Are American Engineers in Short Supply?

When I taught in one of a local university's science departments in the 1980s, there were an obvious admission bias toward foreign students, particularly in the graduate programs. Well, it wasn't entirely clear how much was a genuine bias though as a lot of American students were drawn to studying law (thanks a lot LA Law) and finance as trendy majors. Out in the private sector (government contractor), there was a gradual insurgence of H-1Bs in the wake of Reagan's SDI contract frenzy. They were even rolling the dice trying to get security clearances for some of the hired foreigners. Good old boys were being pushed to the side or up through the management chain (when retention was considered favorable) to make way for the cheap and dedicated H-1Bs. People have to realize that the foreign students come often at their governments' expenses (paying much higher tuition and fees that the colleges adore) and are dedicated to what appears fanatical to American students who, in turn, look lazy with poor priorities (often actually an accurate assessment). The foreign students don't have failure as an option. Likewise, I do suspect that some of the H-1Bs in the workforce operate in a similar mode, perhaps with similar motivations sometimes. They do work like indentured servants with a high tolerance for massive uncompensated overtime. There are also odd dynamics when you have one on a team as opposed to a majority of H-1Bs on a project, particularly form the same nation. We do definitely need more engineers and scientists in this country than we have today. That doesn't mean we do not have any that are quite qualified and good workers who are unemployed. I know a good number who are unemployable or underemployed simply because of their ages and levels of experience. If you are an American scientist or engineer over 40 with a PhD, it is a VERY rough market right now.
— March 11, 2011 7:42 p.m.

Plague of the Urban Tumbleweeds

When I read the bit at the head of the "What’s Being Done About the Plastic Plague?" section of this article I was incensed. This is buried in an article that will be lost and should itself be a cover story. Get the most unflattering photo of Sanders and throw it on a future cover and dig into it as tenaciously as possible. It has always gotten under my skin when public servents and government-paid workers decline comment on their job performance perpetually. Public officials need to be required to answer to ALL of its citizenry on ALL issues related to their jobs to ANY news media that asks for it and in a timely and unrehearsed manner. Imagine being called into your boss' office and telling him you decline to answer his questions ABOUT YOUR JOB! What unmitigated gall and chutzpah we allow from these guys. They work for us and are not our Lords. It about damned time they get to knowing it. I am sure Sanders and his attorneys canvas everything here. That is why they disallow any contact with the Reader for their staff and employees....ultimately OUR EMPLOYEES. Declare war on them and their developer bedfellows. Everyone should expose them for what they are every time they slip up and show their dirty underwear. Hold them accountable. I applaud the Reader, Don Bauder specifically, for not backing off and maintaining the right focus on the marginal criminality of our local government. So go to war too as you can. Call your talk radio. Write letters to the editors. Protest when there is an organized protest. It's time to take back America's Finest City for its finest citizens not the developer scum.
— September 17, 2008 5:27 p.m.


Nicely presented article on something many of us understood and also something that you, Don, had warned about a number of times in the past. As for the politics some like to front on this, it runs across the aisle. It is not exclusive to a party but is in the very essence of our current political system. Politics is the a mix of the dog and pony show misdirection and the legal aparatus of criminal-level wealth redistribution. I know such talk has traditionally been dismissed as "commie" talk, as if speaking against Corporate culture is an affront to flag waving American free enterprise. That's why we continue to struggle with where we set the line for monopolies. Anyway, you have the money running politics. We all know it and some are better tuned into the depth that money control is than others. You also have the finance sector greed. It is aligned with corporate greed and corruption but does differ with it too on monumental scales. At the micro level, nearly every entity in the sector is a predator looking for a scheme or angle to skim more for himself. There are plenty who do nothing more than economically unproductive repackaging of securities, arbitrage trading, currency trading, etc. The veneer of the industry is a enormous collage of obfuscation. It is the natural gradient money takes. Go as far as you can in your self interest without getting into personal trouble. The metric for success in the industry is that in a nutshell. The problem? The repackaging of securities and, as put int he article, gambles on gambles (or something like that), somewhere in the rushed tangling of this web, the sharks involbed got their necks and limbs caught in the tangles and getting cut to pieces as it tightens up. But the problem continues in that the economy is bound to them AND they have redistributed the load onto the lesser involved chumps: mom and pop and the littler and "less sophisticated" institutions. This will meet the defining conditions of an epidemic, absolutely no doubt about it. You cannot put out a skyscraper fire with a garden hose. (Enough metaphors?) You, me, most people we know, the corner stores that still exist and others will all be pinched hard in the end. What will suffer ultimately is your and my personal standards of living. The guys in control know it and are looking out for themselves to make sure they have their soft landings with their golden parachutes. Get informed and look out for you and yours. (Apologize, in advance to my typos which I know I always make.)
— September 17, 2008 4:21 p.m.

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