Plenty-of-Drama Khanna

Former President Barack Obama was proud of his ability to keep calm, calling himself No-Drama Obama. During the VOA debate with me on the H-1B work visa, Rep. Ro Khanna lost his cool on several occasions, and yesterday he and blogger Alan Tonelson got into quite an exchange on Twitter, in which Khanna rather intemperately (and inaccurately) lambasted me.

After the term road rage (sadly) came into the vernacular some years ago, someone coined the term ‘Net rage, to describe people who are normally mild-mannered but get testy on the Internet. Now we are seeing Tweet rage. Apparently President Trump is not the only one with this affliction.

Mind you, I like this aspect of Khanna, as it means that at least to some extent he is not the typical canned-speech, blow-dried-hair politician. As I said before, Khanna is genuinely idealistic; good for him. So when that makes him lose his cool now and then, fine by me.

Khanna reacted to Tonelson’s blog post that took the San Jose Mercury News/Bay Area News Group to task for not placing their video of the debate online. (More on the video below.)

Khanna tweeted,                                                      

Matloff made unsubstantiated claims and did not know the details of that [Durbin-Grassley H-1B reform] bill, or the issues of where the abuse was taking place.                                                              

I have no idea what he meant by “the issues of where the abuse was taking place,” which is a little bizarre considering I’ve been writing about this for nearly 25 years. But let’s look at the other two allegations he made.

First, Durbin-Grassley: During the debate, Khanna said that he supports the bill, and is a cosponsor to a House version. When I said I don’t support the bill, he asked, again rather testily, “Have you read it?” I answered yes, and he asked if I had read the latest version, and I said “Yes, unless it has changed in the last two weeks” (the latest version is dated January 20). I then added that I knew both the author of the bill, Francis Cissna, and Grassley’s main aide on the bill, Kathy Nuebel, and that in past years Kathy had occasionally consulted with me. I supported earlier versions of the bill in previous Congresses, but oppose the current one.

Of course, Kathy and Francis were not pleased by my criticism of the later version, but the point is, YES, I am highly familiar with this bill, both present and past. For Rep. Khanna to say I don’t know the details of the bill is patently false.

Now, what about those “unsubstantiated claims”? Khanna had brought this up during the debate, when I discussed a meeting between about a dozen of us researchers and two people at Google, one a senior engineering manager, and the other an HR person. The two Google people volunteered the information that they prefer to hire foreign workers, due to their de facto indentured servitude: Under green card sponsorship, the workers are essentially trapped, unable to change employers — a huge plus from Google’s point of view. I also noted that this problem was well-known, e.g. cited in the NRC report commissioned by Congress.

As I mentioned in my original report on the debate, Khanna became quite agitated when I brought up Google’s frank statements, amounting to admitting abuse. From my original report on the event:

Khanna reacted quite sharply to this, his voice rising. “This is a very serious charge! You have no proof! Who at Google said this? What are their names?” I replied that I had stated this publicly before without objection from Google, and then said, “I’ll give you the name of the HR person, who by the way is now at Facebook. You should call Google.” But of course he did not take me up on the offer.

Well, the offer is still open. Khanna is welcome to contact me at any time, and I will supply him with the name of the Google HR person. And as I said, there were about a dozen others at this meeting, who could presumably confirm. How about it, Mr. Khanna?

Now finally, concerning the video recording of the event, the editor of the paper made a reader comment on my blog site,

Hi. I’m the editor of the Mercury News. We had a photographer there who captured some still photos and some video for use with a future story, but we didn’t attend with the intention of taping the full debate and did not. I’m at if you’d like to get more details directly.

Nice of him to take the time to post this. It’s a little odd, because the Mercury reporter had indicated that a full video was in fact recorded, and the videographer seemed to be taping continuously. (She had the videocam on a high tripod, seemingly much for an occasional clip. The VOA, in interviewing me for 20 minutes after the debate, just used a handheld camera.) But the reporter may have misunderstood and maybe the taping wasn’t continuous. Maybe it wasn’t full because 17 minutes of tape were missing. 🙂

In any case, this should have been a newsworthy event, especially for the Mercury News. This was the only  public debate ever held between a politician and a researcher on the H-1B issue. Since the Mercury considers H-1B to be a major topic, why no article about it????


21 thoughts on “Plenty-of-Drama Khanna

  1. A few years back I thought I had a reporter from the Mercury interested in doing a story on the abuses of the H1-B. Then he wasn’t all of a sudden. The Mercury doesn’t want to upset potential sources of revenue. Remember the huge hit they took when the auto dealers stopped advertising in the Mercury for several weeks after they wrote a story about how crooked some car salesmen were at the local dealerships?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. > In any case, this should have been a newsworthy event, especially for the Mercury News. This was the only public debate ever held between a politician and a researcher on the H-1B issue.

    I really would seem that somebody messed up to have a debate on an important topic but to make no recording of it. Had someone verified that the VOA didn’t record it. Khanna did send out the following tweets on June 19th:

    > Replying to @RoKhanna @AlanTonelson @mercnews
    > But let’s find out facts on who recorded. I really don’t know who did, but my impression is the main video was an organizer

    > Replying to @AlanTonelson @mercnews
    > My understanding is they didn’t record it. They had a reporter there. But it was the event organizers that were recording it.

    In any case, Khanna had another tweet storm Tuesday evening when he tweeted the following:

    > Replying to @RoKhanna @AlanTonelson @mercnews
    > He fears it would be stripped away in negotiation but I don’t believe that to be the case. The best part of bill is raising the wage!

    > Replying to @AlanTonelson @mercnews
    > He acknowledges that the bill would create a median wage! That’s a big step forward. That’s the best part of the bill

    > Replying to @AlanTonelson @mercnews
    > But it would require ALL companies to pay the median wage, including US ones

    > Replying to @RoKhanna @AlanTonelson @mercnews
    > Btw I strongly disagree with Matloff on a number of issues, but respect his passion for the country and civic debate

    > Replying to @AlanTonelson @mercnews
    > Genuine question: the durbin grassley bill calls for paying a median wage –much more than prevailing. What other reforms does Matloff want

    If the above tweet is a genuine question, why not include Norm among the addressees? Otherwise, we’ll just follow a live debate that nobody recorded with a twitter debate that all the participants were not invited to. Perhaps Khanna will agree to continue this debate online, on a “neutral site” if necessary. Twitter doesn’t seem a place for a serious debate since all comments are limited to 140 characters. But we really need to get all of the participants in one place and record it so that the statements can be fact-checked and we can move forward on this issue.


    • So he admits that I do know the bill well after all. 🙂 Progress!

      As I have said before, in past versions of the bill (previous Congresses), the median-wage provision was the first casualty in the negotiations. If the current bill ever is seriously considered (unlikely, but it could become part of a general immigration reform bill), again this provision would be the first to be deleted. So would the provision giving Americans hiring priority; the CEOs would object that they need to hire someone quickly, and can’t be be subject to a process of advertising etc.

      Worse, the thrust of the bill’s message is Intels Good, Infosyses Bad. That will lead to either removal of the cap for the Intels and/or enactment of Staple a Green Card, essentially the same.

      I can’t really blame Khanna for this, because even many H-1B critics buy into Intels Good, Infosyses Bad and cannot understand the consequences.


  3. Hello Guys,
    Sara Blackwell is holding a rally called “You re fired rally” in front of the White house on June 26. Would be interesting to see if the main stream media covers it.

    Prof. Matloff, this probably is the get organized message you often emphasize regarding tech workers.
    Would love it if you could post an article regarding this rally if this is within your academic limits / blog standards. Atleast might spread the word among your blog readership.


  4. Michael Savage on his radio program, last night seemed to be implying that the reason a lot of the tech CEOs were praising Trump is likely because they probably got some H1-B guarantees.
    Cheap labor is how these guys roll. Companies that hire H1-Bs are a dying lot anyway. Look at walmart, sears, and the big banks.

    The only solution is to introduce H1-B competition to professors, unions, government bureaucrats and of course, doctors to level things out.

    I personally think it’s a lost cause. It’s funny that US universities whose pension and administrative obligations are through the roof are sabotaging their primary customer – the US citizen student by stuffing their Masters programs with foreign students most of whom actually come here for a work permit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A nation which has nothing but rich profitable companies, unemployed citizens with no $ to spend, and all foreign workers remitting trillions out of the country annually will never survive.

      And that is what the US has become.


  5. You have to forgive and try to understand Rep. Khanna. Like most indoctrinated Dems, he can’t fathom how an intelligent left-of-center professor, at a major left-leaning university, would ever bother to question a program, that brings in thousands of foreign workers each year, and just might result in the layoffs of talented, experienced US citizens of all stripes.

    Not that the GOP are a bunch of saints but the Atlantic had two great articles this month:

    H1-B is mentioned in the first.


    • Khanna (and the Mercury News reporter with the videocamera) was clearly expecting me to be from the alt-right. When I informed them that (a) I’ve lived in immigrant households my entire life and (b) I am a lifelong liberal Democrat who voted for Bernie, that certainly took the wind out of their sails.

      Once again, it shows what happens when one lives in an echo chamber.


      • I found a Twitter account of someone who seems to be Indian or Indian-American who is against the H1B and other work visas:

        I think that part of our fight/argument against these work visas should include the fact that immigrants who are now US citizens are also getting hurt by these visas. I think this is a powerful counterpoint to pro-H1B’ers, pro-diversity, & pro-immigration types. If they empathize then it would introduce some cognitive-dissonance. If they don’t, then it shows that they’re just lying and hiding behind the pro-immigrant/pro-diversity cover but in reality – as we all know – it’s all about profits & corporate greed.

        I’d be interested in seeing Khanna’s response if you bring this up with him if you get another chance at a debate. Does he have constituents/supporters who are being hurt by H1B, L1, EB1, OPT, etc? What does he think of the African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans being hurt by these visas?


        • H1B is a NON-IMMIGRANT visa. They are never supposed to stay here. They are supposed to go home when the job is over. Instead they disappear into America and open new staffing agencies bringing in millions more.


          • H-1B is a dual intent visa, which means that a worker holding an H-1B visa can simultaneously pursue permanent residency.


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