Friday, April 17, 2015

Year-End 2014 Foreclosure Report for Metro Counties in Colorado

Foreclosure stats for Colorado's metro counties up through the end of 2014:

Monthly Foreclosure Report Dec 2014 No Logo

'Commie Cowboys' Now Available Online for Free

Having become so fabulously wealthy on royalties, I've decided to make my book Commie Cowboys available online for free. I posted it here, where you can download it in PDF. If you like it, be sure to review it at the book's Amazon page. If you prefer a physical book, you can certainly still buy it on Amazon for a measly $5.99. There's an even cheaper Kindle version, also.

It's a book that details how the so-called "classic" Westerns of the post-WWII period hardly deserve their reputation for being pro-capitalist symbols of freedom. In fact, the old silent Westerns and the more modern "cynical" Westerns like Unforgiven and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly are vastly superior, from a laissez faire perspective.

 Lew Rockwell and I talk about the book here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Some New Library Books

The great Professor John Cochran, retired Dean of the business school at Metropolitan State College of Denver, and author of many fine scholarly articles on monetary policy and banking,  has kindly donated much of his personal library to my personal library. Included are numerous economics and history books. I'm most happy about the Henry Hazlitt books. These are just some of them:

Citi Economist: Time to Abolish Cash

Also published at Mises Wire.

We often focus on the fact that abolishing cash abolishes the last remnants of financial privacy. But of course, abolishing cash also increases the Fed's ability to manipulate the economy.

Bloomberg reports that Citi economist Willem Buiter has called for the end of paper currency based on the benefits such action would bring to central banks. Specifically, the existence of cash limits a central bank's ability to manipulate the ecomomy with negative interest rates:
In a new piece, Citi's Willem Buiter looks at this problem, which is known as the effective lower bound (ELB) on nominal interest rates. 
Fundamentally, the ELB problem comes down to cash. According to Buiter, the ELB only exists at all due to the existence of cash, which is a bearer instrument that pays zero nominal rates. Why have your money on deposit at a negative rate that reduces your wealth when you can have it in cash and suffer no reduction?
Cash therefore gives people an easy and effective way of avoiding negative nominal rates. However, if you abolish cash, there is no escape from negative interest rates. All your money must be in an institution that can then punish you for saving any cash. There are half-way measures such as taxing currency, too.  Buiter does not have to go far to find an example of where a central bank may have wanted to set interest rates much lower to -100bp. He uses (a fairly aggressive) Taylor Rule to show that Federal Reserve rates should have been as low as -6 percent during the financial crisis." Sure, some people will protest the abolition of cash, Buiter concedes, but overall the arguments in favor of cash "seem rather weak."

Pope Calls a Spade a Spade, Turkish Government Goes Berserk

Also published at

Just one of many bloodbaths unleashed by the First World War, the Armenian Genocide of 1915 has long been a source of diplomatic conflict with the modern state of Turkey. The Turkish state, which sees itself, apparently, as the successor state of the Ottoman Empire which perpetrated the genocide, is known to go nuts whenever anyone uses the word "genocide" in reference to the massacres.

According to most everyone except Turkish nationalists, the Turkish state killed from 1 to 1.5 million ethnic Armenians during the first World War, either directly using state agents, or by proxy using various criminal gangs equipped by the Ottoman state.

In recent decades, numerous American and European diplomats have refrained from using the "g-word" to avoid upsetting Cold War alliances (Turkey being part of NATO) or for other diplomatic reasons when Turkey's acquiescence was desired. If Germany started throwing a fit every time someone referred to the Nazi Holocaust, one can only imagine what the response would be from most of the world. But apparently, when it comes to Armenians, denialism is fine.

But the 100th anniversary of the genocide is upon us, and it looks like the Turkish state's string of luck on this may be running out. Earlier this week, Pope Francis referred to the Armenian Genocide in official remarks, and Turkish politicians were berserk, indignantly referring to the Pope's remarks as "unacceptable" and recalling Turkey's ambassador to the Vatican. It does not look like an apology will be forthcoming from the Vatican any time soon.

It is also probably not a coincidence that the Pope recently declared an obscure (in the West) 10th-century Armenian monk, Gregory of Narek, to be both a Saint and a Doctor of the Church. In part, it is likely that the declaration was intended by the Pope as a statement of solidarity with both Armenians and the Eastern Churches in general, including the now-nearly-extinct Church under the Patriarch of Constantinople which has been all but outlawed by the Turkish government.

And now we find that the European Parliament has adopted a resolution that uses the g-word to describe the killings, and suggests the Turkish government do the same.

Was the old Turkish state particularly bloodthirsty? Probably not. In fact, the Ottoman Empire usually did a remarkably good job of holding together the Empire without bloodbaths or a centralized state apparatus. But the Armenian communities, which the Turkish state considered to be in its own back yard, were ripe for decimation because the Turks did not want a strong (overwhelmingly Christian) ethnic group to assert local autonomy.  Moreover, many Armenians were suspected of being a pro-Russian fifth column (the Russians being Christians also) So, the massacres and death camps followed.

It's important to the Turkish state even today to deny the holocaust because it undermines Turkish state claims to legitimacy and liberality. If the Turkish state can be shown to be founded on ethnic cleansing, it may "embolden" other ethnic minorities seeking greater independence.

Someone should tell Turkish politicians, however, that the hissy fits being thrown over the Pope's remarks actually make the Turkish state look weak. If the Turkish state can't handle its past sins being brought to light, one is forced to ask one's self why it takes so little to undermine the Turkish state. The US state, for example, is in little danger of being torn asunder every time someone mentions the ethnic cleansing of the Plains Indians. The US government simply says "oops" and goes on calling itself a great bastion of human wonderfulness. The Turks might do well to learn from the American propaganda machine, which has long since learned how to blame its many sins on others.

My Mother and Me in 1978

In San Marino, California, which at the time was a middle-class neighborhood:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

On Immigration and More: Some Gov't Intervention Does Not Justify More Government Intervention

For many years, advocates of mandatory “life and safety” regulation (i.e., legislated smoking bans, helmet laws, seat belt laws, bans on sugary drinks, etc) have claimed that they are justified on the grounds that, since so many health-care services are taxpayer-funded, then it is both necessary and legitimate that the government therefor mandate more safe and healthy behavior. In other words, since someone who doesn’t wear a seatbelt may end up in a taxpayer-funded hospital, the government has a “right” to lower healthcare costs by mandating seatbelts. By the same token, it is held that the government has an obligation to ban or discourage smoking or the eating of fatty goods, lest such a person drive up Medicare costs. This may be extended in another direction as well. Since nearly all highways and roads are government-funded, they claim, then the state has the “right” to regulate everything that occurs on them. Hence, you must wear your seat belt, submit to roadside DUI checks, wear helmets, etc.

There’s right-wing version of this also. Advocates of a more robust police state in the form of more deportations of suspected foreign nationals and more prosecutions against employers and landlords who hire or rent to foreign nationals (i.e, illegal immigrants), use an analogous argument. The fact that employers have freely invited such people to live on their property or work in their establishments matters not at all, we are told, because the presence of “public goods” justifies more ICE agents, a border wall, and more federal agents to raid factories and issue fines to landlords. Another variant of this is the argument that drug laws (applicable to everyone) are necessary to keep welfare-recipients off drugs or drugs out of the public schools. (Drug laws also keep health-care costs down too, — or so it is claimed — so there’s a nice overlap here with the left on this issue, also.)
Now, I see that the same argument is being extended to the “anti-discrimination” debate. For example :
Think you should be able to segregate your business’ water fountains or reject service to black people as a matter of conscience? Too bad! The law is clear: if you use public roads and other public services to do business then you have to provide service to the public. [NB: This author is writing this without irony.]
The law doesn’t quite say what the author here thinks it says. (He seems to be confusing his argument with the “common carrier” argument.) But the point is made. If you use government roads or government sewage (or whatever) you have essentially surrendered your property rights. Any you do retain are at the discretion of the legislature and courts.

In all of these cases, the appropriate response, at least for the advocate of laissez-faire, is to lessen the size and extent of so-called “public” goods while lessening the monopolistic aspects of such goods through decentralization of government power.

For example, if it is a problem that unhealthy people use Medicare, then the answer is to lessen spending on Medicare, constrict eligibility, or to eliminate Medicare altogether and lower barriers for private-sector competition. The answer is not to empower government to manage everyone’s dietary habits as a “cost-saving” measure. Such schemes also necessitate enforcement, which of course brings with it new and bigger government agencies, more government agents, and more red tape.

Likewise, if foreign nationals are using public schools or public roads, the answer is to lessen spending on such government-owned amenities and to allow for private-sector competition with public sector services. The answer is not to outlaw the renting of apartments to foreign nationals or to outlaw voluntary contracts with such people. Nor is the answer to pay more federal agents, build border walls, or increase the bureaucracy to “solve” a problem created by government intervention in the first place. In contrast, the free-market response is to restrict access to, or eliminate, such amenities (e.g., Prop 287), while allowing competition.

Similarly, if a business is using government roads to transport goods or is using the postal service, this is no way then leads us to the conclusion that the state therefore has the right to control everything the business does. In fact, the correct solution is to diminish the role of the state in the daily business of the establishment in question by allowing for private-sector options in transportation, utilities, package delivery, and so on.

Note that in most of these cases, the person who is now supposedly subject to greater regulation because he “benefits” from public amenities, doesn’t even have a choice in the matter. Seniors may not refuse Medicare. Business owners and workers must use public roads in most cases.

Now, for the leftists, there is no ideological conflict here. They are perfectly happy that roads, utilities, and other aspects of daily life are government-owned. The fact that the existence of "public" goods can be used to further regulate daily life is a bonus for them. For the “free-market” advocate who is also the advocate of more “enforcement” of laws, on the other hand, the situation presents a conflict.

“But we’ll never get rid of public roads or public schools or Medicare in my lifetime! Therefore businesses who hire illegal aliens must be punished, drugs must be outlawed, and we must create a robust border patrol and DEA as a second-best solution,” they may say.

But if the presence of government-owned amenities justify greater intervention in one case, they justify it in other cases, too. If we argue that it is appropriate for the federal government to regulate who meat packers can hire because immigrants use public roads to get to the plant, then the presence of government-owned amenities also justifies regulation of a “discriminatory” cake-baking establishment that uses the public roads, or which relies on public roads for customer access.

If the public roads are a type of subsidy to the baker, the meat packer, and the immigrant workers, then the “free-market” solution is to eliminate the subsidy, diminish its extent, or eliminate the monopolistic aspects the subsidy; not invent new ways for government to regulate the lives and property of everyone who has no choice but to use the government’s roads and “services” in the first place.

How Aggressive Foreign Policy Subsidizes American Nut Farmers

A friend cheekily reminds me that today is National Pecan Day and innocently suggests that I might want to "discuss the connection between pecans and the California drought." True, enough, there's a connection. But water is just one factor — albeit a large one — propping up the lucrative nature of farming in the California desert. International trade policy is a major subsidy for many growers as well.

Although pecans are native to the American South, it could be that they might be even more productive somewhere else in the world. Maize, for example, grows amazingly well in Iowa, even though it's native to Mexico. But if pecans could be grown more productively elsewhere, it's unlikely we'll ever know. Experience tells us that American trade barriers would likely be erected to hobble any entrepreneurs who attempted to compete with domestic growers.

Much has been made of tree-nut growing in California during the current debate over the drought. Almonds have been especially targeted, but pistachios are an important crop as well, and while domestic almonds and other tree nuts certainly benefit from tariff policy — here's a tariff schedule for those who are interested — pistachio growers in the US have the added benefit of bellicose American foreign policy.

In a 2013 article at Mondoweiss, Yash Levine examined the effect of the US embargo against Iran on the pistachio industry, through the experience of one particularly wealthy farming couple, Lynda and Stewart Resnick:

For as long as anyone can remember, Iran had been the world’s main supplier of pistachios. But Carter’s 1979 embargo on the country effectively cut off Iranian pistachio growers from the American market and created a need for alternative pistachio production, which was virtually nonexistent in the United States. 
Seeing a massive opportunity, the Resnicks began to snap up thousands of acres from Mobil Oil and Texaco in order to create pistachio and almond orchards. They steadily bought up more and more acreage all through the 1980s for rock-bottom prices because of a long period of drought. By the end of the decade, the Resnicks had amassed enough farmland to rival Oligarch Valley’s biggest and oldest billionaire farmer clans: 100,000 acres—nearly 160 square miles—growing cotton, pistachios, almonds, oranges, lemons and grapefruit. 
They didn’t just grow the crops, but packaged, processed and distributed them as well. Economic sanctions against Iran were renewed and intensified under every single president after Carter, and all the while America’s domestic pistachio farming exploded. In the past thirty years it has grown from a couple of hobby farmers to an industry generating close to $1 billion...
Economic sanctions are what have allowed the Resnicks to create their pistachio empire, which would suffer a severe blow if relations with Iran were ever normalized. Iran’s pistachios are considered to be superior to America’s, so much so that Israelis still buy Iranian pistachios shipped in through Turkey. Surely the Resnicks would never be able to compete with Iran on the pistachio free market. And so the Resnicks did what any smart and ruthless American would do: they made common cause with oil companies, Islamophobes, neocons and Likudniks, and began funneling money to think tanks and political advocacy groups that take a hardline approach with Iran. Economic sanctions, sabotage, vilification—all these things worked in the Resnicks’ interest. Bombing some of Iran’s pistachio fields wouldn’t be so bad, either…

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Government Discrimination vs. Private Discrimination

[Originally published at]

The new religious freedom controversy in Indiana reminds us that discrimination and exclusion are foundational aspects of private property. Without the right to exclude, a right to private property does not exist, since forced inclusion implies coerced action and accommodation under the threat of violence from the regulating state agency in question. The decision to exclude is always based on some type of discrimination, although the type of discrimination can run the gamut from “you’re banned from my store because you groped customers” to “I don’t serve your (racial) kind.” In practice, the excluded party must then seek similar or substitute services elsewhere. Since discrimination of various types must always exist if any measure of private-property rights are to be respected, those who wish to expand the options for those who face discrimination should look to greater ease and freedom in providing more diverse choices for everyone in the marketplace. State efforts to restrict entry by entrepreneurs into markets through regulation and prohibition result in less choice and more monopolistic power for the incumbent firms, increasing the effect of the discrimination on the consumer.
Additionally, the effects of discrimination are magnified when “public” or government property or services are an important factor in the transaction. Government agencies, as monopolists by definition, present a much more grave challenge to groups that face discrimination. We have been told that people who refuse to bake cakes for same-sex couples present some sort of grave threat to civilization (as if the customer could not easily find a willing baker elsewhere), but when faced with no choice but to submit to the local monopolist (i.e., city government) the parties that face discrimination have no alternatives.
To illustrate this, we can look to past cases of government-sector discrimination to illustrate this contrast with private-sector discrimination. The now-infamous Sleepy Lagoon murder case provides a helpful case study, and is of particular interest to me given my own family history within the community at the time.
When my mother was born into a Mexican-American family in Los Angeles in the 1940s, she was born just a few years after the show trial that followed the murder, and in which 12 suspects were quickly tried and convicted of crimes related to the murder of Jose Diaz:
On August 2nd [1942] Jose Diaz was found near what had come to be known as the “Sleepy Lagoon.” He was rushed to a hospital where he died from massive head trauma as well as stabbings. After his body was found, there was a huge police sweep over the whole County, in which over 300 male youths were arrested…twenty-four youths were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, as well as assault with a deadly weapon.
As part of an effort to win a conviction, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department then published a document titled simply “Statistics” that explained the necessity of more harsh enforcement of laws against the Mexican-American population in Los Angeles.
Historian Richard White sums up the document:
The prosecution in the ensuing murder trial put the entire Mexican American community on trial by identifying all “Mexicans” as criminals and gangsters. The Foreign Relations Bureau of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department circulated a report asserting that criminality was an inherent racial trait of Mexicans and thus of Mexican Americans. The report argued that Mexican Americans were partially Indian by descent, Indians were originally “Orientals,” and “Orientals” had no regard for the value of life.
The report’s text states:
Many of these young gangsters have comparatively good jobs, so economics is not a determining factor in their case. In fact, as mentioned above, economics as well as some of the other features are contributing factors, but basically it is biological—one cannot change the spots of a leopard.
The Caucasion [sic], especially the Anglo-Saxon, when engaged in fighting, particularly among youths, resort to fistcuff [sic] and may at times kick each other, which is considered unsportive, but this Mexican element considers all that to be a sign of weakness, and all he knows and feels is a desire to use a knife or some lethal weapon. In other words, his desire is to kill, or at least let blood. That is why it is difficult for the Anglo-Saxon to understand the psychology of the Indian or the Latin to understand the psychology of the Anglo-Saxon or those from Northern Europe. When there is added to this inborn characteristic that has come down through the ages—the use of liquor, then we certainly have crimes of violence.
Ed. Duran Ayres, the author of the report, was employed as an expert witness for the prosecution in the case, apparently as part of an effort to show that the defendants were statistically more likely to be murderers than an ordinary person.
Tax-Funded Discrimination vs. Private-Sector Discrimination
Notable in this is the fact that these views were being promulgated by a government agency for the express purpose of justifying the use of coercive force against persons, and — less explicitly — disregard for due process. All the government agents involved, from the presiding judge, to Duran, to the cop on the street, were paid with taxpayer money. Moreover, these agents exercised a monopoly of force within their jurisdiction. All residents within the jurisdiction, whether Anglo, Mexican, or otherwise, were compelled to financially support the courts and the Sheriff’s Department.
Many scholars, nevertheless, have studied the trial as a case study of ethnic bias at the time within the private sector, with a focus on the local media and the population at large which allegedly demanded the type of show trial that the defendants were given.
Certainly, the press engaged in many outrageous calumnies, regularly referring to the as-yet-not-convicted defendants as “hoodlums” “Mexican goon squads” and so on. Also, there is no doubt that many within the general population were happy to see more Mexican-Americans locked up, but it remains abundantly unclear that a majority of Angelenos at the time subscribed to the Sheriff’s department’s “scientific” theories about certain ethnic groups.
Moreover, of notable importance is the fact that the media, like all private institutions, and all private citizens, does not have the legal authority to arrest, detain, or execute people.  Nor do private citizens who disagree with the local media’s positions or private citizen’s beliefs need support such things financially.
Government agencies, on the other hand, do have the legal authority to arrest, detain, and execute people, and they have the power to force all residents within their jurisdiction to support government institutions financially.
Those private citizens who do use coercion without due process are correctly deemed “criminals,” “thieves,” or “murderers” who must themselves be subject to the local monopolist of law enforcement.
Here we see the fundamental difference between public discrimination and private discrimination. With private discrimination, the person who faces discrimination (for whatever reason, be it ugliness, poor fashion sense, past conflict with the property owner, or membership in some ethnic group) has the freedom to pursue services elsewhere. On the other hand, the party that faces government discrimination (whether based on religious views, political incorrectness, wage rates paid, or membership in some ethnic or racial group) has no choice to seek a competitor or to even stop financially supporting the discriminating agency. As a monopolist, the state agency, necessarily prohibits choice for the discriminated-against party.
So, naturally, we can see how private discrimination is in its basic constitution quite different from government discrimination. For example, in Los Angeles in the 1940s — where it was apparently official policy that Mexican-Americans were to be regarded as especially criminal-minded — were my Mexican-American grandparents and their children more threatened by a baker who might refuse them a cake, or did the real danger lie with the Sheriff’s department?  Obviously, the threat posed by the County of Los Angeles was much, much greater than any “threat” posed by any private merchant, in part because the government agency employs coercion, but also because private-sector firms, unless they enjoy monopoly powers bestowed by government regulators, are forced to compete with other similar firms in the marketplace. In other words, it’s one thing when your grocer thinks you are a blood-thirsty mestizo. It’s another thing entirely when your local police force thinks the same.
My grandfather (second from left) with relatives in the 1940s in East Los Angeles

The Reduce the Effects of Discrimination, Reduce Monopoly Power 
The answer to the problem of discrimination in both bases is to seek to enhance discrimination or at least weaken monopolist power as much as possible.  In the case of government agencies, the proper first step would be to decentralize, and to break jurisdictions into smaller pieces. By the 1940s, Los Angeles County was already a large operation by the standards of the day. There is no reason that citizens could not have been given greater choice within the area by limiting local governments to much smaller jurisdictions — jurisdictions that were more likely to reflect the values and ethnic make-up of each community. (One cannot, of course, ignore the role of basic ideology in this. A society that has no regard for private property and due process will not have a decent justice system, regardless of how the institutions are structured.) But other means could be employed as well, including options for third-party arbitration. And within the private sector, we must always be ready to condemn efforts on the part of both government and private agents to limit choice through government regulation.
Indeed, in the years before Sleepy Lagoon, California had employed government regulation to put Japanese-Americans at an economic disadvantage and to limit their ability to competeagainst white merchants:
In California during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, anti-Japanese sentiment ran high, in spite of the fact that they never comprised more than 3 percent of the population. To discourage Japanese immigration to California and to curb the wealth of the immigrants themselves, a large number of major employers agreed among themselves to not hire any Japanese workers. At the same time, politicians at the state legislature passed laws prohibiting Japanese immigrants from working in various occupations. In response, both immigrant and native-born Japanese worked around these laws and employment bans by focusing on industries that were ignored by much of the population due to the hard work required and the slim profit margins involved. Japanese workers and entrepreneurs began to dominate the truck farming and flower and nursery industries. The Japanese, who developed more efficient ways of farming and getting crops to market soon began to put white farmers out of business.  White Californians responded with alien land laws in 1913 and 1920 which banned the sale of land to foreign-born Japanese and also prohibited leasing land to the same for more than three years. The Japanese merely responded by putting the land deals in the names of their native-born children, and the cycle continued, until Roosevelt solved many of the whites’ problems by simply locking the Japanese in concentration camps.
If one wishes to really fight private-sector discrimination and to ensure that no community or ethnic group is forced to submit to terms dictated by any monopolist, it is government regulation that must be opposed, as such regulations restrict choice and impose partial or complete lack of choice for consumers. The higher the bar is placed for entry into the marketplace by regulators, the less choice and competition there will be. With government monopolists, we have a much tougher row to hoe, as most people today accept that government agencies should enjoy a monopoly on a variety of industries, including law enforcement. The solution lies in first accepting that discrimination imposed by government agents is far more dangerous and destructive than anything a private sector actor in an unhampered market could attempt. And finally, it is important to remember that the key factor in understanding the degree to which discrimination can be harmful lies not in the discrimination itself, but in the extent to which the discriminating party enjoys a monopoly over goods and services with the industry in question.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The ‘Plan of San Diego’ and the Legacy of the Mexican War

[First published at]

A century ago, in 1915, Southern Texas was the site of numerous massacres perpetrated against Mexican-Americans by the Texas Rangers and hastily-assembled private militias of Anglo Texans. Their stated purpose was retribution against the perpetrators of the “Plan of San Diego” which was allegedly orchestrated by the Carranza government in Mexico to foment ethnic conflict between Mexican-Americans and Anglos in Texas. The move was part of an effort to end American interference in the Mexican Revolution and — far less realistically — to reclaim some portions of the United States that had been seized by the United States in 1848.
The Plan of San Diego, named after the small Texas town it was devised in, prompted small numbers of young Mexican men — mostly disgruntled, and unemployed men on the margins of society — to execute the plan, which had the stated purpose of the execution of all Anglos over the age of 16. It is estimated that about 21 Anglo Texans were killed in the operation.
Far more violent than the initial plan was the response to it on the part of the Anglos. In response, the Texas Rangers and local informal militias engaged in “a systematic manhunt” that made few efforts to target the actual perpetrators of the killings, but was geared more toward executing a campaign of terror against Mexican-Americans. Observers at the time estimated that the number of those killed numbered anywhere from 150 to 1,500 people, although the consensus today appears to come in around 300.
Benjamin Herber Johnson, in his book Revolution in Texas recounts some of the details from the time:
By early fall, the signs of the vigilantism were inescapable. It was not just that Tejanos [i.e., Mexican-Americans] knew of friends and relatives who were dealt summary justice and could speculate about the changes of meeting such a fate themselves. The violence directed at them had clear public manifestations in the piles of bodies left to rot in public. ..
Yet those who yearned to bury their loved ones were often too afraid to do so. The Rangers and vigilantes targeted relative of alleged bandits, and so to bury a friend or relative was to court death…
The ongoing sights were enough to convince any Tejano that there was no refuge in South Texas. In mid-September, for example, someone traveling from San Benito to Edinburg might have seen what a New York reporter witness “The bodies of three of the twenty or more Mexicans that were locked up overnight in the small frame jail at San Benito were found lying beside the road two miles east of the town this afternoon. All three of them were shot in the back.”
Tejanos also knew that their persecutors made deliberate efforts to terrorize those whom they did not kill outright … Others also recalled burnings. Interviewed by his grandson nearly sixty years later, Francisco Sandoval emphasized that the Rangers killed people simply for the pleasure of it, adding that “they burnt them, they burnt them alive…”
After awhile [sic] the sheer number of lynchings may have inured residents, especially Anglos; terror and fear had become part of daily life.
Nevertheless, this historical episode had been all but forgotten.  But thanks to new scholarship by historians such as Johnson, over the past 15 years, new books have begun to appear on the topic. Now, with the 100th anniversary, the New York Times has started to notice as well, with last month’s article “When Americans Lynched Mexicans” which mentions the episode in the larger context of lynchings perpetrated against Mexican-Americans since the 19th century. The article also notes that the violence did not end in 1915:
On Jan. 28, 1918, a band of Texas Rangers and ranchers arrived in the village of Porvenir in Presidio County, Tex. Mexican outlaws had recently attacked a nearby ranch, and the posse presumed that the locals were acting as spies and informants for Mexican raiders on the other side of the border. The group rounded up nearly two dozen men, searched their houses, and marched 15 of them to a rock bluff near the village and executed them. The Porvenir massacre, as it has become known, was the climactic event in what Mexican-Americans remember as the Hora de Sangre (Hour of Blood). It led, the following year, to an investigation by the Texas Legislature and reform of the Rangers.
These recent mentions add to a growing body of research on the topic including 2009’s article “The Law of the Noose: A History of Latino Lynching” from 2009, and summarized in this 2014 article.
Even those who are descended from Mexican-Americans of the Texas borderlands (including myself, on my mother’s side) grew up blissfully unaware that any such horrors had ever occurred. It was never mentioned explicitly to me in my youth, but my own grandparents, born in 1911 and 1912 into middle-class Mexican-American families, had moved from the Texas borderlands to southern California during the late 1920s to escape the pall that continued to hang over the region years afterward. The American capacity for moving on from grave injustices, and all but forgetting them, is truly impressive.
My great-grandfather José Galindo (standing, far left) in a 1913 photo taken near El Paso, Texas)
My great-grandfather José Galindo (standing, far left) in a 1913 photo taken near El Paso, Texas
The Legacy of Conquest
The larger issue of the borderlands that continues to be relevant today, however, is how the conquest of Mexico in the Mexican war set the stage for the century of bitter conflict that followed. American apologists for the Mexican war — a war of conquest driven by ethnic bias and nationalist expansionism — still exist, as evidenced by this recent article from the John Birch Society. The author, a historian named Steve Byas, takes the position that although Mexico and Texas had never resolved their border disputes, the annexation of Texas forced the hand of DC politicians who just had to invade and occupy Mexico City in response. Byas’s article is only more evidence as to why the annexation of Texas was a grave error, but his overall position is that the US Constitution trumps basic morality.
Few will be convinced by such craven efforts at latter-day apologetics for Manifest Destiny, so rather than re-debate the justification for the Mexican War, we should look instead to the legacy of the war, which very much included the Plan of San Diego and the ensuing massacres.
Indeed, the Plan of San Diego incident was simply one of the more recent episodes in a long string of episodes involving conflict between the existing Mexican-American population and the Anglo conquerors. Such conflicts are illustrated by the exploits of guerrilla fighters Juan Cortina and Gregorio Cortez, both of whom became outlaws and Robin Hood-type figures in response to the systematic theft and abuse of Mexican-Americans at the hands of Anglo government officials in Texas during the 19th century.
Much of this conflict dates back to the border dispute between the Mexican government and the Republic of Texas. Texas maintained the the border was at the Rio Grande, but the Mexicans maintained the border was at the Nueces river. Much of the reason that the Mexican government stipulated the Nueces River as the border was because there was a sizable population of Mexicans south and southwest of the river. The areas north of the river, the Mexican government knew, had already been largely overwhelmed by the influx of Anglos. Moreover, secessionist sentiment among Texans in 1836 was largely confined to areas north of the Nueces River as well.
Had the Texans — and later the Americans — settled on a border slightly to the north, the ethnic conflict of the next two or three generations would have been greatly reduced. However, Manifest Destiny, and the likely belief that ethnic cleansing would eventually solve the problem, impelled the conquerors forward, and more southerly borders were insisted upon and eventually obtained.
Intermittent and largely predictable violence ensured.  This isn’t to say that ethnic conflict would have never materialized had a different border been selected. Such things are to be expected along an extremely long and porous border. On the other hand, wars of conquest accelerate and exacerbate conflict. All of this discussion of Mexico-Texas borders may remind many of the immigration debate, but immigrants are qualitatively different from a conquered population. The former voluntary adopts a new location and new set of laws, while the latter have a new legal system and new government imposed on them. Naturally, a prudent state would seek to minimize such a situation, through decentralization and self-government for the conquered territories, but “prudent” would not be the best descriptor of mid-19th century American foreign policy.
Ludwig von Mises himself noted the risks of such a policy when he wrote in Nation, State, and Economy:
Liberalism rejects aggressive war not on philanthropic grounds but from the standpoint of utility. It rejects aggressive war because it regards victory as harmful, and it wants no conquests because it sees them as an unsuitable means for reaching the ultimate goals for which it strives. Not through war and victory but only through work can a nation create the preconditions for the well-being of its members. Conquering nations finally perish, either because they are annihilated by strong ones or because the ruling class is culturally overwhelmed by the subjugated.
Likely having come to the same conclusions as Mises, the Anglo ruling class of Texas, post-1848, feared that their own population might be “overwhelmed by the subjugated” and set to work using the courts and legislatures to slowly chip away at the property rights of the former Mexicans who now found themselves on the northern side of a new border.
For much of the 19th century, those Mexican-American farmers in more rural and western parts of the Texas were able to avoid conflict with the Anglos, but as large-scale farming moved westward, the efforts at seizing lands from the established non-Anglo orchards and farms intensified. Richard White writes:
The expansion of commercial farming into South Texas amounted to an invasion of a pastoral paternalistic society by an agrarian, capitalistic society. Racial differences compounded the economic and social differences … Incoming Anglo farmers gained a foothold as some ranchers, Anglo and Mexican Texan, willingly sold their land at large profits. The newcomers expanded their hold when they took control of local government and increased taxes to pay for public improvements. By taxing undeveloped land at the same rate as developed land land, they put ranchers at a disadvantage, for an acre of rangeland yielded far less income than an acre of cropland. More ranchers sold their land to escape the increasing tax burdens.
As the newcomers stripped Mexican Texans of their votes and began to strip them of their lands, the Mexican Texans resisted. The result was virtual civil war in Texas between 1915 and 1917.
That White uses the term “civil war” is significant. We are often told that centralization and conquest brings stability; that a central state can impose solutions on diverse populations that would otherwise engage in international warfare if left to decentralization and independence. The actual historical record is quite a bit less convincing, and the American history of internal civil wars, wars of pacification against different racial and ethnic groups, and ethnic strife in general, suggests otherwise. In fact, bringing multiple diverse groups under a single government, whether it’s the unitary state known as Texas, or the increasingly unitary union of states known as “the United States,” requires an immense amount of decentralization and laissez-faire to be workable. Alas, Texas, whether as an independent republic, or as one of many American states, and the US itself, like most sovereign states, have never come close to achieving such a state of affairs.

Monday, March 2, 2015

New discovery in the family archives: 1926 funeral card

My mother recently found the old funeral card for my great-grandfather:

Jose R Galindo, full middle name unknown, died in 1926, aged 53, which places his birth probably in 1873. Buried in Calvary cemetary in Los Angeles, and the funeral was held at Our Lady of Guadalupe. I looked up the church and it has since moved from its 1926 location on Fisher St.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Releases of Deeds of Trust in Colorado Metros Stall in Spite of Record-Low Mortgage Rates

Releases of deeds of trust during the first half of 2014 were down significantly in Colorado metros compared to 2013 during the same period, and were flat from the first quarter of 2014 to the second quarter.

During the first half of 2013, there were 179,747 releases of deeds of trust in Colorado metros, and during the same period of 2014, there were 92,955 releases, for a year-over-year decline of 49.4 percent.

A release of a deed of trust is an event that occurs when a deed of trust (often referred to as  a mortgage) is paid off, either through refinance, sale, or when all payments have been completed on a home loan. It is a "positive" economic indicator in sense that areas with improving economies tend to generally also report increases in releases of deeds of trust.

For the second quarter alone, across Colorado's metropolitan counties, 46,696 deeds of trust were released. That's a 0.9 percent increase from the first quarter of 2014 when there were 46,259 releases.

Compared year over year for the second quarter alone,  releases were down 47.1 percent from the second quarter of 2013 when there were 88,217 releases. 2014's 2nd-Q releases were down 22.4 percent from the same period of 2012.

The first graph shows the quarterly total for releases. We can see that totals were near the lowest level recorded since 2008, and were quite low for all of the first half of 2014.

The second graph shows release totals compared against the same quarters for each year. Note that the second quarter of 2014 is the lowest quarterly total for releases recorded since 2008. The same was true of the first-quarter total. 

The low levels of release activity persisted in spite of the fact that mortgage rates continue at very low levels. Release activity is generally tied closely to movements in the mortgage rate, and refinances especially tend to increase as mortgage rates move down. However, in spite of low rates, releases have remained low, suggesting that the market for refinances has been largely exhausted. 

The third graph shows the relationship between the mortgage rate and release totals. While mortgage rates have increased from the extremely low levels seen during 2012 and 2013, rates still remain at historic lows under 4.5 percent. This, however, has failed to produce the sort of new loan activity seen during periods with rates that were 50 basis points higher, back in 2009. 

So far this year, compared to previous years, release activity is on schedule to finish down more than 50 percent compared to last year. The next graph shows total annual release activity, plus the first half of 2014:

Regional Comparisons 

Looking at release activity on a county by county basis, we find some significant changes in trends. The first chart shows quarter over quarter changes in each county surveyed. Douglas County, which, as a high-income county, typically tends to outpace other counties, but in this case saw a large drop off over the period.

The second chart shows year-over-year changes. In this case we find more uniformity in that all counties reported declines, year over year for the second quarter. Weld County, not surprisingly reported the smallest decline, owing at least partially to large amounts of oil-driven economic activity in the region.

The third chart shows year-over-year changes for the first half of each year. In this case,  all counties reported declines year over year with the smallest declines coming from Weld and Denver counties.

And finally, we can compare the counties more accurately by adjusting release activity for the total number of housing units in each county. In this case, we see the largest amount of release activity was in Weld, Larimer, and Jefferson counties, and the lowest amount was in Douglas County. 

It is unclear why Douglas County would show so little activity at this time, and it does suggest that some additional analysis is needed for the county in home sales and building permits and median home prices. 

Overall, these numbers point to a soft market for refinances, and to small number of new home sales, in spite of continued growth in median home prices in all areas.