Saturday, February 4, 2017

Two More Minutes of Hate

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. This maxim holds not only in geometry, but in business as well. In that situation, the two points are the producer of goods or services, and the customer. The transactions between the two, for it to be "businesslike", must not involve any interference by any agency, government "service", third party, or side issues. No diversions must come on the shortest path between producer and customer.

This singlemindedness is the hallmark of a good businessman, and a similar thing holds for any person with any talent: no irrelevancies allowed.

Unfortunately, American businesses have forgotten that: they allow distractions to enter. Like politics, for example.

We've seen National Football League player Colin Kaepernick kneel at the playing of the national anthem. He's protesting "a country that oppresses black people and people of color". In 2016, he had a base salary of $11,900,000, a roster bonus of $2,000,000 and a workout bonus of $400,000, according to SpoTrac. Poor Colin. Poor, poor Colin.

We've read Starbucks promise to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years in the 75 countries in which they conduct business. Will these include the Starbucks that anti-Trump protesters destroyed during the inauguration? How about the Starbucks destroyed by the rioters at UC Berkeley?

These issues are nothing but distractions from the respective purposes of the NFL and Starbucks, yet they are allowed to happen.

On Thursday, February 2nd, Comcast held protests over Trump's executive order limiting immigrants from seven countries known to breed terrorists. Those protests took place at several Comcast offices, including the Philadelphia one.

The organization of these protests started in the Comcast Silicon Valley (CSV) office located in Sunnyvale, CA. The organizers created a Slack "channel" (a chatroom) that soon included over a thousand members. As plans were evolving, a VP from that office sent the following email to a list of current and former CSV workers:

Hi folks,

As many of you know, a group of Comcasters in Philly and CSV are organizing a walkout for tomorrow (Thursday) at 11 Pacific to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The organizers were inspired by the walkouts at Google campuses around the world on Monday.

If you want to participate or learn more about this, join the #walkout Slack channel.

I’m personally extremely supportive of this action. As a grandchild of immigrants, I understand the contribution immigrants from all over the world have made, and continue to make to this country. And I deeply appreciate that our country, at its best, has extended the opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to people in need.

I want to emphasize that this action is being taken by a group of individuals, motivated by their own social and political views. This isn’t a company-sponsored event, and the participants aren’t making any demands of the company. If your views are different, or if you don’t agree with the action for whatever reason, you shouldn’t feel any pressure. We’re supposed to be “the land of the free” so let’s all respect each other’s rights to speak our minds, or stay silent if that’s what feels right.


I learned of this chatroom from that email. There were various informal and heated discussions of this protest by my coworkers, and there seemed to be a concerted effort to exclude me from such discussions. Which is fine by me.

Organizers of the protest had consulted with management and Comcast legal services. They determined that protesters were not allowed to use the Comcast logo or name on any of their signs.

The protest was not mandatory. It was not an official Comcast event, though employees were allowed to take one hour of paid time off to participate.

I decided to counter-protest.

The night before the protest, I finished the essay called "Two Minutes of Hate" in response to the protests at various airports (and soon, Comcast) over Trump's order. About a half-hour before the protest was to start, I posted it to this blog, as well as to that chatroom. I also sent it in response to that email from the CSV VP.

Almost immediately, people began talking to me about the protests, and the consequences of either boycotting or counter protesting. Typically, my response to them was that they should be resolute, and to remember that they are correct on this issue. Here's an atypical response...

Fellow employee who was afraid to counter-protest: "You think the police will protect you?"
Me: "You think the police can protect them from me?"

The protesters gathered at the plaza in front of the Comcast Center building, as shown in this photo:

The man on the right with the megaphone used to be my manager. His parents were Vietnamese Boat People. They started a highly-respected restaurant, and are living the American dream. Their son didn't learn.

I stood with a sign that read "#RememberTheVictims" and also held a photo of a man with whom I used to do business, and who was killed in the Orlando night club shootings. I stood in a place where people could see those signs as the left the plaza and headed to City Hall.

I followed them to City Hall, listened to them chat, then again stood in a place where the protesters could see the signs as they returned to Comcast. It was a short protest, management gave them only one hour of PTO.

Of course, my manager, most of my teammates, as well as everyone with whom I sit were against Trump’s executive order, so they were protesting, and they saw me with my signs.

The next day, I was fired. My contracting company said they wanted to continue to work with me, and that Comcast was willing to rehire me for another team.

The reasons for my termination are becoming muddied, and I've already received two different excuses for my termination: one was that I was "unhappy" at my current position, the other that my team wanted an operations person instead of a software developer.

I've been a contractor at Comcast Philadelphia for approximately two years. Near the end of my first year there, they tried to hire me full time, but we were unable to agree on the salary. Before my contract ended, my old manager worked to move me to another team. That new team was dissolved a few months later, and that manager found me a spot with what used to be my current team.

Comcast was happy with me and I was happy with them. Until the counter-protest, that is.

I'm uncertain about working with Comcast in the future. Like all corporations, the chicken choking left hand does not know whom the right hand is wanking. For that reason, I hold no ill will towards the company as a whole.

But I am certain that I can no longer trust them. This is the first consequence for employers who become political, when they stray from the shortest path: doubt is introduced into the employee's mind about any action that management takes. Management undermines themselves, thus revealing their own incompetence.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Two Minutes of Hate

Trump's "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States" implemented a temporary ban on immigration from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya. The text of that executive order is available at:

Based on the level of vitriol in the reaction to that order, people would rather spend hours protesting something they did not spend 30 minutes reading. After all, why take 30 minutes out of your day to determine what to think when the media will do that for you in two minutes?

What is this executive order about, and what are the protests about?

The executive order is not about immigration
Most everybody is from someplace else, therefore there is nothing special about immigration, regardless of how much immigrants are apotheosized. America is not a country of immigrants, we are a country of pioneers. What is important about immigration is how immigrants arrived and what the individual immigrants do with their lives after arriving. Do they open a restaurant or other business, do they provide for their family, do they integrate into the larger community - in essence, do they become proud Americans? Or do they try their hardest to stay "economic migrants" or "hyphenated-Americans"? Or, at worst, do they attempt to convert America into the countries from which they escaped? Becoming American is commendable, and should be supported, but there are no provisions in that executive order excluding immigrants who merely wish to stand on our soil.

It is the right of every sovereign nation to determine who can and who cannot legally enter within its borders. Of the 196 countries on this planet, only seven were excluded by this executive order. So, the order isn't about immigration. Nor is it an absolute ban on immigration from those seven countries, since there are exceptions made for people from those seven countries "traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas" as well as explicit provisions for case-by-case review.

Lest we forget, Trump's wife is herself an immigrant.

It is not about Islam
The order not only bans Muslims from the seven countries covered by the order, it bans all people, with the exceptions listed above. In fact, two of the families stranded at Philadelphia International Airport were Christian families fleeing from Syria - and they were not returned to Syria.

None of the five countries with the largest Muslim populations are on the list. The words "Muslim" or "Islam" appear nowhere in the EO. The references to Islam are indirect, like this paragraph from section 1 of the EO:

"In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including "honor" killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation."

There can be no justification for harboring those who enjoy the benefits of living in our republic while trying destroy it, so why not deny entry to those who harbor ill will to our Constitution and our founding principles? We are not obligated to aid and abet our own destruction.

Further, why shouldn't we keep out anyone who would "oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation"? We have fought too long and too hard to win the rights of minorities and women and gays and lesbians in this country, and it makes no sense to reverse those gains.

What else isn't the executive order about?
It isn't about racism, since there is no such thing as the "Islamic race" or the "immigrant race". It isn't about free speech, either. If you think this is a "free speech" issue, look at what happened yesterday at UC Berkeley, home of the Free Speech Movement. So much for Michelle Obama's "when they go low, we go high" policy.

What, then, is the executive order about?
The executive order is an attempt to protect America against foreign terrorism. The seven countries are not even specified in the executive order itself, but were identified in the Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015 and its 2016 extension as being current fomenters of terrorists. The order limits entry to people from only those seven countries, requires that the vetting process be improved, requires the completion of a biometric tracking system, and requires public reporting of immigration statistics.

These are the types of actions that should have been taken following the terrorist attacks on 9-11, or at Boston, Ft. Hood, San Bernardino, Orlando, or Mumbai, or multiple places in Pakistan, or Paris (two times), or Berlin, Cologne, or at a whole host of other attack locations.

Finally, what are the protests about?
When Obama banned Cuban immigrants from arriving here, there were no protests. When the Obama administration chose that list of seven countries in 2015 and 2016, where was the outrage? It is easy to say that the root cause of the protests is the election of Trump, or rather, Hillary Clinton's loss. While this is true in part, it is also about the abrogation of the individual's responsibility to determine beliefs based on his or her own observations, research, and reasoning. The protesters are being told what to think, rather than figuring it out for themselves. And they see no problem with this.

The protests are nothing but "Two Minutes of Hate."