Business ruined science in this country

These two posts go together:

Engineers See a Path out of Green Card Limbo at the NYTimes

and

Promoting STEM Education, Foolishly at In the Pipeline by Derek Lowe

Here’s the bottom line as Derek spells it out:

And that takes us back to the subject of these two posts, on the oft-heard complaints of employers that they just can’t seem to find qualified people any more. To which add, all too often, “. . .not at the salaries we’d prefer to pay them, anyway”. Colin Macilwain, the author of this Nature piece I’m quoting from, seems to agree:

“But the main backing for government intervention in STEM education has come from the business lobby. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a businessman stand up and bemoan the alleged failure of the education system to produce the science and technology ‘skills’ that his company requires, I’d be a very rich man.

 I have always struggled to recognize the picture these detractors paint. I find most recent science graduates to be positively bursting with both technical knowledge and enthusiasm.

If business people want to harness that enthusiasm, all they have to do is put their hands in their pockets and pay and train newly graduated scientists and engineers properly. It is much easier, of course, for the US National Association of Manufacturers and the British Confederation of British Industry to keep bleating that the state-run school- and university-education systems are ‘failing’.”

This position, which was not my original one on this issue, is not universally loved. (The standard take on this issue, by contrast, has the advantage of both flattering and advancing the interests of employers and educators alike, and it’s thus very politically attractive). I don’t even have much affection for my own position on this, even though I’ve come to think it’s accurate. As I’ve said before, it does feel odd for me, as a scientist, as someone who values education greatly, and as someone who’s broadly pro-immigration, to be making these points. But there they are.

Anyone who thinks that all you need to make  good science is cheap, well educated labor should really give it a whirl sometime.  Let me know how you’re doing after a decade of lab work and half a dozen restructurings.

The idea that we need to import more foreign engineers when American engineers can’t get work here and have to go work in Canada and Japan is just beyond cruel and stupid.

As Colin McIlwain says, the idea that there is a shortage of well educated, technically proficient and experienced American scientists is something the business community conjured up in order to push wages down.  Congress is either willfully ignorant or completely bamboozled if it seriously thinks that we need more foreign STEM graduates.  I recommend that the coastal Senators and Reps take a good look at their states’ unemployment statistics to see what Pharmageddon has done to the R&D industry.  It’s a hemorrhage of good jobs and tax revenue and if they pass this immigration measure, they’re only going to make the problem worse.

Good science is hard work and should be paid accordingly.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve known scientists who have been here for years and had difficulty getting a Green Card and I have great sympathy for them.  They paid their dues and deserved the card.  But we don’t need more foreign math and science students here until we can clear the backlog of the hundreds of thousands un and underemployed scientists that are struggling to get by since the bonus class decided it didn’t really need research after all.  In any case, they’re smart enough to figure it out.  When low wages make living in the US a losing proposition after 10 years of undergraduate and graduate school, they’ll stop coming here.

They might try France instead.  Here’s an article from the WSJ about how R&D employees got the aid of the French government on its side to keep the research facilities open when the Bonus Class at Sanofi tried to shut them down.  The secret?  UNIONS.

Want to know where the next great discoveries are going to come from?  Europe.

If American STEM workers don’t start fighting back, we all lose:

Still busy doing stuff work and house related.  It’s perfect gardening weather here in Pittsburgh.  I’m having a couple of cubic yards of mulch and top soil mix dropped off here later and I have a ton of weeding to do.  Now, where are my secateurs?

Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest


Teh Dumb:

Frequent use of the phrases “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” by our mainstream media is being questioned in order to remain faithful to the principles of our U.S. Constitution.

SPJ’s Diversity Committee met during the 2010 convention in Las Vegas and decided to engage in a yearlong educational campaign designed to inform and sensitize journalists as to the best language to use when writing and reporting on undocumented immigrants.

Some believe the phrase illegal alien originated with fiery, anti-immigrant groups along the U.S.-Mexico border, such as the Minutemen. Gradually, the phrase — along with illegal immigrant — seeped into common usage. It is now even used by some network TV newscasters.

Yet it remains offensive to many Latinos, and especially Mexicans, and to the fundamentals of American jurisprudence.

However, there are some national publications, including The Nation, that regularly use the preferred phrase: undocumented immigrant.


This is political correctness run amok.

I’m not opposed to immigration. I want to see our current immigration policy reformed, and some kind of amnesty program that includes citizenship.

But the fact is there are immigrant aliens who came here illegally. Terms like “wetback” or “mojado” are offensive. “Illegal alien” or “illegal immigrant” are accurate descriptive terms.

They are not illegal because they don’t have documents. They don’t have documents because they are here illegally.

The term illegal alien is way older than the Minutemen. “Some believe” the moon is made of green cheese, but that doesn’t make it true.

Megyn Kelly at FOX News brings Teh Dumber:

“You could say that a burglar is an unauthorized visitor. You know, you could say that a rapist is a non-consensual sex partner which, obviously, would be considered offensive to the victims of those crimes,” Kelly said. “So how far could you take this?”


I’m okay with the burglar comparison but she should have known that the rape analogy would trigger a bunch of justified complaints.

TPM is Teh Dumbest (and dishonest):

Megyn Kelly: Calling Them Undocumented Immigrants Is Like Calling Rape “Sex”

That is not what Megyn Kelly said. What is so fucking hard about being honest?


Lazy Saturday News and Views

Out of Town News, Harvard Sq., Cambridge, MA

Good Morning, Conflucians!!!!

It’s a gorgeous Saturday morning here in the Boston ‘burbs. I just love Spring!

Personally, I’m still mainly interested in the Blago-Rezko-Obama story, but there is some other news today.


ECONOMIC MELTDOWN

The New York Times informs us that Rating Agency Data Aided Wall Street in Mortgage Deals Yes, as you probably already guessed, the fix was in on those “complex investments” from the very beginning. The ratings agencies were collaborating with the investment banks to make sure all those “high risk” bets came out the way the banks wanted them to.

The rating agencies made public computer models that were used to devise ratings to make the process less secretive. That way, banks and others issuing bonds — companies and states, for instance — wouldn’t be surprised by a weak rating that could make it harder to sell the bonds or that would require them to offer a higher interest rate.

But by routinely sharing their models, the agencies in effect gave bankers the tools to tinker with their complicated mortgage deals until the models produced the desired ratings. [....]

But for Goldman and other banks, a road map to the right ratings wasn’t enough. Analysts from the agencies were hired to help construct the deals.

In 2005, for instance, Goldman hired Shin Yukawa, a ratings expert at Fitch, who later worked with the bank’s mortgage unit to devise the Abacus investments.

It really is time to break up these greedy “too big to fail” (TBTF) banks, but the Obama administration still defends their right to exist. Scarecrow at FDL has a great post on Larry Summers’ latest excuse for TBTF: Why Is Larry Summers Afraid of Having Many Small Banks? Summers says we can’t do that because that’s what was tried before the Great Depression, and it failed.

…if we broke up the megabanks and instead had many smaller regulated banks, it would be the end of America and the financial industry as we know it.

And that would be bad why? Scarecrow:

Funny, I always thought the smaller bank system, if that’s what it was, failed because Wall Street wasn’t sufficiently regulated, and the local bank runs happened because we didn’t have the FDIC at the time. So is Larry now saying that having the FDIC to take over smaller bank failures has been a failure?

And what’s he saying about needing diversified megabanks that lose money on risky stuff but loot, uh, borrow money from better managed activities? Surely he doesn’t mean to argue for letting the investment casino borrow from the government-guaranteed deposit-based divisions?

Reuters: Goldman emails: firm lauds profits from shorts

Goldman Sachs Group Inc officials discussed making “serious money” in 2007 off the subprime crisis as mortgages were starting to falter in rapid numbers, according to a collection of e-mails released by a Senate panel on Saturday.

“Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts,” Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein said in an e-mail from November 2007.

“Sounds like we will make some serious money,” said Goldman Sachs executive Donald Mullen in a separate series of e-mails from October 2007 about the performance of deteriorating second-lien positions in a collateralized debt obligation, or CDO.

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Immigration Reform: An Environmental Perspective

Glbal Biosphere on June 6 2009Immigration, as a policy issue, is politically explosive. It is politically explosive because it necessarily involves making choices between bad options, each of which has supporters and detractors with political power.

In advocating for their option, it is not uncommon for some supporters to engage in inaccurate and unjust accusations against their opponents, such as claiming the other is guilty of racism or traitorhood. The situation is further complicated by the small numbers of supporters on either side who are racist or traitorous.

It is unsurprising that the engagements between opponents are volatile. How could decisions about who belongs, and who does not, be otherwise? What is the best way to disentangle a complex web of family relations, personal convictions, and obligations that must be shared between citizens if they are to be a nation, all in the context of the question of how the franchise is to be extended to non-citizens, if at all? It is no wonder that the issue is avoided like the plague.

Plague-avoidance strategies that do not address the causes of the plague, or bolster the immune system against its effects, are doomed to failure, however, and the cost of failure in avoiding the plague is serious illness and death. In this sense, the lack of a workable resolution of the immigration issue endangers the health of the body politic.

At present, the lack of meaningful policy action is, in effect, backdoor advocacy for the situation as it currently stands, in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” sense. This abrogation of responsibility is dangerous beyond its obvious bad effects. It cultivates a sense of powerlessness among the citizenry, who perceive their elected governments as incapable of effecting meaningful change. History has enough examples of what happens when democratic and republican assemblies appear incapable of providing effective leadership in difficult times. This underscores why difficult challenges must be addressed to maintain the health of the body politic. If our leaders will not lead for us, they must be lead by us, if we are to avoid being lead by powered interests. This short, oversimplified post is intended to be a step in the direction of citizen leadership.

The framework that follows views immigration from an environmental perspective that takes into account citizenship within a nationalist framework. I think it practical because we are citizens in nationalist frameworks and because immigration is a normal environmental phenomenon. My intent is to propose a framework for immigration based upon the environmental concept of sustainability, which is also practical, because it is social suicide to adopt models that are not sustainable.

In this post, I shall not address anti-nationalist perspectives, despite their value, because the scope of the issues is already too daunting for a short post. Furthermore, I shall not address economic or ethical perspectives that disregard the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I consider it to be inarguable that the Earth has a more or less finite amount of non-renewable and renewable resources, in human terms, and that their availability is governed by the Law of Diminishing Returns and the Principle of Net Yield. For example, the only reason immigration is an issue is because there is competition for scarce resources. If there were plenty of everything that everyone needed and wanted, then there would be no grounds for disputes and no reason to have systems of justice, except to deal with the actions of the pathological.

The ideas that follow are predicated on the notion that there are limits to growth. The only dispute is about the extent of these limits. Living beyond these limits is not sustainable.

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