Oh No! Johnny Can’t Code :-(

I’ve often said that although the tech industry doesn’t necessarily hire the sharpest engineers, they surely hire the sharpest PR people. And one of the cleverest tacks they and their allies have developed is to conduct and hype international coding competitions. Here is the latest such report, which appeared in — surprise, surprise — the Washington Post.

I’ve written about this before, during my annus mirabilis with Bloomberg. 🙂 Don’t want to read the link? The short version is that these contests have little or nothing to do with the coding software development prowess of a nation.

One would think, for example, that the author of a 500-word piece in one of the nation’s top newspapers would notice the obvious: In that “rankings” table, there appears to be an inverse correlation between alleged coding ability and the number of successful apps in a country. Take China, ranked #1 in the world. Where are its killer apps?

There is one Chinese app, WeChat (微信) that has gotten a lot of attention lately in the western press. I recently joined a WeChat group, at the invitation of a Chinese friend. I am thoroughly enjoying it, and am quite impressed by the amazingly multidimensional members, all of them ethnic Chinese and almost all of the immigrants from China. But the app itself, though very versatile and a sort of Swiss army knife in China, is just derivative, nothing innovative that I’ve found so far. About the best I can say is that it offers a big array of emoticons (which I don’t use). And guess what? The notion of instant messaging apps such as WeChat was originally invented in Israel, rank 35 on the Post‘s list.

And as to the point in the article about coding classes for preschoolers…I wonder if WeChat has a good emoticon for revulsion.

Scammed by a Startup

Interesting article. called to my attention by a reader of this blog. The H-1B issue is not central, but does come in at several points. Note that the article’s author describes the H-1Bs as quite inexperienced, which is a point I hear a lot from people who work together with H-1Bs. The idea is clearly to save money, without much regard to “you get what you pay for.”

Guess Who?

Here is a recent public statement that jibes with Trump’s accusation that Hillary Clinton is “bigoted”:

The Clintons use black people for votes, but then don’t do anything for black communities after they’re elected. They use us for photo ops.

Of course, ironically, later in the interview this person says “I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that we are not led by Donald Trump.”

Putting aside Trump’s questionable use of the word bigot, he and the person quoted above (Google it to find out who) are correct. The Democrats (not just the Clintons) have indeed been taking African-Americans for granted.

In fact, it has long been established that the expansive immigration policies pushed by the Democrats have been harming African-Americans. Though research on the Mariel Boatlift is still being debated, even the immigration expansionists concede that there is a negative impact on blacks generally. They also concede that the earlier immigrants are victims too; as I’ve often said, just ask any  Latino day laborer on Cesar Chavez Ave. in East LA if he wants more immigration.

And for those of you who think Trump is a Johnny-come-lately to this issue, look at his platform on immigration, put out more than a year ago. It says

Today, nearly 40% of black teenagers are unemployed. Nearly 30% of Hispanic teenagers are unemployed. For black Americans without high school diplomas, the bottom has fallen out: more than 70% were employed in 1960, compared to less than 40% in 2000.

He said similar things in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention this July.

Having said all that, I think it’s absolutely disgraceful that Trump and Clinton are spending all their time hurling invectives at each other, by far the worst I’ve ever seen, all “while Rome burns.”

For instance, how many voters know the development of a week or so ago that Aetna is pulling out of Obamacare, with the real possibility that others will too? This would destroy the program, at least in its present form. Whether you like Obamacare or not (I support it, though with reservations), there is a very real possibility of a train wreck here, yet with no comment from either candidate.

The Zoology of Trump Supporters

In reading the recent spate of analyses of voters who support Donald Trump, I am reminded of a TV show popular when I was a kid, Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, an educational show on animals. We now have a number of Jane Goodalls in the media, regaling us with reports on a bizarre new species, Trumpa Supportis.

I say this tongue-in-cheek, of course, but the analogy is surprisingly strong. The media talking heads have no Trump supporters in their social circles, and thus view Trump supporters as a strange breed, using exactly the same tone, body language and “otherness” wording that one would find on Wild Kingdom. In fact, an analysis I heard today on Marketplace discussed the Trump types — those angry about globalization etc. — going extinct. They didn’t use that word, but it was the same notion.

Last week, I heard another interviewer of a “Jane Goodall” ask how blue collar types could possibly support a rich man like Trump, as if this journalist never heard of FDR or the Kennedys. Apparently, to her Trump voters are such “a different animal” that these historical precedents just didn’t come to mind.

And, as with any other newly-discovered species, statistical studies of the Trumpists are being to come out, such as this new one by Jonathan Rothwell, reported last week in the Washington Post. I have not been a Rothwell fan in the past, due to his biased and technically flawed research on H-1B, but I must say that in skimming through his working paper, he seems to have done a careful, insightful and knowledgeable job, dispelling a lot of myths. Pretty good work for a globalist like Rothwell.

A Bit More Revealed of theTrump “Reversal” on H-1B

What a remarkable, man-bites-dog article in The Hindu, a major Indian paper! Here we see Trump defending the H-1B visa program in 2015 to the man who would last week became his new campaign chief. Very interesting stuff, and it sheds a bit more light on what the press — and oddly, Trump himself — characterized as a reversal of his stance on H-1B in October 15.

To review: On August 16, 2015, Trump announced his platform on immigration. It was rather detailed, and was quite good on H-1B, from my point of view. Sadly, though, he “clarified” his position a couple of days later, saying

When foreigners attend our great colleges & want to stay in the U.S., they should not be thrown out of our country…I want talented people to come into this country—to work hard and to become citizens. Silicon Valley needs engineers, etc.

I took (and still take) this to mean that the candidate supports Staple a Green Card, a proposal under which automatic green cards would be granted to any foreign student earning a Master’s or PhD in STEM at a U.S. university. This would be an unwarranted policy that would do just as much damage as H-1B is doing today, so I was profoundly disappointed. I wrote, “Somebody got to him.”

Later, on March 3 of this year, Trump made news by stating in a Republican debate that he had revised his position on H-1B. But that wasn’t the case at all; he simply stated the position that he had staked out in his August 2015 clarification.

But the article in The Hindu reveals new details. Trump adopted the industry lobbyists’ favorite tack — cite a story of a foreign student whom the U.S. lost due to lack of a visa, in this case Kunal Bahl who founded a company called Snapdeal in India. These stories are usually misleading, and in Bahl’s case, based on a false premise; the lobbyists presented this as a “He could have founded the company here” story, when in fact the company’s success has been in India, catering to Indian tastes and market structure. Good for Bahl, but I believe it is fair to say he likely would not have been able to do this in the U.S.

At any rate, the article in The Hindu shows us more of how Trump was swayed to “clarify” his original stance. One can easily see the slick lobbyists painting a convincing picture for him on H-1B (and who knows, maybe Peter Thiel was in the mix too). And the fact that Trump had actually tried to convince the man who later would become his campaign manager about the value of H-1B is rather mind boggling.

I should say that there are some who disagree with my reading of Trump’s “clarification.” They point out that Trump uses language like that in the article, listing “Harvard or Princeton, Penn, Stanford,” suggesting that he only wants to accept the really top foreign students — just like I have advocated for years. But I really doubt this. Trump is using too much of the lobbyists’ favorite language (“find a way that they can stay here”) for it to be a coincidence. This is the usual Intels Yes, Infosyses No tech industry argument.

It is certainly unfair, though, that the press and the Democrats are making so much hay of the fact that over the years, Trump himself has hired H-1Bs. He has explained that, saying that as a businessman he had to take advantage of available options, but it is a bad program and he would fix it as president. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has NOT repudiated her longtime coziness with the Infosyses, and seems to have no intention of switching as president. Yet it is Trump, not Clinton, who gets the bad press on this.

2016 Election: Taking Stock of the Candidates

My thoughts on Trump vs. Clinton, maybe surprising to some of you:

Trust: To me, Hillary has a long record of being untrustworthy, including but by no means limited to H-1B issues. Her consistent tight coziness with the Indian outsourcing firms says it all. Presumably she was also well aware (how could she not be?) of the DNC’s disgraceful shenanigans to undermine Bernie Sanders. Trump, on the other hand, has so far shown himself to be exceedingly impetuous, also quite counter to the notion of trust. Sorry, both get an F grade at the moment.

Jobs: I really do believe that Trump would jawbone and threaten enough to force U.S. manufacturers to make reasonable attempts to increase their U.S. employment. I believe that Clinton would just give lip service. Regarding H-1B and related issues, I have already indicated that things would be disastrous under either candidate. Maybe a Pres. Trump would back off from Staple a Green Card if elected, but Hillary has already made it clear, I think, that the victims of H-1B are collateral damage in her mind. She has already flip-flopped on TPP, and has started to waffle; she will sign it if she is president, with a few largely cosmetic changes.

Wall Street: Absolutely unacceptable for HRC to take all that money and then try to claim it doesn’t affect her actions. As the DC cab driver, an African-immigrant Bernie supporter said, “Does Clinton take us for fools?” It remains to be seen whether Trump would truly follow up on his rhetoric, but at the very least the Republican Party platform does call for a restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act, on which the Democrats are wishy-washy, and whose 2000 repeal was signed by Bill Clinton, which by the way was only one item in a whole basket of actions he took at the behest of Wall Street.

Supreme Court:  Even though I side with the liberals currently on the Court, I consider both the liberals and conservatives far too ideologically driven. We need more moderates, and I believe that either candidate will be forced to appoint them. Slight edge to Hillary, but only slight.

Race:  Sorry, all of you who think Trump’s a racist. I see no evidence of that, and think he’s gotten a bad rap. Hillary’s fine here too, so it’s a wash.

War:  Trump apparently did not oppose the Iraq War right at the start, but did so early on. Hillary followed the party line, as she always does and always will.

Spouses: As I have written, I think the attention given to Melania on her visa status is unfair and inappropriate. However, it is true that Americans want a certain sense of elegance in a First Lady, or to account for a Hillary victory let’s call it a First Spouse. Well, then, what choice do we have for First Spouse? It’s a choice between a nude model and a serial philanderer. How in the world did it come to this? Mind you, this is nowhere near a deal breaker for me, but as I said, a lot of people do care. Yet given that Bill would be Hillary’s closest confidant, she has the edge here.

Women and minorities: The other day I had lunch with a friend for whom I have profound affection and respect. She made the case to me that on women’s issues alone I should vote for Hillary. I just can’t do that, given the enormous other problems. Her campaign staff seems mostly white to me, which is telling.

Alternatives: I consider the libertarians the uncaring-ans, so Gary Johnson is out for me. Some progressives say I should vote for Jill Stein, yet she wants to increase the H-1B cap. I am not a one-issue voter by any means, but this stance indicates she is either ignorant or more tied to the corporate world than she claims; either way, that’s a big problem.

The bottom line: I usually try not to publicly state my votes before an election, but it should be pretty clear by now that I’m voting for Bernie as a write-in.

Shifting the Immigration Conversation to Melania

So, the newest controversy involves questions of just what visas Mrs. Trump had in her early days in the U.S. I don’t know whether all the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed, but really, leave the poor woman alone. I’m sure she did as she was told, and knew very little about the visa regulations. How many of you read every word of the contracts you sign?

For that matter, the press and the Clinton campaign should stop slamming Donald Trump for using the H-1B program. As I’ve said many times, when employers take advantage of visa, it’s no different from their exploiting all possible loopholes in the tax code. I’m sure many, if not most, people reading this blog have taken advantage of tax loopholes that they think probably aren’t that fair.

I’ve never blamed the tech industry for making use of the H-1B and green card loopholes. Instead, my criticism has been based on their lying in connection with the visas, by claiming there is a tech labor shortage and so on. I’ve said many times, for example, if the tech lobby were to go to Congress and publicly say they want young H-1Bs because they don’t want to hire qualified older Americans, I wouldn’t be speaking out.

In other words, I don’t consider Trump a hypocrite on the H-1B issue (though I strongly object to his apparent lack of good information on the issue). By contrast, Hillary has not been open at all about her long history of supporting H-1B and offshoring.