A New Middle East

Egypt's President urges Palestinians to lay aside grievances, co-exist with Israel. In completely unrelated news, the United States just opened a permanent military base in Israel for the first time.

Israel's survival is not thereby assured; Iran keeps promising to wipe it out with its missile program. But I heard somebody say something encouraging on that front today, so maybe it'll work out.

UPDATE: Also good news, Turkey isn't going to get some US weapons. They're not really allies any more, not under this government. Many Turks are great people, but at the moment we can no longer regard them as an ally.

Carrying a Knife is Legal in Georgia

This story has all the tribal things going on, which is going to make it hard to discuss rationally. Nevertheless, I think the headline captures the most crucial factor. Let's go to the story.
When Lynne Schultz first heard that her oldest child, Scout, had been shot and killed by a Georgia Tech police officer late Saturday night, she assumed it occurred at a protest rally.

Scout, she says, was politically active in progressive causes.... According to Georgia Tech police, Scout was seen walking toward police and ignored numerous orders to drop what appeared to be a pocket knife. Photos of the knife taken at the scene reveal the blade was not extended.

Video of the incident showed Scout, 21, shouting “Shoot me!” to the four officers on the scene. A minute later, one of them did.
The GBI is investigating. I also have some questions I'd like answered.

Under current law, a pocket knife of the size in question doesn't even qualify as a regulated weapon -- only knives 12" or longer are regulated, and those are legal to carry if you have a Weapons Carry Permit. Thus, when you see someone carrying around even a big knife, you can't assume they're committing a crime.

On a college campus, well, the law has just recently changed there too: Georgia instituted Campus Carry this spring. So, "person carrying a knife" is not evidence of a crime; the right response by the police might include 'lets keep an eye on them' but not 'let's draw guns and order them to drop the weapon.' Legally, it's not even considered a weapon.

The video makes it clear that the police bracketed this student from at least two and probably three positions (the last judging from an officer appearing from that direction right after the shooting). The closest one was behind a physical barricade.

The student was definitely being challenging and aggressive towards the police, which is usually a bad idea. The student chose to advance on the female officer, who was not the one behind a physical barricade. Though this student "identifies as non-gender-binary," the student was born male and was larger than the female officer. A reasonable female officer of her size, opposed by a larger person whom the officers clearly took for a male, might have felt that her options for effective self defense were limited. Though the knife was closed, it can be opened quickly; though she had numerous friends, and they had their target bracketed, she could not be sure anyone else would kill the student before a clash became actualized. Shooting to stop the aggressive advance may well have made sense, once she found herself in that position.

But why did they get in this position at all? I'm not concerned for myself, as there's an obvious road to avoiding getting killed in this circumstance -- put down the knife and discuss the issue with the police once you've made them comfortable. But this was clearly legal behavior, which they responded to by initiating an interaction built around the immediate threat of lethal force. They did this in spite of superior numbers on the scene, and in spite of the fact that the perfectly legal knife wasn't even open.

Lethal force in Georgia is supposed to be used only to stop an immediate threat of death or grievous bodily harm. In theory, that standard applies to police and other citizens equally. While they may have gotten to a place where the officer could reasonably claim that she felt she met that standard, they put themselves one step away from shooting in the absence of evidence of any crime at all.

View from the eye

This is a compilation I was looking for earlier, taken in mid-Rockport, with good time markers so you can see what part of the storm you're in and how long each part lasted--hours of intense wind from the east, then a long calm, then hours of intense wind from the west. This is the new Fairmont Hotel on Hwy. 35, looking north to the La Quinta across the street. I think we lost our internet feed around 7:30 or 8:00 pm Friday night; my last post reported that the house wasn't shuddering yet. We're about 10 miles northeast of where this footage was shot, so the eye went over us maybe half an hour later than it did in town, at about the same intensity. The peak winds from the first wall hit us around 10:45pm, the second wall a couple of hours later, and we were calm again before dawn. Notice that this hotel came apart but our house did not!

Sorry about the ad at the beginning, you can skip after a few seconds.

The cleanup effort is having an odd effect on me.  People I was trying to help before who were making me miserable because I couldn't find anything to do that they wouldn't obstruct or bat away in some fashion have now fallen completely off my radar.  It's a variety of triage:  if you're part of the problem instead of the solution, if your attitude is making things worse instead of better, I suddenly have other priorities to turn to, almost completely guilt-free.  Want to tell me how your daughter-in-law presumed to arrange for repairs without something or other first, poor you, FEMA is too stingy, I'm not insured, etc.?  Nope.  Moving on.  A neighbor called me yesterday somewhat miffed that she was just now hearing that there was some kind of list she was supposed to get on for help getting the roving volunteer teams to come to her.  She didn't know she had to get on a list.  I didn't even get mad at her; I just observed mildly that it was important to ask clearly for help (a lesson I've always had trouble learning).

Survivor guilt is making lots of us medium crazy.  Yesterday I found myself eating a piece of cake and mentioned to a companion that I was eating things I normally wouldn't, but I keep weighing every day and am not gaining, so I guess it's OK.  She sniffed at me, "Well.  I guess if you have time to weigh yourself, you're not very busy."  Again, not even tempted to snap at her.  She just moves off of my radar screen for the time being.  If you know you're helping enough, you don't have to pay attention to the self-appointed monitors' opinion of whether your effort is up to snuff, or where your level of suffering fits in her scale of just deserts.

This morning on our dog walk my husband got a cell-phone call, a rare event for him, as he hates to conduct business by phone.  Some chick was on the line was yelling at him that she just wanted to get hold of the person who called her a butthead.  I could hear him saying, "Whom did you think you were calling?  I really have no idea what you're talking about."  She finally instructed him never to call again.  He readily undertook not to do so, and blocked her number.  Ironically, of course, now we do think she is a butthead, whoever she is, the creature.

My husband keeps explaining to me that survivor guilt is irrational.  Why should he feel guilty because he built a sturdy house?  Well, that's like explaining that a fear of heights is irrational.  Sure it is; so what?  Do people really think feelings don't happen because we know they're different from rational analysis?  (OK, I know the answer to that question.  ;-))

One day more

Three things I can't resist:  flash-mob re-enactments, the Les Miz song "One Day More," and the Texas flag.

The Ridge

Majority of CA Democrats Oppose Free Speech

A clean majority, too: 53% of Democrats in California, a state that has elected no Republicans whatsoever to office, say that they prefer to curb speech than to endure the violence recently associated with controversial speech. Forty-six percent of California voters overall said the same thing.

In a way, of course, this is common sense. One can understand a preference for fewer violent protests, and many of the ideas being advocated are ugly. Why protect ugly ideas at the cost of undesirable turmoil? For the most part, people don't: codes restricting the freedom of speech for disfavored ideas are quite common in Europe.

Once we thought there was an important American principle, codified in our First Amendment, which it was our duty to defend. Once Democrats, and especially California Democrats, were at the forefront of defending that principle. No longer.

DB: Salon.Com Gives Weekend Safety Brief

This is for you, the Marine, soldier, sailor, airman, or whatever other title we give to the living tools of imperialist aggression. Look on these words and the unbearable whiteness of the page behind them and become woke to the dangers of the weekend....

If you are arrested in a military town, the police won’t respect whatever privileges you possess, be they white, male, or able-bodied. You will be treated the way the police treat young black males, and inmates will show you how it feels to be a person of color in White America every day....

We don’t want you drinking to excess because that supports white supremacy. Also when you get your haircuts, don’t comb them over to the side, because that supports white supremacy.
Turns out a lot of things do.

Fantasies About Vikings

UPDATE: Lars Walker pointed out yesterday that a noted scholar on women in the Viking age made the same points raised here last week (her post and mine were apparently more or less contemporaneous). They're obvious points, but it's good to see them not being ignored by serious thinkers in the field.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Michael Morell

This decision is about honor, which will make it very difficult for some to understand. Praising and celebrating someone, or creating sinecures for them, are forms of honor. Morell is resigning an honor to protest the assignment of a similar honor by the same organization, thus in effect choosing to enjoy less honor himself in order to shame another. The other in question deserves the shame, and thus the honor assigned them becomes in a sense emptied: better men will refuse to share Manning's company.

Well done, Mr. Morell.


It worked, too.

But notice the penultimate paragraph, which shows that Harvard simply does not understand honor. The fact of a fellowship is an honor. The attention is an honor. The position is an honor. The opportunity to present yourself in a well-regarded environment is an honor.

They got this wrong because they don't understand honor at all. That's a significant problem: these who do not understand honor are training a significant part of our future leaders.

On History

I always think of this when I read about the relentlessly negative portrayals of historic American figures, destruction of their statues, and the like. It's the other side of a coin we were much embracing in the 1950s.

Bowie was indeed a bold man, and adventurous as far as that goes. He was also a rather infamous practitioner of land fraud, so much so that the US Treasury had -- if historian William C. Davis is to be believed -- a whole section devoted to him and his family at one time. Of course he was also engaged in the slave trade.

Once we celebrated such men without great discretion; he was Achilles to Travis' Agamemnon in the John Wayne version of The Alamo. (Wayne's own Crockett was Odysseus, of course.) Now we can't see the good in them.

We might take a lesson from others.
Huanglong said to the great statesman Wang Anshi:

Whatever you set your mind to do, you always should make the road before you wide open, so that all people may traverse it. This is the concern of a great man.

If the way is narrow and perilous, so that others cannot go on it, then you yourself will not have any place to set foot either.

Zhang River Annals
I always thought that particular lesson worthy. Jim Bowie was a man, and he did some great things and some awful ones. Mostly he did noteworthy things: even in fraud, he was greater than most. I wonder who among the critics today is as great as those they criticize, either in worth or in shame. But the great worth and the great shame often lie in the character of the same man. Like Bowie; like Jefferson; like others.

Get Off My Lawn, er, Roof!

83 Year old man ends hours long standoff with police of man jumping from roof to roof in residential neighborhood.  The police spokesman- "The grandpa did what we couldn't".  Good thing for grumpy old men, or who knows how long this nonsense would go on.

What's To Dislike?

The new Clinton book is garnering a lot of commentary today, and some of it is from people who have actually read the thing. I can assure you that I will not be buying a copy, nor reading a copy, at any point. However it happened, I remain grateful on a daily basis for the absence of a Hillary Clinton administration.

Some highlights of the blame game:
Green Party Candidate Jill Stein, who “wouldn’t be worth mentioning” had she not taken tens of thousands of votes in swing states that Trump won.
She wouldn't be worth mentioning, except that she is why you lost. Got it.
“Sexism and misogyny..."
Didn't we just discuss Jill Stein voters? That's why you lost those decisive swing states, right? Because of people who hate women so much that they voted for a different one?
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian hackers, for working “to influence our election and install a friendly puppet.”... Former President Barack Obama, for not giving a national television address about the Russian hacking so that “more Americans would have woken up.”
I have yet to see any convincing evidence that the Russians moved the needle on the election. Thanks to Ms. Clinton and her ilk, however, the Russians have subsequently enjoyed wild success at dividing the nation and convincing people that the American government is illegitimate.
Clinton’s own statement about putting coal miners out of business, which Trump repeatedly used against her....
Oops. But why would you think that would hurt you, after Obama said he was going to employ a plan under which electricity rates would 'necessarily skyrocket,' and that he too would put coal workers out of business? He won by running against these people. Why shouldn't you have gotten away with kicking them too?
Her “basket of deplorables” statement about Trump’s supporters, which was “a political gift” to her opponent. People "misunderstood me to be criticizing all Trump voters."
It's true, they misunderstood. You clearly said that you only meant half of them.
Hillary hate. "I have come to terms with the fact that a lot of people — millions and millions of people — decided they just didn’t like me,” Clinton writes — though she doesn’t understand the dislike. “What makes me such a lightning rod for fury? I’m really asking … I’m at a loss.”
Look, here's the thing. All things being equal, people like people who like them. You, Ms. Clinton, made clear that you didn't like much of America. You also made clear that you didn't trust most of America, not to make good decisions nor to run their own lives. Nobody likes to be told what to do, especially by someone who clearly thinks they can judge from on high how to order one's life.

The people who do like you, Ms. Clinton, are the people who don't like those Americans much either. They share your opinion that those Americans need to be controlled, corralled, and as you once said, have things taken away from them for the common good. You were talking about their money, but you also meant their guns, their choices on health care and their doctors, control over their lives in general. They were too stupid, too selfish, too deplorable in their characters.

That is why so many people do not like you, Ms. Clinton. It is because you don't like them, while at the same time you think yourself entitled to run their lives for them. Nobody wants to be ruled by someone who despises them. It's not the American way, not by a long sight. And that's why you lost an American election, and would do so again if we'd held another vote in July, or if we put it to another vote tomorrow.

At least, that's how it seems to me. Now, if you'll excuse us, Grim's Hall is done with you. I look forward to not having to think about you any more.

Porn, Republican vs. Jihadi

Apparently Ted Cruz and/or an intern of his 'liked' a porn video last night, which led to a huge amount of publicity today. I didn't go look up the porn in question, so I don't know what sort it was, but I figure that it's fairly a private matter that we should probably let slide. People having affairs is one thing, as that cuts in on their capacity to keep their sworn oaths. People having fantasies, well, that's something else.

Yet I do think that there is a kind of public interest in releasing Osama bin Laden's porn.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that the “documents retrieved from the 2011 Navy Seal raid that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden would be released in ‘weeks’—with the exception of one particular part of the haul, his pornography stash.”

The Newsweek article below indicates that “while these documents are considered operational, his porn collection is not, and will likely remain classified.” Whatever that means.
How is this classified, and what is the legal rationale for classifying this information? Information cannot legally be classified to avoid embarrassment or to cover up illegal activity. Al Qaeda is not a foreign government, so this doesn't qualify as foreign government information. There's no issue of protecting collection methods, as everyone knows how we collected the information: we sent DEVGRU to shoot him and scarf up his computers.

What law allows them to keep this information a secret? FOIA has nine specific exceptions that allow agencies to refuse to release information. The only one that could apply is 6, "information that would cause a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." But Osama bin Laden is dead, and what personal privacy expectations does a dead terrorist have?

Jewish Conservatism

I am not myself the least bit Jewish, and thus might not be thought to care very much about this subject; however, I do have some Jewish friends, including one of the authors of this piece on why Jews might be becoming more conservative than heretofore in American politics. As they point out, there are several different sets of reasons that are impelling a reconsideration of political loyalties on that front.

I'm Pretty Sure That's the Purpose of the Pardon

Two left-leaning legal groups are suing in Federal court, arguing that President Trump's recent pardon limits the power of the courts. Well, the word they use is 'undermine.'

The pardon power exists to limit the power of the courts, just as any of the other checks and balances do. Most commonly, it is used to limit the power of the court when it issues unjust rulings, or unduly harsh ones. But that's not the only way in which the pardon exists to limit the courts; President George H. W. Bush used it to limit the courts' role as a fact-finding agent during the Iran-Contra period. Especially when the courts enter into political disputes, it is reasonable for the other branches to exercise their powers to limit the courts' role.

Indeed, when the branches come into direct conflict like this the resolution is found in the fact that there are three branches rather than some even number. Congress could impeach a president for a use of the pardon power they found unacceptable; if they do not, then de facto they are endorsing the President's use of this power. The courts are not meant to exercise dominance over the other two branches of the government; they are only co-equal to the other branches. When the other two branches are opposed to the courts, the courts should give way.

It'll be interesting to see if they do, though. In general, if you ask a Federal judge if Federal judges should have more power, the answer is nearly always "Yes." Finding judges who believe in courts' being constrained by the Constitution, rather than exercising a plenary power to rewrite it at will, is one of the key difficulties in selecting a better judiciary. My guess is that the courts are likely to accept this argument that no President should be able to limit their authority in this way, even though limiting the courts' power is one of the reasons that the pardon power exists.

Irma Passes Through

Outside of Savannah and its environs, things went reasonably well for a hurricane. Here it was a day of a few hours of strong gusts, plus a whole day of rain, but no serious issues. One transformer exploded nearby, but the power didn't go out for more than a second or two now and again.

Hope it went that well for the rest of you.

That's four hurricanes for me, now: Opal, Floyd, Isabel, and now Irma. At least, those are the ones I remember.

A Strange Anniversary

Sixteen years on, patriotism is bad:
[T]he opening weekend also began with an increasing number of players sitting down or kneeling for the national anthem, a precedent set last season by the now unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

When Kaepernick decided to kneel for “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 2016, he said:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color...."

From New York, to Alabama, to California, Americans were unified in support of their country and their flag.

“To me, there is an element of symbolism here with big-city America playing heartland America on the friendly fields of strife,” said then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue at a game between the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs. “We’re very proud to be back.”

Americans stepped back from political squabbles and even Congress got together to demonstrate solidarity. Republican President George W. Bush was movingly greeted with chants of “USA! USA! USA!” in liberal New York City.

The fissures of our society that certainly existed then as now, were smoothed over by the most obvious national threat. The motto of the time was: “United we stand.”

How things have changed 16 years later.
Looting is good:
An author and journalist came under fire on social media Monday, after she tweeted a reply to an anti-looting warning from Miami police by saying: "The carceral state... is inseparable from white supremacy."...
good morning, the carceral state exists to protect private property and is inseparable from white supremacy https://t.co/etynmh0rX5

— Sarah Jaffe (@sarahljaffe) September 11, 2017
A Foreign Policy writer argues that immigration is coming to save you, but boy does he resent you:
All hail Western civilization, which gave the world the genocide of the Native Americans, slavery, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and global warming. How hypocritical this whole debate about migration really is.
Gee, only racists wouldn't want to bring aboard a whole lot more people who feel that way about America and the West. Especially since we get to enjoy not just the lecture on how awful our culture and ancestors are, but the resentment for having concerns about the changes to American culture brought about by immigrants who broadcast that they hate it.

All this on 9/11. It's like 'talking about the Queen on Independence Day,' only worse.

UPDATE: Related, I suspect: more Americans can't name any branches of the Federal government than can name all three. Our cultural elites are doing a great job teaching resentment, and a terrible job teaching civics. How does small-r republican self government remain possible under these circumstances?

Enid & Geraint

By custom and tradition, the only post on 9/11 is this recitation. However, this year, posts related to the hurricane or similar emergencies may occur.
Once strong, from solid
Camelot he came
Glory with him, Geraint,
Whose sword tamed the wild.
Fabled the fortune he won,
Fame, and a wife.
The beasts he battled
With horn and lance;
Stood farms where fens lay.
When bandits returned
To old beast-holds
Geraint gave them the same.

And then long peace,
Purchased by the manful blade.
Light delights filled it,
Tournaments softened, tempered
By ladies; in peace lingers
the dream of safety.

They dreamed together. Darkness
Gathered on the old wood,
Wild things troubled the edges,
Then crept closer.
The whispers of weakness
Are echoed with evil.

At last even Enid
Whose eyes are as dusk
Looked on her Lord
And weighed him wanting.
Her gaze gored him:
He dressed in red-rust mail.

And put her on palfrey
To ride before or beside
And they went to the wilds,
Which were no longer
So far. Ill-used,
His sword hung beside.

By the long wood, where
Once he laid pastures,
The knight halted, horsed,
Gazing on the grim trees.
He opened his helm
Beholding a bandit realm.

Enid cried at the charge
Of a criminal clad in mail!
The Lord turned his horse,
Set his untended shield:
There lacked time, there
Lacked thought for more.

Villanous lance licked the
Ancient shield. It split,
Broke, that badge of the knight!
The spearhead searched
Old, rust-red mail.
Geraint awoke.

Master and black mount
Rediscovered their rich love,
And armor, though old
Though red with thick rust,
Broke the felon blade.
The spear to-brast, shattered.

And now Enid sees
In Geraint's cold eyes
What shivers her to the spine.
And now his hand
Draws the ill-used sword:
Ill-used, but well-forged.

And the shock from the spear-break
Rang from bandit-towers
Rattled the wood, and the world!
Men dwelt there in wonder.
Who had heard that tone?
They did not remember that sound.

His best spear broken
On old, rusted mail,
The felon sought his forest.
Enid's dusk eyes sense
The strength of old steel:
Geraint grips his reins.

And he winds his old horn,
And he spurs his proud horse,
And the wood to his wrath trembles.
And every bird
From the wild forest flies,
But the Ravens.


This Dr. Seuss rhyme comes to you from a candidate for the United States Senate.

There's quite a bit of cursing. Also a beach ball.

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.

Against Identity Politics

James Baker III nor Andrew Young are neither of them men whose politics I much feel close to, but I can't disagree about this.
The U.S. finds itself increasingly divided along lines of race, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual identity. Countless demagogues stand ready to exploit those differences. When a sports reporter of Asian heritage is removed from his assignment because his name is close to that of a Confederate army general, political correctness has gone too far. Identity politics practiced by both major political parties is eroding a core principle that Americans are, first and foremost, Americans....

The country faces a stark choice. Its citizens can continue screaming at each other, sometimes over largely symbolic issues. Or they can again do what the citizens of this country have done best in the past-work together on the real problems that confront everyone....

Floodwaters don't distinguish between Republicans and Democrats. Nor do rotting bridges discriminate between whites and blacks. This is an important and easy area to emphasize common interests. Political leaders should prioritize and provide tangible policies that benefit Americans. They are long overdue....

Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th-century French diplomat who identified strengths in the American experiment, admired the resiliency of the system the Founding Fathers devised. He wrote in the first volume of "Democracy in America" that "the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults."...

Americans must, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said during a 1965 commencement address for Oberlin College, learn to live together as brothers and sisters. Or, we will perish together as fools.
The piece is padded out with plenty that I can and do disagree with, but this much of it is quite right.

Spies & Mercenaries

Erik Prince's proposal to privatize the war in Afghanistan has several drawbacks, one of which is that I don't think it can possibly bring about a successful conclusion to that war. All the same, this article in Politico is ridiculously unfair to Prince and his efforts. It's fine to be against doing this, but be reasonable.
[Prince] insists contractors should not be stigmatized as “mercenaries,” even though he is proposing armed civilians in conflict zones—the classic definition of a mercenary.
I don't know about 'classic,' but there's an in-practice UN definition of mercenaries that does not include contractors.
Instead, he says they are like the Flying Tigers, the popular name of the 1st American Volunteer Group that flew against the Japanese in 1941–42. Here is where his analogy takes a nosedive: The Flying Tigers were not mercenaries.
Prince: 'Contractors are not mercenaries. They're like the Flying Tigers.'

Proposed rebuttal: 'Nonsense! The Flying Tigers were not mercenaries!'

QED, dude.

In fact, the Flying Tigers were contractors paid by the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company, with kill bonuses from the Chinese government. Thus, Prince is right in his analogy, more or less.
Rather, they were U.S. military pilots who took off their uniforms to fly as civilians, so that FDR did not have to declare war. Once war was declared, they flew as American fighter pilots once again.
That's a war crime, by the way: perfidy. It also made them legally spies that could be shot on sight.
That’s hardly the same thing as contractors being paid, often exorbitantly, to fight a war on our behalf.
Except that they were contractors, paid a fairly decent sum for every kill.
Where will these mercenaries come from? According to Prince, all will be “brave Americans” who are “former Special Operations veterans.” More sales talk. To keep costs down, he will probably have to outsource to the so-called Third World, where military labor is cheap.
So, we're just to assume that he's lying about that? Because that would be a closer parallel to the Flying Tigers than you wanted to allow (some being no longer active duty). Also, the fact that they are citizens of a nation that is a party to the conflict is why they're contractors and not mercenaries under the UN rule.
When I was in the industry, I worked alongside other ex-special forces and ex-paratroopers from places like the Philippines, Colombia and Uganda.
You know who trained those ex-special forces from the Philippines before they were "ex"? American Special Operations forces.
But do we want Filipino, Colombian and Ugandan mercenaries fighting our wars for us, their way?
That is literally why we trained them.
Prince assures us that nothing will go wrong. To avoid Nisour incidents in the future, he wants to place all mercenaries under U.S. military law, known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice. However, this resolves little. Take, for example, jurisdiction: What happens if a Guatemalan mercenary massacres an Afghan family while on an American contract?
That is exactly the sort of issue that a Status of Forces agreement addresses. The government of Afghanistan would have to agree to terms, and those terms would establish these details.

The article closes with a shot at Prince's patriotism for seeking work from the UAE and China, just to ad an ad hominem on the end of a terrible argument.

I still think Prince's approach can't possibly work, but good gracious. Isn't it enough to criticize it on its logistical and practical problems?

Emergency Service

Not that any of you need the reference, but here it is anyway.

What's a Brigade Between Friends?

DOD confesses it's got a few... more... troops than it has previously admitted deployed in the 'Stan.

Legendary Swords that Exist

Some nice pieces among these.

Cobb County Grows a Headache

Cobb County has always been my least favorite part of the Atlanta metropolitan complex. It grew up fast and early, in advance of some better practices for urban sprawl, and became a hideous nest of traffic and multi-lane roads. These roads are barely functional on the best day, and depend for that function on traffic cops. So, of course, it's important to have traffic cops who are widely respected and trusted.
It was a mere traffic stop, but the driver was clearly nervous — telling the police officer that she was worried that if she moved her hands, she would be shot.

Then the cop, Greg Abbott, tried to assure her: “But you’re not black. Remember, we only shoot black people. Yeah, we only kill black people, right?”
My guess is that he meant that as a disarming joke, as his lawyer claims, but man.

An Interesting Letter from World War I

Wandering around the internet recently brought me to Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog, where the author's focus is on such things as books that have been lost to us, forgotten kingdoms, things he can't figure out, rogue researchers, weird wars, and so forth. A recent post includes the text of and discusses a newspaper article from 1915 about a German soldier who asked his sister to write to the family of a dead British soldier he found on the battlefield.

A bit of the letter:

Frankfort-on-Maine. It is a very sad matter I am writing you. My brother sent home a letter from the front and begged me to write you. He stands in the west, and it was in his first letter since the hard fights there. My eldest brother was killed last year at Ypres, so that I know how glad we were to hear any details of his death. I think you have already heard that Lawrence B. Merson, whom I believe to be your son, did not come back from the last fight. We were enemies, but pain and mourning are uniting us. So thought my brother, too, for he wrote everything about your son he could find out. I just will translate to you: 
‘We led the way to our position, and found there a dead Highlander, who had a deep wound above the right eye, probably by a thrust of the bayonet. We found the following objects: book of payment, mark of distinction, a small sketch, and an instrument against the gases. The dead Englishman had his gun with the bayonet at (and there were spots blood on it) his right side. He was Highlander, with a kilt and bare knees.’


AFG (Still?) Hot

Newly published today, a mortar team covers its own position with rifles while sending rounds downrange. Not very far downrange.

UPDATE: Footage is from 2009, only just reposted yesterday. See comments.

Tex Update II

Image from 5 Bravo.

Tex writes this afternoon to say: "Really good here thx, grocery store to open tomorrow." Hopefully we'll have her back soon.

UPDATE: Tex notes in an additional message that internet restoration is not necessarily going to be soon. They don't have cable out where she is, so it depends on the power company. No guarantees that will happen fast given the scale of the disaster.

Transgender Treason

The NYT deserves some credit for publishing this piece. I'll even forgive the use of Manning's preferred pronouns and titles in this case, as it probably makes the message easier for the intended audience to hear. Though I might generally be willing to go along with whatever someone wants to be called, if they ask nicely, in this case I think the only appropriate thing is to show scorn for the traitor. But the audience would reject the whole argument on the basis that it was 'mean,' I guess, though this is someone who deserves scorn and disrespect to the highest degree.
Perhaps the NYT's audience will understand why a bit better after reading these facts.

When Ms. Manning transmitted 750,000 secret military records and State Department cables to WikiLeaks in 2010, she not only jeopardized continuing missions and disrupted American diplomacy. She also put an untold number of innocent people’s lives in danger.

According to The New Yorker, when the United States tried to locate “hundreds” of Afghans named in the documents and move them to safety, “many could not be found, or were in environments too dangerous to reach.” When pressed by a journalist about the possibility of redacting the names of Afghans who cooperated with the United States military, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, reportedly replied: “Well, they’re informants. So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.”

Meantime, Mr. Assange gave a Russian Holocaust denier 90,000 of the cables. That man, who goes by the pen name Israel Shamir, delivered a trove to the Belarussian dictatorship, which then utilized the material to detain opposition activists. In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe used a leaked cable detailing a United States Embassy meeting with opposition figures as pretext for an investigation into “treasonous collusion.”

Yet from the moment United States military prosecutors charged Ms. Manning with violating the Espionage Act in 2010, progressives have hailed her as a folk hero.
The charge itself was a gift from the Obama-era DOD. It should have been treason, with a side order of responsibility for recklessly endangering hundreds of lives -- an untold number of which may have been lost.

A Word on The Convention of the States

Tom Coburn writes:
The states created the federal government. They gave it a sphere of jurisdiction, over which it is supreme. That jurisdiction, however, is limited to the specific, enumerated powers contained in the text of the Constitution. All other powers—every single power not expressly delegated to the national government—remain vested in the states, or the people....

Don’t fall for the lie that the Convention of States Project is some conservative plot to impose their policies on the American people. The real agenda is exactly the opposite: to restore the power of the American people to decide public policies for themselves.
His kind words for the 14th Amendment, though doubtless unavoidable given the rhetorical project, strike me as at odds with the idea of restraining an overweening Federal government. The 14th's delegation of power to the Federal courts is one of the things most in need of restraint by any new amendments. The idea that the Federal courts would prevent states from violating basic rights was nice, and probably even needed at the time the amendment was proposed, but it became the vehicle for forcing state submission to every Federal whim in every single kind of case. Outright repeal of the 14th might not be appropriate or necessary, but some sort of adjustment certainly is necessary if Coburn's vision is going to be realized.

DB: Navy Collides with Building in Downtown Houston

"The ship was identified as an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer belonging to the Navy’s 7th Fleet."

Those do seem to be having some trouble lately.

Nor is this the worst water-borne event to come out of Harvey.

Smaller Government

Congress may not deserve its low ratings for a change.
An analysis by the Pew Research Center that looked at every piece of legislation that received final approval from Congress found this Congress tied for fifth most productive in the past 30 years.
Doing what, you ask?
...overturning Obama-era rules, using a little-known law call the Congressional Review Act.

The 1996 law gives this Congress a shortcut to overturn any rules submitted after mid-June of 2016. Before now, the Act had only been used once.... This Republican-led Congress, however, has shown no qualms about using the act to chip away at Barack Obama’s legacy. While Congress hasn’t been able to repeal and replace Obamacare, which Republicans have been promising for the seven years since it was passed, they have gotten rid of regulations around mountaintop removal for coal mining, a rule that kept internet service providers from using selling customers data to advertisers without their permission, and a Securities and Exchange Commission regulation that requires corporations to disclose payments to foreign governments.... President Trump promised repeatedly during his campaign to slash regulations, and Congress has delivered: While congressional “productivity” is high, regulatory activity is at an all-time low.
That's under-selling it. The regulations are an undisputed bright-spot in the Trump administration: for every new regulation they have proposed, they've killed sixteen existing ones. They have focused especially on Obama-era regulations intended to 'fundamentally transform America.' The economic benefits are real.
In a statement, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney boasted about how much the administration has been able to cut down on regulatory red tape and improve American prosperity.

“Government is using muscles it hasn’t used in a really long time, exposing and removing redundant and unnecessary regulation,” he said.

“In the first five months of this administration alone the net cost of our regulatory agenda has been less than zero dollars. Contrast that with the last five months of Fiscal Year 2016 when the Obama administration imposed almost $7 billion in costs on our economy through regulation."
Smaller-government efforts like this would never have been considered under the second Clinton administration. That's a fact worth keeping in mind as a partial counterweight to the criticisms, though many of those are valid.

Deforestation in Haiti: A Big Lie

Turns out one of the most commonly-told stories of environmental degradation simply doesn't check out. The actual forestation in Haiti is more than an order of magnitude higher than the 2% reported in the disaster stories: 30%, similar to the US or Germany.

"The Rise of a Moral Panic"

A good piece by a doctor of geography (to include culture and politics, he notes in his bio) on the irrationality attending our current debate.
The classic example of a moral panic involves a society losing its mind over witchcraft, as when more than twenty innocent people, mostly women, were hanged or otherwise killed following the Salem witch trials of 1692. In general, a moral panic concerns something that would be bad, perhaps horrific, if real, but whose reality is imagined or exaggerated to the point of social hysteria, and the popular reaction to which leads individuals and institutions to abandon reason, evidence, and common sense....

It should be obvious from history that uninformed or illiterate attacks on odious people like Gorka or Lord lead inevitably to uninformed or illiterate attacks on good people. Perhaps CNN dismissed Lord on a pretext, or perhaps it finally just no longer thought he was worth the trouble. And the Vitézi Rend is an obscure bit of knowledge, easy for dilettantes to posture over because so few others are equipped to challenge their “expertise.” The okay sign is a different matter. It is familiar, common, mundane. What does it say that so many repeat the myth of the “white power” sign? One possibility is that people have no confidence in their own understanding of the sign; another is that they acknowledge that it used to mean “okay,” but are willing to surrender such a common expression to extremists instantly when challenged. Both possibilities are disturbing, because they suggest that we lack the mental tools and strength to respond to this phenomenon. When pressed, we will sacrifice our culture and our way of life. Charlottesville demonstrated, at least for the moment, that we are not willing to cede control of our streets to white nationalism. But if we cede control of our rhetoric, of our intellectual spaces, and even of our ordinary language, the real battle will be lost.
Lord is a TV personality, and I don't watch television. I don't know that Gorka is an "odious" person, though; I've never met the guy, but I know a guy who knows him and who tells me that Gorka's been badly mistreated. The press hates Trump so much that they're looking to hate anyone associated with Trump, and if there are things they can misrepresent in a way that makes that guy look even worse than Trump, well, then that guy becomes a weapon against Trump.

That's a part of the irrationality that the author is rightly describing. Just this week, I noticed that the press was describing the transcript of the President's remarks as being that of his "rant." In addition, they left out a very significant piece of evidence contradicting the "moral panic" picture: the benediction by Alveda King, which was attended by a very warm reception from the crowd. The benediction itself is an appeal for unity and brotherhood not divided by things like race; the crowd's embrace of King and her message would seem to suggest -- at minimum -- reconsidering the panic that these are all 'racists' or even 'Nazis.' It is unclear to me if they simply cannot see the evidence that is right in front of their eyes, or if they are actively rejecting that it could be true or real, or if -- I should not like to believe, but it is possible -- they are actively suppressing exculpatory information in order to further the moral panic.

There is cause for concern about a rising confidence among true white supremacists. As noted here recently, I've seen a Klan flag being flown openly when I had never seen one in decades. It is right and proper to oppose such things, in a rational but committed fashion.

Nevertheless, one must avoid the irrational excesses that are becoming all too common. I meet Trump voters every day when I go out in the world around me. I buy gas from them, I have other sorts of businesslike exchanges, I overhear their conversations in line at the grocery store. This panic is out of order. The harm it is causing is worse than any potential harm from the handfuls of genuine Klansmen and Nazis scattered here and there across a vast nation.

Tex Updates

UPDATE: Elise reports hearing from Tex. She & house are ok.

Friday 1728 Romeo: Tex reports internet down, power and other comms still up. Wind moderate.

Friday 2100 Romeo: Tex wrote to say that the worst of the storm would make landfall just west of her, which is of course the worst case. As of 1930 she was still receiving messages, but has since gone quiet. It may be that the atmospheric disturbance is too great right now.

"" 2200 R: Radar shows she was right. The red wall of the eye is lashing them now, with landfall just west. No comms still, but that is to be expected under the circumstances.

Saturday 1244 R: Still nothing from Tex. My phone still says that the last message delivered/read was yesterday at 1930, so probably cell networks are just down. Local firefighters were holding at the station because it was too dangerous to move, but the station stayed up. There are reports of buildings that didn't, or didn't quite, but they sound institutional so far. A well constructed house had a better chance.

Babylonian Trig

Mathematicians have finally figured out an ancient set of carvings. Turns out, the Babylonians were very solid on their trigonometry.
The true meaning of the tablet has eluded experts until now but new research by the University of New South Wales, Australia, has shown it is the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, which was probably used by ancient architects to construct temples, palaces and canals.

However unlike today’s trigonometry, Babylonian mathematics used a base 60, or sexagesimal system, rather than the 10 which is used today. Because 60 is far easier to divide by three, experts studying the tablet, found that the calculations are far more accurate.

“Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right-angle triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles,” said Dr Daniel Mansfield of the School of Mathematics and Statistics in the UNSW Faculty of Science.

“It is a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius. The tablet not only contains the world’s oldest trigonometric table; it is also the only completely accurate trigonometric table, because of the very different Babylonian approach to arithmetic and geometry.
The ancients in general were better at math than we understand them to have been. We have forms of math they didn't have, but they had forms we have lost or abandoned, and sometimes they end up enabling pretty sophisticated mental work. In this case, it looks like the ancient Babylonians invented a form that was actually better than anything that has replaced it.

Of course, invention in Iraq did not end with ancient Babylon.