Saturday, February 14, 2009

Foolish simplicity

Having had some other business this week, I have been light on blogging, and even more behind on keeping up with my feeds, even for some of my favorite blogs. So I'm a week late commenting on this post by Citizen Carrie. It provides links to stories about some current wrangling over proposals to support American workers with American bailout money, a link to an entertaining reaction to Jowl-Boy's (I'm sorry, I mean respected New York Times Pulitzer-winning columnist Tom Friedman) suggestion that we can save the housing market by importing more of those always-fab H-1B holders, and a "study" that purports that people with funny names (all of whom are, presumably, visa-holding non-citizens) file a whole bunch of patents.

What I found most notable about this post, other than how impressed I am that Carrie always manages to dig out these things, is that it received 22 comments. For me, the interesting part comes when someone named "Anonymous" weighs in by trying to create a false dichotomy:
H1B visas fill up jobs that require "special" skill set that is not available or in scare in US.

Why don't government do something to the "illegal" immigrants? Don't you think those millions of illegal immigrants are taking away millions of American jobs? Do they pay taxes? I guess not.
See the logic here? "You guys are doubly wrong, you're ignoring the mad magical skills of H-1B visa holders, and missing the real problem, the illegals." But Red Oak does a better job than I could of pulling this apart:
Anonymous - you should not infer that people are unaware of other issues in immigration because they happen to be focusing on a particular aspect. Both legal and illegal immigration present problems and both should be discussed and debated. If you are particularly passionate about the problem of illegal immigration, there are any number of blogs and fora covering it. You're free to jump right in. But you have no basis whatever for your inference that people discussing H-1Bs aren't "seeing the big picture".

Furthermore, if you'd bothered to look around your hostess's site, you would have noticed that she has covered in great detail your claim that "H1B visas fill up jobs that require 'special' skill set that is not available or in scare in US". So much so, in fact, that "special skills" is a running in-joke here.

And please refrain from the tiresome "your ancestors immigrated here at some point in the past, too". In the first place, this is not news to anybody. I know this might surprise you, Anonymous, but most Americans are perfectly well aware of where their ancestors came from, and you aren't exactly shaking their world-view to its foundations by pointing out that they're probably not the descendants of the Mohicans. Second, immigration policy, like every other government function, should be based on "promoting the general welfare" of the nation and its citizens. There is no more mindless and irresponsible argument in public policy today than the which asserts that "we had lots of immigration in the past therefore we have to allow lots of immigration now and in the future."

Guys, I am not defending H1B people.

Sure you are - what do you think your "special skills" argument is? And nothing wrong with that, but it's programs, not people that are being criticized here. You're welcome to defend those programs, too, if you think they're a good idea - you just need to up your game a bit. Remember, it's a good bet that someone who has dedicated a whole blog, or a fair chunk of a blog, to any topic, is way past the "sound bite" level of debate you're operating at here.
Anonymous shows a certain amount of persistence, if not logic, as he/she comes back with:
Again, you got to understand the bigger picture. Do you know where most of the H1B visa goes? It goes to the Medical (docs), and I.T. and Engineering professionals.

Who gets the H1B? 90% goes to Asians and Indian. What do they contribute to the country? They provide support to already struggling industries.

Now, does US have many people available to fill up jobs in these industries (both in terms of qualification and numbers)? I don't thinks so.

Another think, if you stop H1B, who would do research on brain cancer or breast cancer in US?

Do you know half of the NASA employees are foreign workers? Do you know the R&D of Motorola, Microsoft, IBM and Intel is foreign workers who provide US corps advantage to compete on world level.
Carrie does a good job of taking care of these "arguments," but Red Oak comes back with something even more useful, an elucidation of those who tend to reason like Anonymous and spend way too much time on message boards:
Description: He "knows" five things, those five things constitute the entire universe of things to be known (outside of the things he needs to know for his own profession, one hopes), he will repeat, all at once or in rotating order, those five things in response to anything you write, and while an occasional new factoid may penetrate, such that the List of Five becomes the List of Six or Seven, no new information is capable of modifying or transforming the original opinion.

He also "knows" that you do not know these Five Things, no matter how firmly embedded in the category of No Shit Sherlock some of them that are not outright falsehoods may be, because surely no one who knew The Five Things could possibly disagree with him, and thus he is compelled to keep repeating The Five Things, because obviously if you keep disagreeing with him, you weren't listening the last 500 times he tried to enlighten you with the knowledge of The Only Five Things.
Actually, putting the number at 5 is most kind on Red Oak's part, as we have certainly seen people who top out at One Thing. My favorite is the guy who insisted that there was no recession because it hadn't been officially called, then, when it was (and most of us had been right all along), insisted that it still really wasn't.

Anyway, back to the main thread, "Anonymous" seems to return as someone named "Dev" (identity is pretty much meaningless on the Internet, isn't it?), contending that "whoever is efficient wins" and takes up that "special skills" argument again, and is again shot down by Carrie and Red Oak.

I have a larger point about Red Oak's Five Things, but I'll leave my ruminations on that to a later post (I promise).

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