Learning Tracker

I love learning. Every single day, I am on a cutthroat hunt for new opportunities to learn.   I read a ton of articles; I consciously seek out stimulating conversations and I religiously feed my podcast addiction. I’m always taking a Coursera class, and I’m always reading a book.

I’ve done really well with consuming knowledge, but I’m doing poorly with actually absorbing it and making it stick.

With this new series of #weeklylearning posts, I’m going back to the very reason why I started this blog- to hold myself accountable to my goals. I want to ensure that I can retain and recall the knowledge I acquire.  I also want to record some of the intellectual conversations I am having with (myself) people.

This time around, I’m going to use a very convenient (lazy?) method to capture my learning.  I created a Trello board ‘My learning’ with three broad categories of information:

1. media facts: what I learn from newspapers, magazines and podcasts
2. culture facts: what I learn from people in my life; and
3. random: personal dilemmas, debates and staggering realizations

Every week, I’ll record most of my learning in very brief notes on the board.  The idea is just to be able to recall the information (this should only take a few seconds per fact). At the end of the week, I will review the list to solidify the information in my brain, take a screenshot and post three coolest facts to the blog.

Here’s my learning for 2/1/16 – 2/8/16

Trello 2.1-2.8 (1)

Coolest Facts for 2/1-2/8/2016

  • Media: World’s richest 62 people own as much wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorer half of the global population (Times magazine)
  • Culture: My soul sister, 21 year old woman Zenith Irfan, redefines stereotypes by taking a motorcycle trip around Pakistan (PRI podcast episode I learned about from my friend Michelle– http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-02-04/young-pakistani-woman-hopes-her-soul-searching-motorcycle-trip-will-inspire)
  • Staggering realizations: Some women in this country will work for free until April 8th this year, because they only get paid 77 cents to man’s $1.


Political Bickering over Immigration

Immigration has been cornerstone of policy debate for decades.  The debate has focused on many different aspects of the reform, but the U.S. economy and border protection have always been at the epicenter of the discussion.  As expected, policy approach for the immigration reform is divided across party lines. Democrats emphasize economic benefits of a larger labor market and the right for a path to citizenship for immigrants residing in the country while republicans focus on border security and amnesty threats.

The argument put forth by the Democratic Party is a moral one, based on the United States immigration heritage.  President Obama and his party emphasize the need for a road to citizenship for undocumented residents who currently live in the shadows of our society.  The President argues that these residents have contributed to the U.S. economy and have placed roots and families in this country, yet the United States has not rewarded their hard work and dedication.  On the contrary, the current immigration system has left 11 million undocumented residents living in fear of our institutions. The President especially focuses on the children of undocumented parents (‘The Dreamers’) who were brought to this country through no fault of their own. To be clear, this liberal view does not neglect the need for undocumented individuals to admit they have broken the law; on the contrary, it assumes immigrants will be required to pay adequate penalty in fees and taxes for their illegal stay in the United States.

Republicans, on the other hand, are fearful of setting a precedence for lax immigration reform, which, they argue, will encourage illegal immigration in the future and put in question the security of our borders.  The republican view also brings to question the effect on the economy of the 11 million illegal residents who would become citizens (and therefore would be entitled to all government and social services) as a result of Obama’s reform.  Consequently, policy aspects discussed by republicans focus mostly on work permits for illegal immigrants, rather than options for citizenship.

While most politicians agree that the current immigration system is broken, their idea for the reform is different.  The Democratic Party supports an ‘open door’ immigration reform that offers a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants while republicans focus on employment permits, arguing that illegal immigrants have broken the law and should not be awarded a citizenship.  Until common language is agreed on and consensus reached, the battle for immigration will continue, with no productive implications for residents living in the shadows of illegal immigration.

American Lobby

First, some facts:

In 2013 there were 12,341 registered lobbyists who have actively lobbied.  Total lobbying spending: $3.23 billion.  Top industries: Pharmaceuticals/Health Products, Insurance, Oil & Gas, Computes/Internet and Electric Utilities.  Top spenders included: US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Realtors, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Northrop Grumman, National  Cable & Telecommunications Association.  (Comcast Corp, AT&T, Google and Verizon made it to the top 20).


Lobbyists represent special interests at all levels of the government.  Their practice is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution (freedom of expression and the right to petition). Lobbyists have to register with the Secretary of the U.S. Senate and the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Theoretically, the role of lobbyists in the legislature is a positive one; they are experts in the field they represent.  The idea is right—policymakers can’t understand every industry and the extent of their decisions on those industries.  Anyone can lobby (read: try to influence) the government, even ordinary citizens.  In fact, citizens often try to influence decisions in Washington by sending letters about a particular issue.

However, the right idea has evolved into a practice of lavish parties, fundraisers and 3 lbs. lobsters, which just isn’t so right.

To me, lobbyists represent one side of the story (usually, the richer side of the story).  In turn, their influence leads to poor understanding of industries and poor policymaking.  The government should obtain their expertise from unbiased sources, not a registered rich elite.

Apparently, lobbying and bribing are two different things.  The only one obvious difference seems to be that one is legal and the other one is not.  But what do I know, apparently lobbying in the European Union is in no consistent manner regulated or controlled, at all.

A real modern Robin Hood? Try Mojica

Prisoner to politician is not an unusual path for opposition leaders in times of political struggle. Recent examples include Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine and former President Walesa in Poland. Uruguayan President Jose Mujica (‘Pepe’ to his people) has a similar story with an uncommon (in politics) twist of… integrity. Known as the poorest president of the world, his story of patriotism and compassion for the poor moves anyone in the public service.

Inspired by Marxist views, Mujica grew up in poverty and became inspired by the Cuban Revolution. He led a guerrilla movement (Tupamaros) that was best known for their practice of stealing food and money from the wealthy and distributing it to the poor. Captured by the military regime of the 1970s, he was shot six times, tortured and jailed for 14 years. He was released under the ‘Ley de Amnestia’ of 1985.

Today, he drives a 1987 Volkswagen, lives on a farm and gives 90% of his income to charity. His humble behavior resembles that of a small town mayor, while his national policy reforms surpass the most progressive leaders in the world (i.e. legalization of marijuana).

Inspiration: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/05/12/311846447/meet-uruguays-pot-legalizing-vw-driving-sandal-wearing-president