A Step Closer to Shieldmaidens

A study making the rounds has gotten attention because it has confirmed, again, that Vikings sometimes buried women with what researchers had taken to be "male" grave goods. The study's authors are taking their findings a little further than the evidence suggests, and journalists are of course going even further than that.

The study holds:
Already in the early middle ages, there were narratives about fierce female Vikings fighting alongside men. Although, continuously reoccurring in art as well as in poetry, the women warriors have generally been dismissed as mythological phenomena (Gardeła, 2013; Jesch, 1991; Jochens, 1996).... The existence of female warriors in Viking Age Scandinavia has been debated among scholars (Gardeła, 2013; Jesch, 1991; Jochens, 1996). Though some Viking women buried with weapons are known, a female warrior of this importance has never been determined and Viking scholars have been reluctant to acknowledge the agency of women with weapons (Hernæs, 1984; Moen, 2011) (S1). The osteological analysis triggered questions concerning sex, gender and identity among Viking warriors.
The journalists got all the way here:
The remains of a powerful viking — long thought to be a man — was in fact a real-life Xena Warrior Princess, a study released Friday reveals.
So what this study does show is that high-ranking women in Viking society sometimes were buried with swords and other warrior-oriented grave goods. What it does not show, which both the study's authors and the journalists wish to show, is that the women in question fought in medieval battles. Like other later women of Northern extraction -- the Norman Philippa of Hainault, for example -- they may have commanded forces at a distance from the battle, in the manner of nobility or royalty. The Viking sagas and legends certainly seem to show that as well as the shieldmaidens we find sometimes, especially Lagertha from Saxo Grammaticus' mytho-history.

What you would want to show that someone was a fighter is archaological evidence similar to this from the grave of an English knight:
Four of the man's ribs showed healed fractures that may have occurred simultaneously, suggesting a single instance of trauma, researchers wrote in the pathology report. Another four ribs were in the process of healing, indicating that the man was still recovering from the injuries when he died. The other two damaged ribs also show evidence of trauma, and his left lower leg has an unusual twisting break, one that could have been caused by a direct blow or a rolled ankle, according to the report.
“This image of the male warrior in a patriarchal society was reinforced by research traditions and contemporary preconceptions. Hence, the biological sex of the individual was taken for granted,” the study authors wrote. Fair enough; let's not make the equal and opposite mistake by assuming that a person buried in a rich grave with warlike trappings was actually on the battlefield. This grave gives us a woman associated with war, but not necessarily a shieldmaiden.

Marching through Georgia

Macon, yesterday. Notice that both sides of Interstate 75 are now northbound.

You don't have to march all the way through Georgia, though. Georgia has opened its state parks for free camping, no pet fees if you're traveling with animals. NASCAR has opened the Atlanta Speedway and, if you want to press on a little further, Talledegah for the same purpose.

Before and after

You can see our lot before and after the storm here.  Could be worse, obviously; the buildings are fine.  The poor trees!  But they're already leafing out, so although many are now missing, the ones that are left won't be all "Halloweeny," as one neighbor put it to me today.

We continue to organize the relief effort. I put out a request for chainsaw aid on a Texas bankruptcy-lawyer forum earlier this week, and today got an email from a lawyer I worked with long ago, saying his son was now at university in New York and wanted to come with his fraternity to provide a chainsaw crew.  Now that overwhelms me, in part because this lawyer and I had an extremely contentious relationship.  Ditto a fellow who bought the lot across the street and got crosswise with several of our neighbors and us, who showed up with an inexhaustible crew who have cleared I don't know how many lots.  Several months ago he put his lot up for sale and apparently reconsidered building here.  Now I hope he'll change his mind.  He puts me to shame.  Many things are putting me to shame this week.  God puts the right challenges in our path; apparently He knows what He's doing.

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others

Waters reeled off a long list of domestic terror, including the Ruby Ridge standoff in 1992, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting 2009, the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting in 2012, the Los Angeles International Airport shooting in 2013, the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting in 2015, the Portland train attack this year and Charlottesville.
One of these things just doesn't belong.

The Horn of Buckland, Blowing

There are four famines in Africa, CSIS notes.
If there were a global siren to signal that a humanitarian crisis has tipped over the threshold to a catastrophic scale, it would be ringing loudly right now. Today, 20.7 million people are starving or at risk of starving in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and northeastern Nigeria.

The media, particularly U.S. domestic outlets, have not given this situation the attention it so desperately warrants. The world is too distracted and distraught over political drama, (un)natural disasters, and protracted conflicts. Understandably so.
Indeed. We are about to have our second major hurricane in a few weeks, likely followed by a third. The northwest is literally on fire. Our southern neighbor, Mexico, just had an 8.0 earthquake and typhoon, while there is yet another hurricane in the Gulf. North Korea just conducted what may be a fusion bomb test, and is threatening to wipe out America's electrical grid in a move that a Congressional study estimated would kill 90% of Americans.

In spite of all that, the United States will be at the leading edge of whatever sort of response these famines in Africa gets. You may not hear much about it, but AFRICOM and SOCAF will be there, as will USAID and our State Department. We'll also be helping Mexico, and the Caribbean nations afflicted by these storms. North Korea will not be there, nor its allies, but we will.

The Hateful AI?

A new artificial intelligence test shows that it's actually quite easy to pick out who is gay and who is not from facial features; it's just that human brains aren't evolved to do it well. A computer that's told what to look for can do it 91% of the time.
When the software reviewed five images per person, it was even more successful – 91% of the time with men and 83% with women. Broadly, that means “faces contain much more information about sexual orientation than can be perceived and interpreted by the human brain”, the authors wrote.

The paper suggested that the findings provide “strong support” for the theory that sexual orientation stems from exposure to certain hormones before birth, meaning people are born gay and being queer is not a choice. The machine’s lower success rate for women also could support the notion that female sexual orientation is more fluid.
So that's interesting, but it set off some people worrying quietly about the ramifications.
With billions of facial images of people stored on social media sites and in government databases, the researchers suggested that public data could be used to detect people’s sexual orientation without their consent.

It’s easy to imagine spouses using the technology on partners they suspect are closeted, or teenagers using the algorithm on themselves or their peers. More frighteningly, governments that continue to prosecute LGBT people could hypothetically use the technology to out and target populations.
They don't mention any names, but consider how such technology might be employed by Iran. Or Uganda.

Unfair competition

A hilarious New Yorker article, which I won't link to because it's linked and summarized in this better one, complains that volunteerism causes people to doubt that they need to depend on government.  Funny, that's just why I like volunteerism and strong private institutions.
Benjamin Wallace-Wells conceded that the boatmen were “heroes,” but complained that Texas’s “libertarian” culture, leading to an “insufficiency of Houston’s city planning” and “willful ignorance of climate change” on the part of politicians, had made it necessary to rely on private citizens. “There is a cyclic pattern to the erosion of faith in government, in which politics saps the state’s capacity to protect people, and so people put their trust in other institutions (churches; self-organizing volunteer navies), and are more inclined to support anti-government politics,” Wallace-Wells wrote.
Doesn't seem fair, I admit.  If people had no alternative to government, they might be more afraid to oppose it.  It's similar to the real (if unstated) argument in favor of monopolies.  Choice is so inconvenient.

The End of the Obama Era

Two quite different pieces today arrive at the same conclusion: Trump's promise is to reverse the Obama legacy. One is celebratory; the other argues, quite seriously, that it will potentially bring about the end of the world.

From the first, a WSJ piece subtitled, "President Trump visits Cowboyistan":
Proudly standing in front of the Andeavor Refinery outside Bismarck, he talked about ending restrictions on U.S. oil production, approving pipelines and dominating world markets. Come to think of it, this speech may have annoyed Vladimir Putin almost as much as Mr. Obama.

Also irking Mr. Obama no doubt was a central message of the speech: The U.S. corporate income tax rate has to come down to a competitive level. Just about every legislative leader in Washington of either party has been telling Mr. Trump that it’s not realistic to cut the rate all the way to 15% from its current 35% at the federal level, but there he was in North Dakota mentioning 15% again....

This column has mentioned the abundance of recent research showing how lowering corporate income tax rates drives wages higher. And higher wages could pull more disaffected former workers back into the economy.

This may have something to do with the reception the President received on Wednesday. A headline in the Bismarck Tribune reads, “North Dakota crowd cheers Trump’s call for tax reform, promise of competitive edge.”

The cheers aren’t only in North Dakota.
Remember what they are celebrating about Trump as you consider the second, titled, "The First White President." This piece argues that Trump's election is about nothing other than a move to restore "white supremacism." The only problem is that, as far as I can tell, the author believes that the whole nation is an expression of white supremacism: he laments the Founding, even, in these terms.
With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds....

...[Trumpist rhetoric] aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one’s profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent’s email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”

In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own.
The author ends the piece, as mentioned, by invoking the literal end of the world.
The American tragedy now being wrought is larger than most imagine and will not end with Trump.... It has long been an axiom among certain black writers and thinkers that while whiteness endangers the bodies of black people in the immediate sense, the larger threat is to white people themselves, the shared country, and even the whole world. There is an impulse to blanch at this sort of grandiosity. When W. E. B. Du Bois claims that slavery was “singularly disastrous for modern civilization” or James Baldwin claims that whites “have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white,” the instinct is to cry exaggeration. But there really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.
It is odd, philosophically speaking, to claim both that slavery is the foundation of modern civilization and also that it represents a singular disaster for modern civilization. If it was, as argued, the necessary precondition for the rise of the modern world, then it cannot also be a disaster for that world; it can be a disaster for James that his mother was an alcoholic, but not that his mother and not someone else was his mother, as without that particular mother James would not be James. Insofar as James is to live with a healthy soul, he must come to terms with the debt he owes his mother for his very existence even as he wishes that she had been better than she was.

Slavery was clearly a disaster in many senses, and for vast numbers of people. The modern world cannot regard slavery as a disaster for it, though, except by disputing that slavery was a necessary part of its coming-to-be. That is one thing the author of this piece would not countenance; it is too central to his worldview and philosophy.

What, then, does this leave for anyone who would be an American except to take James' path? If one would live with a healthy soul, one must love one's mother or one's motherland. One must respect the debt owed her for one's very being. We can regret her past, and her choices, but we must not regret her. To do that is to embrace the root of all the forms of madness that come of it: it's not for no reason that the cliche about psychology is that it begins with the question, "How do you feel about your mother?" To hate her warps you in myriad ways. It is only when you can forgive her that you can forgive the aspects of yourself that are like her: not yielding to them, but forgiving her and yourself for having those human weaknesses.

Our cultural leaders are too focused on the regret, and not enough on the gratitude, forgiveness, and love. So focused, I think, that they cannot move on from the pain of it. They can't see a way past it. No progress is possible for them until they do; and no one can help them to do it until they are ready.

More Cultural Warfare

Kelly has sacrificed a great deal for his country, including a son who chose to follow him into the military life and died in Afghanistan.

Vetoing the Most Qualified

Sen. Al Franken is trying to use a traditional Senate prerogative of home-state Senators to veto judicial nominations. His reason?
“I have grown concerned that, if confirmed to the federal bench, Justice Stras would be a deeply conservative jurist in the mold of Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, justices who the nominee himself has identified as role models,” Franken said.
So, in other words, he's unfit to be a judge because he's the kind of judge who sometimes becomes a Supreme Court Justice?

It doesn't really get any better. It's a problem for Franken that he works with the Federalist Society, like it's a problem for Feinstein that a nominee is an orthodox member of the Catholic Church. The cultural warfare is moving into a higher gear.

Anyone in Florida?

If any of the regulars of the Hall are making plans to evacuate for the hurricane, shout out in the comments. I have plenty of friends, and some resources, in the state immediately to your north.

"The Dogma Lives Loudly In You"

...and that's a concern rather than kind of a nice compliment where Senator Feinstein comes from, apparently.

I know a few people who would have blushed with pleasure if she'd said that to them: "Aw, shucks, ma'am."

As Allahpundit points out, even raising this as a concern is dubiously constitutional. Making it a test for whether or not you'd vote for someone is certainly unconstitutional. But, of course, there was no danger of this Senator ever voting in favor of the nominee anyway, so it's not as if there was a 'test' she might have passed by having another religion (or a more dubious attachment to her current one).

Viking Women in Scotland

An article from the Scotsman. The archaeologists cited state that Viking women in Scotland enjoyed higher status than elsewhere in the Norse world, based on an analysis of the number of women who received high-status burials. The archaeologist in question is still using the measure of 'gendered' grave goods to determine who is a male or a female, though, which we now know did not apply perfectly: at least some (though probably not the "half" that was reported) high-status women were buried with what our scientists have long taken to be 'male' grave goods. Thus, the real figure may be parity rather than 2-for-3 (and opposed to 1-for-25 on the Isle of Man).

Definitely 'Traditional'

A candidate for mayor in Charlotte, N.C., [wrote] "VOTE FOR ME!" on her Facebook page, the Charlotte Observer reported.

I'm not sure about the other qualities she lists, but there certainly is a tradition there to which she can appeal.


True story: Southern Poverty Law Center's 'hate' list led to a terrorist attack on the Family Research Council.

True story: SPLC decides that FGM-victim-who-fled-Europe-under-death-threats-from-radical-Islamic-assassins Ayaan Hirsi Ali needs to be added to that 'hate' list.

DB headline: "Southern Poverty Law Center classifies VFW and American Legion as hate groups."
In a written statement signed by SPLC President J. Richard Cohen, the organization said both the VFW and Legion were included since many of their members sympathize with radical, extreme-right-wing ideals such as freedom, safety, and family values.

“I hate to criminalize a group of decorated war veterans,” Cohen said... “But these people revere statues of soldiers who have fought in wars where minorities and women weren’t allowed to fight.”

According to the SPLC, members of the Legion and VFW are well-known for inciting extreme hatred against enemies of the United States, and for engaging in violent behavior. VFW members, for example, have been known to carry out shootings, stabbings, and bombings in countries around the world for more than 100 years.
It's all true.

Viking Sword Found in High Norway

This story reminds me of another recent such find, but I can't seem to locate it in the archives and the news stories about this all seem to be in the last few days (even the ones in Norsk). So in case this is a second such find, let me draw your attention to it. It's certainly a very nice looking piece.

Fallen hero

An electrical worker was just killed in a tiny town about halfway between Victoria and the coast, to our northeast.  All these fine young men drove to us from all over the country to restore our grid.  They've been working like dogs.

Right on

Houston did well, considering, and the problem wasn't zoning, racism, or any other kind of balderdash.

Hurricane vids

First one is a flyover.  This starts far south of town.  You can see the damage is extensive but not complete--until you get to the north end of town and the plane starts to circle up around the NW coast of Copano Bay.  Those people got monkey-hammered.  The plane stops there and doesn't cross Copano Bay to my community on the Lamar Peninsula, but I assure you it looks there more like the lightly damaged areas of Rockport.  I've seen houses with roofs off on the water front, but fewer than you'd think, and hardly anything just exploded to pieces like what you see on NW Copano.  Since no one was killed, I have to assume those houses were unoccupied.

This is impressive video from a hotel on the main drag in town.  It was completed only about a year ago, but parts of it really came to pieces.  Everyone inside was OK.  You can see the incredible winds from one direction, then from the other.  We didn't get to see much of that, it being dark and most of our windows being boarded up.  We had only one door on the lee side with accessible windows, and closed even that shutter as we approached the peak.  I had a better video from the same spot with time tags in it, but now I can't find it.

This is a satellite video as the eye nears landfall on us.  The kidney-shaped bay with a narrow neck is us:  we're on the little peninsula on the NE side.  The video stops as the sun sets, a couple of hours before the eyewall struck.

We continue to chip away at the neighborhood's needs.  All seems to be going pretty well.

A Social History of Manure

There's actually some interesting stuff in this study of medieval farming practices, but the desire on the part of the authors to turn it into a Marxist social critique is laughable.
These [manure spreading techniques] were not mute, but conveyed messages from the ground... ‘…soil and land texture are important referents for social expression. Particular textures were understood and used not just for their functional attributes of fertility and knowledge but also as a means through which people communicated with each other.’ Critically, they helped to position farmers and their soils within particular and understood frameworks.... Throughout the Middle Ages a growing concern can be perceived at all levels of society with the definition of social space.
The literal b*llsh*t was interesting enough without the addition of academic b*llsh*t.

Propaganda For The People

Our late, lamented Democratic nominee for President has her own propaganda site now. It's called 'Verrit,' and it's structured to be a safe space for former Hillary supporters. There, if you are one of them, your world view will always be comforted, never challenged.

Consider this piece, titled: "Study: Mainstream Media Acted as Trump's Mouthpiece, Clinton's Foe."

That's right: the argument is that the mainstream media was in the tank for Trump.

The study counts mentions of scandals vs. policy for Clinton and Trump. There are a few problems with this method. I'll describe two.

1) Most of the time, the media coverage treated Trump's policies as scandals in themselves. He got a lot of coverage as to his immigration policies, for example: the tone of the coverage was that the policies were racist, and that only racists would vote for such a racist.

2) Clinton's second-biggest scandal according to the study was "the Clinton Foundation." But the Clinton Foundation wasn't supposed to be a scandal: it was her own chosen vehicle for presenting herself to the American public between the end of her tenure as Secretary of State, and the start of her Presidential campaign. She should have wanted the media to discuss the Foundation as often as possible, as it was the way she elected to present herself. If it was a scandal for her, it's because she ran it in a scandalous fashion.

To a lesser degree, the same is true of her biggest scandal: the email investigation. She didn't choose that specifically for the purpose of presenting it to the public as her chosen image, but she did choose that course of action in order to try to control her public image (and in spite of Federal records laws). But in the case of the Foundation, it's completely on her that the vehicle that she designed for presenting herself turned out to look so bad.

We Could Do Worse...

...and probably will.
Long live Mathilda Jones – after finding a huge ‘Excalibur’ sword in the lake from the legend of King Arthur, she is technically the new Queen of England, right?... The Lady of the Lake is said to have held the sword below Dozmary Pool, where Mathilda and her family were visiting, until the next person worthy of the British throne finds it.
It sounded plausible to me at points last year.

A Constitutional Question

Attorney General Jeff Sessions unveiled a policy this morning on "DACA" that is far, far gentler than I expected. The administration really is going to continue "deferring action" (the "DA" of "DACA") for six months, even issuing new two-year work permits to those whose existing permits expire in that period. I figured they'd hand off the 800,000 names to ICE this morning and tell them to go round them up, but Sessions says that won't happen: nobody will be passed to immigration enforcement unless they individually are deemed to pose a national security threat.

The administration is quite right that the previous administration simply decided to ignore the law for its own reasons, thus effectively creating new executive "law" that violated existing laws passed in accordance with the Constitution. They are likely also correct that the courts would have overturned the practice eventually, although perhaps not: it would hardly be the first time the SCOTUS has made room for an obviously unconstitutional action recently (e.g., the Obamacare rewrite). The conceit that the NRO writers describe is bipartisan, and exists in the judiciary as well.

No credit will be forthcoming, but the Trump administration has chosen to correct a clear Constitutional violation in a very humane and patient way. Congress now has the opportunity to perform its actual role as legislature, but of course it has had that "opportunity" all along. It has neglected to do so because it liked the violation of its laws just fine, again on a bipartisan basis. Now, then, they'll have to rush to pass a law that enacts the bipartisan consensus that they really believe in.

That should be easy for them to do, although for Republicans in Congress it means admitting to another massive lie. They never intended to repeal Obamacare; and they never opposed massive illegal immigration, which enriches their donors by driving down the cost of American labor.

Mass immigration, and especially illegal immigration, also undermines labor unions; you'd have thought the Democratic party would care about that, but they have decided they have more to gain from demographic change than from organized labor. The only defender of American unions left on the scene is, well, Canada. Everyone else is on board with the policy that the Trump administration is supposedly "unraveling" this morning.


Still no time or adequate internet to do a full post.  We're not sure how high the winds got, but the devastation to the trees is extreme.  Perhaps a third of the live oaks were destroyed outright, while all others are mostly stumps, and there is not a leaf on a tree in the county.  It's eerie to see, as if the live oaks had suddenly become deciduous and it were winter.  The houses, however, mostly are OK.  Homes built to post-Andrew code are largely fine, though some metal roofs started to peel up and you see a lot of shingle damage.  Tile roofs, for some reason, didn't do that well.  Few houses came completely apart, even on the waterfront, which surprises me.  I'm particularly surprised by how many windows held, even if all the storm shutters weren't put up in time.  Really very few windows blew out.

In the height of the storm the house shuddered, but nothing blew in.  A gutter was torn off.  Some water came in that we think was driven sideways through the fascia, as the roof seems OK to visual inspection and no water came in on the far side of the eye.  Yes, the eye went directly overhead.  They're saying something like 106 mph sustained, gusts to (you hear various numbers) 130 mph. Our ears popped.  The water in the toilets dropped way down into the pipes.  Perhaps the worst trouble we had was on the far wall of the eye (we were in the eye a couple of hours), when the wind came around to the front door side, which is a double door opening inward.  I no longer like that arrangement.  Despite the storm shutters, the wind tried to push that door in.  A heavy cypress door flexed visibly.  The copper flashing around the door made a bizarre harmonica-like scream.  I jammed a chair under the double doorknobs and a rake between the chair and the bottom step of the interior stairs.  It still wanted to blow open.  Nevertheless, in the end, there was only superficial damage to the house.  The trees are awful, simply blasted, post-nuclear-looking.  They'll look considerably better when they leaf out.  Many will live and thrive.

Our outbuilding all were fine; only the lightweight chicken coops blew apart.  The chickens were all safe in the garage.

There were about 12 inches of rain, a moderate storm surge, no flooding at all.  The flooding was all east of here, and very bad.  Corpus Christi to the southwest was barely hit, so we were able to drive down there almost immediately for supplies.

An astounding army of volunteer and for-profit tree-clearing crews have poured in and made huge progress.  With no flooding and so few houses breached, the piles of debris along every street and road are almost entirely composed of trees.  I'll get some pictures up when communications improve.

They predict we'll have power back this week:  very impressive.  They're going to bring two 5MW generators to our little rural peninsula on the tail end of the county, so we won't have to wait for the rebuilding of the entire grid from Victoria to here.  Very smart, very appreciated.  A huge fraction of the electrical poles are tilting or frankly broken and flat on the ground.  I've never in my life seen so many man-lift electrical trucks:  there have to be thousands.

We all took the TV images of the President with the Texas flag very kindly, once we got satellite TV back.  I feel a real affection for the man this week.

This is how you do it

Our HEB grocery store was open just six days after the storm hit, with good stocks, too.  As impressed as I was, this article is even more impressive.  Their problem in this area were nothing compared to the widespread flooding to the east.  It's a fine, fine company.

Our regular internet isn't back, but I've discovered what I guess everyone else knew already, that we can run the computer on the personal hotspot on our iPhones.  I'm so out of it.