An update from Texas

I am still working from home. The weather has been spectacular here over the past few days. I immediately head outside with the kids at 5 o’clock. We just run around and play. The younger one likes throwing the football around in the grass. The older one likes to play with the ants in the cracks of the sidewalk.

I was looking forward to going to Oslo this fall, but I just received news that the event has been postponed. I’ve still got the inaugural family camping trip to Ouachita to plan, so that’s exciting.

The political landscape here is much different than it is on the west coast or in Austin. Authority is decentralized. There are more black and Mexican people here, and fewer other minorities (including Central Americans). I have more black friends now than I ever did in California. It’s odd. In some ways, the non-South is now more racist than the old South. I can’t put my finger on it but I swear it’s true. You can carry on a friendly conversation with anybody here, something that’s missing out west and up north.

My guess is that this has something to do with the fact that segregation was blatantly racist in the South during the Cold War, and Washington felt it had to do something about it in order to win friends (despots) abroad. The racism in the north and the west was less blatant, and as a result nothing has ever been done about it.

I mean, I didn’t grow up with any black people. Or Mexicans. There are tons of them in California, but they don’t live in white residential areas. Down south, at least in the parts of Texas I’ve lived in, this is not the case. There are still “sides” of town, but at least we all share the same town. There’s still racism here, but the racism is more honest than, say, the zoning found up north and out west. This familiarity between blacks, Mexicans, and whites is something you as an individual have to work hard on to achieve in the non-South.

The federal government forcibly dismantled Jim Crow. It did so only after it conveniently ignored the 14th Amendment for decades, but at least it finally did so. There’s a place for Washington down here in Texas. Decentralized tyrannies are still tyrannies. I just started watching Waco, the Netflix series. It’s good. Washington is responsible for the deaths of several innocent women and children. It’ll never pay the price. Those people were just too strange for the broad public to really give a shit.

It’s a never-ending balancing act: finding a comfortable equilibrium between federal, state, and local governance. The feds are better at protecting the descendants of slaves than the state and local governments. But the state and local governments are better at protecting non-conformists and religious extremists than the federal government.

Libertarianism hasn’t been able to shake its racist stigma yet. Sure, leftists call us racists all the time, but a kernal of truth is still a kernal of truth. I have witnessed several people I once respected sweep libertarianism’s ugly, recent past under the rug and then turn to grab their paycheck. Libertarian Inc. has its place in our society, but it won’t be effective so long as the racist label sticks with us. And the racist label won’t come off until we grapple with the brutal truth of what we’ve become comfortable with and what we will tolerate.

Grocery shopping in Texas

This past weekend I finally got to go to the grocery store and, like Rick, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of what my neighbors valued.

All of the shelves were fully stocked, except for the toilet paper aisle. Diaper wipes are being limited, too. The grocery store I shop at, H-E-B, actually opens the boxes of diaper wipes and sells the packs in singles. (A box will usually have 6 to 8 packs in it.) I got the maximum number of single packs allowed (2), just in case.

For diapers and wipes, we have a pre-paid automated thing with Amazon, and it has worked smoothly, but we’ve also tried to stock up just in case.

I tend to buy in bulk, so we still don’t need any toilet paper. The last time I bought butt paper was in January, and we’re still pretty stocked. But being a bulk buyer has made me anxious in the grocery store. I don’t like it when some of the stuff I always buy in bulk is being limited because some people want to hoard.

The pasta sauce and pancake mix is mostly gone, too. Texas has the best food and the best amateur cooks in the republic, but when you’ve got 4 or 5 or 6 people crammed into the house all day, ain’t nobody wanna cook.

The surgical masks don’t bother me. I lived in west LA for years (Go Bruins!) and people shopped in those masks all the time. The gloves don’t bother me. The employees are friendly, as usual, but I would have quit. I know some of them feel the same way.

Nightcap

  1. Behind the Iron Curtain: Soviet space art (gallery) Kadish Morris, Guardian
  2. The year I left the Soviet Union Alex Halberstadt, New Yorker
  3. Free speech, libel, and privacy rights Mark Hemmingway, RealClearPolitics
  4. 8 out of 10 Texans already live in cities and metropolitan areas Steven Pedigo, Dallas Morning News

Nightcap

  1. Do quarantines work? Eleanor Klibanoff, Goats and Soda
  2. Trump’s Middle East plan Nathan Thrall, New York Times
  3. Trump’s Middle East plan Michael Koplow, Ottomans & Zionists
  4. Texans don’t want any more Californians Derek Thompson, Atlantic

Nightcap

  1. Taking cross cultural psychology seriously Tanner Greer, Scholar’s Stage
  2. East Germans, bio-Germans, passport Germans Katrin Benhold, New York Times
  3. The Texas-Latvia connection Graeme Wood, the Atlantic
  4. “Scholar reads obituary over coffee” Irfan Khawaja, Policy of Truth

Nightcap

  1. South Korea’s Confucianist-capitalist trap Makoto Kajiwara, Nikkei Asian Review
  2. Stockton’s experiment with Universal Basic Income Sarah Holder, CityLab
  3. The real Texas Annette Gordon-Reed, New York Review of Books
  4. For women, running is still an act of defiance Rachel Hewitt, 1843

Nightcap

  1. Austin City Limits Kevin Williamson, Claremont Review of Books
  2. Boredom and the British Empire Erik Linstrum, History Today
  3. The little-known war crime in Tokyo Hiroaki Sato, Japan Times
  4. China’s “Hundred Schools of Thought” Ian Johnson, ChinaFile

RCH: The secession of Texas from Mexico

My latest at RealClearHistory deals with Texas and its secession from Mexico. An excerpt:

There are other similarities, too, starting with the fact that Texas was not the only state in Mexico to try and secede from Mexico City. The self-declared republics of Rio Grande, Zacatecas, and Yucután also asserted their independence from Mexico, though Texas was the only state to actually succeed in its rebellion. Unlike the 13 North American states attempting to secede from the British Empire, the Mexican provinces did not band together to form a united front against a common enemy.

Texas itself was the northern part of a larger state called Coahuila y Tejas. When Mexico originally seceded from Spain, Coahuila y Tejas joined the new republic as its poorest, most sparsely populated member state. In addition to economic and demographic problems, Coahuila y Tejas shared a border with the Comanche and Apache Indians, who in the 1820s were still powerful players in regional geopolitics. Life in Coahuila y Tejas was nasty, brutal, and short.

Please, read the rest.

RCH: The battle that shaped Texas for one hundred years

That’s the topic of my latest at RealClearHistory. (Remember, I have a Tuesday column and a weekend column over there.) Here’s an excerpt:

In the mid 16th century, then, in what is now Texas and Oklahoma, world powers and regional polities bobbed and weaved with each other in an intricate, unpredictable game of geopolitics to settle who gain hegemony over a region destined to be important for transcontinental trade for centuries to come. The defeat forced Spain to give up its designs for the region entirely, and France was never interested in the region being anything other than a resource-rich frontier for its American port cities in New Orleans and Quebec.

The defeat also caused a minor rift between Tlaxcala and Spain, which was a big deal at the time because without Tlaxcala, Spain would have never been able to conquer the Aztec Empire as thoroughly as it did.

Please, read the rest. Texas ain’t no joke…

Eye Candy: garbage versus trash (American dialects)

NOL garbage versus trash USA

I’ve always said “garbage,” but down here in Texas they use the word “trash.” I have no idea where I found this, and I can’t verify the source, but it looks right to me.

Any contrary arguments about this map?

The Mexican-American War, and another warm welcome

My topic over at RealClearHistory today is the Mexican-American War and slavery, so be sure to show me a little extra love and have a peek. An excerpt:

The British, for their part, played an ingeniously devious role. London convinced Mexico to finally recognize Texas independence in 1845, as long as Texas agreed to avoid annexation by another sovereign polity. This put enormous pressure on factions in Washington, Austin, and Mexico City, so much so that Tyler, by then a lame-duck, urged Congress to put aside its differences and offer statehood to the Republic of Texas (which it did). In Austin, the process was a little trickier. The Congress of the Texan Republic had to vote on whether to be independent or to be annexed, but so did a newly-formed convention of elected delegates, which was one of the requirements imposed on Texas by the United States. (Washington felt that a convention of elected delegates better fit the profile of an incoming state than a Congress that had been independent for 10 years.) Both the Congress and the convention of delegates voted in favor of annexation over independence. The convention of delegates then drew up a state constitution, turned it over to the people of Texas to be ratified, and then sent it to Washington for Congressional acceptance. On Dec. 29, 1845, the U.S. Congress finally ratified statehood for Texas.

Please, read the rest. Annexation is a topic I will continue to explore, albeit from NOL rather than RealClearHistory, so stay tuned. “Entrance” is just as important as “exit” in libertarian theory, even though the latter gets all of the fame and fortune these days.

Speaking of entrances, I’d like to officially, warmly welcome Shree Agnihotri to the consortium and highlight her first thoughts with NOL: “Role of a Citizen in Hegemonic Authoritarianism.” I’m not going to spoil it for you, but it’s about Hannah Arendt, so if you haven’t read it yet, now would be a good time (don’t forget to say ‘hi’ while you’re at it). Here is her bio. Here is more from NOL on Hannah Arendt. I’m stoked to see what she has to say over the years!

RCH, and a warm welcome

My topic over at RealClearHistory today is the Mexican-American War. I lay out a general background on all the players, hoping that a primer will do readers there some good. An excerpt:

Texas. In 1821, the newly-established Mexican government was having severe trouble with the Comanche in the area and invited Americans to settle the region. This pushed the Comanche west and helped weaken them, but it also laid the groundwork for a Texian secession from Mexico. Texas declared independence from Mexico in 1835, but of course nobody in Mexico City recognized this declaration. Texas and Mexico fought for more than a decade before representatives from the Lone Star Republic finally succeeded in lobbying Washington to annex Texas and incorporate it into the American federation. It’s worth noting here that immigration was not the cause of Texian secession from Mexico, as some nativists are apt to claim today. Texas was, like Yucatán, tired of being governed poorly from Mexico City. The anti-immigration argument would be much stronger if Mexico wasn’t facing revolts and secessions everywhere it turned.

Please, read the rest. I’m going to, as I promise in the piece, delve into slavery and the war next Tuesday, but there’s also other topics to think about. Secession comes to mind for me, as I can’t help but ask what could have been if the Senate had not rejected Yucatán’s bid for annexation. Also, is annexation the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to not only “exit” in libertarian circles, but entrance as well?

Speaking of entrances, I’d like to officially, warmly welcome Mary Lucia Darst to the consortium and highlight her first thoughts with NOL: “The Sad Retreat.” I’m not going to spoil it for you, so if you haven’t read it yet, now would be a good time (don’t forget to say ‘hi’ while you’re at it). Here is her bio. I am extremely excited to read what she shares here over the next few years.

A quick update on life in ATX

Hey all,

I just put in my two weeks’ notice at the bar I’ve been working at for the past 13 months. I’ve had a lot of fun, even though I took the job seriously, and am looking forward to my next adventure in life. Right now, though, I’ll just be chillin’ in ATX and reading and writing as much as possible. That means more blogging from me! (Hopefully my fellow Notewriters will follow suite…)

Austin is described by intelligent locals as a “blue dot in a sea of red,” meaning it’s a liberal city in a very conservative state. During the primaries, I saw mostly Bernie Sanders signs  in the areas of Austin I frequent (east side, Riverside, downtown; i.e. the poor, fun parts). Ron Paul is a popular figure in Austin, too, but he has long since faded away from the politico-electoral scene.

The south and west sides of Austin are much more affluent, and therefore more conservative, and I have a feeling that if I were to end up  in those neighborhoods I would see a lot of “Hillary” signs. It’s the strangest thing, the be living in a state that is known culturally in the US as the conservative state (and made to be diametrically opposed to California, which is the liberal one), and see nothing but support for thoughtful candidates within the two major political parties.

There is not much knowledge or support for 3rd party candidates in Austin. The LP and the Green parties get superficial nods of approval whenever they are brought up in conversation, but for the most part Texas Leftists and millennials support “the little guy” of the major parties. Again, it is weird. But so, too, am I and with that I’ll sign off for the day…

UPDATE: Speaking of weird, check out this review by Bryan Caplan of a new biography about Brigham Young.

Fourteen-Year Old Girl in Bikini Threatens Armed Cop

For those of you, my conservative friends, who believe police brutality is just a collection of deliberate made up tales, there is a video on the major cable networks today I hope you see.

It shows a normal size adult in a blue or black uniform putting his knee in the back of a fourteen-year old girl in a bikini to force her down. The girl is crying out for her Mamma. The same cop then draws his gun on a couple of teenage boys in swim shorts who are trying to help the girl. There are other teenagers around, all in swimming attire where one couldn’t hide a weapon. Does the cop think they are going to gang up on him and beat him to death? It’s difficult to see how his life is threatened. In fact, it’s impossible.

A private person gave a pool party on a hot day. Although I understand it took place in a semi-public pool, it was by invitation only. Predictably, some teenagers tried to crash the party. Someone called the police. At that point no blows had been struck; there may have been no violence. I say “may” because, according to some reports but not all, some girls had been pulling one another’s hair. The horror! Cat fights used to be considered free entertainment. The cops who first arrived felt out of their depth and apparently lost their cool and quickly became the worst threat to citizens‘ safety anywhere around.

This is the point where the media and everyone should ask the obvious question:

Suppose the cop had retreated and done nothing? What would be the worst case scenario. Answer 1: Uninvited teenagers swimming in a public pool that had been reserved. Answer 2: Possibly some hair pulled off. (When was the last time a teenage girl did serious damage to another with her bare hands? The stereotype is right: Girls don’t know how to fight.)

Is there an alternative universe where avoiding these calamities is worth brutalizing a young girl and pulling a gun on boys in bathing suits?

Is it even likely that the use of pepper spray was justified? Yes, I am double-guessing the cops on the scene. It’s becoming easier thanks to amateur video. If the cop who pulled his gun is unable to restrain himself or if he does not have the good judgment to do it, he shouldn’t be in charge of protecting us. Yes, that simple!

Was what I saw on the video a racial incident? I don’t think so although the main cop was white and the teenagers black. Likewise, when I see a white man sell a used tool to a black man at the flea market, I don’t think of it as a “racial transaction.” The assertion that white cops kill black men because white cops (and society in general) are racist is a simplistic idea invented and sustained by the scum sliver fringe of the dying civil rights movement to prolong its unearned privileges (including not paying millions of dollars in owed taxes).

I won’t believe that racial animus presides over the shooting of black men or any other kind of brutalization of black people by police until I see appropriate comparative figures: How many whites shot by white cops, how many blacks killed by black cops, etc. This would have to take into account the superior propensity of black to commit crimes. The number exists; the study is not difficult to do; any sociologist, any statistician could do it. The fact that it has either not been done or not publicized speaks to me of massive censorship, or self-censorship, of paralyzing political correctness.

The cop who put his knee in the middle of the back of a fourteen-year old girl may not be a racist; as I said; I think he is probably not. He just should not be a police officer. Given that he is a veteran, it’s not his training that’s defective, it’s him. Perhaps he should not have ever been on any force to begin with. Perhaps he has been on the job too long. If it’s the latter, I am guessing union rules prevent his superiors from doing anything about it or even from noticing that something is awry with that guy. Whatever is the case, the man is not a protector, he is a public danger.

He does not belong on the street with a gun but working in a church basement at something innocuous. His working buddies could be, for example, young women who think a smile is sexual harassment and a tap on the shoulder, rape. They deserve one another.

And, I can already hear it from my conservative friends: Peace officers have a tough job, blah, blah! You have to understand, blah, blah! Not so; the market tells the truth. There is is no shortage of police recruits nationwide. People are flocking to the job. The California Highway Patrol is currently recruiting young interns. Candidates must have no drug conviction (which does not make much sense if you think about it). They must have at least a 2.00 GPA in high school. Let me think, with grade inflation that would be a D- or an F+?

In the meantime, the Santa Cruz Sheriff is offering $5,200 a month for trainees with an immediate raise following graduation from the police academy. High school diploma required, or an associate degree. (There are also tests but…) Good time to weed out the inept and the used up. Or, the selection standards could be changed: You might go easier on the brawn and become more demanding on self-control and on ordinary common sense.

And, by the way, I hate affirmative action but…. (I hate it because it gave us among other things, the current Fascist-leaning administration that is also inept.) Yet, I don’t have trouble imagining that female cops may possess a superior ability to defuse potentially explosive situations. I believe that, in daily police practice, there are many cases where small physical size and low testosterone are assets.

There is no – I repeat – no reason to tolerate police brutality. Conservatives are morally bound to distrust the government there too. It’s our constitutional tradition.

PS I have no animus against police officers. My father was one, a good one. In my whole life, I have only had two moving violations; one was for driving too slowly.

Creeping illiteracy in the media: I heard with my own auditory ears and saw with my own visualizing eyes an MSNBC commentator refer to a “canine dog.” It makes me hunker for a “feline dog,” or even for an “avian dog.” That would be cool. Fortunately, it was on MSNBC, not on Fox.