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  • desi3933
    08-05 03:33 PM

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  • Macaca
    02-27 07:18 PM
    Democrats Should Read Kipling ( By WILLIAM KRISTOL | NYT, Feb 18

    Browsing through a used-book store Friday � in the Milwaukee airport, of all places � I came across a 1981 paperback collection of George Orwell�s essays. That�s how I happened to reread his 1942 essay on Rudyard Kipling. Given Orwell�s perpetual ability to elucidate, one shouldn�t be surprised that its argument would shed light� or so it seems to me � on contemporary American politics.

    Orwell offers a highly qualified appreciation of the then (and still) politically incorrect Kipling. He insists that one must admit that Kipling is �morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting.� Still, he says, Kipling �survives while the refined people who have sniggered at him seem to wear so badly.� One reason for this is that Kipling �identified himself with the ruling power and not with the opposition.�

    �In a gifted writer,� Orwell remarks, �this seems to us strange and even disgusting, but it did have the advantage of giving Kipling a certain grip on reality.� Kipling �at least tried to imagine what action and responsibility are like.� For, Orwell explains, �The ruling power is always faced with the question, �In such and such circumstances, what would you do?�, whereas the opposition is not obliged to take responsibility or make any real decisions.� Furthermore, �where it is a permanent and pensioned opposition, as in England, the quality of its thought deteriorates accordingly.�

    If I may vulgarize the implications of Orwell�s argument a bit: substitute Republicans for Kipling and Democrats for the opposition, and you have a good synopsis of the current state of American politics.

    Having controlled the executive branch for 28 of the last 40 years, Republicans tend to think of themselves as the governing party � with some of the arrogance and narrowness that implies, but also with a sense of real-world responsibility. Many Democrats, on the other hand, no longer even try to imagine what action and responsibility are like. They do, however, enjoy the support of many refined people who snigger at the sometimes inept and ungraceful ways of the Republicans. (And, if I may say so, the quality of thought of the Democrats� academic and media supporters � a permanent and, as it were, pensioned opposition � seems to me to have deteriorated as Orwell would have predicted.)

    The Democrats won control of Congress in November 2006, thanks in large part to President Bush�s failures in Iraq. Then they spent the next year seeking to ensure that he couldn�t turn those failures around. Democrats were �against� the war and the surge. That was the sum and substance of their policy. They refused to acknowledge changing facts on the ground, or to debate the real consequences of withdrawal and defeat. It was, they apparently thought, the Bush administration, not America, that would lose. The 2007 Congressional Democrats showed what it means to be an opposition party that takes no responsibility for the consequences of the choices involved in governing.

    So it continues in 2008. The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael Hayden, the director of national intelligence, the retired Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, and the attorney general, the former federal judge Michael Mukasey, are highly respected and nonpolitical officials with little in the way of partisanship or ideology in their backgrounds. They have all testified, under oath, that in their judgments, certain legal arrangements regarding surveillance abilities are important to our national security.

    Not all Democrats have refused to listen. In the Senate, Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, took seriously the job of updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in light of technological changes and court decisions. His committee produced an impressive report, and, by a vote of 13 to 2, sent legislation to the floor that would have preserved the government�s ability to listen to foreign phone calls and read foreign e-mail that passed through switching points in the United States. The full Senate passed the legislation easily � with a majority of Democrats voting against, and Senators Obama and Clinton indicating their opposition from the campaign trail.

    But the Democratic House leadership balked � particularly at the notion of protecting from lawsuits companies that had cooperated with the government in surveillance efforts after Sept. 11. Director McConnell repeatedly explained that such private-sector cooperation is critical to antiterror efforts, in surveillance and other areas, and that it requires the assurance of immunity. �Your country is at risk if we can�t get the private sector to help us, and that is atrophying all the time,� he said. But for the House Democrats, sticking it to the phone companies � and to the Bush administration � seemed to outweigh erring on the side of safety in defending the country.

    To govern is to choose, a Democrat of an earlier generation, John F. Kennedy, famously remarked. Is this generation of Democrats capable of governing?

    An Old Hand Goads Democrats to Get Tough on Ethics ( By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane | WP, Feb 21

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  • Macaca
    05-18 05:15 PM
    How the Middle East’s uprisings affect China’s foreign relations ( By Shi Yinhong | Renmin University of China

    The recent uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East have important consequences for China’s foreign relations.

    With Washington becoming increasingly preoccupied with the Middle East, it will have less opportunity to focus on China. At the same time, the return of a US policy aimed at promoting democratisation could have a destabilising effect on Sino–US relations. China might reassess how it shapes its relations with highly repressive regimes, and it will have to take into account that Western countries are now better positioned to push resolutions aimed at intervening in certain types of countries through the UN Security Council (UNSC).

    The uprisings run counter to assumptions that the predominant struggle in Middle Eastern politics is between US-backed authoritarian regimes and Islamic fundamentalism. Instead, the recent revolts involve a third force — the ‘urban underdogs.’ These popular movements are largely disorganised, have no leaders and are not based on clearly defined ideas. The uprisings are the outcome of poor economic conditions, the authoritarian suppression of fundamental liberties, and the highly corrupt nature of the ruling elite. Situational factors also play a role: the spill over effect from revolts in one country to the next; the availability of modern forms of communication to enable mobilisation; the use of symbolic places for mass gathering (in the case of Tahrir Square in Cairo); overwhelming attention from the West; and the policy inclinations of the US and European governments.

    As the Arab world transforms, becoming more tumultuous along the way, Washington will face new dilemmas, and the fight against terror will no longer be overwhelmingly dominant. ‘Pushing democracy’ has returned as a major foreign policy theme in Washington as the uprisings partially restore the West’s self-confidence, battered from the financial crisis.

    All of this has major implications for China’s foreign relations. Washington’s deeper involvement in the Middle East is favourable to Beijing, reducing Washington’s ability to place focused attention and pressure on China. But, conversely, the partial return of the push for democracy is not to the benefit of China or stable Sino–US relations. China may need to reconsider its quite amicable relationships with regimes that are repressive, corrupt and have little popular support. Beijing is insufficiently prepared to deal with dramatic political changes in such countries, clearly shown in the past when China’s relations with Iran (1979), Romania (1989) and Serbia (1999) were severely affected. This happened more recently in Zimbabwe, and now also in Egypt and Sudan. Other countries where similar developments could take place are Burma, North Korea and perhaps also Pakistan.

    The Middle Eastern turmoil is also relevant to China’s domestic stability. Some activists in and outside China are hoping for a ‘Chinese jasmine revolution.’ Beijing overreacted somewhat, particularly in the early days, by taking strong domestic security precautions despite no signs of widespread activism in China. This may have been the activists’ immediate purpose: to embarrass the Chinese government and to show its lack of self-confidence to the world and the Chinese public. This in turn could make Beijing more hesitant about deepening economic and political reforms.

    The uprisings are also affecting China’s international position with regard to the issue of intervention. Beijing probably believed they had no choice other than to allow the UNSC to adopt Resolution 1973, which gave the international community the authority to establish a no-fly zone over Libya. It was clear that the US, France and the UK were resolutely determined to launch a military strike, and certain Arab and African countries supported and even intended to join the intervention. Had Beijing vetoed the resolution, China’s relations with both the West and the Arab countries involved would have been severely strained — and the West would have still launched their attack anyway. This was a hard decision for China: Resolution 1973 could form a dangerous precedent in international law, as previous norms have been revised in favour of armed intervention in a domestic conflict. In the future, the US and its allies might reapply this, potentially to the detriment of China’s interests.

    China’s hope for stable Sino–US relations following the state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to the US in January 2011, and China’s important relationship with Saudi Arabia, had induced Beijing to abstain from using its veto in the UNSC. Moreover, if a similar case does occur in the foreseeable future, it seems rather unlikely that China or Russia would use their veto in order to protect the principle of non-interference. Consequently, the US and its associates in the UNSC might very well see an opportunity to act resolutely in the coming years, with the aim of effecting intervention in other countries, comparable to Libya, a country first of all not allied with them and far distant from them. This is an opportunity that has likely not escaped Washington’s attention.

    Shi Yinhong is Professor of International Relations and Director of the Center on American Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing

    Ferguson vs. Kissinger on the future of China, and what it means for the rest of us ( hat_it_means_for_the_rest_of_us) By Thomas E. Ricks | Foreign Policy
    Getting China Ready to Go Abroad
    Companies need to revamp management structures and customer service before they can compete globally. (
    By KEVIN TAYLOR | Wall Street Journal
    Chinese Spreading Wealth Make Vancouver Homes Pricier Than NYC ( By Yu and Donville | Bloomberg
    China shafts Philippine mines ( By Joel D Adriano | Asia Times
    Is This the China that Can't? ( By John Berthelsen | Asia Sentinel
    China's Bold New Plan for Economic Domination ( By Abraham & Ludlow | The Atlantic

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  • irock
    07-14 02:17 PM
    couldn't say it better.

    About same time last year we had different "schism" on these forums: July 2007 filers with approved labor who could file their 485s Vs those with older PDs but unfortunately stuck in BECs. Most of Eb3s who are outraged today are July 2007 filers. Any guesses how many of them requested BEC victims back then "to be happy" for others and not rock the boat?

    The unfortunate fact is that although everyone here is convinced of their moral high ground it is nothing more than self-preservation at the end. If it was just that it would still be fine (human nature) but still more unfortunate is the fact that we as a group never get this riled up - except few notable and respected exceptions - as long as everyone is equally miserable. Only if we had so much participation in all action items (admin fixes, house bills, funding drive etc.)...


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  • ghost
    07-09 08:56 PM
    Really, H1B program and employment based greencard program, that brings professionals in skilled occupation into this country to fill a shortage of skilled workers has been vindicated beyond limit. And they keep beating the same drums. "They steal jobs". "They drive down wages". They make good soundbites. And they make good quotes for Lou Dobbs.

    Could not resist from posting this:

    One more example of Lou's extreme ideology.

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  • gk_2000
    07-30 03:59 PM
    I emailed Sen Hutchinson from Texas to vote NO for the DREAM Act and I called it "Organized and Controlled" amnesty as illegal kids who will get GCs will be able to sponsor their illegal parents for GC after 4 years.

    All the illegals who have kids in college will get get GC's in 4 yrs after their kids pass college while EB3 has to wait for 20 years. This is a joke. Look at the reply from the Sen below:

    On March 26, 2009, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced S. 729, the DREAM Act, which would allow states to offer in-state tuition rates to long-term resident immigrant students. The bill also would allow certain long-term residents who entered the United States as children to have their immigration or residency status adjusted to conditional permanent resident status or permanent resident status. The DREAM Act has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, on which I do not serve. Should S. 729 come before the full Senate, you may be certain I will keep your views in mind.

    Great work..

    Reminds me of my reply from Barbara Boxer:

    Dear Mr. xxxx:

    Thank you for taking the time to write and share your views with me. Your comments will help me continue to represent you and other Californians to the best of my ability. Be assured that I will keep your views in mind as the Senate considers legislation on this or similar issues.

    If you would like additional information about my work in the U.S. Senate, I invite you to visit my website, Official Website of U.S Senator Barbara Boxer: Home ( From this site, you can send a message to me about current events or pending legislation, access my statements and press releases, request copies of legislation and government reports, and receive detailed information about the many services that I am privileged to provide for my constituents. You may also wish to visit THOMAS (Library of Congress) ( to track current and past federal legislation.

    Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I appreciate hearing from you.

    Barbara Boxer
    United States Senator


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  • sanju
    05-16 11:10 PM
    Infact pro immigrants and Corporations are arguing that shortage of skills and they are not displacing US workers. If that is true why cannot they accept the conditions that they will not displace US workers. If you accept that you do not mind replacing some american workers also then all of your points are valid. Then you can lobby for unlimited H1b and Unlimited greencards. You will never get American people support for that. But we all are lobbying based on the shortage of skills. So we should be ready to reduce H1b when demand goes down or accept the conditions for non displacement of US workers. Right now demand is more so US will absorb even 200K H1bs. But you need to look what happened between 2000 to 2003. So many layoffs. Part of reason was economy but other part was due to H1b and outsourcing

    The greater danger in life is not that we set our aims too high and fail, but we set them too low and still do – Michelangelo

    Your aim is to not get fired. You want to buy an insurance policy to a secure job as if you are the only one entitled to have a job. This is a lower aim so you are bound to fail i.e. lose your job.

    And how do you define “replacing some American workers”. There is a plant in Yuma, AZ manufacturing aircrafts for Kingfisher airlines in India. Doesn’t this mean that someone in India is being replaced by American worker???? Maybe we should stop all trade and we should have all needs of one country fill within its borders. Maybe we should say – from now on no one is going to do any business, collaboration, partnership and place orders to companies outside of the borders of the country where you live.

    Then you can lobby for unlimited H1b and Unlimited greencards.

    The best argument of restrictionist is either talk about no H-1B or green cards or talk about unlimited H-1Bs and green cards as if the extremes make the only reality in this world. Have you ever seen numbers like 290,000 or maybe 450,000. These are called whole numbers in mathematics and reside somewhere between ZERO and INFINITY/UNLIMITED.

    You will never get American people support for that.

    Stop bickering in the name of American people. More than 99% Americans don’t even know what is H-1B visa or employment based green card. And one more thing, people’s opinion is the most foolish thing to look at when making a decision. Do you remember the % of people in favor of Iraq war in 2002? - More than 70%
    Do you know how many people are in favor of pulling out of Iraq now, putting all the blame on the Administration? – around 70%
    Do you know the % of “American people” saying that they screwed up by supporting the war in 2002? – 0%
    No one would come out to say the nations and millions of people got screwed up due to "MY" twisted ideology in 2002. So let’s keep this argument of “American People” out of this debate.

    I will accept that 25 year old H1b from India can work 15 to 18 hours a day but same kind of productivity cannot get with 40 year old person with family of 2 kids whether Indian or American. Is it right to replace those person with 25 year old person. If that is the case then you will be replaced by youger H1b person in future.

    In free market and capitalist economy, the measure of productivity doesn’t come from some lawmaker who is out of sink with reality or from the ideology of orgs like IEEE-USA or from posters like you. The measure of productivity comes from the employers and the companies. If employees on H-1Bs were unproductive then why are employers asking for more H-1Bs. I am sure my employer is not in love with me to give me check every two weeks. And if that is how it works best for the competitiveness and for the economy, society and the nation, then so be it. That is the reason why this society is more advanced. You may be afraid of such a situations/competitions but I am not scared of a scenario where someone who can perform a better job, either a citizen or someone on H-1B, takes my job. And I assure you that I won't whine about it. But that is ok, your way of thinking is all based on the premises that every one out is going to get you and some how you have to eliminate this competition at the soonest.

    My view is clear. There should be H1b numbers based on demand and supply. If they cannot come with correct numbers then restriction of non displacement of US workers should be there.

    You have used the argument of abuse, productivity, economy, outsourcing, country of origin and the color of Dick Morris’ underwear - to argue against H-1B and against green card number increase. Time and again I have said that this is not about H-1B. We, the people on this forum, want to discuss about GREEN CARD BACKLOGS. But you want to keep the discussion away from green card backlog and want the discussion be in the arena of H-1B. I must share with you that I have received atleast 7 different private messages telling me to “not waste my time with idiot like yourself”.
    Like you ass, you keep your views and your opinions with yourself. Don’t poke your ass and your views into a place where they don’t belong. And please stop worrying about being displaced by someone else on H-1B. You have not even gotten green card and you have already turned into a restrictionist. Please wait for sometime and there will be enough time and opportunity for you to join the ranks of IEEE-USA. This makes me to think that there are 2 possibilities:
    1.) You have very low self esteem and you have a low opinion about yourself. Thus you are scared of the competition
    2.) You are not capable enough or you are not technically sound to compete with others around you. And just like IEEE-USA, you are looking for ways to eliminate your future probable competition using words/phrases like “displacement of US workers”.

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  • lfwf
    08-06 03:45 PM
    According to you A acquires skills over a period of time and so does a person who went for higher education and is EB2. You also say that if there was no porting, A has a PD of 2002 (in EB3) and B has a PD of 2005 (in EB2), then they are almost in the same position.

    At this point both of us agree that A and B are equal, right?

    If they both are EQUAL, then can you guarantee that both PDs will move at the same rate?. If A�s PD becomes unavailable and B�s become current. B will get GC faster than A even though both were equal (from your logic). Is this fair, then?

    No one can guarantee that. and that is the whole concept of "preference categories" . So now its ok for A to jump to EB2 and leapfrog everyone with his/her 2002 PD? Does 5 years of work have that much value? He/She would be ahead of 2003 EB2 filers that may have been working on degrees since 1999. That's ok by you? The faster movement of EB2 makes up for the years of education. I say, by all means BS+5 shoudl file EB2, I just don't agree with the porting. That PD was for an entirely different skill set and job. I know its the law. I still disagree. Can do that last I knew :-)


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  • bobzibub
    04-07 11:56 AM
    One part of the idiocy of this bill is that it places more burden upon the institutions where they cannot handle the work they have now.

    If one has to apply for a labour cert every time you want an extension of an H1b, it will become unworkable. The main reasons for extending H1bs is because the DOL and USCIS take so long to process (or are not allowed to process) their existing workload today, including labour certs. This appears to compound an existing problem.

    It is unfortunate that consulting is barred too. Consulting is a good gig. My main goal for going through this silly green card process is simply to consult individually.

    If they actually addressed the problem, such as making the labor cert process simply a web site with a "Submit" button, then it would be an actual improvement. Is it really that difficult to compare a wage rate doing a certain job in a certain location with the market rate? Can't you do that now on Monster or Dice?

    Remember the proportion of applications rejected are dwarfed by the proportion of applications that are simply abandoned. Probably due to the time it takes for them to get around processing them using their super-modern VDT technology.

    Could we please *at least* have an exemption for technical consulting to the DOL and USCIS? They really could use some professional assistance.

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  • desi3933
    08-06 02:00 PM
    red dot for this post.... are you nuts or someone touched a raw nerve or you have lots of spare time to create controversies:confused:

    Just gave you a green.

    Have a good day!


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  • h1techSlave
    04-07 04:43 PM
    My arguments apply to people with a single home to worry about. People who want to move from apartment into a house of their own.

    Managing a rental property (when you have more than one house, you have to rent the other houses), is a totally different ball game. I have no personal experience with that field, but am actively considering it. It doesn't cost you much money to think/study about it, right?:)

    he is /was talking about buying 2-3 houses. BTW that was then (2001) and this is now ..between then and now ..millions and millions of houses have been built and given to people with zero / no / absolutely no credit / downpayment. BTW I buy stocks when it is low and sell when it is high ..buying 2 houses or even 1 house in place like california a big big thing (since no lender will give you loan unless you put in atleast 10 % ( 15 % - if you want to avoid PMI) ..just for argument sake ..say even if a person buy 3 adjacent (if u are lucky) houses (not townhomes) you then buy 3 mowers or move them from 1 yard to another ? 3 bills ..prop / hoa / utilities is a nightmare to even think about it ..and more so when you read articles from experts and economists who say prices will fall 15% more is to have diversified portfolio with minimum expense (3 homes is big big expense)

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  • VivekAhuja
    09-29 01:50 PM
    All democratic party candidates and supporters MUST BE rejected and voted out from all elections - Prez, state and local elections. These people are socialist uneducated fools. All they want to do it take your money and distribute it to the illegal aliens as WIC coupons, food coupons, free health, free schools, free tution and the list goes on. Let's elect the republicans!!
    I give a damn who the candidates are - remember, a president only signs a bill into law or vetos it, he has no other power.


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  • axp817
    03-25 12:07 PM
    Every point you make about the USCIS exercising extreme scrutiny for consulting/staffing company H-1Bs makes sense to me.

    Which probably means that we can expect to see almost zero approvals this year for H-1B applications filed by small consulting companies (I had to add 'small' so as to not include the big 5 types in this group), would you agree?

    And I assume the same applies to H-1B renewals as well.

    That being said, do you think AC-21 job switches (on EAD) to small(er) consulting companies will also be dealt with the same type of scrutiny (as H-1Bs)?


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  • pcs
    05-16 12:54 PM
    Free market economy is the best for mankind. As long as nobody steals, laws should not bind people's imagination & creativity.

    Hiring of H1-B by "consultencies" is like stocking goods in a shop before you open for business. This is an acceptable model for business in any society. I support the process of hiring H1-B by bodyshoppers, BUT would like Congress to implement some guidelines by which H1-B should have more dignified life & freedom to work like.... unlimited freedonm of job changes of employers within 6 years or valid VISA period. Self administration / support of green card process. This single step will cure all evils.

    By the way, I am not an IT guy / bodyshopper


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  • Refugee_New
    01-06 01:00 PM
    I agree with you in principle..
    but then again several thread of same sort have been running for weeks with mostly flaming content while being blessed by admins and senior members.. what makes one conflict employment related and another not much so?

    If this forum is strictly for immigration, then we wouldn't have allowed members to discuss anything other than immigration.

    But IV allowed its members to discuss, degrade, humiliate muslims and Islam. Why didn't they stop it then?

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  • GCOP
    07-14 10:30 AM
    I already mailed the Letter to Visa Section, DOS with a request to allocate some Visa Number to EB-3(India) to help to reduce the wait time. Did not mention about EB-2 or any other thing. Just a Request for EB-3 (India).


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  • nk2006
    03-24 12:53 PM
    Do you guys look around at all of immigration.

    EB people are generally the only non immigrant to immigratn class of people who are allowed to stay in USA while they wait for greencard.

    Almost all others have to wait outside USA for many years and cannot take benefit of what this country has to offer.
    You are wrong - many other categories are allowed to be adjusted to the status while being in the country. For example look into latest CSR report - you will know that in year 2007, USCIS adjusted 621,047 foreign nationals to LPR status among this number EB's are only around 160K remaining or in other statuses.

    You could be a phillipino brother/sister of US citizen and wait 23 years to get your number called.

    You could be here from Liberia as temporary resident for the last 20 years and have to keep getting extensions for temporary status and one day it gets taken away from you.

    Sorry to tell you but the way you guys define pain is not pain when it comes to most immigration matters when compares overall.

    The family based immigration is important and can be very painful for some cases - like spouses and sons/daughters - and that is why congress has correctly amended laws to make these cases as exceptions (there are no numerical limits and also no country quotas). That was a correct thing to do and any wait in those relationships is much more painful. But for other categories in the family based immigration - like the cases you gave as examples (like brother and sister of a US citizen) - I dont really consider them as more painful than ours actually I dont even consider them as even comparable to ours. I dont know your case, but I came to US in late nineties with couple graduage degrees and acquired one more here - started my career here and justifiably feel that I considerably contributed to success of atleast one company which grew to 200+ people at one point. I emotionally and careerwise invested here. Now after 10+ years still no greencard and know how many career moves I had to let go becuase of this. While the decision to pursue the greencard is mine and I am not trying to blame anyone here, I dont think that our pain is less than someone who is "waiting" because his brother or sister sponsored him/her doesnt make sense (note: well I do have brother and sister and cherish those relationships but expecting a lifelong/career move based on their location of living is not there; and even if there is an expectation I wont consider that even comparable to someone living there and letting go many opportunities despite of talent just because of administrative issues).

    You are right - things are getting worse - there may not be any congressional activity on this issue for sometime and if USCIS try to screw us in other ways - then its going to be a rough ride. But the EB community activism (congressional or otherwise) will actually help in at least staying things more fair towards us.

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  • GCKaMaara
    01-09 01:42 PM
    refugee, you must learn a few thing from alisa. alisa is a pakistani and look at his well-structured arguments. In contrast, look at you and your abusive language. When will guys you (buddyinfo, acool) learn to show restraint and be intellectuals instead of howling like mad dogs?

    Well said!

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  • vdixit
    12-31 02:06 PM
    No war yet!! Good think I wasnt holding my breath or anything. All you war mongering folk must be dissapointed.

    07-07 09:50 PM
    1) Contact Senator office. Which you did!! But have you called all the Senator from your state. Keep matter confidential between Senator office.

    2) Which center has your application? If it is Nebraska, then you can talk to an Immigration Officer by dialing these sequence of number

    1-800-375-5283, press 1..2..2..6..1..your case number..1..
    wait for the automated status message then. select.3..4

    3) Take Infopass appointment to meet an officer. Take all immigration paper. Tell your problem. Hope you get some help

    4) Call customer service - 1-800-375-5283 and talk to rep.

    Best of luck

    12-30 06:57 PM
    A Bridge to a Love for Democracy ( By RICHARD BERNSTEIN | New York Times

    I write this, my last �Letter from America,� looking out my window at my snowy Brooklyn neighborhood. It�s midmorning Wednesday, three days after our Christmas weekend blizzard, and my street has yet to receive the benefit of a snowplow.

    Cars, as the prize-winning novelist Saul Bellow once put it, are impounded by the drifts. The city is still partly paralyzed, pleasantly, in a way. There�s nothing like a heavy snowfall to give one a bit of a respite, to turn the ordinary, like walking to the corner store, into a little adventure. And there�s the countrylike stillness of this city block filled with snow, absent the usual traffic.

    It seems a good moment, in other words, to pause and reflect. My thoughts turn to a very unsnowy moment in 1972 in a village called Lowu, which was the last village in the Crown Colony of Hong Kong just before the border with China. I was a graduate student in Chinese history and a stringer for The Washington Post going to the territory of Chairman Mao for the first time in my life.

    There was a short trestle bridge at Lowu. I�ve often wondered if it�s still there. The Union Jack flew at one side, the red flag of the People�s Republic of China at the other. The border town on the other side was a little fishing and farming village called Shenzhen, now a modern city of skyscrapers and shopping malls, an emblem of China�s amazing economic development.

    I was favorably disposed toward China as I strode across the bridge, ready to experience the radical egalitarianism of the Maoist revolution, which was generally viewed with favor among American graduate students specializing in China. I was a member of a group, moreover, that partook of a certain leftist orthodoxy. We had learned the �Internationale� so we could sing it for our revolutionary hosts. We were supposed to return to America and report the truth about China, which was, essentially, that it was the future and it worked.

    But it took only about 24 hours on that first journey to China for me utterly to change my mind and, indeed, to become a lifelong anti-Communist and devotee of liberal democracy, to find great wisdom in Winston Churchill�s dictum about its being the worst of all systems except for all the others.

    The noxious cult of personality around Mao was the first thing that effected my political transformation. But deeper than that was the pervasive odor of orthodoxy, the uniformity of it all, the mandatory pious declarations, which, if they were believed, were ridiculous, and, if they were forced, illustrated the terror of it all.

    Many of my American fellow travelers felt very differently about this. In my intense discomfort, I found myself in a sort of Menshevik minority, criticized by the majority for what I remember one person calling my �Darkness at Noon� mentality.

    Still, that discomfort, and the unwillingness of most of the others to experience it, has informed my work as a journalist ever since. I have to admit it: When I went to China as a correspondent for Time magazine seven years after that first trip, my impulse was not so much to look with fresh and impartial eyes on a country that had just opened up to a degree of foreign inspection as it was to expose what I felt many Americans were missing in those rhapsodic days. Namely, that the country under Mao and after belonged to the 20th-century totalitarian mainstream � that it was a poverty-stricken police state and not a viable alternative to Western ways.

    There was a degree of bias in this view, and it led me into some mistakes. On China, in particular, I was perhaps focused too single-mindedly on its totalitarian elements so that I underplayed other elements, notably the speed of change in China, and perhaps even the unsuitableness of many Western democratic ways for a country so essentially backward.

    And perhaps, too, I extrapolated a bit too much from the China experience when it came to other places and other times. When I covered academic life in the United States, for example, I tended to see vicious Maoist Red Guards in the phenomenon of what came to be called political correctness, and, while I don�t think this was entirely wrong, it was an exaggeration.

    And yet, it seems appropriate in this final column to say, as well, that my nearly 40 years in the journalism game haven�t shaken me from the essential belief that formed during that first, memorable visit to China.

    Ever since, despite all our infuriating faults, our wastefulness, our occasional self-satisfied sluggishness, our proneness to demagogy and other forms of anti-intellectualism, our crumbling infrastructure, the Fox News channel, the cult of Sarah Palin, the narcissistic self-indulgence of our urban elites, the detention center in Guant�namo Bay and our crisis-creating greed and shortsightedness � despite all that � I continue to believe that, not to put too fine a point on it, we�re better than they are.

    This doesn�t mean that I think we�re perfect, or that our impulse toward a kind of benevolent imperialism has always had benevolent results. But I have stuck for 40 years to a belief that, yes, our ways are superior � and by our ways I mean such things often taken for granted as a free press, strong civil institutions, an independent judiciary and, perhaps above all, the belief that the powers of the state need to be restrained, and that the institutions of government exist to serve the individual, not the other way around.

    The essential difference with China, even the much-changed China of today, and most of the other non-Western political cultures, is the absence of this sense of restraint, and the primacy of the collective over the individual.

    That�s the idea that I was actually groping toward when I crossed the bridge at Lowu. It�s the idea that I want to end with here on this snowy day in New York in my final sentence on this page. Goodbye.

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