Third World of Texas

I sit in the dark, in my house, where we have been isolating since March of 2020 due to the pandemic. I look out over a six inch blanket of snow, in a city that rarely sees a single inch. We are now without water and mobile phone communication. The heat has held where we are. Power has been intermittent, but better than elsewhere. We had food reserves set aside and some firewood. My old generator failed to turn over and appears to be dead. Roads are closed and traffic cannot move. Highways are lined with stalled vehicles. Stores are shuttered. Supply trucks are largely not moving. And in what has become a chronic feature of daily reality, schools have all shut down, yet again.

My son is away at college, a few hundred miles from here in a neighboring city, and they have cut off power and water in the dorms. Food appears to be running out. No one really knows when any of it will come back. We try to troubleshoot his situation over failing mobile phone connections, to help him somehow get food and water without becoming stranded.

My wife’s brother lives in our city, and after 48 hours with no heat, his indoor temperature had fallen to 26 degrees. My own brother, steeled by years of far-north driving, braved the roads in the middle of the night, crossing the city to extract him. He was dropped at a house that still had heat — but they have now lost power and are relying on what firewood remains.

We and our neighbors have been left to vigilantly scan the local news, looking for early warnings of what services may fail next. And when they might be restored. This bleak preoccupation is necessary, so that we can perform the mental calculus of contingency planning, and so we can ration what remains.

This is the city of Austin, in the third world country of Texas, USA, in the year 2021.

I am tired, just being honest. Tired of living in crisis. Tired of living in a first world country that meets every crisis with third world performance. Tired of explaining to my overseas clients why the US appears so incompetent at everything.

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The 2020 Voting Experience in Texas

We went to early voting this morning, and this being 2020, it was more of a journey than a mere item on the checklist. Reports have surfaced from around the country of people standing in long lines for many hours, so we decided to be prepared.

We went in a small group — my wife and I, my eldest son, and my brother and sister in law — so that any long wait would at least entail company and conversation. Polling locations in Austin are fewer than last year, and our normal venue was not active. The nearest polling spot was perhaps a 20 minute drive from our house. Expecting long lines outdoors, we took two or three camp chairs. And we were determined not to let this eat our entire day, so we rose early. We left around 625AM and arrived before the polls opened, around 645AM.

We rolled in to the parking lot and saw the promised lines already winding around the building. Here is the pre-dawn image of the line, with the actual poll about 50-60 yards to the left, and the line receding into the darkness on the right:

Turns out the line went much further, wrapping behind a grocery store…

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