The Left, the 2020 Election, and Race

A few months ago, in an e-mail exchange with a dear progressive Latina friend, I mentioned that I would vote for neither Biden nor Trump. I also pointed out that as a Californian, my vote doesn’t matter, since California will certainly choose Joe B. As she knows I too am a progressive, she replied, “No, you must vote for Biden. We need a landslide count, to repudiate Trump.”

My friend of course was not referring to Trump’s environmental record, or even his position on health care. No, you all know the issue she had in mind: Race.

The Left views Trump as a racist, pure and simple. I disagree, but the point is that this is how the election was perceived by the Left.

As Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post put it last Friday on NPR (emphasis added):

…this election is not just a choice between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, but it’s a choice between American democracy and white supremacy. And I think that if we are going to have these two overlapping – these two camps that are overlapping but not joining, as David said, if we’re going to have them come together, have this nation come together, we must as a nation talk about the role of race in our politics and in our society. The longer we ignore the role of race at play, the longer these divisions are going to go on and the deeper they will get.

In Capehart’s eyes, we have 70 million white supremacists in our midst. Yet he ignored David Brooks’ points just before his:

…I expected a 10-point Biden win. It didn’t come. The electorate surprised us in all sorts of ways – Republicans picking up seats in the House, Trump getting more non-white voters than any Republican in 60 years, gay voter – the gay vote for Trump or for Republicans doubling.


This putatively racist president actually increased his support among people of color and other minorities. The Left cannot stand something so diametrically counter to their narrative.

The Asian-American Left was exasperated by Trump voters among their co-ethnics, especially the Chinese. “Trump calls Covid-19 ‘the China Virus’! You must vote him out!” They cannot see that pocketbook and security issues might be top priority for those turncoats, and that maybe they don’t think the term “China Virus” is so terrible anyway.

Trump increased his support among Muslim-Americans, still small yes, but an increase nevertheless. Maybe the pocketbook and security issues concerned them the most too, and maybe some of them remember that that infamous list of seven majority-Muslim countries in Trump’s travel ban had originally been compiled by the Obama/Biden administration.

And most devastating to the Left’s narrative of all, the Hispanics! Trump got increased support among them too. Ah, the Left would say, but there is a REASON, explained in a New York Times article, “The Macho Appeal of President Trump.” It was pointed out to me by a Leftist trying desperately to defend the narrative. See, he says, it’s not that Latinos like Trump’s policies, no.

It’s an excellent article…Oh, wait, hold the phone! Isn’t that claim about the Latino vote…uh…racist? Racial stereotyping?

And if Trump himself had made such a claim, the Times, CNN, NPR and so on would say “In an effort to appeal to his white supremacist base,Trump tweeted today without evidence that Latinos care more about machismo than about real issues.” But no, here the NYT says it, and it’s not racist at all, according to the Left. On the contrary, to them, the NYT article shows that the Left’s narrative was right after all.

It’s become tiresome to always follow and/or preface my remarks like these by the disclaimers: No, I didn’t vote for Trump; yes, race IS an important topic, no,, I did not support the travel ban, etc. That’s why I wrote my blog post on not voting for either man, and gave it a handy TinyURL tag,

But I do care about careful discourse, and believe it to be vital to a functioning democracy. Call me quaint.


The Unmitigated Chutzpah Act of 2020

A hidden feature in Proposition 22 on California’s November ballot should outrage California voters, and shock many of you outside California.

Mind you, I’m not talking about the general content of the measure, which concerns whether drivers for Uber, Lyft etc. should be considered employees or independent contractors. Reasonable people might have different opinions on that.

No, instead I’m referring to paragraph 7465 of the full text:

After the effective date of this chapter, the Legislature may amend this chapter by a statute passed in each house of the Legislature by roll call vote entered into the journal, seven-eighths of the membership concurring, provided that the statute is consistent with, and furthers the purpose of, this chapter.

Not a simple majority, not 2/3rds, but 7/8ths! Outrageous, and I believe unprecedented. And that last clause may be even worse.

Furthermore, this paragraph was so buried in the text that even the measure’s leading opponents seem to have missed it. It’s not in the “Arguments Against” section of the voter’s guide put out by the CA Sec. of State.

Again, it’s not the general thrust of the measure that matters here. No law should be allowed to be that inflexible, especially if the inflexibility is so hidden, not to mention hidden by the most expensive lawyers corporate America can buy.

Trump Administration Makes Major H-1B Reform

In the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump promised to reform the H-1B work visa program. That should have been the least controversial of his plans, as the visa has long been recognized by both major parties as having major problems. Almost all the major candidates in 2016 — Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Clinton and Sanders — were critical of the program.

However, very little reform had come until this week. Trump did issue various executive orders, but as I’ve written here, they haven’t addressed the major problems. But yesterday, the administration announced a new policy, one that in my view is the first genuine reform of the visa in its 30-year history.

The H-1B statute (as well as the one for employer-sponsored green cards), imposes wage floors on employers who hire the visa workers. The new policy substantially raises these prevailing wage levels. To understand the implications of the change, one must first look at how prevailing wage works, and at its relation to the “Infosyses vs. Intels” metaphor I often use in these discussions.

There are four prevailing wage levels. Though they are described in terms of experience and expertise, they are actually pegged to different points in a wage distribution. Under the old policy, the Level I prevailing wage was set to the 17th percentile of the wages of all workers in a given occupation and a given region. These will now increase to the 45th and 62nd percentiles, respectively. (There are relatively few visas awarded at Levels 3 and 4, so I’ll limit my discussion here to Levels 1 and 2).

I mention the “Infosyses” and “Intels” in almost everything I write about H-1B, and consider it central to the entire issue. It’s the source of much confusion among (read “deliberate obfuscation by”) some of the players.

By “Infosyses” I mean the firms, mainly India-based, that hire H-1Bs and then “rent” them to US firms. The “Intels” are the employers who hire H-1Bs directly, typically foreign students studying at US universities. Note that the Intels are not just the big household name firms, just any company hiring H-1Bs from US campuses.

The Infosyses tend to hire at Level 1, while the Intels’ H-1Bs are typically at Level 2; the latter stems from the fact that the Intels typically hire at the Master’s degree level, which the regulations say should be Level 2.

It is often claimed that the main abuser of the visa are the Infosyses, while the Intels use the program responsibly. It would be easy to come to that misconception by simply noting the fact that the Intels hire their H-1Bs at Level 2, a higher wage. But as noted, the Intels hire at the Master’s level, thus a higher-quality worker. They are still getting a bargain in hiring the foreign workers, relative to US citizens and permanent residents of that quality; I’ll return to this point momentarily.

The DoL report explaining the move on prevailing wage is quite good. Frankly, I was prepared to see poor reasoning and not much detail, but the DoL looked at the issues in very fine, incisive detail, definitely one of the most carefully-reasoned government reports I’ve ever read. Whether you agree with their conclusions or not, the report is very carefully reasoned, and it’s clearly the result of a ton of time spent.

Will it help? Will more US tech workers be employed as a result of this move? The reason I use such phrasing is that many proposals to fix H-1B seemingly would be useful if implemented but in reality would not move the needle in terms of employment of Americans. Even shutting down the Infosyses entirely would have very little effect, as the employers would still want to save on labor costs, and have alternate ways to do so, as I’ve written before.

At any rate, yes, it would help, but more at Level 2 than Level 1, again due to the existence of alternatives in the case of Level 1. There really are no such alternatives at Level 2, so this new policy is big news.

However…another recurring theme in my writings on H-1B is that the visa is fundamentally about age. Younger workers are cheaper than older ones, and most H-1Bs are young. Though it is also true that young H-1Bs are cheaper than young Americans, the biggest wage savings arise from the age factor.

As noted above, the four-tier prevailing wage system is supposed to be a proxy for amount of experience, thus in turn a proxy for age. In other words, the prevailing wage core of H-1B is actually a government enabler for age discrimination, not to mention discrimination against US workers. Thus the new policy, which by statute must retain that age-related structure, does not solve the H-1B issue, though it’s a much-appreciated first step.

Another flaw is that the new policy does not account for the level of talent of a foreign worker. Take a company like Google. They hire only “the best and the brightest” — so they should pay more. But the prevailing wage structure cannot take talent into account, so Google can pay what in essence is “average” salary (at the given experience level) for much-better-than-average talent.

In that sense, Table 2 in the DoL report is misleading in saying that most of Google’s H-1Bs make more than prevailing wage. It was misleading to begin with, as those figures are based on the old prevailing wage, which the DoL found was substantially too low. But in addition, the table doesn’t take into account that Google workers, domestic or foreign, are of top quality.

Bottom line, data like that in Table 2 does NOT imply that Google is paying its H-1Bs fairly. The foreign workers could be making less than comparable Americans and yet still be making more than prevailing wage.

This is similar to a finding in the 2003 employer survey conducted by the Government Accountability Office that “Some employers said that they hired H-1B workers in part because these workers would often accept lower salaries than similarly qualified U.S. workers; however, these employers said they never paid H-1B workers less than the required wage.”

Another important point is that one must consider wage raises given subsequent to hire. The Intels typically sponsor their H-1Bs for green cards, essentially rendering them immobile. Employers love that their H-1Bs can’t jump ship to another firm, and Google stated in a meeting with several of us researchers that this is a key reason to hire H-1Bs. Among other things, immobility means the H-1Bs are in no position to demand big raises (also noted in the employer survey conducted by the National Research Council, commissioned by Congress), thus yet another way employers save money.

Some press reports quote industry officials as threatening to sue to block the new policy, on administrative law grounds. I won’t speculate on their chances for success, but hope this new prevailing wage policy, uh, prevails. 🙂 It’s a very solid, well-justified change, 30 years overdue. My hat is off to DoL.

Newsom for President, 2020

(Occasional additions made subsequent to initial posting.)

I voted for neither Hillary nor Trump in 2016. Regarded her as smart but corrupt, and even as of 2016 The Donald’s politics were much too far right for me, as a liberal/progressive. So I voted for Bernie Sanders as a write-in.

This year, I knew I couldn’t vote for either Biden or Trump. Trump’s moved even further to the right, and my problems with Biden are that he stands for Business as Usual at a time when change is urgently needed, and that I regard his running mate Harris as a phony opportunist.

Harris’ claim during a Democratic primary debate (ironically, aimed to put down Biden) that she was an impoverished black girl in the Berkeley flats rather than the daughter of two PhDs, was unconscionable, and she has a well-known history of opportunism.

Given Biden’s age, his choice of Harris is especially troubling to me. If he had picked Elizabeth Warren, whom I greatly admire, I would have seriously considered casting my vote for him.

A couple of weeks ago (well before the first debate), a reader of this blog told me that in his social set the trendy thing to do is write in Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom for President. I thought it’s a great idea, and look forward to casting my ballot for him. I’ve admired his performance on the Covid-19 issue. Mind you, he hasn’t done any better than anyone else, either Democrat or GOP, but I can tell he’s giving the issue his all.

Please don’t tell me Trump has cost 200,000 American lives; by that reasoning, Newsom and NY Gov. Cuomo, both Democrats, have their own large death tolls to answer for. Plenty of blame to go around, as the saying goes, a very new, unknown situation with lots of pitfalls.

I’ve stated many times in this space that the mainstream media have been extremely biased and irresponsible in their coverage of Trump. It’s criminal, really. But that’s entirely different from my supporting him, much less voting for him. As a lifelong liberal, there is just too much of an ideology clash. And much more important, noting his separating kids from parents at the Mexican border, that issue alone would completely obviate any chance I’d vote for him.

I must say that I do greatly appreciate the fact that Trump is the first president to stand up to China. It pains me to say that, as I am a longtime supporter of China, but with Xi’s appointment in 2012, the nation took a tragic wrong turn. The Chinese leaders now clearly bear deep ill will against the US. Most Americans are only vaguely aware of the grave danger here, and the Trump administration is to be commended for taking action.

Countless people on the left have told me, “Sure, Biden’s weak and Harris is corrupt, but Trump is destroying our democracy!” Really? What democracy? To address the issue of democracy, what better example than that of the Democratic Party? No way a party that stacks the primary electoral deck with superdelegates can be considered democratic. Absurd to call them democratic. More like plutocratic.

And they’ve ignored the will of the people on a number of issues, e.g. the H-1B work visa, a labor issue that the old Democrats would have been quite critical  of (as Pres. Bill Clinton’s Sec. of Labor Robert Reisch was in the early 90s). Yet they abandoned labor to support Big Business. A few years ago a Democratic Senate staffer sneered to an AFL-CIO official who was meeting with him regarding H-1B, “You people don’t count!” What a stark contrast to the traditional strong Democratic support for unions.

Better example: the “Dreamers,” people who were brought to the US as undocumented minors. Trump offered a deal, under which he’d get a Canadian-style immigration system, in exchange for which they’d get a better deal with the DACA people than even the Dems has asked for. The Dems refused to even consider it. I believe most Americans would have supported it, but in any case, it was clear that the DACAns do NOT have the heartfelt sympathy of the Dems. Instead, it’s cold calculation, to increase the number of future Democratic voters.

The Dems’ outrage after the George Floyd killing was hypocritical at best, feigned at worst. They’ve done almost nothing specifically for the African-American community since the 70s or 80s. On the contrary, the Democrats have shifted their attention to Latinos. For instance, a program initiated by the Democrats provides extra funding to Hispanic Serving Institutions; there is no African-American counterpart. (My own university is pursuing HSI status.) I support the HSI notion, as it incentivizes increasing Latino enrollment, but the point is that the Democrats have long taken black people for granted. Ever heard of Flint, MI?

As of late October, during the pandemic, the Democrats and Republicans have failed to come to an agreement on an economic relief package for those hard hit by the crisis. Yes, both sides are to blame, but the Democrats are the ones who’ve constantly claimed the bill is needed because many Americans are desperate. If the Dems really felt that, they’d take the GOP compromise. Clearly the Dems’ goal in refusing to do so is to gain political advantage over the GOP and Pres. Trump.

As noted, the mainstream media is advancing the DNC agenda, and is now devoid of any pretense of objectivity. In this sense (and others) we were on the road to the demise of democracy long before 2016.

Take the race issue, for instance. Yes, absolutely, many police department policies are in desperate need of reform, but the sad truth is that there are more white victims of this than black, and proportionately the two rates are similar. The same is true for police stops of motorists; once one does an “apples to apples” comparison, there is little evidence of racial bias. Yet we constantly hear police misconduct as demonstrating “systemic racism,” a term that has become throwaway, devoid of meaning.

Things are indeed still grim for many African-Americans, but the causes are complex and deep-rooted, largely modern consequences of the old times when we did indeed have systemic racism. But no, today’s systems are not racist, even though we do still have many individual people with unhealthy racial views.

The media have egregiously quoted Trump out of context on the race issue, notably on his remark “There were fine people on both sides” after the Charlottesville clash. He clearly was referring to people “on both sides” of the issue of whether to dismantle Confederacy-era statues, NOT neo Nazis. On the contrary, here is what Trump tweeted after the incident:

We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one! We want to get this situation straightened out in Charlottesville. And we want to study it. And we want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country.

Similarly, in the September 29 debate with Joe Biden, much has been made about Trump’s remark about the Proud Boys. But read the transcript! Trump had answered, “Sure I will do that” when the moderator Chris Wallace asked him if he would condemn white supremacist groups, and Wallace then asked him to name one. Trump then cited the Proud Boys, and identified them by their slogan. That was then twisted by the media to mean he supported the group, in spite of the context showing the opposite.

Those who defend the Democrats have a lot of explaining to do. When a prominent California lawmaker said, “I wanted to punch the next Asian I see in the face,” she was not sanctioned by her party or by the Democratic-dominated legislature. Arguably her statement could incite anti-Asian violence, exactly what the Dems accuse Trump of concerning his “China virus” remarks. How can the Democratic reproach Trump about race? (The legislator didn’t like that some militant Chinese-American groups oppose affirmative action. I support affirmative action too, but this is outrageous.)

Hillary Clinton’s campaign launched an anti-Muslim smear against Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary election season. She has also apologized for her “superpredators” remark, which some took to be racist. Again, it’s hard to justify the Democrats’ claim to hold the moral high ground on race.

I care a lot about this. I’ve been an activist on behalf of minorities ever since I was 16 years old, when I worked in the congressional campaign of Myrlie Evers, widow of the legendary slain civil rights leader. But we elected a black president, then re-elected him, and as has been pointed out, many of those cities in which the BLM protests have been most strident have black mayors and black police chiefs. Could such a racist society have elected/appointed all these people?

Yet those in the media propagate (if not promulgate) this myth of systemic racism. So does academia, and woe be it to anyone who disagrees. Freedom of speech is disappearing from university campuses. Can’t have a real democracy without a vigorous exchange of ideas, folks.

Indeed, the current hysteria is such that my post here will be interpreted by some as my supporting Trump’s policies, in spite of my clear statement above that almost all his views are antithetical to mine.

While I don’t subscribe to Eric Weinstein’s conspiracy views, Eric is at least right in saying that an unholy alliance of Big Business, the media and academia are running the show. We are being scripted. Sure, we do have the trappings of democracy, voting rights and all that, but this is not the democracy I believed in when I was growing up. Nor are the Democrats the party for the poor and oppressed that I revered during my formative years.

I’ll proudly vote for California’s Proposition 16, which would restore Affirmative Action to CA public policies. But for president, Gavin’s my guy.

Those Who Ignore History

Last week the federal Department of Labor announced the oddly named H-1B One Workforce Grant Program, funded to the tune of $150 million. Its aim is

…to invest in training for middle- to high-skilled H-1B occupations within key sectors in the U.S. economy, including information technology and cyber security, advanced manufacturing and transportation, to upskill the present workforce and train a new generation of workers to grow the future workforce…

Through local public/private partnerships, grantees will deploy training to provide individuals in their communities with skills necessary to advance career pathways to employment in middle- to high-skilled H-1B occupations within key industry sectors. Training models will include a broad range of classroom and on-the-job training, customized training, incumbent worker training, Registered Apprenticeship Programs and Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs.

It uses the language of 2020, but is a replay of the old industry lobbyist line, “We need H-1B workers now, to fill our tech labor shortage, but through training we’ll grow our own domestic workforce to alleviate the need for the visa program.” I say “old” line indeed, as it goes back to 1998, the year of the first industry push to expand the H-1B program.

The legislation enacted that year nearly doubled the visa cap, temporarily, and established a user fee, in which employers paid into a fund to retrain American workers. Two years later in 2000, a second increase was enacted; the industry convinced Congress and Bill Clinton that there was still a need for H-1Bs. Yet within months the Dot Com Boom burst, with massive layoffs in the tech world.

Putting aside the point that the industry almost certainly knew the implosion was coming when they argued for another increase in work visas, the point here is that the user-fee-funded training program remained. It turned out to be a failure, as some of us had predicted back in 1998. As I wrote in my 2003 article in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform (emphasis added),

…to address the skills issue Congress added another major provision in the new law, insisted on by Clinton and some leading Democrats. It established H-1B user fees which would fund retraining programs, with the goal of training American workers to fill jobs then being filled by H-1Bs. This provision too was doomed from the outset. In addition to the allegations made that employers were using the skills issue merely as a pretext to avoid hiring older workers—in which case retraining would be useless—the training funds ended up being used largely to train workers for technician jobs, which are not normally filled by H-1Bs anyway. Two years into the program, Sun Microsystems a major Silicon Valley firm that had been at the forefront of lobbying Congress to expand the H-1B program in 1998, stated that the training programs had not reduced—and, more tellingly, they could not reduce—its dependence on H-1Bs. Later, the Bush administration also concluded that the program had failed to achieve this, its stated goal, and proposed canceling it.

Last week’s announcement by the DoL has the same flavor as the one in 1998: Give workers modern skills through relatively short-term training programs, often with apprenticeship titles, in contrast to the fact that H-1B visas are for jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree, typically a master’s in the case of Silicon Valley. We again see an enthusiastic buy-in by industry, and will again see in a few years a Sun Micro-style denial in the industry that they never intended the 2020 program to reduce their dependence on H-1Bs.

Worst of all, of course, is the implied message that we have a tech labor shortage in the first place, which no study (other than industry-sponsored ones) has ever found. To be clear, yes, some non-tech Americans will benefit, but the program won’t reduce the income of immigration lawyers.

On that score, how has the Trump administration done in terms of H-1B? Recall that I had predicted in 2015, as Trump was just starting his run for office, that he would punish the “Infosyses,” the Indian-owned outsourcing firms, while rewarding the “Intels,” the mainstream firms that hire as H-1Bs foreign students from US university campuses. In fact, Trump has acted quite onsistently with that prediction.

Earlier this year, for example, Trump declared he was banning the entry of new H-1Bs to the US until at least December. The key word is “entry”; the ban does not apply to foreigners already here, i.e. the international students at US schools. So foreign students were effectively exempted from the ban.

This past week, the Trump administration announced that student visas would now be restricted to four years’ duration. For those pursuing a bachelor’s degree, this would prevent them for working in the US after graduation under the Optional Practical Training program, which is used as a holding pattern by foreign students while they wait for an H-1B visa. Since OPT runs as part of the F-1 student visa, they would apparently be out of luck. But the master’s students — the industry’s “sweet spot” — would have two to three years of OPT time. So again, the Intels will be accommodated.

The pending executive order on H-1B is also said to set a policy under which the visas are doled out in order of offered salary, highest wages first. I do support this, but again it clearly is aimed at protecting the Intels while “doing something” about the visa program.

So, the Trump administration should get no more than a C- report card on H-1B. Biden has indicated he would not reverse Trump’s H-1B policy, which is probably true. The Democrats are just as beholden to the Intels as the GOP is; after Clinton signed the 1998 legislation, he went on a fundraising tour of Silicon Valley.

Trump, Taxes and Timing

So the “October Surprise” is here, even a few days early. Trump reportedly paid but a pittance in federal income taxes in certain years. Just what do the Democrats/NYT expect to gain from this report?

Trump will respond by noting that he pays, for instance, hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes, and a similar amount in sales taxes and so on. He’ll also point out the various financial scandals among the Dems, starting with Nancy Pelosi, whose gains were not only illicit but harmful to American investors etc.

And then what? No one will be surprised that many of the rich don’t pay much income tax. And the more the Democrats try to play up the issue, the less time and money they devote to issues they perceive will help them, such as Covid-19 and climate change.

Impeachment over the tax issue? Ever heard the term “selective prosecution”? Led by Pelosi? Really? The American people would see through that too.

Many will be outraged that someone in the IRS or Trump’s bank etc. illegally released Trump’s returns. That the NYT is proud that it stole this information also will trouble many.

Around this time in 2016, the Hollywood Confidential tapes came out. The Dems really thought that was a “gotcha.” But the tape really backfired on the Dems. It was brought up in the next debate with Hillary, and Trump responded by pointing out that Bill Clinton paid a legal judgment of $800,000 to one of the women he harassed. The camera then moved to Bill Clinton, sitting in the wings, very humiliating for all. Instead of leading Hillary to victory, it just caused a cynical “pox on both your houses” feeling toward both sides.

What so many fail to understand is that people don’t vote for Trump because they like him. But they like enough of his policies so much that they would vote for him no matter what, e.g. pocketbook issues, societal issues, safety issues. Many are more interested in their own tax bills rather than Trump’s.

The Democrats still haven’t learned that lesson. They are still pitching their wares to the large coastal cities plus Chicago, and even then are focusing their pitch on anti-Trump rather than pro-Biden.

I always think of the UK journalist who spent most of 2016 in Iowa. He found watching the national news rather surreal, with the journalists treating events as a kind of “in” joke shared by urban liberals, nothing that Iowans could relate to.

Not to say Biden won’t win. Maybe he will, maybe not. But if he does win, it won’t be about Trump’s taxes.

Major Tech Figures Endorse Biden

A group of 35 “tech pioneers” have issued a public statement endorsing Biden, citing objections to Trump’s immigration policies. Of course, their focus is the H-1B work visa and related programs:

“The most brilliant people in the world want to come here and be grad students, but now they are being discouraged from coming here, and many are going elsewhere,” said one of the scientists who organized the endorsement, David Patterson, a Google distinguished engineer and former professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

The document is way off the mark for a few reasons:

  • According to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Biden has indicated that he would retain Trump’s policies on H-1B if elected. No surprise, since both political parties have decried the program ever since its inception. In 2016, Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Cruz, Rubio and so on all made such statements.
  • Contrary to the group’s statement on the need to attract “the best and the brightest” from abroad, no one, including Trump, has ever advocated blocking the immigration of outstanding talents. Trump in particular has stated repeatedly that talented international students at US universities should be given the means to stay here. He tweeted in 2016, for instance,

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…”

His recent restrictions on H-1B have excluded foreign students.

  • Only a small fraction of STEM foreign students are of the quality the group cites.

The group’s statement is highly uninformed, if not deliberately biased.

Fact-Checking the Fact Checkers

Now that the presidential election campaigns are shifting into high gear, we can count on the press for partisan, inaccurate and illogical coverage. Time for someone to start calling them out, and I’ll do my part here in this blog in the next couple of months.

To be clear, I’m voting for no one for the office of President this year. (I voted for Sanders as a write-in in 2016,) I find Biden uninspiring, and I view Harris as an opportunistic phony. Though I appreciate Trump’s standing up to Xi Jinping, he’s proven to be just as self-centered, impetuous and immature as I predicted him to be four years ago, and as a progressive it’s unlike the GOP would come up with anyone I’d like very much.

I put in this disclaimer because my calling out the press will often concern something they’ve said that’s biased against Trump. But that’s because this is indeed where their bias typically exists. If I see incorrect or illogical statements made about Biden, I’ll call them out too.

So now NPR “fact checkers” say that the Trump/Pence claim that Biden called for defunding the police is incorrect. Biden just said that funds could be “redirected” from the police, they say. But that’s exactly what is meant by proponents of defunding the police; very few mean that to be shutting down the police, removing their funding entirely.

I tune in to NPR when I’m driving, and today I listened to part of their coverage of the GOP convention. One commentator addressed the topic of insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. The reporter noted that Trump has promised an executive order to require that, which she said “contradicts” the Trump administration’s lawsuit against Obamacare, which already has such a requirement. That’s just plain illogical. If Trump believes people with pre-existing conditions should be protected, which he has said, then it would be perfectly consistent for the Trump people to formulate an executive order to implement such protection, in place of the Obama policy they want to discontinue. (Note: I personally support Obamacare; see above disclaimer.)

In its convention coverage this evening, NPR also stated that comments by Trump and one of the speakers promising to “protect the suburbs” are anti-African American “dog whistles,” preying on suburbanites’ fears of the riots in Portland and other big cities. But the rioters are almost all white. The NPR reporter also said that the Trump campaign has miscalculated, as the suburbs now have many non-whites. This makes the absurd assumption that a nonwhite suburbanite doesn’t mind rioters as long as they are of the same color as him/her.


Covid-19: Where Do We Go from Here?

I’m not a physician, and though I understand epidemiology models, I’m not really qualified to develop them. But I’ve got some things to say, the first of which I think is original and, I claim, would be effective. I believe the other points should be kept in mind as well.

  1. We keep hearing, accurately I believe, that Covid-19 is hitting the LatinX and black communities especially hard. We should act accordingly! I believe that highly intensive measures should be taken in those communities, while substantially loosening the general societal lockdown. We should be sending “testmobiles” into those communities, going door to door if need be, administering tests, distributing masks, taking temperatures and so on. We should make available government-subsidized sick leave to anyone living or working in high-risk ZIP codes.
  2. Impose draconian penalties for gatherings that do not enforce wearing masks. Set it up just like the laws under which a party host is liable if a guest is drunk and drives etc.
  3. Open the schools! With precautions for both kids and teachers, of course, but it can be done. Taiwan set a good example. And stop politicizing this dire situation! Seems like opinions on the schools situation are highly correlated with politics. I recently heard a radio program on the schools issue, with a number of people cited, mainly politicians and school officials. All but one said “Keep the schools closed.” The one exception? Head of the CA Pediatrics Association, the only real expert. She said we should open the schools, and made a good case for it, I believe. All those Democrats have constantly said during this crisis, “Listen to the science!” Well, do so!
  4. The controversy over Dr. John Ioannidis, a Stanford physician and statistician, is depressing. A few months ago he led a study that seemed to show that the number of Covid-19 cases was far greater than previously thought. This was a Politically Incorrect view, because, by increasing the denominator, it caused the estimated death rate to be much lower, hence less need for strict lockdowns. It quickly became apparent that the study had a number of serious flaws, largely methodological but even with hints that there had been ethical problems with the study’s funding. Good for Buzzfeed for their dogged refusal to take this study at full face value (see above link). But to my knowledge, the consensus in the field is now that the thrust of the study was indeed correct, and I think the “piling on” of Ioannidis is unfair. I am particularly disturbed by signs I’ve seen that Ioannidis’ Stanfor colleagues are treating him as a pariah. The latest report (again, see above link) is that Ioannidis and others tried to see Pres. Trump to urge him NOT to put the nation in lockdown; people cited in the report made it seem like this was an unprecedented breach of scientific protocol. They ought to check their history books; a group of scientists dispatched Einstein to meet with Pres. Roosevelt in WWII regarding atomic weapons.

If the country has not handled the pandemic well, it has been due to a number of unforced errors.  Still not too late to rethink strategy.

Biden on H-1B

Imagine the government saying, “Women, are you worried about the tight labor market,  compounded by a gender Glass Ceiling? Don’t worry, we’re going to add more workers, mostly men.” Or, “Black and Latino owners of small businesses, are you getting hammered by Covid-19? Don’t worry, we’re bringing more small entrepreneurs from the outside, so that they can undercut your prices and dilute your market share.”

Or even better, “You Asian-American engineers and programmers out there, we know that hiring in the tech industry has slowed down, and that you already faced rampant age discrimination in the industry. But don’t worry, we’re going to reverse Trump’s order to temporarily restrict H-1B, so we can continue to have people compete with you for jobs at low wages.” No kidding on this one, because that is basically what Joe Biden said, in a June 27 digital town hall meeting focusing on Asian American issues.

Nationwide, about 25% of computer-related Bachelor’s degrees are awarded to Asian-American students (note: NOT Asian foreign students). In states with large Asian-American populations, it’s even higher, over 70% at my university.

I’m sure the image of American techies on the Hill is of “undeserving whites,” but the fact is that the field has always attracted a lot of Asian-American students, who tend to gravitate to “practical” majors. I wonder whether Biden watched the major 60 Minutes piece in 2017 about the protests by American IT people replaced at UCSF by H-1Bs. There were a number of Asian-Americans (and some blacks) among the protestors.

Biden’s a smart, astute guy, and he’s not the first to say “Choose your poison” to Asian-Americans regarding H-1B. (I recall that Sen. Patty Murray did too.) But for a major presidential candidate to be that tone deaf is amazing.