Category Archives: Commentary

Mar. 26, 2017 Blumbers

Town Meeting And Tweeting

My congressional representative had a crowded town meeting yesterday. They said it helps when people show up for meetings. They want letters and tweets. They need to know what voters want. They discussed the narrow defeat of Trumpcare. The battle is not over. They need your help. They said they needed continued vocal support for universal healthcare, education, housing, food and living wage jobs.

If your representatives are not having town meetings, ask them why. If they do not respond, they are not listening.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Mar. 25, 2017 Silicon Valley Women

On Mar. 25, 2017 Liza Mundy of The Atlantic magazine wrote “Why is Silicon Valley So Awful To Women?”

Bethany Blount, co-founder and CEO of Cathy Labs experienced daily discrimination in Silicon Valley from slights to full on assaults. She helped form  Project Include with investor Susan Wu.

“Indeed, a recent survey called “Elephant in the Valley” found that nearly all of the 200-plus senior women in tech who responded had experienced sexist interactions.” Half of the US population is female but the number of computer science majors has been declining.  “The percentage of female computer- and information-science majors peaked in 1984, at about 37 percent. It has declined, more or less steadily, ever since. Today it stands at 18 percent.”

Major Silicon Valley companies have put on a great show for diversity, but they still are not hiring older women in statistically significant numbers. Most new hires are young and male. The environment is hostile to women. Companies need to do several things to fix this problem. First, start hiring women by tying bonuses to diversity hiring goals. Change your corporate culture so it is less like a gulag/thunderdome. Be aware of bias. Do not hire people you shared a dorm with in college. Do not ask people to write code on whiteboards. Do not tolerate people screaming at each other.  Stop being jerks.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

 

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Mar. 24, 2017 Experience Discrimination

On Mar 24, 2017 NPR’s Ina Jaffe wrote “Too Much Experience To Be Hired? Some Older Americans Face Age Bias” about age discrimination. Prof. David Neumark of University of California, Irvine sent out 40,000 resumes with age as the only difference. The older the person the less likely they to be called back. Older women  were the most affected. One recruiter blew the whistle and went to San Francisco law firm Altshuler Berzon and the course is working its way to the US Supreme Court.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Mar. 22, 2017 India Income Tax

On Mar. 22, 2017 NPR’s Julie McCarthy wrote “Why Do So Few People Pay Income Tax In India?” Of 1.2 billion people only 27 million pay income taxes. The per capita income is $1600 and Indians don’t have to pay if it is under $3700. Many rich people do not pay taxes at all.

“Late last year, India sought to force people with large amounts of cash stashed away to deposit it in bank accounts. It was a tax-collecting exercise to get people to disclose unreported wealth and pay up.”

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Mar. 21, 2017 World Maps Change

On Mar. 21, 2017 NPR’s Colin Dwyer reported “Boston Students Get A Glimpse Of A Whole New World, With Different Maps” about replacing Mercator projection maps with Gall-Peters maps (see above). To understand why this is a big deal, I recommend Jerry Brotton’s book “A History of the World in 12 Maps.” It is the story of cartographers struggling for centuries to create accurate two dimensional representations of a three dimensional world. The results were distorted and biased. By the twenty-first century it was possible using digital devices to view satellite images making all earlier map projections obsolete.

I liked flipping through history maps made by Denoyer Gippert and Kinder and Hilgemann etc. It was enlightening to see empires appear with big sweeping arrows wiping out older empires only to replaced by somebody else. I was never happy with maps that made Siberia and Antarctica look huge. I did like maps that were centered  over a continent. They did not show the whole planet but I never expected it to. It has taken hundreds of years to show that it takes more than one map to describe a planet.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Mar. 19, 2017 Blumbers

One Angry Blind Woman

I met a blind woman in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. She was unhappy because of everything the conservative US Congress was doing seemed targeted directly at her. She is listens to NPR, which is threatened. She gets one meal a day from Meals On Wheels. She gets her healthcare at Planned Parenthood. She was worried that she would lose her health insurance and be deported. She uses an iPhone to navigate around town and will not be able to buy a newer more accurate one. Her son is deployed and she does not know if he will ever come home. “You have to take it personally when it happens to you.” she said. She is not alone. Contact your two US Senators and one congressional representative. Tell them to think twice… or at least once.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Mar. 17, 2017 St. Patricks Day

St. Patricks Day is a reminder that Irish immigrants fled famine and oppression to come to America. The refugees were mostly undocumented and conservatives were afraid of their different religion, but they worked in America’s factories, farms and homes. One of their descendants was Ronald Reagan. Another was John F. Kennedy.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Mar. 16, 2017 Robot Traffic Stop

On Mar. 16, 2017 NPR’s Vignesh Rakmachandran reported “When Policing And Race Cross Paths In Silicon Valley” about using robots to question suspects. What happens when a robot pulls over a self driving car?

“Duke University students Vaibhav Tadepalli and Chris Reyes developed a prototype robot that could someday conduct the initial phase of a traffic stop, possibly easing concerns for both drivers and police officers. With the press of a button, an officer can deploy the “Sentinel” robot from a patrol car that rides over to the stopped driver’s car, raises a screen and starts a two-way video conference between the driver and the police officer.”

Rather than use a Sentinel robot, why not use a flying drone? It could fly up to a car, signal for it to pull over and ask the driver for information. It could adjust to any height faster. If the car does not pull over, the drone could follow it faster than a ground drone or patrol car.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Mar. 12, 2017 Blumbers

Medicare For All

Republicans are trying to end Obamacare. If they do, a lot of poor people are going to die, probably you. Contact your US Congressional Representative and your two US Senators and tell them you want Medicare for all. It is a system that has been tested on millions of people for over 50 years.  It works. Get on social media and tell people.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Mar. 10, 2017 Ozymandias Found

On Mar. 10, 2017 NPR reported a statue of Ramses II was found in Cairo. This is the Egyptian pharaoh described in the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem Ozymandias. Experts say he used to tweet a lot. :-)

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—”Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Mar. 5, 2017 Blumbers

How To Lose An Investor

The CEO of a online taxicab company was confronted by one of his drivers about low pay and lost investment. The CEO arrogantly told the driver that unsuccessful people like to blame successful people for their own failure. The CEO basically called the driver a loser for trusting him. There is an old saying that the fish rots from the head down. Here is another story where a dysfunctional company was stopped before it got too big.

A CEO of a startup needed money. He had never held a job, just private education up to the age of 26. One of his venture capitalists told him that he knew someone who might invest if he could visit the startup’s new offices. The next day the CEO ordered new furniture and the delivery truck parked in the disabled parking space to unload. An old man approached the CEO and asked him to move the truck so he could use the disabled parking space. The CEO said no, besides, his company was not going to be hiring any disabled people. The old man was the potential investor. The CEO never got the money. The startup failed.

The message is simple. If you find a company that mistreats investors, employees and customers, avoid them.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Feb. 26, 2017 Blumbers

Uber Fowler

On. Feb 19, 2017 Susan J. Fowler recounted her experiences working at Uber. I recommend you read it here. While Fowler described her experiences as strange, I do not. Sadly, many workplaces have internal politics like Game of Thrones. A hostile environment geared toward short term gain is every where. If corporate culture is hard to change, a monoculture is nearly impossible. The solution seems to be to vote with your feet. Qualified professionals should keep moving until they find something better. Recruiters should recognize and take a chance on those candidates who did not settle for hostile incompetence.

There is an astounding lack of courage in Silicon Valley when it comes to hiring older women with technical skills. I am beginning to wonder if the fact that ninety percent of startups fail is because ninety percent of their staff are male. Company staff that resemble society in general, tend to succeed in the long run.

So if you are a high tech employer and see a candidate who has worked at several different companies, it might be they want something better and are looking at you. Be that better company and hire that better person.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Feb. 25, 2017 Who Is Looking?

Who is looking at me looking at New York Times Reporter Benedict Carey? Apparently in the November 4, 2012 Carey wrote “Increase Seen in U.S. Suicide Rate Since Recession.” The study was conducted by Aaron Reeves of the University of Cambridge and Sanjay Basu of Stanford and included researchers from the University of Bristol the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Hong Kong.”  See the tag and screen capture below.

United States Seattle, United States visited http://www.djcline.com/tag/benedict-carey/

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Feb. 19, 2017 Blumbers

Outsourcing to India Threatened

On Feb. 14, 2017, NPR’s Julie McCarthy wrote “Indian IT Outsourcers Anxious Over Potential Changes To H1-B Visas” about legislation from the new administration possibly ending the H1B visa and green card programs. Stephen Yale-Loehr of Cornell University said that last year  “U.S. companies that sought to bring highly skilled workers to the U.S. filed 236,000 petitions that went into a lottery for just 85,000 H1-B visas, the legal cap.”

“One bill proposes more than doubling the minimum wage of H1-B holders, which by law is set at $60,000. Critics argue the H1-B has been misused to displace American workers, and that there has been an incentive to prefer Indian IT workers because they are cheaper.  Shailesh Chitnis, with the data mining and analysis company Compile, says that while the median salary for all H1-B holders is $71,000, most but not all Indian outsourcers pay below that. If they had to double salaries, Chitnis says, Indian IT companies would have to change their 20-year-old business model.” American companies may be forced to hire citizens at fairer market rates like $120,000.

“Shevendra Singh with India’s National Association of Software Services Companies, or NASSCOM, refutes allegations that Indian companies are dislocating American workers or supplying low-paid labor.”

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Feb. 5, 2017 Blumbers

Citizen Status Symbol

On Jan. 29, 2017, Bloomberg’s Peter Elstrom and Saritha Rai wrote “Trump’s Next Immigration Move to Hit Closer to Home for Tech” about the new administration’s immigration restrictions on high tech workers. It affected Infosys, TCS, Tech Mahindra and Wipro’s ability to supply cheap H1B labor to Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Salesforce, Microsoft and Twitter. “Ron Hira, an associate professor at Howard University, who has done extensive research on the subject, points out workers at outsourcers are typically not treated as well as others. The median wage at outsourcing firms for H-1B workers was less than $70,000, while Apple, Google and Microsoft paid their employees in the program more than $100,000, according to data he collected. That suggests the American companies are going after true, highly skilled employees, while the outsourcers are recruiting less expensive talent, he said.”

On Jan. 31, 2017, The New Republic’s Clio Chang wrote “Silicon Valley’s Uneasy Muslim Ban Dance” about Silicon Valley’s reaction to the new restrictions. “Within the structure of American capitalism, the average tech CEO has more in common with a billionaire like Donald Trump than with the average immigrant worker or refugee. That many of them continue to find ways to work with Trump and to undercut protests to protect their profits should come as no surprise. Trump is ushering in a plutocratic era that requires us to demand the most from those in powerful positions; to do so, we must first shed the assumption that Silicon Valley is on the side of the people.”

Quietly many tech executives are furious. They helped get the president elected hoping they would not have to pay taxes. The money they thought they would make may have to go toward hiring US citizens at market rates. Citizens also have an advantage because they have no travel restrictions as there might be with visas or green cards. Foreign workers who are captive in a way that even Frederick Douglass would be concerned but U.S. citizens can just walk across the street. You know, all that free market stuff conservatives talk about, until they need help.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Jan. 29, 2017 Blumbers

Tanks Trump

On Jan. 19, 2017 The Huffington Post’s Jessica Schulberg wrote that Donald Trump told the Washington Post that he wanted the military to “come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue” when he came to power.  It included tanks and missile launchers. What was he thinking? Crowd control?

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Jan. 22, 2017 Blumbers

Sinking Feeling

Yesterday the streets were flooded with demonstrators and water. Neither is going away. Thirty foot waves are pounding the coast on a daily basis.

According to the BBC and NPR, last week an iceberg the size of Delaware began breaking off the Antarctic ice shelf. As it melts, the Millennial Tower in downtown San Francisco is sinking under its own weight. A castle built on sand. Home to the wealthy, the tower is a symbol of the Bay Area’s speculative real estate market and the price the poor can no longer pay. There are tens of thousands of homeless people walking down streets of empty houses. On weekends whole neighborhoods are as quiet as an abandoned movie set. Even people who thought they were wealthy are unable to stay. They thought they were safe from the process they encouraged. They are not.

They bragged about being disruptive when businesses closed. While I expected art galleries, bookstores and record stores to close, I did not expect fabric, camera or food stores to close. Restaurants close because the cannot pay their rent. You know things are bad when Walmart closes. It also affects public safety. Dentists, doctors and nurses are forced out. Police and firefighters move out. Eventually, there will be an earthquake. They may not get here in time.

Where will the next generation of Silicon Valley come from? Not from here. Schools close as teachers cannot afford to teach. The Tech Shop is moving out of its San Jose building for other digs.

I am looking for a silver lining. Maybe rising sea levels and property values forcing people away from the coasts will save more lives as the sea level rises.

Copyright 2017. DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Jan. 15, 2017 Blumbers

Disabled Press

On January 8, 2017 in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Foreign Press Asoociation’s Golden Globe Awards, Meryl Streep sought support for the Committee to Protect Journalists to preserve an independent press. Streep was motivated by president elect’s mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski for his disability. What do you do when someone not only ridicules a disabled member of the press but brags about it on social media? It would make it almost impossible for him to work for a living. I suppose he would then be ridiculed for that.

The president elect also said unfortunate things about a father who lost his son in a war. What kind of person does that? Considering the karma involved, an apology is only a start.

Buckle your seat belts and hang on. It is going to be a bumpy term.

Copyright 2017 DJ Cline All rights reserved.
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Jan. 8, 2017 Blumbers

 

Computer Civil Rights

The film Hidden Figures depicts the struggles of three women with racism and sexism in NASA during the early 1960s. The women were called computers, which seems even more dehumanizing. I saw it with a group of women with technical skills who say not much has changed.  They struggle to get hired. They struggle to get recognized. Sometimes they struggle against insensitive men but also other women who do not exactly practice solidarity.

I have seen the reluctance to hire women with technical degrees and experience and pay them a decent wage has sent many a Silicon Valley company to an early grave. Somebody has to write the code while you give slide presentations to each other all day.

For me the lesson of the film was that social progress and technological process go hand in hand. If you do not train and make the most of everyone in your society, you will suffer. If you hire tech women your organization, you will have role models to attract a new generation of women. This will give you the competitive edge and someday they will make a movie where you do not look like such a jerk to future generations.

Copyright 2017. DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Dec. 31, 2016 Obituary

This was a terrible year. Very curious about the next one.

A lot of famous people died this year. Like old newspapers, I write obituaries ahead of time. If somebody dies I have most of it ready. If I know them, I usually ask them how they want to be remembered.  They are usually a lot nicer to me when they realize they are not going to be around forever. Of course, with modern technology you can keep popping up like Hari Seldon in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation.

This year we are seeing inevitable actuarial demographics. Many of the  celebrities were born after WWII. If the average life expectancy is 70, probably half of them are already dead. Not surprisingly, Jim Morrison, Janice Joplin and Jimi Hendrix all died in their twenties. Michael Jackson died at 50. George Michael was 53. Prince died at 57. Carrie Fisher was 60. David Bowie was 69. Ever the optimist, Mick Jagger just fathered a child at the age of 73. I do not know if he has any sympathy for the devil but he clearly has some sort of arrangement. Leonard Cohen was 82 although he was so depressed it felt longer. Debbie Reynolds was 84. The good news is that their artwork survives. You can hear their music or watch their video any time you want.

These were successful professionals with access to healthcare and they still died. Famous or not, you can quit smoking or drinking, eat all your vegetables and meditate all day and you are still going to die. Some of it is hereditary. How old were your parents when they died? What was their cause of death? If you are a GenXer born around 50 years ago and your parents died in their mid 60s, plan ahead. If your grandparents are still alive, you have to plan way ahead. One thing to do is to make sure there are rock solid guaranteed government support for everyone. Expand and enhance Social Security and Medicare. Honor the dead by improving the lives of others. If you cannot take it with you, leave something wonderful.

Copyright 2016 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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Dec. 18, 2016 Blumbers

Voting Every Week

This is the time of year when I send out holiday greetings. It is always nice to hear from people you have met over the years. Rather than mail cards this year, I have diverted the budget to another project called voting every week.  This is an old school strategy of joining a letter writing campaign.

Democracy does not work unless you make it work. It requires more than voting every two years. It is part of a larger overall strategy for change. You still research online any legislation considered in Washington, but in addition to sending an email, you send old fashioned snail mail to the local offices.

Washington staffers ignore electronic and national letter writing campaigns, but the local staffers cannot ignore what might be a  constituent asking for help. Frankly, that is exactly what you are doing. The staff has to open them and read them.

The letters should be short and specific. For example:  You oppose House Bill 251 because you think children should not drink tap water with lead in it. End of message. Mail it.

Staffers tell me it has an effect over time. Now my Congressional reps and senators here in CA are good people, but the idea is to persuade not so friendly politicians with the weight of your words (literally).

If you send one letter a week to your rep and senators, that is only 150 letters and maybe 45 dollars in postage. This is precisely what the First Amendment and the Post Office were set up for.

Copyright 2016 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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