Category: Personal

Greencard woes

Sometimes, it’s hard to think and blog when stuff like this happens to you…

Immigration lawyers to sue over change in U.S. visa policy – International Herald Tribune

The hopes of thousands of foreigners who have been working legally in the United States were unexpectedly raised and then abruptly dashed as a result of the disagreement. They had responded last month to an announcement that permanent residency visas would be available, but on Monday learned there were none.

The immigration lawyers said the about-face by the immigration system had no precedent in at least three decades of legal practice, and said that it violated the immigration agencys regulations. The American Immigration Lawyers Associations legal action arm was preparing the lawsuit, said Crystal Williams, deputy director.

U.S. officials said a misunderstanding had arisen from an effort by both agencies to reduce huge backlogs of applications for permanent residence visas, known as green cards. Immigration officials acknowledged that the effort was poorly handled.

Every self important blog needs its own domain. I got quite a while back. But I am finally setting up this blog to redirect to the eponymous url. The blog is still hosted on wordpress’ servers and nothing should change as far as the links, the rss, etc. Everything should forward seamlessly without delay to the new url. But, if there are issues with the rss feeds, the suggested fix is to re-subscribe using the new url.

Now, to cure those summer blahs!

Do primates believe in God? They seem to have morals!

I had a conversation with a colleague over lunch a few years back, really nice guy and good friend, very religious. Somehow, the topic of my religion came up and I happened to mention that I was not much of a believer in any kind of supreme being. He was silent for a little while, trying to digest the fact that someone he liked and respected (me!) had just outed himself as the spawn of satan. He then asked me where I got my values from if I did not believe in God. I explained to him that just like him, I got mine from my parents, from school, society, friends, etc., in fact, one source less than he got his from! (a slight variant on the “I believe in one god less than you do” schtick!) I also explained to him that I thought a lot about my value system, I made ethical and moral judgements all the time just by thinking, reading and listening to other people. He seemed unconvinced, thanked me for my honesty, and we proceeded to talk basketball after that (Go Heels!).

Long ramble notwithstanding, I had known a little bit about this primate research previously, but happened to read a well written NY Times article about primates and “morality” (don’t like that word, but can’t seem to find a better one).

Scientist Finds the Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior – New York Times

Some animals are surprisingly sensitive to the plight of others. Chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others. Given the chance to get food by pulling a chain that would also deliver an electric shock to a companion, rhesus monkeys will starve themselves for several days

Biologists argue that these and other social behaviors are the precursors of human morality. They further believe that if morality grew out of behavioral rules shaped by evolution, it is for biologists, not philosophers or theologians, to say what these rules are.

Hmm, they must believe God, because without religion, there is no morality, right?

I am not convinced that this “morality” was a naturally selected behavior rather than a by-product of evolution (the article references a critic as making this point too), nevertheless, it is fascinating.


Way off topic, but war’s been on everyone’s mind of late, and the horribly devastating oil spill in Lebanon is but one example of the crazy devastation caused by war. An event that would be an international emergency by itself is only a footnote in the death of many innocent people, destruction of the happiness of entire communities and populations, not to mention all those blown up bridges, power plants and homes.

Los Angeles Times: Why Good Countries Fight Dirty Wars

The citizen-soldiers sent into the field by the United States or any other Western popular government are expected, by virtue of not so long ago having been free civilians themselves, to be more empathetic with the plight of the noncombatants with whom they come into contact. Certainly, brutal incidents like the My Lai massacre or the Abu Ghraib scandal occur from time to time, but they are widely viewed as cultural aberrations. This interpretation, however, is as simplistic as it is misleading. All too often the armies of modern democracies have tolerated and even initiated outrages against civilians, in manners uneasily close to those of their totalitarian and terrorist enemies. Israeli troops are currently demonstrating this fact in their response to the Hezbollah rocket offensive — a response most of the world community, according to recent polls, believes is taking an unacceptably disproportionate toll on Lebanese civilians. And there have been times when democratic leaders have been even more open about their brutal intentions: Speaking of the Allied bombing campaign during World War II that culminated in that consummate act of state terrorism, the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, Winston Churchill flatly stated that the objective was “to make the enemy burn and bleed in every way.”

Excellent article, there really is no moral war, no just war, no holy war, no noble war, no happy war, no easy war, and there really should be no war other than a reluctantly fought, and limited war. There are no noble warriors, no heros, only real people doing things to their fellow human beings that are for the most part, unspeakable horrors. Anyone who tries to argue with me that their war is somehow different because of a host of reasons is not going to convince me.

While history books can be cleansed to blind future generations to the actual costs of war on the people fighting it, and the damage that ensues, fighting affects everyone who fights significantly, and rarely for the better. Eventually, it dehumanizes you, how can you kill someone (except in close combat where there’s a clear survival motivation) except by dehumanizing them? You’d have to think that a whole neighborhood is somehow inhuman to drop a bomb on them that kills maybe one terrorist and 15 innocent humans.

The history we learn has a lot to do with our willingness to tolerate this much war. The science lessons we get in school are a culmination of centuries of accumulated knowledge, the mathematics we learn goes back 10-15 centuries, we are taught to be self-critical, to learn from our mistakes, to think, yet the history we learn is pure propaganda, none of these edicts seem to apply. Being a “pacifist” has gone from normal to “loony coward fringe element” in a few years. Oh well…