Making Things Worse

Sorry, everyone, but this will be another “Told ya so!” post, commentary on yesterday’s unanimous jury decision in favor of Tata Consultancy Services, finding that TCS does not discriminate against US workers.

I’ve long warned activist critics of the H-1B work visa program that they were shooting themselves in the foot with their obsession with the IT outsourcing firms such as TCS — what I term the “Intels Good, Infosyses Bad” syndrome (IGIB). Under IGIB, it is presumed that the outsourcing, “rent a programmer” firms like Infosys and Tata are the main abusers of H-1B, while the “Intels,” firms that hire H-1Bs from the foreign student populations at US universities, use the program responsibly.

I’ve explained numerous times that, not only is the IGIB premise incorrect — the Intels are highly culpable too — but also the activists’ emphasis on IGIB will be a political disaster. In the end, Congress will enact some mild sanctions on the Infosyses while rewarding the Intels, with an expanded H-1B program and a “staple a green card to their diplomas” act. In short, the activists’ IGIB strategy/mentality will make things worse, with MORE foreign workers than before.

Well, with the TCS verdict, now it’s happened, though in a slightly different manner. The jury unanimously sided with Tata, setting a (moral if not legal) precedent. Sorry, H-1B activists, but you have indeed made things worse for yourselves.

I’ve long held that cases like this one do not have a firm legal basis. More on that shortly, but first, how could the plaintiffs’ legal counsel possibly have chosen Oakland as a venue? This is one of the most liberal areas in the nation — large minority population, and very liberal whites — and as a liberal myself I say, good for them. But apparently the jury saw this in solidarity-with-People-of-Color, resist-Trump terms.

As reported by Bloomberg,

The trial casts a spotlight on work-visa programs that companies use to bring overseas workers to the U.S., a practice President Donald Trump has criticized in his protectionist push. TCS, Asia’s largest outsourcer, and rival Indian information technology staffing firms Infosys Ltd.and Wipro Ltd. have all been squeezed by the Trump administration…

Mumbai-based TCS denies any unlawful bias in its U.S. operations and says in court filings that the Caucasian American leading the lawsuit was removed from one of its projects and ultimately terminated over “performance concerns.”

Ah yes, Trump is working to protect lazy, incompetent whites against competition from Immigrants of Color. This would resonate with any upstanding progressive Oaklander. How could a juror show her face around Lake Merritt or the Temescal district after voting for the plaintiffs and thus failing to support minorities and quelle horreur, siding with Trump?

Suing TCS in Oakland? What was lead plaintiffs’ counsel Daniel Kotchen thinking?

Actually, I had warned Kotchen (he and I have served on a couple of panels together) that I’ve long believed that discrimination on the basis of national origin is the wrong grounds for a lawsuit, going way back to the Guy Santiglia case in 2002. Yes, there is discrimination involved, but NOT on the basis of national origin. Instead, it’s discrimination on the basis of immigration status (US citizens and green card holders vs. work visas)  He found my comment interesting but has proceeded anyway.

The H-1B-critic activists, notably including the immigration reform organizations, have viewed the Infosyses as the low-hanging fruit, the most obvious abusers. Now with this verdict endorsing TCS’ hiring practices, a JURY verdict mind you, the activists have shot themselves in the foot.

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Paul Romer Is Computer Illiterate?

I’ve often wondered what Nobel laureates “do for an encore.” Are they content to do mundane work? Or do they step up their work as public intellectuals? Maybe just enjoy their reign as deans of their fields?

Thus I read with interest yesterday’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Government Can Do More to Support Science and Innovation” by Paul Romer, who earlier this year shared the Nobel Prize in Economics, for work done related to the title of his piece. I was shocked, indeed appalled, at this passage:

Take Python, the open-source programming language that has become the language of choice for software developers in the fields of artificial intelligence and data science. Programmers have used Python to power innovation in everything from the detection of gravity waves…to reducing the cost of developing new drugs.

First, many of us in AI/data science greatly prefer the R language to Python; ironically I just wrote on this yesterday in my statistics/R blog. But the much more salient point is that choice of programming language is a matter of taste. For Romer to claim — and I fear, believe — that without Python we’d still be searching for gravity waves and drugs would take longer to develop is absolutely absurd.

Romer is also confusing programming languages with software written in those languages. Any major language is free, but commercial software is written in all of them, including Python. And contrary to another implication of Romer’s piece, federal grants are used to develop open-source software all the time.

Actually, I myself am very big on open-source software. In fact, all the software I use is open-source. But Romer’s ignorance here is alarming.

Told Ya So!

Right after Donald Trump won in 2016, I wrote a post here titled, “Suggested ‘First Things First’ for Trump.” Given that he has no idea who I am, and my being a Democrat who voted for Bernie, I had no delusions that he’d heed my advice. But still…I must say that my comments might have been prescient.

The loss of the House obviously resulted from many factors, but the consensus seems to be that the biggest one was the GOP attack on Obamacare. As a supporter of that program (indeed, of Medicare for All, funded by employer tax), I warned in November 2016 that the health care issue (from both directions) led to Bill Clinton’s loss of the House in 1994 and Obama’s in 2010. I wrote,

Do NOT go headlong into the health care issue early in your term. It’s the new Third Rail, as seen in the huge midterm election losses experienced by Bill Clinton and Obama, largely due to controversy over health care. Yes, Obamacare is beginning to run into some serious problems, but go slowly on this one. And remember, many of those who voted for you have found Obamacare to be the solution to scary situations they had found themselves in.

I also wrote,

Focus on solutions, not retributions. Resist the chants of “Lock her up!”, for instance.

Seems that these days divisiveness is the New Normal. Both parties seem to exist solely for the purpose of sabotaging each other, and the press has been egging them on. Trump, of course, loves to gives the press red meat in that regard, but can’t he be just a wee bit less outrageous in his comments?

Mind you, I’d be the first to concede that the press has been horribly unfair to Trump. Indeed, I’ve said so, more than once. And the ejection of Jim Acosta should have come long ago, as I said back in 2017. But again, Trump should have handled it more calmly, simply giving Acosta a Penalty Card, having him leave the room, rather than giving the journos a chance to cite freedom of the press and make comparisons to China. Trump should have pointed out that he didn’t eject any other liberal writers; Acosta was ejected simply because he was being a jerk.

One more of my suggestions from November 2016:

Take a balanced, practical approach to unauthorized immigration. Assure people that you don’t plan to be any more aggressive in deportation than Obama has been; the ethnic activists say even that has been far too much, but you will get much credit if you give some assurance to the actual people at risk. On the other hand, take steps to solve the jobs and fiscal problems caused by the illegal inflow. You’ve threatened to withhold federal dollars from Sanctuary Cities, who after all, are flouting federal law. I agree with that (with a “devil in the details” disclaimer), but how about going further, doing something on the same lines for E-Verify? For instance, press cities and states to require that any business seeking a license utilize E-Verify in its hiring; to not do so amounts to encouraging hiring of the unauthorized, again flouting federal law, thus providing justification for your action.

Look, most of us liberals are not happy with the caravans coming from the South (though many would not say so publicly). Indeed, blue collar Latino and black communities — ostensibly objects of great sympathy from those of us on the left — are the biggest victims of the failure by both parties to solve the (admittedly complex) problems of the undocumented. But again, Trump’s choice of language has greatly exacerbated the problem, and his failure to stand up to the more extreme positions pushed by his advisers, notably on the decision to separate parents and kids at the border, has greatly harmed him, without contributing at all to a solution. As I pointed out then, E-Verify, properly promoted and enforced, would help a ton.

I’m not saying Trump shouldn’t be Trump. But maybe a 98% Trump would help?