Thursday, November 30, 2017

Susu club

I ran across the phrase in Liberia news and looked it up. A Susu club (non-profit variety) is a group with an agreement to bank with a trusted member a certain amount each month, on the understanding that each member receives the total amount one month. (Or week, or whatever.) For example, 12 people get together and each chips in $10. The first month A gets $120, the second month B does, and so on.

So what's the difference between doing this and saving money in a bank or putting it in a mattress? First, there's the chance that you might get the lump payout before the year is out. That's an attractive feature. Second: well, read the complaint in that link: "So, the main reason for paying into a Susu is that the members lack fiscal discipline, and spend whatever money they have on their hands."

That's not a nice way of describing the situation. True, many people are no good at planning for the future. But in Liberia, and many other places, it isn't just you who determines how your paycheck is spent. And family obligations are extremely elastic. If you have $10 extra, your third cousin will explain to you that his child needs school fees. It is very bad form to stiff your family. But if the money is in a susu, it is out of your hands. When the $120 finally comes around to you--well, that's enough to replace the roof, which is what you needed the money for in the first place.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

You got it right

We were reading over Isaiah 54 this morning, and one verse stood out for me: "In righteousness you will be established." You don't commonly run across "righteousness" outside of religious discussion, but think about it a moment. People sometimes literally prefer to die rather than admit they did wrong, or even that they were wrong. Confront them with evidence that they've screwed up, or been a jerk, and they double-down on self-justification. There is no way they can not have been in the right all along. (AVI noticed the same thing in an acquaintance). We hunger and thirst to consider ourselves righteous.

A welcome we want to hear from the One who can judge is "Well done!" I think another is "You were right."

Monday, November 27, 2017

Matthew Paris

I'm reading Chronicles of Matthew Paris edited and translated by Richard Vaughan.

It has fascinating details and hints of completely different systems. E.g. "In the time of this abbot the church of Norton was granted to us. Its rector, Lawrence the Clerk, resigned it with spontaneous devotion for the improvement of our beer and to provide supplies for the guests additional to what the abbot had been used to distributing."

Sunday, November 26, 2017

HipHop

Clubs that play HipHop in Madison tend to have lots more police calls than other clubs. I wondered if the music itself inspired violence, so I went to MetroLyrics for the top twenty HipHop songs. That's not a reliable indicator of what's in the clubs, but it might be indicative.
RankPerformerTitleThemes
1Big Shaq Man's not hotUnfamiliar jargon, gun violence, superiority of men, humorous?
2Lil Pump Gucci GangConspicuous consumption, women are disposable toys, sexual dominance, drug use
3CupkKake DeepThroat I do felatio and rough sex
4Jake Paul It's Everyday Bro I'm getting rich and famous
5Quest Walang Hanggan In Tagalog. Why don't you love me anymore?
6T-Pain Apple Bottom Jeans Saw a sexy dancer, threw money at her and had sex with her
7Don Omar Danza Kuduro In Spanish. Dance and move for me
8Eminem Rap GodI'm a way better rapper than you, don't criticize me.
9Post Malone Rockstar I'm living like a rockstar, with disposable women and drugs and fame and people I can call on to kill you.
10Eminem Lose YourselfLive in the music and go for the glory and use the hate, and superstardom isn't so great.
11Cardi B Bodak Yellow I'm rich now, not a stripper anymore, and you women are inferior. Sexual dominance too.
12Snoop Dogg Smoke Weed Everyday I use drugs, hang out with drug dealers, and persuaded my woman to smuggle a 44 into the event.
1350 Cent In Da Club Party in the club, sex with disposable women, I've a small army of fighters with me, survived gunshots, I'm rich, rich.
14Chris Brown Look at Me Now I'm rich now, your women want me, and I will be the top. References to dominance and murder.
15Yo Gotti Rack it Up I'm rich with lots of women.
16Sir Mixalot Baby Got Back I want women with big bottoms.
17Yicki Yohe Because of Who You Are. Worshiping God. Not HipHop as I understood it, but somehow on the Metrolyrics list.
18Miguel Echame A Mi La Culpa In Spanish. You deserted me, but I loved you and hope you will be happy. Blame me if you must.
19Baby K Voglio ballare con te In Italian. I want to dance with you again, till the sunrise.
20Lil Peep Benz Truck Conspicuous consumption, getting closer to dominance, fresh women. Lots of Russia references, possibly because of a large audience there.

Quite a mixed bag: No one club will run all of these. Despising/using women is pretty common in the English works, and lots of "look at how rich I am," but not quite as much implicit violence as I expected. True, a lot of the songs challenge other performers: do their respective fans quarrel about that? I've no clue. But I can easily see expressions of those attitudes towards women evoking both violently possessive and violently protective reactions.

Are there checklists in American HipHop like the stereotypical pickup/booze/jail/dog in country music? Some of the lyrics suggest it...

Friday, November 24, 2017

Harassment

When I see a persistent problem, I often try to look for what reasonable things might be being twisted to feed it.

I suspect that if you surround a man with deferential women with no other attachments visible, over time the man will tend to gravitate to either the father or the husband model--it's hard to be friends when you're the boss. And if it's the husband model, it may be hard to avoid feeling entitled to take liberties with your "harem" to which you are not actually entitled. The boss chasing the secretary around the desk has been a staple figure for ages.

It gets complicated becuase if the man's position is powerful it is no trick to find women who "will to greatness dedicate themselves." Of course consent by itself doesn't confer entitlement, despite the current philosophical fashion.


Interlude: exhaustive list of observations at work.

The man I ended up working for after Prof. Cline left had a disproportionate number of women as grad students. My memory is iffy, but I know he had three and may have had four. Given how low the fraction of women in particle physics in the US was at the time, this was pretty dramatic. They were all at about the same point in their studies, so I figured they knew each other before, and when one decided they all joined with her. I didn't worry about it--not my business. I was not then, or for most of the rest of my career, involved with mentoring or advising students.

Several years later I learned third hand that two of the profs (since retired and/or died) had been notorious womanizers until some unspecified event (intervention?), and that the prof I worked for had a reputation for treating women well. Another prof (since died) seemed to treat everyone well--seemed to treat students like family--but wasn't on one of the most famous experiments. A few other profs were on experiments that were winding down (and therefore less attractive) or perhaps had less good people skills.

One attractive woman (actually, they all were) set off my "risk, flee" alarms for reasons I never quite pinned down. She ended up suing one of the profs, but I never learned the details.

Once I found myself in a lab with three other men (two senior to me) and a secretary. The conversation was benign, but the vibes were all wrong. It felt like a dominance scenario, and the secretary looked a bit like a deer in the headlights. I figured the best way to break the spell was to announce that I had work to get back to and leave. Dunno if it worked, or if it needed to--maybe my vibe-meter was out of calibration that day.

As a student, and grad student, and post doc, I was on the "less socially ept" end of things--and to this day find parties hard to enjoy. I've not found an unambiguous way to convey a compliment or that I admire someone--and have pretty much given up any efforts in that line unless it is very straightforward.

That's probably a shame. (I do compliment X's work to Y when I can, and try to keep "gossip" positive.)


Perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems to me now that many women dress to excite admiration but not lust, attention but not interaction. As long as isn't overdone, that seems innocent and proper all around--try to be admirable, and have the good character to recognize and admire the good in others. In a less socially chaotic society there can be rules to buffer the reciprocal contact, which could convey the respect or admiration without requiring commitment. Think of "a tip of the hat"--no demand for a response: unless the tipper happens to be the someone she wants to address.

That's a corner example and not enough even for this simple case--they say women dress for other women, and men certainly want to be admired by men as well as women. But you get the idea, I trust. It represents a more formal society, with more social rules--but who proved that was a bad thing? I've been around Aspies long enough to think it would be a huge improvement.

Some of the harassment and molestation stories say the bosses do more than just take liberties--some of them are into seriously weird dominance patterns. This isn't a kiss or a squeeze he's not entitled to, but things done to prove that you are inferior. I've heard that President Johnson used to have talks with people while he was sitting on the toilet--and probably not because he was so terribly busy that every second counted. The only recent example that seems printable is Franken's mock groping picture. He was pretending to molest his "toy," not for any pleasure he could get out of it but so people could see what he could get away with. I'm not familiar with his humor style, but if that's an example I don't want to be.

Are things better than they were fifty years ago? It's hard to be sure, but I'd guess in some ways yes. It hasn't been socially acceptable to "chase the secretary" and I'd bet that's had at least some impact, though not much at higher levels of money and power. At those levels I'd bet things are worse. And the word I hear is that BFI HR policies tend to hammer the less powerful men who run afoul of someone's ire. It is gratifying to see some of the high and mighty being addressed for the first time.

I've a simple touchstone for what I judge acceptable: How would I want my daughters to be treated in this position?

Permit me to doubt that the solution is to have women as managers. Women are not more virtuous than men and they go in for dominance patterns too. If you haven't seen it already, you probably will.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Notes from Isaiah and Ezekiel

Reading in Isaiah and Ezekiel this week and a few things struck me. “And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.” Suppose He had argued?

What happened when He answered Pilate? Or when he confronted those ready to stone the woman? (He wasn’t trying to defend Himself when He spoke to the Sanhedrin, and He didn’t give the entertainment-hungry Herod the time of day.)

Why not speak? The usual explanation is so that what needed to happen would happen, but when God’s involved I look for multiple reasons.

Given what He’d shown He could do with just words or writing in the dust, I suspect He could have argued Himself free from His captors. But would that have changed any hearts? Pilate decided Jesus was innocent, and tried to free Him, but lacked the courage to defend “Roman Justice;” and reports about his later life suggest that there was no conversion. If words were enough, words would have been used instead.

Alternatively, perhaps He had said all that He needed to, and they could pay attention to it or not.


Ezekiel 20 has the well-known warning that God “will not be inquired of” by the idolaters who sacrifice their children, presumably because they justify themselves instead of turning back. It also has the evocative phrase which I’d never noticed before: “and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples.” That’s a good description of the 1900-year diaspora. (It also describes how I feel in great city crowds.) Lots of people, but wild and unfriendly.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Neutrino cross sections

It turns out to be very convenient to describe the rate at which particles interact with each other with an "effective area". Think about it a moment--if you two rocks at each other, the wider the target rock is, the more likely they'll hit. And when you work out the dimensions for particle interaction rates, area=="cross section" is what you wind up with.

IceCube just announced its measurement of cross sections for high energy neutrinos interacting with ordinary nucleons. Nobody has been able to measure the rate for energies this high before--and the result looks pretty consistent with predictions.

That rules out some oddball theories--like leptoquark models. Leptoquarks turn up as a consequence of some theoretical models, and every now and then some unexpected signal excess spurs new interest.

You will probably have heard that neutrinos zip right through you without interacting--that you never notice them and never will. That's true for the most common varieties from ordinary radioactive decay. But higher energy neutrinos (very rare) interact more strongly, until at the level discussed in this paper, it is possible to tell the shadow of the Earth's core from the shadow of its mantle--with enough events. They're not quite so "ghostly" at these energies.

No, I am not on the author list

Monday, November 20, 2017

Melody


Granted that Western harmony is one of the great accomplishments of Western Civ: you can't please everybody at the same time.

(bass-baritone who does OK if somebody else sets the key and the music doesn't go too high)
I don't think I want to be a cello. Even though they do sound very nice.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Side note on a grim story

Indonesia is forcing pagan tribes to convert to Muhammadanism. The excuse is that they can't get birth certificates (and therefore schooling), unless they adhere to one of the recognized religions. They're not happy about it. "There is no compulsion in religion" is once again more honored in the breech than the observance.

One novel bit about the story was the relationships of the tribesmen to their Muslim neighbors. The tribe described is nomadic:

"We have no space to live. We are always told we are nomadic people with no religion, no culture," he told me.

"Our religion is not respected. The government is always insisting that we convert and live in houses in one place. We can't do that. Our way of life is not like that."

And there are sources of friction:

The officer, Budi Jayapura, took me aside to check my documents and said: "We need to watch over them.

"They don't understand the concept of stealing. They say the fruit grew by itself on the tree so it can be taken, but it was planted by someone. Maybe in their belief system it is OK, but not in our society."

The fact that they hunt and eat wild pigs also creates social tensions, he added.

"This is a Muslim community. If they see the pig's blood and the leftover bits, they are disturbed," the officer explained.

What is taboo, or haram, for the Orang Rimba directly contrasts with what Muslims eat, explains Mr Manurung.

"Orang Rimba will not eat domesticated animals such as chickens, cows or sheep. They think it's a form of betrayal. You feed the animal, and when it gets fat you eat it. The fair thing to do is to fight. Whoever wins can eat the loser."

I read of a visit to an Amazon tribe, where people hunted and ate every sort of animal, but if somebody brought it into the village and treated it like a pet, nobody would harm it.

Collapse

Guy Middleton wrote: Do civilisations collapse? I suppose he wants to invoke Betteridge's law of headlines, and the thrust of his essay is "no." A lot of things remained after the "collapse," not least of which are the people and many aspects of the culture.

It's worth having a look at, for reminders of how complicated changes can actually be. But he overstates things. If you lose the "critical mass" of engineers and craftmen, certain things that once were part of the culture decay and a society may never get them back again. OK, cool--you still speak sort of latin and like garum. But the aqueducts in your valley broke and you don't have running water anymore--no more socializing in bathhouses. Your culture changes.

Minting money

This morning an amusing little report circulated that one can buy a cypto-currency mining system that doubles as a space heater. Clever--take a feature that tends to be a nuisance, especially in consumer-grade computers--the high power requirements of the GPU(*)s used in the calculations that go into "crypto-currency mining," and spin it as a feature--the waste heat can heat your room! With 8 GPUs packed into that small a volume the water heat transfer system had better work well or you can set things on fire. That happened with some collaborators of ours in Maryland.

The whole crypto-currency business reminds me of the gold-rush folks. They looked to get rich by increasing the quantity of symbols of value--but not creating anything particularly valuable themselves. Thought experiment: suppose your country found boatloads of silver and gold (we won't go into details about how they collected it), and brought it back. Now you have the wherewithal to import more stuff, and you need to import--because, funny thing, having twice as many doubloons doesn't automatically double the size of your local industry. In fact it's simply apt to double the prices. Lots more gold, but not necessarily more stuff.

In Dawn Treader Lewis never bothered to explain why a lake that turned things to gold would be bad--except that people got greedy. Too bad, it would have been a one-liner.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Brainpower

One of the comments at Maggie's Farm reminded me of some experiments Richard Feynman did with himself: he could count and read, but not count and talk. "... when Feynman told mathematician John Tukey about this, Tukey could do the reverse — talk but not read. The reason was that Feynman would talk to himself in his head, while Tukey would see an image of a clock ticking over. Feynmann suggests this could be because people think differently".

The author of the article suggests that the brain has "modules" like a "sketch pad" or a "phonological module" for words and sounds.

I don't know about how other people use visual thinking in math, but I find that I often do. For example, matrix multiplication I visualize as an action. (I should redo this to slow it down). When I try to figure out the framework for a problem I draw pictures. Equations are partly sentences and partly blocks like pictures.


FWIW, I generally read by "see and say" because I'm already trained to spot the blocks in English words. Sometimes I scan too quickly, and hilarity usually ensues. But I learned phonetically. And when I hit non-English words, I work phonetically. If I have time. Train stops in Germany were a nuisance. The name was often half a block long, and I couldn't read it fast enough--so I read the first and last chunks of the name and hoped that was unique. Problem is, the last chunk was usually "strasse."

Crab bucket

"Deaf singer Mandy Harvey made headlines around the world after being put straight through to the finals of America's Got Talent. But when she first took to the stage, she received death threats from within the deaf community for promoting a "hearing" activity."

I've heard unpleasant things about Gallaudet University too. There's something very nasty about denying reality for the sake of your pride. They pay a weird homage to the very thing they ought to fight--the notion that someone with fewer skills is inferior. Instead of denying that lie, they implicitly accept it and claim that their skills and culture are equal.

"You are not your disability!" I've preached that, though I try not to be explicit about it. People get tired of hearing the same things. But it sure beats "I am my disability, and you are too, and you'd better get with my program."

New wine in classic wineskins

I understand Amazon wants to make more Lord of the Rings-based movies: prequels, I gather.

If they use existing characters, even peripheral, in a prequel, the story gets cramped. If they use new ones, it is more of a "in the universe of LoTR story," but likely without an equivalent story-teller behind them. I haven't heard any enthusiasm for working from the Silmarilion.

I suspect I won’t be investing in downloads.

But... Do you remember the stir when HarperCollins announced the plan to create new Narnia novels?

I’d pretty much forgotten about that—the article above, and several like it, date to 2001. I thought I’d heard a peep or two more recently than 16 years ago, but that may have been temporal foreshortening again.

They have coloring books, and shortened versions: told for younger audiences, and this: ”Based on characters originally featured in C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, The Giant Surprise is a brand new Narnia adventure story about Marshwiggles, giants, and mice for young children. Lally, a small wigglet, and her Uncle Puddleglum undertake a hair-raising rescue of their mice friends, before they become a giant’s supper.”

I wonder if HarperCollins quietly shelved the “new novels.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Significant?

We've had quite the uptick in drive-by shootings in the Madison area--mostly non-fatal, fortunately. Today's battle between two cars hit a third car and a nearby house.

I've noticed a lot of defaced license plates lately. Not weathering and fading (as in the last Wisconsin plate design fiasco), but scraped and dented. O(1%) of the cars I see are hard to read the plates on.

Maybe this is a new vandalism fad. That would be the best possibility.

UPDATE. O(1%) means of the order of 1%. Give or take a little.

The pilot in our Wednesday Bible study suggested that the defacement might be to foil the toll cameras.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Accusations

I'm a bit conflicted. Nobody believes the casting couch ever went away, and I'm content to believe that the overwhelming majority of the accusations are true, or at least largely so. What facts do manage to leak out past the PR over the years don't inspire confidence in the moral fiber of Hollywood folks, and sometimes the PR itself is telling.

But I have to give the devil his due. It is easy to make an accusation in this atmosphere, especially if it is old enough or vague enough to be un-actionable. After all, if your accusation goes to court, you might get cross-examined. Hollywood is a famously backstabbing place, and if a friend of a friend puts your competitor in a bad light, you might be generously grateful.

So while I hope this shakes out some "bad actors" who think fame or power entitles them, I also hope we take care to vet the accusers too.

Defending churches

Several local worship centers (including a Sikh temple) have decided to have guards. Attacks happen from time to time, and threats sometimes look serious.

Guards or not? I figure I'd rather die in church than in a hospital, but when you recall that the children are at risk too the picture changes a bit--we have an obligation to protect.

So far the odds are pretty good, and I'm not concerned.

Am I naive? I'm not in administration, and I don't see the threats. Our church has a volunteer team keeping an eye on things, but not armed with anything more lethal than a cell phone. We put that in place a few years ago when a nut case interrupted a service. High Point's board is going to vote on whether to have undercover guards--I'm curious about what they'll decide.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Peaceable kingdom

England in the 1600's isn't famous for being a nice time and place to live. But the article says it wasn't as bad as we think. "but the state was not simply stringing people up for occasional acts of petty theft. Quite often, judges and juries deliberately perjured themselves to ensure convicted thieves escaped the noose, usually by undervaluing goods stolen."

Homicide rates dropped over the century (in Kent from 5-6 per 100,000 to 3.6; in from 8-12 to 2 per 100,000). Pinker likes the idea that a strong central government means lower homicide rates--I suspect that you don't get a strong central government if the crime rate is too high.

Selfishness and Charity

David Warren starts off with: "I think that if the “natural man” would vote consistently in his own interest, and by extension in that of his close family, the world would get along tickety-boo."

He doesn't expand much on that, unfortunately. I've suspected for some time that if groups were a little clearer about their interests, there might be fewer and not more conflicts. Proving that would take a lot of study and work with counter-factuals, and I've not world enough or time. But it doesn't take much effort to think of conflicts that started with exaggerated claims and fears. Others were and are unavoidable.

His main point is about spite and charity: charity deals with specifics. "The point I make is on behalf of reality. One’s neighbour — and even in this last instance a brute animal, who could have eaten me were she much larger and in better shape — is a real thing. Insofar as our charity is real, it is directed to real things. Insofar as we are “friends to humanity,” or “friends to the poor,” or “social justice warriors,” we are putting on a ludicrous show, in which spite adopts a pretence of charity."

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Naivete

Lubos Motl has a post about the naivete of physicists:
Nima Arkani-Hamed, a top Western official in the Mao collider, sort of "courageously" says that if the tanks came to the Chinese streets again, he would probably join some local protests. His father had some "disagreement" with the Khomeini regime in Iran but Nima himself doesn't really get the evil of totalitarian systems, I think after many discussions with him. As Cheng nicely says about Nima's superficial response:
But his hypothesis, well-intentioned as it was, reveals a deeply simplistic, caricatured understanding of state oppression. True terror and totalitarian control come after the tanks have left the square, when blood is wiped off the streets, the history books, and the people’s collective consciousness, when a date becomes taboo, and when a simple question confirming the existence of the Party office exposes the Achilles’ heel of a grand project.
Exactly. Totalitarianism isn't about some cool scenes with tanks and blood in the street – and Nima's cool but totally superficial and symbolic "no" to such spectacular events. The true muscles of the totalitarian machinery only start to act after the tanks and blood are removed from the sidewalks (the same is true for the German and Soviet tanks in Prague in 1939 and 1968, too). The employees are being ideologically filtered, fired, or arrested, the history is often being rewritten..
Many of my colleagues, Western or Chinese, asked me about my priorities and whether I cared more about physics or human rights, as if these pursuits are mutually exclusive.
And that question is easily used to dispose of the "incorrect" people. If you say rights matter more, you aren't dedicated enough, and if you say physics--don't complain. You are there to be used.

(Lubos is Czech, and grew up under Communism.)

NFL

I've heard quite a bit about fan disgust and lower sales and so forth, with counter arguments that there are too many broadcast games, which saturated the market. I'm not plugged into the fan zone, and in any event my observations wouldn't be representative of the broader market.

I thought one simple way to test for fan annoyance is to monitor season ticket sales. But if this article is correct, brokers buy a huge fraction of the season tickets, so any measurement will be indirect. Better than nothing, though.

Computers make it all better

The Navy issued its report the the McCain collision.
Commander Alfredo J. Sanchez, "noticed the Helmsman having difficulty maintaining course while also adjusting the throttles for speed control." Sanchez ordered the watch team to split the responsibilities for steering and speed control, shifting control of the throttle to another watchstander's station. ...

However, instead of switching just throttle control to the Lee Helm station, the Helmsman accidentally switched all control to the Lee Helm station. When that happened, the ship's rudder automatically moved to its default position (centerline). The helmsman had been steering slightly to the right. ...

At this point, everyone on the bridge thought there had been a loss of steering. In the commotion that ensued, the commanding officer and bridge crew lost track of what was going on around them.

And there's more.

I suppose that sort of SNAFU is the default for militaries. If I read my history correctly.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

A newsreel from the other side.

You're probably seen "The Longest Day." The Germans made their own newsreel of the activities. They had a smaller pool of actions to draw from--and I think I see the same tank a couple of times.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Tired of your sin?

I found this cover of "The Church of Your Choice" by Dan McBride. The sound quality is quite mediocre.
Church of Your Choice: (Some of us are old enough to remember the slogan.)

"If you're tired of your sin, then we'll welcome you in. If you're not, you'll still feel right at home."

We'd all love for evangelism to mean just being winsome and attracting people to Christ. I'm perhaps a bit curmudgeonly to be adequately winsome, but it's still an easier goal than trying to be prophetic. And it's more pleasant to think we're all "close enough."

But we know what Jesus said about division, and about the world hating him and therefore hating his followers. And it isn't hard to recall people whose sins are pretty dramatic in our eyes, and who really ought to repent.

So how does one manage to be both accurate and winsome? Jesus said to welcome the children, who generally aren't motivated by a hunger for forgiveness. But he discouraged people who weren't "counting the cost."

Nobody said it was easy... Probably one big first step is not to act as though we've "arrived." (There are two kinds of Christians: those who struggle with besetting sins and those who've given up.)

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Free

I don't remember where I read the rule that "A free man is one who can bind himself." He can bind himself to a wife and to the still unknown children who follow. He can promise to work for someone. He can make an implicit commitment to tend his farm; feed and care for his livestock. Or he commits to solve a problem or write a book. Some commitments are short term, others life-long and extremely open-ended.

Freedom seems less like a status and more like a coin to invest. The one who never binds himself never shows fruit.

Lone wolves

It seems popular to describe Islamist terrorists as "lone wolves," even when there's evidence for a network.

Perhaps the spokescritters-that-be have been sternly told not to divulge anything that might reveal how much we know about those networks. That seems the nicer hypothesis. Maybe it's true.

Alternatively, they may be trying hard to keep Americans from blaming Muslims in general for the incidents of fourth generation warfare. If so, I believe they are mistaken.

If the terrorists are guided by a network, the network can be tracked, understood, and selectively attacked. Lone wolves who spontaneously decide to become enemies can't be tracked. Dealing with them involves much less selective means.

A network is separable from the Muslim community: Muslim with associations = enemy, Muslim without = ordinary. If the model is "spontaneous conversion to enemy," this changes the mapping: Muslim=x% chance of being an enemy simply because he/she is Muslim. Maybe that's actually true, but there are some hints that it isn't.

If the folks in charge want Americans to not blame Muslims, I think they should steer away from the lone wolf narrative, and concentrate on the associations. (Unless they're trying to hide how much we do know.)