NDN Blog

H1B Visa Application Period Begins Saturday

The 85,000 H1B visas for high-skill foreign workers are expected to go quickly, when INS starts accepting applications Saturday.  Bill Gates was on the Hill a few weeks ago, complaining that there are not enough visas available.  11,000,000 undocumented workers in this country might agree with Gates that there is a lack of visas in this country for hard-workers looking to provide for their families.  Dealing with H1B visas separately seems pretty illogical.  The whole immigration system is broken, the whole system needs to be fixed.  Read more about NDN's work on immigration reform here

You negotiate with the Iran you have...

Robert Gates is bringing a new realism to the Defense Department, sharing what should be blindingly obvious, that we have to engage Iran, in his first speech since replacing Donald Rumsfeld earlier this year.  From the WAPO:

In his first domestic public speech since taking office in December, Gates laid out a pragmatic approach to foreign policy -- one that emphasizes using diplomacy to overcome disagreements with Turkey, Iran and other nations regarding Iraq.

Gates, who had advocated dialogue with Iran before becoming defense secretary, said "the regional talks recently held in Baghdad were a good start toward improved cooperation, and our government is open to higher-level exchanges."

Too bad he wasn't there in 2003 when the Bush Administration passed on the opportunity to negotiate a grand bargain with Iran, that could have included support for terrorism, WMD, recognition of the state of Israel, the sovereignty of Iraq, etc.

Immigration Talks Accelerate

The title of this Roll Call article speaks for itself, as bi-partisanship seems to be defining the process for passing comprehensive immigration reform this year. Referring to the contrast between current and past discussions on immigration reform, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted:

“Last year was about staking out what you wouldn’t do” on immigration, while lawmakers now are aggressively working to find bipartisan common ground this session, said Graham.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) agreed, saying that he is “more hopeful than anytime in the recent past” that a comprehensive reform bill could pass.

Ever the office of optimism, an aide to House Minority Leader John Boehner said “Republicans will support an immigration bill that secures the border first and foremost, and does not grant amnesty to illegals.”

I must respectfully refer that aide to my previous post on this Washington Post editorial, which predicted comments like those from Rep. Boehner's aide and refutes them, allowing the Minority Leader (and other Republicans) to vote for the bill:

Before the bill's citizenship provisions kick in, stringent new standards on workplace enforcement and border security would have to be satisfied. They include a major build-up in personnel and technology monitoring the nation's border.

Conservatives opposed to citizenship for illegal immigrants are fond of pillorying it as "amnesty." This bill provides nothing of the sort. In addition to requiring lawful reentry to the country, it would entail immigrants paying a $2,000 fine and any back taxes they owe, clearing a security and background check, learning English and civics, compiling a felony-free record, and submitting proof of past employment. Only after six years and after satisfying those requirements could workers apply for permanent residency status, which could lead to citizenship.

Time to pass this now.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: You need a subscription to Roll Call to view the article.)

Video from the CAP/SEIU Event on Health Care

CAP and SEIU brought all the major Democratic Presidential candidates together to talk health care last weekend.  The Republicans were invited too, but they took a pass on the forum.  Watching video from the event it is clear that there is a consensus that we can't go on the way we have been and have to come up with a plan to control costs and make sure every American has access to quality health care.

It's so over

From the NY Times:  

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' allies on Capitol Hill grew scarce Tuesday as he left it largely to aides to carry out President Bush's order to straighten out the story behind the firing of eight federal prosecutors.

Senate Republicans exiting their weekly policy lunch no longer bothered to defend Gonzales' response to lawmakers' questions about the firings. At most, they mustered an appeal to withhold judgment until the attorney general testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee April 17.

That was Sen. Arlen Specter's message during the closed-door meeting, according to three senators who were present.

''Senator Specter today said to give (Gonzales) a fair chance,'' said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a staunch White House ally who lunched with Gonzales last week. ''I think people are trying to do that. But there are some inconsistent stories (Gonzales) is going to have to explain.''

Among them: Why Gonzales said at a March 13 news conference that he ''never saw documents'' and ''never had a discussion'' about the firings. His schedule for last Nov. 27 showed he participated in an hourlong meeting and approved a detailed plan on the dismissals 10 days before they were carried out.

Gonzales has maintained he was not closely involved in the firings, and did not help select which prosecutors would be told to resign. He added during a trip to the Midwest on Tuesday that he directed DOJ's release of 3,000 documents on Friday relating to the firings, and requested two internal investigations of the matter.

''I look forward to working with Congress. I believe in truth and accountability,'' he said. ''Everything I've done in connection with this matter supports that principle.''

Still, defending Gonzales became more difficult with Monday's refusal by his counsel, Monica Goodling, to testify before the Judiciary Committee with other Justice officials involved in the firings, as the attorney general had promised. She said statements by Democrats indicate they have already concluded wrongdoing on the part of Justice officials, including her.

Specter empathized.

''I can understand the sense of a potential witness not wanting to be ensnared in that kind of a proceeding where conclusions have already been reached,'' Specter, R-Pa., said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

Goodling's announcement, some senior Republicans felt, strengthened the Democrats' charge that the Justice Department had something to hide.

All of which added up to scandal fatigue inside the caucus, the senators said.

Specter's appeal to the caucus received ''a lot of head shaking, a lot of eye-rolling,'' said one senator who attended and spoke on condition of anonymity because the session was private.

Asked Tuesday if Gonzales had lost their confidence, many Senate Republicans demurred. Sen. John McCain's response was typical.

''He has my confidence that I think he ought to make his case,'' said the Arizona Republican, who also is running for president.....

Iranian Weapons in Iraq

Fascinating in-depth article in the NYT today on the alleged flow of Iranian weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq.  The whole article is worth reading for a reminder of how complicated the situation is and how little foresight went into the planning of this war.  Especially worth noting is the final quote of the article, where ISG Co-Chair Lee Hamilton renews the call for engaging Iran:

“The fact that Iran may be supplying lethal equipment is all the more reason to deal with them,” Lee H. Hamilton, a co-chairman of the panel, said in an interview. “We do think it fortifies the case for engaging Iran.”

Yahoo is smart

For those looking to get a glimpse into where technology is headed, this article from the New York Times highlights an exciting new venture Yahoo is heading up (and one that combines areas we're more than familiar with). The company, which has lagged behind Google in internet search and search advertising, is taking the lead on bringing advertising and web search to mobile phones. To learn more, check out its new software entitled oneSEARCH.

Check out our New Politics Institute for more information on both mobile media and search (here and here). Also check out Media 50 Group, a company that helps folks master this new medium and whose co-founder is NPI fellow Tim Chambers.

UPDATE - the CTIA Wireless Conference is kicking off today, where there is a lot of talk about how to best integrate media with cell phone technology.

Amateur Hour at the White House Part II

We've written before about the burgeoning scandal coming out of the White House regarding use of private email accounts by senior White House staff, as a way to hide damning corresspondance.  Now Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chair of the Government Oversight and Reform is ordering the White House not to destroy the accounts or their contents because initial investigations "have uncovered evidence that White House staff have used nongovernmental e-mail accounts to conduct official business." 

If members of the Executive Branch are using private email accounts to do official work, it could amount to violation of the Presidential Records Act - 95% of Karl Rove's email traffic is reported to be conducted through non-.gov email accounts owned by the RNC.  And, if they claim that the traffic on those accounts isn't part of their official work, then they will have a hard time arguing for any kind of executive privilege.  Maybe this time Rove et al have been a little too sneaky for their own good.

The moment for pushing is now

That's the message from this editorial in the Washington Post that highlights the details/potential of the Gutierrez-Flake STRIVE Act, which was introduced last week. The editorial notes that the details of the bill will give Conservatives no excuse to claim it as granting amnesty, saying:

Conservatives opposed to citizenship for illegal immigrants are fond of pillorying it as "amnesty." This bill provides nothing of the sort. In addition to requiring lawful reentry to the country, it would entail immigrants paying a $2,000 fine and any back taxes they owe, clearing a security and background check, learning English and civics, compiling a felony-free record, and submitting proof of past employment. Only after six years and after satisfying those requirements could workers apply for permanent residency status, which could lead to citizenship.

For NDN's statement on the Gutierrez-Flake bill, click here. For Speaker Pelosi's, click here.

A Quieter and More Effective Approach on Iran

See, not all foreign policy has to be based on aircraft carriers and ivory tower war gaming at AEI.  Treasury and State are running an effective campaign to get banks to deny credit to the Iranian institutions that fund terrorists.

The financial squeeze has seriously crimped Tehran's ability to finance petroleum industry projects and to pay for imports. It has also limited Iran's use of the international financial system to help fund allies and extremist militias in the Middle East, say U.S. officials and economists who track Iran.

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