April 29, 2009

roulette justice

Asylum seekers have better luck
with northern or female judges

Northern, female judges most likely to let them stay
BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporter apallasch@suntimes.com

If you're a political refugee afraid to go back to your homeland, pray you get a woman judge or a Northerner.

A male judge sitting in a Southern court is about twice as likely to reject your asylum plea, according to research from two Georgetown University professors.

"The fact that women are more sympathetic to asylum seekers -- that is certainly a factor, and maybe Southerners don't like foreigners as much," Federal Appellate Judge Richard Posner said with a chuckle. "Maybe people in big cities are more used to having large [less] indigenous populations. Maybe it's different in more homogenous areas of the United States."

Posner has been the most outspoken appellate judge criticizing the decisions of federal immigration judges and he sits on the appellate court most likely to grant asylum pleas -- the Chicago-based 7th Circuit. Posner spoke this past week at a seminar by the Georgetown professors -- Philip Schrag and Andrew Schoenholtz who are compiling the book about how U.S. Courts handle asylum cases.

What they found was utter randomness -- some judges who refuse all asylum requests, others who grant almost all.

April 26, 2009

Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship

Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?

Senate Judiciary Committee; Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship; hearing will be webcast; DATE: April 30, 2009; TIME: 02:30 PM; ROOM: Dirksen-226.

April 22, 2009

"part of a system"

From the Christian Science Monitor: this is a disappointment. Why does U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano commit to finishing wall?

WASHINGTON — U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano committed Tuesday to completing the final unbuilt miles of border fence, most of which is in the Rio Grande Valley.

Napolitano, once a vocal critic of the fence when she was governor of Arizona, said she intends to complete the original 670 miles Congress mandated in 2006. But she also didn't rule out building more fencing in combination with technology and manpower as a way to secure the border.

The homeland security secretary's comments came in response to a question McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez posed on the effectiveness of the fence during an international conference sponsored by the Border Trade Alliance, an organization that advocates policies to improve border affairs and trade relations.

About 620 miles of the 670 miles of planned fence are complete, and work is in progress on the remaining sections. Napolitano said she hadn't made a decision yet on whether more fencing would be needed.

Most of the work left do under the current mandate is in Cameron County, where crews have already started construction despite protests from some officials hoping to stall the work.

The combined levee-wall barrier in Hidalgo County is effectively complete.

Napolitano, who quipped as Arizona governor that a 12-foot fence would be conquered with a 13-foot ladder, now says the fence is effective "if it's done right as part of a system."

April 19, 2009

Thomas Starr King

Rachell Maddow requests Thomas Starr King statue for her office April 19, 2009 by Aaron Sawyer


With California replacing Starr King’s statue with a huge 500 lb. bronze statue of the “Gipper”, Ronald Reagan, Rachel Maddow offered to purchase statue of famous Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King, once credited by Abraham Lincoln “as the man who brought in and kept California in the union during the civil war.”

“He would look great in our office. We would take great care of him,” said Rachel.


April 18, 2009

out of bounds . . .

Music from Pharyngula:

That one needs an encore.

Little known fact: most molecular biologists dress exactly like that in the lab.

hit the road jack

From Texas Liberal:

All of us on the left know what we’ve been told by conservatives for the last 40 years when we’ve protested our government.

“If you don’t like it get out”

“Go back to France”

“America–Love it or leave it.”

Well—Here’s right back at you folks. You lost the 2006 election and the 2008 election and we live in a country with a government taking an active role in our economy and with a President named Barack Hussein Obama.

America—Love it or leave it.

April 17, 2009


The times of flowering are favorite times for most of us. In Houston, while we have a relativery mild winter, sometimes no freeze at all, most flowers are absent between late Fall into late Winter or early Spring. I always feel an "amen" bursting loose when the flowers start blooming. We've been going strong for a while and I want to share just a few of my pictures for early 2009:

TPM Deep Thought

Conservatives are so incensed by warnings about the threat of right wing radicalism that they're considering overthrowing the federal government.
--Josh Marshall

my man madden

The A Lady and I lived in Berkeley and North Oakland during the time Madden coached the Raiders. He was in his thirties, a young man on a mission. His .759 winning percentage during the regular season ranks highest among coaches with 100 career victories. During his tenure, the Raiders were a Team to Behold. The sideline at Raider's games was as entertaining, and sometimes as complex, as any opera. Like Verdi's Rigoletto the Raider sideline, with Madden holding forth center stage, was a mixture of comedy and tragedy, a masterpiece of apparently heterogeneous elements. So, I appreciated Coach Madden. But Lo, the advent of John the Broadcaster was of almost biblical proportion. Mostly a truth-teller, certainly an adept ad-libber, and an expert on the game of American football, he was the consummate color commentator along side his broadcast sidekick Pat Summerall. In my mind, only Don Meredith, comes close (as a very distant 2nd) to Coach Madden's everyman take of football, philosophically acute, without being cute, he seemed to never be bored with explaining the x's and o's. Watching football will not be as much fun.

Sorry to wax eulogistic, he continues very much alive. But I sure enjoyed his standing front and center for a time. Best wishes, John!

John Madden to Ride into the Sunset:
After serving for 123 years in different capacities with NFL, John Madden has already decided to retire from his broadcasting duties. Now, he has to say goodbye to the job where his enthusiastic and down-to-earth style made him one of the most renowned broadcasters in the field of sports for three decades.

John Earl Madden, who was born on April 10, 1936, is a former American football player in the National Football League, a former Professional Football Head coach with the Oakland Raiders, a football video game magnate and a color commentator for NFL telecasts. He began his pro football career as a linebacker coach at Oakland in 1967 and was named head coach two years later, at 33 the youngest coach in what was then the American Football League. Madden also led the Raiders to their first Super Bowl victory and retired in 1979. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his coaching career in the year 2006.

Cross posted from patter pensée.

April 14, 2009

hey, check me out . . .

Okay, this is weird only at first impression, and a very creative way of furthering a primary purpose of libraries: i.e. making access to knowledge and enjoyment more accessible. I'm reminded of "Spencer's Mountain" and the library in the movie - it's the movie that comes to mind, but I have some inkling of the book in the recesses of my muddled mind. Never mind all that . . . I'm making a list of the people I want to check out.

Santa Monica library lets public check out walking, talking sources

Tired of books? Then consult a living, breathing source.

On Saturday, the Santa Monica Public Library's Living Library Project will feature "a Mormon, an animal rights activist, a police detective, a fat activist, a feminist, a married Jewish lesbian mom, a little person and an ex-gang member," among others. Members of the public will be able to "check out" the sources for 30-minute conversations.

Rachel Foyt, the library's administrative analyst (and self-avowed "book-cart drill team world champion"), said in a release that the event provides an opportunity for people who have special interests, beliefs or experiences to share their personal stories with interested citizens. Using the library vernacular, the human references will be called "books" and the patrons will be called "readers."

This is a reprise of an event the library held in October 2008 which was the first of its kind nationwide.

No library card is required. Reservations for the sources open at 10 a.m., with half-hour conversations running from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the main branch, located at 601 Santa Monica Blvd.

Foyt said "readers" will be responsible for returning "books" in the "same mental and physical condition as borrowed." "It is forbidden to cause damage to the book, tear out or bend pages, get food or drink spilled over the book or hurt her or his dignity in any other way."
-- Martha Groves

April 12, 2009

Non-Christian Easter rituals

Stentor has a good post at debitage:

We all know about the rituals that Christians practice on Easter. But I think it's important to recognize the rituals practiced by non-Christians -- particularly those of a secularist bent* -- on this holiday. I'm not talking about the pagan celebrations of spring that were incorporated into Christian Easter practices, though some people do still practice those. I'm talking about pointing out the existence of pagan celebrations and their incorporation into Christian Easter. (A similar ritual, with slightly different liturgy, is observed at Christmas.)

This ritual has the appearance of making an argument -- #many Easter traditions have a pagan origin, therefore Christianity's righteousness is somehow compromised.# But it doesn't really function as an argument. These things are mostly said not to Christians, but to other non-Christians -- e.g. in this Pandagon thread. And I doubt many Christians who are otherwise secure in their faith are particularly troubled by these historical facts (certainly I wasn't). Either they already reject all the aspects of Easter that aren't found in the Bible (including, sometimes, the very idea of an Easter celebration), or they don't see enriching their holiday with elements from another tradition as necessarily threatening the remembrance of Jesus' resurrection (coloring eggs can be just a fun thing to do, not an act of worship of Oestre).
keep reading

falling in love . . .

Happy Easter

Cherry Blossom Under the Moon
a painting by Soojung Cho

© Soojung Cho

Used by permission of the artist - more later.

Cross-posted from patter pensée.

April 10, 2009

“GOP is a mummy-wrapped skeleton sitting in its own chilly mausoleum of bilious resentments and creepy sentimentality.”

John Batchelor says it’s obvious: His Republican Party is a corpse.

For starters (I recommend you read the entirety):

The Republican Party is dead like Lehman Brothers and Robert E. Lee, not to be revived by TARP, Rupert Murdoch, or a surge of feverish nationalism. The present financial collapse makes it plain to see that the Republican Party did not die recently at the hands of the clever Democrats, but rather in 1933 at the hands of cowards, sycophants, and snobs who regarded the awesome Democratic victories in 1930 and 1932 as a “smear” of Herbert Hoover and a “panic.” Since the Great Depression I, the Democrats have been the electorate’s default choice, the politicians who rule as if America was simultaneously a school district, a union hall, a junior-year-abroad seminar, and a PAC. The Republicans who pop up now and again thrive in the empty-quarter counties of the West or in the so-called Old South, which is better understood as Confederacy Lite.

new H-1B numbers from USCIS

Yesterday (April 9), USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) released its updated H1B petition filings count for the 2010 fiscal year. USCIS reports that it has received approximately 42,000 H-1B petitions counting towards the 65,000 standard H-1B quota. The agency also announced that it has received approximately 20,000 petitions for holders of advanced degrees. While only 20,000 advanced degree cases are exempt from the standard cap, USCIS will nevertheless continue to accept new cases, given the likelihood that some will be rejected or denied.

USCIS also announced that the 15-day premium processing clock started running on April 7 for petitions that were received during the initial five-day filing window. For petitions received after April 7, the 15-day premium processing clock will start on the day USCIS receives the petition.

April 09, 2009

foreign worker debate . . .

The New York Times has posted an interesting (and worth reading) discussion: Do We Need Foreign Technology Workers?

For the high-tech industries, particularly, foreign-born workers on temporary H-1B visas are an important labor pool. Many of these workers arrived in the United States as students and stay on through the H-1B program. Many also go on to become permanent residents and founders of startup firms. But there is longstanding criticism among some labor groups that workers on such visas suppress engineering salaries and actually make it easier for employers to move more jobs to low-cost countries like India.

We’ve asked several experts how immigration policy affects high-skilled workers and the industries that rely on them.

widow penalty

Demanding an End to the Widow Penalty

March 2009 - Jayme A. Feldheim, Note, Ending the Widow Penalty: Why Are Surviving Alien Spouses of Deceased Citizens Being Deported?, 77 Fordham Law Review 1873, (2009). In this scholarly law review article published in Fordham University Law School's journal, author Jayme Feldheim concludes that the Ninth Circuit's interpretation of immediate relative to include a surviving alien spouse for immigration purposes is both the superior and only reasonable understanding of the relevant statute.

And this from Bender's Immigration Bulletin
Sixth Circuit on "widow penalty"
"The sole issue before us is a question of law, which requires us to interpret language of the INA to resolve a matter of first impression in this Circuit. The question is whether an alien-spouse, whose citizen-spouse filed the necessary “immediate relative” petition form under 8 U.S.C. §§ 1187, 1255(c)(4), but died within two years of the qualifying marriage, qualifies as a spouse under the “immediate relative” provision of the INA. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that a “surviving alien-spouse” is a “spouse” within the meaning of the “immediate relative” provision of the INA. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the district court’s grant of summary judgment for Lockhart." Lockhart v. Napolitano, Apr. 8, 2000. [Hats off to Brent Renison!]

Here is the opinion from the Sixth Circuit.

April 08, 2009

Tejas and immigration . . .

Relocation.com: Texas showing steady immigration despite recession

A new report from online consumer resource group Relocation.com backs up recent Census data showing that Texas continues to see a population influx as people move from other parts of the country being more seriously affected by the recession.

The report, which analyzes interstate moves involving Texas from the beginning of 2007 through the first quarter of 2009, shows that 62 percent of such moves over the 27-month period were people moving to Texas, while just 38 percent were leaving. For 2008, Texas ranked fourth in the country for percentage of moves into the state.

The report shows that all major Texas cities apart from El Paso have more people moving in than leaving.

In Houston, 54 percent of moving quote requests were incoming, while 46 percent were for moving out of the city. Austin had 60 percent of requests for moving in and 40 percent for leaving, while San Antonio had 57 percent incoming and 43 percent leaving and Dallas-Fort Worth had 56 percent inbound and 44 percent outbound.

H-1B cap . . . 2009 filings for fy 2010

It appears that the H-1B cap for U.S. Master's filings was not exceeded. USCIS has started sending out receipt notifications for Master's filings.


USCIS Update
April 8, 2009
USCIS Continues to Accept FY 2010 H-1B Petitions

WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced it continues to accept H-1B nonimmigrant visa petitions subject to the fiscal year 2010 (FY 2010) cap. USCIS will continue to monitor the number of H-1B petitions received for both the 65,000 regular cap and the 20,000 U.S. master’s degree or higher educational exemption cap. Should USCIS receive the necessary number of petitions to meet the respective caps, it will issue an update to advise the public that, as of a certain date (the "final receipt date"), the respective FY 2010 H-1B caps have been met. The final receipt date will be based on the date USCIS physically receives the petition, not the date that the petition is postmarked. The date or dates USCIS informs the public that the respective caps have been reached may differ from the actual final receipt date.

To ensure a fair system, USCIS may randomly select the number of petitions equired to reach the numerical limit from the petitions received as of the final receipt date. USCIS will reject cap subject petitions that are not selected, as well as those received after the final receipt date.

Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers, who have been counted previously against the cap, will not count toward the congressionally mandated FY 2010 H-1B cap. Therefore, USCIS will continue to process petitions filed to:

• Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States.
• Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers.
• Allow current H-1B workers to change employers.
• Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

H-1B in General U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in fields, such as scientists, engineers, or computer programmers.


April 06, 2009

looking outside ourselves

There is information on the Internet about the ongoing embarrassment that is our country's current immigration policy:

". . . Racism has blinded many Americans to what takes place in our own kitchens, workshops, and fields. For our nation to be whole, we must acknowledge that our lives of privilege are supported in thousands of ways by people whose labor is invisible and whose suffering is hidden."
—Rev. William G. Sinkford, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President
There are a variety of sources for anyone wanting to stay current with these issues. A glut, almost, of information. Some of it from non-traditional sources, some of it from a religious point of view, some of it from what seem traditional, non-racist points of view, and some from other sources that I prefer not to link to.

The Wikipedia entry for Immigration to the United States looks like a good place to get an overall picture.

April 05, 2009

transcendental meditation to rule the world?

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, performed together on Saturday to raise money to help kids learn a meditation technique as reported by Reuters via MSNBC:

NEW YORK - The surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, performed together on Saturday to raise money to help kids learn a meditation technique the 1960s icons practiced at the height of their fame.

McCartney was joined onstage by Starr for a rousing rendition of "With a Little Help From My Friends" at Radio City Music Hall at the Change Begins Within concert for the David Lynch Foundation, which promotes Transcendental Meditation.

The Beatles helped popularize Transcendental Meditation -- described as a simple mental technique to combat stress -- in 1967 when they sought spiritual guidance from an Indian guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

"It started for us when we met the Maharishi in India and it's going to get bigger and bigger and rule the world," McCartney said . . .

Cross posted from patter pensée.

April 04, 2009

taegan goddard's quote of the day . . .

Quote of the Day
"The American public understands something must be askew if every single Republican votes against something."

-- Minority Whip Eric Cantor, when asked by reporters why Republicans have said "no" to nearly everything the Democrats have proposed.
Yes, sure they know something is Askew . . . what was it that V.P. Askew (or Agnew or whatever . . .) said? . . .

Oh, yeh, "nattering nabobs of negativity" . . . this guy was a real nostradomnus . . . and reflective . . . looking in the mirror type of guy . . . a member in esteem of the grand old pisser party . . .

just asking . . .

How is it that in the good old days of last week (or maybe last month) the Houston Chronicle reported the rain chances on the weather page in increments of 10%, 20% etc. Now suddenly, they seem to have refined this. The rain chances tonight are 8% (low temperature 65) - for tomorrow the low temperature is forecast as 45 degrees and rain chances are 13% . . . In the old days with the increments of forecast given in 10s, the newspaper's accuracy was suspect . . . but suddenly, they've refined forecasting to the nth degree? 8% chance of rain tonight????!? Where (excuse the lack of French in what follows) in hell does this refinement come from?

rocket fuel chemical in baby formula

So you think we may be over regulating? Evidently not when it comes to our babies.
Rocket Fuel Chemical Found in Powdered Infant Formula
ATLANTA, Georgia, April 3, 2009 (ENS) - All 15 brands of powdered infant formula tested by scientists with the federal government's Centers for Disease Control were found to be contaminated with perchlorate, a component of solid rocket fuel, flares, fireworks and some fertilizers. The chemical has been detected in drinking water in 28 states and territories and at low levels in food supplies.

The CDC researchers tested four different types of infant formulas - those made from cow's milk containing lactose, cow's milk-based but lactose-free, soy-based, and elemental formulas, typically consisting of synthetic amino acids.

Perchlorate was a contaminant of all commercially available powdered infant formula tested. Bovine milk-based powdered infant formula with lactose had a significantly higher perchlorate concentration perchlorate than soy, lactose-free, and elemental formulas.
Keep reading story in Environment News Service.

Cross-posted from patter pensée.

simply wonderful

George W. Bush Presidential Librarium

Choose your entrance . . .

April 03, 2009

expecting more from journalism

We watched Gwen Ifill tonight (we usually do) and it wasn't all that bad, but . . . We've watched Washington Week in Review for the better part of 20 years and more . . . changing chairs and changing journalists but mostly consistent as one of the better programs available on non-pay television (i.e. cable and satellite) . . .but even so, I find myself aggravated by some of the simplistic non-journalistic bits of shit from the participants.

Obligatory notice: I majored in mass communications (a few years back) and take a certain pride in the notion of journalistic independence . . . however (harrumph), when the phrase most often repeated during the course of a 30 minute (actually somewhat less with all the non-commercials) show is "I personally think that" . . . I really don't care what they personally think (or if I did, I'd watch an opinion show -- maybe like Colbert but I don't pay for cable) about the news, I expect them to report the news to the best of their (obviously crippled) abilities . . .

Sigh . . . look, I know this is tedium to some of us . . . not so much to me . . . but these journalists are (supposedly) the ones with the training to actually tramp through the bull-shit and present us with some facts, give us a wrap-up of the week . . . I know . . . facts are hard to come by . . . it's mostly a matter of opinion . . . bullshit! a journalist should present what was seen and heard, not what they surmise it all means. . . okay, okay past my bedtime . . . and I still (mostly) like Gwen Ifill as moderator.

April 02, 2009

reading newspapers . . .

The last two Tribunes I have not looked at. I have no time to read newspapers. If you chance to live and move and have your being in that thin stratum in which the events which make the news transpire,—thinner than the paper on which it is printed,—then these things will fill the world for you; but if you soar above or dive below that plane, you cannot remember nor be reminded of them.

political punch indeed . . .

Sources: Obama Plays Peacemaker in French-Chinese Smackdown Over Tax Havens

According to sources inside the room, President Obama just played peacemaker in a spat between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China.

. . .

"I'd suggest we'd still be in there had he not done this," the senior Obama administration official said.


From the Houston Chronicle: D.A. Lykos goes after undocumented workers:

A Harris County District Attorney’s office proposal to bar illegal immigrants from receiving plea deals sparked questions Wednesday — including some from longtime prosecutors in the same office — about the legality and practicality of such a policy.

Four senior assistant district attorneys, speaking anony­mously to protect their ­jobs, said Jim Leitner, District Attorney Pat Lykos’ first assistant, discussed the plan with about 50 prosecutors during a meeting last Friday. Under the plan, defendants in the country illegally will not be eligible for probation or deferred adjudication, including mandatory probations under state law. If the accused lies, he or she could be prosecuted for perjury.

The prosecutors also said plea papers are being redrafted for defendants to swear to their immigration status. If defendants refuse to sign, they will not be eligible for any plea bargains and their cases will be set for trial.

Lykos acknowledged that her office is examining policies surrounding illegal immigrants accused of committing crimes, but declined to comment on specifics.

One longtime prosecutor said the policy circumvents the intent of laws making probation the maximum punishment for some drug cases.

“I’m not a big fan of probation, but the law is the law, and I think we should follow the law,” the prosecutor said.

Mark Bennett, president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, said the idea may be unconstitutional.

. . .

It’s grossly unfair and, in my view, it’s unconstitutional,” said Maria Jimenez, a longtime Houston immigration activist. “There’s a double standard being placed on people here without documents. If they commit a crime, they should be held accountable. If the offense merits offering probation or deferred adjudication, then that’s what should be weighed, not the legal status of the individual. Otherwise, its unequal treatment before the law.”

some prisoners held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan have constitutional right to challenge their imprisonment in U.S. civil courts

In 53-page ruling, Judge John D. Bates of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia said that three detainees at the United States Air Force base at Bagram are “virtually identical” to detainees at the Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and so they have the same legal rights that the Supreme Court last year granted prisoners held there.

All three detainees are non-Afghan citizens who said they were captured outside Afghanistan and have been imprisoned for years without trials. Arguing that they are not enemy combatants, the detainees want a judge to review the evidence against them and order their release under the right known as “habeas corpus.”
Note: "captured outside Afghanistan and have been imprisoned for years without trials."

April 01, 2009

free will and all . . .

Look, I admit that I don't always know exactly how to express my notions on Free will and Quantum mechanics, but perhaps someone else does . . .

First of all, free will is a contentious issue. A contentious philosophical issue, not a scientific one. Free will is one of those things that must, dogmatically, exist. Too often, people only care about the question of whether free will exists, when they should care about what "free will" really means. And what do we really mean by free will anyway? Does that mean that we're free from outside influences? Does it mean that we are morally culpable for our own actions? Does it mean that our actions are unpredictable? Is it necessarily a supernatural force? Definitions and details abound.

Does Quantum mechanics imply free will? It depends on what kind of free will we are talking about. If we're talking about unpredictability, maybe. But if we consider the moral definitions, I don't think science has the slightest bearing on any of them. "Unpredictable <=> morally responsible" just seems like a non sequitur to me, but hey, that's a problem for philosophy, not for physics.

But first, how about classical mechanics? The universe envisioned by Isaac Newton was like clockwork. All God had to do was wind it up. The universe would proceed in a single deterministic path. Now, Newton was quite religious, if a bit heretical, but that doesn't stop more modern folks from thinking that the determinism of classical mechanics was an obstacle to religion in some way. But is it?
No way you can stop reading this until you come to the end (so to speak. . .)

a stunner . . .

GWB to come out of retirement, take on Commander in Chief role