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The Refugee Resource

As we see an increase in refugees entering Europe, there is nothing politicians love more than surf the wave of "the refugee problem". But as with so many problems, I like to ask if it really is a problem, or a potential resource.

The "problem" is what you do with a whole bunch of unemployed people with nowhere to stay? You have to build houses, produce food, clothing - all these things cost money to pay the people who produce all this. Do you even have enough people to do all this work? And when you're done, you have houses full of unemployed.

Or we can look at the problem from the other side. You run away from people who think that you don't deserve to live - I mean, they literally want to kill you. And you arrive in a country where you're confined to a specific area and not allowed to have any value in the work force.

Isn't the solution pretty obvious? Give them enough land and tools to grow most of their own food, build houses, etc. The refugees have skills, you know. So I'm just throwing that in there - try to see refugees as a resource, not as a problem. Because seeing them as a problem is what turned them into refugees in the first place. M'kay?


TMG: Statistical comparisons

TMG: This Morning in Gardistan

This time of year, the government releases the annual personal tax information of everyone who lives in Norway. And as usual, the press is having a ball. The Norwegian national broadcasting station NRK is no different and has put up the "very important" new about our new government: Those who now leave office are worth 16 times more than those who enter.

NRK has been criticized by the (winning) right wing for being left-center-friendly. Perhaps this is an attempt to befriend the new right wing government - after all, NRK's license income is based on government decisions.

While the comparison is only made in the headline, and although it is factual, the comparison is not really fair. It has been made a small attempt to rectify this with small letters in the sidebar, telling that this raw tax data is not the full story. Some objects are not taxable. We don't know how large the exempts are. There might be plenty of hidden wealth.

But the most obvious reason why the comparison is not fair has not been mentioned: Eight years in government.

The intersting comparisons are:

1) The wealth of the previous government at the moment they stepped in eight years ago, compared to the wealth of the new government, and

2) How much did the personal wealth of the previous government increase in their first four years compared to how much the current government will increase its personal wealth in their first four years.

Of course, the second comparison will be available only in four years from now.


Jurisdictional ambiguity

I attended this year's Atea Community in Ålesund, which as usually starts off with something about team work and motivation mixed with soccer. This year was no exception, and one of the things mentioned was that if a person is convicted for drug use, they will be blocked from ever entering the USA.

If we look away from the fact that this is a fear-induced lesson rather than a motivation (as long as you stay off drugs, you are welcome to visit the USA), I started to think of the legal implications. Drugs by whose definition?

You could be convicted for the consumption of alcohol in a country where this is considered a drug. Consumption of alcohol is legal in the USA. Being blocked could be a recognition that you did not heed the law of the country you were convicted in.

On the same note, you can drink alcohol when you're 18 in Norway, which means you have practically broken the law in the USA, where you must be 21. Or you have been smoking marijuana in the Netherlands, which is banned in most US states. This could be taken as evidence that you don't respect the laws in the US, since you have already engaged in activities that go against those laws.

Drug legislation is not unique. US legislation claims jurisdiction on all US citizens, no matter where they are in the world, which means that a person easily could end up in a legally impossible situation, where doing something would break US laws and not doing it would break local law.

It would be wise to just keep jurisdiction geographic before people suddenly find themselves with a state sanctioned citizenship of a different country against their will.


This is not terror

Car chase. Shooting. Injured. Killed. A car chase in Washington DC ends with gunfire, a woman killed and police officers injured. But this is not linked to terrorism. Which makes me ask the question, by whose definition?

What do you call the feeling you get when a bullet approaches you, and you know it will kill you? Well, terror. It might sound like nitpicking, but the boundaries we put on definitions also puts boundaries on how we think and handle the term.

I want to define terrorism as "the act of inflicting the feeling of terror into someone else". Failing to do so, we open for the possibility that generating terror in others can be justified in specific circumstances. Succeeding to name terror as terror, we open up to approaching terror as an emotional psychological foundation that causes violence, and at the same time gain a higher threshold to committing our own acts of terrorism.

This is not to say that one is necessarily better than the other, that all boils down to what you want out of life. It is a subjective matter, just like the feeling of terror itself is, indeed, subjective. What we do know, is that inflicting terror is a response to the feeling of terror. That is, a police officer may fire a gun (thus inflicting terror on the suspect) as a response to his own feeling of terror that comes as a result of the criminal pulls his own gun and pointing it at the police officer. The criminal did this because of his own feeling of terror from being chased, even though he was chased because society at large had a feeling of terror from the criminal's behaviour. The criminal may very well have been engaging in criminal behaviour because of his own feelings of terror from being in an economic hole.

Which all sums up to the fact that terror generates more terror. The question then, is whether you want to live in a world of terror? Do we want to just cap the amount of terror by reacting only when terror has reached a specific limit, or do we want to do something to practically eliminate human-generated terror, aka terrorism?

I vote for the latter. We must focus on how to reduce and possibly eliminate the amount of terror a human can inflict on others. And the way to do this is obviously to do the opposite: Instead of making others feel unsafe, which is the precursor to terrified, we must make others feel safe.


Information Security: Press release

So Pea Ridge school district made a press release concerning media attention to a specific case. The press release went like this:
    "The Pea Ridge School District is dedicated to providing a safe environment for our students, teachers and staff.

    "As reported in the media, the district has recently required some students to provide test results regarding their HIV status in order to formulate a safe and appropriate education plan for those children. This rare requirement is due to certain actions and behaviors that place students and staff at risk. The district respects the privacy and confidentiality of all students. It's is very unfortunate that information regarding this situation is being released by outside organizations.

    "Our goal is to provide the best education for every student, including those in questions, in a responsible, respectful and confidential manner."
The press release reveals more information than what has previously been known to the media, and also confirms that the incidence has taken place. In terms of personal information security, this is just wrong. A proper press release should be more like this:
    "The Pea Ridge School District is dedicated to providing a safe environment for our students, teachers and staff. As reported in the media, the district has a policy that allows us to demand an HIV test in certain circumstances. The full text of the policy may be found on our web page.

    Our goal is to provide the best education for every student, in a respectful and confidential manner. It is therefore unfortunate when a specific case concerning specific individuals is being printed by media, breaking the rule of confidentiality. This is not an issue that concerns the public at large. It is therefore in our policy not to discuss specific cases involving specific people with the media, as we shall also not comment on this specific case.

    What is in the public's interest is the district's policy, which, again, may be found on our web page. It is also in the public's interest if we have broken a law. The latter is to be decided in the courts of law."

See the difference?