mention for the sake of our mental well-being on top of 10-months plus COVID-19 fatigue. We began at the organic restaurant A Tasteful Place, The Edible Verdant and Scenic Overlook (see below).
As we wound our way out and to the three nearby large lawns and beds of the Jonsson Color Gardens, a challenge was made. We both agreed to have a photo competition: Who could capture on our phones the best images and videos of our Arboretum Day. We wanted you readers to vote on the five images you like most. But before I get to those photos, I created a 6-minute video highlight of our day:
Making our way to the second lawn and bed Qin takes a cozy sit next to William Shakespeare on his bronze writing bench, “你好，威利。” (Nǐ hǎo, wēi lì. or Hello Willy). With a stiff grin and the usual iambic pentameter Willy answers:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
William Shakespeare – Sonnet 73
Ladies and Gents, time for the contest and collection of images we captured. Now here’s the rub. We have a total of 29 images. Obviously, I could not put each photo into the post-content; your loading time for the page probably would’ve lasted a snail’s pace 5-7 minutes depending on your connection, right? I did not want to torture you all. 😉 If I had tortured you that way, then you could’ve just clicked on a “Thumbs up” button “👍” on each photo to vote on your favorite fiveimages. That would’ve been most convenient for voting, I know. But I had to make a choice: A)torture all of you with a slow page-loading time, or B)fast page-load, jot down your favorite five photos, and put them in your comment at the bottom. I went with the latter. I hope you agree with my decision.
Therefore, as you are going through the images below, at the bottom-left is the photo number, e.g. #1, #9, and so on. Make a note of the number, collect your FIVE (5) favorites, and leave a comment at the bottom with your selections. After a few weeks, with your help, we’ll see who wins the photo challenge, Qin or me, the Professor. At that time I’ll post and reply to all you wonderful participants as to who won the Fall Day at the Arboretum Contest. Good? Good. Thank you for your understanding! Now, off you go with your votes please!
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always — Wear A Mask!
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.
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.
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.
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 herefor 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:
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.
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.
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?
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
I want to apologize in advance for some of my language here and my anger at human indecency in the United States this year.
I really, really was hoping that for the last 3-5 weeks I could avoid having to write this, to go here to what I am about to attempt to drive home to far too many naïve, inconsiderate, well-intentioned(?) Americans who despite their general goodness, STILL are not thinking outside of themselves, the bigger picture of just how many other Americans are suffering the loss of loved ones. What makes our nationwide gross naivety, embarrassing gross obliviousness to one of our nation’s highest death-counts in our entire 244-year history? Allow me to put this in the most polite way I know how:
During one of the world’s most deadliest pandemics, with necessary PPE’s, distancing and/or quarantining/lockdowns from high-risk exposures, and finally by following the top expert’s warnings and medical-viral protocols, it’s monumental consequences could have been reduced, probably reduced greatly!
In a number of those 233k cases the odds for surviving could have been easily increased! Yet, too many unaffected Americans—of a specific demographic and political affiliation—wanted to minimalize the pandemic in January–March 2020 and right now they still want to minimalize the near QUARTER-MILLION DEATHS (233,000+) as something other than a historically unprecedented F*CK UP by not just our federal, state, and county leaders across the continental 49, but by perhaps half or more of the American population—332-million citizens total today—who don’t seem to get it, they refuse to get it, or worse ignore those 233,000 families and extended family members! By the time I get this blog-post published, that death-toll will have already climbed significantly. Wrap your brain around that please.
But allow me to put this self-inflicted 2020 American catastrophe and popular insensitivity in proper perspective.
If you have a faint heart or a hint of humanity for mass deaths caused by wars, terrorism, natural disasters, or pandemics, then I advise you to skip the following slide-show of some of our nation’s most horrific losses of life since 1776. WARNING, some images may be graphic and disturbing:
At this current rate we will surpass in 2021 the total American deaths of World War II: 419,400. Once that number is passed only the American Civil War remains as this country’s last greatest loss of life. Do we really want to surpass the most appalling four years this country has ever endured, bar-none?
You might be asking “Professor, deaths from a pandemic, from an invisible killer-virus similar (in terms of risk and death) to other global diseases or cancer or heart disease are not the same thing as world wars, large military conflicts, terrorism, or natural disasters.” Perhaps. That’s a logical yet premature response. I’d immediately ask Is this not a war on a virus to stop and minimizeas much as possible the number of casualties this pandemic steals?
When a war is waged between two or more nations, do they not rally all their mental, physical, and material resources of their people to win the war? Do they not rally with each other to defeat or better prepare for the next horrific, natural disaster? So why wouldn’t we do the exact same thing? Why wouldn’t we do everything possible to wage war on this lethal enemy as aggressive as possible?
This maniacally invisible hostile who cares nothing about who we humans are is wiping out over a quarter-of-a-million Americans, innocents who were not given the/our best chances of winning or of surviving? To add insult to injury with a smack, it is not the dead that must suffer years or decades after COVID-19 takes those loved ones, it is the living who must endure the torment that their loved ones probably did not have to die or suffer permanently for the remainder of their lives.
So yes, how is this war, this fight against COVID-19 any different than those above images for lives that did not have to die or contract permanent damage?
On the contrary and despite America’s epidemic indifference to the loss of so many innocent lives, following below after this paragraph are examples of what many of us rudely brush over about this Pandemic War. With already too many orphaned kids of their parent(s), or grandparents, or uncles, aunts or cousins, 233,000 dead Americans and counting represents only a portion of all the suffering. Sons and daughters who lost their elderly parents. Grandchildren who lost their favorite Grandpa or Grandma. Dearest close friends or coworkers—who have unnecessarily lost their favorite coworker, boss, or job—must also face the looming reality of bankruptcy or homelessness. Here’s an idea of what I mean by American indifference to unnecessary loss of lives and permanent damage or suffering…
Tuesday night, October 27th here in Arlington, TX, the site of MLB’s World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays, third baseman Justin Turner had to be removed from Game 6 in the bottom of the 7th inning after he had tested positive for COVID-19. Quarantining were the rules, the protocols of MLB and all the teams and players BEFOREthey started the 60-game season in July 2020. Everybody with the league, including all 3,000+ players agreed to COVID-19 protections and rules. Duh, it was for the safety of everyone involved in the bizarre 2020 season. It was for the safety of everyone’s family members too. Despite this necessary protection for all lives, here is what took place when the LA Dodgers won the World Series:
And yet, this is what Justin Turner decided to do for himself, and his teammates let him do, encouraged him to do with no regard for their own safety, their teammates, everyone’s family members, and let’s be clear… no regard for the children there on the field for pictures and celebrations! This gross indifference essentially represents the entire bulk of Americans in that specific demographic I mentioned above.
But there’s more. Unbelievably, there is MORE blatant disregard for the highest possible safety of fellow Americans, teammates, coworkers, family members, and yes… small children too. A revisit of photos I’ve already posted in previous blog-posts going back to early Spring 2020:
The ripple-effect of this ignored Pandemic War stretches so VERY MUCH FURTHER than simply the 233,000+ American deaths! The emotional toll and permanent change for so many families will likely never be fully appreciated, fully known, or fully empathized if so many in America unaffected by this killer pandemic continue and continue to brush-over, minimalize, and constantly dream-up excuses or justifications to be unsafe and disregard, no… basically say “I don’t give a f*ck about YOUR safety or chances of surviving this deadly pandemic war. I will do whatever tha hell I want.” Though some Americans do not explicitly verbalize it out loud, their actions say it.
I must ask some really idiotic questions: When there exists a chance of you or a loved one surviving a highly risky undertaking, say like climbing Mt. Everest, or going into a wild, remote woodland with nightly temperatures of 20-30 below zero and grizzly bears, or joining your military for an ongoing conflict against formidable enemies trying to kill you, do you not want the best chances of survival? If there is any significant chance you could survive life’s dangers, say a 75%, 50%, or a “decent chance” of returning alive, intact, and unharmed, who WOULDN’T take the best odds possible? Is how you might die, leaving all your loved ones behind, important to you? Important to your wife, your own kids and how they might suffer in the aftermath?
And yet for most of 2020 there have been too many Americans who answer those questions with their middle finger, the F*CK YOU bird.
This insane thinking and self-absorbed snubbing for the safety of fellow Americans, let alone our own family members, has got to stop! Why? First, I can’t believe anyone would seriously ask that question! But for those dimwits who don’t get it and most of all simply Out of Respect For all the American fatalities from COVID-19 that didn’t really have to die early, and their suffering family members—whose loved ones seem to not matter to all to these thousands or millions of moronic Americans not yet personally affected—I can only say in utter bafflement and rising resentment:
Are you a human being? Do you not have any empathy or respect to how this Pandemic War has permanently affected millions and millions of American lives!? Are you F*CKING KIDDING ME!?
Where did America’s common decency disappear to!?
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always