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From wunderground:

Life is good for NASA's "Mohawk Guy." He became world famous after helping NASA's huge Curiosity rover make a dramatic landing on Mars, and now he'll sit with first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday's State of the Union address.

The Iranian-American Mohawk Guy -- whose name is Bobak Ferdowsi -- will sit in the first lady's box to highlight President Barack Obama's call for more visas for skilled immigrants in the fields of math, science and engineering, Southern California Public Radio reported Monday (Feb. 11).

No offense intended to Bobak or anyone who has come to the US to work. But for fuck's sake, I'm pretty sure there are people in this country who know how to do math, science, and engineering!! (Sorry, I don't have link to support that statement, but I've heard there are individuals with those skills here.) Well, sorry, no jobs for them. The guest worker visa program is making sure of that, as the exiled Dan Rather explains (h/t Economic Populist):

Most people --- including guest workers -- might assume that if a U.S. company decides to sponsor a person to come here on work visa, they must have tried to hire an American first. But that's not the necessarily the case. According to U.S. Department of Labor, a guest worker visa known as H-1B for "specialty occupations" especially tech workers -- may be issued "even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job." In fact, the bulletin notes, "A U.S. worker can be displaced from the job in favor of the foreign worker."

Thank you, First Lady. You've just secured your nomination for Worst First Lady Ever.
(photo credit: NASA)

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lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

to bring cheaper labor to the US on HB1 visas. No - they don't try to hire US people first. The company has the experienced older worker train their 'global resource' coworker. Then we lay off the US employee. Then, we give the young cheap immigrant a pittance to come here on an HB1 visa. Note that we only do that under duress, if we absolutely have to have the person on site local to US. It's far less cost to the company if they just continue to live in Podunkistan and work for almost nothing. That's how it works - I know, because I've done it. Even college new hires can't compete with that. But we hire loads of college graduates from China, India, Philippines, etc etc...

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

of the HB-1 visas.

It will be interesting to see the reaction, in the liberal community.

It will increase by "thousands" of percentages. Heard the number the other day, but unfortunately didn't jot the number down. Maybe a Google search would turn the number up. (Too pushed for time, personally, to do so.) :-)

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

bring up news items (like I did earlier) without anything to substantiate them.

Heck, I meant to jot down the figures, but "forgot to," and honestly don't have a clue what they were. So I'll accept your article as the authority on this matter. :-D

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

No offense intended to Bobak or anyone who has come to the US to work. But for fuck's sake, I'm pretty sure there are people in this country who know how to do math, science, and engineering!!

Yes, there are, but the best brains are rare by definition. I don't know if Bobak would qualify as one of the "best brains" or not, but if he is, then I'm glad he's here. Attracting those brains requires a lot of things, but one of them is something like the H1B system.

That said, there is an incentive for companies to use this system to import less expensive white collar labor, and they quite often do. As with the patents system, there's a lot of abuse right now, and hardly any interest on our government's part, that I can see, in stopping it. As with the undocumented worker problem, many of the folks who have money to throw at politicians like things the way they are.

As a symbol of the problem, this isn't a terribly good one, I'd say, but there certainly is a problem.

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

I'm calling foul. We're not talking Einstein and Hawkins here, we're talking smart tech or scientists. Of the latter, we have thousands out of work and yes they could be doing the job. So mohawk guy is probably smart, qualified, went to US schools, and is cheaper than his American fellow graduates. Also, he's from Iran, which is a good stick in the eye to Iran for Obama to use during SOTU, which is why they asked him in particular to appear.

The 'best brains' idea is a fallacy imported from big business, IMHO. The reason we have to pay corporate CEOs so much is because they are so much smarter. Um, no. Probably the most easily replaceable person at any company is the top CEO. While that person's power can make or break the place, the real work is being done elsewhere. It's the generally smart average people we have in abundance that make things work. These 'top pay for top performance' mantras - are complete bullshit. It's the team that makes things work and one brilliant guy or gal may be more trouble than he's worth.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Yes, the best brains. There's a joke I often tell about my own place in the intelligence spectrum, which usually goes like this: if you put me in a room with 19 other people, odds are I'll be the smartest person in the room. Put me in a room with 19 professional physicists, and odds are I'll be the village idiot. My mind is perfectly adequate to the task of doing workmanlike white collar things like writing short essays or writing computer software. It's not up to the task of understanding large amounts of information quickly and then assimilating it into ideas or thoughts that make sense of it all. I can't multiply four digit numbers in my head, or remember baseball box scores from twenty years ago.

So, as an honorary village idiot to the physicists, let me start with a story.

There once was a country in Europe that was a great place for immigrants to flourish. That country benefited from all the educated, ambitious people who showed up there because they didn't have anywhere else to go. Those immigrants became merchants, engineers, artists, and scientists in their new country. Their new country became a power in Europe, and a leader in science and industry. Over time, though, particularly when the drek hit the fan, the natives decided they'd succeeded because they were special, and chased all those foreigners out of their country, or worse. Then they got their superior asses handed to them by their neighbors, with some help from us.

If you look at the leaders of the various technical fields since that time, quite a few were people who moved from somewhere else in the world and settled here. They were a big part of our success in that time. They weren't Einstein or Hawking. Most were scientists you haven't heard of, I'd wager, but who were nonetheless leaders in their fields. As someone who spent much of his adult life reading the literature produced by the leaders in my fields, that's what I've learned.

So if that's all a conspiracy of Big Business, then I'd say you have some explaining to do, because I sure don't get it. But then, mine is clearly a limited mind.

I don't want to end up like that European country, the one we can't mention for fear of losing a debate. I see every likelihood that we will. I don't favor expansion of the H1-B visa quotas, if anything they should probably be smaller. Nevertheless, we can't get the best brains here without welcoming immigrants. There are about 320 million of us, and about 5,900 million folks in the rest of the world. (Interestingly enough, put you in a room with 19 other people randomly selected from around the world, odds are fairly good you'll be the only American.) Those one in a thousand brains that can become leaders in technical and other professional fields are the most precious resource there is, and would be so even if our public school systems didn't seem to be determined to bore our own to tears instead of educating them as they should be. We need those minds as much as we need to invest in our own people if we want to stay a leader in the world.

Just because an idea works to the benefit of people we don't like doesn't mean there isn't some truth to it.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

The guest worker visa program is about corporate profits and pushing people around, not brain power. They're bringing in farm workers, hotel housekeepers, and unskilled workers who need to be taught how to write code by the people they're replacing so they can do the job. Maybe some of them are geniuses, but that's not why they're getting guest worker visas, far from it.

Watch the videos! It’s clear the people who lost their jobs were not replaced by employees who were smarter, but they certainly were cheaper. Plus, foreign workers on guest visas do not receive any benefits -- no health insurance or 401K, no unemployment when they’re laid off. And employers are free to send them back home whenever they like, so they do what they’re told and don’t make waves over things like working conditions, unpaid overtime, sexual harassment, and so on. They’re even more disposable than Americans! Cheaper, too! It’s win-win for the corporations.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

I'm not arguing that what's happening in those companies isn't happening. I'm arguing with the logic of the symbolism. The guy in the picture is quite literally a rocket scientist. He's the kind of person we want to attract here.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

Really? So you're okay with throwing thousands of Americans out of work in exchange for a handful of "rocket scientists"? Because the administration and their corporate buddies are just using him as bait for changing a law that will continue to replace perfectly qualified Americans with cheaper foreign workers.

Btw, nothing against the space program, but it does seem like we have problems here on Earth that need to be fixed first, and one of those is a very large number of unemployed/underemployed Americans. And I don't think we need a rocket scientist with a guest worker visa to fix that.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

A national economy isn't a zero sum system. If it expands more than the population, and it is managed correctly, it will provide more opportunities and benefits than it did before. Hiring the best minds possible for top scientific and technical jobs can make that happen.

So yes, I'm willing to have a few more professionals change jobs to make it possible to bring in those minds. The chance to bring new blood into the country, not to mention the chance for new ideas that can come from the interaction of other cultures with ours to be implemented here, makes it more likely they'll be able to find other jobs that are worth having.

As for NASA, it's more than a little ironic that you think this is some vast diversion of resources. NASA's budget isn't a thirtieth of the Defense Department's, and it's drop in the bucket compared to the budgets for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. What we get out of it directly is many times what we put in, in the knowledge and technical advancements that come from that budget. What's more, it's something that can inspire American kids to stay in school and learn about science and mathematics.

One of the main reasons we know so much about this planet's condition is that there are satellites learning about it that were put there by NASA and other space agencies. We can confirm the Earth is getting warmer thanks to those measurements. We know where we are thanks to GPS, and we can talk on our phones just about anywhere because there are satellites that support it. That wouldn't have happened if we hadn't been wasting all that time building rockets and sending them places that aren't on this planet. We've learned far more about the universe and astrophysics than we ever could have done with terrestrial instruments only, which is knowledge that will be useful somewhere, someday, if it isn't already.

For those reasons alone, we should be spending far more on NASA than what we do.

But the most important reason is this one. On Friday we'll come within a cosmic hairsbreadth of having a day makes all our other bad days over the last few millenia pale in comparison. If we had invested anywhere near as much in NASA as we've invested in blowing up Afghanistan the last ten years, we'd have space vehicles that could be sent out there to redirect those things by now. One day, it's not going to be a miss, and if all we worry about is what's going on here on this planet, we probably won't live to regret it.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

So, based on your replies, I think it would be fair to say you don’t care how many Americans have their lives destroyed by greedy corporations’ abuse of foreign worker visas, as long as we have a chance at snaring the next genius, who would then somehow magically catapult the nation back to the forefront of scientific respectability and awesomeness.

Back here in the real world, this part of your comment shows how clueless you are to the facts:

So yes, I'm willing to have a few more professionals change jobs to make it possible to bring in those minds.

Actually, we’re not talking about “a few more professionals” but thousands of Americans who are being forced out of jobs some of them have held for decades, and losing everything as a result. And that doesn’t even include the hundreds of thousands of unemployed STEM graduates who are being shut out of the job market, or American students who are giving up on careers in science and technology because of the job situation.

Last year, a commission appointed by the other top U.S. science agency, the National Institutes of Health, found that a severe oversupply has created a brutal job market for those who pursue doctorates in science research. (snip)

The NIH commission found that these bleak prospects may be dissuading the best and brightest Americans from entering careers in science research, and cited the large number of foreign postdoctoral researchers as a major cause of the glut of lab scientists. The Government Accountability Office has noted the relationship between that oversupply to the availability of foreign postdocs. About 54 percent of these postdocs are foreign.

None of this is to say the foreign student program should be shut down. But we shouldn’t be reducing educational and career opportunities for talented Americans.

Nor do you acknowledge the fact that the current job market does not allow these people you are so eager to throw under the bus to change jobs as easily as you suggest. In fact, the unemployment rate among STEM professionals is, in some fields, at historic highs.

As for your super-geniuses who have already given us such wonders as cell-phone technology (seriously?) and might one day figure out a way to shove a comet aside and prevent it from hitting the Earth (thanks for that, I needed a good laugh), how do you know they are (or will be) foreign born? And what’s the problem with someone in another country developing this technology? As long as the comet doesn’t hit us, who cares where the solution came from?

As long as you refuse to discuss the real issue here (which, may I remind you, is Americans being unfairly replaced with dirt-cheap foreign laborers, specifically because they are cheap, not for their incredibly superior skills as housekeepers, farm laborers, or code monkeys) I’ll assume that in the future you are replying to yourself, not me. Because so far, I have not seen you deal with the facts I’m presenting, only your own fixation on the horrors of missing out on a brainiac. Which is fine. If you like talking to yourself, go for it. I can’t be bothered responding to someone who is pointedly ignoring the issue.

Submitted by lambert on

... is a zero sum game.

Read Riverdaughter. Literally tens of thousands of scientists tossed on the street, and we need to import them? Same with IT people. Try to get a job in IT if you're over 50, no matter how qualified you are!

I don't know what the answer to global labor arbitrage is, but until there is one, how come my own country is tossing me under the bus?

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

outsources all their web stuff. I assume it's to save money, but you would not believe the mistakes they make. A couple of monkeys with a computer could probably do better. But they don't care about the errors -- or credibility, apparently. Only money.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

and look at how "hip" this individual makes the first couple look. Bleeeechhhhhhh. best, libby