Can profiling be smarter? 

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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05 March 2016 19:15
 

Being selected or profiled (as Muslims) for extra examination is not the same as being selected for bigotry. At least, if it’s done right. Which is largely isn’t. Consenting to extra scrutiny at the airport for the sake of all (many who know no nuances of Islam) is not punishment. Security screenings are not a prosecution. If the problem was comedy, then anyone carrying a giant bicycle horn or a rubber chicken should be pulled aside for questioning.

The problem is, who is objective enough or informed enough to do the job fairly? No one is and we should acknowledge and accommodate that. Whoever does it is, in some fashion, going to be stupid about it inadvertently or not. That kind of stupidity always looks like bigotry at first glance. That word suggests a conscious motivation that betrays a contrived opinion. But no one puts that much work into it.

Is it some sort of bigotry that makes certain police departments pull me over for trivia and stand at the back door instead of where I can see them? No, it’s stupidity. For stupid reasons, some officers perceive me as potentially dangerous and possibly armed. Others can pick up on the little differences that make me read as an old and harmless hippie-type. I am neither but I forgive both. I remember the day I learned to do that.

I worked with a young guy who grew up in Detroit and had very hip street clothes. He was bright, reliable and had a strong sense of responsibility to his young family. One day Bruce (name changed for clarity), Jerome and I were standing by the big parking lot getting some fresh air. Beyond the back fence was what locals called ‘serious hood’. A small group of teenagers were climbing over the fence. Bruce said these guys were trouble and probably heading to set the dumpster alight again. Best call the police. We asked why he was so sure about this bunch. It was the way they were dressed.

That was a puzzling response. As far as Jerome (Black Canadian) and I (White Midwest Suburbia) could tell, they were dressed exactly like Bruce. He was shocked and looked at us like we were a pair of tie-choked morons. We looked again. But… they got this and you got this. They got that and you got that. We didn’t see a difference.

Bruce then proceeded to point out ten bits of fashion minutia about cuffs, collars, shoes, embroidery and all the different degrees of waistline droop that were for him a clear demarcation between a street banger and a snappy dresser taking a short cut to school. We could observe each detail from a hundred yards away as he listed them. We forgot them all before the day was over.

Totally unawares, Jerome and I blindly stumbled into profiling Bruce. We were surprised at how much steam was raised between otherwise happy co-workers. And we were happy to have Bruce judge all further border invasions.

When Muslims make the claim they are unfairly being singled-out for inept scrutiny, they are profiling too. They see all of us as the voters who elected the idiots who armed the clowns.

If Natzi skinheads were attacking civilians in Muslim countries, then any white guy with short hair and a t-shirt can expect scrutiny at their airports and even a tactile emotion reaction. If oil-rich governments were funding and arming the KKK in America to fight a war against Canada, we would not want our slow and inept efforts to stop it misconstrued as a deeply held desire for or secret approval of Canada’s demise.

I don’t want the snappy dresser on his or her way to school to go without some social reward for their efforts. We must at least match their effort in quality of scrutiny.


Can we manage smart profiling?

 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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06 March 2016 08:02
 

Profiling is a necessary aspect of life.  A requirement for any sort of investigation.  Imperative during times of humanitarian crises like the one we are currently experiencing with refugees.  The screening process that usually takes place can last several years before refugees ever set foot in another country.  Then, once settled, there is yet another vetting process that takes place within the country of their destination.  This is still the way it works here in Canada.  Canada has a long history of resettling large waves of refugees from combat zones.  We’ve accepted 25,000 Syrian refugees in addition to the 23,218 Iraqi refugees and 3,089 Syrian refugees that were accepted between 2014 and 2015.

Many other countries do not have this luxury as they face an increasing number of people arriving on the doorstep, day after day, with no end in sight.  This complicates matters entirely.  The sheer magnitude of this dilemma should compel us to focus on what is required for basic human survival.  Viewing everyone as a “potential terrorist” is far from helpful.  That’s just lazy profiling.

Women and children account for a majority of the refugee population.  Approximately 80% of all Syrian refugees are currently living in urban areas outside a formal camp setting.  There is a lack of clean water and sanitation in crowded, makeshift settlements where women and children are frequently exposed to humiliation and sexual abuse.  Water shortages have reached emergency levels in the more populated settlements.  Diseases like cholera and polio have become easily spreadable and are straining the already thin resources of aid groups on the ground.  Security is a constant concern as horror stories have surfaced from inside the camps describing instances of stoning and rape.  Syrians now make up a quarter of the country’s population in Lebanon.  The lack of a formal refugee policy means Syrian refugees are living in abandoned warehouses, under highways, and in mosques and churches.  When attempting to cross the border into Turkey, Syrians are fired upon, beaten, or mistreated by Turkish border guards.
 
These are the people we are talking about.  These are the people who are expected to assimilate.  These war torn and weary travellers.  Why not cultivate an atmosphere worth reaching?

 
 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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06 March 2016 08:37
 

And at the same time, in parallel, why not work on the root problems that cause mass immigrations in the first place. (And I’m not talking about “putting boots on the ground”.)

 
 
Twissel
 
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Twissel
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06 March 2016 08:48
 

Given enough time and resources, profiling can be incredibly clever. Not sure if you heard the story about how German intelligence identified the Al’Qaida support cell in Germany: there is a fee in Germany for public TV that every household has to pay, and it’s very unpopular. So none of the people living living in the large student home paid it, except for the members of the terror cell. By trying too hard to appear lawful, they had done something uncharacteristic of most people.
Similarly, in the book ‘Freakonomics’ the authors suggested that potential suicide bombers could be identified as those who do not buy a life insurance at their bank. This was, in fact, a ruse cooked up in collaboration with UK SIS: it created a profile for people who, after release of the book, suddenly bought life insurance at a bank (which basically no one else does).

Airports are by definition the worst places for profiling, given constrains on time and training.

 
 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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06 March 2016 09:13
 

I would prefer EYEBALLS on the blackboard over boots on the rubble.

Never mind ideology… let’s vet and classify people based on their perception and aspirations. A for auto-narrators and B for self-narrators, A for authoritarian aspirations and B for libertarian aspirations. We let the B/B’s in and send the B/A’s to school. The A/A’s are right out.

It seems the Republican have stolen my song title for their last debate here in Detroit… The Boy-King at the Battle of Dickland

 
SkepticX
 
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SkepticX
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06 March 2016 12:24
 

I’d argue that sound profiling amounts to good security in terms of intelligence pretty much by definition—profiling security threats. The problem is that non-functional profiling (generally what we hear about is racial profiling) which, apparently for the large majority, has become confused as what profiling is in general, as if all methods and forms of profiling are all racial profiling or some other equivalent.

 
 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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06 March 2016 12:39
 
Nhoj Morley - 06 March 2016 09:13 AM

I would prefer EYEBALLS on the blackboard over boots on the rubble.

Never mind ideology… let’s vet and classify people based on their perception and aspirations. A for auto-narrators and B for self-narrators, A for authoritarian aspirations and B for libertarian aspirations. We let the B/B’s in and send the B/A’s to school. The A/A’s are right out.

What sort of stimuli do you imagine will keep the short-attention-spanned EYEBALLS on the blackboard, sir?  Consider a thread so stunning it compels patrons to join the forum merely to make a one time appearance only to opine about a podcast they admittedly never listened to, in its entirety.  One where they were alerted to what they were about to experience, prior to listening, and then reminded of what they experienced as it concluded.  That sounds, to me, like people who crave direction.  People who want some authority to “liberate” them from the inconvenience of having to think for themselves.  Those who prefer reading tweets rather than books so they can adopt the sound bites of others in order to express their so-called individuality.  Are these the critical thinking skills, of the self-narrators, you envision?  Are these the bright little flashlights you’re looking for?

 
 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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06 March 2016 23:03
 

Well, yes… I didn’t say it would be easy.

 
June
 
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June
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13 March 2016 10:38
 
LadyJane - 06 March 2016 12:39 PM

What sort of stimuli do you imagine will keep the short-attention-spanned EYEBALLS on the blackboard, sir?  Consider a thread so stunning it compels patrons to join the forum merely to make a one time appearance only to opine about a podcast they admittedly never listened to, in its entirety.  One where they were alerted to what they were about to experience, prior to listening, and then reminded of what they experienced as it concluded.  That sounds, to me, like people who crave direction.  People who want some authority to “liberate” them from the inconvenience of having to think for themselves.  Those who prefer reading tweets rather than books so they can adopt the sound bites of others in order to express their so-called individuality.  Are these the critical thinking skills, of the self-narrators, you envision?  Are these the bright little flashlights you’re looking for?


I listened to the podcast twice, pushed for a third for the sole purpose of counting how many times the two of them can say ‘bigot’ before giving up at the half way point.  Once, was to listen to Sam Harris, the other,  Namazie.  A grating exchange. 

The latest podcast with Jonathan Haidt, was an actual conversation of give and take.  The differences on points were acknowledged without noise.  Both seemed to understand, intuitively, of when to press and when to be silent.  If I had not already read Haidt’s book, the result of that conversation would have interested me to learn more from his perspective.  Otherwise, why converse at all? 
 
I prefer reading the substantive thoughts of a one time poster,  even if they have not listened to the podcast in its entirety,  over the mind numbing back and forth played out on forums that end up in the abyss.    The exception being a good comedy.

I found the use of analogy on this thread from the OP, quite effective for conveying the complexities of profiling.  Clear and thought provoking, actually.   

 
  Then again, I prefer books, clarity of thought,  over twitter and noise.    One author, uninterrupted,  for the duration of the book.  Let the reader decide if they want a second serving.

 

[ Edited: 13 March 2016 10:40 by June]
 
 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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13 March 2016 13:05
 

I wasn’t in the habit of listening to podcasts until recently.  After listening to the last few, I have come to realize how many people are merely parroting Mr. Harris, while putting very little thought into what he’s actually saying.  (Hence the mind numbing conversations you describe.)  The more we mimic the people we admire, the more we limit our knowledge to the confines of their limitations.  Knowing something isn’t the same thing as having knowledge.  Profiling of a different nature.  If we know the Battle of Hastings occurred in 1066 that is a trivial understanding of history that one could answer correctly on Jeopardy.  When exploring a little further we find that Harold was fighting the Vikings in England, and would be the last Saxon King, while William was becoming “The Conqueror” in Normandy (in a reverse D-Day har har).  It illuminates a greater perspective of the historical context which leads to a deeper understanding of events.  The proliferation of the longbow.  The construction of the Tower of London.  Piece by piece until we arrive at the present day with William and Harry, in line for the throne, in the British Royal Family.  We can’t cherry pick slices of history when it suits us as Mr. Harris did repeatedly in The Best Podcast Ever.  That is having your cake and eating it too.  And there’s no honour in that. 

 
 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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13 March 2016 13:09
 
LadyJane - 13 March 2016 01:05 PM

I wasn’t in the habit of listening to podcasts until recently.  After listening to the last few, I have come to realize how many people are merely parroting Mr. Harris, while putting very little thought into what he’s actually saying.  (Hence the mind numbing conversations you describe.)  The more we mimic the people we admire, the more we limit our knowledge to the confines of their limitations.  Knowing something isn’t the same thing as having knowledge.  Profiling of a different nature.  If we know the Battle of Hastings occurred in 1066 that is a trivial understanding of history that one could answer correctly on Jeopardy.  When exploring a little further we find that Harold was fighting the Vikings in England, and would be the last Saxon King, while William was becoming “The Conqueror” in Normandy (in a reverse D-Day har har).  It illuminates a greater perspective of the historical context which leads to a deeper understanding of events.  The proliferation of the longbow.  The construction of the Tower of London.  Piece by piece until we arrive at the present day with William and Harry, in line for the throne, in the British Royal Family.  We can’t cherry pick slices of history when it suits us as Mr. Harris did repeatedly in The Best Podcast Ever.  That is having your cake and eating it too.  And there’s no honour in that.

Sorry for the tangent, but when debating the legitimacy of Israel the “which slice of history?” question comes up over and over again, and I’ve never heard a satisfactory answer.

 
 
LadyJane
 
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13 March 2016 13:17
 
icehorse - 13 March 2016 01:09 PM

Sorry for the tangent, but when debating the legitimacy of Israel the “which slice of history?” question comes up over and over again, and I’ve never heard a satisfactory answer.

You can’t look at slices and expect to reach any understanding.  You’ve gotta look at the whole pie, sir.

 
 
icehorse
 
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13 March 2016 13:27
 
LadyJane - 13 March 2016 01:17 PM
icehorse - 13 March 2016 01:09 PM

Sorry for the tangent, but when debating the legitimacy of Israel the “which slice of history?” question comes up over and over again, and I’ve never heard a satisfactory answer.

You can’t look at slices and expect to reach any understanding.  You’ve gotta look at the whole pie, sir.

So in the case of Israel, should we look at 3000 years of ME history? (I tend to agree that the bigger the picture the better.) But most debaters don’t want to look at 3000 years. It helps their views if they look at a smaller slice. Starting around 1948 is a really good place to start if you want to demonize Israel.

 
 
LadyJane
 
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13 March 2016 13:48
 
icehorse - 13 March 2016 01:27 PM
LadyJane - 13 March 2016 01:17 PM
icehorse - 13 March 2016 01:09 PM

Sorry for the tangent, but when debating the legitimacy of Israel the “which slice of history?” question comes up over and over again, and I’ve never heard a satisfactory answer.

You can’t look at slices and expect to reach any understanding.  You’ve gotta look at the whole pie, sir.

So in the case of Israel, should we look at 3000 years of ME history? (I tend to agree that the bigger the picture the better.) But most debaters don’t want to look at 3000 years. It helps their views if they look at a smaller slice. Starting around 1948 is a really good place to start if you want to demonize Israel.

You emotion-loaded that statement with the word demonize.  Weak.  Anyone “debating” can focus on specific time periods all they like, sir, but to be effective they should possess a grasp of the history that led to those time periods.  You can’t understand Israel today without understanding 1948.  You can’t understand 1948 without understanding 1918…

 

 
 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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13 March 2016 14:06
 
LadyJane - 13 March 2016 01:48 PM
icehorse - 13 March 2016 01:27 PM
LadyJane - 13 March 2016 01:17 PM
icehorse - 13 March 2016 01:09 PM

Sorry for the tangent, but when debating the legitimacy of Israel the “which slice of history?” question comes up over and over again, and I’ve never heard a satisfactory answer.

You can’t look at slices and expect to reach any understanding.  You’ve gotta look at the whole pie, sir.

So in the case of Israel, should we look at 3000 years of ME history? (I tend to agree that the bigger the picture the better.) But most debaters don’t want to look at 3000 years. It helps their views if they look at a smaller slice. Starting around 1948 is a really good place to start if you want to demonize Israel.

You emotion-loaded that statement with the word demonize.  Weak.  Anyone “debating” can focus on specific time periods all they like, sir, but to be effective they should possess a grasp of the history that led to those time periods.  You can’t understand Israel today without understanding 1948.  You can’t understand 1948 without understanding 1918…

First an apology. I recently encountered a “demonizer” on another current PR thread:

pr: sam gets it wrong

I think I’ve brought that conversation into this thread.

Back to the main point, I agree with you about 1948 and 1918 and earlier, I wish more folks did.