HealthCommentary

Exploring Human Potential

Omicron and Evolutionary Biology: A Greek Tragedy in the Making.

Posted on | November 29, 2021 | No Comments

Mike Magee

“Many still see Alpha and Delta as being as bad as things are ever going to get. It would be wise to consider them as steps on a possible trajectory that may challenge our public health response further.”
       Aris Katzourakis, Evolutionary Biologist, University of Oxford., August, 2021

The prophetic words above were shared just three months ago in a Science review article on Covid variants. Now we’ll have to deal with Omicron, and (who knows) Pi in the wings somewhere.

Let’s review the Covid mutants:

Alpha – A variant first detected in Kent, UK with 50% more transmissibility than the original and has spread widely.

Beta – Originating in South Africa and the first to show a mutation that partially provided evasion of the human immune system, but may have also made it less infectious.

Gamma – First detected in Brazil with rapid spread throughout South America.

Delta – First seen in India with 50% more transmissibility than the Alpha variant, and now the dominant variant in America and around the world.

Omicron – Labelled by the WHO “a variant of concern” because it has 32 mutations of the original Covid spike protein that drives transmissability.  The Omicron warning: “There could be future surges of Covid-19, which could have severe consequences.”

The silver lining: Our ability to track and identify mutating viruses in real time is now extraordinary. Well over 2 million Covid genomes have been cataloged and published. But describing the “anatomy” of the virus is miles away from understanding the functional significance of their codes, or the various biochemical instructions they may instruct.

These deeper questions are in the realm of evolutionary biologists who are currently experiencing sleepless nights. Their prior nightmare? “What comes after Delta?” No need to wonder any longer. It’s “Omicron.”

As we await scientific analysis to catch up on the new variant, what we already know is that Delta’s genetic mutation, P681R, affected a spot on the virus spike that cuts through protein chains and sped up human cell entry 1000 times. The speed lit a fuse under colony growth, which in turn allowed the virus’s spread to other unsuspecting human contacts before any immune response generated symptoms appeared. Of course the state of being asymptomatic didn’t last for long. Speedy virus multiplication rates accelerated the microbes movement from upper airways to lower airways.

Will Omicron be a killer? First a few basics.

1. A virus’s survival, and threat to us, relies on three factors:

a)Infectiousness, b) Virulence, c) Immune Evasion.

But these factors can as easily play against each other as for each other. Natural or vaccine induced immunity slows down infectiousness and potential virulence. But (by narrowing a virus’s options for survival) it also creates a Darwinian reward for any mutant that figures out the Rubik’s Cube solution to becoming “invisible” to the human immune system. According to Rockefeller University virologists, such a change requires the coalescence of 20 independent random changes in the genome. Bottom line: Random escape is a tall order. But Omicron already is housing a boatload of mutations on the infective spike. And with Delta having  burned through a sizable portion of its potential future victims, Omicron stands expectantly in the wings.

2. Viruses depend on us. But we no longer look or act as we did in 2019. 4.3 billion citizens (56% of the global population) worldwide have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and hundreds of millions of others have survived the infection. The virus each day is increasingly pressured to find its next human victim. One way out is to figure a way past our immune defenses provided by prior infection or vaccination.

So this is a cyclical game, likely to go on for some time. If we global citizens played our vaccination cards better, the virus would have had fewer turns in the game, and the appearance of Omicron would have been less likely. But here we are.

So here are five take-away facts:

  • The longer we allow Covid to stick around, the worse this could get.
  • The majority of the messy replication mistakes are inconsequential, but there are occasional windfalls that rise to Greek alphabet mythical status. Omicron is likely one of them.
  • Delta’s critical weakness – it leaves behind high antibody titers that limit its future.
  • Give the virus more time, or access to compromised hosts, and anything can happen. Viruses are constantly rolling the evolutionary dice.
  • Mutations hurt us by increasing transmissibility/virulence or immune evasion. The good news is there is some evidence that an immune escaping Covid might not be efficiently transmissible any more.

Leaders who still politicize this virus are not only ignorant of evolutionary biology, they are playing with fire – and with our human lives.

Whatever it takes, we need to force this virus into a corner . That means a worldwide vaccination push. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming a Greek tragedy ourselves.

#IgnoreDeSantics

Giving Thanks for Principled Leaders.

Posted on | November 23, 2021 | 2 Comments

Mike Magee

This Thanksgiving, more than most, our country finds itself reaching for guidance and direction. Join me in giving thanks for principled leaders.
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The principles most people aspire to live by come quite naturally to mind because they simply feel right, or sound right to the majority. We make choices – good over evil, love over hate, gentleness over cruelty.

Individuals, families, and societies fight over principles, some say because it is simpler than living up to those principles. We equate certain virtues with success – sincerity, justice, chastity, humility, and industry. But whether this is true is more about how we define success (long-term vs. short-term, ourselves vs. others, material vs. spiritual).

Whose success are we talking about, the principled or the unprincipled?

Principled people seem to feel comfortable in their own skin.

Principled people do not seem to surround themselves with unprincipled people.

Principled people are viewed as valuable rather than successful.

Principled people are self-directed from within.  The measure of their principles can be taken by where they spend their time and the objects they pursue.

Principles provide the direction and the pathway to a worthy destination.

 

Additional Readings:

“Intelligence is derived from two words – inter and legere – inter meaning ‘between’ and legere meaning ‘to choose’. An intelligent person, therefore, is one who has learned ‘to choose between’. He knows that good is better than evil, that confidence should supersede fear, that love is superior to hate, that gentleness is better than cruelty, forbearance than intolerance, compassion than arrogance, and that truth has more virtue than ignorance.”   J. Martin Klotsche

“It is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.”
Adlai Stevenson

“Thirteen virtues necessary for true success: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility.”
Benjamin Franklin

“Beware all enterprises that require new clothes.”
Henry David Thoreau

“Who lies for you will lie against you.”  
Bosnian proverb

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value.”
Albert Einstein

“Doing what’s right isn’t the problem. It’s knowing what’s right.”
Lyndon B. Johnson

“We trust, sir, that God is on our side. It is more important to know that we are on God’s side.”
Abraham Lincoln

“The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.”
Ancient Buddhist Proverb

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Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Health Insecurity and the Survival of American Democracy

Posted on | November 16, 2021 | No Comments

Mike Magee

Social Epidemiology, is a branch of epidemiology that concentrates on the impact of the various social determinants of health on the citizens of a nation. This field of study lives at the intersection of health care services, political science , the law, and history.

What makes this field of study so timely and relevant at the moment is the linkages it exposes between health and the construction or destruction of a functional democracy .

This was familiar territory for Eleanor Roosevelt. She spent the greater part of World War II creating what she labeled in 1948 “Humanity’s Magna Carta” – aka the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR.)

Embedded in the declaration was a broad and inclusive definition of health. It reads “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The Marshall Plan, for reconstruction of war torn Germany and Japan, embodied these principles, and successfully established stable democracies by funding national health plans in these nations as a first priority.

Although our nation signed the UDHR, it carried no legal obligations or consequences. In fact, the U.S. medical establishment’s bias was  to embrace a far narrower definition of health – one that targeted disease as enemy #1. They believed that in defeating disease, health would be left in its wake.

In contrast, neighboring Canada took the UDHR to heart, and as a starting point asked themselves, “How do we make Canada and all Canadians healthy?” Where our nation embraced profiteering and entrepreneurship, leaving no room for solidarity, Canada embraced the tools of social justice and population health.

By 1966, the U.S. had passed Medicare providing health insurance to all citizens over 65 years of age. Canada, that same year passed their program (also called “Medicare”) which covered all Canadian citizens.

The United Nations, in the same year published their “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” (ICESCR). Article 12 was explicit. It reads:

1.The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

2. The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for:

“the reduction of the stillbirth-rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child”;

“the improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene”;

“the prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases”;

“the creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness.”

The U.N.’s idealism was tempered by realism. They highlighted what is called a “reasonableness standard” using the tag phrase “highest attainable standard” as a goal for each nation to pursue. They recognized as well that a nation’s cultural, economic and social conditions would evolve, affecting the speed with which certain goals designed to meet basic human needs, such as food, shelter, education, health care, and gainful employment, could be met.

In 2005, I gave a speech to a group of international leaders at the Library of Congress titled “Why health is political.” It focused on the social context of health, power politics, and the domain of law. At the time, more than 70 nations had ratified ICESCR, Article 12. In doing so, they pledged to avoid retrogressive measures, reject discriminatory policies, hold unhealthy polluters at bay, and establish proactive planning to address health disasters. The U.S. was (and remains today) missing in action. Then and now, we remain the only industrialized country in the world without a plan for universal health coverage.

FDR had slated health security to be part of his “Second Bill of Rights”, but died in 1944. The AMA and Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PMA) then short-circuited the effort by successfully labeling Truman as a representative of the “Moscow party line.

The challenges today remain much the same. The American culture lacks a communal identity, favors individualism and tribalism, has a weak labor movement, distrusts its own government, and often treats its own Constitution as an exercise in semantics.

ICESCR, Article 12, celebrates human rights as universal, indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated. Where our tradition is individualistic and transactional, their philosophy is holistic, and commits to addressing human needs in order to break the bondage of fear and want that can dominate in uncaring or ineffectual authoritarian societies.

The UDHR was a universal declaration of the General Assembly of the United Nations that created no technical binding legal obligations on its signatories.

In contrast, the ICESCR is a covenant– “a treaty which, under the rules of international law, creates legal obligations on all states that ratify it.” It was published on December 16, 1966. President Carter did finally sign the covenant on October 5, 1977, but elected not to pass it on to the Senate which must give its “advice and consent” before the U.S. can ratify any treaty.

As of 2021, over 170 nations have ratified the covenant. The United States is not one of them.

The Value of the “Right” to Health Depends On The Definition of “Health.”

Posted on | November 8, 2021 | 2 Comments

Mike Magee

In my course this Fall at the University of Hartford, titled “The Right to Health Care and the U.S. Constitution”, we have concentrated on the power of words, of precedent, and the range of interests with which health has been encumbered over several hundred years.

The topic has been an eye-opener. On the most basic level, it is already clear that the value of this “right” depends heavily on your definition of “health.”

We’ve highlighted three definitions worth sharing here.

The first is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1948, as lead for the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, she defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” She also made clear at the time that each of us, as responsible citizens, bore a level of personal responsibility for our own health. By virtue of the choices we make, and the behaviors we exhibit, we raise or lower the chances of being “healthy.”

The second voice highlighted was also a woman. She is a physician from Norway, born on April 20, 1939 in Oslo, the daughter of a physician and politician. She received her Medical Degree from the University of Oslo and went on to earn a Masters in Public Health at Harvard. She served three separate terms as Norway’s Prime Minister, never having fewer than 8 women in her 18-member cabinet. Her name is Gro Brundtland. In 1998, she was confirmed as director general of the World Health Organization (WHO).

In one of her first WHO directives in 1998, she took on the definition of health which she described as “Part Goodness and Part Fairness.” She went on to explain,

Goodness in the sense that our professionals are well trained and qualified; our institutions well outfitted and safe; our processes engineered to perfection; our teamwork a reflection of training and excellent communication.”

Fairness in the sense that these skills and capabilities are fairly and equitably distributed to the broadest population possible.”

The third featured definer of heath was a Catholic Cardinal from Chicago during those early Brundtland years. His name was Joseph Bernardin. He had terminal cancer and was ultra-focused on health delivery when he addressed the Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association. He said, “There are four words in the English language that have common English roots. They are heal, health, whole, and holy. To heal in the modern world, you must provide health. But to provide health, you must keep the individual, the family, the community and society whole. And if you can do all that, that is a holy thing.”

As the Earth and its inhabitants entered the new millennium, it was clear that the delivery of health care – whether local, national or global – was a complex human endeavor. Even if you declared it a “universal right” as the UN and the WHO did, you would still need responsive programs, trained professionals, equal access, continuity of care, funding, compassion, understanding, and partnership. And even these would not be enough without forward planning, anticipation, scientific discovery and reliable funding.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it rapidly revealed the cost of lack of U.S. planning, investment and capacity. Specifically, the complex supply chain, including materials, human capital, and science failed. More alarming than these however was the damage and confusion that flowed directly from flawed leadership at the top. What Trump revealed was that trust, truth, and integrity were critical elements when it came to health delivery.

Weaknesses in this regard have been with us since the birth of this nation. But they have never quite been called out with such penetrating clarity as they were by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., when he addressed the crowd at the Poor People’s Campaign on March 25, 1966, and said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

As I said to my students, we could learn a great deal by pondering whether Dr. King was right, and if so, why? At the time, President Lyndon Baines Johnson was struggling to make real his “Great Society.” The three-prong “Martyr’s Cause (as he labeled his efforts to honor JFK’s death), included implementation of The Civil Rights Act, The War on Poverty, and Medicare. All three, integrated and interdependent, were necessary if justice was to prevail as promised in the U.S. Constitution.

Mark and Sheryl’s “Meta”-Mania.

Posted on | October 29, 2021 | 1 Comment

Mike Magee

At the 2010 World Economic Forum, marketing powerhouse Fleishman-Hillard reported that “3 out of 5 chief executives believe their corporate brand and reputation represent more than 40% of their company’s market capitalization.”

But what happens when your brand becomes synonymous with misbehavior, dishonesty, deceit, and deception? For C-suites behind the management curve, or ones ethically compromised, choice number one is to abandon the brand. But timing is critical.

Take Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement this week that Facebook is now “Meta.” As reported in Forbes,Mark Bayer, president of Bayer Strategic Consulting, noted that, ‘A name change now—when Facebook is under intense scrutiny—reinforces the perception the company is trying to elude responsibility for its lengthening list of misdeeds. Even if disconnected from the current crisis, the name change will be seen as a clumsy PR move. It’s a gift for comedy writers everywhere.’ ”

Zuckerberg on the record comments this week didn’t exactly chart new ground. He timidly contended that “Over time, I hope that we are seen as a metaverse company. I want to anchor our work and our identity on what we’re building towards.”

Metaverse? The term was coined in 1992 by writer Neal Stephenson in his dystopian novel Snow Crash.  It is an invented word (the prefix “meta” meaning beyond and “universe”) to a vision of how “a virtual reality-based internet might evolve in the near future.”

Metaverse” is all the rage today, referenced by the leaders not only of Facebook, but also Microsoft, and Apple, and many other inhabitors of virtual worlds and augmented reality. The land of imaginary 3D spaces has grown at breakneck speed over the past three decades, and that was before the self-imposed isolation of a worldwide pandemic.

In rebranding Facebook “Meta”, Zuckerberg is banking on futurists who say that the metaverse remains a future-facing concept that has not yet approached its full potential. But everyone from gamers to academics say it is gaining ground fast, and igniting a cultural tug of war.

Zuckerberg is far from the only enthusiat. Jason Warnke of giant consulting firm Accenture sees the “metaverse” as a power enhancer and multiplier. He says “…we believe we now have the opportunity to bring our people together in ways never before possible in the physical world.”

Not so fast, says Esther O’Callahan, the Gen-X founder of the online recruitment firm Hundo, who must feel just a bit violated this week. She says the term is“… owned by young people who care more about community than profit and use it for the good of the real and virtual world. And if that sounds ludicrously naive and optimistic about it – I am and I’m not sorry!”

Karinna NobbsCEO of The Dematerialized, envisions the coming metaverse as a societal builder referring to it as “the next significant third space.” In doing so, she is appropriating a term made famous by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his 1989 book, “The Great Good Place”. In it, the author advocates for investment in public spaces, outside of home and work that encourage congregation, civic engagement and relationship building. Karinna sees her virtual company as a “third space” to converge and nurture the emerging digital fashion ecosystem.”

Not surprisingly, many health entrepreneurs must be viewing Zuckerberg’s Meta-mania with concern. They have been all over the metaverse as well, with new ventures attracting investor demand, selling marginal moves in telemedicine, robotics, behavioral health, consumer wearables and the like.

Deloitte & Touche LLP report that digital health investment has quadrupled in the past four years, including $21.6 billion in 2020. They see health tech invasion of the metaverse as “a prescription for disruption by a growing base of health technology investors armed with funding from special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).” Investors are literally betting on an idea since SPACS go public without any existing business operations. They play to profit, not to disrupt.

Of course, so does Facebook, manipulating algorithms to juice up profitability, even as they have disrupted what had previously appeared to be a rather stable form of government, democracy.

Rebranding might distract, and even excite some Facebook fans. But it is no more likely to be a successful rebranding strategy than Phillip Morris’s morphing into Altria while simultaneously targeting with e-cigarettes the same crowd that got Mark and Sheryl into so much trouble – teens.

Trust Versus Secrecy – TSMC vs. Pfizer in Pandemic Times.

Posted on | October 20, 2021 | 6 Comments

Mike Magee

This week’s Tom Friedman Opinion piece in the New York Times contained a title impossible to ignore: “China’s Bullying Is Becoming a Danger To The World and Itself.” The editorial has much to recommend it. But the item that caught my eye was Friedman’s full-throated endorsement of Taiwan’s “most sophisticated microchip manufacturer in the world,” Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).

TSMC owns 50% of the world’s microchip manufacturing market, and along with South Korea’s Samsung, is one of only two companies currently producing the ultra-small 5-nanometer chips. Next year, TSMC will take sole ownership of the lead with a 3-nanometer chip. In this field, the smaller the better. (For comparison, most of China’s output is 14 to 28 nanometers.)

U.S. Silicon Valley companies like Apple, Qualcomm, Nvidia, AMD, and recently Intel contract with TSMC rather than produce chips on their own. In addition the key machines and chemicals necessary to produce the chips are willingly supplied to TSMC by U.S. and European manufacturers. TSMC’s secret sauce, according to Friedman, is “trust.” As he writes, “Over the years, TSMC has built an amazing ecosystem of trusted partners that share their intellectual property with TSMC to build their proprietary chips.”

“Trust me” is not a phrase often associated with intellectual property. Consider, for example, Washington Post’s reporting the very same day as Friedman’s under the banner, “In secret vaccine contracts with governments, Pfizer took hard line in push for profit, report says.” The article reveals documents in a Public Citizen report that confirms that Pfizer has been maximizing their vaccine profits “behind a veil of strict secrecy, allowing for little public scrutiny… even as demand surges…”

As I describe in my book “Code Blue: Inside the Medical Industrial Complex”(Grove/2020), Pfizer’s focus on intellectual property as a commercial weapon has a history that extends back a half-century.

In the 1980’s Pfizer CEO, Ed Pratt was ideally positioned to lead the global charge on intellectual property (IP) protections. Pratt was chairman of the powerful US Business Roundtable and also the formal adviser to Reagan’s US trade representative, Bill Brock. Pratt’s first move was to form a task force on intellectual property with his chief ally, IBM CEO John Opel. Their recommendation to Brock that a position be created within the Office of the US Trade Representative for a director of international investment and intellectual property sailed through.

The challenge remained in linking intellectual property protections to ongoing multilateral-trade negotiations that currently involved 123 nations. This was a leap, because trade agreements normally helped prevent monopolies, while intellectual property protections were viewed by many nations as supporting monopolistic companies. Rather than fight the battle head-on, Pratt and his followers finessed the whole discussion by advocating for the creation of a collection of regulatory policies that prohibit product piracy.

In 1983, Pratt and Opel approached the leaders of 10 other large US-based multinationals, including General Electric, General Motors, DuPont, Johnson & Johnson, and Monsanto, requesting their participation on the Intellectual Property Committee and creating a united front across industries.

At Bill Brock’s request, Pratt worked tirelessly to build a multi-sector global coalition of major corporations to engage the United Nations and World Trade Organization. Domestically, he worked the chambers of commerce, business councils, business committees, and trade associations. As one analyst recounted, “With every such enrollment, the business power behind the case for such an approach became harder and harder for governments to resist.”

During Reagan’s first term as president, the term “piracy” became popularized and connected to American ideas that were being stolen by greedy foreign nations, denying companies like Pfizer and IBM their “rightful rewards.” The messaging was reinforced by generous underwriting of well-funded think tanks across the political spectrum, from the American Enterprise Institute to the Brookings Institution. Pfizer supported a comprehensive public affairs strategy with press releases, speeches, white papers, conferences, op-eds, and special briefings designed to strengthen the connection between free trade and intellectual property.

It took more than a decade to accomplish the goal, but when the eighth round of the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade was signed in 1994, it had 123 signatories, and established the World Trade Organization with intellectual property protections for multinational corporations. During the years that the battle was engaged, Pfizer developed resources in government relations, investor relations, media relations, public affairs, and shareholder relations that have continued to facilitate maximizing profitability, including now from their current Covid vaccine in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

The Lone Star State Battling Cry – “Divest in Texas.”

Posted on | October 6, 2021 | 2 Comments

Mike Magee

re·vanch·ism

/rəˈvän(t)SHˌizəm/

noun

  1. a policy of seeking to retaliate, especially to recover lost territory.

“a recipe for deep future resentment, revanchism and renewed conflict”

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been on a tear lately, and his central theme appears to be “revanchism.” Faced with declining demographics, he is retaliating against enemies and newcomers alike, aligning himself with slippery politicians and vigilantes. As they say in Texas, “He’s on a first name basis with the bottom of the deck”, and the game he’s playing appears to be “South Africa – 1950.”

The formal establishment of apartheid in South Africa occurred in 1948, though racial injustice had been baked in centuries earlier. Violence and intimidation, embedded in legislation supported by a 15% white minority, led to the creation of the African National Congress (ANC) which launched what they called their “Defiance Campaign.” By 1962, their party had been outlawed, and their dynamic leader, Nelson Mandela, imprisoned.

And yet resistance continued to grow, inside and outside the country. Religious leaders, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, took to the street, organizing huge, peaceful rallies. In 1976, images of Black children being attacked and killed in Soweto township during a protest spread like wild fire around the world. 176 died and thousands were injured. In response, the United Nations called on its member states to divest and impose economic sanctions. Only 2 leaders did not. (More on that in a moment.)

Minority rule, oppression, vigilantism, and disenfranchisement are eventually loosing propositions as Greg Abbott is learning. A majority of 52% now say his state is moving in the wrong direction. The list of grievances is long and continues to grow. Catholic bishops decried his inhumane handling of immigrant families this year. Baptist minister Rev. Frederick Haynes III spotlighted the Republican legislature’s voter suppression law recently suggesting they were “dressing up Jim and Jane Crow in a tuxedo.” Only 39% approve of his handling of the pandemic, and many Texans find the renewed endorsement of “vigilante justice” for unfortunate women and girls seeking abortions to be a disturbing and dystopian new reality. By the way, 1 in 5 Texans lack health insurance, and Texas is one of twelve Republican led states that continue to refuse federal offers to expand Medicaid coverage of their citizens.

Modern day demographics in the Lone Star State suggest that the territory is no longer dominantly white, rural, or conservative. Texas population has grown by 40% (over 8 million new residents) in the past 20 years. Since 2010, over 95% of these new entrants are people of color. For every 1 white entrant in the past ten years, Texas accepted 3 Blacks, 3 Asians, 3 multiracial citizens, and 11 Hispanics. The cities and suburbs that have grown nearly 20% in the past 10 years, now include 70% of the statewide population. Rural areas have grown only 1%.

New entrants are finding jobs in firms attracted by liberal zoning, low taxes, and cash incentives. Firms like HP, Tesla, Oracle and Amazon say they are big fans of 3P management (People/Planet/Profit). But how will this new “creative class” of techies and scientists like living in a state that wants to embrace a 4th P – Prejudice?

The current Republican crowd may be gutsy, but let’s face it, Abbott is no Reagan. And even “The Great Communicator” himself, has been somewhat sullied by brush up’s with history.

For example, by 1983, all but two UN member national leaders had supported divestment of South Africa – Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Reagan in fact doubled down in 1986, placing Mandela on the terrorist watch list (where he remained until 2008), and said, “The South African government is under no obligation to negotiate the future of the country with any organization that proclaims a goal of creating a communist state…”

This was five years after tipping his real hand to Walter Cronkite in an interview, describing South Africa as “a country that has stood by us in every war we’ve ever fought, a country that, strategically, is essential to the free world in its production of minerals.”

Professor Steven Pedigo director of the LBJ Urban Lab at the University of Texas, is an expert in urban economic development, regional cooperation and placemaking. Pedigo has developed strategies for more than 50 cities and regions in the United States and believes the Republicans reliance on “gerrymandering, voter suppression, and relentless cultural warfare” is a “fatal miscalculation.”

With Abbott riding “abortion” the way Reagan once rode “communism”, and with Rev. Frederick Haynes III channeling Desmond Tutu, how long will it be before “Divest in Texas” becomes the new Lone Star State battling cry?

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