A few things for today:

1. The soundest advice I give to students is: Never buy cheap toilet paper.
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The cost of failure is high; spend the extra dollar. The second most important thing I can impart is what I like to call the R. Kelly Principle: If you're going to commit a felony, don't make a video of yourself doing it. Or take pictures. Or make an audio recording. Or leave a lengthy paper trail. Basically, don't create mountains of damning evidence that will be used against you.

If only the former Indiana education commissioner Tony Bennett and his staff had taken my classes they might have known better than to write dozens of baldly incriminating emails about rigging their bullshit-reeking school "grading system" to help out a big money Republican donor (and noted charter school pimp/profiteer) whose school had earned a lousy grade. At the very least they might have learned not to do it on government email accounts, for christ's sake.

2. Here's a good spleen-venting rant about how the modern GOP lacks the intellectual consistency required to have their style qualify as paranoid.

3. Ask any cop or lawyer you know who has experience with criminal cases – "Some black guys did it" is a remarkably common statement from people trying to avoid suspicion during investigations. And it probably works pretty often, too. Fortunately in this case, which involved the murder of a child, the physical evidence was examined thoroughly. Race baiting is telling people that they can't commit crimes and blame it on "black kids."

4. Does it ever seem like the only problems successfully solved by the tecnho-wizardry of the Creative Class – Silicon Valley types and the venture capitalists who fuel them – are the "problems" of being a multimillionaire 30-something Silicon Valley/Venture Capitalist type? As George Packer put it, "It suddenly occurred to me that the hottest tech start-ups are solving all the problems of being twenty years old, with cash on hand, because that’s who thinks them up." What a wonderful world they're creating!

For themselves.

19 thoughts on “THE R. KELLY PRINCIPLE”

  • People's attitudes towards tech workers mystify me. We're just as fucked as everyone else, just in slower motion.

    For every Randroid prick you read about who wants to "automate people's jobs away" or every entitled rich kid who just got off the plane at SFO and wants to flash his cash at the losers "getting disrupted" in the rotting postindustrial Midwest, there's a hundred of us whose story goes something like this:

    Someone comes calling at the State U CS department, and offers you a wage two or three times what your roommate who graduated in Business or French Lit will make, in a fancy city next to an ocean with real parks and Democrats in local government and all kinds of delicious ethnic food you've never eaten before, in a safely gentrified neighborhood, of course. All this, while doing a job so comparatively simple to you it leaves you plenty of time to read in the New Yorker about how you're ruining the world. (Side note: the Packer article was spot. on.)

    Look back at your cousin who majored in Art History. Or the neighbors' kid who couldn't hack it at a two year community college. Now look at the offer letter you just got. You're gonna say no?

    Five and ten years out from college, many of us still live like undergrads sharing apartments, and socking away our earnings in hopes of making retirement or kids' college or a house (pick one!) easier. We'll get ours, though. Within five years of their big Series A round, just about every one of those glibertarian "founders" and "entrepreneurs" who look so smug in the news are going to end up out on their asses, right next to the CS grads who hit 35 and got "stack ranked" and "managed out" of their megacorps. You know, once the big men up top are done with us.

    I guess I can't fault you if you want to lump all tech people into the same slimy target. I'm trying to describe the difference between the fat cats with agency and the peons caught up in the racket, but even your average tech nerd is probably, in the end, some kind of class traitor who deserves it. And it's idiotic for me to even go out looking for sympathy, or even to clarify the public attitude about tech people, when so many other people in so many other jobs are materially worse off, if they even have a job.

    But really, most of us are just trying to sock away our nickels and hit the post-Reagan hellscape with as soft a landing as we're lucky enough to get away with.

    If you want to hate us, hate us for being dupes, for not realizing that we're not like the execs and investors who pull the strings. We're the unemployed flyover state rubes we deride. It just takes a little longer for us to get there.

    P.S.: Startup "CEOs" saying stupid things in the press comes partially from their idiocy, but partially because their investors want to drum up puff pieces and press. Wanna hate tech people for the terrible world we're making? Start with the private equity bastards on Sand Hill Road.

  • middle seaman says:

    This new style of post aims to stop Republicans in their tracks; they don't count well up to 4. Or so it seems.

    1. In general, cheap items are more expensive than more expensive items. Toilet paper serves as a great example. I couldn't care less if you leave evidence, but you should use decent language in emails despite the urge not to do so. I once emailed the chair, a traitor, that a class behaved like assholes. The dean was notified triggering an urgent meeting with some of the students, the chair and I. They were all ready, but I had the details. Assholes it stayed. Conclusion: whatever you say be ready to defend yourself.

    2. The link points to a short post by a guy that wants to appear exceedingly sophisticated. It's a miserable failure. Simple writing is sophisticated everything else, I send back for a rewrite.

    3. Racism is here to stay.

    4. Disagree. The wide spectrum of Google tool solve nothing? May the GOP thinks so, I don't.

  • 4. The problem is this: twenty-somethings with money are the only crowd worth targeting. The younger folk don't have money, so they won't buy your product. The older crowd have money, but are wiser than to spend it on your product, rather than sending their kids to school or putting a roof over their heads. Exception: in a few rare cases, where the currency is not exactly straight-out-of-pocket money, other demographics can be targeted (cf. teenagers and their pictures, elderly people and their Medicare money). So I find it perfect business sense for the tech sector to do exactly that. Rotten ethics, but this is usually the case with "perfect business sense", isn't it?

  • c u n d gulag says:

    I believe the Germans invented "The R. Kelly Principle."

    In their Germanic zeal for organization and proper record keeping, Adolph's boys meticulously documented every atrocity they committed – in triplicate, if not more.

    They even documented the though process that was going on when they decided to change the method of killing the Jews and Slavs from mass shootings and mass graves (too psychologically tough on the German soldiers doing the shooting), to gassing them in Concentration Camps (you could get some of the prisoners to be "Judas Goats," and lead the rest to slaughter – until it was their turn to be slaughtered, and new "Judas Goats" were put in their place).

    This made the work of the prosecutors at the Nuremberg Trials very easy.

    "The Banality of Evil," was done by sociopathic people with an eye for detail.

  • @Nerd: "We're just as fucked as everyone else, just in slower motion."

    Absolutely. I've never lived in a flyover state, but my in-laws live in a rotting in-land northeast state, and what I'm living now is what they were living 20 years ago. I have a son starting college who wants to be an astrophysicist, and I've pointed out to him that there's a reason the fine PhD's on The Big Bang theory share an apartment; they're not making enough to live on. I'm a tech-geek and this week I've been contemplating whether I'm even going to have a job come autumn even though I "did everything right"; I majored in a tech-geek field in the late 1980s, worked in tech, kept my skills up, and diversified…and I have no clue if I'm going to be able to keep a roof over my head.

  • “Race baiting is telling people that they can't commit crimes and blame it on ‘black kids.’"

    Exactly, because it’s the people pointing out racism who are the true racists. I think we need a new term, “aggressive denialism” to describe this kind of concerted, sustained attack on the reality-based community. It’s the way they derailed the media discussion of climate change, and they are doing it to prevent any public understanding of race and racism. See here for an example of what I mean. There is some serious enthusiasm for this kind of aggressive denialism out there. It’s almost as though some racists have been feeling inhibited about expressing themselves. Oh sweet liberty.

  • guttedleafsfan says:

    I do not understand tech and though I read the links I still don't understand much of what is being talked about here.

    I feel kind of relieved about that.

  • Another blogger mentioned that,given increases in productivity, if we don't find a way to value people for what they are, instead of what they can do, we're going to be in a bad way. Perhaps the libertarian creeps are laying the groundwork for future camps for the insufficiently productive.

  • Anybody who says tech workers are just as fucked as everyone else could use some context. Yes, some tech employees get a raw deal. But I didn't start out in tech and I moved into it, and it is *much* easier to get a good job, or an okay-paying job that doesn't require a lot of work than in essentially any other of comparable size.

    But even if that weren't true, the fact that the politics and ethics of the tech industry in general and Silicon Valley in particular are still toxic and incredibly self-centered, which is the point of that article. You may think it's hard enough to live in the Bay Area with a low-level tech job, but can you imagine trying to live here without one? Good luck with that.

    Seriously tech guys, the baby boomers who read this blog already have enough problems recognizing the fact that "I'm currently struggling too, and I didn't personally do anything wrong" and "My group, broadly speaking, is at an unfair advantage and kind of fucked things up / is kind of fucking things up" can both be true at the same time. Don't make the same mistake.

  • 1) If you are going to leave a long paper trail, it is probably best to do it on cheap toilet paper.

    2) Intellectual consistency is for liberals. Conservatives want societal consistency where everyone knows his or her place.

    3) The black guy thing is pretty old. My favorite was Charles Stuart, back in '89, who killed his wife as they drove home from a childbirth class and led the cops on a car phone search to find him. It seemed obvious to me that the choice was between the baby or a car phone, and he had chosen the car phone. (They were pretty expensive back then.) I'd go the Fugitive route and blame it on a one armed man, probably Miguel de Cervantes.

    4) It's called eating your own dog food. Yes, most of those high tech start ups are aimed at young, white people's first world problems, which is why most of them go broke. Dog food definitely solves the "what do I feed the dog?" problem though.

  • I think that IT workers in Silicon Valley are particularly sheltered compared to any other area in the US. I stumbled into IT myself in my early 30s when I realised that my Poli Sci degree with a minor in German wasn't worth a bucket of warm spit in the New England job market of the mid 90s. When I moved to the Bay Area 8 years ago, my salary doubled and that wasn't because I had become twice as smary or twice as productive as when I lived in Maine. Because well paying IT jobs are so plentiful here, it is probably easy to forget that well paid professional jobs of any type can be hard to find especially in rural or suburban areas of the country.

  • You may think it's hard enough to live in the Bay Area with a low-level tech job, but can you imagine trying to live here without one? Good luck with that.

    Seriously tech guys, the baby boomers who read this blog already have enough problems recognizing the fact that "I'm currently struggling too, and I didn't personally do anything wrong" and "My group, broadly speaking, is at an unfair advantage and kind of fucked things up / is kind of fucking things up" can both be true at the same time. Don't make the same mistake.

    Exactly. Thank you. I turn 40 in a week, have a PhD, live in the Bay Area, and am looking enviously at my "low level tech worker" friends who are at least buying houses and going on vacations, because I didn't get the memo that in 2013 the only jobs that would count would be finance and tech, so I'm cobbling together four or five part-time adjunct jobs at any given time with no guarantee of work beyond any given 15-week semester. Obamacare can't come fast enough because it will halve the cost of my health care.

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