Global News: December 2006 Archives

Phyllis Schlafly's latest column makes the claim that high-tech companies are engaged in a conspiracy against American workers by pushing the Federal government to allow more engineers to come to America under H-1B visas.

Like all visas, the H-1B visa is temporary permission to be in the United States, specifically to allow college-educated foreign nationals to work in "specialty occupations" such as engineering and architecture. I've worked side-by-side with engineers who are here on H-1B visas, and while I'm not prepared, with an early morning ahead of me, to make a detailed case in support of the program, I do want to respond to some of the things she says.

First, Schlafly denies that there is a labor shortage in high-tech fields and claims to know the hidden reasons behind the push to double the number of H-1B visas:

Three reasons motivate the tech giants to use their political clout and political action committee contributions to increase H-1Bs:

1. Cost-cutting: H-1B visa holders are paid much less than Americans.

2. The influx of H-1B visa holders depresses the "prevailing wage" for all computer techies and engineers.

3. The hiring of H-1B visa holders prevents potential competition from Americans who might choose to work for other firms or start companies of their own.

Reason 1 is false, and reasons 2 and 3 are dependent on reason 1. H-1B visa holders must, by law, be paid comparably to or better than American workers. Companies have to post notices listing the salary, job title, and experience of H-1B employees to allow other employees to verify that the visa holders aren't driving out American workers by accepting a low wage. The companies I have worked for have complied with this requirement. She goes on:

H-1B visas are not for entrepreneurs or executives. They are for employees who are tied to the company that imports them, much like indentured servants, and are supposed to depart from the United States after a few years....

H-1B visa holders cut industry costs but do nothing to improve innovation. Most innovators are Americans, and the successful immigrant entrepreneurs the industry brags about did not come here as guest workers on H-1B visas, but entered as children and were educated in U.S. universities.

Most H-1B visa holders I've known are using it as a first step to qualify for permanent residency and eventual citizenship. And the companies I've worked for are not going to Bangalore and Karachi to scout for employees, the way baseball scouts scour San Pedro de Macoris for new talent. Instead, international students who are earning advanced degrees at places like Oklahoma State University or the University of Kansas look for job opportunities that will allow them to work in their profession and stay in the US. They are not tethered to the first employer that hires them.

They may not all be entrepreneurs, but many of them are innovators. The hydraulic digital control loading and motion system -- the system that provides realistic control feel and motion sensations for pilot training -- used on hundreds of FlightSafety simulators worldwide was developed here in Broken Arrow by a Jordanian with a doctorate from OSU, assisted by a Finn who was a grad student at OSU at the time. The development of the new all-electrical version of the same system was led by the same Jordanian national, with the help of both Americans and other foreign nationals. Their contributions have made FlightSafety a world leader in the manufacture of flight simulators, enabling it to compete effectively against rivals based in Canada and France.

And these engineers are not going to steal our technology and take it back home. They love living here, their kids have grown up here, and they are here to stay. Even if they wanted to go back, "back home" doesn't have the capital to provide a place where they can do the challenging level of work they can do here.

This statement of Schlafly's just floored me:

Much of the Compete America discussion involved blaming the U.S. educational system and the fact that fewer U.S. students are going into math and computer sciences. Yes, U.S. students have figured out that our engineers have a bleak employment future because of insourcing foreigners and outsourcing manufacturing.

Isn't this the same Phyllis Schlafly who has been telling us what a bad job our schools are doing of educating our children in the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic? So now falling math scores and a decline of interest in the hard sciences are not the fault of goofy curriculum fads and too much focus on social engineering, but because engineers have a "bleak employment future"?

One of the things that makes America strong and prosperous is that the smartest people in the world want to live here, because we offer freedom, peace, and prosperity. When they come, they bring their own brains and then they sire brainy children. They buy homes here and spend their high salaries in our malls and supermarkets. They pay the same taxes (or even more) than we pay. They are building the intellectual capital of the United States of America. It's not so good for their home countries, but it's great for us.

Two more points, and then I really should call it a night:

(1) At a time when states like Oklahoma worry about a brain drain to places like Silicon Valley, talented foreign engineers help to fill the gap here in the heartland, as they're often happy just to be in the United States. Many find the slower pace and more conservative way of life here more like home and better for raising a family.

(2) Schlafly seems to think that engineering degree programs and computer programming courses automatically churn out the kind of engineers American companies need, and as long as Americans get that piece of paper they ought to be able to get a job. We do have to have a certain number of people who can do basic programming and simple engineering, but to stay ahead of the rest of the world we need people with agility of mind, with the ability to solve problems that haven't been solved before. That's a gift, a gift which can be refined and improved by education, but which can't be educated into existence. We can use all of those minds that we can find anywhere in the world.

Mosque of peace?

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This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is about Jamal Miftah and his treatment by leaders of the Islamic Society of Tulsa's al-Salam ("Peace") mosque over his guest editorial in the October 29 Tulsa World. (Here's a link to the text of his op-ed.)

The same issue has another letter from Miftah, in which he makes the case from the Qu'ran that the Holy Land belongs to the Jews, and that means that Palestinian attacks on Israel cannot be justified as jihad. (It's on a page with the rest of the letters, so scroll down once you click to it.)

In the story I link to, a blog and web community for progressive Muslim activism. Ali Eteraz interviewed Jamal Miftah and has written several more articles about the situation. Another site of interest is the Free Muslims Coalition:

The Free Muslims Coalition is a nonprofit organization made up of American Muslims and Arabs of all backgrounds who feel that religious violence and terrorism have not been fully rejected by the Muslim community in the post 9-11 era.

The Free Muslims was created to eliminate broad base support for Islamic extremism and terrorism and to strengthen secular democratic institutions in the Middle East and the Muslim World by supporting Islamic reformation efforts.

The Free Muslims promotes a modern secular interpretation of Islam which is peace-loving, democracy-loving and compatible with other faiths and beliefs. The Free Muslims' efforts are unique; it is the only mainstream American-Muslim organization willing to attack extremism and terrorism unambiguously. Unfortunately most other Muslim leaders believe that in terrorist organizations, the end justifies the means.

Here's an interesting piece from their blog about the two faces of Saudi Arabia -- is it friend or foe to the West?

So is the Saudi Arabian government a friend of the United States or does Saudi Arabia propagate hate and intolerance among American Muslims and Muslims world wide? The answer to both of these questions is yes. The Saudi Arabian government is a great friend to the United States and at the same time many in Saudi Arabia, including some who receive government funding propagate hate and intolerance against anyone who does not share their Wahabi inspired ideology. The answers to both these questions may seem inconsistent and counter intuitive but these seemingly inconsistent answers reflect the complexity of modern day Saudi Arabia.

By now everyone has heard of the historic compact between the Saudi Royal Family and the fanatical Wahabi religious establishment. According to this agreement, the Saudi Royal family deals exclusively with matters of state while the Wahabi religious establishment deals with issues of morality which includes substantial control over the education system and the substantive interpretation of Islam. It is this division of power that produces the two faces of Saudi Arabia.

As long as my column is this week, I've got much more material that I didn't use, particularly from my interview with Jamal Miftah, and I have more research to do on Saudi funding of Islamic organizations in the West. I hope to get this material out here on BatesLine or in UTW.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Global News category from December 2006.

Global News: November 2006 is the previous archive.

Global News: January 2007 is the next archive.

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