INS gets rid of backlog

From the NY Times:

Tens of thousands of pieces of mail come into the huge Immigration and Naturalization Service data processing center in Laguna Niguel, Calif., every day, and as at so many government agencies, it tends to pile up. One manager there had a system to get rid of the vexing backlog, federal officials say. This week the manager was charged with illegally shredding as many as 90,000 documents.

Among the destroyed papers, federal officials charged, were American and foreign passports, applications for asylum, birth certificates and other documents supporting applications for citizenship, visas and work permits.

The manager, Dawn Randall, 24, was indicted late Wednesday by a federal grand jury, along with a supervisor working under her, Leonel Salazar, 34. They are accused of ordering low-level workers to destroy thousands of documents from last February to April to reduce a growing backlog of unprocessed paperwork.

Ain’t that grand!


Valentine’s Day Dinner

I thought making reservations for dinner with my wife in a nice French restaurant on Feb 14 two weeks ahead of time would be enough. However, it seems everyone is booked solid. Finally, after calling about a dozen restaurants in the NYC/NJ area, I was able to get a reservation for 10pm. The only other available time: 5pm.

Evolution Controversy

When I came to the US, I was very surprised to find out that a lot of people here consider the theory of evolution to be wrong of “just a theory” (the word “theory” as used by laymen is very different from its scientific use.) I come from a country (Pakistan) where most people do not believe in evolution, but I had better hopes of the US. Now comes the story of a student who’s suing a biology Professor for not giving recommendations to students who do not believe in evolution. According to the AP,

[T]he Liberty Legal Institute … calls Dini’s policy “open religious bigotry.”

“Students are being denied recommendations not because of their competence in understanding evolution, but solely because of their personal religious beliefs,” said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for the institute.

The student had this to say:

“It’s a theory. You read about it in textbooks. I could explain the process, maybe how some people say it happens, but I could not have said … I believe in it,” Spradling said Wednesday. “I really don’t see how believing in the evolution of humanity has anything to do with patient care or studying science.”

Eugene Volokh thinks it’s a complex case and gives arguments for and against based on legality and academic ethics. But I like what CalPundit had to say about this:

I would venture to say that belief in creationism indicates a striking lack of competence in understanding evolution, but hey, that’s just me.

Of course, I also wouldn’t recommend someone who didn’t believe in general relativity to a physics program, or someone who thought the Earth was 10,000 years old to a geology program. Blinkered of me, I know….

Volokh Conspiracy has a number of posts and readers’ comments about this case (1, 2, 3, 4).

UPDATE: Patrick Nielsen Hayden had a short post on this and the comments there are worth reading.

INS Problems

I can tell you a lot of horror stories of INS bungling, but I’ll desist for now and point out a post on Ginger Stampley’s blog. She is one of the few bloggers who knows something about immigration issues.

It’s difficult for an alien to follow the law when nobody knows what it is, and the interpretation of the laws and regulation are totally at the discretion (read: whim) of the INS flunky you’re currently dealing with. And even if you follow those instructions in good faith, the next INS flunky you deal with may still throw you in jail or out of the country for failing to meet a different interpretation of the applicable laws and/or regulations.

It’s considered bad form to ask “why do they hate us?”, but it would take a real idiot to miss that the INS’ inept handling of student visas and special registration (among its many other flaws) does not endear the US to anyone who’s had to deal with it, alien or citizen.

Fall of Pakistani Government

I have read and heard this statement that the Pakistani government might fall to Islamic extremists any day. The latest comes from Jim Henley on Stand Down:

Pakistan. It’s got nukes. It’s got a shaky government and an intelligence service full of Al Qaeda/Taliban sympathizers. I think an invasion of Iraq makes Pakistan’s government that much more likely to fall and Pakistani nukes that much more likely to make it into Al Qaeda’s hands.

Now, that is slander. Pakistanis can be accused of a hundred vices but overthrowing their government because they don’t like it is not one of them. Guess how many times there has been a people’s revolution in Pakistan? None. How many times has a group of militants or intellectuals or any other civilian group overthrown a government? None. How many times has the army taken over the government? Four. Who in the army was incharge? The Army chief, not some clique of junior officers. So why should it start now?

The WildMonk War Personality Test

Wid Monk has a political personality test on his blog. I scored 52 (just into Center-Right territory) and a perfect 10 on the rationality test. (via Unmedia)

Election in Israel

Today, people in Israel are electing a new government. Let’s hope brings peace and prosperity for the people. Since I don’t have much to say on the election (other than that I am a Mitzna supporter), I am going to point out some weblogs with Israeli coverage. These cover a wide range of opinion.

The Head Heeb
The Talking Dog
The View from Here
Brian Blum
Expat Egghead
Not a Fish
Ribbity Blog
Aron’s Israel Peace Blog
Tal G

UPDATE: Two more blogs with Israel coverage are Gideon’s Blog and Kesher Talk.