Reactions to my posting earlier today on the BLS paper by Yi Xue and Richard Larson have been quite strong, both in reader comments on the blog and private e-mail to me. People were outraged by the fact that Ms. Xue did not disclose in the paper the fact that she now works for Palantir, a firm that hires H-1Bs in the Big Data area (and likely that she herself is a foreign worker). She had simply described herself as “a former MIT grad student.” Even more interesting, her paper cites Big Data as an area where there is a labor shortage.
I especially liked Alan Tonelson’s tweet, in which he placed the paper in his “fakeonomics” category. But when one reader, Statistical Observer, wrote that he “will send a strongly worded comment to the academic department head and president of the second author,” my first reaction was that this was unfair and far too drastic. So I started to write a reply to Mr. Observer, saying, “Hey, come on, it’s not as if Fwd.us is behind all this” — and then I thought, “Well, wait a minute, let’s check that out.”
It turns out that Palantir cofounder Joe Lonsdale is actually one of the major contributors to Fwd.us, and is listed prominently on that organization’s Web site. That certainly puts Xue’s current job at Palantir, and possibly her failure to disclose that fact, in an interesting light.
And a further search turned up an even more interesting connection: Palantir, as mentioned a Big Data company, is using Big Data to help Fwd.us pressure Congress on immigration issues. Palantir has developed software tools for that, and uploaded them to GitHub, a popular Web site at which software developers share code. In other words, Palantir has developed software resources that H-1Bs and other stakeholders can use to push Congress on H-1B, green cards, amnesty for unauthorized immigrants and so on!
A more paranoid person than I might suspect that all this explains how that BLS journal accepted such a sloppy paper — the journal may have come under pressure from certain parties. Well, these days, anything is possible.
The result of this exquisitely well-organized campaign will be that Congress will receive all these messages from H-1Bs and their allies, and mistakenly think there is a groundswell of support for expanding foreign tech worker programs.