Admiration List: Jennifer Brea

Jennifer Brea has been suffering from an un-treatable and not-yet-properly-identified neurological disease. She has been given diagnosis (e.g.: chronic fatigue syndrome) that basically mean nothing and was told it was ‘all in her head.’ This woman has been through the proverbial fire.

Yet, despite extremely difficult physical and social barriers, she has persevered, created a film about her experiences and pursued a life of activism, acting as a voice for all people suffering from invisible and un-diagnosed illnesses.

From her TED talk, you can see her strength, attitude and remarkable good will, as she expresses her hope that one day the medical community will learn how to face a disease like her own and speak the honest truth: I don’t know what is wrong with you.

I have to agree with her statement that this ability to be able to admit to not having an answer is a key step in eventually finding an answer.

Admiration List: Alaa Murabit

Alaa Murabit has achieved some pretty amazing things. She’s championed the cause of women in countries where that sort of activism could get a person killed. She has lived through death threats and all sorts of challenges. She has also successfully improved the status of women, within Muslim countries, by leveraging the same tactics used  by her opposition – quotes from the Koran.

Her resilient personality, positive attitude and ability to take all of the challenges in stride are evident in her TED talk. There are many things to admire.

Having said that, I must admit that none of those accomplishments are the reason why she is included here. The primary reason for my own, personal, admiration is the fact that I watched this video and kept thinking: How do I expand my social circle to include more women like her? I need more friends like that.

 

Why a Muslim Registry is a Bad Idea

Originally posted in answer to the question What is so bad about a Muslim registry? on Quora.

I am going to provide an IT perspective on this question.

Yes, that’s right, an Information Technology, computers and the-people-who-deal-with-the-machines-collecting-and-crunching-the-data-perspective.

Why? Because when someone decides to ‘create a registry’ someone (similar to myself) is tasked with the job of creating a database AND reports generated by that database.

As illustrated by the wonderful commentary generated by the Y2Gay database discussions, IT has an important perspective on these things: Gay marriage: the database engineering perspective

Creating Databases Means Identifying Key Data

When a database is created, the first thing that must be done is simply this:

  1. identify the key data being collected
  2. identify the reports and other deliverables created by the database

While you might thing the second item could be restated as ‘identify the reason for the database’ nothing could be further from the truth. When dealing with non-computer people it is not unusual to have someone demand that a database be created to gather information “that creates a positive customer service experience for our customers!”…or something equally unclear yet very pep-rally appropriate. Then, after talking to multiple people and FINALLY getting them to explain what, exactly, they are going to DO with the data, the unofficial and IT specific purpose changes to: “create a mailing list.”

This is one of those near-universal experiences people in IT like to laugh and complain about. It applies to government and private sector equally.

So, in the case of a Muslim registry, the first step (key data) is partially addressed in the notes included with this question:

I am shocked there is not already a registry of ALL citizens with info such as race, gender, religion, languages etc. At least a Muslim registry is a step in the right direction, seeing as a great threat to America happens to belong to a single religion (I know most Muslims are not terrorists).

As noted in other answers, many of these elements are already gathered through existing databases, like the US Census and ID Cards.

Don’t Make Me Fill Out ANOTHER Form!

When data is already being collected and reported, the individuals responsible for that data tend to get cranky when someone comes in asks them to fill out another form, create another report, and generally re-enter the same stuff AGAIN. There’s also the possibility of entering errors into the data source when it’s being created/generated/imported/modified multiple times by multiple people.

Of the items listed, everything except religion and language are already included on divers licenses and state IDs. The data collected by the DMV is free and available to the general public (personally, I do NOT agree with this massive dumping of personal information…but I digress) so an enterprising database designer could…potentially…import the DMV data and connect it to the missing elements: religion and language.

With the right connections and political power, it could also connect to the state and federal databases containing anyone and everyone who has ever been arrested for any reason (including those cleared as innocent) AND the databases maintained by the department of homeland security, the no-fly list, and even the records maintained by public schools. Several of these databases INCLUDE religion and race.

In short, we COULD create a complete profile on every person residing within the United States neatly coordinated within a single location just by importing already existing data.

Explain to me…again…why we are doing this?

That brings us to the second question – what, specifically, is going to be DONE with this data?

Since the Muslim registry enters into the network of existing information specifically for the purpose of:

  1. collecting religion and language
  2. identifying terrorists
  3. focusing specifically on Muslims as potential terrorists

Then the database being created is more like a report-generating app that connects all existing data, spits out lists of known Muslims, their home address, the school they attend, the language they speak, connections to known terrorists groups, their place of worship, and anything else that might be deemed important.

Presumably, this information would be provided to people in the field, who would add information to individual files, as needed.

As an IT person, I’m thinking: soooo…you want to re-create the department of homeland security?

As noted above, all of this information already exists and it is a well known fact that federal agencies have made concerted effort to connect and share data. I guarantee you, this sort of thing already exists – along with similar reports on every religion, hate group, environmentalist group, activist community and whatever else someone in ANY federal level policing agency (or state level or whatever) might deem important to know…for whatever reason,

In fact, if human behavior remains consistent (and it usually does) there are probably databases and reports that focus on individuals, groups and concerns going back to the beginning of data collection – and people working in all levels of law enforcement who occasionally stumble across these things and scratch their heads wondering why in holy hades do they even HAVE this?

Duplicate with different purpose…and the reason is what?

So, again, why are we building this?

Now we are getting down to brass tacks. The key term here is registry.

A registry managed by the government contains data on people that is made publicly available (GovernmentRegistry.org – Public Records Online). A category-specific registry is usually (always?) focused on presenting information about people who are deemed dangerous enough to warn the general public on a permanent basis.

For example:

Therefore, this isn’t data collection, this is data distribution to the general public.

Whats Wrong With a Muslim Registry?

Creating a database of all individuals who associate with a specific religion and making it publicly available for the express purpose of warning all individuals NOT associated with that religion to be wary of interaction due to potential terrorism…

Yeah, that’s a problem.

Why? Because that’s not purpose-driven data collection, that’s propaganda.

I suggest reading any of the other posts that focus on the registries maintained by the Nazis or the crimes committed again the Japanese here in the USA during WWII. I’m sure there are other equally powerful examples and all of them come down to the same thing: when the government ostracizes a group of people and generates a marketing campaign that vilifies all members of said group…and a registry would achieve that goal (and ONLY that goal)…then bad things happen.

Really bad things.

We don’t need that here in the United States.

Economics of Fertility and Childbearing

Quote

Are you likely to have more kids if you are rich or poor?  Or to put this in econo-jargon: Are kids normal or inferior goods?  (Reminder: When you get rich you buy more of a “normal good,” and less of an “inferior good.” And yes, the language of economics can be a bit cold.)…

Whether you cut the data across countries, through time, or across people at a point in time, the same fact arises: The richer you get, the fewer kids you have.

Yep, kids aren’t normal.

The Rich vs Poor Debate: Are Kids Normal or Inferior Goods?, Freakonomics.com, by Justin Wolfers

Admiration List: David Raether

David Raether went from having a extremely well paying job as a comedic writer for television, to losing absolutely everything and spend a few years homeless (on-the-street-homeless). Why? Because he decided to take a year off of work to address problems in his family. The house was paid for, they had money in the bank, it was a perfectly reasonable financial decision and exactly what his family needed.

Unfortunately, in the United States, taking time off of work to make positive changes in your personal life is tantamount to professional suicide. At the end of his 12-month sabbatical, David Raether was unable to find work. Since he and his wife were committed to keeping their children enrolled in the best school system in the United States, their cost of living remained where it had been when he was pulling in 100s of thousands per year. Without an equally good paying job, their savings dried up and things went from bad to worse.

This is an important story to be told about poverty (in general) and homelessness (specifically) within the United States. The far majority of Poverty Survivors are good, hard working people who hit on hard times.

Drug addicts and criminals are neither exclusive to, nor most prevalent among, the poor – there are plenty of addicts and criminals (white collar and otherwise) among the upper classes. But that’s a topic for another day.

David Raether has my admiration for surviving homelessness, pulling himself out of that tragedy, and having the courage to talk about it.

Admiration List: Rex Hohlbein

Rex Hohlbein started allowing homeless people use his office as a place to hang out during the day. This grew into a small and semi-official drop-in-center service where people could come to get out of the weather or pick up needed supplies.

That alone is admirable. Yet, what really stood out to me was the way this project got started because Rex took the time to get to know individuals. He didn’t just set up a charity, he started building relationships with poverty survivors and the network of donations grew out of those relationships. That is truly worthy of admiration.

 

 

Admiration List: Nacole

I have great admiration and respect for victims of horrendous crimes who find the strength and courage to speak about those crimes publicly. Nacole is one such brave soul who gave a TEDx talk about child sex trafficking – and what it’s like to be the mother of a child who has been lured away and sold.

This talk is brave, powerful and heart wrenching.

Admiration List: Kim Dempster

Kim Dempster worked with Freedom For All to lead the creation and organization of the Stop The Nightmare campaign, which focuses on raising awareness about human trafficking and modern slavery. The campaign included TV PSAs and a live performance of a present-day slave auction.

Here is her TED talk:

Admiration List: Kandice Sumner

This woman has some really good, and hard, things to say about education in the United States. A few quotes:

If you neglect a child long enough, you no longer have the right to be surprised when things don’t turn out well.”

“If we’re going to call public education ‘public education’ then it should be just that. Otherwise, we should call it what it really is: Poverty Insurance”

“Public education, keeping poor kids poor since 1954.”

Kandice Sumner:

 

 

Admiration List: Jesse Bach

Jesse Bach is a self-described freedom activist. He is the founder of the Imagine Foundation, which works to fight human trafficking and modern slavery worldwide. He is on my admiration list because of all of these things.

He is also on my admiration list because his speech uses both superhero analogies and the assurance that everyday people can make big changes in small ways…while wearing spandex (if they so choose). Of course, that spandex must be ethically made and traded but, otherwise, spandex is OK.

His TED talk is about the ways that everyday people can make a real difference in ending human trafficking. I encourage everyone to watch it.