Wednesday, June 14, 2006


James Webb has been declared the victor in the contest against longtime business lobbyist Harris Miller. The contest was a study in contrasts.

Webb, a Vietnam War hero, best-selling author, former Secretary of the Navy, respected national security expert, "political outsider" and populist democrat was pitted against Harris Miller, a consummate Washington "insider" whose activities as a pro-outsourcing high tech industry lobbyist were often obscured behind press accounts of his ties to Virginia state Democratic Party figures and portrayal as a Democratic Party activist, businessman and technology executive.

Ironically, the Internet blogosphere proved to be a major weakness for Harris Miller. Indeed, it may have proven to be his undoing as bloggers relentlessly posted the appalling details of Miller's past lobbying activities which were so critical in assisting corporations in their continuing effort to replace or substitute low-wage foreign workers for middle class Americans. Though often criticised as vitriolic, it was internet bloggers who took the initiative to "research" Miller, authoring much of the material about Miller's lobbying activities and tying this to his campaign's claims creating a tremendous credibility gap for Miller among "wired" 'net-savvy voters...

The irony of a self-described "technology leader" falling victim to technology-enabled internet activism was not unforeseeable. Miller's sharpest opponents included information technology professionals injured by his lobbying activities, hardened by suffering and political activism and adept in the use of modern internet technology. This presented the establishment insider Miller with a battlefield for which he and his campaign were unprepared despite his much vaunted reputation as a technology "wonk".

In the end, it's clear that Miller's lobbying activities had alienated and infuriated many of the American IT workers who really built the Internet... Some of these people have honed their activism for years and were ready to enter the fray when Miller announced his political ambitions.

To be continued...


Blogger Code Monkey said...

I'm interested to see where you're taking this. I'd love to believe that some politician of note (other than an outright racist like Tancredo) is taking the issue of IT offshoring seriously. Here's hoping Webb turns out to be that guy.

Funny, I was talking at lunch with some guys, one an H1B, who was asked what the thought about the whole "illegal immigrant" issue. His very sensible response: "These are two completely different issues." I wish some politician would get it. You don't have to want to deport 12 million Mexicans to oppose the rape of the American engineering professional by the High-Tech industry. Our problem is that what they're doing to us is PERFECTLY LEGAL.

There is a common thread, of course, the driving down of the American wage rate generally, but I'd like to see more talk about that and less about building walls along the border.

Thu Jun 15, 08:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Info_Tech_Guy said...

Code Monkey:

I believe you are quite correct: the issue of "business visa"/"non-immigrant visa" workers in the skilled labor/white collar sectors is significantly different than the case of millions of illegal aliens working in mostly low wage jobs.

The common thread is "immigration" but the means of entrance (legal status) and labor categories affected are quite distinct.

Unfortunately, politicians who support the corporate offshore outsourcing and middle class worker replacement programs in this country have buried H-1b and L-1 non-immigrant visa programs in the same legislation moving through the same committees which have jurisdiction over illegal immigration and border security issues.

There are some Democrats who have spoken out against H-1b and NIV programs used for worker replacement. Sen. Dorgan, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, and Rep. Pascrell have opposed the H-1b/L-1 "business visa"/"guest worker"/"non-immigrant visa" programs used for worker replacement and facilitation of offshore outsourcing. I wish that there were others... (I'm sure there are some names I've missed.)

My expectation is that Jim Webb will be the sort of common-sense reasonable person who can grasp the many nuances in this problem and clarify the issues to build a wide unified consensus. Jim Webb is a unifier and a fine analyst.

The H-1b and NIV worker replacement problems are really very well known to politicians, I think. Among others, Dr. Norman Matloff has written about it and given testimony before Congress. His take is that politicians are addicted to corpo dollars. They blow smoke, offer false sympathy, submit inconsequential reform bills and attempt to bury real reform. (Transcripts of various committee hearings and debate seem to bear this out.) As an example, Rosa DeLauro has been on the side of American IT workers for a long time but her efforts have gone nowhere b/c of corporate lobbyist influence.

But, there comes a point when the decline in American engineering and white collar middle class job loss cannot be concealed. I think that we are nearing such a point. You may have noted my mention of EJ Dionne's piece in the WaPo on the 13th... The horrific economic and employment effects of rigid ideological adherence to the doctrine of free trade and support for the business practice of offshore outsourcing jobs cannot forever be masked.

Economist Paul Craig Roberts has tracked the declines in our economy for years with his regular analysis of the BLS statistics. They show a continuing downward spiral in American engineering jobs. How long before so many of us are lining up for jobs at Wal-Mart that this situation cannot be ignored or obfuscated by business, media and politicians?

My expectation is that most politicians will undertake no sincere reform effort until provoked by crisis. I said "most politicians": Jim Webb is different. He needs to be in the Senate to lead real reform of our failing economic policies.

It is a matter of national survival and economic fairness. We cannot lose our industrial and knowledge jobs and remain secure or a middle class society.

Thu Jun 15, 11:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Code Monkey said...

Yeah, I completely agree with Matloff. It's largely a question of campaign bucks. There aren't enough of us to matter to the average campaign-funds-obsessed politician, no matter how liberal. High tech has been viewed as a "clean" (as in non-polluting) source of industrial campaign funds and it's all too easy to stigmatize the relatively few complainers whose ox is being gored as "racists". Another problem, of course, is that our profession typically views itself as being "management" and so the kinds of activity that come naturally to blue-collar people in this situation are culturally out of the question for our profession. (Imagine if there were H1B visas for auto workers!) So we have NO political clout.

So far the only prominent folks who are thinking seriously about this appear to be ex-Republicans. That is interesting in and of itself. Webb, Roberts, etc. Strange bedfellows. Interesting that the Roberts article appears in "Counterpunch", a far-left, but often interesting site.

I hope you're right that things are changing. I'm not sure you are, but eventually we may reach a tipping point.

Fri Jun 16, 06:01:00 AM GMT-5  

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