Thursday, October 10, 2002

Exodus From African Banks Accelerates

Over Half Billion Dollars In Assets At Stake

According to key indicators, the rate of capital flight from African financial institutions is accelerating. Analysts at economic thinktank HFP Corp. today released a study showing that the volume of emails requesting help in moving funds from banks (mostly in Nigeria) has grown enormously in the last two weeks. The study, consisting mostly of the important-looking Excel chart shown below, shows the frightening growth in Nigerian-bank-related spam email.

Among the study's conclusions:

At the current rate, the gullibility-connotating phrase 'then I'd like to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge' will be displaced by 'then I'd like your help in transferring some Nigerian bank money' within five years, thus dooming a fine homegrown phrase to economic irrelevance.

Also sounding the alarm is the World's Best Free Adu1t Megasite, which has complained about anti-competitive practices by Nigerian bank employees and the widows of deposed dictators. According to the World's Best Free Adu1t Megasite Spokesman,

The Nigerian spammers are stealing the mindshare of the spam-reading public with claims of fortunes --- ranging from 9.6 to 160 million dollars --- after the Free Adu1t Megasite pioneers blazed the spam trail. Even the best free pr0n can't compete with huge sums that have been abandoned by corporations or not paid to bankrupt contractors. I tell ya, it's enough to make a guy want to be debt-free and creating a paycheck with his computer.

One ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak outlook is the fact that one Nigerian bank director labelled an email as "Urgent and Personal" while including 1,885 email addresses in the CC: field. The bank director in question, Bobby Roberts, obviously has a lot of friends.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

I Got Your Visa, Right *Here*

There are a few topics about which I shouldn't read at work, mostly because the cursing upsets the people in nearby offices. One of those topics is "immigration and visas", and this piece in National Review Online occasioned enough heated profanity that they won't allow children on my floor of the building for at least two weeks, at which time the echoes should have died down.

Longstoryshort: the State Department should not have granted visas to the 9/11 terrorists, simply due to missing or questionable information on their visa applications. The bad guys got them anyway. You'd think someone would look twice when the applicant writes "Kill Infidels and Jews" in the "Reason For Visit" box, then crosses it out and puts "Attend flight school", but no.

This drives me frickin' nuts, because I have been refused a visa on at least three occasions. And I'm a citizen of a country known more for maple syrup and hockey players than for terrorists and religious fanatics. Here's my deal: I'm a Canadian citizen with an electrical engineering degree from a respectable school and many years of experience. I've got no criminal record, and I've never overstayed a visa... the kind of guy you want in your country, doncha think?

Of course, my situation and that of the terrorists are not strictly parallel. I was applying for work visas under the NAFTA agreement, and dealing with the INS (which is part of Justice, not State) but I think the wrongheaded stupidity involved generalizes well. In all cases, I was refused a visa because the INS inspector thought the job involved "software engineering", and according to him, there is no such profession, and therefore someone with an engineering degree (like me) can't be admitted to the US to do such a job. The first time this happened was in late '99 when the tech industry was at its peak and Silicon Valley was screaming for software pros. Uh uh. No software engineers were going to get through the Blaine, Washington border crossing, nosirree, Bob. A few months later at the same border crossing (which I have since learned to avoid) I went through the same rigamarole, with a job offer to work as an engineer, with duties including "designing algorithms". This time the young lady took the trouble to photocopy me the dictionary definition of algorithms and the Occupational Outlook Handbook description of electrical engineers, then proceeded to read them to me. Out loud. Slowly. After reading the definition of algorithms (which fortunately have nothing to do with Al Gore dancing) she looked at me triumphantly and said "That sounds like software engineering to me." and sent me on my way, sans visa.

And it's not just me. Ask anyone who's been through the INS mill; they all have horror stories. When you come to the border, you are completely at the mercy of the INS guy; whether you get to travel on to your new job that day is completely unpredictable and entirely dependent on the whims of a petty bureaucrat who might not like your face, or who's pissed off because your salary will be four times what he's making, even though he gets to carry a piece and wearing a snappy white polyester uniform. And you have no recourse and no appeal if he decides that veeblefetzing is not a professional activity and therefore your veeblefetzing degree and letter offering you a position as Senior Veeblefetzerizer at one of the top veeblefetz firms on the West Coast mean nothing. And some of these guys are mean and nasty --- most Americans probably never get to see them in top form, but if you want to see some true blue assholes in action, go sit in a land border crossing for a few hours and listen to the way that some immigration officers talk to people. This is not to say there aren't helpful and friendly INS officers; I've dealt with quite a few, and once saw an immigration officer do something very kind for a Kosovar refugee. But the jerks are far more obvious, and they're the ones you remember.

On the other hand, I feel for Border Patrol agents, who suffer all kinds of abuse trying to keep illegals from crossing the southern border, and who justifiably get pissed off when politicians completely undermine them by tacitly encouraging illegal immigration. Recently, the legislative AND executive branches have been talking about amnesty for large numbers of illegal aliens, which annoys not only the Border Patrol guys, but those of us who play by the rules AND pay taxes up the wazoo. C'mon, George, who's more likely to vote Republican if only they could?

My point, if I must have one, is that there's something wrong with a system which discourages productive and skilled workers while simultaneously offering amnesty to semi-and-unskilled scofflaws and admitting terrorists with minimal scrutiny. Nobody has a right to come to America, but how about a little sense being applied when deciding who gets in and who doesn't?

Phew. Thanks for listening. I feel better now.

PS: All of this, of course, goes out the window when I find a nice anti-idiotarian American girl to marry. As soon as I have a green card, it will become imperative to keep all those damn foreigners out so they don't steal our jobs.

PPS: Any nice anti-idiotarian American girls in the SF Bay Area are strongly encouraged to contact the author, preferably before his current visas lapses.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

"Does this stance on Iraq make me look fat?"

Al Gore packs on the pounds.